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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: March 2011

When Harry S. Truman brought the United States into what everyone knew was a very real war, without congressional approval or consultation, he did it under the guise that it was a UN “police action.” To preserve the independence of South Korea and to reverse the North Korean aggression and its crossing of the 38th Parallel — the line dividing North and South Korea — he did it the only way possible: by sending in the boots on the ground. There was an air war, and serious bombing of North Korean positions, but the battles were fought over an endless series of hills and went on for years. The war only came to an actual end when President Dwight D. Eisenhower negotiated the “truce” we still are living with, and arranged repatriation of POWs.

What President Barack Obama did in his speech to the nation, however, is an entirely different approach. I’m not sure, as is our PJM colleague Victor Davis Hanson, that the war is a bad idea. I think that there were numerous reasons that can be established that make our intervention necessary. These include the distinct possibility that if Qadaffi were to win,  he would do as he promised — exact the very retribution he promised against the rebels and the cities in which they were prominent, thereby carrying out a massacre that might only be paralleled by the massacre carried out by the late Syrian dictator Hafez-el Assad in Hama in 1982. And Qadaffi might very well have resumed the kind of terrorist attacks against Western targets that he has done in the past, such as bringing down airplanes as he had done in Lockerbie.

I do not believe, however, that the uncritical celebration of Obama that has been the response by Bill Kristol is also warranted. Kristol argues that “the United States really should have the backs of those fighting for freedom. How willing the president is to overcome his prejudices and to reorient his whole attitude toward the Middle East and the world, we don’t know. But we can hope for change.” Kristol is certain that the president won’t “cut and run,” that he understands that this is a fight the United States has to win.

Therefore Kristol believes conservatives must cease all criticism of the problems inherent in Obama’s approach, and simply “give war a chance.” But if we cease criticism, and find that the president is failing to implement the kind of measures that assure Qadaffi’s defeat, how is pointing out the ambivalence and contradictions in the president’s policy a bad thing? If the Republican Party is today the “party of freedom,” as Kristol thinks it is, then why is it harmful to point out the major pitfalls facing the president as he tries to destroy Qadaffi without supporting regime change in Libya and without taking the kind of measures that will guarantee the outcome?

In the very same speech that led Kristol to dub our President “Barack H. Reagan,” President Obama also said that he was ruling out the entry into the conflict of American troops. By making that announcement, Obama saw to it that he was closing off a step that, if all else fails, might be a step that he has to reluctantly take.

In his letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Harry Reid, Florida’s new Senator Marco Rubio rightfully points out that a bi-partisan resolution by the Senate authorizing the use of force in Libya to oust Qadaffi is necessary. Rubio writes that “this resolution should also state that removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest and therefore should authorize the President to accomplish this goal. To that end, the resolution should urge the President to immediately recognize the Interim Transitional National Council as the legitimate government in Libya.”

To state this goal as that of the nation would proclaim it as a bipartisan policy of the people at large, not simply as an American war that is illegal and unconstitutional, as Sen. Rand Paul argued in his own response. Paul argued using the logic of the Old Right of the 1940s and 50s, as well as that of today’s anti-war paleoconservatives,  grouped around the American Conservative magazine. Paul cites Defense Secretary Gates’ now famous statement that the United States had no “vital interest” in Libya; a statement eerily similar to that made on the eve of the Korean War by Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who told Congress that Korea was “outside” of the U.S. defense perimeter, thereby leading Kim Il-Sung to believe that aggression by his regime would meet with no opposition.

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This past March 25, 2011, marked the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City. Americans and the media especially love major anniversaries, and this one was no exception. If you read newspapers or magazines or watch television, the anniversary could not be escaped. Virtually every media organ had its own coverage, some times more than once. A few days before, The New York Times scooped everyone by presenting its first piece, and on the actual anniversary day, offered a way to teach the event, and evaluate its impact. And Time, still the preeminent weekly newsmagazine, had its own major article.

HBO had its own documentary, with a website link to the United Workers official union Centennial commission’s own website. If you don’t have HBO, you could have watched a similar documentary, often with the same talking heads and the same interviewees of relatives of those who perished in the fire, on PBS, which beat HBO by putting theirs on the air three weeks earlier. Or if you preferred the regular old networks, perhaps you saw the documentary presented by CBS on its program Sunday Morning.

If you prefer to learn about the fire from going to the museum, the New York City Fire Museum presented a special new exhibition, “Remembering Their Prayers,” that opened one day after the anniversary on March 26th and runs through April 23rd. Or you can attend the exhibit at the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Pa. And of course, the Feminist’s Guide to New York City (bet you didn’t know that exists) reminds us of the memorial at Mt. Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York.

The above is the tip of the iceberg, which is apparent if you do a Google search of your own. The story, whatever the source presenting it, is essentially the same. On March 25, 1911, shortly before closing time, 146 young shirtwaist makers and some plant managers and executives, 129 of them women, lost their lives as a fire broke out on the 8th floor, where the women did the sewing. In a few moments, the fire spread to the 9th and 10th floors as well. Workers could not escape, because the one door through which they could have left was locked from the outside — supposedly to prevent workers from stealing material and leaving that way, or as some claimed, to prevent union organizers from coming into the factory floor to try to organize.

When the fire engines arrived, they found that the ladders of that day went only up to the 6th floor of the tall building — the Asch Building now part of NYU’s campus — and hence there was no way for the remaining workers who were trapped to get out. Choosing their own way of death, many leaped from the burning building through the huge windows, plummeting to their death. All of the city was shocked, in much the same way as New Yorkers were who saw what happened at the Twin Towers on 9/11. In one of those eerie coincidences, New York City’s current fire commissioner recalled how he had seen people jump on 9/11, and that his great grandfather was on the scene at Triangle 100 years ago, as a leading fire-fighter there to try and rescue the women.

All of New York City ground to a halt the next few days, and at the funerals of the women, hundreds of thousands lined the street in memorial and protest against the unsafe conditions that led to their deaths.

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With the recent announcement by Pete Seeger that he joined and endorsed the BDS movement to delegitimize Israel (Boycott, Disinvest and Sanctions), Seeger has finally jeopardized any claim he might have had to be known as a supporter of reconciliation, tolerance, justice and peace.

Not only has Seeger joined the BDS movement, he has withdrawn his support from his previous participation in the Arava Institute’s “Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East,”  which took place last November, and which I criticized here. That movement was flawed in that it was predicated on moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies, although it sought to work for “cross-border cooperation” and peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

Seeger has disavowed his earlier connection with the Arava Institute because he learned of its cooperation with the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an Israeli mainstream organization in existence during the days of the Yishuv, before Israel was even created.  An important JNF  mission was to plant trees in Palestine (one of the reasons Israel looks so different from much of the barren Middle East).  When  Seeger learned that the JNF was funding the planting of trees in the Israeli desert he considered it enough of a reason to withdraw his support from the Arava Institute. He now says: “I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

As one of Seeger’s supporters explained, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to ‘Rebrand Israel’ through greenwashing and the arts.”

As writer Hannah Sternberg points out, a press release from the ICAHD  on Seeger’s turn-around shows that he believes  “that JNF has been involved in ‘dispossessing’ Palestinians since 1901…meaning he considers the perfectly legal and voluntary sale of land to Zionist Jews by the resident peoples of the area in the early twentieth century to be just as much an ‘occupation’ as the military occupation of hostile areas following the Six-Day War, the latter of which is what BDS purports to object to, to avoid criticism that they’re merely hateful of Jews.”  She correctly adds: “What Seeger’s making clear here is that he objects to Israel’s very right to exist, aside from the complex international legal ambiguities surrounding the occupied territories, Gaza and the West Bank. According to Seeger’s logic, any Jew in Israel is an occupier, whether he’s building a new home on the West Bank or whether he lives on a communal farm that was purchased inarguably lawfully from a Palestinian a hundred years ago.”

Seeger explains that he did not reach this decision, according to ICAHD coordinator Jeff Halper, before carefully considering the issue. Halper notes that “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” In other words, Seeger spoke to his leftist friends and neighbors, and all of three rabbis!  We all know there are plenty of self-proclaimed rabbis, some of them real, who despise Israel. I somehow doubt Seeger searched around to find some who had a different view than those he spoke to. One call to the American Jewish Committee could have provided him with more than a few.

I have written about Seeger so many times that I cannot provide the links to send you to all of them. If you are interested, you’ll have to do a Google or Bing search on your own. The last major controversy that got into the press, and about which I had both letter and phone call exchanges with Seeger, concerned his many years of Stalinism, which I argued he had never publicly come to terms with. I wrote a few articles on this for The New York Sun, when its print edition still was being published. They can be found here, and here.

In the latter piece, I revealed that Seeger had written a new song, “The Big Joe Blues,” the lyrics of which condemned Joseph Stalin, whose regime he had for decades been a major supporter of. I wrote that “I was deeply moved that Mr. Seeger, now in his late 80s, had decided to acknowledge what had been his major blind spot — opposing social injustice in America while supporting the most tyrannical of regimes abroad.”  Well, I thought — I disagree with him about many things, but at least he eventually admitted the truth about Stalinism.  I wrote that “I honor and admire him for doing so now.”

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Here are two quotes from major American politicians, both senators.  I offer you a quiz.  Two different U.S. Senators are responsible for the quotes. Which Senator said the first quote? Which Senator said the last two?

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

2.

I do not agree that under our Constitution the Executive can bring about a state of war without usurpation. He may have the power to get us into war, but he certainly has not the right. The mere fact that his power cannot be disputed in war does not mean that it is constitutional. …I don’t propose to acquiesce in any policy leading directly to war unless it is approved by Congress.

And at another time, this same above senator said the following:

The president had brought “that war about without consulting Congress and without congressional approval…[the fighting was] a complete usurpation by the President of the authority to use the Armed Forces of this country.”

The first, as you probably guessed, is from Barack Obama in 2007. The second quotation is from long ago, from “Mr. Republican,” as Senator Robert A. Taft was called in the 1940s and 1950s. The first Taft quote is from 1941, the second is from his response to Truman’s entry of the U.S. into the Korean War, in 1950. Obama was opposing a Republican’s war; Taft was opposing one led in both cases by a Democrat. Invoking the Constitution, it seems, has its uses by both sides when it seems convenient to invoke it.

You might have guessed, if you have been reading conservative websites, that the second might be from Andrew McCarthy at NRO, if I had not said it was from a politician. McCarthy wrote a few days ago that American combat operations cannot be validated by a vote from the UN Security Council, since “our Constitution vests Congress with the power to declare war. That authority cannot be delegated to an international tribunal that lacks political accountability to the American people.” He added that while the president can authorize the use of our armed forces against an “actual or imminent strike against the United States,” that is not meant as a blank check. Thus “Congress must weigh in and either endorse or put a stop to presidential war-making.”

Thus, in our present day, both Left and Right are thoroughly divided and confused over the nature and meaning of our actions in Libya. Writing today at The New Republic, journalist John B. Judis lays out why he thinks today “the Left Got Libya Wrong.” Recalling how in 1990 all of his friends on the Left opposed the U.S. action after Iraq invaded Kuwait as leading “to another Vietnam” and nothing less than an example of “U.S. imperialism,” Judis expresses dismay that, once again, those on the Left are having a similar response.

Siding instead with the liberal interventionists at his own magazine, Judis talks about the dangers of allowing Gaddafi to retain control of a key oil supply, to sow discord in the region, to stop in its tracks democratization in the Arab world should he win. Judis, like others who condemned Obama for acting too slowly, thinks the president should have stepped in earlier, instead of being “shamed into taking leadership.” He writes:

Obama did the absolutely worst thing — he called for Quadaffi’s ouster, but did not do anything about it, and discouraged others from doing so.

Judis, like other interventionists, hopes that the U.S. will knock out Gaddafi’s troops and help lead the way to a rebel victory. “They have little choice,” he writes,  “but to seek Qadaffi’s ouster.”  He hopes, without providing much evidence that this will be the case, that Libya will “become part of an experiment in democratization that is now taking place across North Africa.”

As for whether or not Obama should have gone to Congress, Judis says: “I am not sure there was time for a full-scale debate.” Hence, he lines up with what the Left used to call the power of the imperial presidency, the bane of liberals like the late Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

And here is further grounds for confusion. Fred Siegel, one of the most astute of political commentators, e-mailed me his take: “I can see why this is in Europe’s national interest; they face both a refugee and an oil supply crisis. But what I can’t see so far is why this in America’s national interest. That said, now that we’re in we need to win — assuming we know what that means.”

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Below I reproduce the schedule for a forthcoming conference to be held at a venue called the “Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center” which is part of New York University. With its leftist Cold War Center, which I have written about previously, and its conference on Alger Hiss, (about which I have also commented) NYU appears to welcome the distinction of being the American university most dedicated to resurrection of the Communist fellow traveler’s view of the world. I guess one center dedicated to this task is not enough—so the more the merrier, for NYU.

The Center is appropriately named after Ewen, whose Wikipedia entry, a neutral précis that sets forth the bare facts of how and why he was forced out of Brooklyn College in the McCarthy era, makes it quite clear that if you read behind the lines, Ewen was either a Party member of a devoted fellow traveler of the Stalinists. Now Ewen not only has a lecture series named after him at Brooklyn College, but NYU has a center established in his honor.

Now look at the names on the roster below. First, the keynote is of course by Ellen Schrecker, the historian most known to many of us for continuing apologies on behalf of Soviet espionage by American Communists. (To her supporters, she is the historian who chronicles the Right’s assault of academic freedom in the 50’s.)  The education panel has Martin Duberman on it—the author of the definitive biography of Paul Robeson, and who readers of the book will quickly discover a firm support of Robeson’s Stalinism as well as a critique of the persecution he suffered at home for his views, without any nuance in his appraisal of the singer’s politics.

Most egregious is the panel on Vietnam. It features H. Bruce Franklin, a professor of English who has written a few books on Vietnam, but is also known for his now fortunately out of print tome, The Essential Stalin, (1972) in which he writes : “I used to think of Joseph Stalin as a tyrant and butcher who jailed and killed millions…..But, to about a billion people today, Stalin is the opposite of what we in the capitalist world have been programmed to believe.” To them, Franklin wrote, Stalin is “one of the great heroes of modern history, a man who personally helped win their [the people of China,Vietnam, Korea and Albania] win their liberation.” His bio in the book describes Franklin as “a revolutionary who was also a professor of English.”

Perhaps Franklin will elaborate on how Stalin carried out the struggle for civil liberties during the so-called second Red Scare, by urging his American comrades to make the revolution in the “belly of the beast,” as they used to say. Or perhaps he will explain how Comrade Stalin’s orchestration of the killing of millions  of “class enemies” did not involve any violation of civil liberties.

His fellow panelist Moss Roberts is yet another long-time left-wing scholar of Asian and Chinese politics and history, who has not changed his views one iota in thirty years.

Now here is the announcement for the event:

*NYU’s Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center Presents*

*”Academic Freedom in the 1960s,” *

*April 1 from 12-6:00pm *

*at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House*

*One Washington Mews, between Washington Square North and East 8th Street***

**Join New York University’s Frederic Ewen Academic Freedom Center to examine the key fronts in the present battles over higher ed, and their historical parallels in previous eras. The conference will examine successive, well-funded ideological assaults on academic freedom by

outside pressure groups aimed at undermining the legitimacy of scholarly study during the 1960s.

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Zuzanna Kobryzynski at zk3@nyu.edu.

*Conference Program Schedule:**

**12:15-1:00pm – Keynote Address*

* Ellen Schrecker, Professor, Yeshiva University, author of the Lost Soul of Higher Education

*1:00-1:15pm — Break*

*1:15-3:15pm – Civil Rights Panel*

* Joy Williamson-Lott, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership  and Policy Studies, University of Washington

* Martin Duberman, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at  Lehman College and the Graduate School of the City University of   New York

* Stephen Aby, Education and Sociology Librarian  and Bibliographer,  Professor of Bibliography, University of Akron

*3:30-3:45pm — Break*

*3:30-5:30pm – Vietnam War Panel*

* H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and  American Studies,**Rutgers University-Newark

* Moss Roberts, Professor, East Asian Studies Department, NYU

* Dick Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of English, Emeritus,  Wesleyan University

The sponsors do not even hide their ideological agenda. Consider the language of the announcement: They will examine “key fronts in the present battles;” – they will protest “well-funded ideological assaults on academic freedom,”  etc.

Undoubtedly speaker after speaker will pile on David Horowitz and his valiant campaign in defense of academic freedom, discussed so well here in the current Weekly Standard by Peter Wood, head of The National Association of Scholars. He has had some victories, but mostly, vicious and unfair attacks. Horowitz has been willing to debate one of his most vociferous critics, the AAUP’s Cary Nelson, a self-proclaimed Marxist. At least Nelson stepped up to the plate, and did not shy away from a confrontation. This says more about him than it does about the Ewen Center people. They are so committed to civil liberties that they evidently believe no one with an opposing view is to be heard.

This conference marks yet another salvo in NYU’s apparent campaign to establish itself as the primary institution of higher education to feature centers devoted to leftist reappraisals of the recent past.

How sad it is that this institution, that once had on its faculty the late Sidney Hook, the preeminent fighter against totalitarianism of the Right and the Left, one of the founding fathers of liberal and left-wing anticommunism. I ended a previous column on NYU with the following, and I repeat it here, since nothing has changed in the past year:

All those people who are appearing there have the right to their point of view, and to espouse their views on programs and panels they create. But a great university should have the obligation to allow the public, especially in advertised programs open to everyone, to hear contending points of view on controversial issues, rather than to run one-sided partisan events that are passed off as scholarly contributions. Or does NYU really want to have the reputation of vindicating the charges made by some conservatives like David Horowitz, who has argued that radical faculty have “turned America’s classrooms into indoctrination centers for their political cause”?

The late Sidney Hook, the great NYU Professsor of Philosophy, wrote a letter in 1949 complaining about an academic conference that had as its aim what Hook called “the goal of furthering Soviet foreign policy.” Hook was furious, because, as he put it, while the conference included “more than ninety well known-fellow-travelers of the Communist Party line,” he noted that one had to “insist that the point of view I have expressed in my paper be presented at the Conference and that a place be made for me on the program.” Hook did not get such a place. Were he still alive, he would no doubt be dismayed that his own University is now partaking of the same kind of practice he dedicated his life to fight. He might wonder whether NYU is pleased with itself for sponsoring these closed-door seances of the old left.

——————————————————-

The new “publishing phenomenon” in France, as Elaine Sciolino calls it in The New York Times, is Stephane Hessel’s manifesto, Indignez-Vous, or as it is called in the new American publication, A Time for Outrage. A scant 14 pages of text, the pamphlet — a more accurate name for it than a book — has sold 600,000 copies in France in a three month period that began last October.  One can also read it in a recent issue of The Nation, although the magazine has it behind a firewall. The introduction to the book by Charles Glass, however, is available at their website.

Indeed, the book has become a world-wide phenomenon. It has sold a total of 1.5 million copies by now in France, and has been translated in many countries including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Korea, Japan and Sweden. Why has it been such a success?  Sciolono answers that it was a popular Christmas gift among “left-leaning intellectuals, [and] parents struggling to inject political activism into their children.” It also resonated in France because Hessel has a bona fide history as one of the remaining heroes of the World War II era — he is now 93 years old, and was not only an opponent of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime during the war, he fled France to work with Charles De Gaulle and his government in exile in London. Then, he parachuted into occupied France in 1944 to help the underground Resistance. Caught by the Gestapo, he was tortured and sent to two different concentration camps, and sentenced to hang. He switched identities with an inmate who had died, and escaped while being sent to yet a third camp.

After the war, Hessel became a diplomat, worked with Eleanor Roosevelt at the UN to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and eventually became a writer. Thus, all of his life’s work allows him to write as a legitimate hero of France, passing down his wisdom to the new generations from one of the last survivors of the war years. As he told the Times, he knows that people say “he’s the old man who has been in the Resistance and who has joined General De Gaulle. So obviously that was part of the success.”

Critics have been harsh. One critic wrote that the tract is “repetitive, unoriginal, simplistic and frustratingly short.” Perhaps something that takes ten minutes of one’s time is about on the level of what today’s young people can read; or perhaps its virulent nature and self-indulgent call to action is what appeals to many of those activists who proclaim anarchism as their ideology.

What the pamphlet reminds me of is not Zola’s J ’Accuse, as some have said, but more appropriately, the kind of article attacked so powerfully in the 1920s by Julien Benda, in his now classic La Trahison des Clercs, published in America as The Treason of the Intellectuals. Benda wrote about the pro-fascist arguments of earlier French intellectuals such as Charles Maurras. Despite his insistence that he is modernizing the anti-fascism of his generation to face new threats today, Hessel resembles Maurras more than he does a modern French anti-totalitarian such as Bernard Henri-Levy.

Let me then take up some of his facile arguments. First, Hessel argues for a domestic commitment to social-democracy. After  all, the manifesto of The Resistance in 1944 called for “a rational organization of the economy” in which the individual interest was subordinated to the public interest. That means, he writes, “a social safety net” in which everyone is guaranteed a living if they cannot get a job and full retirement benefits. It also, he argues, includes nationalization of the major industries and the banks. In other words, a rather outdated old fashioned Marxist vision that has long been abandoned by most of Europe’s social-democrats. He does not believe that “the state can no longer cover the cost of these social programs,” and believes that claim is nothing less than propaganda. Hessel suffers then, from an inability to acknowledge the reality of the problems besetting the European welfare states. The claim, he says, is due to one force: “the power of money,” which he and his comrades fought against decades earlier. The Resistance’s motivation was outrage: hence it should be the motivation for today’s young as well. As Hessel writes: “We say to you: take over, keep going, get angry!” These slogans are the substitute for reason in Hessel’s vocabulary.

Hessel believes he is a Hegelian. Of course Hegel in his day believed that man had reached the final stage of history in the dialectically evolved Prussian State and monarchy; Hessel’s variation is that man advanced liberty step by step until at the end, it “may achieve a democratic state in some ideal form”; i.e., the form of social democracy he has previously outlined.

As he turns to the world at large, Hessel claims he wants a world that adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights he helped draft, in which no crimes against humanity are allowed. There is, of course, much to be upset about in today’s world. I could list many such things, particularly singling out regimes that commit crimes against their own peoples. These include regimes like Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Gaddafi’s Libya in the current days, scores of  Arab regimes including Saudi Arabia, Gaza under the control of Hamas, or Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea. The list is large. One might hope that today, Hessel would be singing the praises of the Arab revolutions, as does Natan Sharansky. “A historical page has at least begun to turn,” writes Sharansky. The citizens now taking to the streets are opposing their own authoritarian dictators, and not protesting against the supposed enemy of Zionism and Israel. Thus the once imprisoned Soviet dissident now sees “the region’s democratic dissidents as our real partners.”

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In his attack on Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radical Islam in America, Peter Beinart comes up with one of the most ridiculous and wrongheaded analogies I have ever come across. First, Beinart writes that King “isn’t holding hearings on domestic terrorism; he’s holding hearings on domestic terrorism by one religious group.” This is wrong, says Beinart, because most American terrorism is not Muslim terrorism.

He points to individual attacks taking place in past years from people like Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and Bruce Edwards Ivins. That does not wash. These were individuals who were either greatly emotionally disturbed, like Jared Lee Loughner, or motivated by crazy ideas they subscribed to which were not shared by others in the particular movements they believed in. Right-wing militias who believe in attacking every agency of the federal government can be dangerous. But they are relatively isolated in certain areas of the country, and easy for the FBI to infiltrate and watch over.

The reason hearings on radical Islam are necessary is because in scores of mosques, imams are preaching jihad as the path to glory, recruiting Americans in the name of Islam to join up with al-Qaeda or other terrorist cells, and motivating individuals to act on their own to commit acts of violence. Major Hasan had given scores of notices that he subscribed to such a doctrine; yet out of a desire not to brand Islam as a religion of terror, every sign Hasan gave was ignored, until it was too late and he went on his shooting spree in 2009.

Next, Beinart offers the analogy to which I refer. He writes:

But even if American Muslims are statistically more likely to commit terrorism than non-Muslims, it is still wrong to define the problem in religious terms. I’m pretty sure that in the 1950s, Jews—given their overrepresentation in the American Communist Party—were overrepresented as Soviet spies.(my emphasis) Italians may have been overrepresented in organized crime. Yet for a member of Congress to define either Soviet subversion or organized crime as the province of a particular religious or ethnic group would still have been wrong.

Does Beinart know how to think before he sets something down and puts it on the internet? Jews, for various reasons, made up a large component of the members of the American Communist Party. But the top Party leaders were men like Earl Browder, a native of Kansas; Gus Hall, a steel worker and typical white ethnic; and William Z. Foster, who made his name in 1919 as a leader of the Great Steel Strike, and came from a syndicalist background.

More important is his claim that Jews were “overrepresented as Soviet spies.” First, that is demonstrably false. Let us look at the list of some of the top Soviet spies uncovered since the Venona release and other material found in the papers of ex-KGB agent Alexander Vassiliev. They include Alger Hiss — as white, Protestant, and establishment as you can get; the liaison from the White House to the State Department of both FDR and Truman, Duncan Lee; and others including William A.Remington, Noel Field, Frederick Vanderbilt Field, Rudy Baker, Cedric Belfrage, Thomas A. Bisson, Rose Browder, Jane Foster, Kitty Harris, and so forth. I could go on and on with more names, but you get the point.

Beinart was obviously thinking of the Soviet network put together by Julius Rosenberg, made up of his college comrades who were majoring in engineering or the sciences, and who were all Jewish. And there were other Communists who did work for the NKVD or GRU who were Jewish, but their number was not more and possibly less than the people I listed who were not Jews.

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We all have heard the saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” It has a certain truth to it, and is proved over and over when partisans of the use of terror proclaim themselves as being forced to use horrendous tactics because of the overwhelming power and armed forces of those who oppress them.

The saying is brought to mind by the dredging up today of Rep. Peter King’s pro-IRA past by those opposed to his scheduled hearings on the impact of radical Islam on the American Muslim community. Clearly, the motive for these new stories, such as that in today’s New York Times, is opposition to the hearings, which the NYT editors regard as an example of Islamophobia. And the conservative community is right to defend the hearings, and to explain their necessity. PJM’s argument can be found here; the editors at National Review point out and explain why the hearings are long overdue; and Rick Moran at David Horowitz’s Frontpagemag.com details how the American Left is going overboard in trying to create opposition before the hearings even take place.

But despite the obvious motivation of those who seek to derail the hearings and to minimize whatever effect they might have on the public, the bitter truth is that the IRA in its prime was a terrorist organization, whose leaders had extensive ties to both the Western Left in both the United States and Britain, as well as to the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, as well as to the PLO in its terrorist heyday.

As this BBC report revealed, after 9/11, “While all American eyes are currently fixed on Muslim extremists, politicians in Northern Ireland have urged President Bush to extend the clampdown to those who raise funds for Irish paramilitary groups.” The IRA, the story continued, got most of its funding from two major sources: Libya and gullible Irish citizens of the United States who contributed to groups like NORAID and the Irish Freedom Committee. Like radical Muslim front groups today, they claimed to be raising money to support the peaceful struggle for civil rights in Northern Ireland, or to support the families of Irish political prisoners held in British prisons.  The reality was that the money raised was used to purchase guns and ammunition for IRA fighters, as everyone understood at the time.

At the time, defenders like the IFC’s John McDonagh argued that the IRA gave warnings before it bombed any sites, making it therefore different from the radical Islamists who did not.  Yet many of the bombings killed scores of innocent Irish civilians, and hundreds were killed and thousands injured in over 30 years of IRA terror attacks in Northern Ireland. And IRA men were arrested in Colombia, where they were training Marxist FARC guerrillas.

In 2002, the American radical Tom Hayden wrote in The Nation about the reasons why the Left should support Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. “The recent victories for the left-wing Sinn Fein,” he wrote, “are a challenge to globalization and sharply contrast with the right-wing populism recently surfacing in other European elections.” Victory for them, Hayden wrote, “would be a defeat for U.S. officials who hope that a pro-business Irish Republic would become ‘America’s gateway’ into Europe.” Hayden understood that the IRA’s political organization was opposed to business and the multinational corporations, and advocated “progressive populist politics.”  He was pleased that one candidate who won the election in North Kerry had “spent ten years in prison for IRA gunrunning on a trawler out of Boston.”

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In the 1980s, when The New Republic used to be unpredictable and ran hard-hitting articles and editorials that took on the shibboleths of the Left, people used to say when citing them, “even the liberal New Republic pointed out that…” Well, today, some of us are saying, after reading the lead editorial in the Sunday New York Times, “Even the liberal New York Times tells the truth about public sector unions.”

Well, almost. Perhaps because the paper’s editors always support Democrats, and perhaps because Governor Andrew Cuomo is the publisher’s friend and the paper supported him for governor, they have to find a way to oppose Scott Walker in Wisconsin for trying to take on public sector unions, while supporting Cuomo in New York when fiscal reality is forcing him to do the same thing.

Therefore the editors try to tell the truth about the fiscal crisis in New York while arguing at the same time that none exists in any other state. The result is a somewhat hilarious exercise in double-talk meant to please its liberal/left base of readers while pleasing the governor in New York and his administration at the same time.

The editors express shock when they inform their readers at the start that “New York State is paying 10 times more for state employees’ pensions than it did just a decade ago.” Who would have guessed? How could this be? The paper’s answer: “That huge increase is largely because of Albany’s outsized generosity to the state’s powerful employees’ unions in the early years of the last decade, made worse when the recession pushed down pension fund earnings, forcing the state to make up the difference.”

The last time I read anything similar was by my friends Fred Siegel, Sol Stern, or the editors of The Wall Street Journal. Could they have somehow hacked the Times’ computers and surreptitiously managed to type this in unnoticed? Did Paul Krugman write it, after someone spiked his coffee? Well, it gets even better.

The editors continue to point out that the members of public sector unions contribute far less to their pensions than private sector workers, and much less than state workers elsewhere. These costs must “be reined in,” the editorial warns, or New York will not even be able to afford essential services. As has happened elsewhere, that means cutting the number of police, firefighters and garbage collectors. Or maybe even the most horrible of all outcomes — privatization.

But does it mean taking on the unions? The paper assures its readers, in the most self-contradictory statement of the editorial, that stating this is “is not to be anti- union, or anti-worker.” Of course not. As we have seen in Wisconsin, the union is ready from the beginning to make all the necessary concessions that a state has to have to produce a fiscally sound budget. In Wisconsin, that awful Republican governor and his cronies, the editorial tells us, instead of having a serious discussion about the budget shortfall, have used the facts “as a pretext to crush unions.”

That is not what they are proposing. Of course not. Cuomo’s course is “reasonable,” since he “expects public unions to make sacrifices.” Didn’t Scott Walker expect the same in his state? Sure, I bet he did. But somehow, the unions did not want to work on a compromise with him. Instead, they have started a win or die movement, calling in all the troops from out of state, from Michael Moore (who doesn’t allow unions in his own production company) to rock stars and others of the comfortably rich who have to be on the “progressive” side.

As if they did not read their own previous sentence, the editorial next says — I had to read it twice — that negotiations are set to begin, but “so far union leaders have publicly resisted Mr. Cuomo’s proposals.” Oh — wait a minute — I thought that Cuomo had expected them to make sacrifices? Guess his expectations were wrong. So what can he do if the unions do not play ball? The paper’s answer: “He will have to lay off up to 9,800 workers.” Didn’t Scott Walker tell his unions the very same thing? And isn’t this what has led to him being portrayed as a monster?

Warns the Times: “Some compromise must be found.” They then inform the readers what precisely the unions have done that have made things so bad. These measures include getting a 4 percent pay raise amounting to $400 million in the middle of a recession; this comes on on top of  three percent raises for each of the previous three years — just as private sector workers had their wages cut!

When Gov. David Paterson, Mr. Cuomo’s predecessor, pleaded with the unions to voluntarily not take the raises, they portrayed him in much the same way as Wisconsin unions are portraying Gov. Walker today. Unlike Walker, the incompetent and cowardly Paterson caved, settling for reducing pension payments for new workers only. So state workers in New York State earn an average salary of$63,382 (more after the latest raises) compared to private sector workers who earn an average of $46,957.00. And you wonder why the public isn’t anxious to rally around the public sector union workers!

And now, unless the unions give, the paper warns its readers that 50,000 workers are due to get “steep increases” that will cost taxpayers in New York $140 million. And state law includes a clause that gives them the new increases to take effect even while the negotiations are in progress and before agreement on a contract is reached! No wonder the public sector employees like their unions. How could such a clause ever have been created? The paper explains that it was meant to give workers who could not strike “leverage” they otherwise would not have had. Somehow, they forget to mention that the union leaders negotiate with the politicians they elected and to whom they gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. The politicians pay them back in quick agreement with whatever the unions demand. No wonder Paterson caved.

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Every day, it seems, The New York Times reports on the death of another American Communist, or an American Communist who saw fit to join up with the KGB as an espionage agent for Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union. This time, the obituary by Sam Roberts is about Judith Coplon, who over sixty years ago was arrested by the FBI in a classic sting operation. The Bureau’s agents, having received solid data from the then secret Venona decrypts of KGB messages from Moscow Central to its American agents, fed her false data about atomic power. As they hoped, the 27-year-old Coplon, who was then working at the Justice Department as a political analyst, took off to meet her lover and handler, KGB agent Valentin A. Gubitchev, to whom she planned to hand over the materials.

The Russian and Coplon were both arrested in 1949 under the Third Avenue subway line (which no longer exists) in Manhattan, and Coplon was caught red-handed. As it turned out, America’s democratic legal system protects even those Americans who were actual Soviet agents. Coplon, although found guilty by the jury of espionage in 1949 and conspiracy with Gubitchev in 1950, had both of the convictions overturned. The FBI neglected to follow protocol; they illegally heard conversations with her lawyer, and also had arrested her on “probable cause” without a necessary warrant for her arrest.

Thus the civil liberties of the system Coplon wanted to destroy worked to protect her, even though she was totally guilty. Like Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, Coplon went to her death proclaiming that she was not a Communist and that she was innocent. “The only crime I can be said to be guilty of,” Coplon had later said, “is that I knew a Russian.”  She also said: “I will always say that I’m innocent and that I’m being framed.”

What is most amazing about her passing, however, is the defense on her behalf told to Roberts by Coplon’s daughter, Emily Socolov.  Like historian Staughton Lynd, whom I noted a week ago acknowledged the Rosenbergs’ guilt but argued that the couple had a moral obligation as Communists and “citizens of the world” to spy for the Soviet Union. Socolov told the following to journalist Roberts:

The subject of her innocence or guilt was something that she would strictly not address…It’s very hair-raising to read about your mother being given a code name and moved around like a chess piece. Was she a spy? I think it’s another question that I ask: Was she part of a community that felt that they were going to bring, by their actions, an age of peace and justice and an equal share for all and the abolishing of color lines and class lines?
If these were things that she actually did, she was not defining them as espionage. If you feel that what you’re doing answers to a higher ideal, it’s not treason.

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