Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fugitive Days, Leftists In Denial

Since Bill Ayers in Fugitive Days (2001) was writing something that isn’t quite true but feels true, I am sometimes ready to understand some things he said as something he believed back in the 60s but subsequently rejected; except it doesn’t feel as though he has rejected it, and when I recall what he said at a recent SDS reunion, I am quite sure he hasn’t.   Here is Ayers on page 60:


“When Ruthie Stein challenged them, I felt a surge of pride and power in my blood.  If we don’t stop this war now, she said, the casualties will include justice and progress here in America.


“. . .  I felt ecstatic to be with Stan and Ruthie.


“I knew the war was illegal and could hammer that point all night and all day.  I felt its dead dehumanizing grip the moment I saw Stan’s photograph, and increasingly so, the more I looked and the more I learned.


“I leapt into the discussion then, inflamed, hoping to give the moment its due.


“What kind of a system is it that allows the U.S. to seize the destinies of the Vietnamese people?


“What kind of a system is it that disenfranchises Black people in the South, leaves millions upon millions impoverished and excluded all over the country, creates faceless and terrible dehumanizing bureaucracies and puts material values before human values – and still calls itself free and still finds itself fit to police the world?”


I have attempted to debate people who used that very approach.  I try to turn what they say into an argument:  “What is your evidence?  Have you studied the history of the Cold War?  Did you know about Kennan and the Truman Doctrine?  What do you mean by ‘illegal.’ Do you believe Communism should be opposed?  I would get mere ranting and insults in response.  They have a mind set, not an argument.  As Collingwood would say, they have a different “constellation of presuppositions.” 


Consider now Haynes and Klehr’s In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage (2003), page 5:


“Our focus has not been on Cold War diplomacy but rather on the domestic controversy about American communism, a dispute going back to the late 1940s and the creation of postwar American culture.  These disagreements – often involving different evaluations of how to weigh certain kinds of evidence, different views about the significance of certain statements, and different accounts of motives and outcomes – generated much heat and little closure because, at heart, they were based on very different moral assessments of communism and of America.  One viewpoint, which we shared, was critical of American communism, seeing the Communist Part of the United States of America (CPUSA) as profoundly antidemocratic in both theory and practice.  This ‘traditionalist’ interpretation also saw America’s constitutional order as deserving the loyalty and support of its citizens and attacked American Communists for their subordination to a hostile foreign power.  The opposing ‘revisionist’ stance took a benign view of communism, arguing that Marxism-Leninism embodied the most idealistic dreams of mankind and that American Communists were among the most heroic fighters for social justice in the nation’s history.   Revisionists saw American democracy as a fraud camouflaging capitalist oppression and aggressive imperialism. . . .”



COMMENT:   I want to argue with Ayers.  Someone might object saying, “hey Lawrence.  Ayers is referring to something he ‘felt’ back in the 60s.  It would be anachronistic to argue with him with what you know now.”


Oh yeah?  I could show you messages in my inbox using the same sorts of “rants” that Ayers does above.   That hasn’t changed, and I don’t believe Ayers has either.  He still believes what he wrote. 


Haynes & Klehr write on page 1, “Communist regimes survived for much longer than Nazi Germany, and their combined victims vastly outnumber those murdered by European fascism.  Yet the enormous human cost of Communism barely registers in American intellectual life.  Worse, a sizeable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life.”


Their choice of the words, “distinguished positions” is applicable (unintentionally, no doubt) to Ayers.  From Wikipedia: “Ayers is currently a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education. His interests include teaching for social justice, urban educational reform, narrative and interpretive research, children in trouble with the law, and related issues.”


Do you really want someone with those views teaching your children?   We criticize the controls we read about in China, but they do inhibit their radicals.  Here we allow our radicals to teach and mentor people who eventually run for president.


Lawrence Helm






Monday, September 29, 2008

Obama's Leftism


This is an article by Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Here are some highlights:

Obama’s voting record: “In 2007, according to the National Journal, Obama’s voting record made him ‘the most liberal Senator.’ Throughout his Senate career, according to Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the dean of liberal advocacy groups, Obama voted ‘right’ 90 percent of the time. Actually this is misleading, since ADA counts an absence as if it were a vote on the ‘wrong’ side. If we discount his absences, Obama voted to ADA’s approval more than 98 percent of the time.”

Obama’s High-school Mentor: “Late in high-school career he found a mentor of sorts in Frank Marshall Davis, an older black poet. According to Herbert Romerstein, former minority chief investigator of the House Committee on Internal Security, FBI files reveal Davis to have been a member of the Communist party not only in its public phase but also when it officially dissolved and went underground in the 1950’s.

Obama’s college choices: “[t]o avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.”

Obama’s Community Organizer job: “Thanks to a grant from a left-wing foundation, he was hired by a small group of white protégés of Saul Alinsky, the original apostle of ‘community organizing.’ Alinsky’s institutional base was the Industrial Areas Foundation, which he called a ‘school for professional radicals’ and whose goal he announced to be ‘revolution, not revelation.’ As Obama himself would put it, there were ‘two roles that an organizer was supposed to play . . . getting the Stop sign [and] the educative function. At some point you have to link up winning that Stop sign . . . with the larger trends, larger movements.’ In other words, ‘community organizer,’ to Obama and his colleagues and mentors, was a euphemism for professional radical.”

Obama influenced by Black Liberation Theology: The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was Obama’s pastor for 17 years. Wright lists only one theologian as being an influence on his vision statement of Trinity United Church of Christ, Dr. James Cone, specifically Cone’s book, Black Power and Black Theology.” [I looked into Cone a bit in the past and found a Q&A interview most informative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1X5sZ6Q4Fw ] Muravchik writes, “Twenty years later, when it was revealed that Wright’s church had honored Louis Farrakhan, that Wright had traveled with Farrakhan to visit the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and that in his sermons, Wright had beseeched God to ‘damn America,’ charged the U.S. government with inventing the AIDS virus in order to kill black people, and claimed that Israel an South Africa had colluded to invent an ‘ethnic bomb’ to kill blacks and Arabs while leaving whites unharmed – when all this was revealed, Obama, under pressure from the Hillary Clinton campaign, declared himself ‘shocked’ at Wright’s vitriol. But in truth not only was he aware of Wright’s views, they were what had drawn him to Trinity church in the first place.”

Obama’s association with Ayers: “Thanks to the meticulous investigations of the Left-leaning blogger Steven Diamond (globallabor.blogspot.com), the story of Obama and Ayers’s collaboration has been seeping into the public record despite extraordinary efforts to seal it.”

COMMENT: Obama’s background, education, job, and Senatorial voting record, and known associates are all indicative of a committed Leftist. And yet his recent speeches give little indication of Leftism. Perhaps that has inspired Muravchik to write in his penultimate paragraph, “On the other hand, it is not unimaginable that he may rise to the challenge of the office and govern from the center, as he will have to do to succeed. . . .” Well, to be sure. If despite our voting against him, he is elected, that is all we have left to hope.

Lawrence Helm

Ayers vs. Hamby on Truman's dropping the bomb

I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading histories and accounts on the events surrounding Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. When you read any discussions of mine on this subject, you will read references. I have no firsthand knowledge on the subject. Neither does Bill Ayers. He was born late in December 1944.

Here is Ayers (from Fugitive Days) account of Truman and the atomic bombs: “I am just an infant at my mother’s breast when the U.S. drops the Big One on Japan and President Harry S. Truman tells a blinking, uncomprehending public that this selfless act of innocence and wonder and science and progress is a particular American moment. This is, he tells the world, a very good bomb:

“Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction. It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed.”

“Harry Truman is drooling now. He’s excited. He’s fetishing and eroticizing. And why not? Explosive power, newborn, stirring, dangerous, and overwhelming. A breathtaking discharge. He loves this bomb, loves it more than life, more than words can ever convey, but still he tries. It turns out, he tells the wide world against the naïve judgment of ordinary eyes and minds, that this one good bomb saved millions of lives, that we won the battle of the laboratories – our beneficent scientists outperforming the evil geniuses in all the other labs – and prevented the bomb from falling into the hands of bad people who would put the bomb to their own abhorrent purposes, killing and maiming indiscriminately, for example. ‘Having found the atomic bomb,’ he says modestly, ‘we have used it. It is an awful responsibility that has come to us. We thank God that it has come to us and not to our enemies. And we pray that he may guide us to use it in his ways and for His purposes.’ What? What did he say? Can you rewind that? Yabadabadaba . . . ‘And we pray that he may guide us to use it in His way and for His purposes. . . .”

I won’t go on. By way of contrast, the following is from Alonzo Hamby’s Man of the People, a Life of Harry S. Truman, 1995. Hamby is a scholar, a professor of History at Ohio University, and at the time I read it, some reviewers were saying he had written the best biography of Truman to date. It contains 641 pages of text, 75 pages of notes, and a 5 page biographical essay on Truman.

Hamby writes on page 336, “It remains an article of faith among scholars of the left that the bombs were dropped not to compel a Japanese surrender, which they believe was already imminent, but to intimidate the Russians and bring the war to a close before the USSR could occupy Manchuria. These assertions rest primarily on circumstantial evidence and implication. There is no credible evidence in Truman’s personal contemporary writings or his later accounts that he saw the use of the bomb as a way of making a point to the Soviet Union. (Obviously, he thought its existence would strengthen the United States.) Nor is there any reason to believe that he was bamboozled by others.

“Later on, he would throw out varying exaggerated estimates of the number of lives saved by the bomb: 500,000; 250,000; 100,000. His critics have observed that some military planners had argued that Japan, bombed out by conventional ordnance and blockaded, would be forced to surrender in a matter of months for lack of food and material. It is doubtful that their estimates ever reached Truman, and they were not accepted by the American military high command, which continued to assume suicidal resistance. Okinawa had made an indelible impression.

“One consideration weighed most heavily on Truman: the longer the war lasted, the more Americans killed. Some critics have suggested that he should have engaged in a grim calculus, that it would have been the moral thing to accept a ‘worst case estimate’ of an additional 46,000 American deaths without use of the bomb. No one who might conceivably have been president of the United States in the summer of 1945 would have withheld the bomb while facing that prospect. Perhaps Japan, hammered by cumulative defeats, facing an unbreakable naval blockade, and shocked by Soviet intervention, would have shortly surrendered anyway. But in the end, a brutal certainty remains. Japan was unable to muster the will to quit until two atomic bombs had been dropped.”


It should be clear to almost anyone that Bill Ayers isn’t intending to present history. He is quoting a bit from a Truman speech and then doing some free-association or fantasizing about it. Whatever he is doing comes out in a place people like Ward Churchill and Noam Chomsky would approve of. Why is that? Why do these people ignore legitimate history and provide unsupported, unreferenced diatribes. What do they get out of it?

Ayers wrote as a sort of explanatory foreword, “This story is only one version of events – it is a memory book rather than a transcript, an accounting of sorts without any pretense toward an authorized history. There is, too, a necessary incompleteness here, a covering over of facts and a blurring of details, which is in part an artifact of those fugitive days and those exquisite and terrible times. Most names and places have been changed, many identities altered, and the fingerprints wiped away. Is this, then, the truth? Not exactly. Although it feels entirely honest to me.”

I don’t care if Ayers doesn’t give us real names. I wouldn’t even care if he was presenting psychological insights into his peculiar way of looking at things, but he isn’t doing that when he writes about Truman. He believes exactly what he wrote – he isn’t remembering these events. He was just a few months old at the time. He acquired that belief later on from writings he doesn’t tell us about written by authors he doesn’t need to change the names of.

Whenever I encounter something like this I think of some of the Islamist writings I’ve read – in that they present very questionable, and at the very least debatable matters as though they were the incontrovertible truth. They aren’t, Islamists. They aren’t, Ayers. Your approaches are wrong. There is no source of truth you tap into that doesn’t need support, reference, and authentication. You need to check other authorities. You need to defend your authorities in well organized arguments, and you don’t. It is a cop out, Ayers, to rhetorically ask, “Is this, then, the truth?” And answer, “Not exactly. Although it feels entirely honest to me.”

It doesn’t feel entirely honest to me, Professor Ayers.

Lawrence Helm


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Universals, Nominalism and the Enemy

In Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self, the Making of the Modern Identity, as he enters his final conclusions, he can be said to have strolled through the history of Western philosophy as it applies to the idea or history of the self. Without describing why we have moved from one philosophical position to another, we can at least see that we have. It is also reasonable to say that each new philosophical position precedes popular opinion, and judicial opinions (not one of Taylor’s subjects) can, I believe, be subsumed under popular opinion.

We can see that ideas such as universal benevolence, universal justice, and the notion that progress can be achieved by rationally planned improvement came from the Enlightenment. Moving forward in time, Taylor writes, “We still instinctively reach for the old vocabularies, the ones we owe to Enlightenment and Romanticism.

“That is why the Victorians are so close to us. In some ways we naturally think ourselves to have evolved away from them, beyond them. This is particularly true when we consider whatever we believe to be the most characteristic beliefs or practices of modernity, and often note with satisfaction that we have taken these further than our forebears of the last century. Universal equality is more radically understood, as twentieth-century social reforms, anti-colonialism, and feminism all attest; democracy is more integrally applied. All this is true. But what is remarkable is that the basic moral and political standards by which we congratulate ourselves were themselves powerful in the last century. Even more strikingly, the very picture of history as moral progress, as a ‘going beyond’ our forebears, which underlies our own sense of superiority, is very much a Victorian idea.”

In these modern times, however, “eternal verities” have been largely abandoned, and at best given lip service. A good deal of the impetus for this abandonment grew out of the French period, Tony Judt wrote about in his Past Imperfect. Sartre and most of the other Existentialists were Nominalists – not in the medieval sense in which it was argued that abstract terms such as “benevolence,” justice,” and “truth” had no palpable existence, but in the sense that there are no universal values or standards at all – only opinions.

One can imagine Sartre and the others who survived Vichy wrestling with matters of guilt. If there was no universal truth then who is to say that the collaborators were guilty of anything? And if post-Vichy France does condemn the collaborators, it does so because it has been victorious, not because it has a better grasp of truth or justice than they do. For many, Existentialism would provide a rationalism for their guilt. Yes, they once held the opinion that Fascist Germany was on the right track, but now they hold a different opinion. There is no point in feeling guilty, for all opinions are equal.

One hears that sort of argument from many Leftists when they discuss Islamism. Who are we, to insist that we are right and the Islamists are wrong? The Islamists believe they are right; so how arrogant of us to insist that our “right” supersedes theirs.

I do believe in universal values and standards. On the other hand, I believe that Liberal Democracy is right when it refuses to accept any person or group as being the arbiter of such matters. This doesn’t prevent me from believing as I do. It also doesn’t prevent Leftists or Islamists from believing as they do. However, just as I am prevented from forcing my ideas on Islamists living in America; so are they prevented from forcing their ideas on me. Also, if they carry out their ideological mandate, i.e., that Allah has commanded them to kill infidels, then they have passed from the realm of opinion and entered the world of action. When they act out this command of Islamism, then we who hold contrary beliefs must act out our opposition. Perhaps our Liberal Democracy accepts a sort of Nominalism when it comes to opinions we are permitted to hold, but it is not Nominalistic when it comes to actions. Acts against individuals and institutions of our society must be condemned. Those who perform such acts must be opposed with whatever force is required to eliminate them as a threat.

We can have different opinions about universals. We can accept the idea that others are entitled to their own opinions about them. We can even accept a sort of Nominalism in our Liberal Democracies, but we cannot accept enemies killing our citizens or attempting to destroy our nations and societies.

Lawrence Helm


Obama/Zebari/Taheri scandal simplified -- Taheri reappears -- 9/27/08


Melanie Philips in the above article reports on some interesting additions to our supply of information about the subject scandal. The first is a New York Times article that quotes Zebari as saying on July 3rd 2008, “He said that Mr. Obama had asked him: “ ‘Why is the Iraqi government in a rush, in a hurry? This administration has only a few more months in office.’ ”

“Mr. Zebari said he told Mr. Obama that even a Democratic administration would be better off having something “concrete in front of them to take a hard look at.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03iraq.html?scp=1&sq=obama+%22status+of+forces%22&st=nyt

This article adds a little to what we knew. We hear a bit of Zebari’s reaction to the phone conversation of June 16th that Obama refers to in some detail: http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/archives/2008/09/did_obama_lie_a.html

What Obama said over the phone to Zebari on June 16th provides evidence that he violated the Logan Act and it provides evidence that Obama held certain opinions – opinions he later said he didn’t actually express to Zebari later on at his actual meeting with him.

Melanie Phillips has been in contact with Taheri. He told her the conversation he referred to in his 9/15/08 article (http://www.villainouscompany.com/vcblog/archives/2008/09/did_obama_lie_a.html ) was a private one between Zebari and Obama: Phillips writes, “He has told me that Obama made these comments at a meeting in Baghdad with Foreign Minister Zebari before the meeting with al Maliki and the cast of thousands referred to in Tapper’s article. Dismayed by what he knew Obama had said to Zebari, Maliki actually tried to pre-empt Obama from saying the same thing to him – which would have put him in a difficult position by undermining his negotiations with the US government . . .”

One may recall that I wrote on 9/20/08 after reading Tapper’s article, “Of course the attendance at a meeting by these other people wouldn’t preclude Obama’s being able to buttonhole Zebari privately. I’ve been to a zillion meetings and it is always possible to speak privately to someone while you are milling around before the meeting, during meeting breaks, or afterwards; so Tapper’s comment sounds shocking at first, but it is no smoking gun. Taheri doesn’t mention the other people, but they are really irrelevant – unless Tapper were to state that these other people say that Obama and Zebari never spoke privately together, and Tapper doesn’t say that.” http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/status-of-obama-zebari-scandal-if-you.html

Most interesting, perhaps, is that Taheri is working on a “put-down (not yet published) of the mounting attacks on the integrity of his reporting.” Phillips quotes Taheri summing up the “nub of this whole affair.” For the entire “nub” go to the Phillips article referenced at the top of this note. I will quote but two elements:

From Point 2: “Senator Obama opposes these negotiations and urges an alternative set of talks in which the Congress is involved (That would be a novel way of doing business in a system based on separation of powers.) He then tells the Iraqi Foreign Minister in private that his government had better postpone the agreements until there is a new administration in Washington.”

From Point 4: “. . . the issue here is not who said what to whom and where and when. The issue is that Obama intervened in a process of negotiations between his government and a foreign power. He admits it himself as do all media accounts of the episode, although Senator Hagel, more royalist than the king, does not. My article was not a news story. It was an op-ed. The opinion I wanted to express was simple: no one would trust the United States if the leader of its opposition rejected agreements negotiated by its government in advance and without knowing what they looked like. The issue is that Obama has done, and admits that he has done, something that he should not have done: trying to second-guess an incumbent president.”

To some extent this will put the ball back in the Obama/Tapper court. To counter what Taheri is writing, Obama would have to deny that a private meeting with Zebari ever took place.

I suspect, however, that the Obama camp will not reply to Taheri’s new article unless a great hue and cry rises up from the blogosphere and demands it. Yes, Wendy Morigi admitted everything, but then clever Tapper tapped out an excellent spin which has been supported in large part by Hagel. Taheri was thereby discredited and several long days went by without Taheri responding. He has yet to respond, although Phillips article bridges the gap a bit.

I have tried to simplify this matter as much as possible. Is it too late and still too complicated for many to want to revisit this scandal? I suspect the Obama camp sincerely hopes so.

Lawrence Helm


Friday, September 26, 2008

Collaboration trials, French, American, and Russian

The French:

On page 58 of Past Imperfect, Tony Judt wrote, “Of the approximately 10,800 executions without trial that took place in France during the course of the Liberation, 5,234 had already happened before the Allied landings. Some of these had been preceded by a trial (about one-quarter of them), but most were exercises in summary judgment, by no means all of them the work of genuine Resistance units. By setting up, within the limits of contemporary moral and military situation, a formal basis for judgment, the French authorities of this period sought to take punishment out of the hands of autonomous and often competing organizations and return it to the State. In this they were reasonably successful. Official trials for collaboration or treason were held from 1944 until the beginning of the 1950s; and tribunals, courts of justice, and the high court would eventually sentence to death nearly 7,000 people (3,900 in absentia). Of these, fewer than 800 were eventually executed.

“In addition to those prosecuted for treason or collaboration, a further 50,000 government employees were ‘investigated’ at the Liberation, of whom 11,343 lost their jobs or were otherwise punished. But most of these would eventually return to government service following the amnesties of January 1951 and August 1953. . . In general, the amnesties, the first of which was declared in 1948, reduced rather rapidly the number of people who stayed in prison. An initial 32,000 by December 1948, to 8,000 by the following year, and to 1,500 by October 1952. At the end of the Fourth Republic, there remained in French prisons just 19 persons sentenced for their wartime activities or writings.”

The Americans:

From page 4 of Joseph McCarthy by Herman: “The best and most generous estimate is that during the entire decade of the red scare, ten thousand Americans lost their jobs because of their past or present affiliation with the Communist Party or one of its auxiliary organizations. Of those who lost their jobs, two thousand worked in the government . . . A grand total of 108 Communist Party members were convicted under the antisubversion provisions of the Smith Act, which Congress passed in 1941 . . . Another twenty Communists Party members were imprisoned under state and local laws. Fewer than a dozen Americans went to jail for espionage activities . . . Exactly two were sentenced to death for conspiracy to commit espionage: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.”

The Russians:

From Page 5 of Herman’s book: “. . . three and a half million people . . . according to the KGB’s own official numbers, were arrested and sent to the gulag . . . from 1935 to 1941. . . the total number of human beings executed, exiled, imprisoned, or starved to death in those years comes to ten to eleven million.”


We observe that officials, or self-appointed representatives of the state punished collaborators in numbers and severity commensurate with the threat to the state. America was threatened least and punished least. France was threatened more severely and punished more harshly than the Americans. Russia was threatened most severely and punished monumentally.

To elaborate, The Communist threat against America was somewhat difficult to understand at the time. Only in retrospect can we say that the threat was severe, that it cost American lives, and that it put America in serious jeopardy. The Cuban Missile crisis, for example, would never have occurred if our American traitors had not jump-started Russia’s nuclear weapons program. But at the time, McCarthy and members of HUAC and other anti-communist agencies sounded as though they were believers in a bizarre and fictitious conspiracy theory. Many were impatient with our “collaboration trials” and resented the climate of opinion that infringed upon their civil rights. (see http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/spying-successes-in-us.html and http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/mccarthy-free-speech-and-nature-of.html )

Even in retrospect we chafe under the fact that we were “inconvenienced” during that period. It doesn’t change anything for us to learn that the threat was real. We didn’t like all that restrictive and suspicious activity. We still hate McCarthyism, and as evidence, we are actively resisting any additional inconvenience, tying the hands of those trying to track down terrorists as much as we can.

The USSR had their Collaboration trials before the Second World War. They were in the most danger of all because they were trying to established a state based upon the idealistic dreams of Marx and Lenin. Such a state never before existed in history, but the Soviets believed that it could exist and set about making that belief a reality. There was considerable resistance in the USSR. Today in the West many of us shake our heads that they could have been so foolish as to imagine such a system could work; and there were plenty in the USSR in the period we are talking about who shook their heads as well. These were declared collaborators, or potential collaborators, with the Capitalistic West, and shunted off to the Gulag or worse. If you get rid of all those who think your dreams can’t work, then all those who remain will support you . . . or so the Russian leadership believed – at least officially.

In France many those who lived with the active collaborators during the Vichy period went to work as soon as possible killing them off. Some question whether their motives were justice or revenge, but perhaps it was both. Perhaps it is always both. As French authorities began taking control of post-War France, the summary executions stopped and formal trials took their place. Even these were fairly harsh to begin with, but after the anti-collaborationist frenzy wore itself out, the French became more tolerant of those who merely did what they needed to survive.

Now look at the three of us today. We in America think everyone should like us and are surprised that they don’t. In France, De Gaul and Chriac sought to build France or at least the EU into a buffer against the potential threat of the U.S. (Were they worried about another American occupation? See http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/when-america-occupied-france.html )

And as soon as the Russians began to gain a little self-confidence after the fall of the USSR, they resumed their suspicious ways. The USSR has fallen, but everyone in power today grew up under that system. It is all they know. Yes, the West claimed to intend to treat them as just another Capitalistic country, but look at what the EU is doing? They are gobbling up one former Soviet SSR after another. Does that sound like they intend to be the Russians’ friends? Definitely not to leaders like Putin.

To a large extent, we are what we’ve been. We are not the same.

Lawrence Helm


Thursday, September 25, 2008

When America "Occupied" France

No simple explanation seems possible for explaining Post-War France.  At the end of the 18th century, they had their Republican Revolution.  In the early 19th century they became the most powerful nation in the world for under Napoleon.  They continued to be a powerful nation and were on the winning side during World War One in the early part of the 20th century.  In the interwar period they favored pacifism and opposed war, but that resulted in their quick defeat and occupation by the Germans.  An important segment of France wanted to get along with the Germans, and this segment became Vichy France.  During the war many in Vichy France “collaborated” with the Germans.  Immediately after World War II, it was in the interest of the Gaullists and French Communists (PCF) to make light of this collaboration and suggest that almost everyone at heart was in the “Resistance.”


How could the intellectuals who went through the latter part of that process be anything but neurotic.   Tony Judt, in Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956, discusses “six overlapping tropes, any and all of which could be pressed into service to shape and describe the post-war situation and the choices it presented to the individual.”


I was particularly interested in the fourth trope, “Collaboration.”  Judt writes on page 52, “As a term of opprobrium this became so universal after the war that there is little point in offering examples of what had become a standard figure of speech.  Its presence here is meant to suggest, however, that its use was not at all limited to the identification of people who stood accused of sympathizing with Vichy or the Nazis.  It is the metaphoric uses to which it was applied that make it of special interest.  Thus, to take one instance, from 1947 and with growing frequency in the half-decade to follow, all sympathy for American policy, all expression of support for Anglo-American interests, in France or abroad, was stigmatized as ‘collaboration,’ and the United States cast, by analogy as the ‘occupier.’  The campaign against the Marshall Plan (by no means limited to the PCF) took as its central plank the thesis that the plan was the first stage of a peaceful occupation and takeover of France, and that collaboration with it in any form was to be condemned.  Paul Fraisse in Esprit drove home the implication of this terminology by calling for a new ‘resistance.’   


“Collaboration, it seemed, was a state of mind, not merely a particular political or social choice.  All democratic societies, Sartre asserted, harbor ‘collaborators’ in their midst, even (especially) when the collaborator does not realize his (or her) own condition.  The solution was not to identify and execute a few ‘traitors’ but to make a revolution.  In a manner reminiscent of the still unknown Gramsci, collaboration was treated as a form of sociohistorical pathology, the condition of acceding to the hegemony of an authority or ruler.  One was in this sense ‘occupied’ by the ideas and interests of others (it will be seen there why Sartre and others so readily treated the collaborator as feminine and her ‘occupier’ as male).  The only solution was rejection (in the medical sense): the social body could free itself from the condition and temptation of collaboration (whether with Germans, Americans, capitalists, or its own weaknesses) only be rebelling against its condition.  Once again, the solution was revolution.”


COMMENT:  The words that came to my mind as I read this was “intellectuals can make anything out of anything.”   I’m not thinking here of fiction.  Of course a clever writer can make up any sort of story about anything.  I am speaking of making something up meaning it.  Why would a French writer say the U.S. was an “occupier” after we had defeated the Germans and driven them out of France?   I suspect not many in France thought that at the time.  We can see footage of the French throwing flowers at Patton’s tanks and trucks as Patton’s 2nd Armored Division entered Paris on August 23rd, 1944.  But many intellectuals in France wanted to make sense of it all, and the concept collaboration came readily to mind.  Many, perhaps most, had collaborated with the Germans to some extent during the Vichy period.  Perhaps the French weren’t ready to trust each other not to collaborate.  Perhaps these intellectuals didn’t even trust themselves.


Judt describes the period when some were worried that perhaps the U.S. were in France to stay as short, half a decade.  I’m not surprised that many in Iraq believed that we might be there to stay.  I’ve read the conspiracy theories that they’ve been pummeled with over the years, but why would any in France think that about us? 


I believe the TV series, Bones, has been extended another season.  In it Angela Montenegro (played by Michaela Conlin) had been in a serious relationship with Dr. Jack Hodgins (played by T.J. Thyne), but then a person from Angela’s past showed up and for awhile Hodgins didn’t trust Angela.   Maybe Hodgins still doesn’t trust her.  In any case this was too much for Angela, too much for Hodgins as well and they broke it off.  Of course things are still up in the air (unless I’ve missed an episode), and one expects them to get past their mistrust in the coming season and get back together, but in the meantime, they still don’t trust each other. 


For Hodgins this had something to do with Angela’s old flame’s presence.  As long as he was hanging around, Hodgims was suspicious.  And as long as the U.S. was in France, many French intellectuals were suspicious.  Perhaps Angela was collaborating with her old flame.  Perhaps the French were collaborating with the America occupiers. 


After the U.S. pulled out of France, did any intellectuals slap their foreheads and say, “what was I thinking?  Of course America wasn’t interested in permanently occupying France.  How could I have been so insanely suspicious?   I’m expecting Dr. Hodgins to say something like that in the coming season.  This sort of insane jealousy is common in mankind, but does anyone ever apologize for it?  Well, yes, in a personal relationship, one must.  Dr. Hodgins will at the very least tell Angela he’s sorry.  The French who were suspicious could merely fade into the background and let those who were not suspicious do all the talking.  Maybe that is what is going on in Iraq today.   Probably there is no one left who thinks we intend to occupy Iraq forever.  Interestingly, there are still intellectuals who believe America is an Empire.  They are busy changing their definition of “Empire” to fit whatever it is we do, as it changes from administration to administration.


Lawrence Helm








The Rage of Moderate Islam

Khurshid Ahmad’s wrote Amrika: Muslim Dunya ki Bey-Itminani, in 2002. This book was published in Pakistan and is in Urdu. It has not been translated into English but has been reviewed in the Jan/Feb 2004 issue of Foreign Policy by Hussain Haqqani. Haqqani translated the title of Ahmad’s book as America and Unrest in the Muslim World. Haqqani entitles his review, The Rage of Moderate Islam.

Haqqani writes, “‘Ahmad argues that the United States ‘dreams of world domination, resolves to control the resources of other nations, wants to shape the world according to its ideas, and seeks to impose its values and ideology on others by force.’ Only the Islamists, he says, offer a political force capable of resisting this Pax Americana. . . .”

“Ahmad’s book comprises nine essays, four written before September 11, and five after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In the book, he condemns the attacks but argues that the perpetrators are still unknown. ‘A glance at the history of Israel and [the] Zionist movement,’ he suggests, ‘gives credence to the suspicion of Mossad’s role in the terrorist acts.’ Like all Islamists, however, Ahmad was suspicious of Western intentions long before September 11. Two of his essays on the ‘new world order,’ originally published in 1991 and 1993, extensively cite influential conservatives such as Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and Eliot Cohen as proof of an insidious plan to create a century of U.S. dominance at the expense of other nations.”

“Ahmad’s prescription for resisting U.S. subjugation is familiar: The Muslim umma (global community of believers) must purify its ranks and become a homogenous community that can mobilize against the American-Zionist-Hindu plot. . . . The arrogance and triumphalism of the ‘American imperialists’ require a closing of ranks among all those who oppose them. . . .”

To begin with, let me say that Ahmad isn’t wrong in his main thrust, (setting aside certain Conspiracy-Theory absurdities such as the Mossad being behind the 9/11 bombing). The Neocons assumed that it would be good for the world if all nations had Liberal/Democratic governments, but Ahmad doesn’t assume that. He assumes that it would be good if all nations had Islamic governments that meet the standards of the Sharia law. From his standpoint Liberal/Democracy is a great evil, and consequently from his standpoint what he has written in his book is correct, if Haqqani is accurate.

Haqqani implies that Ahmad represents “moderate Islam.” If that were true, then the clash between the West and Islam (in Samuel P. Huntington’s sense of the expression) may be longer lasting and more violent than it has thus far been. The Neocons, even after Fukuyama abandoned them, have been convinced that Fukuyama had the right of it, that it would indeed be a Pax Americana if all nations became Liberal and Democratic. Surely everyone wants to be free of oppression and to be free to develop his potential (as Sharansky argued). Ahmad would say these assumptions are anathema to the Muslim who wants to submit himself to the Law of Allah. Freedom from the Law is appalling to him, and freedom to comply with the Law is God given.

Haqqani doesn’t support his title in his text and I wonder if it wasn’t created for him by the Foreign Policy editorial board. It is one thing to read Ahmad’s opinions and learn that he is popular in Pakistan, but it is another to be told that he is representative of “moderate Islam.” This would imply that moderate Islam sides with Islamism in matters pertaining to the opposition of the U.S. and the West. But surely, it is hoped, moderate Islam isn’t as committed to war as Ahmad seems to be. But if they are . . .

From a purely military standpoint, imagine the Apaches evaluating the presence of General George Crook in the early 1870s. The Apaches had tremendous fighting skills, but those skills were not adequate in a contest with the American Army. The Apaches weaponry was upgraded as much as possible by the acquisition of American rifles and pistols, but the Americans had more powerful weapons. From the standpoint of 2008 it is possible to think that Cochise and the Apaches never had a chance and that somehow we should have just left them alone, but that wasn’t possible. We shared a continent with them and some sort of arrangement needed to be arrived at. It was in the Apache tradition as well as in the American tradition that such matters be solved by force of arms.

Perhaps in 3008 we will look upon the Islamic Civilization in the same way. They do not have a tradition of competence in the area of modern weapons, tactics, economics or sociology. We want them to become like us, but they don’t want to. So why don’t we leave them alone, some might ask? It is too late for that, just as it was too late to leave the Apaches alone. We share a world with Islam and must find the means to get along with them; and perhaps even more importantly, they must find the means to get along with us.

The belief of the Islamists and perhaps the moderate Muslims is that Allah will give them the victory in matters that must be solved by force of arms. It is part of their tradition just as it was part of the traditions of the Apaches and the Americans that certain matters be solved in that manner. Many on the Left wish that this was not so, but they are attempting to impose the standards of a world that doesn’t exist. There are no standards that everyone can appeal to. The world is fragmented and variegated. When the beliefs of people whose ideas are inimical to ours confront us violently, the time for conjecture and debate are over. Let us then don our uniforms, take up our weapons and rush down to the field of battle. They wish to defeat us, and to subject us to their standards, but we (if we are patriotic) will not be defeated – and so we fight.

Lawrence Helm


McCarthyism in the 21st Century

There are any number of cases where Leftists have been proved wrong by events, but one of the most interesting has to do with Senator Joseph McCarthy, as I’ve been discussing. I’ve made reference to the Venona papers and the declassification of KGB documents that prove that McCarthy was right when he said there were Communists in the State Department and Army. Surely the Leftists will have nothing to say and would be better off keeping quiet. But at least two leftists think otherwise.

Ted Morgan has written Reds: McCarthyism in Twentieth-Century America. It is reviewed by Thomas Powers in the NYROB. While several articles from this issue were posted on the NYROB website, this one isn’t.

At first I thought the review/article might be fair and objective. It began that way by admitting that there really were spies in our government, and they really did give our secrets to the USSR. However, the damage had already been done, according to the article, before McCarthy came on the scene. A very successful anti-spy exercise had routed out all the spies; so McCarthy was coming on the scene after the fact. He was merely chasing nonexistent communists for his own aggrandizement. Morgan and Powers then trot out all the old accusations that had been heaped upon McCarthy during his lifetime: he drank too much. He exaggerated his war record. He tolerated a homosexual as his right-hand man. He allowed his homosexual right-hand man to attempt to get David Shine out of the draft. He was unscrupulous in attacking his victims.

Interestingly, Powers rather inconsistently says that Morgan didn’t describe who the victims were and mentioned the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss. At the time the Communist sympathizers did their best to argue that the Rosenbergs and Hiss were innocent. The Left not in the know thought these people were innocent. Powers if not Morgan admits that the Rosenbergs and Hiss were guilty. But then Powers goes on to do the same thing he is critical of Morgan for. Powers says that the real victims were a number of people McCarthy ruined by questioning them about their Communist affiliations when such affiliations were of the mildest nature – perhaps nothing more than idle curiosity. But Powers doesn’t name these victims, nor does he give evidence of their ruin, nor does he give evidence that they were truly not Communists or Communist sympathizers.

What Morgan and Powers have forgotten is that McCarthy’s character was attacked during his lifetime in order to demonstrate that his accusations about Communists in government were equally unreliable. Now that we know that his accusations were reliable, the attacks upon his character seem very like Bush-bashing: lots of innuendo intended to discredit his reliability, but nothing pertinent or of substance.

McCarthy paid a heavy price for not being prejudiced against homosexuals. His enemies argued that if he had one working for him, then he must be one himself. Indeed Cohn did try to get David Shine out of the draft, but he believed that the army placed Shine on the draft out of order as a means of retaliation against what Cohn and McCarthy were doing.

And it’s hard to know how many missions McCarthy made as a tail gunner, because tail-gunning wasn’t his job. He had a noncombatant job but went on every flight he could, nonetheless. Because tail-gunning wasn’t his official job and since accurate records of what he did weren’t available, his enemies made the most of the worst interpretation. But evidence exists that he was indeed fearless and did indeed go on as many missions as he could. In some circles, to go on combat missions when you didn’t need to would be reason for admiration, not reason for excoriation because the exact number was not known or perhaps exaggerated.

As to his drinking, people back then drank more than they do today. I watched an old movie recently with William Powell, perhaps The Return of the Thin Man. William Powell was shown as drinking throughout the movie – perhaps a little bit tipsy at all times but never really drunk and still able to solve the murder. After Prohibition, the alcoholic floodgates were opened and huge numbers did a lot of drinking. This phenomenon existed throughout our society and it is easy to find examples of people who would have been better off not drinking, but McCarthy’s drinking habit now has nothing to do with the accuracy of his allegations back then. He wasn’t a drunk incapable of sound judgment. He did have evidence enough to convince him that there were Communists in our government and the Venona papers and declassified KGB documents now show him to have been correct.

What legitimate Leftist-innuendo remains? Not much. The scholars who first rummaged around in the KGB declassified documentation were thought to be American Communists. When it was discovered that they were not, the documents made available to them were withdrawn. We know the names of a lot of Communists that we didn’t know before, names even McCarthy didn’t know about. We know that McCarthy was right in his accusations, but we don’t know all the Communist spies that were working in our government. The Venona project had access to only diplomatic dispatches. Only the KGB documents would disclose who the rest of the spies were, and the historians were not able to study them exhaustively. Therefore, Leftists will still be able to say, a lot of people were ruined because they innocently dabbled in a curiosity about Communism. Were these people Communists or Communist sympathizers? They don’t say. Innuendo doesn’t need to be specific.

Do you now or have you ever been suspicious of someone who had the trappings of being either a Communist or a Communist, and Islamist or an Islamist sympathizer? If so, then you are a McCarthyite and deserve to be excoriated by the Left even now.

Powers entitles his review of Morgan’s book, “Spy Fever.” But it wasn’t an imaginary fever. The people with this fever were not hypochondriacs. There really were spies in our government.

Lawrence Helm


McCarthy, Chambers, Bentley and their unforgiveable sins

I broached the subject of Joseph McCarthy and how the Leftist Liberals and even some of the not so leftist Liberals refused to recognize that McCarthy has been vindicated. The Venona records vindicated by KGB declassified records prove that there really were Communists in the State Department and Army just as McCarthy said there were. Much to my surprise, some of the conservatives I have communicated this to were, and remain, as anti-McCarthy as any Liberal. High on the list of McCarthy’s sins was the Hollywood Blacklisting by HUAC. It did no good to point out that McCarthy was a Senator and had nothing to do with HUAC (House UnAmerican Activities Committee). McCarthy’s reputation was beyond repair.

Is this true? Historians seem well on the way toward repairing McCarthy’s reputation – from an historical standpoint. The first step was the discovery and declassification of the Venona papers. The Venona project was authorized during WWII to decipher Soviet political dispatches. We feared that the USSR might make a separate peace with Germany which would put our own war effort on a precarious footing. The war was over before the Soviet code was deciphered, but when it was deciphered and they looked back through the dispatches they were astounded to discover that they had to do with the operation of an elaborate spy network in America. The FBI took control of the (Army’s) project, but kept it secret so that the Soviet’s wouldn’t change their coding procedure. The FBI took action against spies only if they could do so without disclosing the fact that they had broken the Soviet code.

The public disclosure of the Venona project is less than ten years old. John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr wrote Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America in 1999. The first historian to address its effects on McCarthy was Arthur Herman who wrote Joseph McCarthy, Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America’s Most Hated Senator, in the year 2000. McCarthy was right after all, but at the time he worked, he didn’t have the evidence (although the FBI did) to prove it. Furthermore his attack on Communists was taken as a political attack on the Democrats and they responded by helping to ruin his reputation.

I suppose it is difficult to let go of a hatred. If you have hated McCarthy for several decades, perhaps you go right on hating him even if it turns out that the reason for the hatred has been undermined. Eventually the McCarthy myth will be destroyed by the facts, but this may not occur in the lifetime of the present McCarthy haters. McCarthyism is in the dictionary and his haters don’t want to see it removed.

Another book on this subject is Clever Girl, Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era by Lauren Kessler. The FBI had to be secretive about the Venona project, but they had no reason to be secretive about Elizabeth Bentley’s defection. Elizabeth Bentley had been an active spy for the USSR, but then her handler and lover died. His replacement made her see her situation in a new light. Her patriotism was reawakened and she went to the FBI and told all. The FBI had evidence from the Venona project that she was telling the truth, but the Communists (as a matter of propaganda strategy), and the Democrats (as a misguided matter of belief) dismissed Bentley’s testimony as another Republican Red Herring. The FBI stood by Elizabeth Bentley, but almost no one else did. She “died in 1963 in obscure and painful circumstances.” Stephen Schwartz in a January 26th 2004 Weekly Standard Review, Stephen Schwartz wrote, “Although Lauren Kessler did her best to defend her subject’s honor, the weight of American popular memory remains against her. No one who reads Lauren Kessler’s Clever Girl will come away satisfied that America did right by those who put loyalty to country ahead of personal interest – nor will anyone be inspired to emulate her.”

The last clause is probably true, and sobering. If a threat existed here in the U.S. and some young participant suddenly had his patriotism awakened and realized that he didn’t want to continue on to the detriment of his country, his choices would be difficult. What a huge penalty Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley paid for doing what was patriotic (belatedly though that might be). And McCarthy with very little support presented a series of unpleasant truths about the USSR spies and was destroyed for it. McCarthy was a patriot and for that he became “America’s most hated Senator.”

When I add up McCarthy, Chambers, and Bentley, I sometimes wonder if the predominate view in America isn’t too intractable to allow America to survive. The situation has changed, but who will believe it? As Charles Jones says, you cannot change their minds through argument. Truman is no longer talking about a Red Herring and McCarthy, Chambers and Bentley are all safely dead. But look at our present situation. We seem to be doing okay against the Islamists, or is that really true? Maybe there was never a “terrorist threat” to begin with. Maybe what the Republicans called an “Terrorist Threat” was just another Red Herring – something they used to scare the American people into electing them.

Perhaps Truman and Acheson had some excuse. They had no hard evidence that there were spies in the State Department. J. Edgar Hoover did not trust Truman and never told him about the Venona project. And Acheson went to school with one of the people being accused. In regard to Alger Hiss, Acheson was not the sort of person to abandon an acquaintance just because he was in a spot of trouble. Acheson was not the sort of person to give an inch to a political opponent, and Truman admired Acheson’s courage. Do our modern Leftist politicians have some excuses like that? Probably.

And so today, “patriotism” is a dirty word to some extent because of what went on during the McCarthy era. Historians are busy writing books that vindicate McCarthy, but who is vindicating patriotism?

Lawrence Helm


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

French and American Pacifism

The last time I read Tony Judt’s Past Imperfect, French Intellectuals, 1944-1956, I got to about page 71. Perhaps this time I’ll get a bit further.

I am interested here in what Judt has to say about the pacifism that so pervaded France prior to World War II that they weren’t able to defend themselves. On page 20, Judt writes,

“The end of the thirties was marked . . . by the growing significance of pacifism. From the early twenties, the desire for a secure peace had marked the whole of the French community, exhausted and drained by its ‘victory’ in the war and collectively sensitive to Paul Valery’s famous rumination on the fragility of civilizations. The intellectual community of the 1920s expressed its war-weariness most forcibly in a collective retreat from political affiliation, but even those on the Right or Left who remained politically involved shared a universal longing for an end to military involvement. The Right sought to achieve this through the illusory strength of the French armed forces, the Left through the hunt for collective security. Indeed, writing in the late twenties, Albert Thibaudet remarked, ‘Today one could say that ‘socialism equals the search for peace.’ One is a Socialist by virtue of the priority given to this problem over all others.’ But by the thirties, lines that had once been clear were again blurred. The Communists, until 1935 adamantly opposed to any form of national defense, were from then until August 1939 the most ardent and consistent proponents of antifascism (before joining the integral pacifists once again in their opposition to any ‘capitalist’ war). The Right, while remaining in principle as Germanophobic as ever, was confused in its allegiance by a sympathy for Hitler’s Italian ally and by a virulent hatred of the post-1936 Republic, led by outsiders with interests of their own that risked embroiling France in a war she did not need.”

The French “Right” doesn’t readily translate into any American position. Judt, above, if I understand him correctly, says that the Right sought “an end to military involvement . . . through the illusory strength of the French armed forces.” I suspect Judt means that the Right overestimated the strength of the French military – that they thought the Germans would be afraid to attack them because the French military was too strong. That is also interesting, but I am more interested in the French pacifism. If Pacifism weren’t so pervasive in France, perhaps the French military would have become as strong as the deluded French Right believed it to be.

On page 23 Judt writes “Those on the left who had come of age at the time of the Dreyfus Affair retained a loyalty to republicanism in its classic shape, whatever their growing criticism of their practice of politics in Republican France. The younger generation, the one for whom it was war, not the defense of the rights of man, that had been the formative moment in the collective experience, was much more likely to prove sensitive to the appeal of pacifism and/or fascism. This is a point of some significance, not so much for the thirties themselves as for what would follow. For not only was Vichy initially appealing to many in this younger generation, but it was this same cohort that emerged after 1944 as the dominant group within the intellectual community. Born between the turn of the century and 1913, they lacked any collective experience of successful democratic politics. They had also never had the occasion to unite, in good faith and with clear conscience, in defense of democracy and rights. All their political experience consisted of opposition and disaffection.”

COMMENT: I have argued with many Leftists over the years and was struck by Judt’s assessment of the French pacifists: “All their political experience consisted of opposition [his italics] and disaffection.” Can we not say something similar about the American Leftists who came of age during the 60s anti-war movement? I believe we can. I have argued that if their anti-war, pacifistic, beliefs ever became the predominate view in America, that we would not survive as a nation. I can recall one Leftist who followed their logic to its conclusion. She said that she would rather we ceased to exist as a nation than that we resorted to war in self-defense. Most Leftists I debated, stopped short of that. Some were inconsistent pacifists. Some said they believed in self-defense but only under certain conditions, conditions which sounded improbable to me.

I’ll mention Charles Jones’ dictum at this point: we are not going to change their minds through argument. I believe that and yet it is a depressing thought. A large segment of our society isn’t willing to come to our defense. What can the rest of us do? A little (see below).

We are rich enough to afford a certain number of non-productive (in terms of self-defense) individuals. Let them exist in backwaters. Let them tear up their draft cards and live in communes or in Canada. We can afford that as long as we have enough young people willing to fight for their country. As long as we have enough who glory in our martial spirit, we shall survive. But immediately the obverse of the what the Leftist lady said comes to mind. I would say that if ever our Leftist, pacifistic segment gains such intellectual control in this nation that the predominate view becomes theirs, then we don’t deserve to exist as a nation. The historical evidence is before us. Pacifistic nations are conquered. Pacifism is diplomatic suicide. There is no rational reason for this view to predominate.

What can we non-pacifists do. We can debate, argue and make the dangers of pacifism known. Granted we aren’t going to change the minds of the pacifists, but others will be watching and listening. Others will be reading our arguments. Others will grow up to wonder what Pacifism is and perhaps look about them and see one of our arguments, an argument in which we did not change our pacifistic adversary’s mind, but one in which our arguments were clearly presented. Perhaps this unknown future onlooker will read our arguments and come to believe the pacifistic view is as absurd, unrealistic, and counterproductive as we believe it to be.

Unless we are secret pacifists ourselves, it is not permitted that we give up and pessimistically await the end.

Lawrence Helm


Judt, Spitz, and crossing the road to have a fight

In the NYROB article I quoted from (see http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/tony-judts-reappraisals-french-vichy.html ) there one can red Freedland observing “. . . Judt is also clearly a man who will cross the road to have a fight.”

In the article posted yesterday, http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2008/09/re-spying-successes-in-us.html , Chales Jones seemed to suggest that McCarthy and I might also be people who would “cross the road to have a fight.

This morning there was a response to that note. It was from Rev. Don Spitz. I looked him up. He is also known as someone who will cross the road to have a fight.” His comment was as follows:

“You seem to imply there is something wrong if a babykilling abortion mill is burned or bomb. Which do you prefer, a pile of bricks or a pile of dead babies? Innocent unborn babies deserve to be protected just as born children deserve to be protected. You would have no problem protecting born children if they were about to be murdered.

“SAY THIS PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner and am headed to eternal hell because of my sins. I believe you died on the cross to take away my sins and to take me to heaven. Jesus, I ask you now to come into my heart and take away my sins and give me eternal life.”

I read this before having my first cup of coffee and was quite sure I had not introduced the subject he was referring to and responded with, “Are you just spamming? Your note has nothing to do with the note you are purportedly responding to that I can see. Please explain the "implication" you are referring to.”

But just now I read the whole article and see that the Reverend Don Spitz is referring to something Charles wrote. Here is the paragraph (written by Charles) the Rev. Don is taking offense at:

“Additionally, I think it is normally a mistake to call for punishment. It may be logically correct, but it lacks sensibility and judgment. It's like anti-abortionists calling for the killing of abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics. Or Islamist mullahs saying it’s OK to kill certain writers, bomb certain TV stations, or kill unbelievers. I even think blacklisting Hollywood communists was a mistake and hauling fellow-travelers before HUAC was counter-productive. Although I supported it at the time, I now think impeaching President Clinton was a mistake. Every punishment move distracts from the exposure role. If you argue for punishment then you've got to try to show that the punishment is justified, that all objections to punishment can be countered, that there are no mitigating circumstances, that the punishment can be put into practice, that there are no unforeseen consequences of punishment, that collateral damage is limited, etc. In the meantime, no exposing is getting done.”

I didn’t write that, Reverend Don! Charles wrote that. You are viewing the wrong person as destined for “eternal hell.”

Now, if I were the right person, I would cross the road to have a fight with you, Rev. Don, but I am not. I have been interested in combating Islamists and objecting to spying and dirty tricks in the U.S. – I think if you were to review everything I’ve written on this blog, you would not find one objection, written by me, to blowing up abortion clinics.

I’ll grant you, now that I’ve read Charles note once again that he does indeed seem opposed to “bombing abortion clinics.” I won’t offer my own opinion on the subject, for then I might be seen as once again doing that thing I have been criticized for, and rightly so: crossing the road to have a fight.

Charles, I shall post this note as another reply to the Reverend Don Spitz by way of apologizing to him for thinking his note was spam, but also so he can have the correct focus for his attention. Whether or not you choose to cross the street to . . . talk to discuss that with him will be up to you.

Lawrence Helm


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

McCarthy, Free Speech, and the nature of the enemy

1) Lefty suggests that McCarthy’s concerns about spies weren’t justified inasmuch as the USSR would have developed atomic weapons very quickly without this information. All the spies did was hasten the acquisition of atomic weapons by the USSR by some inconsequential period of time. I don’t believe that is true. If we look at the circumstances surrounding Iran’s attempts to acquire atomic weapons we see that the process is difficult and tedious and time consuming. Some think Iran is still years away. If a nation’s scientists must duplicate the research and not get help from an outside source, the development of atomic weapons will require (lacking the genius of those in the Manhattan Project) several years. U.S. scientists began work in 1939. It took until 1945 to obtain nuclear weapons. How long would it take a nation who didn’t have scientists of that caliber? In my view the giving of atomic weapons technology to an enemy who wished to “bury us” was one of the most egregious examples of treason. Not only should those found guilty receive the severest punishment, but in retrospect those who attempted to expose them should be applauded. See my discussion of the idea of Enemy in (5) below:

2) Actions taken during times of war to prevent espionage and fifth-column activity do not comprise tyrannous executive abuse. Such actions are merely prudent – actions any sensible government would take to protect its people (including the people’s government and military). The fact that so many have lost sight of the necessity for such action implies an eroding of the sense of our identity and confusion of whatever it is that comprises an Enemy -- see (5) below.

3) Lefty asks what freedoms I would surrender in order to fight the Islamist enemy. Lefty invoked the writings of Andrew Hamilton in 1735. I’m sure there were citizens of that period who when traveling from place to place would understand the command of a soldier, “Quick, get back behind those rocks. Indians are coming.” The freedom to not get behind the rocks is one I would have been willing to give up in 1735. And today if the enemy is identified in a certain way and is engaged in activities harmful to our nation, I expect the government to take steps to neutralize him. If our government is able to find this enemy by monitoring phone calls or internet messages, then I want my government to do that. I want it to take these necessary steps to root this enemy out. If my phone and internet messages are out there as part of the database the government has access to, I have no problem with that as long as the government is bent upon rooting out our enemy.

4) When I said it was the act and not the intention that should be judged, I had our enemy in mind. If an enemy takes no action but believes in the eventual victory of Communism or Islamism, he is entitled to his belief in our pluralistic society. But if he takes action to advance his cause whether it be espionage, or fifth-column-type depredations then his actions should be judged and penalized. If a reporter acts in such a way that the enemy is benefited then he or his newspaper are “guilty of something.” Lefty wondered why I used this term, but I concede the possibility that the reporter and his editor may both have been inept, ignorance is no excuse. Some punishment should be levied. Perhaps only a fine, but newspapers should not be allowed to give aid and comfort to our enemy.

5) I think we as a society have lost sight of what an Enemy consists of. We don’t even like the term. We probably squirm when we hear it. We have opened ourselves up to so many variables, so many opinions, so much free speech and free everything that we are not willing to say that anything is fundamentally wrong or off limits lest we find ourselves on the proverbial “slippery slope” and end up wrong ourselves. I don’t believe that declaring an enemy wrong in our society puts us on a slippery slope. Quite the contrary. Unless we are able to recognize an enemy, we are already on a slippery slope. If people stand up in our Universities and declare that we should be destroyed and that what our enemies did on 9/11 was a good thing; then they have moved into the enemy camp and should be treated as enemies. In time of war we should curtail the freedoms of our enemies within our borders. We were able to do that in the past. Why have we lost the ability to do it in the present? Our fear for the loss such things as Freedom of Speech has put us on a Slippery Slope that given the arguments of our enemies could end up in our extinction? If we stand for everything (which seems to be the Free Speech contention) then we stand for nothing. There is no longer any point in our existence as a distinct nation with a distinct people concerned about its continued existence.

Lawrence Helm


Re: Spying successes in the U.S.

Charles Jones wrote:

I think the problem with McCarthy is that he discredited "us" --- people who believed the Soviets were actively out to get us and represented a far worse alternative than our own society. With "friends" like that.... We're still struggling with the burden he imposed on us.

I think that when it comes to combating leftist/islamist/nazi/any--other threats, the most effective strategy laymen can pursue is to publicize what those people believe and what their connections are. In a word, exposure. You've done that when you reported your extensive reading of Islamist writers. That was informative and effective.

Also, I think that the exposing has got to be fair and accurate. One mistake in accusing the wrong person or even a marginal figure or even using the wrong tone, and the person doing the exposing loses credibility. I think that there are severe limits on how effective any argument can be. So, I don't really expect even "knockdown" arguments to be persuasive. Over time they may have some effect, but I never expect a verbal/written exchange to really change minds. And lots of non-logical factors strongly affect the effectiveness of an argument. McCarthy is a case in point --- his arguments were made in the context of governmental investigations that he ran (a bullying environment), he had an unpleasant demeanor, he made charges he backed away from. The best way to maintain your argumentative effectiveness is to maintain your public integrity and cool.

Additionally, I think it is normally a mistake to call for punishment. It may be logically correct, but it lacks sensibility and judgment. It's like anti-abortionists calling for the killing of abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics. Or Islamist mullahs saying it’s OK to kill certain writers, bomb certain TV stations, or kill unbelievers. I even think blacklisting Hollywood communists was a mistake and hauling fellow-travelers before HUAC was counter-productive. Although I supported it at the time, I now think impeaching President Clinton was a mistake. Every punishment move distracts from the exposure role. If you argue for punishment then you've got to try to show that the punishment is justified, that all objections to punishment can be countered, that there are no mitigating circumstances, that the punishment can be put into practice, that there are no unforeseen consequences of punishment, that collateral damage is limited, etc. In the meantime, no exposing is getting done.

Lawrence responds:

I would reword Charles first paragraph slightly before agreeing with with it. The problem with McCarthy isn’t that he discredited us. It was that he was largely discredited by four forces: 1) Democrats surrounding Truman who believed that all the talk about Communist was a “red herring.” He thought there was a political motivation behind it. The Republicans were out to discredit his administration. 2) then there was a Gentleman’s code. Gentlemen like Acheson did not read other Gentlemen’s mail. Also these “gentlemen” did not abandon friends and acquaintances. Acheson never did abandon Owen Latimore even though Acheson didn’t particularly like him. 3) many agencies, such as the Army, were being exposed by McCarthy and they thought it more important to protect their reputations than to cooperate in rooting out Communists. 4) Communists had infiltrated and influence the media of the day, and they made it a high priority to discredit McCarthy.

In my view we are still struggling with the burden of McCarthyism, but this burden was mostly the work of the four forces that opposed him. Herman isn’t unmindful of McCarthy’s faults. They made It easier for the forces above to discredit him. 5) he was an alcoholic. 6) he was overly loyal to his friends, friends who often got McCarthy into trouble. The most notable case was when his right-hand man Cohn, a homosexual, tried to keep his “friend” Larry Shine out of the Army during the time McCarthy was trying to expose Communists in the Army. Cohn effectively sabotaged chose efforts.

As to exposure being “fair and accurate,” McCarthy was at a disadvantage. J. Edgar Hoover was feeding him information about Communist spies based on what he was learning from the Venona decryption program. But he couldn’t tell McCarthy where he got the information. McCarthy then charged ahead with the knowledge that a certain person was a Communist, but he often had no proof. Herman on page 106 writes, “Hoover and other intelligence officials became quite cynical about their chances or prosecuting Soviet espionage cases in the courts, and about the support they could count on from government bureaucrats in getting Communists out of sensitive posts. Hoover would support McCarthy’s efforts to ferret out Communists in government, at least at the beginning, partly because Hoover believed that whatever McCarthy’s obvious shortcomings, he was willing to do something about the problem.

“Anyone trying to assess the ‘Soviet threat,’ then, had to take into account between two hundred and four hundred active espionage agents; fifty-four thousand Communist full-time party members and, according to Hoover’s own estimate, at least a half-million active sympathizers, who were protected constitutionally from surveillance or even close scrutiny – protected, as it happened, by the very laws that Communists wished to see destroyed in order to establish a foreign utopian dream. In this sense America faced a threat far out of proportion to the actual size of the Communist Party or its secret apparatus. The real danger was that “through their agents and networks, Communists could set in motion a series of actions or bureaucratic decisions at crucial moments, or leak classified or background information, or set traps for the unwary that would undercut America’s ability to deal effectively with Stalin’s cold war maneuvers. . . . It could take large dramatic forms – again, the theft of atomic secrets gives the ready example. But it could also take innumerable small forms – subversion could be almost imperceptible without a clear understanding of what was going on behind the scenes.”

Herman provides a footnote at this point to illustrate “small form” subversion: “A good example is how Soviet agents in the Treasure, including Harry Dexter White, Solomon Adler, Frank Coe, and Harold Glasser, managed to stall the Roosevelt administration’s dispatch of $200 million in gold to the Chinese Nationalists to prop up their faltering currency. White and the others convinced Treasury Secretary Morgenthau that the gold was largely unnecessary or would be stolen, and urged caution in delivery. By July 1944, of $2000 million promised, only $12 million had reached China. At the other end, Adler and Coe introduced a secret communist agent, Chi Ch’ao-ting, into the Nationalist government as adviser on monetary policy. By the time shipments resumed under Truman in May 1945, it was too late. The Nationalist yen had collapsed, and rampant inflation and a worthless currency (all under Ting’s direction) set the stage for Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat in the coming civil war: Details are in Rusher, Special Counsel, pp. 100-102.”

The climate of opinion was very different back then. There were people, like Jack Kennedy’s father who though Joe McCarthy a great patriot, but he got very little worthwhile cooperation. He was to a large extent on his own. We can say he didn’t do as well as he could have. A personality transplant would have helped, but we should bear in mind that his abrasive personality didn’t prevent his being elected and reelected. Also, he should have drunk so much, but that was the thing to do back then. Watch movies describing the 40s and 50s and characters do a lot of drinking. My father was of that era and became an alcoholic as well. Many who “controlled” there drinking would be considered alcoholics by today’s standards. But yes, that was one of McCarthy’s faults.

As to punishments, for the most part the punishments consisted of job loss. On page 4 Herman writes, “The best and most generous estimate is that during the entire decade of the red scare, ten thousand Americans lost their jobs because of their past or present affiliation with the Communist Party or one of its auxiliary organizations. Of those who lost their jobs, two thousand worked in the government, and in perhaps forty cases McCarthy himself was directly or indirectly responsible for their being fired. In only one case – that of Owen Lattimore – can anyone make the argument that McCarthy’s allegations led to any actual legal proceedings, and there a judge eventually threw out most of the indictment.”

I enjoyed Herman’s book, but McCarthy has been demonized, and to rehabilitate a demon may be more than an ordinary historian, like Herman, can accomplish.

As to how effective arguments are in changing minds, I agree with what Charles has written. Perhaps some minds are changed, or perhaps they are only changed in small ways. He may be talking about me as well as McCarthy here. I’ve been involved in some “knockdown” arguments lately. I would just say in my defense, and perhaps in McCarthy’s that if we feel a responsibility, if we are functioning in accordance with principle, if like Whitaker Chambers we are not willing to abandon the truth even if we suffer for it; then I know of no other course then to bull ahead. What if our enemies oppose us? They were going to do that anyway. If we lose our tempers, well shame on us. We shouldn’t. We’ll try and do better next time. Maybe we won’t change any minds, but by pitting the truth against their error in our “knockdown” arguments, they will at least learn that pushing Communism, Leftism, or Islamism comes at a cost – the price they actually pay will be small, but as long as we have done our best, we can do no more.

Lawrence Helm