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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: May 2011

Those of us who remember the tension in 1962 as President John F. Kennedy decided how to respond to the presence of Soviet missiles in Communist Cuba, with the overwhelming threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union a real possibility, had a sense of déjà vu as we read the story in Die Welt (the German newspaper) yesterday about the new possibility of a Venezuelan missile crisis looming on the horizon.

Writing at the Fox News website, Reza Kahili notes that Die Welt’s report:

Confirms that the bilateral agreement signed in October [between Venezuela and Iran] was for a missile installation to be built inside Venezuela. Quoting diplomatic sources, Die Welt reports that, at present, the area earmarked for the missile base is the Paraguaná Peninsula, located 120 kilometers from the Colombian border. A group of engineers from Khatam Al-Anbia, the construction arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, covertly traveled to this area on the orders of Amir Hajizadeh, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Air Force.

Even more shocking is the following:

Die Welt writes that the Iranian delegation had been ordered to focus on the plan for building the necessary foundations for air strikes. The planning and building of command stations, control bases, residential buildings, security towers, bunkers and dugouts, warheads, rocket fuel and other cloaking constructs has been assigned to other members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of Engineers. The IRGC engineers will also be interfacing with their Venezuelan counterparts in fabricating missile depots that are said to go as deep as 20 meters in the ground.

The Iranian-Venezuelan deal evidently also includes housing of Hezbollah cells and Quds forces in the new facilities, ready to expand their activity in Latin American in conjunction with drug cartels in the region, including those causing so much trouble now in Mexico. As Kahili puts it so well:

The radicals ruling Iran are emboldened by the confusion of the Obama administration in confronting Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian regime feels that America has exhausted all of its options with is negotiation and sanctions approach and therefore no longer poses a serious threat to Iran’s nuclear drive.

Indeed, the administration’s continuing willingness to put a negotiation track ahead of anything else, and to not do anything of real substance to stop Iran’s nuclear ambition reaching fruition, even to argue that the U.S. and the West can get along with a nuclear Iran — as we did with the Soviet Union — further emboldens the mullahs to continue on their chosen path.

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Having spent days praising Tony Kushner as the cultural world’s greatest gift to America, today’s New York Times prints yet another op-ed in praise of the anti-Israeli playwright—this time by none other than our old friend, Roger Cohen.

Using his Jewish bona fides as proof that he knows what is right, Cohen praises both the late Tony Judt- who wrote in favor of a one-state solution for Israel’s problems; i.e., a bi-national or in reality a unitary Palestinian state with a Jewish minority in place of Israel—and Tony Kusher, of whom Cohen writes that “Kushner’s travails have a familiar ring. He’s interested in historical facts, which include Palestinians being driven from their homes in 1948; he’s appalled by the ongoing Israeli settlement policy and is a board member of an organization that has supported boycotting West Bank settlements (although Kushner told me he’s against a boycott); he’s mused about one state.”

As usual, Cohen like the others take Kushner’s word for what he believes, completely ignoring all the evidence that the playwright regularly lies or dissembles about his own extremist views. And he also repeats the myth about what Cohen unknowingly calls “historical facts,” even though Kushner said he learned about Palestinian displacement in 1948 from Benny Morris, who in his latest revised writings, explains that in fact Palestinians were not pushed out by the Haganah, and the reality was far different from what he originally thought.

Rather than Kushner being punished,  Cohen favors the firing of Jeffrey Weisenfeld, whose only sin was speaking out at what he felt was an inappropriate honor to be granted by CUNY. How dare anyone confront the great Kushner by exposing him for what he is- a Jewish anti-Semite and hater of Israel? Cohen says no university should favor “taboo over debate.” Yes, Indeed- but it is Weisenfeld who favored debate, and Cohen and company and his fellow editors at the NYT who favor crushing the right of anyone who speaks out for Israel to be heard.

To add insult to injury, he ends his column by quoting Kushner about it being “essential that we become more sophisticated and braver in what we’re willing to say and think.” How true. But the only brave individual is Jeffrey Weisenfeld, who has bucked the consensus at CUNY and spoken out. The ones following the herd mentality is none other than Roger Cohen, the editors and reporters at The New York Times, all of whom speak with one voice- and without allowing any dissent from the party line to appear in their pages.

So again, as I said last time, it is no wonder New York City doesn’t need an open leftist daily newspaper. It has one: The New York Times.

The wonderful parody in Slate today, “The New York Times: The Final Edition,” got me to thinking about the “paper of record” once again. The parody deftly captures its irrelevance, the pomposity of its reporters’ stories, the grandiosity of its op-ed writers, and what undoubtedly the paper would be like were they running their very last edition!

If William McGowan has to write a new chapter for the paper edition of his book Gray Lady Down, he won’t have one bit of trouble coming up with lots of new material. As the paper steadily moves downhill, its editors and writers keep coming up with new material, which they will be handing to him on a silver platter.

There’s no secret anymore as to why the paper has become worse than it ever was. The editors and writers are on the political left; and they are pompous enough to think that since everyone they know thinks the same way, what they are writing is objective. This is not to say that its bias is a relatively new thing. It’s just that in the paper’s heyday, you could find relatively straightforward top-notch reporting. But even then, on certain issues, there was very little difference between the editorial side and that of the reporters.

There are two main examples of this. First, of course, is Walter Duranty, whose falsehoods on the Soviet famine in the Ukraine got him the paper’s very first Pulitzer Prize. The second is the reporting on Castro and the Cuban Revolution by Herbert Matthews. New Yorkers remember the billboard ads taken by National Review of the magazine’s famous cover of Castro with the heading, “I got my job through the New York Times.” As his biographer wrote in his book The Man Who Invented Fidel, the paper let Matthews both report and write editorials on the subject of his reporting, without even the pretense of a separation between the two departments of the paper. (You can find my review of the book here.)

The past week, there have been more than a few good examples of how the paper’s bias appears. The first is in an amazing dispatch in the new issue of The Weekly Standard, in which the editors point out that “if you get your news only from the New York Times, the self-styled newspaper of record, you would have read on Wednesday that information from enhanced interrogations played only a ‘small role at most’ in finding bin Laden.”

As they explain:

The Times is heavily invested in this storyline, having claimed repeatedly over the years that such interrogations are ineffective. Never mind that the CIA’s own declassified assessment of the interrogations demonstrates the opposite: Some 70 percent of what the U.S. intelligence community knows about al Qaeda came from detainees subject to enhanced interrogation, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad willingly gave “terrorist tutorials” to his interrogators after he was broken.

The editors also point out that the two reporters for the NYT story were Scott Shane, whose articles “would fit comfortably in the pages of The Nation,” and Charlie Savage, author of a comfortably left-wing book about national security issues. The editors write:

The authors pitted Bush administration officials against “human rights advocates” and former intelligence officials. They quoted Glenn Carle, a former CIA operative. Carle did not speak directly to the piece of intelligence that set the CIA on the trail to bin Laden, but he did share his opinion that coercive techniques “didn’t provide useful, meaningful, trustworthy information.” Such procedures, he added, were “un-American.” The next day, Carle continued his campaign against enhanced interrogation on a conference call conducted by the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress​.

What the Times story does not point out are the contrary assessments of both former CIA director Mike Hayden and  Leon Panetta. Panetta “confirmed that intelligence obtained through enhanced interrogations helped the agency find bin Laden.” This means that our president won his victory partially on the basis of information gathered by the Bush administration through “enhanced interrogation techniques,” obviously including waterboarding. The Standard editors conclude:  “The Times, however, did not find this news fit to print. They ignored it.”

That, sadly, is becoming par for course at the once-admired newspaper.

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The left-wing world loves Tony Kushner, so much so that in two days the New York Times has published three articles about a new controversy surrounding him, one online blog, and a rave review of his latest play that opened in New York City. Kushner is both one of the most overrated and at the same time most honored playwrights working today. He has been the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award, an Emmy, an Academy Award, a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and many, many more, including fifteen honorary degrees from other colleges.

Despite this, a furor arose when it was announced a few days ago that the trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) had voted to shelve an honorary degree that was to be awarded to Kushner by the John Jay College of CUNY, the city’s criminal justice institute, where most students are police officers. As the first national report indicated, Kushner responded by accusing the trustees of slandering him, and demanding an apology. The denial of his honorary degree came after one trustee, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, accused the playwright of holding virulent anti-Israeli views. Wiesenfeld said: “I think it’s up to all of us to look at fairness and consider these things. Especially when the state of Israel, which is our sole democratic ally in the area, sits in the neighborhood, which is almost universally dominated by administrations which are almost universally misogynist, antigay, anti-Christian.”

Kushner called Wiesenfeld’s comment a “vicious attack and wholesale distortion of my beliefs.” Claiming to be a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist, and denying that he favored a boycott of Israel, Kushner added his dismay “that a great public university would make a decision based on slanderous mischaracterizations without giving the person in question a chance to be heard.”

It was typical Kushner — playing the victim of a new McCarthyite attack on him by the right wing. The only problem is that if anyone was distorting Kushner’s actual views, it was the man himself.  He has made them so many times, in so many different places, that it is quite easy to document. Fortunately, CAMERA went to the trouble of immediately publishing a compendium of them, which you can read here. Let me just quote one, which immediately reveals that Kushner’s claim to be a strong supporter of Israel is false. “I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened.” Or in another interview,  where he told a reporter that the creation of Israel “was a mistake.”

The playwright says he does not support the BDS campaign, yet he sits on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, which favors the campaign. Yet he continually charges his opponents with falsifying his views, and with using “ ‘McCarthyite’ tactics to portray him as an extremist.” And Kushner is very adept at creating a media frenzy of his supporters, who rush to his defense at a moment’s call.

Hence today’s New York Times, as mentioned, featured a major story by reporter Sharon Otterman, who quoted one after another of Kushner’s defenders, without pausing to even interview one person from CUNY who was supportive of the withdrawal of the honorary degree. If anyone wanted proof of the paper’s bias, this report is it. Yesterday, I was phoned by another reporter at the paper, Winnie M. Hu, who interviewed me at great length. She said she would pass on the material to the reporter who was working on the story. Yet not one word appeared in Otterman’s article; nor did she interview one anyone else at CUNY who did not support Kushner.

As Jonathan Tobin so wisely wrote at Contentions, the withdrawal of the honorary degree “violated the prime directive of Gotham’s cultural elites: Thou shalt not hold any liberal icon accountable for anything they do.” And Tobin points out that this is not any violation of academic freedom, since “there is no constitutional right to an honorary degree.” You wouldn’t know that if you listen to all the screams about McCarthyism coming from CUNY’s leftists.

The latest comes from historian Ellen Schrecker. She sent a letter to Dr. Benno Schmidt, the head of the CUNY Board of Trustees, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, the newspaper read by all of academia, highlighted it in today’s edition. As K.C. Johnson observed accurately yesterday, Schrecker “has made a career out of detecting a non-existent danger of ‘McCarthyism’ in an academic environment in which devotees of her viewpoint dominate. Schrecker asserted that its McCarthyism for trustees to exercise their legal authority to confer (or not confer) honorary degrees. Such a bizarre claim suggests that the Yeshiva professor fundamentally misunderstands the topic that has been the subject of so much of her scholarship.”

As if she was seeking to validate Johnson’s description, Schrecker went on to tell the CUNY trustees that “I cannot, therefore, remain silent when the institution that once recognized the value of academic freedom now demeans it. That freedom is more than just the protection of the teaching, research, and public activities of college and university professors. It also extends to the entire campus, fostering the openness and creativity that allow American higher education to flourish.” And of course, Schrecker warns them not to “repeat…those dark days” of the McCarthy era.

Her statement reveals only that, expert as she claims to be, Schrecker does not comprehend the difference between denial of academic freedom and the decision of a university’s trustees to rescind an award granted by one of its institutions. Why is it an “educational priority” to give Tony Kushner this award? Whose freedom is being challenged by its withdrawal? Would Schrecker make the same argument if a white racist who opposed civil rights for African-Americans was given an award, because in his own field- — whatever it might be — that person had done outstanding work? To ask this is to answer it. She would be the first to demand such an award be taken back.

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The aftermath of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination finds many in the left and liberal community seeking to hold on to their worldview by praising the attack and its conclusion and by attributing it entirely to President Barack Obama. Doing so, however, presents this group with some major problems. First, it is now quite clear that the intelligence information that led to the successful raid was compiled over many years, and key intelligence was in fact gathered during the years of the Bush administration. Most important of all was the identification of Bin Laden’s “courier,” a man who on a regular basis kept the al-Qaeda chief in touch with the world outside of his million-dollar compound.

As the front-page New York Times report by Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper points out, intelligence agencies had been trying for close to a decade to identify the man. They learned of him, however, when “detainees at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had given the courier’s pseudonym to American interrogators and said that the man was a protégé of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.” They learned his real name four years ago — when the government was led by the very men liberals despised the most, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

President Obama, of course, deserves the credit for planning the mission to take down Osama Bin Laden, and for giving the go ahead to the secret Navy SEAL team. As the report explains, “he had to approve the final plan to send operatives into the compound where the administration believed that Bin Laden was hiding.” I do not intend to take that accomplishment away from the president. But my point is simple: were it not for the prior work of the Bush/Cheney administration, President Obama would not be in the position to have put the operation into effect.

Moreover, it is also clear that much of the information that led to the courier’s identity came from the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the very mechanism that regularly led to charges of torture, abuse of power, illegal U.S. spying techniques, waterboarding,  rendition, and questioning in secret facilities abroad where those interrogating the detainees did not have to abide by methods forbidden to be used within the United States.

In another Times story by Mazzetti, Cooper, and Peter Baker, the journalists put it this way:

The raid was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, including the interrogation of C.I.A. detainees in secret prisons in Eastern Europe, where sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was. Intelligence agencies eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mails of the courier’s Arab family in a Persian Gulf state and pored over satellite images of the compound in Abbottabad to determine a “pattern of life” that might decide whether the operation would be worth the risk.

Indeed, as the intelligence reporter Michael Isikoff, now with NBC News, reported yesterday:

The trail that led to the doorstep of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan began years earlier with aggressive interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and CIA ‘black site’ prisons overseas, according to U.S. officials.

It was those sometimes controversial interrogations that first produced descriptions of members of bin Laden’s courier network, including one critical Middle Eastern courier who along with his brother was protecting bin Laden at his heavily fortified compound in Abbottabad on Sunday.

According to Isikoff, early information about the courier for Bin Laden came from none other than “Mohammed al-Qahtani, who was subjected to some of the most humiliating interrogations at Guantanamo. Among the enhanced interrogation techniques used on him were being forced to wear a woman’s bra, being led around on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks and being subjected to cold temperatures that twice required his hospitalization, according to a later U.S. military report.”

Others have disputed this, but Isikoff, who wrote for Newsweek and covered the intelligence community for years, is known to have reliable sources and to be a reporter who does not write what he has not been able to confirm. He does say that no information came from waterboarding itself, but clearly, if at a later date Khaled Sheikh Mohammed or Qahtani came forth with solid information, one could clearly argue that the fear of being waterboarded again encouraged them to start talking and to give solid information. As Isikoff puts it, “After Qahtani was subjected to some of the humiliating interrogations at Guantanamo that later became public, he started to cooperate and, for a while, provided a wealth of information about al-Qaida, including references to the courier in question, the U.S. official said.”

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First, I think one has to acknowledge that the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden is a major victory for both President Obama and our country as a whole. As President George W. Bush acknowledged in his statement:

This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

Other Republicans, including those who have been critical of President Obama’s policies, made the right call.  Tim Pawlenty, one of the Republican hopefuls for his party’s nomination, said:

I want to congratulate America’s armed forces and President Obama for a job well done. Let history show that the perseverance of the U.S. military and the American people never wavered.

And Rep. Peter King, whom Democrats and liberals have criticized for his congressional hearings on the threat of Islamic radicalism, said:

In 2001, President Bush said, “We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.” President Bush deserves great credit for putting action behind those words. President Obama deserves equal credit for his resolve in this long war against Al Qaeda.

One might argue that President Obama’s policies on fighting terror have more in common with President George W. Bush than with those of Bush’s leftist and liberal critics. He has not closed down Guantanamo contrary to his campaign promises; he has continued to engage in the kind of tactics in fighting terror condemned regularly by the ACLU and the leftist Center for Constitutional Rights; and he has finally decided to try imprisoned suspected terrorists by military commissions, rather than civilian trials.

Nevertheless, the success of this mission now gives the president the credentials he was previously missing as a commander-in-chief who put into action a covert plan whose details were kept from Pakistani intelligence and other officials and that took eight months to finalize before the president gave the word to move ahead and take Osama down at his secret mansion in Pakistan.

At NBC’s website, White House correspondent Chuck Todd and his colleagues made some wise observations. They first correctly noted that the 2004 election was fought over national security, and the Democrats’ choice of John Kerry and New York City as their convention site dramatized their weakness on national security and helped lead to Bush’s re-election:

While it’s doubtful that Osama bin Laden’s death will have as long of a political impact — especially in this fast-changing, short-term memory media landscape — it will surely shape the contours of next year’s presidential race. For starters, it will hover over the first Republican debate set for this Thursday, even if it’s not a direct question. It also will highlight the GOP field’s foreign-policy and national-security credentials, or their lack thereof. And it amounts to Barack Obama’s top achievement as president.

I would go so far as to argue that were the election to be held this week, the death of Osama bin Laden would guarantee President Obama’s election victory. Fortunately, however, the campaign will most likely not be over national security issues, but rather on the overall outlook of President Obama and his team on how to carry out foreign policy, and on the domestic economy and the nature of the president’s domestic proposals, including ObamaCare and the growing debt from unsustainable entitlements, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

As for the significance of Osama’s defeat, no one has characterized it better than Paul Berman. Militarily, the war against Islamic terrorism and radicalism is far from over. But as Berman points out:

Those concluding phrases in Obama’s speech, the ones that invoked the Pledge, were a moment of eloquent truth. The phrases made clear that our military and intelligence agents have hunted down bin Laden not just because he was a bandit, but because we uphold our own doctrine, which is the doctrine of democracy. Bin Laden and most Americans have always been in agreement on one point, after all, which is the question of what has the war been about. The war has been a struggle over principle. It has been a struggle between the Islamist fantasy of founding a theocracy versus the democratic principle of promoting and defending a reality of democratic freedom.

Berman praises Obama’s speech as eloquent, which it certainly was, but alone among commentators, he chastises the president for a partisanship others have not noted.  Berman writes:

He said not one word about the war in Iraq. He may believe, and many people believe, that our war in Iraq has been nothing but a diversion from the central struggle, which is the manhunt for bin Laden. But these two things, the struggle in Iraq and the struggle in Af-Pak, have not, in fact, been separate and distinct. The war in Iraq, once we had overthrown Saddam, became a war directed largely against Al Qaeda. Ayman Al Zawahiri made clear that Iraq had become, for a while, the central front in the larger war between Al Qaeda’s version of Islamism and America’s version of liberal democracy. And, in Iraq, we managed to grind down the forces of Al Qaeda. The Islamic State of Iraq never did become a state. Iraq was Al Qaeda’s second chance, after Afghanistan, and the second chance, like the first chance, was defeated. I wish that Obama had said something about America’s victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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