December 10, 2001

Life in wartime sucks

The horror of life in wartime – and getting more horrible by the minute – reached a new nadir on Pearl Harbor Day, when MSNBC trotted out Doris Kearns Goodwin to talk about the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. Kearns, the Godmother and Protectress of the Liberal Mythos, managed to discuss the issue without once uttering the words "Franklin Delano Roosevelt." Instead, Kearns said she "kept remembering Eleanor Roosevelt going to California taking a photograph with Japanese Americans." For this, poor Eleanor was attacked by the Los Angeles Times, reported Kearns, knitting her very high brow and shaking her head – but as to what That Man in the White House was up to in those days, Kearns kept mum.


The truth is that "La Boca Grande," as the columnist Westbrook Pegler dubbed Eleanor, shut up about the abominable persecution of the Nisei once her husband ordered the roundup, and, in a newspaper article, wrote that "unfortunately in a time of war many innocent people must suffer hardships to safeguard the nation." After California had been virtually emptied of Japanese-American citizens, she visited the Gila River internment camp, and promised to deliver a report on her findings to the nation. Instead of exposing the worst crime in the history of American jurisprudence, she whitewashed FDR's draconian edict. As Alida M. Black put it in Casting Her Own Shadow: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Shaping of Postwar Liberalism:

"She wrote glowing accounts of the internees' attempts to beautify their small plots of land. She also avoided discussing the concerns about racism and resettlement the internees raised during her meeting with them. She tempered her discussion of the efforts the internees made to 'take part in the war effort' with the reassurance that their 'loyalty' must be authenticated by both the FBI and the War Relocation Authority before they could begin work."


Doris Kearns Goodwin, a liar by omission and commission, owes her TV gigs to her one undeniable talent: she does it with a straight face.


The worldwide roundup of suspected terrorists has reeled in – you guessed it, Pierre Boulez. The world famous conductor, asleep at his five-star hotel in Basle, Switzerland, was dragged out of bed by police who told him he was on a list of suspected terrorists. Aside from his long association with the obviously subversive Cleveland Orchestra, Boulez, it appears, had bared his terroristic soul during the 1960s, when he remarked that all opera houses ought to be dynamited. As to whether this was a political statement or a purely aesthetic judgment, hardly mattered: clearly the authorities weren't taking any chances. The 75-year-old Boulez had his passport confiscated and was allowed to leave after three hours.


In Australia, Phillip Adams, a columnist for The Australian, has been charged with a "hate crime" on account of a piece he wrote criticizing the US. Adams, whose name is a byword for the sort of lefty political correctness encoded in "hate crime" laws, enumerated the familiar litany of US wrongs: Pinochet, the bombing of Cambodia, a past alliance with Saddam: "If Australia is to be a true friend of the American people, we must try to rein them in, not urge them on," he wrote. "The US has to learn that its worst enemy is the US."

An unidentified American filed a complaint with Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission charging that Adams had engaged in "racial vilification" of Americans. The Australian Thought Police are now conducting an "investigation," and the News Ltd. newspaper group, publisher of The Australian, has been asked to submit a response. That News Ltd. must trouble itself to point out the obvious – indicting the American government is not the same as vilifying the American people – illustrates the essential horror of life not only in wartime, but for the past 20 or so years.


"It sounds too strange to be true," says the Sydney Morning Herald, but the Wall Street Journal's James "No Talent" Taranto, who writes their online "Best of the Web" commentary, can hardly contain his glee: "We agree; freedom of speech ought to protect even hateful speech," he solemnly declares, but then confesses that "it's nice to see hatred of America being labeled for what it really is – another form of bigotry." Does Taranto, or anyone, really believe it is "bigotry" to point to the crimes of America's rulers, not only in Southeast Asia and the Balkans but also at Waco and Ruby Ridge? If so, then I'm sure Taranto will agree it was also "bigoted" to expose the crimes of Bill Clinton, who bombed an aspirin factory in the Sudan to get l'affaire Lewinsky off the front pages.


While "hate crime" laws may not be to his taste, Taranto wants to start cracking down, right here at home, in other, far more effective ways. National Review Online reports that the White House has broken all relations with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), but the WSJ still isn't satisfied: "If true," barks Taranto, "why doesn't the White House put its money where its mouth is and freeze CAIR's assets?" This is what the rabidly pro-Israel WSJ really wants: to close down each and every Islamic and Arab-American institution in America, so that Israel's amen corner will have the field all to itself. In preparation for a final solution to the "Palestinian problem" – the complete ethnic cleansing of Palestine – the Israeli lobby is going on an all-out offensive against any person or group that dares stand in its way.


Conservatives with a conscience, and pro-war liberals who never had any, think they can put up with the mass roundup, the increased surveillance and the crackdown on alleged "pro-terrorist" organizations in the US because all these people, they aver, are foreigners: American citizens, they believe, are safe. But for how long? CAIR is an American organization, of course, but the way Attorney General John Ashcroft is talking, it won't be long before the feds start coming after the American Civil Liberties Union, Rep. Bob Barr, and, indeed, anyone who dares look askance at his junking of the Constitution.

When a few Senators tried to question some of Ashcroft's methods, albeit quite mildly, he roared:  "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists." And we all know what happens to those who give aid and comfort to terrorists: they themselves will be branded terrorists, and dealt with accordingly.


The general tenor of the times was well-expressed by David Keith, star of Behind Enemy Lines, a grade-C movie that tries to valorize our Balkan bullying, aboard an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, where he told the troops: "You are the fists to smash their mouths, and our teeth to rip off their throats!" Yeah, and our tongues to suck their blood.


Speaking of bloodsuckers, Hillary Clinton is back in the news, aiming her fangs at Yasser Arafat's neck. The US, she warned him, would "root out" the terrorists in the Palestinian Authority, and, in the process, the PA might meet the same fate as the Taliban for "harboring" terrorists. "The same message," she averred, "must be sent to the Palestinian Authority and to Chairman Arafat: Anyone who harbors or turns a blind eye to terror in their midst will be held accountable." It didn't matter to her that Arafat had already arrested a dozen Hamas militants, just as it didn't matter to Ariel Sharon.

As the Israelis bombed the very institutions that would interdict the suicide bombers – the Palestinian police – Mrs. Clinton made it plain who was to blame: "This rests squarely on the shoulders of Yasser Arafat. No one is safe because the leadership of the Palestinian Authority refuses to take responsibility for the acts of terror that have occurred with increasing frequency." Knowing perfectly well that Arafat has lost control and can no longer contain the desperate anger of an occupied people, she utters this lie with the same cynical disregard for truth that allowed her to dismiss the charges against her husband as the result of a "vast right-wing conspiracy."


Everyone wants to capitalize on 9/11: Hillary Clinton, mobilizing her New York base with visions of a presidential run dancing in her head; the American Taliban-types in the attorney general's office, reaching for power; the Israelis, eager to equate Arafat with Bin Laden  – and, yes, even the pathetically ineffective antiwar movement, or at least that section of it owned and operated by the International Socialist Organization (ISO). I made the great mistake of attending a "Town Hall" antiwar "teach-in" held at San Francisco State on Saturday – and came away muttering "What was I thinking?"


I missed the morning session, but got there in time to hear a panel discussion with the fascinating title of "Why the US was Targeted." Who could resist such a topic? The room was packed, and we had to trot across the hall to a larger space. The first speaker, one Phil Gaspar, a professor of philosophy at Notre Dame de Namur University, immediately disclaimed any intention of speaking on the topic, and, true to his word, went on to give a pretty mundane history of the US as seen through Marxist eyes. My heart sank: did I really have to sit through 20-minutes of shopworn leftist clichés? We had, in effect, been corralled in this room under false pretenses. I thought maybe this might be the time to go out and have a cigarette, but then thought better of it, and got out my notebook….


The US, we were told, is controlled by "a very small minority" who monopolize political power and hog all the wealth. There was no mention of elections (not even to disdain them), or the Constitution: the Bill of Rights was completely disappeared. This country, he averred, was founded by racist murderers, whose program of ethnic cleansing didn't stop until they had reached the Pacific Ocean – and not even then. For they went on to attack and annex the Philippines, and then rampaged through Central and South America.

Gaspar explained that World War I was all about the evils of capitalism, quoting Woodrow Wilson – the man responsible for dragging us in – to that effect. Not surprisingly, the Professor's synopsis of World War II – a war supported by Communist Party members at the time, and one that split the Trotskyists – was very brief, and his own position left vague. The irony is that our "new war" is often compared to World War II in its projected scope and grave consequences, but clearly Professor Gaspar was in no mood to address these, and, at any rate, was naturally more interested in the cold war era.


Naturally, the Socialist Professor failed to mention the antiwar opposition prior to World War II. The anti-Roosevelt right-wing America First Committee, the biggest antiwar movement in our history, wouldn't have fit into his capsulized Cartoon History of the US. Nor did he mention the anti-imperialist opposition to our Philippine adventure, with their politically incorrect argument that the conquest of an alien land would corrupt the integrity of the American Republic: the anti-imperialists of that era were decidedly not multiculturalists.

His peroration ended with an indictment of capitalism as a system that is inherently warlike – and not a peep, not even a giggle, from a glassy-eyed audience that didn't remember (if they ever knew) about the Soviet annexation of Eastern Europe. When the Red Army marched into Afghanistan, in the 1980s, it wasn't capitalism they were exporting, now was it?


A Palestinian woman, Noura Erakat, got up and declared that Arafat was a sellout, who didn't represent her: what was novel about her diatribe, however, was that she mentioned the two forbidden words – Bin Laden – which Professor Gasper could not bring himself to utter once during the 20 or so minutes of his lecture.


I was struck by what Cristina Vasquez, a Colombian woman identified as a former member of M-19, said during the course of her talk. Speaking with a quiet passion, and with the kind of conviction that reflected a lifetime of struggle visible in the lines of her face – clearly, this woman had been through a lot – she said: "I love my country dearly, but I am here, now." There was wistfulness – and authenticity – in her voice, a realness lacking in the others, and I wondered – looking around the room – if the "antiwar" movement could make the same claim.


Do they love their country? I made that query out loud during the bizarre question period and was met with an embarrassed silence. Bizarre because there were no real questions, for the most part, only two-minute canned speeches, during which representatives of various Trotskyoid grouplets got up to make their stereotyped pitches: "We need a revolutionary workers' party!" said a robotic kid with thick glasses as he held aloft a copy of Workers Vanguard. One older man rose to remind us that "we need to remember the lessons of the Russian Revolution." It was clear that he did not mean the revolution that overthrew the Commies – and I had the eerie feeling that he had yet to hear the news that the heirs of the October Revolution are no more.


Naturally, no one really addressed my question: their eyes glazed over, and they went back into their time-warp, safe in the knowledge of their own irrelevance. My plea to not turn the antiwar movement into just another socialist-sectarian front group fell, I'm afraid, into a void. Turning to Professor Gaspar, I asked: "So, your argument on the question of why the US was targeted is: we deserved it? That's what you're going to take to the American people – with 90 percent approval for the war in the polls? I don't think so!"


Yes, but I'm afraid so: The San Francisco "Town Hall Meeting" group is, after all, just a shill, a Potemkin Village built by the International Socialist Organization, a Trotskyist outfit that cynically believes it can recruit impressionable youngsters by mouthing tired clichés and being more politically correct than their competitors in the shrinking left milieu. Arguing with these people is impossible, and a waste of time: they are parasites on the antiwar movement, and quite well aware of their own role as bloodsuckers. They don't want to be effective, they don't care about the war – the bigger war that is coming – except in terms of how they can build up their pathetic little organization.


Opponents of this war – and, don't kid yourself, it has just begun – and those who fight to preserve the Constitution against Ashcroft's Raiders should see themselves as the real patriots. Proudly flying the Gadsen flag – "Don't Tread on Me!" – they should take the initiative and take to the streets, boldly proclaiming that the Founding Fathers didn't want an Empire, and wouldn't have stood still for Ashcroft's police state. Let the Commies and other authoritarians have the blood-soaked legacy of the Russian Revolution: the patriots of 1776 were indigenous authentic American radicals who made a real Revolution, one that lives on in our hearts (and in the Bill of Rights) today. Unfortunately, those who believe the Founders were "racist murderers" have stolen the banner of the antiwar movement – and that movement, if it wants to exist at all and have a voice, must either reject them or die.


Oh, the horror of it all! The Right is marching blindly off to war, and the Left is marching off a cliff, while the nation, unawares, takes the road to Empire. Am I really alone, then, sitting here in my study, surrounded by books and the ghosts of anti-imperialists past? Randolph Bourne, Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, Murray Rothbard, Charles A. Beard, Harry Elmer Barnes, Lawrence Dennis, Oswald Garrison Villard, Robinson Jeffers – their literary remains line my shelves, standing shoulder to shoulder, their voices stilled – yet ready to speak at the first sign that someone, somewhere, may yet listen.

The lessons they have to teach must be learned by a new generation, and that is where the horror of it all begins to recede, and hope – a brightness in the foggy San Francisco morning – lightens our dark prospects. For as long as human civilization lasts, and these dusty volumes remain unburned (albeit unopened), there is always that hope: the promise of a new generation and a new day.


The prospects for peace and liberty, in modern times, have never been worse, and I'll admit it: I'm afraid. As we descend into the darkness all I can do is hold up the flickering torch – and hope that, someday, someone will re-light it.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.


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