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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: June 2014

The American Left has been expert in indoctrinating a new generation with false history. We have seen this with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s Showtime TV series on the Cold War, and especially with the writings and pseudo-history of the late Howard Zinn. While conservatives — with some laudable exceptions — concentrate largely on policy issues, the left knows that it is not sufficient to work only for its own political agenda. The left realizes it needs to capture the realm of culture, which includes the portrayal of the American past.

The left believes that if the American past is to be accurately understood, its citizens must be educated to understand that their country was always the real oppressor of both its own citizens and the world community. Then, the evil of virtually all administrations will be seen not as an aberration, but as the result one should expect.

In order to understand this, it is necessary for the left to create myths. It does not matter if they have already been challenged and accurately discredited. They merely repeat them as fact.

In the past two weeks, a few examples have surfaced that illustrate how this is done.

1. How American Communists see the Haymarket bombings

The first example concerns what took place as part of the convention of the American Communist Party recently held in Chicago. As reported in the Chicago Tribune by reporter Ron Grossman, a man named Tim Yeager took the comrades on a history tour of Chicago. Yeager is described as juggling three jobs — “United Auto Workers union organizer, Communist official, and Episcopal priest” (consider for yourselves what that reveals). The article tells us what Yeager presented to  his CP group on a tour of labor-related sites in Chicago:

Friday morning, Yeager led a bus tour of some party history. The first stop was at the Haymarket statue on Desplaines Street just north of Randolph Street, where in 1886 a bomb thrown during a labor rally killed seven police officers and at least one civilian.

Known radicals, some not even present at the rally, were rounded up, speedily convicted and hanged. Several were buried at Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, making it a pilgrimage site for labor activists and the second stop on Friday’s tour. The Haymarket affair made Chicago the natural site for the Communist Party’s founding convention in 1919.

Yeager noted that the Chicago establishment leaders who called for swift punishment of the Haymarket martyrs were “the 1 percenters of that day” — the favored few who enjoyed immense riches while the majority toiled for crumbs.

In the CP’s version of events, the radicals at Haymarket were framed for what was clearly a police provocation, an excuse to arrest and condemn the radicals for their protest of bad working conditions. As John J. Miller explained last year in National Review, labor historian Timothy Messer-Kruse has written a book that demolishes the myth and tells the truth: the trial was not a travesty of justice, as the left has always argued, but a real anarchist conspiracy meant to create an insurrection starting with attacks on the police.

The prosecution proved its case, and was able through solid evidence to show that the anarchists were responsible for the throwing of the bomb that led to the death of the police officers. It was not “one of the great miscarriages of justice,” as one mainstream textbook tells its readers.

Messer-Kruse is an honest historian who personally is a social-democrat. “I drunk the Kook-Aid,” he told Miller, but he now puts accurate history in front of ideology. It is more than likely, he says,  that the seven dead policemen were not killed by the bomb, but shot in cold blood by the anarchists present at the rally. It was, as I put it in my own PJM column, the destruction of “another historical myth.”

The people Comrade Tim Yeager took on his tour, or the many thousands who read Howard Zinn’s falsehoods, believe the frame-up myth. And if they come across anyone who disputes it, they respond by attacking the person as a turncoat and a traitor, and by repeating the myth to their own students, over and over. The myth cannot be allowed to be exposed, or the result will be a possible rethinking of everything they have learned from the falsifiers of history

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With its cover story on Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, The New Republic has hit an all-time low. Written by TNR Senior Editor Alec Macgillis, it reads as a commissioned hit job meant to lessen Walker’s chances of entering the GOP presidential race.

Let’s start with the cover: superimposed over a photo of the governor standing by his desk is the title: “Scott Walker is So Hot Right Now: Too bad he owes his success to a toxic strain of Racial Politics.” Inside the issue, the title becomes: “The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A Journey Through the Poisonous, Racially Divided World that Produced a Republican Star.”

What you will not find anywhere is a discussion of what led the electorate to not only vote for Scott Walker, but to elect him despite the combined opposition of the AFL-CIO, the Occupy movement, and the entire left-wing media. After all, why bother with facts when readers are told he is “unelectable”?

For those desiring to find out about Walker’s record and why he would make a strong Republican national candidate, you can find it summed up by Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post, and in a column I wrote last November.

Whatever the future holds for the governor, this story reveals something that was not TNR’s or the author’s intent. They are worried that Scott Walker has broad appeal and that he would make a formidable opponent. This article is meant to nip any Walker candidacy in the bud, and to assure that he will not even try to enter the race. In carrying out this task, journalist Macgillis has written an article devoid of any real charges of merit against Walker, and in which he brings up much that cannot be tied to Walker in any meaningful way.

What really irks TNR is not anything Macgillis brings up in the article, but Walker’s many accomplishments. The most important one, as they well know, was that he successfully took on the teachers’ union and public sector unions, whose tie-ins with Democrats assured them the kind of benefits private sector workers do not have and which worked to break the budget of the state government. By taking away their right to bargain over fringe benefits,  Walker took away the incentive for many teachers and public workers to stay in the union, and the ranks of those who belonged began to drop tremendously. Taxes were lowered, the state’s budget was brought into balance, and other conservative reforms were implemented. As Marc Thiessen wrote, “Walker has long found a way to appeal to the center while governing as a conservative.” And he actually received in his election as governor the votes of a large number of voters who also voted for Barack Obama.

That kind of success puts a scare into TNR’s left-leaning editors.

So what does Macgillis actually write that supposedly damns Walker? A good part of his story is an intelligent portrayal of demographic changes that took place long before Walker was in politics. Simply put, whites left the city of Milwaukee for the suburbs, and African-Americans moved in. The result was a split city. From the ’60s to the ’90s, the black population shot up tremendously, to 30 percent of the population. That figure increased to 40 percent by 2014. This coincided, Macgillis notes, with the collapse of the industrial base and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs they once had, so that today “it has the second-highest black poverty rate in the United States.”

What does any of this have to do with Scott Walker, who became governor after all this had occurred? Nothing at all.

Moreover, the kind of educational reforms Walker supports are precisely the kinds of things that would help the black underclass receive a better education and gain a chance for their children to work their way out of the poverty of their parents’ generation.

Macgillis cannot come up with anything racist, at all, that Walker said which might feed white hostility towards African-Americans. Since he cannot, his answer is guilt by association.

He spends a good part of his piece attacking two talk-radio hosts who broadcast in Milwaukee, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes. Their impact is profound, he claims, and he links as an example the loss of the chances of two moderate Republicans running in a primary election to these broadcasters’ opposition to them. How is Walker tied to them? Walker ran, he says, after the result of their power, when white Milwaukee was receptive to “anti-Obama ferver,” and Walker won a primary in which another conservative had been originally favored as a result of the radio hosts’ endorsement of Walker.

And why is any of this racist?

Macgillis gives the answer by saying Walker’s base is in the suburbs. Since Milwaukee is where the blacks live —  and they did not vote for him — this proves that Walker is a racist, and the white man’s candidate.

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America has no good options in Iraq. The real possibility that the Maliki government could collapse reflects an epic failure of our foreign policy and will pose a severe national security threat to the United States.

Liberals and leftists put the blame for this dire situation on the administration of George W. Bush and his key officials, especially Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Some conservatives agree, arguing that it was foolish and wrong for the United States ever to have intervened to remove Saddam Hussein from power. But most argue that the truth is that real gains were made in Iraq to create stability and the chance for a representative Iraqi government to emerge, after the military surge put into place by Bush — against the advice of many of his own team — proved effective.

There is truth in all sides. As Daniel Pipes put it, U.S. intentions were over-ambitious, and it was “George W. Bush [who] made the commitment to remake Iraq and … signed the ‘Status of Forces Agreement’ in 2008 that terminated the American military presence in Iraq at the close of 2011. For the Republican Party to progress in foreign policy, it must acknowledge these errors and learn from them, not avoid them by heaping blame on Obama.”

While the Bush administration may have made a call that turned out to cost far too many lives, both Iraqi and American, our intervention was based on false intelligence that was taken to heart by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans. While Democrats attack the previous administration for its entry into Iraq, most prefer to forget that they too supported that intervention. At best, like Hillary Clinton, they acknowledge that they did, but say that they long since have publicly stated that they were wrong.

I think Dan Pipes is wrong, however, on one major point. A must-read article is out from the correspondent Dexter Filkins, a man widely acknowledged to be the best reporter and analyst on the region. Writing in the New Yorker blog yesterday, Filkins writes that when the U.S. first went into Iraq in 2003, “they destroyed the Iraqi state — its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together.” After many years of sacrifice, we worked to help the Iraqis reconstitute the state and maintain some stability. The failure of the Obama administration was not to keep a strong residual force in Iraq which would have provided a “crucial stabilizing factor,” training Iraq’s army, providing intelligence against Sunni insurgents, and curbing Maliki’s sectarian impulses. With our departure, Filkins concludes, we removed “the last restraints on Maliki’s sectarian and authoritarian influences.”

Most important, however, is the fact that the surge was successful, as was the military policy pursued by General David Petraeus. Ironically, the city of Mosul, which has now fallen to the Sunni extremist Islamic radicals, was in 2003 won by the classic counterinsurgency tactics initiated by the general. There — as his Wikipedia entry notes — his troops acted to “build security and stability, including conducting targeted kinetic operations and using force judiciously, jump-starting the economy, building local security forces, staging elections for the city council within weeks of their arrival, overseeing a program of public works, reinvigorating the political process, and launching 4,500 reconstruction projects in Iraq.”

These were substantial achievements, all of which have now gone down the drain.

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Perhaps the president’s handling of the Bergdahl-Taliban swap will be the one action that will turn the tide, pushing even his most stalwart supporters to become fed up.  I say this based upon a phone call my wife received last night from a relative, one of those perennial liberals who up to now has supported virtually every Obama policy and act. True, this is hardly a scientific poll or sampling. But we were stunned to hear this relative tell us how angry she was with the president. The deal, she said, was unconscionable and dangerous.

There is legitimate debate to be had about whether or not the administration should have moved to get Bowe Bergdahl back. Charles Krauthammer, in his much discussed column, argued in favor of Bergdahl  being freed and then tried by the military. At NRO, Andy McCarthy wrote a strong critique of Krauthammer’s argument, arguing that in the midst of a war that is not yet over, giving five top jihadists at Gitmo for one possible deserter is more than counter-productive. Moreover, it is quite possible he will never be court-martialed. Michelle Malkin reminds us that ten years ago this very month, a Muslim Marine deserted and although he was supposed to be court-martialed, a trial never took place.  This particular soldier was known to be supporting jihadists and regularly listened to their propaganda tapes.

As yet, we do not have all the facts about Bergdahl’s  desertion. Was he simply unbalanced and naïve? Was he an actual sympathizer seeking the Taliban  out? Or was his conversion to Islam and documented training with Taliban members done to save his life and prevent them from killing him? Or did it arise from a case of Stockholm syndrome?

Despite administration denials, especially Susan Rice’s now famous claim last Sunday that he served with “honor and distinction,” we know that the desertion took place. And there is good reason why the military treats deserters harshly. An armed force cannot survive, and ensure that dangerous missions are carried out and that discipline is maintained, if any soldier can decide at any time that he cannot fight and has to walk away.

It is also an insult to those who go into battle knowing that they may never come back. We were reminded of that when we paused to honor the sacrifice and heroism of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, where thousands were cut down, especially in the first group who left the boats and faced a barrage of German fire without any defenses to protect them.

The filmmaker Ron Maxwell reminds us in a Facebook post that during our Civil War in the extremely cold winter of 1862-1863, Stonewall Jackson’s aide-de-camp reported that three soldiers from the Stonewall Brigade had deserted. He  hoped that because of their age and that they had fought honorably with the unit for two years, they would be spared. Jackson replied  that it was a plea he could not accept. In a scene from his movie Gods and Generals, Maxwell writes what he thinks is likely Jackson said when he denied this appeal.  “Desertion is not a solitary crime,” Stonewall Jackson tells his aide-de-camp. “It is a crime against the tens of thousands of veterans who are huddled together in the harsh cold of this winter.” And so the deserters are tried in a court-martial and then shot.

In World War II, Private Eddie Slovik was sentenced to death by firing squad for desertion. Many now believe he was unfairly singled out as an example. Out of the 50,000 deserters in the war, many of whom received long sentences of jail time at hard labor, he was the only soldier executed. As WW II veteran Nick Gozik, who observed his execution by firing squad, has noted, Slovik was a brave man. He was given two chances to rip up his letter of intent to desert by officers, and rejected them. Slovik believed he was not constitutionally fit to engage in warfare, and he went to his death bravely without even flinching. But his execution — fair or not — indicates how seriously the U.S. Army dealt with deserters in World War II.

Some years ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, historian Michael Oren, wrote a prescient article about whether it is right to honor those who deserted in past wars, as had been the case when the British government erected an actual monument to those who had been shot for desertion in WW I, and then retroactively pardoned them. Oren worries that excuses for desertion might spread, and that Europe’s views “are symptoms of European attitudes toward not just World War I soldiers but toward all soldiers, even those who fight in just causes. And, if that is true, one might well ask: Can a society that valorizes its deserters long survive?” Oren believes that an attitude is developing that, since many now believe all wars are immoral,  deserters can be viewed as honorable. Would, he asks, Americans honor a soldier who deserted from the Union Army when its task became liberating slaves? Indeed, he notes that the Union Army actually had far more deserters than did the Confederacy. Oren writes:

For some Europeans, the aversion to military force is insufficient; they want Americans to lay down their arms as well. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled U.S. Army Specialist Andre Shepherd, a deserter living in Germany. Shepherd, with assistance from German peace activists, is seeking to stay in the country under an EU directive offering asylum to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars. The German government has been paying for Shepherd’s room and board. “It’s just amazing here,” he told the Journal.

Today, the American left wing deals with the issue of Bergdahl’s desertion in two ways. The first is the growing chorus of those who blame his own unit for lax security, and imply that his fellow soldiers themselves were an undisciplined and carefree bunch. This is the editorial position of the New York Times, whose editors write that “the army’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history.” The editors believe that Bergdahl is simply “a free-spirited man” who is unfairly being demonized by those who call him a “turncoat.”

What Michael Oren called “the eagerness to immortalize deserters” has already been taken up by some on the left, who justify Oren’s fear that some Americans might follow the European attitude. This time, it comes from The Nation magazine, the flagship publication of the American left.  Writer Richard Kreitner’s article is titled “The Honorable History of War Deserters.”

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Two Anniversaries and Their Meaning

June 3rd, 2014 - 7:29 am

This week, two major anniversaries will take place. On June 6, Americans will observe the 70th anniversary of the landing of U.S. and Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, the largest land invasion in military history. Three hundred thousand soldiers and 54,000 warships took part in the landing. As most of us know from Tom Hanks’ movie Saving Private Ryan, their effort was carried out at a momentous price and was truly heroic.

It is most likely, as Time magazine notes in a poignant article, that this will be the last observation held in Normandy at Omaha beach (they occur every five years) with D-Day veterans in attendance. Those still living are in their 80s and 90s. “The reason why World War II has such a powerful influence on our imagination,” the British military historian Antony Beevor told Time, “is because the moral choices were so great and important. That’s the most important lesson for younger generations.”

Today, it seems that there are not many  heroes (outside of those in the armed forces)  the equivalent of those young men who now are referred to as “the greatest generation.” One has to pause and wonder: if America was under attack now as it was at Pearl Harbor, would so many rush to Army recruiting stations to voluntarily enlist to defend our nation?

We are reminded of how lucky we are to be living in the United States of America when we reflect on the meaning of the other anniversary that takes place only two days later after the conclusion of the Normandy landing. This one, remembered today-June 4th, will sadly not be remembered publicly in the country in which it took place.

I’m referring, of course, to the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in the People’s Republic of China, in which thousands of democracy protestors were forced to end their non-violent demonstration in an orgy of spilled blood. The so-called “People’s Army” shot young Chinese protestors on the orders of the Communist Party leadership.

The New York Times reports that we are now learning more about what happened on that day. It seems that one army general, chief of the powerful and large 38th Group Army, bravely told the party leaders when summoned to headquarters that he believed the demonstrations could only be resolved by the political process, and not by military force. Major General Xu Qinxian told a historian: “I’d rather be beheaded than be a criminal in the eyes of history.”

History is precisely what the Chinese government fears, to this day. Since Tiananmen, hundreds of Chinese have moved into the middle class, others have joined the world’s super-rich, and yet the bulk of farmers still live in rural poverty or flee to the cities to try to find work. What the Chinese do not have is any semblance of political freedom.  Dissenters are arrested and thrown into jail, the internet is heavily controlled, and accurate memory of past repression — especially that undertaken at the party’s command on June 4 twenty-five years ago at Tiananmen Square — is prohibited.

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