After a long silence, I recently did two posts on Mens Rights. One was for the Washington Spectator, on the 2013 VAWA renewal and the Pentagon report on sexual abuse. The other, for the SPLC, is on the suicide of Earl Silverman, who ran a shelter for battered men in Calgary.
I also did a post for the Spectator on Jason Richwine and Richard Spencer.
So I’ve started blogging at the Washington Spectator. The first piece I did, earlier this week, was on the conspiracy theory that came out of the Boston bombing, the second, just up today, is on the origins of the Obama ammo shortage. Both can be found in the links to the right, or you can click here.
I just received this fascinating message from Ernie Lazar:
The Koch Brothers are frequently discussed online including recently in a Chicago newspaper article re: their possible interest in purchasing the Tribune Company (LA Times, Chicago Trib, etc.) I sent the author of the article some details about the Koch family and he suggested that I post my reply as a comment on his webpage — which I did.
Since this material might be of interest to your readers, I copy it below:
1. Fred Koch was one of the founding members of the John Birch Society and he served on its National Council (which, on paper, was the governing body of the JBS but, in reality, it was powerless).
HOWEVER, like many other people who joined the JBS (such as Phyllis Schlafly), Fred ultimately resigned from the Society because (according to his wife), Fred believed that JBS founder Robert Welch was “too extreme” — and because he thought Welch was wrong in his adverse evaluations of many prominent conservative politicians.
2. Fred’s son, Charles Koch, was also a JBS member but he resigned in May 1968.
One historian who has done research into the private papers of JBS National Council member William Grede claims that he found documentation in Grede’s papers which indicates that Charles Koch resigned from the JBS at the request of Robert Welch because Charles and Robert Love (a JBS National Council member from Wichita KS) had placed a full-page ad in the Wichita KS Eagle newspaper entitled “Let’s Get Out of Vietnam Now”.
At that time, the JBS had obtained almost a million signatures on a Vietnam petition advocating a win-the-war policy and withholding all aid to Communist countries — so Robert Welch apparently thought Koch and Love had undermined the JBS position.
3. It would be interesting if someone could get Charles to answer questions re: whether or not he still accepts the basic predicates of JBS ideology – namely, that most of our national leaders, government officials, and politicians during the past 8 decades have been Communist traitors, Communist sympathizers, or Communist agents?
Does Charles agree with the JBS position that Presidents Carter and Clinton should have been impeached for TREASON?
Or, for that matter, does Charles agree with this comment from the May 2008 JBS Bulletin in an article entitled “The New World Order Isn’t New”.
“Just as the John Birch Society showed in the 1960′s that the communists basically ran both the civil rights movement and the KKK, the strategy was nothing new. The former was used to transfer power to Washington DC in the name of civil rights and the latter provided a pretext for transferring power to Washington. You cannot get a really good conflict started unless you control both sides of the argument.”
More info re: JBS in my 204-page JBS Report here:
Questions or comments: email@example.com
Note this PS Dated April 3
In my continuing debate about Charles Koch which is in reply to comments appearing on the Chicago Reader website, I posted this message today in reply to one of my critics:
Perhaps you at least can agree with one basic principle of truth-finding — namely, that due diligence requires independent research rather than just accepting at face-value whatever some public figure or organization presents in their self-serving statements or press releases??
Here are some basic questions which I would like to see Charles Koch answer before I would accept your predicate that he is a genuine libertarian who believes in tolerance and diversity.
1. Charles, do you believe the Birch Society contention that Presidents Carter and Clinton should have been impeached for TREASON?
2. Charles, do you believe the Birch Society contention that…
“A republican form of government or of organization has many attractions and advantages under certain favorable conditions. But under less happy circumstances it lends itself too readily to infiltration, distortion, and disruption” — and –as a corollary to that premise, do you believe along with Robert Welch that …”democracy, of course, in government or organization, as the Greeks and Romans both found out, as I believe every man in this room clearly recognizes — democracy is merely a deceptive phrase, a weapon of demagoguery and a perennial fraud.”
3. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that during the 1950′s:
“In the Senate, there are men like Stephen Young of Ohio, and Wayne Morse of Oregon, McNamara of Michigan, and Clifford Case of New Jersey and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whom it is utter folly to think of as just liberals. Every one of those men is either an actual Communist or so completely a Communist sympathizer or agent that it makes no practical difference…”
4. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that:
“For the civil rights movement in the United States… has not been infiltrated by the Communists, as you now frequently hear. It has been deliberately and almost wholly created by the Communists patiently building up to this present stage for more than thirty years.”
5. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that: Martin Luther King Jr. “attended a Communist training school” ??
6. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that:
“The history of the socialist movement in the U.S. is one of advocating mandatory public education. Recall that it is the tenth step toward communizing any country outlined by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto…The aim of the Conspiracy has always been to break down the old social order and replace it with the anti-God system of socialism. Kindergarten was part of the breakdown of the old social order and it included that indoctrination of children at an ever-younger age away from their parents.”
7. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that the following individuals are a representative sample of individuals who were, or are, either Communists, Communist sympathizers, or Communist “agents” who planned to destroy our country and bring us into a one-world socialist dictatorship?
a. President Harry Truman
b. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
c. General George C. Marshall
d. Allen Dulles (CIA Director)
e. John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State)
f. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren
g. Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State)
h. Governor Nelson Rockefeller (NY)
i. Governor Edmund G. Brown (CA)
j. Senator Hubert Humphrey (MN — and later Vice President)
k. Senator Estes Kefauver (TN)
l. Governor Orval Faubus (AR)
m. Senator John Kerry (now Secretary of State)
n. President Charles DeGaulle (France)
8. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that the liberal organization, Americans For Democratic Action… “whether a lot of its members know it or not, is the same as an arm of the Communist Party. Its weight can be thrown, and is thrown, time after time, with never an exception, in support of Communist objectives.”
9. Charles, do you believe, along with the Birch Society, that the NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality, National Urban League, American Civil Liberties Union, and other national civil rights and civil liberties organizations are all “Communist fronts”?
If Charles would answer these nine questions — we could arrive at a fact-based judgment concerning his actual values and beliefs and then measure them against the historical record regarding what American libertarian organizations and publications believe.
I’ve started a bunch of blog posts since the events in Watertown last week and left all of them unfinished. This story should be red meat for me, what with its Infowars-reading conspirators and its rich cast of Obamaphobe and Islamaphobe exploiters, not to mention how it is playing into the politics of immigration reform–but I have to admit I find it completely depressing. It feels like everyone in the media is trying to push my buttons; writer after writer is telling me what and how I feel. The “Boston bombing,” Ron Fournier declared, “Might be Scarier than 9/11.”
Never mind the outlandish conspiracy theories about false flags; pay no attention to the agenda-driven insistence that the bombing was an act of war carried out by international Islam; set aside the outrage at the very idea that its perpetrators might have been troubled jihadist-sympathizers acting on their own. Ignore the predictable but absurd efforts to hold Obama personally responsible for it–as Jeffrey T. Kuhner did, in an op ed in The Washington Times that demanded that he be impeached for his failed “policies of appeasement and multicultural outreach to the Muslim world.” The so-called mainstream press was only a little more skeptical than the Alex Joneses and Ann Coulters of the world; it did as much and more to spread hysteria as they did.
An “M-4 carbine rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — [was found] on the boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night in Watertown, Mass,” The New York Times reported the Sunday after Dzokhar was taken into custody. “Two handguns and a BB gun that the authorities believe the brothers used in an earlier shootout with officers in Watertown were also recovered, said one official briefed on the investigation. The authorities said they believe the suspects had fired roughly 80 rounds in that shootout, in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded.” Note the specificity of what turns out to have been a completely specious leak–80 rounds, a BB gun (what?); “a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan” (aha! blowback!). The brothers, as it turned out, had one gun between them (they tried to steal the MIT officer’s gun after they killed him, but they couldn’t get it out of its holster). The transit cop who was so grievously wounded in the first shootout was very likely struck by friendly fire. Dzokhar was unarmed when he was arrested (though panicked police believed they had exchanged gunfire with him).
All of the usual suspects are grabbing for a piece of this thing, it seems, but there’s a compulsive quality to the exploitation. Watching the talkers on Fox News is a little like watching alcoholics joylessly pretend to be celebrating something.
Glenn Beck tried his darnedest to work up Benghazi levels of fear and loathing with his exclusives on the Saudi student, but the story hasn’t particularly caught fire. James Tracy–the Florida Atlantic University professor who garnered outraged national attention last winter when he declared that the grieving families in Newtown were actors–has dutifully posted “evidence” that purports to show that the explosions were, surprise, a “mass-casualty drill” carried out by actors. His close analysis of the photographs of the maimed and bleeding victims reveal a host of anomalies, he claims. For example, “the fourth and fifth photos show the man wearing the hoodie garment apparently helping the injured man/amputee with his right leg. Could he be removing this man’s prosthetic?” Why the charade? Because, “much like 9/11, Oklahoma City, Aurora, and Newtown, an official storyline complete with the execution and/or capture of bad-guy culprits has been forged and vigorously drummed into the public mind….The upshot will be a continued program of more intensified repression at taxpayer expense alongside a corresponding erosion of civil liberties.” First time tragedy, second time farce: the media has mostly yawned at Tracy’s story-telling.
Saturday night, the New York local news was full of breathless stories about the discovery of a piece of landing gear wedged between 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street. 51 Park Place is the old Burlington Coat Factory, the site of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which was vigorously protested by Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Newt Gingrich and other Islamophobic carpetbaggers because it was “sacred ground,” located so near to the WTC that it was damaged when it was struck by one of the planes’ landing gear. The fact that a piece of airplane would be found at a building that was known to have been struck by landing gear should be the ultimate dog bites man story. But it’s not. “Was 9/11 landing gear found beside mosque lowered there by opponents of development? Extraordinary claims following stunning find,” reads the headline at the Daily Mail.
“Will all the Leftists and Islamic supremacists who have been insisting since the height of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy that this building was not part of Ground Zero stop the propaganda now that apparently landing gear crashed into this building not once, but twice?” Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer incoherently demanded–for all the world as if people like me who don’t have a problem with a mosque being located near the site of the World Trade Center have been arguing about geography and not religious freedom.
Reading about the mosque again reminded me of a local story that never made the front pages.
Last year, a serial killer started killing Brooklyn shopkeepers. The first victim was Mohamed Galebi, the 65-year-old owner of a clothing store in Bay Ridge. The second was Isaac Kadare, the 59-year-0ld proprietor of a Bensonhurst discount store. The third was Vahidipour Rahmatollah, 78, who ran a clothing store near where I live.
There was speculation at first that the shops’ addresses had numerological significance. Then of course there was the fact that all three victims were Middle Eastern (though Rahmatollah was an Iranian Jew). When the police arrested the killer, he turned out to be Salvatore Perrone, an Italian American clothing salesman who lived in Staten Island. He knew all the victims and the murder weapon was recovered from his apartment; he admitted to the killings but refused to reveal his motive, because he said he was a secret agent. Then two Italian-speaking detectives stepped in, pretending that they had been sent by Rome to debrief him. He told them that he had acted under orders from the “Italian CIA” and that he was expecting to receive $800,000 for the job. According to the local blog DNA Info, when “Yasmin Rahmatollah, the latest victim’s daughter” was told this, she said that she was “struggling to understand all the information” that was coming out. “Whoever it is must be psychotic,” she said.
Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that a Middle Eastern serial killer was shooting Italian American store owners. Something tells me there’d be a lot more certainty about motives and the like.
As a “hate expert,” I am less interested in the who, what, or why of yesterday’s terror bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line (you can take this to the bank: it was a person or persons who hates the US, and who at some point, whether driven by personal demons or ideology, concluded that maximally-publicized maimings and killings would advance their cause), than about the people–also driven by personal demons and/or ideology–who are certain that they already know all there is to know.
If you’re a hammer, as the saying goes, you see nails. Naturally Pamela Geller sees Arabs and Jihad (and of course she identifies herself and Robert Spencer as the attack’s real victims–”the Twitter hyenas are rushing to blame Robert Spencer and me, as if we originated the idea that a jihadi did this,” she writes). Alex Jones sees both the hand of the US government in the attack and an occasion to boost his profile (when he was still vamping on his radio show yesterday afternoon, he connected the incident to the falling price of gold; by this morning, the consensus in Alex Jones land appears to be that this is a “planned event to justify a TSA lockdown…. the run-up to the TSA occupation of America, which has always been the goal of Obama”).
Dan Bidondi, a host of Alex Jones’s Infowars, managed to inject the phrase “false flag” into a question to Governor Deval Patrick at one of the police press conferences yesterday.
Atlantic Wire has a good rundown of “false flag” accusations and conspiracy theory.
Indignation junkies on the right are angry that the likes of Charles Pierce used his Esquire blog to point out that the date was Patriot’s Day; Jim Hoft rushed up a post headlined “Awful… Esquire Mag Blames ‘Patriots Day’ Supporters for the Boston Bomb Blasts.” For the record, this is what Pierce really posted. Pretty temperate, all things considered.
Obviously, nobody knows anything yet, but I would caution folks jumping to conclusions about foreign terrorism to remember that this is the official Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts, celebrating the Battles at Lexington and Concord, and that the actual date (April 19) was of some significance to, among other people, Tim McVeigh, because he fancied himself a waterer of the tree of liberty and the like.
Also for the record, the Waco siege ended April 19, which, not un-coincidentally, is also the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. If the date was that important to the bomber(s), I’d think they would have gotten it right, but that’s just my two cents. Of course April 15 is also Tax Day–and there are a number of militant right wing groups who style themselves tax protestors. Back in 2009, the Tea Party (not a militant group per se, though many Tea Party members have much to say about guns, tyranny, and the necessity of armed uprisings) designated April 15 as a day of protests and resistance.
Who else are people blaming? The lead post on the extreme anti-Semitic site Wake From Your Slumber this morning is headlined “Mossad Pulls off Boston Marathon Attacks.” Mossad’s handiwork, the piece goes on to explain, is discernible in the attack’s “use of deceptive tactics.” For example, the explosives used were “barely military-grade in terms of the depth of the explosives that would amass the kill counts” (who writes this stuff? they could really use an editor). Something tells me that if the bombs had been made of the highest grade C-4, that would have also pointed to Mossad, because who else has access to it and can move it around the US–and is callous enough to want to kill so many innocents?
I could go on, but there isn’t much point. Most of the people I quoted are professional demagogues and haters…. They are like actors who can cry on command, or pop stars who deliver the same spontaneously exuberant performance night after night. They don’t have to work themselves up into a lather when something like this happens; they know exactly what to say and they say it–and pretty soon the echo chamber of the Internet and the 24/7 news channels disseminates it around the world.
More interesting to me, as someone who has struggled to understand the underlying psychology of conspiracy theory, are the ways that civilians rush to make sense of the inexplicable. A couple of months ago, a woman in my neighborhood was killed as she walked out of a bakery where she’d just bought some cookies. The driver of an SUV had passed out and driven up on the sidewalk, possibly because he’d gone into insulin shock. The comments on the neighborhood blog were rife with speculation and anger: the police don’t investigate pedestrian fatalities (true); the drivers of the vehicles that kill them are almost never prosecuted (true); diabetics should be aware of their condition before they get behind the wheel (true); someone should be punished (maybe). No one blamed the victim that time, but when another woman was killed by a left-turning truck as she rode her bicycle through a green light, many posters took the time to note–in a public forum that the victim’s family members were likely to read–that they have frequently biked that route themselves and are always careful at that exact corner, because drivers are always turning without looking.
All of it is true, none of it is crazy or hateful–but to me it’s revealing that so many people feel the need to broadcast those thoughts out loud. What they are saying, in effect, is that the world is still rational and meaningful, even if terrible things happen from time to time. There is always an explanation; there are never victims, only martyrs or fools, and someone is always to blame. It’s a spontaneous act of theodicy, as if they all want to let God off the hook–and/or to reassure themselves that they are too smart to ever be a victim themselves.
I’m not criticizing the tendency; I’m just noting it. Alex Jones wouldn’t have the megaphone or the resonance that he has if there wasn’t a little bit of him in all of us.
I have been on a reading program of sorts, working my way through a number of the left and right wing classics of yesteryear. Yesterday I posted this amazing quote from Henry George’s PROGRESS AND POVERTY (1879) on my Facebook page. Setting aside its dated language, it could have come off the op ed page of a newspaper today:
It is true that wealth has been greatly increased, and that the average of comfort, leisure, and refinement has been raised; but these gains are not general. In them the lowest class do not share….It is as though an immense wedge were being forced, not underneath society, but through society. Those who are above the point of separation are elevated, but those who are below are crushed down….
Edward Bellamy’s LOOKING BACKWARD (1887) is as clumsily written as Ayn Rand’s THE FOUNTAINHEAD–and like her book, climaxes with an interminable radio sermon (actually Bellamy’s is broadcast via telephone–the only new piece of technology he imagines in the world of the twentieth century are awnings that are rolled over city sidewalks, eliminating the need for umbrellas. He might have shared HG Wells’s socialism, but not his futurism). Despite myself, I was moved by its description of the benighted Americans of the nineteenth century who had yet to embrace collectivism:
It was the sincere belief of even the best of men at that epoch that the only stable elements in human nature on which a social system could be safely founded, were its worst propensities. They had been taught and believed that greed and self-seeking were all that held mankind together, and that all human associations would fall to pieces if anything were done to blunt the edge of these motives or curb their operation. In a word, they believed–even those who longed to believe otherwise–the exact reverse of what seems to us self-evident; they believed, that is, that the anti-social qualities of men, and not their social qualities, were what furnished the cohesive force of society. It seemed reasonable to them that men lived together solely for the purpose of overreaching and oppressing one another, and of being overreached and oppressed, and that while a society that gave full scope to these propensities could stand, there would be little chance for one based on the idea of cooperation.
Compare that to ATLAS SHRUGS’ pirate Ragnar Danneskjold’s speech on the evil of Robin Hood, that moral monstrosity who “assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own…who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want.” Robin Hood “has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant.” The world Rand was writing about, I should remind you, wasn’t a future dystopia or the Bolshevik Russia that stripped her family of their rights and property–it was the America of the 1950s, an epoch that most people remember as being both prosperous and pretty firmly anti-Communist.
When you actually read old polemics you realize that the fact that people lived a long time ago doesn’t necessarily mean that their ideas were bounded by the limits of what we are primed to think of today as what is “old-fashioned.” And just because an idea or a system–market capitalism, say–outlived its competitors, that doesn’t mean that it ever enjoyed universal or even majority support.
America has been turning out anarchists, socialists, communists, communalists, free lovers, atheists, and spiritualists for a long time–not to mention milquetoasty liberals and moderate conservatives, people who occupied the same places on the political spectrum that Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower had staked out for themselves when Ayn Rand inflicted ATLAS SHRUGS on the world in 1957 (the year of my birth, as it happens).
A lot of Americans were appalled by this country’s structural inequalities 150 years ago–and they would have been no less appalled by the selfishness, hypocrisy, and sanctimony of so many of today’s Republicans than they were by their own leaders’. When we don’t challenge the right’s self-description as “conservative,” we invite it to appropriate our history.
No idea today is so extreme or “progressive” that it wasn’t energetically advocated by someone 150 years ago. It’s worth remembering that whenever so-called conservatives stake their claim to the future on their supposed ownership of the past.
I’m excited to be hosting a book salon for Jon Wiener’s new book, HOW WE FORGOT THE COLD WAR: A HISTORICAL JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA (University of California Press, 2012) at Firedoglake on Saturday, March 23, 5:00 pm EST. Once it’s archived, I’ll post it on this site.
Here is the introduction I wrote for it:
Jon Wiener, who is perhaps best-known for his 20-plus year court battle with the FBI over the release of John Lennon’s files, is a historian, teacher, journalist, broadcaster, and activist whose interests range from the social foundations of the Reconstruction south to the trial of the Chicago 8, from fraud and corruption in the Ivory Tower to mendacity and malice in Washington. A contributing editor to The Nation since 1984, a history professor at the University of California Irvine, and the host of an afternoon interview show on LA’s public radio station KPFK, his witty writing style, effortless erudition, and fair-minded skepticism rebuke the stereotypes of the humorless progressive and the hidebound academic alike.
Wiener’s new book HOW WE FORGOT THE COLD WAR (“a book that would’ve split the sides of Thucydides,” says Mike Davis, the author of City of Quartz) is a travelogue of visits to sites across the US (plus one in Cuba and one in Grenada) where the Cold War is publicly commemorated. As different as they are—among them are half a dozen presidential libraries, a general’s tomb, missile silos, a VIP fallout shelter, a CIA museum that’s closed to the public, and a proposed $100 million Victims of Communism museum, a grandiose project that was never built—all of them are notable for a curious lacuna: the Cold War itself, or perhaps more accurately, the neo-conservative, triumphalist narrative about the Cold War that has been so successfully projected onto the memory of Ronald Reagan.
Reagan is still the man on horseback when it comes to cutting taxes, bringing the hostages home from Iran, and dispelling Jimmy Carter’s malaise. But if the Cold War was marked by bipartisan consensus from the very beginning, the far right always argued that the Cold War should have been hotter—that instead of containing Communism, the US should have been rolling it back. The conflicts in North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam, among other places, were lost because of insufficient resolve and an unmanly fear of nuclear combat, the story continues. It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan called the Evil Empire what it was, ended Detente, liberated Granada, funded the contras, and launched such big ticket initiatives as Star Wars that the Russians finally bankrupted themselves into submission.
That’s the story the right tells, but it’s not the story that’s told at any of the commemorative sites. Many of them avoid the subject of the Cold War altogether. The Churchill Memorial at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill made his Iron Curtain speech, has almost nothing to say about the Iron Curtain—instead, it tells about England’s finest hour, the blood, sweat and tears of the Blitz. Nuclear sites like the testing grounds in New Mexico, the Hanford plutonium plant in Washington State, Rocky Flats near Denver, and the radioactive mound in Weldon, Missouri don’t highlight the theme of sacrifice and ultimate victory but of safety and restoration; their exhibits gloss over the deadly accidents and the high cancer rates that plagued workers and neighbors and assure visitors that the radiation is no longer a problem. When you go to MacArthur’s tomb in Norfolk, Virginia, the story isn’t about how Truman wrongly relieved him of his command in Korea when he proposed to launch a nuclear war against China but about his heroism in World War II.
Wiener visits monuments to Elvis’s military service at the Patton Museum in Fort Knox (Elvis was a Sergeant in the Third Armored Division that Patton had commanded) and at Graceland, delving into the political-military realities of the Berlin crisis, which heated up during Elvis’s service, and the symbolic importance of his presence in Germany to both the US and the Germans (his celebrity was strong enough to spark a series of Elvis-inspired teenaged insurrections in the GDR, where authorities tried to introduce a dance craze of their own, the Lipsi, to counter him). But Elvis wasn’t exactly gung ho himself. “What the hell are we doing this for anyway?” his commander recalled him asking. “Most people I know don’t want any more Korean War kind of stuff.”
Wiener recounts how Sarah Palin admitted that she didn’t really understand why there were two Koreas and tells how Dana Perino, George W. Bush’s press secretary, admitted that she didn’t know what the Cuban Missile Crisis was about. Even right wing insiders aren’t getting the message anymore.
Maybe that’s because most historical efforts to heat up the Cold War were rejected by Republican presidents. It was Eisenhower who warned about the military industrial complex—the Democratic Kennedy, who politicked on a non-existent missile gap, was much more its creature than the old general was. It was Nixon who went to China over the angry objections of such right wing icons as William F. Buckley, and for that matter it was Reagan who brought Gorbachev to the table for negotiations and the moderate George H.W. Bush who presided over the USSR’s collapse.
Perhaps the main reason the Cold War refuses to serve the partisan purposes that its propagandists want it to is because the public was never as on board with its premises as they were for World War II, the last war to end in a decisive victory. Interestingly enough, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were both great proponents of the idea that the Cold War should have been won rather than negotiated—though neither was in office, they acted as consultants for the Reagan administration when it was devising its continuity-of-government plan for a full-on nuclear war (Oliver North was to be its “action officer”). With 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld finally had the opportunity to put their ideas into practice, with less than stellar results.
I’m excited to have a chance to finally meet Jon Wiener, who I have been reading for years, even if it’s just in cyberspace, and I am looking forward to your questions and his answers.
The question I want to begin with is this: is the bi-partisan nature of the Cold War part of what makes it so problematic for the right? The Robert Taft/Barry Goldwater right in the 1950s and 1960s, and the talk radio, Tea Party right today, contend that the left is/was soft on Communism—that the difference between Social Security and Stalinism is one of just a few degrees. Maybe you could make that case about the people who were demonstrating for clemency for the Rosenbergs, but you certainly couldn’t say it of Truman, Kennedy, or Johnson, who were Cold Warriors to the core.
Does the Cold War fail as partisan propaganda because it’s insufficiently divisive?