To read about the background of Cockburn and the links to his father, I highly recommend first this article written a few years ago by a blogger that provides chapter and verse about Claude Cockburn and his son Alex. The writer shows how Alex regularly sought to replicate and endorse his father’s lies.
I know this because over the years I was the subject of Cockburn’s attacks. They reveal a hard-line Stalinist, not a mythical, crusading journalist heralded by his colleagues at The Nation (like John Nichols) as a simple teller of truth to power.
One fight I had with him was over the former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares, whose memoir Against All Hope I reviewed favorably for the New York Times Book Review. Valladares was the first political prisoner to make known the truth about the torture state that Fidel Castro had created in Cuba, thereby making the public aware for the first time in our country of the reality of how Castro treated his country’s political opponents. Accepting the Castro regime’s claims as absolute truth, Cockburn wrote that I had left out of my review that Valladares had been “a police officer in the Batista regime.” His point was simple: a hated cop for the old regime, Valladares’ account of his torture in prison was all made up.
I wrote the following in a letter to the editor of The Nation that appeared in their Sept. 20, 1986 issue:
When it comes to Castro’s Cuba, where human rights abuses are as widespread as in any nation on earth, he writes only to cast doubt on the testimony of witnesses to torture. One can only conclude that Cockburn supports the tortures carried out by the left-wing dictators whose policies he favors. … Anyone who regularly offers Cuban and Soviet police disinformation to his readers as ‘fact’ should have little credibility.
To this, Cockburn replied with trademark name-calling. He posited that I gave the book a good review because I liked getting paid “for dashing off another anti-Castro diatribe.” He then explained to his readers that I was “a professional anticommunist, with the tunnel vision that goes with that trade.” And again, he denied — as the world knows by now was the truth — that “there is any institutionalized torture in Cuba.” So much for a man that his legion of fans praise for telling the truth and for being some kind of a maverick — not a leftist at all.