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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: April 2011

In an interview with New York Times reporter Sam Roberts, Robert Meeropol, the younger son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, admitted on Wednesday that “his father deserved to have been convicted of the legal charges that led to his parents’ execution. ‘Yes, he was guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage,’”Meeropol told him.

After decades of denial, and insistence that his father was framed up and was innocent, Robert Meeropol for the first time has admitted that his father — but not his mother — was legally guilty of the charge for which he had been indicted.

Moreover, Meeropol seemed to have been stunned and surprised by the revelation that Steven Usdin and I had in our Weekly Standard article about the case two weeks ago, in which co-defendant Morton Sobell revealed to us that on a July 4th weekend in 1948, he and three other men, including Julius Rosenberg, photographed top secret documents obtained for them by scientist William Perl, which they passed on directly to a KGB officer.

On this, Meeropol wrote: “I’d be less than honest if I did not admit that the latest news that Morton Sobell, my father and two others provided aeronautical information to the Soviet Union in 1948 gives me pause. My parents wrote in their last letter to me and my brother: ‘Always remember that we were innocent and could not wrong our conscience.’ My father, at least, doesn’t seem quite so innocent anymore.”

What he neglected to say is that this story, first outlined decades ago by my co-author Joyce Milton and I in The Rosenberg File, was sharply attacked by Michael, Robert’s older brother, in the book they co-authored in its second 1986 edition. Michael Meeropol had argued that this entire incident had been fabricated by the FBI in order to frame Perl and to force him to testify against his parents. Now, it seems that at least Robert Meeropol has acknowledged that the incident did take place, and that his father was engaged in very real espionage.

The significance of the younger Meeropol’s admission was well stated by Tablet magazine’s Marc Tracy, who writes that this is “perhaps the final wall of denial to fall in a case that has obsessed the American Jewish community for six decades,” and, I would add, that has been a linchpin of the American Left’s argument that the United States government was not only evil during the Cold War years, but was ready to kill regular American citizens because they were against the Truman administration’s anti-Soviet policies.

Tracy also points to my own recent article in Tablet magazine, of which he notes that whatever critics of the U.S. role in the case have argued, “most of [their arguments], especially today, Radosh persuasively argues, stems from the far left’s desire ‘to maintain their view that the only guilty party was the United States.’”

Strangely, after having said that his father was guilty, Robert Meeropol makes a statement that is not only a backtracking to his own admission, but is flatly wrong. Meeropol writes:

Ethel was not a spy and Julius was ignorant of the atomic bomb project. They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives. It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint.

First, as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev have revealed in Spies, Ethel Rosenberg was not only aware of the network her husband had put in place, she herself suggested that her brother David Greenglass be recruited by the KGB since he was stationed at Los Alamos. Second, and most importantly, Julius Rosenberg was not only aware of the Manhattan Project, he recruited a second atom spy, Russell McNutt, precisely because he thought that McNutt would be able to gather atomic bomb information from the plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

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Yesterday, the only adult among a group of congressional kindergartners, Rep. Paul Ryan, released his budget proposal for the future. The Democratic establishment immediately responded with the kind of knee-jerk all-out attacks we have come to expect from them. Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted: “The #GOP Ryan budget is a path to poverty for America’s seniors & children and a road to riches for big oil #GOPvalues.”  Not wanting to be outdone, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, said: “It is not courageous to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies and other big-money special interests while slashing our investment in education, ending the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and denying health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans.”

It is the usual reactionary Democratic talking points, all meant to scare seniors, make the public believe their access to health care will come to an end, and create a scenario for huge tax increases to make up the deficit.

That is why I almost fell off my chair when I read the very liberal Jacob Weisberg, editor of the Slate Group, respond with a thoughtful article titled “Good Plan!” which states in the heading subtitle that Ryan’s budget proposal is “brave, radical and smart.” I can just see Slate’s readers scratching their heads and asking themselves what has happened to Weisberg. They must have thought for a brief moment that they had logged on to PJM or National Review Online by mistake.

Weisberg understands that there is a genuine problem, and that both Republicans and Democrats have, as he puts it, been lax in confronting “the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance, which is driven by the projected growth in entitlement spending.” Weisberg goes on to write that “this dynamic of political evasion and reality-denial may have undergone a fundamental shift today with the release of Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget resolution.”  Hoping that Republicans will get behind it, Weisberg writes that if they do, the Republican Party “will become for the first time in modern memory an intellectually serious party — one with a coherent vision to match its rhetoric of limited government.”

Weisberg even argues that liberals, rather than respond in the fashion that they have already begun to, consider whether some of Ryan’s proposals might serve them, as well as the country. He doesn’t even reject Ryan’s proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher plan, and writes that “it’s hard to make a principled liberal case for the program in its current form.” And he adds that “Ryan’s alternative to Medicare hardly seems as terrible as Paul Krugman makes out.” The Ryan plan, he notes, is not one that spells an end to the social safety net. He writes:

Eventually, cost control would require some tough decisions about end-of-life care and the rationing of high-tech treatments that have limited efficacy. But starting with a value of $15,000 per year, per senior—the amount government now spends on Medicare—Ryan’s vouchers should provide excellent coverage. His change would amount to a minor amendment to the social contract, not a fundamental revision of it.

Pointing out that Ryan’s proposal would provide “excellent coverage” for seniors is exactly the opposite of the scare tactics all other Democrats are engaging in. Failure to follow Ryan’s lead, he warns, could create a “debt-driven economic crisis” that would “cast a pall over the country’s entire future.” For a moment, Weisberg sounds like — Glenn Beck!

Of course, Weisberg is still a liberal, who favors modest tax increases, and he has some criticism of the Ryan plan. Ryan, he argues, “skirts the question of which deductions and tax subsidies he’d eliminate to pay for these lower [tax] rates.” But he concludes that “more than anyone else in politics, Rep. Ryan has made a serious attempt to grapple with the long-term fiscal issues the country faces.” So I give kudos to Weisberg. He has dared to go against the liberal grain, and has congratulated Ryan for having a “largely coherent, workable set of answers.”

All of this leads me to highly recommend one of the most important essays written in many a year, by Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs. Levin’s article is the perfect companion piece to both Weisberg’s comments as well as Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. Levin has written a very long philosophical piece that carefully delineates and critiques the liberal world-view, and that reveals the difference between how conservatives and liberals perceive the world around them.  His point is stated right at the beginning:

But these [regulatory agencies and the massive entitlement system] are mostly symptoms of our mounting unease. The most significant cause runs deeper. We have the feeling that profound and unsettling change is afoot because the vision that has dominated our political imagination for a century — the vision of the social-democratic welfare state — is drained and growing bankrupt, and it is not yet clear just what will take its place.

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Today, the late Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm X was published.  After working on it for over twenty years, Marable sadly passed away last Friday, a few days before publication.  I do not share the late scholar’s political and social views, especially his socialist perspective and his neo-Marxist ideology.  But a quick read of some of the chapters of the book indicate that he has produced a thorough, beautifully written and insightful account of Malcolm X’s life, one that forces readers to reevaluate much of what they thought about where Malcolm X stood on many issues, and how and why he came to take positions that he held.

Marable rightfully saw Malcolm X as a major figure in 20th century black American life. Yet he is able to be critical about him and many of the choices he made, a man who, he writes, “was being strangled by the iconic legend that had been constructed about him.”  Readers will learn that at a critical moment in the civil rights struggle, Malcolm X made the foolish decision to negotiate and meet with leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, during which he told the Klan representatives that his people too wanted “complete segregation from the white race.” On this episode, Marable writes: “To sit down with white supremacists to negotiate common interests, at a moment in black history when the KKK was harassing, victimizing, and even killing civil rights workers and ordinary black citizens, was despicable.”

On the issue of Judaism and Israel, Marable does not hide the many times that Malcolm X made blatant anti-Semitic remarks; nor does he hide his early opposition to Israel. On why Malcolm X developed opposition to Israel, Marable reveals that his position was tied up with the money he was receiving from Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. As Marable writes: “Soliciting the support of the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser for his activities on behalf of orthodox Islam in the United States may have made it necessary to adopt Nasser’s political positions, such as fierce opposition to Israel.”

At the same time, however (1964), readers learn that in the upcoming presidential election, “Nearly alone among prominent black leaders, he continued to support Barry Goldwater as the better candidate to address blacks’ interests,” even though, Marable writes, Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act “made him the de facto candidate of Southern white supremacists.” Malcolm X, in other words, was a bundle of contradictions.

All of this is a preface to my recollections about  the night I and other young leftist activists at the University of Wisconsin had one evening  sometime in either 1961 or 1962, before Malcolm X went to the Middle East and before he was expelled by Elijah Muhammad from The Nation of Islam, then usually referred to as “the Black Muslims.”  Malcolm X had come to speak at the University’s Great Hall, the smaller of the two venues for speakers at the University in Madison.  The audience was largely composed of black students, with a smattering of white radicals. At that time, the crowd I was part of was highly critical of integrationist strategy, and was sympathetic to various forms of black nationalism.

Malcolm X’s speech, as much of it as I can recall, was made up of the kind of boilerplate comments we were already familiar with from the media. I remember him saying: “When you want a good and strong cup of coffee, you ask for black coffee. You don’t dilute it by putting in cream or milk.” He reaffirmed his opposition to the mainstream civil rights movement, criticized the integrationists and the mainstream, and gave the largely black audience the kind of red meat it had heard so much about and had come to hear in person. He was charismatic, charming, and to anyone who heard him speak, a powerful and fiery personage, a man who obviously was sincere and furious at the harsh treatment of black people in America. He ended by asking anyone who wanted to get in touch to write him. I recall his closing. “You don’t even have to know the address of Mosque Number 7 over which I preside,” he said, “just send the letter to Malcolm X, Harlem. It will get to me.”

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In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, Judge Richard Goldstone has essentially reversed himself on the findings of the Goldstone Report. He does, of course, qualify his remarks to make it appear that he has not reversed himself. What he does, in effect, is to say that if only Israel had cooperated with his investigation from the start, he would not have reached the incorrect conclusions of the now famous and highly influential report. Israel, of course, had quite good reasons to distrust Goldstone, as his report did major damage. But one would rather have Judge Goldstone now blame Israel for his original damaging conclusions than to have him blame Israel for intentionally being the major human rights violator in the Middle East.

Now, Goldstone asserts, “We know a lot more today about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding commission.” Poppycock! As Goldstone’s numerous critics pointed out as soon as the report was issued, its many vulnerabilities were known at that very moment. One could look no further than the lengthy and devastating critique by Moshe Halbertal  that appeared in The New Republic, or the many commentaries on it by Alan Dershowitz. As Dershowitz wrote at the time: “It is far more accusatory of Israel, far less balanced in its criticism of Hamas, far less honest in its evaluation of the evidence, far less responsible in drawing its conclusion, far more biased against Israeli than Palestinian witnesses, and far more willing to draw adverse inferences of intentionality from Israeli conduct and statements than from comparable Palestinian conduct and statements.”

Mr. Goldstone may prefer that we forget all this, but savvy readers will have no problem finding many sources that pointed to the report’s many flaws in 2009.  Nevertheless, it is refreshing to find today that Goldstone now says: “That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying –  its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.”  As for serious crimes against civilians that resulted from Israeli defensive action, Goldstone now writes that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy” by Israel. The moral equivalence, thankfully, has now disappeared in the judge’s new conclusions. Moreover, where possible violations of human rights were committed by Israel, Goldstone now writes that in one case if an Israeli officer was found to have acted inappropriately, and is “found to have been negligent, Israel will respond accordingly.”

He now argues, perhaps out of guilt or perhaps he decided his critics were correct, that “the purpose of the Goldstone Report was never to prove a foregone conclusion against Israel,” and that the original mandate of the UN Human Rights Council “was skewed against Israel.” Score yet another point for his critics. And, Goldstone adds, Israel “has the right and obligation to defends itself and its citizens against attacks from abroad and within.” He also stresses, although one would be hard pressed to find this in all the press reports about it, that “our report marked the first time illegal acts of terrorism from Hamas were being investigated and condemned by the United Nations.” Rather strange, then, that all the coverage emphasized Israel as the sole villain, and few could find any emphasis in the Report about Hamas and its war crimes.

If they were at all lax, and here again is Goldstone’s attempt to pass the buck, it was because they were not able to “include any evidence provided by the Israeli government,” which did not cooperate with them. Now, he says, Israel has in fact carried out investigations of rights violations in “good faith,” and yes — “Hamas has done nothing.” Surprise, surprise!

As Goldstone admits underhandedly, saying that his critics were correct,

Some have suggested that it was absurd to expect Hamas, an organization that has a policy to destroy the state of Israel, to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel. That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

And later on, he writes that “there has been no effort by Hamas in Gaza to investigate the allegations of its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.”

Goldstone indeed writes: “In the end, asking Hamas to investigate may have been a mistaken enterprise.” No kidding. It seems it has just occurred to the judge that a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel cannot, unlike democratic Israel, have any stake in investigating its own human rights violations. Did the judge really not comprehend this in 2009? And as for right now, Judge Goldstone adds that “the Human Rights Council should condemn the inexcusable and cold-blooded recent slaughter of a young Israeli couple and three of their small children in their beds.” Yes, Yes, Yes! What the judge does not say, of course, is that we all know that this will simply not happen. A Council that until recently had Col. Qadaffi’s Libya as a member is not about to do this, despite Goldstone’s recommendation.

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