Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Last week, President Obama met at the White House with Truong Tan Sang, the president of Vietnam. At the end of their meeting, according to the official White House release, Obama said:

We discussed the fact that Ho Chi Minh was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.

This weekend, I wrote an op-ed about it for the Wall Street Journal (unfortunately, subscription is required); I argued that Ho Chi Minh is more than likely laughing at our president from his grave. Rather than being any kind of a Jeffersonian democrat, he was a committed and disciplined Marxist-Leninist, trained at the infamous Lenin School in Moscow in the 1920s.

It is true that more than once, Ho Chi Minh made a shrewd tactical maneuver, a key instrument in the Leninist playbook. Seeking U.S. and Western support for his anti-colonial Communist movement, he decided that his effort might be rewarded with aid and military supplies against the French, and that goal could be attained more easily if he invoked the American Founding Fathers as his inspiration.

When the French withdrew from Vietnam in 1945, Ho proclaimed himself president of a provisional government, which he called the Vietnam Democratic Republic. I wrote in the op-ed:

In October 1945, just how democratic the republic would be became clear: Ho ordered the slaughter of his political opponents, including 50,000 of the then-powerful Trotskyist communists. During a trip to Paris in late 1945, Ho told the French Socialist leader Daniel Guerin, “All those who do not follow the line which I have laid down will be broken.”

For those who want details on how the newly installed “democratic” leader exterminated all of his opponents, consult any of the books by the late Austrian-born social-democrat Joseph Buttinger.

Spyridon Mitsotakis writes at Breitbart.com:

The myth of Ho’s devotion to the ideals of America’s Founders comes largely from a speech he made in Hanoi upon the defeat of the Japanese at the end of World War II. On September 2, 1945, he declared: “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live and to be happy and free …

It is well known that during the war against the Japanese, the American OSS, the precursor of the CIA, flew in a team to help train and equip Ho’s troops to fight and aid in the guerrilla war led by Ho against the Japanese occupiers of Vietnam. As Mitsotakis explains, compromise and alliances with the bourgeois enemy was always considered by Leninists a tactical step in the march to attaining power. He quotes Vietnam First Party Secretary Le Duan, who explained to his cadre:

We would at one time reach a temporary compromise … with the French in order to … wipe out the reactionaries [the non-communist Nationalists, whom the Communists helped the French to hunt down] … thus gaining time to consolidate our forces and prepare for a nationwide resistance to French colonialist aggression, which the party knew was inevitable.

Perhaps the man most responsible for depicting Ho Chi Minh as a Jeffersonian democrat inspired by the American revolution was another retired OSS officer, Archimedes L.A. Patti, who had met with Ho in late 1945. This was precisely the same time Ho’s cadre were physically exterminating all political opponents, including those on the Left such as the once powerful Vietnamese Trotskyists.

Sympathetic to Ho’s desire for Vietnamese independence, Patti — as he reveals in a 1981 TV interview – believed that just as the U.S. was ready to grant the Philippines independence, he hoped that it would do the same for Vietnam. Thus Patti emphasized to Ho FDR’s hostility to the French. When he talked with Ho Chi Minh in late 1945, as he puts it:

Ho Chi Minh was on a silver platter in 1945. We had him. He was willing to, to be a democratic republic, if nothing else. Socialist yes, but a democratic republican. He was leaning not towards the Soviet Union, which at the time he told me that USSR could not assist him, could not help him because they just won a war only by dint of real heroism.

It was Patti who in his book and in many speeches related how Ho Chi Minh cited the American Declaration of Independence. Patti was a skilled intelligence officer, influenced by how Ho’s troops aided U.S. forces with valuable intelligence in the fight against Japan. But Patti too was more than gullible, and believed Ho’s claims, not realizing how the Communist leader was applying classic Leninist strategy. It was Patti who argued that Ho Chi Minh was really a nationalist rather than a Communist, and that if the U.S. had worked with him and supported his aims, the result would have been a democratic Vietnam.

Evidently, later intelligence officers were equally gullible. In the comments section of the WSJ, Alan Trustman, who identifies himself as a “lifelong Republican conservative” and “not a supporter of Obama,” posted the following:

Allen Dulles … in the presence of his son, told me that he believed Ho wanted an independent, unified Vietnam which was a democracy on the American model, but the people advising Truman were so unreasonably hostile, given Ho’s communist background, that we were not going to support Ho notwithstanding his role as the virtual head of American intelligence in Indo China during WWII.

I have no reason to doubt Mr. Trustman’s recollection. That, however, reveals that even the Republican appointed head of the CIA Allen Dulles (Director of Central Intelligence from 1953 to 1961) and brother of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles believed Ho Chi Minh’s manipulative claims.

Pages: 1 2 | 21 Comments bullet bullet

JULY 25, 2013

 

This is Cross-posted from Minding the Campus, the higher ed site of The Manhattan Institute.
By Ronald Radosh
The vultures in academia are out to get Mitch Daniels Jr., the president of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana. Inside Higher Ed reported last week that in e-mails he sent out while Governor, Daniels tried to get Indiana universities to stop using the best-selling A People’s History of the United States, written by the late uberleftist professor Howard Zinn.  Now, the site reported on Monday, historians nationwide are demanding Daniels be called to task for his position. In one e-mail that especially offended the online higher education magazine, Daniels wrote: “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be better taught because someone sat through this session. Which board has jurisdiction over what counts and what doesn’t?”Daniels quickly posted an explanation for his position on Purdue University’s website. Daniels wrote:

My emails infringed on no one’s academic freedom and proposed absolutely no censorship of any person or viewpoint. In fact, the question I asked on one day in 2010 had nothing to do with higher education at all. I merely wanted to make certain that Howard Zinn’s textbook, which represents a falsified version of history, was not being foisted upon our young people in Indiana’s public K-12 classrooms.

After establishing that serious historians think little of Zinn, he added: “I want to be equally clear that if Howard Zinn had been a professor at Purdue University, I would have vigorously defended his right to publish and teach what he wanted. Academic freedom, however, does not immunize a person from criticism and certainly does not confer entitlement to have one’s work inflicted upon our young people in the K-12 public school system.”

The Reading List

Daniels’ statement was not sufficient for the historians, including 92 professors in various fields teaching at Purdue. Daniels got in touch with Inside Higher Ed’s editors, and told them that he simply did not want his teachers exposed to “falsifications” of history, and that his position had no “implication for academic freedom.” On that, as we learned last week from my PJ Media colleague Roger Kimball, Daniels is also correct.

The historians offer the following arguments. Prof. Robert J. Helfenbein, who teaches something called Urban and Multicultural Education–whatever that might be–says he tries to teach future social studies teachers in high schools “multiple perspectives,” and that even those who disagree with Zinn “see a worth in reading a historian take on this very different perspective.”

Let me pose a hypothetical question to Prof. Helfenbein. If he taught biology and evolution, would he assign a creationist textbook to his students, informing them that the perspective and theory had to be considered, alongside those authors who wrote from a Darwinian perspective? I think we all know the answer. It is the same one given to the claim by Holocaust deniers that their point of view too must be considered. As Prof. Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University has often argued, one should not debate such a purveyor of untruth, and thus give legitimacy and credibility to unscientific and false arguments that have no merit whatsoever. There are no grounds whatsoever that all arguments have to be considered, no matter how many followers, in this case, that Howard Zinn has.

In a separate statement offered by historian Michael Kazin of Georgetown University, who authored his own harsh critique of Zinn–which Daniels actually cited as evidence of how even left-wing historians had disdain for Zinn–Kazin wrote that Daniels “should be roundly condemned for his attempts to stop students from reading Zinn’s big book and for calling Zinn a liar.”  In so doing, Kazin the leftist undermines his own well-known case against Zinn, as he tries to prove that when under attack, “there are no enemies on the Left.”

Zinn Wanted to Change the Future

Daniels was not saying students should not read Zinn’s book–thousands unfortunately do–but only that it was harmful to have his so-called history used as a text particularly in elementary and high schools. Kazin goes on to say that while it is true he does not “think much of Zinn’s interpretation of US history,” it is nevertheless “an interpretation.”

Kazin should know better. Zinn himself believes, as I pointed out in these pages some time ago, that history was not about “understanding the past,” but rather, “about changing the future.” That statement alone should disqualify anyone from ever calling him a historian again.  Yet Kazin then argues that when Daniels says that Zinn is a “biased writer,” it “just shows how little he understands how history is now and has always been written.”

Yes, historians do have a “point of view” that is their starting point for understanding the past. What Zinn does, as his numerous detractors have pointed out, is to create cardboard heroic stick figures as heroes who fought oppression, in order to give today’s radicals the courage to press forward as they identify heroes from the past they can be inspired by. This is not history, but rather old style CP agit-prop. This is hardly surprising, since Zinn was a long-time Communist Party member, who only left its ranks when he felt the CP had become soft and was not extreme enough.

If that is not enough, the American Historical Association, the main organization of U.S. historians, released an official statement that they “consider any governor’s action that interfered with an individual teacher’s reading assignments to be inappropriate and a violation of academic freedom.” They went on to argue that hence they disagree with the “spirit and intent” of Daniel’s actions when he was Governor.

Now, 92 of Daniel’s own faculty have issued an open letter condemning their own University chief official. First, the professors start out with a statement which is easily proven to be completely false. They write: “Whatever their political stripe, most experts in the field of U.S. history do not take issue with Howard Zinn’s facts, even when they do take issue with his conclusions.”

Getting the Rosenbergs Wrong

Let me give one major example, which as readers know, I am most familiar with. In the latest edition of his A People’s History, Zinn writes:

The Rosenbergs were charged with espionage.  The major evidence was supplied by a few people who had already confessed to being spies, and were either in prison or under indictment.

He continues to challenge the credibility of key witness Harry Gold, whom he asks: “Did Gold cooperate in return for early release from prison?” As for Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass, the other major witness, Zinn writes: “Did Greenglass…also know that his life depended on his cooperation?” His implication is clear: the key witnesses lied in order to get themselves a good deal. He also repeats the canard that Greenglass was an “ordinary-level machinist” and “not a scientist” who therefore could not give the Soviets anything of value. He suggests, without evidence, that Gold and Greenglass coordinated their testimony while awaiting trial in New York City’s Tombs prison.

First, the Rosenbergs were charged with “conspiracy to commit espionage,” and not espionage. Second, it is clear that Zinn had not even read the book I co-authored, The Rosenberg File, or Allen Hornblum’s The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb, or Steven Usdin’s Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley. Had he been even slightly familiar with these books, he would have easily found that much of what he writes in his few pages on the Rosenberg case are factually wrong, as are his scenarios he so fancifully surmises about with any evidence. Indeed, the rest of his paragraphs read like the old Communist propaganda about the case he had learned in the years after the Rosenbergs’ arrest when he was an active CP member. He does not even take into account any of the recent revelations available while he was still alive. His account, in simple terms, is a blatant lie.

Zinn Dodged Soviet Revelations

Indeed, in the edition he published in 2009 for young readers, Zinn went further. By then, he had ample time to catch up with evidence widely available indicating the Rosenbergs’ guilt, starting with the Venona decrypts, that had been released in 1995! Zinn writes in this last volume that came out the year of his death:

Although the evidence against the Rosenbergs was weak, the government executed them as spies. Later investigations proved the case was deeply flawed. But at the time, everything from movies and comic strips to history lessons and newspapers urged Americans to fight communism.

Reading the above, it is clear that Governor Daniels has very good reason to object to young students learning their “facts” and history from Howard Zinn.

Let us return to the Open Letter by some of Purdue’s faculty. They continue to assert that two of the historians whom Daniels cites in opposition to Zinn, the late Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and the late Oscar Handlin, were part of the “consensus” school whose members believed that they had a right to speak for all Americans, and to leave out the oppressed—of which the faculty members provide us with the list, as if we do not know what groups it is composed of.

Next they turn to positive reviews of Zinn, and they cite in particular the endorsement of him by Columbia University’s highly regarded historian, Eric Foner. They do not pause to note, however, that Foner is a bona fide Red Diaper Baby, who as the late Theodore Draper pointed out in a New York Review of Books article about Foner’s own history of the United States, the only group he unreservedly praised without criticism as a force fighting for freedom, was- you guessed it- the American Communist Party. Draper writes:

Foner shows no such enthusiasm for any other organization in all of American history. His evident resolve to rehabilitate American communism derives from a peculiarly truncated version of the Party’s history. Because Foner gives it so much importance, an innocent reader might think that the period of the Popular Front was the most important and characteristic phase of the Party’s history…. In only one brief sentence does Foner allude to spying for the Soviet Union. He writes: “There undoubtedly were Soviet spies in the United States.” In fact, the spies were American Communists who were managed by resident Soviet agents who were not themselves spies…. Anti-Communists come in for something “perilously close” to defamation. … The section on American communism shows Foner at his most tendentious. The problem is not that he favors the American Communists but that he does so unhistorically.

So the reason Foner praises Zinn is because, he, like Zinn, is pro-Communist, considers the United States to be an enemy of freedom, and agrees with Zinn’s falsified history, or to use the old Trotskyist term, “the Stalinist falsification of history.”

Zinn Needed for ‘Critical Thinking’?

The Purdue professors claim, in their conclusion, that they seek to introduce students to “critical thinking,” and that for that esteemed reason, Zinn must be included in any curriculum. Teachers, they say, have the duty to use “controversial scholarship” if they so choose, so that the “conventional wisdom” of past generations can be challenged.

In making that case, they reveal their own limited and false view of what history offers us. History is a way of learning about the past, so that we can understand from what roots we came. It is not a mechanism meant to provide inspiration for leftist agendas, or for that matter, for conservative ones. If conventional wisdom turns out to be accurate, it should not be overturned. In the case of American communism, which both Professor Foner and the late Howard Zinn believe was a force for good in the fight against the would-be oppressors, they might ask whether or not in that case, the conventional wisdom of the time turned out to be more accurate than the revisionist case made by Zinn and Foner.

It is my hope in that his honest and forthright decision to oppose the teaching of Howard Zinn, President Mitch Daniels, Jr. of Purdue University will stand firm, and continue to teach his faculty and the rest of America a real lesson in the true meaning of academic freedom and courage in fighting against the forces of leftist political correctness.

________________________________________________________________________

- See more at: http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2013/07/92_professors_go_after_mitch_d.html#sthash.EpN13YKe.dpuf

You may not have heard of Leon Keyserling — he was one of the bright young men who rushed to our nation’s Capitol to work for FDR after he was elected president, and who helped to fashion a great deal of the New Deal legislation. As his obituary in The New York Times pointed out:

As an aide of Senator [Robert F.] Wagner, a Democrat, [NY] Mr. Keyserling helped draft such measures as the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, the Social Security Act of 1935 and the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act.

Later, as his Wikipedia entry shows, he went on to work for President Harry S. Truman and continued to advise him on major domestic programs.

His most recent biographer, Donald K. Pickens, argues that Keyserling was what he calls a representative of “integrative liberalism,” which he defines as a phrase that best explains the realistic and pragmatic quest for a “deeper national community” that would unite all Americans around economic growth and a government commitment to programs to help the needy and regulate business. Hence, it would be a “country in which no one is left out.” According to FDR’s other aide, Rexford Tugwell, it meant a series of programs which they helped build for the New Deal that was accomplished “without resort to revolution or abandonment of the Constitution.”

His previous biographer, W. Robert Brazelton, argues that Keyserling believed in economic growth as the prerequisite for progress, but that he understood that some sectors of the economy were weaker than others, as were some groups in society, and hence that meant the federal government had to institute policies to maintain full employment. In other words, like other mainstream liberals, he believed the economy needed government programs to keep it in keel, and that it was the job of government, not the free market, to create full employment.

You might wonder, at this point, why I am even writing about him. The answer comes from a review that appeared recently in The Times Literary Supplement (London) of July 12, 2013, by David Hawkes, a review that unfortunately is not available online.  Hawkes offers the first review of a recent book by a left-wing historian named Landon Storrs titled The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left.

Storrs presents a typical left-wing narrative of the 1930s. As she develops her story, Professor Storrs argues that the Red Scare of the 1950s forced out of government an entire group of reformers who believed in social-democracy, and who were dismissed and marginalized by McCarthyite zealots who quashed dissent in the name of fighting subversion, as those fighting to oust them failed to distinguish between mainstream socialists and Communists. As the publisher’s summary states:

Storrs demonstrates how the Second Red Scare undermined the reform potential of the New Deal and crippled the American welfare state.

In her book, Storrs tells us that Keyserling and his wife Mary were “prime targets of the anticommunist right.” Both “publicly dismissed their experience” with the loyalty investigations of the 1950s, she writes, “as fleeting manifestations of Red Scare hysteria.” Nevertheless, when Leon Keyserling advised Truman, Storrs acknowledges that the couple “took leading roles on behalf of policies that were at the top of conservatives’ most hated list, including price control, high wages, strong protection of union rights, and the European Recovery Plan.” The essence of what they supported were policies that favored “directing more of productivity’s gains to wages rather than profits.”

Later the Keyserlings would dissemble, arguing that they had always been political centrists though they were actually on the left of the Democratic Party. Later they would serve Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society endeavors, and are remembered by many, Storrs writes, “as loyal Johnson Democrats who favored Cold War military spending, backed U.S. policy in Vietnam, and argued that poverty could be eliminated through economic growth rather than redistribution” of wealth.

It is at this point that historian Storrs uncovered the hidden truth about Leon and Mary Keyserling, a truth that undermines her own thesis, and comes as a revelation that many might have missed, if not for the Hawkes review: Both were not only secret Communist sympathizers and members of various Party front groups, but Leon Keyserling actually advocated violent revolution while he was in the New Deal writing reform legislation!

Pages: 1 2 3 | 18 Comments bullet bullet

The jury in the trial of George Zimmerman has spoken. Evidently, their verdict is not satisfactory to the racial hucksters and demagogues. Leading the pack, as usual, is Reverend Al Sharpton, whose own role in the Tawana Brawley debacle has not worked to discredit anything he says for the media.

“An atrocity,” Sharpton called it, “one of the worst situations that I’ve seen. … We had to march to even get a trial, and then at trial when he’s exposed over and over again as a liar, he is acquitted. This is a sad day in the country. A slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country.” Later, he added: “We intend to ask the Department of Justice to move forward as they did in the Rodney King case and we will closely monitor the civil case against Mr. Zimmerman. I will convene an emergency call with preachers tonight to discuss next steps and I intend to head to Florida in the next few days.”

The Reverend Al, as he is called by his supporters, was joined in a call for a Department of Justice indictment of George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights by Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP. “We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” Jealous said in a statement. “We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed. … The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin.”

The problem that Sharpton and Jealous have is that the FBI already had investigated the case, and could not come up with any proof that racial hatred was what motivated Zimmerman to follow Martin. Indeed, George Zimmerman was shown to have mentored black children, and to have publicly complained about police actions that he thought were unfair to the African-American community. His best friend is a black man. The tragedy that developed was hardly the same as when white cops were found to have beaten Rodney King and used unnecessary and brutal force out of racial animus.

Joining the attempt to fan the flames of discontent among the African-American community were a slew of liberal writers, led by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Like many others of his ilk, Tomasky seems to think America is back in the early ’60s, when racial segregation existed and the Southern states were in command of a racist Democratic Party whose leaders sought to preserve the system of segregation at all costs. Indeed, he argues that under President Obama, America’s racial divide has gotten worse.

Zimmerman, Tomasky writes, would have thought twice about shooting a white kid, evidently even if he feared for his life and the white kid was on top of him pummeling his head into the cement. “He’d know in his bones,” he writes, “that white lives are accorded more value in this society than black ones, and you don’t go around shooting white people and expect not to pay a price.”

Zimmerman, of course, did not say anything about race when he was speaking to the 911 dispatcher until he was asked about it –he thought Martin might be black, but was not sure. After all, it’s not so easy to identify the race of a person wearing a hoodie at night viewed from a car. Does Tomasky think that at the moment when the weaker Zimmerman feared for his life, even if he knew at that point that the boy on top of him was white, he would not have reached for his gun if he thought his life was in danger?

As for the Stand Your Ground laws, The New York Times editorial board wrote: “The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of the now-notorious Stand Your Ground provision in Florida’s self-defense law.” As most followers of the case know, except for the supposedly learned editors of the paper, the defense did not once invoke that law in waging their defense of George Zimmerman.

Instead, they argued that Zimmerman reached for his gun when he was pinned down and his head was being slammed into the ground, fearful as he was for his life. That is a standard that would have applied to all the states of the union.

Nevertheless, the Martin family counsel, Ben Crump, stated that Trayvon Martin would go down “in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till as symbols of the fight for equal justice for all.” Evers was a brave fighter against segregation in an era in which the KKK and White Citizens’ Councils were active in segregated Southern states and most often were protected by the law, if indeed the lawmakers and police themselves were not members of either organization. Till was a young black boy killed by racists for the offense of supposedly whistling at a white woman.

If you want to read first-rate commentary taking up the arguments of the racial demagogues, read Abigail Thernstrom’s fine piece that appears on CNN’s website. While the station was most notoriously stacking the decks in favor of those who argued racial injustice was committed by the jury in finding Zimmerman innocent, perhaps their website editor decided it was time for some of its viewership to at least have the option to read a different perspective. “People such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson,” she writes,  “see white racism as endemic and elevate what’s wrong with America over all that is remarkably right.” She continues to argue that if President Obama’s Justice Department “brings civil rights charges against Zimmerman, as the NAACP has urged and which it is reportedly still considering, the ugly racial politics of this prosecution will be undeniable.”

Pages: 1 2 | 60 Comments bullet bullet

Yesterday, the liberal majority of the D.C. City Council voted that if Wal-Mart opens three stores in the underserviced poor areas of the nation’s capital — inhabited largely by African-Americans — it cannot do so unless the chain raises the minimum wage of its employees to $12.50 per hour.

That action reflects how far removed from reality the council members are. Their supposed concern for the poor will only hurt those they claim to be representing. The action also displays how the arguments and activism of left-wing groups — who have for years campaigned for what they continually call a “living wage” — have had an influence on Democratic Party politicians.

In the District of Columbia, the minimum wage is already $8.25 an hour, higher than the established federal minimum wage. Moreover, the Council’s action would apply only to the three stores that Wal-Mart planned to build. It is clearly a discriminatory piece of legislation, since it targets only one employer — a firm which we all know is the chain most hated by Left activists like those of the old ACORN. (To see typical leftist arguments on the issue, read here.)

Investor’s Business Daily notes that if Wal-Mart cancels the three stores under construction and the other three that were being planned, it means a loss to D.C. residents of 900 retail jobs and 600 construction jobs — 1500 people who would be able to gain much-needed work. More important, however, is that Wal-Mart is building in areas of the city that have few, if any, supermarkets or chains at which residents can locally buy produce at prices they can afford.

The Daily editors write:

At a time when millions of marginally employed Americans are scraping by, prices at Wal-Mart average 10% to 40% below other retailers for food, clothing, medicines and many other items.

In that manner, consumers shopping at the popular chain — popular except among the denizens of the Left who get their produce at Whole Foods and other upscale chains — achieve savings totaling over $50 billion per year. On the individual level, a shopper buying his food and other items exclusively at Wal-Mart saves up to $2000 per year.

To the poor, Wal-Mart is actually “progressive.” Local resident Yvonne Williams informed a D.C. weekly free paper:

We’ve been praying for food in this neighborhood for about 40 years. … God has brought what was supposed to be here — a first-class progressive thing.

Pages: 1 2 | 24 Comments bullet bullet

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Daniel Ellsberg comes to the defense of Edward Snowden. His op-ed has evidently come as a shock to many people. For days, scores of commentators in print, TV, and radio have argued that when Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, he acted differently than young Snowden. After all, they point out, Ellsberg stayed in the United States, faced the music and a major trial, and did not go into exile.

This is only partially correct. Unlike Snowden, Ellsberg at first did not make it known publicly that he was the man responsible for giving The New York Times the Pentagon Papers. By doing so, he was escaping the eventual indictment he faced for violating the Espionage Act, for the act of theft and conspiracy in releasing them. (His trial was eventually dismissed in 1973, when the court was presented evidence of governmental misconduct, including illegal wiretapping.)

Ellsberg, most people forget, was outed by the late journalist Sidney Zion, who breached the trust of the journalist fraternity by calling a friend’s radio talk show and informing the listening audience that Ellsberg was the one who had given the papers to the Times.

As for Ellsberg, he says he did the same as Snowden — going underground with his wife for two weeks, in order, he writes, “to elude surveillance while I was arranging – with the crucial help of others still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers.” He defied an arrest order for three days, therefore making him, supposedly, “like Snowden, a ‘fugitive from justice.’”

There is, however, a vast difference between defying an arrest order for three days before surrendering to the court in Boston, having given out the last copies of the Pentagon Papers the day before, and what Snowden did.  Snowden is not surrendering and returning to the United States; instead, he is seeking asylum in either Nicaragua or Venezuela, both countries having offered to take him in on his terms. By seeking sanctuary in leftist authoritarian regimes that have scant regard for press freedom or civil liberties, Snowden has made it quite clear that his motives are anything but libertarian.

Secondly, Ellsberg argues that in Nixon’s time, when he and the Left daily castigated the country as near fascist, the country was freer than it is today. Forgetting their hatred and disdain for the Nixon administration, Ellsberg writes that after he was indicted, he was freed on bond and was “free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures.” Considering himself part of a “movement against an ongoing war,” he stresses that he did not want to leave the country, and that such a step never crossed his mind.

According to Ellsberg, Snowden did not have the choice he had in the ’70s. Now, he argues, had Snowden stayed in the United States, he would be denied bail and held in prison incommunicado, like Bradley Manning. (Manning, of course, is in a military prison and is subject to different rules than Snowden would be.)

Ellsberg then writes “Snowden believes that he has done nothing wrong.” That statement simply is mind-boggling. Since when is one’s private view of actions taken a defense against an indictment for committing a crime? Recall that Alger Hiss claimed innocence despite proof of his guilt, and that Ethel and Julius Rosenberg did the same, and their defenders today rationalize their acts — since guilt by now has been proven and the damage they did established — as being understandable since they did it for good motives!

Pages: 1 2 | 53 Comments bullet bullet

This week our nation remembers the battle that raged at Gettysburg 150 years ago. Thousands were killed in three days of fierce fighting. Had the Union troops not won, an outcome that was not a sure thing when the fighting began, our nation would have been quite different than it is today.

If you want to know what it means, many commentators have eloquently explained its critical importance. Today, David Brooks writes that the soldiers who fought did so not just to protect their immediate comrades, but out of “love for country” and a feeling of “indebtedness to the past.”  At Commentary, Peter Wehner writes that this three-day battle, in which 51,000 were killed, wounded, or missing, the outcome was essential to our future: “It ended slavery and it preserved the Union, which meant it preserved and extended liberty in America and the world.”

Few have written about its meaning more eloquently, however, than the esteemed Civil War historian Allen C. Guelzo, author of the recently released book Gettysburg:The Last Invasion.  Writing in National Review, Guelzo points out that it might have been the Southern states’ last chance to win their fight for independence, and hence, to win the war. General Robert E. Lee’s strategy of luring the Union troops after him and then smashing them to oblivion was close to being accomplished. As Guelzo writes, “it nearly worked.”

Fortunately, Union troops arrived in the town of Gettysburg first, and were “ready to fight for dear life to hold it.” The Union won, but at great cost. The  final toll on the Union side was “3,903 dead, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 ‘missing,’ so that the entire butcher’s bill edged up to 28,063.” Guelzo writes:

Gettysburg did not end the war in one stroke, but it was decisive enough to restore the sinking morale of the Union, decisive enough to keep at bay the forces that hoped Lincoln could be persuaded to revoke emancipation, and decisive enough to make people understand that the Confederacy would never be able to mount a serious invasion again.

In the New York Times, Guelzo sheds more light on how and why the Confederates lost the battle and the Union won: “But win it they did,” he writes, “and as that realization sank in, it rejuvenated the sagging weariness of the Union as no other single event in the war.”

Either of Professor Guelzo’s two articles would have made an appropriate and powerful speech at the official commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle held two nights ago at Gettysburg National Park. If the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation had any integrity, they would have asked Gulezo, or perhaps our nation’s most well-known historian of the Civil War, James McPherson, to give the keynote speech.

Instead, they went for celebrity and chose the well-known television historian and best-selling author Doris Kearns Goodwin. My wife and I watched it live two nights ago, and were stunned at what we heard. Goodwin barely mentioned Gettysburg, except for a perfunctory acknowledgement at the start of her comments.

Those in attendance were forced to listen to a self-absorbed, narcissistic, and politically correct bromide about how Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg was important as a precursor to  LBJ’s support of the Civil Rights Act, the fight for gay marriage, the  “women’s liberation” movement of the ’70s, and, of course, the need for a female president (there were numerous references to Hillary Clinton, Kearns Goodwin’s obvious choice).

Anyone who has heard Kearns Goodwin talk on interview programs, or read her essays, or seen previous speeches had heard it all before. A historian who was widely condemned some years back for proven plagiarism — an act that did not harm her career or standing one bit — she even plagiarized herself, taking segments almost verbatim from her 1998 commencement address at Dartmouth College, and similar themes and words she used in her 2006 speech to the Abraham Lincoln Association.

Pages: 1 2 | 61 Comments bullet bullet