column was originally written for the History News Network, in response to a
piece, "Isolationism Strikes Again,"
by Ronald Radosh,
originally published as a pamphlet by the neoconservative
"Foundation for the Defense of Democracies." In his screed,
Radosh characterized the conservative-led anti-interventionist
movement of the 1930s as pro-fascist "appeasers" and sought
to conflate it with the current left-oriented antiwar movement.
He also managed to sneak in a vicious smear directed at me.
I wrote the editor of HNN, one Rick Shenkman, a historian
of vaguely leftish
views and asked if he would be open to publishing my answer
to Radosh. Shenkman replied:
be happy to consider posting your reply to Radosh's article.
You can say just about whatever you like, but please don't
speculate about his motives, which the targets of articles
are often wont to do. I am trying hard to keep our pages open
to a broad spectrum of views."
sent my piece in a few days later, and, when I did not hear
from Shenkman, I wrote and politely inquired as to the status
of my article. He wrote back:
Are you a historian? If you are I'll consider putting your
piece on our homepage. If you're not, then perhaps we should
just post your piece as a comment on Radosh's piece. HNN's
homepage is reserved for people who are historians (and political
scientists who write history)."
the terms of my participation in this debate had radically
shifted, and I now had to present my credentials. I suspected
something was up: after all, I knew for a fact that one of
HNN's recent contributors didn't even have a college degree,
but I wasn't willing to let Radosh's scurrilous screed go
unanswered. I persevered, pointing out that I had written
what the Weekly Standard described as "the definitive history of
the Old Right," a book that is used
as a textbook in college courses. I also referred
Shenkman to my
biography of Murray N. Rothbard. His answer was
now the question is whether we should publish your piece.
I'd like to be directed to some links in which you speculated
about the Israeli connection to 9-11. To be honest, I am leery
of such speculation. I'd like to see the context for myself
in which you dragged the Israelis into this attack."
I thought, is getting ridiculous. But I can be stubborn, and
so I patiently explained that I had not "dragged" anybody
into anything, but merely reported what Fox
Die Zeit, Der Spiegel,
and any number of other "mainstream" venues had published.
The story of an Israeli spy network in the U.S. that had kept
close tabs on the 9/11 hijackers had been widely reported
and commented on, and it was absurd, I averred, to pretend
otherwise. I pointed Shenkman in the direction of my
columns on the subject, and awaited his reply,
which wasn't long in coming:
reviewing your columns on Israel I am afraid I have decided
that it would not be a good idea to post your piece on the
homepage. Readers would complain that I had turned the homepage
over to a polemicist who has made a reputation making overly
large generalizations about Jews, as in the very first column I looked
at in which you say, 'Congress is practically Israeli-occupied
territory.' I give writers a wide berth on HNN as you no doubt
have figured out. Left, right ... they're all represented
here. But I draw the line at generalizations which play off
being "happy" to consider my piece to demanding to see my
credentials to pronouncing me anathema on account of my views
on Israel we sure had come a long way in the space of a
writings make no generalizations about Jews: the column you
cite doesn't refer to Jews at all. To contend that
it is somehow beyond the pale to suggest that the current
Israeli government enjoys kneejerk support in Congress is
It was, of course, useless to point out to Shenkman that
the U.S. Congress has gone out of its way to uncritically
support the most ruthlessly violent, intransigent Israeli
government in modern times even
against their own President. Short of Israeli tanks
rolling into Washington, D.C., what other evidence does Shenkman
had the funny feeling, however, that Shenkman is not too interested
in evidence. Or else my reply to Radosh would have been considered
on its merits. As it was, the article I had submitted was
completely forgotten. Instead, I was subjected to some kind
of political test and found wanting.
Shenkman is a champion bloviator who believes that all
politics is based on "myths." "Myths are harmless
most of the time," he once told a college audience, "and sometimes
they are even good." According to him, America
needs myths to "unite" us: "Myths are what hold this country
Shenkman's mythology, he isn't a fraud, but someone open to
"all views, Left and Right," an editor who gives writers a
"wide berth" but not too wide, at least when it
comes to certain subjects. Another one of his favorite "myths"
to debunk is what he calls "the myth of isolationism." As
one college paper described his talk:
truthful history makes America uncomfortable,' according to
Shenkman. 'Myths can be dangerous. In the 1930s before World
War II, America was in a period of isolationism. Americans
believed that they were safe and separated by the surrounding
miles and miles of ocean. The Japanese proved America wrong
and took away the security.'"
Franklin Delano Roosevelt had already gone to war against
Japan by imposing trade sanctions, aiding the Chinese, and
secretly agreeing to defend the French and Dutch colonies
in Southeast Asia. He was intent on war, he worked assiduously
to provoke a Japanese attack, and in this he succeeded
all too well. How's that for "real truthful
is a fraud, and so is the History News Network, which pretends
to be an objective forum for historians and is, in reality,
no such thing. I got some glimmer of where Shenkman is coming
from when I read the following in an interview he
What does a typical day for you involve?
Spend one to two hours reading the NYT. Then going
through emails. Then reading the Chronicle of Higher Education,
Frontpagemag.com and Slate. Then surfing websites and reading
H-Net. When I come across an article I like that suits HNN.
I'll grab an excerpt and post it."
the internet journal of the frothy-mouthed David Horowitz
who denounces all opposition to the Iraq war as "seditionist"
gets major play on HNN. This week, editor Shenkman features
a diatribe by one Greg Yardley,
culled from Horowitz's site, that accuses Historians
Against the War of being a "radical" plot and suggests
a legislative solution to their "self-destructive" stance:
civil society needs to reform the professorate and correct
these abuses. Although I'm not optimistic, perhaps this will
be done with the cooperation of the profession, persuaded
that politicization is not in their best interests. If not,
federal and state governments might have to step in, tying
public funding to professional behavior. With or without the
professors' cooperation, something has to be done."
Historians Against the War? Omigosh will somebody please
call the Department
of Homeland Security!?
also posts a reply by Historians Against
the War, but note how the "debate" is framed: the question
is "Historians Against the War, Pro and Con." As if the existence
of such an organization could ever properly be called into
is not too surprising that the sinister Yardley is calling
for a campaign to "reform the professorate" what else can
we expect from someone
who spent years in an authoritarian socialist cult,
the Socialist Workers Party, and has only just recently emerged
to proclaim himself a "conservative" (albeit one not too wedded
to the idea of constitutionally limited government)?
must say, I wouldn't have bothered with Shenkman's nonsensical
antics if I hadn't received a few letters from my readers
alerting me to Radosh's smear, and asking if I would write
a reply. Unfortunately, it seems that a gaggle of warmongering
"ex"-Commies Horowitz, Radosh, Yardley have managed to
seize control of what was once a well-regarded website, and
so I must confine my reply to this space. I am sure, however,
that not a few of my readers will want to express their opinions
to Shenkman (at this address: email@example.com)
and perhaps even post their own rebuttals to Radosh's
jargon-ridden jeremiad. Here is mine:
Defense of the Old Right
Radosh's essay, "Isolationism Strikes Again," which seeks
to make a parallel between the "isolationism" of the 1930s
and the antiwar movement of today, fails to account for several
differences, the first and most obvious being that the America
First Committee (AFC), the leading anti-interventionist
organization opposing U.S. entry into World War II, voted
to disband immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Radosh fails to take into account the balance of forces: the
idea that a fourth-rate military power such as Iraq under
Saddam Hussein constituted the equivalent of Hitler's Germany
is simply not supported by any evidence. Hitler had overrun
most of Europe and was venturing into Asia by the time the
U.S. entered the fray: Saddam Hussein, on the other hand,
had been driven out of Kuwait, subjected to a crippling embargo
for over a decade, and represented a threat to nothing and
no one but his own people and, even in that case, had lost
control of the northern part of his domain, where a virtually
independent Kurdish state had taken root.
another Hitler? The comparison is overblown, to say the least.
enemies of liberation in Iraq, speaking from U.S. soil, warned
that rather than victory, the U.S. would once again be blindly
sucked into a useless and unwinnable war turning the rest
of the world against our nation."
this is precisely
what is happening in Iraq, as the U.S. gets bogged
down in a guerrilla war against an enemy that is everywhere
and nowhere in particular. The headlines
refuted Radosh, even as his essay was posted.
then goes on to attack Pat Buchanan:
U.S., as Pat Buchanan so plainly put it, is acting in a 'triumphalist'
fashion leading to 'an imperial war on Iraq.' And, of course,
Buchanan argued that the U.S. is fundamentally manipulated
by the Israeli government, which hopes that war with Iraq
will give Israel an excuse to return to Lebanon and 'settle
scores with Hizbollah.' The Jews, now as in the past, are
projected as the driving force pushing the U.S. to accept
their agenda and endanger the peace of the world."
does Radosh conflate Israel and "the Jews"? What Buchanan
calls Israel's "amen corner" in the U.S. is hardly synonymous
with people of the Jewish faith: Christian fundamentalists,
who hold a key position of influence within the GOP, are Israel's
best (and most numerous) friends, and are especially supportive
of the present radical right-wing Likud government. So it
isn't "the Jews" who are the objects of Buchanan's ire, but
an organized lobby, the main component of which is non-Jewish.
Beard and Charles A. Lindbergh,
but nowhere refutes them. Beard held that sanctions against
Japan would lead to war and that is precisely what happened.
Lindbergh said we would occupy Europe in peacetime if we intervened
in the European war and we are still in Europe, last
time I checked.
difference between then and now, however, was that a large
portion of the intellectual community then formed committees
in favor of intervention against the Nazi menace. These groups
countered large and influential anti-war lobbies exemplified
by the American First Committee."
Radosh fails to mention, however, is that these interventionist
committees and groups of intellectuals were motivated by their
sympathy for the Soviet Union, which had been attacked by
the Axis powers. The campaign to drag us into war became a
crusade to open up a "second front" and save the "workers'
fatherland," and was directed,
in large part, by the Communists. Radosh says it is different
in the case of the war on Iraq, but this is simply not true:
the War Party of today has its little bands of intellectuals
who favored a U.S. invasion. Instead of the "workers' fatherland,"
however, the chief interest of these intellectuals seems to
have been furthering the strategic interests
hardly knows what to make of Radosh's assault on the Old Right,
the so-called "isolationists" whose cause he so ably presented
in his 1976 book Prophets
on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American
Globalism. Radosh's wonderful book contradicts the
crude characterization in his essay to such an extent that
the innocent reader may wonder if, perhaps, a Radosh doppelganger
exists, somewhere, and is trying to confuse us. In his essay,
Radosh accuses the Old Right of being part of an "anti-Semitic"
"conspiracy" that sought to aid the Axis powers. In his earlier
book, however, he says of the Old Right:
criticisms were ignored as Americans centered their attention
on whether to enter the war against Nazi Germany, and they
were soon branded as apologists for the Axis powers. Their
voices stilled by patriotic fervor, they hoped to be heard
once again in saner times. But such a time did not come
would be left to a later generation to raise them again. If
we listen carefully to these individuals, omitting our well-worn
ideologies and political biases, we will learn much from their
journeys and courage. Whether we agree with all, some, or
few of their particular judgments, we may be inspired to act
more thoughtfully to reach viable alternatives to foreign
adventure and interventionism."
they did indeed hope to be heard once again, "in saner times."
Those times, I fear, have yet to come. In any case, Radosh
once a real historian, now reduced to jargonized sloganeering
is no longer capable of listening.
I regretfully must answer Radosh's accusations directed at
me, to wit:
Old Right descendants and imitators gather around Pat Buchanan
and his journal, the American Conservative, which joins
the Left in the fight against so-called U.S. 'global hegemony.'
Their anti-Americanism has become so visceral and extreme
that one of the journal's contributors, Dennis 'Justin' Raimondo,
actually wrote, in the Russian newspaper Pravda, that
the claim that 'America is a civilized country' is false,
and, referring to World War II, he argued 'the wrong side
won the war in the Pacific.' And like the conspiratorial anti-Semitic
Arab newspapers, Raimondo also writes that 'Israel had foreknowledge
of 9/11, a claim that puts him in league with the most extremist
anti-Semites in the Arab world."
can't seem to get even the most basic facts right: my legal
name is Justin Raimondo. I changed it years ago, when I was
barely out of my teens. So what, exactly, is the point of
putting my name in ironic quotes?
I have never written for any Russian newspaper. Radosh lifts
the fragment of a phrase out of a column I wrote for Antiwar.com,
in which I refuted a piece in the New York Post that
tried to justify the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and
attempts to somehow prove that I favored a Japanese victory
in World War II. But putting the sentence fragment he cites
in its original context makes it clear that I advocated no
such thing. Here is the full quote in context:
"The great horror is that this heinous deed was committed
against Japan, a civilization as far removed from our own
as the streets of New York are from the African savannas.
It's at times like these that I tend to believe the wrong
side won the war in the Pacific. Just think: if we all woke
up one day living in some alternate history, as in Phillip
K. Dick's The
Man in the High Castle, our cultural malaise would
disappear overnight. Instead of listening to the latest loutish
lyrics of Eminem, American teenagers would be contemplating
the subtle beauty of the Japanese tea ceremony. If contemporary
Japan is any clue, the crime rate would be cut by 95 percent,
and the literacy rate would skyrocket. Certainly everyone's
manners would improve. All in all, life would be far more
civilized, imbued with a gentility that would make the New
York Post an impossibility."
guess it's too much to expect, in the feverish "gotcha" atmosphere
of today, that irony is going to be appreciated. That this
quote is now being exhumed in fractured form and lifted
out of context to prove my alleged "sympathy" for Japanese
militarism would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.
contends that my series of articles averring that Israel had
some foreknowledge of 9/11 put me "in league with the most
extremist anti-Semites in the Arab world."
Fox News reporter Carl Cameron also part of the vast anti-Semitic
conspiracy? In December 2001, he reported:
is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11
attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have
gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not
shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are
quote 'tie-ins.' But when asked for details, he flatly refused
to describe them, saying, quote 'evidence linking these
Israelis to 9-11 is classified.'"
Intelligence, the wire services, Der Spiegel, Die
Zeit, the BBC all have reported on various aspects of
this story. Are they also in on the Vast Anti-Semitic Conspiracy?
stories emanating from the Arab world have contended that
Israel actually executed the 9/11 attacks. That is not
what I have written or believe. The reporting done by Fox
News, Salon, other mainstream news sources indicates that
Israeli intelligence agents were watching the hijackers very
closely in the weeks and months prior to 9/11. In my writing
I have been careful to say only that the Israelis must have
known something about the 9/11 plot, and for some reason
failed to inform the U.S.
IN THE MARGIN
the Radosh smear, I direct your attention to Tim
Carney's excellent piece in Brainwash, "Pay no attention
to the neocon behind the curtain." As the neocons' key
role in dragging us into war becomes more widely known, they
are employing a unique tactic: denying their own existence.
Here's the money quote:
usually leave it up to the left to play the race card. Byron
York of National Review sums up nicely the 'standard
rhetorical device of the Left: If you can't win an argument
with a conservative, call him a racist.'
"Sadly, this device has been employed by a handful of conservative
writers who have called those who criticize the neocons anti-semitic.
'Neocon,' we are told, is a code word for 'Jew.' Even though,
as Boot points out:
many of the leading neocons aren't Jewish; Jeane Kirkpatrick,
Bill Bennett, Father John Neuhaus and Michael Novak aren't
exactly menorah lighters. Second, support for Israel a key
tenet of neoconservatism is hardly confined to Jews; its strongest
constituency in America happens to be among evangelical Christians.'
bizarre reasoning that 'neocon' secretly means 'Jew,' but
neoconservatism isn't particularly Jewish reminds me of another
absurdity. Some will call you a racist for opposing welfare,
and in the next breath bring up that most welfare recipients
are white. Doesn't the latter fact discredit the former accusation?"
piece has neocon Ramesh Ponnuru in such
a tizzy that he can only manage to splutter: "This is
too insipid to deserve a response." The inarticulate Ponnuru
and his fellow ideologues have no rational response: they
can only smear and try to
purge their opponents.
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