The Neocons: First in War, Last in Peace

I was hired in 1972 by the American Jewish Committee to serve as editor of a new magazine I named Present Tense. My vague assignment was to be more “Jewish” than the well-established and influential Commentary magazine, which, while also parented by the AJC, had shifted its primary attention to more worldly interests under Norman Podhoretz, its smart and creative editor, who had abandoned his and the magazine’s traditional liberalism and moved right, very far right, into the brawling territory of U.S. foreign policy and national politics. From 1972 to 1990, when we were closed down, my office was one flight below that of Commentary.

From the very beginning Present Tense was “a sort of counter-Commentary,” as Susan Jacoby, one of our regular columnists, shrewdly noted in her illuminating book, “Half-Jew: A Daughter’s Search for Her Family’s Buried Past.” Early on, a reader wrote us that we were doomed to obscurity and worse because the further we veered left, the more we became too liberal for the AJC’s conservative donors (they also had liberal donors, equally unhappy with Commentary). Even so, we lasted for many years, sometimes taking on the Israel Lobby, disdainful of Reagan for Iran-Contra and his proxy war in Central America, while celebrating his anti-nuke huddle in Reykjavik with Gorbachev and publishing all sides of the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and I mean, all sides, including right, center and left. We also refused to forgive and forget the ugly legacy of McCarthyism and how its impact still blunted dissent in the American Jewish world, as the novelist and journalist Anne Roiphe, another of our intrepid columnists, pointed out in our final issue. Continue reading “The Neocons: First in War, Last in Peace”

Life in Our Scared National Security State

I am thinking about Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun and two army veterans, Michael Walli, 65, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, all of them sitting behind prison bars for doing far less than the fraudsters and political thugs who took us into Iraq and killed and tortured so many. Sister Rice & Friends are in prison for daring to protest America’s long love affair with nuclear weapons, a dilemma which has drawn little or no media interest. Sister Megan received a 35-month sentence and the two men 62 months each.

So what was their crime? Cutting a hole in a barbed wire fence in one of Oak Ridge’s ultra-secret National Security sites on July 28, 2012, and then crossing over into prohibited ground, hammering on the Highly Enriched Uranium Material Facility and spray painting some “Biblical graffiti,” leaving behind Isaiah’s subversive aphorism about beating swords into plowshares.

You would think that the break-in at the highly secretive, presumably well-protected Y-12 National Security Complex at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, nuclear facility, their subsequent federal trial in Knoxville, why they did it yet failed to convince the jury, let alone the American public, would merit some serious attention from the handful of remaining inquisitive American newspapers, or network TV’s evening “news.” But no one was murdered or even wounded by a hail of bullets from vigilant guards. No one was captured and beaten. No one resisted arrest. The trio did what they did, and surrendered, willing and eager to explain.

The NY Times’ William J. Broad did have a substantial piece, “The Nun Who Broke Into the Nuclear Sanctum” about Sister Megan Rice but that was back on August 12, 2012, after the break-in. The last time I’m aware of any interest on their part was October 31, 2012, when an article discussed the failure of the site’s security, where incredibly, no-one at the facility shouted, “Halt, who goes there?” at the trespassers. Since then, silence except for a tiny Reuters sidebar on Feb. 19, 2014 announcing their sentences – 35 months for Sister Megan Rice and 62 months for Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed.

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Doing Business the Same Old Way

It was only an item on page 5 of the NY Times about an incident on the Estonian-Russian border. The Estonians charged that one of their officers had been kidnapped, or detained – take your pick – by the Russians who promptly denied the story. The Estonians, empowered by their membership in NATO and Obama’s recent visit are quite aware that Article 5 of the NATO treaty obliges every member nation to come to their aid if attacked. Far from his nation’s voters who think less and less of him, Obama seems to have given little Estonia a virtual blank check when he said that if anyone – meaning Russia – made a move against the Baltic states Russia would have to fight the US too. That’s our President. Tough abroad and weak at home.

Fortunately, nothing has happened on the border, at least not yet. But by continually calling every border episode an "invasion," as Ukraine does, is designed to get the attention of NATO and Washington, especially since the US pays the major portion of NATO’s bills and nothing can happen without its approval.

No wonder Ukraine desperately wants to be included in NATO and why our perpetually bellicose hawks would like nothing more than to give Putin, no angel he, a good whack and teach Moscow who’s the real boss. All this, of course, without calling in American ground troops (and scaring Americans at home), as Obama and everyone in Washington’s Iraq-tainted War Party keeps repeating, while wink-winking, knowing that no-one really believes in that fairy tale should things take a bad turn.

Ukraine, bankrupt and corrupt, has become our latest freedom-loving heroes, battling the brutal pro-Russians in its eastern region while hosting our Vice-President, CIA Director and super hawks like John McCain. Overlooked are some of the new champions of liberty we’ve inherited.

Continue reading “Doing Business the Same Old Way”