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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: August 2013

I never thought I would be singing the praises of John Kerry, but in his speech on Friday, he laid out the consequences of not acting in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons. “If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity,” Kerry argued, “even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.”

Juxtapose those words with the very next paragraph in the Washington Post report of the speech:

A short time later, in brief remarks before a White House meeting, President Obama said he was considering a “limited, narrow act” against Syria but has not yet made a final decision on a military strike.

“We’re not considering any open-ended commitment,” Obama said. “We are not considering any boots on the ground approach. We have consulted with allies. We have consulted with Congress.” With these words, the president effectively undercut any message his secretary of State was trying to get across. If Kerry had any honor, he would immediately resign from office to make clear how seriously in disagreement he is with his commander-in-chief.

With his own explanation, Barack Obama has let Assad and the world know that what he is considering is nothing but an ineffectual symbolic act that would accomplish nothing and only empower and embolden our worst enemies. As Kerry went on to say, Hezbollah, North Korea, and other powers were testing the resolve of the United States, and would breath a sigh of relief if they found that the United States allowed Assad to act with impunity.

Now that the president has let Assad know that any military strike would not take out his regime, the Syrian dictator can go to sleep easily, knowing that he will awake safe in his presidential palace, with his military and main troops unharmed. If he was for a time worried that Obama would strike their barracks, he has had ample time to send them elsewhere before a strike takes place.

At the same time, David Cameron’s shocking announcement that he would accept the sentiment of his countrymen not to get involved came as a shock to even his opponents. They had expected Cameron to accept only a decision to wait until the reports of the UN inspectors were made available, and then ask UK’s Parliament to join with the United States. Instead, Cameron capitulated entirely to the anti-war opposition. Winston Churchill must be turning over in his grave.

As for the Labor opposition, the speech before Parliament by Ed Miliband, Labor’s leader and son of  the late Ralph Miliband, the far-left Marxist professor, displayed the kind of gobbledygook logic one has come to expect from official liberalism. The night before his speech, he sent out the following message to Labor about the crisis in Syria:

Like everyone, I have been horrified by the pictures of men, women and children gasping for breath in Syria. In Parliament just now, I laid out my plan for how Britain should respond.

My position is clear: any action that our country supports must be legal, legitimate and effective. Our country must not make the same mistakes that happened ten years ago.Our desperate desire to help stop this suffering in Syria must not lead us to rushed or wrong decisions.

You can see my full roadmap for action in Syria by watching my speech to Parliament:

If we are to ask yet more of the most exceptional of our country’s men and women — those in our forces — it must be on the basis of a decision that has complete moral authority.

Here are the five steps we must take before coming to such a decision:

1) We must let the UN weapons inspectors do their work and report to the UN Security Council;

2) There must be compelling and internationally-recognised evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks;

3) The UN Security Council should debate and vote on the weapons inspectors’ findings and other evidence. This is the highest forum of the world’s most important multilateral body and we must take it seriously;

4) There should be a clear legal basis in international law for taking military action to protect the Syrian people;

5) Any military action must be time limited, it must have precise and achievable objectives and it must have regard for the consequences of the future impact on the region.

I will use the full force of my position as leader of the Labour Party to ensure that Britain works fully with international institutions when we respond to outrages like those we have seen in Syria.

We must work together for a world in which there is peace and security for all people, and we must also acknowledge that stability will not and cannot be achieved by military means alone.

I will keep you updated on developments from Parliament.

To translate, Miliband says that to have “moral authority” one must depend on the UN Security Council, which of course he well knows — given the vote of Russia on that body — will do nothing except support whatever the Assad regime wants.  When he says we must take “seriously” the Security Council’s judgment, he means that no matter what, the UK will do nothing. We already have solid evidence of a major chemical attack, but Miliband prefers to wait for the UN report, although many observers have noted that by the time they entered Syria, much of the evidence has already dissipated.  Like any good multilateralist, he also asks that his countrymen wait for the decision of international law, which is yet another bygone conclusion. Finally, he ends with the old liberal belief that “stability cannot be achieved by military means alone.” What he means by that is “let us depend on diplomacy,” which is a joke when one is talking about engaging in it with Bashar al-Assad. Or, assuming he gains the leadership and becomes PM, can we expect Miliband to appear at the side of Assad and Vladimir Putin, proclaiming that we have found “peace in our time”?

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Fifty years ago this week, the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. The highlight was Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, now justly celebrated as one of the most famous orations in American history, standing alongside that of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

I, along with many other Americans, have my own memories of that day. I had recently left Madison, Wisconsin, to come back to New York City with my first wife and our infant daughter, where I looked for an apartment and began the long process of writing my doctoral dissertation and finding a job. I had been involved in the civil rights movement in 1959-60 at the University of Iowa, where I got my M.A. in history. I organized the picketing of Woolworth’s department store in solidarity with the Greensboro, North Carolina, sit-in, at which brave black students demanded to be served lunch at the segregated chain’s lunch counter. While at Iowa, my wife and I went to hear King speak at a local black church, and hence I already knew what a powerful speaker he was.

On the day of the march, I boarded an old hard-back yellow school bus at 5:00 a.m. for the long trip to the nation’s capital. The bus was chartered by people working out of Bayard Rustin’s New York office, and was officially part of a delegation of what became Students for a Democratic Society, but at the time was the Student League for Industrial Democracy, a group affiliated with the Socialist Party led by Norman Thomas. Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph were both members.

I remember one highlight. The then-segregated Maryland rest stops were open to all marchers, black and white. I recall groups of volunteers handing out free sandwiches and drinks to all marchers. Standing next to me, a black kid who was perhaps 10 or 11 laughed and said loudly: “The white power structure certainly has things well organized for our benefit today.” The march itself proved to be glorious — all ages, white and black, demanding that the American promise of equality before the law for all be realized and that the scourge of racism and segregation be ended throughout the nation as a whole.

The promise and hopes of that day would soon be shattered by the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing which killed young children at Sunday school, and by the other obstructionist attempts of Southern racists to stifle the forces demanding change and equality. The march took place as the nation recalled the recent assassination of Medgar Evers and the murder of Emmett Till in 1955.

It would be a long and noble struggle, and fifty years later, anyone with a shred of honesty knows how different the America of that day was from the one we now live in.

I have little to add to the wonderful column appearing in these pages by Rick Moran, who rightfully notes how Martin Luther King, Jr. would be stunned by the speeches at last week’s first commemoration march, where the huckster Rev. Al Sharpton was a keynote featured speaker, and where the calls of “Justice for Trayvon” and claims that the vote was being taken away from African-Americans resounded. It was apparent that in the eyes of many who spoke, we were still living in the America of the early 1960s.

The remembrances of the original 1963 March on Washington has led to scores of articles about what Martin Luther King, Jr. would say today, what he would demand if he was still alive and speaking at this week’s commemorative event. It is an exercise in which it seems every liberal and leftist is participating, with the expected results.

In most regards, what they think are the important issues are what they think King would be saying. The exercise amounts to  a litany of today’s left-wing agenda.

Writing in The Nation, Gary Younge does not disappoint in giving us the perspective of unadulterated leftism. For him, King’s historic speech was a “searing indictment of American racism that still exists.” (My emphasis.) As Younge sees it, Martin Luther King Jr. was a radical of the far Left, who only with the passage of time “went from ignominy to icon.”

Evidently Mr. Younge is too young to recall — or perhaps because he grew up in Britain, does not know — that the radicals in SNCC often referred to him behind his back as “Uncle Martin Tom” and “Martin Luther Coon.” And that self-proclaimed black revolutionaries like Malcolm X condemned King regularly as an appeaser of white power for advocating non-violence and Gandhi-style resistance.

The march itself, Malcolm X proclaimed, was “The Farce on Washington.”

Now it certainly is true that King was of the social-democratic tradition, as was the march’s chief captain and organizer, Bayard Rustin. Rustin, however, was as anti-Communist as one could be, and hence, urged King not to later waste the potential of his moral leadership of the movement by joining the anti Vietnam-war movement.

Rustin, who was a dedicated pacifist, would later sign an open letter informing Americans why he would not take part in any anti-war rallies in which speakers advocated victory for the Viet Cong or flew the National Liberation Front flags alongside that of the United States.

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Harry Dexter White, the assistant secretary of the Treasury and the man who created the postwar financial structure and the International Monetary Fund, was arguably the top Communist spy working in our top government agencies during the New and Fair Deal days. As I argued in these pages a while back, economist Benn Steil’s new research not only revealed that White was a Soviet agent, but also brings to the mainstream what many of us have known for years — that the New Deal administration was heavily penetrated by Soviet spies, many of them American citizens who were working for Stalin’s intelligence agencies.

This truth, no matter how documented, is something that the left-wing intellectuals and journalists who inhabit Nationland (which is what I call the climate in which they inhabit their own set of truths centered in Manhattan’s Upper West Side) never can accept. They continue to be what John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr term “in denial.” In a recent issue of The Nation, the flagship of the left in America, the publication ran a review of Benn Steil’s new book on White by James M. Boughton, in which the author accuses Steil and others of McCarthyite “guilt by association” and claims that those who say White was a Soviet agent are only speculating.

What The Nation has done has been well described by Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. He writes:

The anti-anti-Communist point of view about the Cold War was discredited, but for the publishers ofThe Nation, the impulse to wave the old red flag is still strong. That often leads them, as well as some other sectors of the left such as the New York Times, to pretend as if backing the totalitarian, genocidal, and anti-Semitic regime that ruled Moscow was an innocent romantic phase that all true liberals went through. But as bad as that deplorable tradition might be, the decision of The Nation to publish material about Communist espionage as if the Venona Files had never been published is nothing short of bizarre.

Like their counterparts on the far-right fringe, the Nation left also ignores evidence, even though it has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that White was indeed a Soviet agent. For those who doubt this, one has only to look at the scrupulous investigation of the evidence by Haynes and Klehr, which you can find at Washington Decoded.   

Few can match the precise and careful attention to evidence that both reveal. Reading their dissection of the evidence, it amounts to irrefutable proof that White was a Soviet spy. Why, they ask, do seemingly intelligent people ignore the facts? They believe that it is not because they are dishonest, but because “we are dealing with intellectual ‘true believers,’ ideological zealots who are mentally incapable of accepting or processing information that undermines their historical world view.” (Klehr and Haynes have also written about those on the right who ignore evidence and make assertions that new evidence refutes, and who continue to make arguments that have been disproved.)

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Is there an apt comparison to be made between Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who went to their deaths in Sing Sing prison’s electric chair in 1953 for “conspiracy to commit espionage,” and Private First Class Bradley Manning, who was convicted on July 30 of 17 of 22 charges of espionage and theft?

Most people would immediately say “yes.” Writing in the Los Angeles Times, the Rosenbergs’ youngest son, Robert Meeropol, says of Manning: “I feel a kinship for him.”

The Rosenbergs provided military and atomic information to the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin, both during the years of World War II and in the days of the early Cold War; Manning violated his oath to the United States when he gave classified secrets to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks. Both Manning and the Rosenbergs endangered American national security out of a misguided belief that they were serving the higher interests of humanity. The Rosenbergs believed that the world working class, whose interests were protected by the Soviet Union, deserved any military secrets they desired. Manning believes that there should be no secrets, and hence any data he had access to rightfully should be told to one and all.

If we excused people who betray their country out of a delusional belief that they are doing so for a higher cause than patriotism to their own nation, then our nation would truly be in mortal danger from our enemies. Robert Meeropol doesn’t see it that way. The logic he shows in his op-ed is actually quite revealing. While the prosecutors claim that Manning was guilty of “espionage, theft and other unsavory terms,” Meeropol believes that “what Manning really did was reveal the truth of our government’s action to the American people and the world.”

He goes on to draw his analogy between the fate of his parents and that of Manning. After cknowledging that his father and co-defendant Morton Sobell “did provide valuable military information to the Soviet Union during the 1940s” — to my knowledge an acknowledgment he has never made before — Meeropol then argues incorrectly that his parents’ espionage network did not provide atomic information. Also, the experience of his parents’ trial, sentencing, and execution has led him to believe that “citizens must know what the government is doing in their name.”

Meeropol begrudges those who think “Manning is a traitor.” As he sees it, the convicted soldier only “released classified material that embarrassed the U.S. government” and might “put us at a disadvantage when dealing with other nations.” Nothing significant, evidently — just like what his father gave to the Soviets, though valuable, did not deserve a death sentence or even a conviction.

He no longer believes in his parents’ dream of “faith in the USSR,” but he understands their supposedly well-meaning motivation. But his own faith, he writes, is to “humanity as a whole.” And Mr. Meeropol has decided that Bradley Manning is only a whistleblower who, like Meeropol himself, says he feels “connected to everybody.” Reading Manning’s words, Meeropol adds: “Isn’t that how we all should be thinking?”

Well, no, it is not. The situation and threats we face do not permit us the luxury to give away secrets necessary to our national security.

Let us take a look at what Bradley Manning wrought upon us. As James Kirchick writes in the Daily News, Manning is nothing less than a traitor. Indeed, he argues that the Manning was lucky to avoid the death penalty, which Kirchick believes was well-deserved because he committed capital crimes.

First, Manning provided the names of individuals who opposed authoritarian regimes, and whose disclosure puts them at risk of attack and death in their own countries. For example, he disclosed the names of judges who were willing to take part in a trial in Lebanon of those responsible for the death of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had been assassinated by Hezbollah and its Syrian patrons in 2005. A cable from the U.S. ambassador stated: “These persons are at risk of being threatened or assassinated for agreeing to act as tribunal judges.”

Did we need to know their names, Robert?

Another cable given to WikiLeaks by Manning named two brave human-rights activists who were giving information about the horrors of the Assad regime in Syria to the United States.

How does that serve “humanity as a whole”?

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Political Correctness Run Amok

August 9th, 2013 - 10:20 am

We all know about the hazards and follies of political correctness. But this time, the powers that be in Seattle, and it seems New York City as well, have gone way too far.

The Office for Civil Rights in Seattle, a Fox News report informed us last week, instructed city workers about no longer using terms that some people in Seattle might deem offensive.

I wondered when first reading this if they were talking about scores of white employees using the N word. No, that’s not it. The words they are complaining about include the following: “citizens” and “brown-bag lunch.” Not to be outdone, New York City’s Department of Education warned about such dangerous words as “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” and, last but not least, “Halloween.”

Now that I know you are busily trying to discern what could be wrong about using such words, let the good city fathers tell you. A member of Seattle’s Civil Rights Commission, Elliott Bronstein, readily explained in an interview with a local TV news program. “Citizen,” he explained, insulted the many people in Seattle who were there illegally and, hence, not citizens. Therefore, all those living in the area must be called “residents.” Well, I somehow think they don’t really mind, because as long as they can get driver’s licenses, a free public school education for their children, and all the benefits real citizens have, I don’t think they give a hoot about what they are called.

But don’t dare call a lunchtime meeting and announce that it’s a “brown-bag lunch,” unless you wish to be brought up on charges of racism and perhaps lose your job for offending African-American colleagues. You see, Mr. Bronstein explained, for many African-Americans, “the phrase brown bag does bring up associations with the past when a brown bag was actually used…to determine if people’s skin color was light enough to allow admission to an event or to come into a party that was being held in a private home.”

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Today, my review of Diana West’s new book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character, has been posted at FrontPageMagazine, the website of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. I urge PJM readers to go and read it, and to consider the arguments I make about why I find her book to be a betrayal, but not the kind she charges existed in our past. Indeed, what I argue in the review is that her book is actually a betrayal of serious and honest history, an ideologically bound argument that ignores real evidence, distorts our past, and creates a mythical counter-narrative to understanding decisions made during WWII.

Here is my concluding paragraph:

Conspiratorial theories of history are easy to create once you are prepared to ignore the realities on the ground, or regard those who do take them into account as part of the conspiracy too. This is the path that Diana West has taken in her misconceived and misleading book. Why did the U.S. and Britain not prevent the totalitarian USSR from taking over Eastern Europe after it had defeated the totalitarian Nazis?  It had nothing to do with the Rubik’s Cube of diplomatic and military considerations, a calculus that had to take into account the willingness of the American and British publics to continue to sacrifice and their soldiers to die.  No, it was a conspiracy so immense, as West’s hero Joe McCarthy might have said, that it allowed Western policy to be dictated by a shadow army of Soviet agents. It is unfortunate that a number of conservatives who should know better have fallen for West’s fictions.  It is even more depressing that her book perpetuates the dangerous one dimensional thinking of the Wisconsin Senator and his allies in the John Birch Society which have allowed anti anti-communism to have a field day in our intellectual culture.

What I want to discuss is why I took upon myself the job of writing a lengthy and detailed critique of West’s book.

First, as a historian and a conservative, I believe that my responsibility is to the truth. I cannot countenance conspiracy theories, whether they come from those on the Left or those on the Right. On these pages and elsewhere, I have regularly written about the corruption of history by writers such as Howard Zinn, and the team of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. I have also written a great deal about Soviet espionage, the influence of Communism on American life, and the fallacies of anti anti-Communism.

When self-proclaimed conservatives echo the methodology and conspiratorial type thinking of those on the Left, because they consider themselves conservatives means that those of us who want a responsible, sane conservative movement, and a vibrant conservative intellectual culture, have the responsibility to speak out and to criticize, no matter what source it comes from.

An analogy can be made with the dilemma William F. Buckley Jr. faced when, in 1962, he decided to take on first Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, and later the Society itself. At the New Republic last year, Geoffrey Kabaservice wrote the following:

Having spent the better part of a decade doing research in Buckley’s archives, I can attest that it was no easy matter for Buckley to take on Welch and his Society. Many of the financial backers and readers of Buckley’s National Review magazine admired Welch and his organization; Buckley’s own mother was a Bircher. His editorial colleagues warned that criticizing Welch risked splitting the conservative movement. Buckley’s position as movement leader would be jeopardized by the liberal plaudits that predictably would follow his editorial condemnation of the Birchers; as Buckley put it privately, “I wish to hell I could attack them without pleasing people I can’t stand to please.”

Nonetheless, in February 1962 National Review ran a six-page editorial against Welch, arguing that he was damaging the anti-Communist cause by “distorting reality” and failing to distinguish between an “active pro-Communist” and an “ineffectually anti-Communist liberal.” It would be several years before Buckley excommunicated all Birchers from the conservative movement, but his editorial emphasized that “There are bounds to the dictum, Anyone on the right is my ally.”

Two years later, Buckley finally wrote his famous editorial condemning the Society. The conspiracy theories of the Society, Buckley wrote, made conservatism seem “ridiculous and pathological,” allowing liberals to portray conservatives as extremists. Conservatism, he wrote, had to expand “by bringing into our ranks those people who are, at the moment, on our immediate left…If they think they are being asked to join a movement whose leadership believes the drivel of Robert Welch, they will pass by crackpot alley, and will not pause until they feel the embrace of those way over on the other side, the Liberals.”

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By granting a yearly and renewable asylum to Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin has challenged President Barack Obama. He has made it clear that the famous “reset” button with Russia, signed onto and endorsed by Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of State, meant only that the United States would allow Russia to get away with what it wanted in international affairs as long as Putin’s authority was not challenged.

Russia would continue to aid its Syrian ally, no matter what “red lines” were crossed, and all the United States would do is urge Russia to act differently. Naturally, Vladimir Putin took our complaints into advisement and went about his merry ways.

After dilly-dallying for weeks about whether or not Russia would give Snowden asylum — and actually saying that he wished he would leave — President Putin reached his decision. Snowden is now welcome, as long as any job he takes does not involve computers. Knowing his skills, the last thing the Russian regime wants is for Mr. Snowden to infiltrate its secret programs the way he did for his country of birth, where he remains a citizen.

Remember that when he first arrived in Hong Kong, Snowden proclaimed that he did not want to live in any country that conducted the kind of surveillance he said the United States was carrying out on its citizens: “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.” That attitude gained him supporters among the anti-American Left and the libertarian Right, both attuned to violations of civil liberties by the omnipresent State. Many called him not a traitor, but rather a whistle-blower.

Now we have hard evidence that Edward Snowden’s great concern for individual liberty and the protection of the rights of individuals from government intrusion is nothing but a ruse he used to gather support. If it was not, the last place on Earth he would take refuge is current-day Russia.

This is a government pledged with new legislation to round up and imprison gay people, that regularly fabricates charges against those brave enough to expose the regime’s corruption, and that arrests others for the crime of public opposition to the Putin government’s growing power.

Mr. Snowden actually announced that he wanted to be a “human rights activist,” by which he obviously means releasing more information harmful to the United States, whose supposed violations of human rights seem to be the only rights violations he cares about. Let him try to say something about the members of Pussy Riot still rotting in jail, and see how long his asylum status will remain intact.

A shrewd analysis of what lies behind Russia’s new strong anti-gay laws appears by Miriam Elder in Buzzfeed. Elder argues:

The violent images, restrictive legislation, and public humiliation that LGBT people in Russia now face isn’t the product of a traditionalist backlash as much as it is a vital part of the new politics of Putin’s Russia, a nation in search of someone to define itself against.

In the old days, Soviet Russia made Jews the scapegoat. On that front, for personal reasons, Putin himself has sought to engage other enemies, leaving gays as the replacement for old-style official Soviet anti-Semitism. When Putin assumed the presidency again late last year, Elder explains:

[His reaction] has been reflexive and obvious to everyone — to launch a crackdown, arrest opposition leaders, arrest average protesters, adopt laws limiting future ability to protest. The second is more oblique: Putin has launched a campaign to shore up support in the Russian “heartland,” that mythical place far from the bustling streets of Moscow where headscarved peasants embrace core Russian concepts that don’t actually exist anymore.

Elder adds:

Demonizing gays allows Putin to tell the “heartland”: I will protect you and your “traditional” families; you are the real Russia. It also grows suspicion of the liberal opposition, presented as fundamentally “un-Russian” as they stand up increasingly for gay rights amid Putin’s growing crackdown.

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