Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lou Dobbs: Liar

Lou Dobbs has sometimes had a shaky relationship with the truth, especially when it comes to issues relating to immigration. Who can forget his completely false report that undocumented immigrants infected with leprosy were flooding over the border? He also has demonstrated some shocking affinities for the far-right. Remember Dobb's support for the "birthers" or the many times he has given racists a forum?

Now Dobbs has latched onto a new far-right conspiracy theory. In a recent interview, his guest claimed and Dobbs agreed that Cass Sunstein, whom the president has appointed to serve as the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, will in fact be a "regulatory czar over guns", and that he intends to make all hunting illegal and give animals the right to sue humans. I kid you not.

David Neiwert, writing at Crooks and Liars, points out that, not only is none of this true, it also plays into the paranoia of the dangerous and well-armed militant wing of the gun rights movement. Dobbs promotion of these falsehoods is not only poor journalism, it's the height of irresponsibility in that it's bound to rile up the subculture that has already committed several acts of violence out of a misguided fear that the federal government would soon be confiscating their guns.

Hate cult visits Brooklyn, part deux

I wrote last week about the planned protest at my synagogue by an anti-gay, anti-Semitic cult-like church called the Westboro Baptist Church (or "WBC"). Last Saturday, they mounted small anti-Jewish and homophobic protests at Brooklyn's Congregation Beth Elohim and Kane Street Synagogue, among a number of other locations. Here are my impressions.

The lead-up to the protest included the news that school children in the Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill neighborhoods of Brooklyn had found scattered on sidewalks hundreds of slips of paper with the slogan "Kill Jews!". Police were said to be investigating a link to the planned demonstration at the Kane Street Synagogue which is located in Cobble Hill. (Read here.)

But that sort of stuff is child's play compared to the other PR techniques used by WBC. They're a small group, but they get a lot of press attention. They've latched onto the idea of protesting homosexuality at military funerals, a move which must be motivated more by attention-seaking than logic.

One means by which WBC generates attention for themselves is through fax spamming. A Zionist organization I know of receives almost on a daily basis faxes announcing WBC's picketing schedule and featuring their particular brand of insane rant. I assume that they're not the only one's getting these faxes.

I've seen some of these faxes, starting with an April 23 flier announcing demonstrations at the Israeli Consulate of Los Angeles and the Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach, CA. The headline on that one got right to the point "JEWS KILLED JESUS!" and states that the Christ-killing Jews are "now ... carrying water for the fags; that's what they do best..." The announcement for this weekend's Brooklyn rallies (pdf here) was oddly headlined "THE FATEFUL FIG FIND", and included the warning to Jews that the Lord would soon "expel you from off the land & cause you to eat your children". WBC has very largely focused on such anti-Semitic and anti-gay proselytizing, frequently with only the most tenuous of connections. For example, they did detour from their usual path to celebrate both the death of Ted Kennedy and the fires in Athens, both of which they somehow believe to be God's punishment for homosexuality. They have taken the "God's punishment" idea invoked by Jerry Fallwell with respect to New York after 9/11 to its illogical extreme: any death or disaster is attributed to God's punishment for homosexuality.

They also maintain several relatively sophisticated websites (all with offensive names) featuring a variety of promotional material such as videos of sermons, music videos, promotional writings and calenders. The "Upcoming Pickets" calendar on the WBC website announced Saturday's Beth Elohim demonstration by denouncing bat mitzvah ceremonies as "unbiblical" and referring to the girl who was to be bat mitzvahed with an insult bordering on obscenity. That calendar entry is thankfully no longer available online.

This targeting of a youngster for abuse is typical of the WBC. They tend to target schoolchildren, frequently targeting schools and houses of worship for obscenity laced picketing. On Friday, September 24, they demonstrated opposite Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Greene with just such a borderline obscene rally. They were met with a much larger counter-rally. (Read the Brooklyn Paper's coverage of that demonstration here. Their coverage of the preparations for the Beth Elohim demonstration is available here.)

On Saturday morning, my son wanted to come with me to Beth Elohim, but I told him that some bad people were going to be outside the synagogue and I just wanted to make sure that everything was okay.

Things were just getting started when I got there at about 9:45 am. I joined the group standing in front of the synagogue which included members of the synagogue, neighborhood residents, guests there for the bat mitzvah, and counter-demonstrators of various types. The crowd was mostly well-behaved and good-humored. (Kudos to the person who brought a dog wearing a sign reading "Dog Loves Fags".)

The WBC demonstration was extremely small. There had only four adult demonstrators and one child.


Each adult demonstrator held multiple signs, each sign bearing a calculatedly shocking and upsetting slogan or picture. This array of placards gave the impression of a slightly larger demonstration. After my initial surprise at how few of them there were, it occurred to me that these people are a subspecies of the group which includes those who opposed abortion by blocking clinics. They don't need large numbers to have an impact. They compensate for their small numbers with gross imagery, vicious rhetoric and a strategy of provoking confrontation. This was brought into focus by a particularly offensive sign to wave around at families going to various Shabbos services and a bat mitzvah: a picture of an infant inside a giant hamburger bun with lettuce and tomato with the of a slogan: "BITCH BURGER". The below-embedded video shows a WBC member "explaining" the sign.

After some of the chanting heard in the above video, they got to the main event. Like some sort of demented glee club, the WBC people began singing a series of several well rehearsed songs with lyrics concerning the evils of Jews, gays and Barrack Obama who was depicted with devil horns and the slogan "ANTICHRIST", an image also seen at teabag rallies.

Chicago IL - 121608


At about 10 am, Rabbi Andy Bachman came out of his office bearing a shofar. He stood on the steps in front of the shul and addressed the crowd. After expressing his surprise at how so few WBC demonstrators caused so much tumult, he eloquently thanked the diverse crowd for coming together to oppose hate in the name of a God of love who loves gays and lesbians. He led the group in singing Oseh Shalom. Then the crowd fell back on an old standard to create a more festive mood, singing Hava Negila and dancing the hora. Rabbi Bachman took a moment to lead the crowd in a comic collective nose-thumbing directed at WBC in the name of "the God of Groucho Marx" (okay, it's a Reform congregation). Then he blew the shofar several times, the crowd chanting "tekiah", drowning out the obscene WBC chanting and singing and bringing an air of peace appropriate to the season.


Ben Muessig's Brooklyn Paper article on the Beth Elohim and Kane Street demonstrations (readable here on the New York Post website) was accurate and well-written. Steven Waldman's coverage at Beliefnet was also excellent (read here). On the other hand, Brooklyn's Channel 12 cable TV news covered another WBC demonstration at the Midwood Jewish Center in a very different way, showcasing video of an angry, apparently frum man in a group of men in black hats and tallitot, and contrasting that with an interview with a for-once not shouting Shirley Phelps saying her demonstration was "anti-sin". (View here.)

Video of the local CBS affiliate's coverage of a WBC demonstration in nearby Great Neck, L.I. is embedded below.

Before this week, I didn't really know what could motivate a hate group such as WBC, but their behavior at the demonstration -- a startling combination of obscenity-laced rhetoric concerning and targeting children and including a child participant -- presented an important clue. As a child, Fred Phelps, the leader of this group, must have been taught to associate piety and goodness with abusive, hateful language and exhibitionism, largely focused on a fear of homosexuality. Phelps has been able to promote this obscene, authoritarian world view in a family cult which worships a verbally abusive, narcissistic God. They literally worship hate. Time will tell whether they succeed in passing this ritualized hate onto the next generation of Phelps. From what I saw, the poor child they brought to Beth Elohim on Saturday would much rather have been somewhere, anywhere, else. He seemed ashamed of his elders. I hope that he can preserve that sense of shame.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hate group to demonstrate at Brooklyn synagogue

On Monday, I posted about a hateful anti-Jewish demonstration conducted outside a Rosh Hashana service in Oklahoma by a small cult-like group called the Westboro Baptist Church. (Read here.) Today I learned that this group is coming to my synagogue. Gene of Harry's Place was kind enough to post the following:

Blogger Adam Holland has received an email from Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, where his family attends services and where his 4-year-old son attends preschool:

The email concerns plans by a hate-group to demonstrate outside the synagogue. I’ve written frequently about anti-Semitism on my blog for the past three years. Now it has come to my doorstep and demanded my attention and the attention of those who care about this issue.

The group in question, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, has a long history of demonstrating at gay pride events with signs and slogans of the lowest, most hateful kind. More recently, they have similarly targeted the funerals of those killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they target Jewish religious services as well. I’m asking those with the capacity to speak out against the efforts of Westboro Baptist Church to harm Jews, gays, and members of the military to do so now.

As I wrote on my blog, Westboro Baptist demonstrated outside Rosh Hashana services in Norman, Oklahoma, last Saturday bearing signs reading “God hates Jews”. No Jewish child should be forced to read that sign. No family should have to explain to their child what that sign means. Our families should not be forced to run a gauntlet of bigots in order to worship. By exposing this sort of hatred, and by demonstrating our commitment to peaceful coexistence between all religions, we help to counter those who try to sow seeds of hate.

You may recall that the same group demonstrated outside my old high school last spring because it’s named after the notorious homosexual Walt Whitman.

Although I had some reservations about giving this group the attention it obviously lives for, I've decided to go ahead and cover this. Why? Because I know that I and many other parents will be unable to bring our children to Shabbat services this Saturday so they aren't exposed to hate like that pictured below.

Jacob Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church protests at the Oklahoma University Hillel Rosh Hashahah service.

I'm not sure what will happen on Saturday. Watch this space for a follow-up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Westboro Baptist Church protests Rosh Hashanah services

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, the group that demonstrates against gay pride events with "God Hates Fags" signs, has branched out in recent years to protest at the funerals of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, they wield signs to the effect that God is punishing those who fight for the U.S. because -- you guessed it -- the U.S. has too many gays. As nuts as that is, it's even more malicious. Some bereaved families who have lost loved ones have been forced to run a gauntlet of these homophobic sign-wielding lunatics.

Now they've found a new target. Jews. They chose a Rosh Hashanah service at Oklahoma University at Norman, Oklahoma to try out their new act.

Jacob Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church protests at the Oklahoma University Hillel Rosh Hashahah service.

from the
Daily Oklahoman (the O.U. paper):

Members of Westboro Baptist Church forcefully protested the Rosh Hashanah holiday in front of Hillel today, while another crowd protested and shouted across the street in opposition.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, leader of the Westboro protest, said the church stopped at OU as part of a love campaign across the country to protest Jews killing Christ over 2,000 years ago. She said despite the common belief that Christ’s death brings salvation, members of the Jewish community should not have killed Christ.

“These people killed our Lord, and they know it,” Phelps-Roper said. “The hour of judgment is near and everything bad happening in the world is in part their fault for killing Christ.”

Westboro protestors held up signs reading “God hates fags,” “God hates Jews,”America is Doomed” and “God hates Israel,” among other derogatory statements.

“I’m Catholic,” said Scott Jech, music performance senior, who stood on the opposition side. “I came out here to show that I and a majority of America and the world disagrees.”

Hillel, a campus Jewish organization, did not stage a counter protest, and none of the protestors were part of the organization.

“We did not protest the Westboro Baptist Church visit, as this is exactly what they try to provoke, and we encouraged people not to protest,” the organization wrote in an online statement. “We are very proud that Hillel students understood the importance of not engaging with these people, and instead have been inspired to think about tolerance programming. We will keep the OU community informed of our future plans.”

Phelps-Roper said the major focus was on the Jewish community because Friday marks Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year. She said the Westboro has been protesting the gay and lesbian community along with Mormonism, and now it is time for the Jewish community to “learn the truth.”

Westboro is a church in Topeka, Kan., owned and operated by the Fred Phelps, Phelps-Roper’s father, and the grandfather of the young men who accompanied Phelps-Roper to the protest.

“We are living in our last days and these Jews need to hear the truth,” Jacob Phelps said. “We are here to send a message to them that they are responsible for killing our Lord.”

Phelps said he felt the protest was a way to send a message of salvation and warning to the Jewish community because judgment for killing Jesus is coming soon.

Jacob Phelps, the member of the Westboro Baptist Church, protests at OU Hillel, a Jewish student organzation, Friday afternoon. Luke Atkinson/The Daily

“I know we were asked to not come out today, but I wanted them to see that we really do care about our Jewish community,” said Kara Joy McKee, OU alumnus. “We love our Jews. We love our everybodys.”

More here from KFSM, Ft. Smith/Fayetteville, Arkansas: Military funeral demonstrators protest Jewish holiday

A group known for its demonstrations at military funerals and anti-gay stance protested Rosh Hashanah outside a University of Oklahoma Jewish student organization.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church shouted slogans, held signs that said "God Hates Jews" and sang a rendition of "Hey Jude" as "Hey Jew" outside the Hillel Foundation on Friday.

Counter-demonstrators, not affiliated with Hillel, gathered across the street with signs and chants of their own. The protest ended without confrontation.

Westboro leader Shirley Phelps-Roper says the church stopped at the school as part of a "love campaign" to criticize Jews for "killing Christ."

A trio of motorcyclists who show up when Westboro members picket a military funeral revved their engines to drown out the Topeka, Kan.-based group.

Read more at the Norman Transcript here: Protesters, counter protesters square off near Hillel

Armenian who survived Nazi persecution arrested for destroying Obama=Hitler poster

from the Seattle Times:Politics Hitler poster provokes Edmonds incident
by Lynn Thompson

As a child in Armenia, Henry Gasparian witnessed firsthand the horrors of Nazi Germany. Two uncles were killed, his father wounded and a brother starved to death during the German invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union. So when Gasparian, 70, of Edmonds, saw a poster of President Obama with a Hitler mustache near the entrance to the Edmonds Farmers Market on Sept. 5, he admits that his reaction was "personal and emotional."

He tried to grab the fliers being passed out by supporters of Lyndon LaRouche, a perennial presidential candidate who has likened Obama's health-care proposals to the Nazi extermination of Jews and other "undesirables."

Two young LaRouche supporters told police that Gasparian repeatedly pushed them and grabbed one of their arms. Gasparian said it was they who first pushed him.

Now Gasparian is charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in Edmonds Municipal Court for what he describes as an attempt by "an old man to say you cannot insult the president with this outrageous campaign."

The Edmonds incident echoed similar incidents across the country over the past few months. LaRouche supporters and others have disrupted town-hall meetings on health care, including most famously, the young woman who asked U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in August why he supported a "Nazi health-care plan." Frank replied, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?"

The LaRouche Political Action Committee Web site says "Stop Obama's Nazi Health Plan" and encourages visitors to download the Obama-as-Hitler poster and take it to town-hall meetings.

Locally, LaRouche supporters have set up tables outside of post offices, at the Evergreen and Puyallup fairs and other public venues.

The local LaRouche activists declined to comment on the Edmonds incident and referred questions to the national office. Nancy Spannaus, a spokeswoman for the LaRouche PAC, defended the Obama-as-Hitler posters saying they are an "honest emblem of what the administration policy represents."

She said the Obama plan is premised on the idea that some people cost too much to keep alive, a charge the Obama administration and health-care advocates say is untrue.

But the heightened rhetoric and extreme views surrounding the public debate are raising alarm among political observers and groups that monitor hate speech and threats against minorities.

Hilary Bernstein, Pacific Northwest community director of the Anti-Defamation League, a national civil-rights organization, worries that the language first propagated by LaRouche backers, who espouse an extremist political point of view, is now entering the mainstream debate.

"What used to be so fringe is making its way into talk radio, blogs, YouTube and other news sources that people see as legitimate," she said.

David Domke, a UW professor who specializes in political communication, said that while people have been saying terrible things about politicians since the country's beginnings, "the intensity and depth of feeling today seems to be at a dangerous point."

"We have conversations now in the same way we go to war. We have to demonize the other person," Domke said.

Local political leaders are also dismayed by the likening of Obama to Hitler. Jim Kellett, chair of the Snohomish County Republican Party, saw the LaRouche activists outside the Everett Post Office this summer. Kellett, who has toured a concentration camp in Germany and visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., said, "If they understood what the Holocaust was about, it's really unconscionable to make that kind of comparison."

He said he's told people opposed to the health-care proposals "to be civil and come armed with the facts."

Henry Gasparian said that he had seen news reports that included the images of Obama as Hitler, but wasn't prepared when he saw the poster outside the crowded Edmonds market.

The police report says that Gasparian yelled at the LaRouche activists from his car, "flipped them off" and repeatedly yelled obscenities. The activists told police that he returned on foot and assaulted them without provocation.

Gasparian left the scene after the confrontation, but said he drove past the table about two hours later. When he saw a police officer nearby, he said, he stopped and questioned him about the activists' right to use the Nazi imagery.

The LaRouche workers saw Gasparian and identified him to the officer as the man who earlier had assaulted them. That's when Gasparian was handcuffed and arrested. He said three or four patrol cars surrounded the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Main Street, "as if they had caught Bin Laden."

Aramis Gasparian, 29, bailed his father out of jail eight hours later. He said his father had never had more than a speeding ticket before this incident.

"It's shocking, to say the least. He's 70 years old," the son said.

Gasparian immigrated from Armenia in 1993, the same year both his parents died. A classically trained musician with degrees in English and journalism, he settled in the Seattle area and found jobs in sales until health concerns forced him to retire.

A week after his arrest, Gasparian was still emotional. He said he recalled his miserable childhood in Armenia, where, because of the war, some days he had no more to eat than a small piece of sugar or bread.

His father, drafted by the Soviets to fight the Nazis when Gasparian was just 1 year old, returned home six years later, unrecognizable, injured both physically and mentally.

Historical accounts say that a half-million Armenians fought for the Soviets against the Germans. Half were killed, including Gasparian's two uncles.

"I saw Hitler's soldiers. I saw swastikas every day. To call Obama stupid, even criminal — OK, that's politics. But Hitler? It's hurting to anyone no matter who is president," he said.

Henry Gasparian said his reaction to the Obama-as-Hitler signs was "personal and emotional."

Henry Gasparian said he tried to grab the fliers being handed out by Lyndon LaRouche supporters.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Juan Cole admits Ahmadinejad is an anti-Semite

Juan Cole has for several years been one of the United States' most influential defenders of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against charges of anti-Semitism. Cole defended Ahmadinejad's "wipe Isreal off the map" remarks. Cole defended Ahmadinejad's speech to the U.N. General Assembly in which Ahmadinejad falsely alleged that "Zionists" control world finance to oppress Muslims. The reason? While the stereotype clearly referred to Jews, that word was never uttered. Cole absurdly defended this as legitimate criticism of "Zionists". Not even Ahmadinejad's hosting of an infamous Holocaust denial conference swayed Cole's opinion on this subject.

But now, at long last, Juan Cole appears to have seen Ahmadinejad for who he is. (I'm as amazed as you are.) In doing so, however, he has defended his prior statements on the subject as somehow true. He has also attacked those who opposed those statements, saying his critics were not only wrong, but liars motivated by personal malice against him. He goes on to blame his critics for encouraging anti-Semitism.

This startling, self-contradictory column was posted on Cole's blog, Informed Comment, on Saturday (Rosh Hashana). Here it is:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a sermon on Friday for "Jerusalem Day" that is full of the most vile crackpot anti-Semitism that can be imagined.

Anti-Semitism as a form of bigotry typically ascribes the most abject motives and character to Jews in general at the same time as they are depicted as secretly controlling the world. Ahmadinejad says things about the "Zionists" like (USG OSC trans.) "After the First World War, they abused the ignorance of the nations and Muslims of the region, and they put Palestine under the trusteeship of the old colonialist, Britain." To suggest that the British Zionists not only convinced the British cabinet to give them a homeland in Mandate Palestine but that they actually were the force that arranged for Britain to take Palestine in the first place is classic anti-Semitism.

In fact, of course (and I only explain this because the history is not on everyone's tongue, not because any serious refutation of Ahmadinejad is required) the British took Palestine because the Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of Germany and Austria and then sent an invasion force from Ottoman Palestine toward British-ruled Egypt. The British had to conquer Palestine to protect their Egyptian 'veiled colony' and their control of the key Suez Canal.

Elsewhere he says, "My dear ones, the pretext used to establish the Zionist regime was a lie and a corrupt act. It was a lie based on a fabricated claim that cannot be proven. The occupation of the Palestinian land had no connection with the issue of holocaust. The claim, the pretext, and the masterminds are all fraudulent and corrupt. They are all historical criminals. They are responsible for plundering and colonizing the world for the past 500 years." I need to examine the Persian text more carefully, but Ahmadinejad seems to be blaming Jews for the European age of sea-borne empires-- an age that began when Jews were still excluded from many European countries, or had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition! (I looked again and he actually says that both the perpetrators and the 'protectors' (hamiyan) are corrupt; if he means by 'protectors' the Western powers, then his reference to 500 years of colonialism may be to the Europeans; but it is still a weird allegation, since, when they began their colonial endeavors, most European great powers were riddled with anti-Semitism--what I said above still holds. And it is possible that the referent for the colonialists of 500 years is in fact the 'Zionists.')

He also appears to blame Jews for the Nazi crimes against them, saying that the Zionists spread around anti-Semitic books and films in Europe so as to make Jews hated and so as to cause them to be expelled to Palestine.

In other words, he is saying, all of modern history (possibly from the Portuguese conquest of Goa) and certainly the British conquests during WW I, the Nazi persecution of Jews, and last year's American presidential race, has been the unfolding of a secret Jewish plot, wherein "Zionists" control everything that happens.

You wonder why he holds out any hope of Palestinians prevailing in the face of such a long-lived and all-powerful conspiracy! It is sort of like The Highlander meets the Protocols of the Elders of Zion!

The US press coverage of the speech has focused on Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust, which seems more complete than before (he has in the past said that the number of dead, 6 million, has been 'exaggerated'). He said this time, "Four or five years after the Second World War, all of a sudden they claimed that during this war, the Holocaust had occurred. They claimed that a few million Jews had been burned in the crematorium furnaces. They institutionalized two slogans. One was the innocence of the Jews. They used lies and very sophisticated propaganda and psychological ploys and created the illusion that they (the Jews) are innocent. The second goal was that they created the illusion that the Jews needed an independent state and government. They were so persuasive and convincing that many of the world's politicians and intellectuals were deceived and persuaded." Elsewhere he called this 'pretext' a "lie" and a "myth" (afsaneh).

He then went on to repeat his bizarre claim that researchers are prevented from researching the Holocaust. Surely no event in history has been better documented by historians from primary sources.

I just felt a chill, and frankly then nausea, as I read this sewage.

I am not saying that Ahmadinejad is genocidal. He has killed many more Muslims than Jews (I don't know that he has directly killed any Jews, and Iran has 20,000). A campaign of vilication (sic) against me was kicked off when I pointed out that Ahmadinejad had not in fact threatened to wipe Israel off the map, but had just quoted Ayatollah Khomeini to the effect that the 'Zionist regime over Jerusalem' must eventually 'vanish from the page of time.' Since expressing a wish that a regime will collapse is not a casus belli, hawks who wanted a war on Iran were furious at me for revealing the truth. The usually reasonable New York Times even did a hand-waving smoke and mirrors piece attempting to deflect my argument without actually disproving it. And it remains the case that Ahmadinejad is not the commander in chief of the armed forces and cannot make troops march into war-- that prerogative is with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad could not even appoint a vice president he wanted without Khamenei's permission (and when it was not forthcoming, he had to dismiss him).

But the venomous rhetoric against Jews (it isn't just Zionists if it is projected back 500 years) that he used in this speech is so hateful that if it became widespread and ensconced in Iranian society, it certainly would have bad and tragic results-- for Jews, Iranians and for us human beings in general.

One of the dangers of the right-wing Zionists' tactic of smearing as "anti-Semitic" all criticism of any Israeli policy is precisely that they end up trivializing this deadly, soul-killing phenomenon, and by crying wolf so often may actually decrease vigilance toward the real thing. Saying that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is corrupt, or that Israeli settlers in the West Bank are violating the international law of occupation, is not anti-Semitism. Neither one is doing any favors to Israel or to world Jewry, and it is odd that anyone should defend them or see criticism of them as bigotry. But the bilge that came out of Ahmadinejad's mouth on Friday, that is the real thing.

Luckily, most Iranians clearly were not taken in, and his opponents put around pamphlets saying "No to Gaza and Lebanon, I will give my life [only] for Iran!" In fact, by associating it with himself, Ahmadinejad may single-handedly be sinking support for the Palestinian cause among Iranians, since most of them despise him and everything he stands for.

Now excuse me while I go take a shower with lava soap. Ugh.

Remember that Cole is not merely a blogger, columnist or pundit, he's an influential scholar of the history and religion of the Middle East who puts that reputation on the line when he expresses opinions. I believe that he has inflicted an irreparable wound to that reputation with his past defense of Ahmadinejad against charges of anti-Semitism. He has also given aid and comfort to those who support such bigotry. So the fact that he has finally faced the unavoidable truth represents an important step in the right direction.

Has he finally seen the light? Far from it. Cole continues to repeat the falsehoods by which he defended the "wipe Israel off the map" remarks, continues to minimize Ahmadinejad's prior Holocaust denial and to accept Ahmadinejad's slanders of "Zionists" as not targeting Jews . Worse, Cole smears those of us who objected to his previous defenses of Ahmadinejad as "hawks who wanted a war on Iran ... furious at me for revealing the truth". He accuses those of us who attribute Ahmadinejad's extreme anti-Israel feelings to anti-Semitism by calling us "right-wing Zionist" boys crying wolf. By this, Cole attempts to blame those who decry anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for the popularity of that anti-Semitism. Cole has somehow convinced himself that that those who disagreed with his whitewashing of Ahmadinejad's past actions are responsible for the Muslim world's hatred of Jews. The fallacy of that logic is absurd and perverse.

Now that Cole has seen Ahmadinejad for the anti-Semite he is, he must admit that it was wrong to have defended Ahmadinejad against that charge. He must also admit that those who argued for him to do so in the past were right. By doing that, Cole would do much both to repair his reputation and to undo the damage his past enabling of bigotry has done.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Minister who prayed for Obama's death says Andy Griffith Show causes homosexuality

Pastor Steven L. Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona has, infamously, prayed in sermons for President Obama's death and posted the videos on the internet. He has repeatedly offered his version of a fatwa, saying that killing the president would not be a crime. (Read here and here.) One of his parishioners, Christopher Broughton, then armed himself with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to protest outside a town hall meeting at which President Obama spoke.

I took a look at Anderson's website to get a sense of who Anderson is and what he stands for. Here's an example that may say it all.

As is typical for fundamentalist Christians, Anderson hates homosexuality, but Anderson verges on obsessing about it, and his views on the subject are extreme. He literally advocates that gays should be put to death. As upsetting as this is, I didn't find it surprising; there are sadly many of his ilk among the Christian right. What I found more surprising is what he considers the cause of homosexuality. I found it funny at first, but upon reflection, troubling in its sheer madness. In an essay entitled "Television: the Leaven of the Pharisees" (read here), Pastor Anderson says that the Andy Griffith show and several other 1960s situation comedies are to blame.

Alternative lifestyles

"From the beginning, the producers of television have had an agenda. Even in the most “harmless” of shows, alternative lifestyles are being promoted. Consider, for example, “The Andy Griffith Show.” The show centers around a single parent who lives with his aunt. Admittedly, his wife supposedly died, and he is not divorced. However, we are still being desensitized to the idea of a single parent which is neither the norm nor God’s plan. The show also features a character, Gomer Pile, who is played by a man who is a homosexual in real life.

"Consider the show “The Odd Couple” from the 1960’s. Aside from sinful content, we are being exposed to an alternative lifestyle of two men living together as roommates. Genesis 2:24 tells us God’s normal plan, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Although neither man in the show is a homosexual, this show was obviously a forerunner of the sitcoms of today which feature homosexual characters.

"Consider “The Brady Bunch.” The show is about a widowed man and a widowed woman who have three children each. Now they are married and have six children collectively. This is an extremely rare scenario but mirrors the very common scenario of divorce and remarriage. We are subliminally being exposed to the idea of stepparents and stepchildren which is far more common in divorced situations than in the rare circumstance of young widows.

"If you can see what is wrong with the above examples from forty years ago, you probably do not need me to go into what is wrong with the themes found in today’s television programming."

It's bad enough that armed followers of this guy are roaming around outside presidential speeches, especially in light of the fact that he teaches that killing the president would be a good thing. Knowing that this guy has written that Mayberry RFD was a modern Sodom and Gomorrah at first made me laugh and roll my eyes. But after reflecting on the fact that someone so obviously insane has followers who are willing to act on his words to threaten the president with violence, I'm not sure that this is very funny. Anderson and his followers are a dangerous cult. The absurdity of his beliefs only brings that into sharper focus.

Christopher Broughton with assault rifle outside presidential appearance.

Christopher Broughton and Pastor Steven L. Anderson

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pat Buchanan promotes "9/11 Truth" movement

The so-called Patrick J. Buchanan Official Website has reposted from the racist VDARE blog a column claiming that the World Trade Center's were destroyed not by the planes which were crashed into them, but by controlled demolition.

The column, written by Paul Craig Roberts, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration, states:

"Antiwar sites do not realize that, by accepting the 9/11 explanation, they have undermined their own opposition to the war. Once you accept that Muslim terrorists did it, it is difficult to oppose punishing them for the event. In recent months, important antiwar sites, such as AntiWar.com, have had difficulty with their fundraising, with their fundraising campaigns going on far longer than previously. They do not understand that if you grant the government its premise for war, it is impossible to oppose the war."

At least Roberts is honest. He's more interested in reaching the conclusion that confirms his bias than with an impartial examination of the facts of the case.

You can read the post here: Why Propaganda Trumps Truth.

UPDATE (9/29/2009 9:00 pm): At 7:22 this evening, an administrator of Buchanan.org with an IP address in Cartersville, Georgia read this post and apparently considered commenting, clicking the "comment" button, but failing to post anything. I would love to hear your take on why Pat Buchanan's website is promoting 9/11 conspiracy theories such as those Paul Craig Roberts wrote about in the column you published. Do you think that the fact that the World Trade Center was brought down by planes and not by planted explosives is a debatable point? Please feel free to clarify.

Anti-communism of fools

Mondoweiss blog supports McCarthyism

Jack Ross has posted a bizarre column at the blog Mondoweiss in which he argues in favor of McCarthyism, the Hollywood blacklist and the imprisonment of the Hollywood Ten. His reasons are a bit confused. He writes that

the Hollywood 10 got exactly what they had coming: the Communists made Hollywood into the most ruthless war propaganda machine in history. A lot of readers will give me grief for that, I know, but consider how militantly Zionist those Popular Front Hollywood Jews were. Among the more memorable examples was Yip Harburg, who wrote "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", and later wrote a song for the Stalinoid presidential campaign of Henry Wallace about "fixing things in Palestine and Greece", that is, kicking the Arabs out of Palestine and standing in the way of the Marshall Plan.

Is the "most ruthless war propaganda machine in history" to which he refers the one which opposed fascism, or communism, or the one which favored the creation of Israel? He doesn't say. Whatever it was, Ross thinks it worse than Hitler's or Stalin's propaganda machines.

Ross's historical hysteria is just getting started. He goes on the condemn Kirk Douglas (a "shameless Zionist") for his hiring Dalton Trumbo ("the arch-Stalinist") to write the script for "Spartacus", thereby breaking the McCarthy era blacklist. Ross is a bit confused about who Trumbo was, writing that

"the same Dalton Trumbo ... around that same time directed the execrable Exodus."

The fact is that Trumbo coauthored the script for Exodus with Leon Uris. Otto Preminger directed it. With respect to the artistic merits of that film, they're debatable, but a critic's thumbs down shouldn't bar an artist from working. Neither should the political opinions of ideologues, be they of the left or of the right.

In the case of Jack Ross, the line between left and right seems a bit hazy when they come out against freedom of speech and political beliefs, and in favor of anti-communist witch hunts. Mondoweiss and Joseph McCarthy are strange bedfellows indeed.

What brought about this odd coupling? Ross' historical revisionist rationalization occurs in a throwaway line in the middle of the post:

"(O)ne can reduce the entire longevity of the myth of progressive Israel to the bizarre and insular world of the Hollywood Popular Front."

Ross's extreme views are rooted in a belief that a Zionism committed to social justice was an invention of Jewish communist propagandists in Hollywood, Ross apparently being completely unaware of Zionism's connection to radical ideas of social justice, and of the role it played in saving Jews from czarist and fascist oppression. (To further confuse his already misguided views, Ross has illustrated his column with a photograph of Dalton Trumbo and made him the centerpiece of it. Does Ross mistakenly believe Trumbo to have been Jewish?)

In case you have any doubt about just what Ross is saying, he makes clear in his last paragraph that he not only supports the blacklisting and imprisonment of those accused of supporting communism, he also idolizes figures from the primordial far-right who assisted in the witchhunt, such as John Birch Society member and friendly witness for HUAC Morrie Ryskind. Ross protests without any intentional irony that Ryskind, who testified about the purported subversiveness of his Hollywood associates, was thereafter "banished for his staunch anti-Communism". Apparently, Ross likes some blacklists better than others.

Jack Ross supports the silencing and even the imprisonment of Hollywood's Jewish leftists because some of them saw Zionism as a national liberation movement. As much as I oppose Ross's opinions, I support his right to express them. It seems that Ross, in his anti-Zionist zeal, does not believe very strongly in values such as freedom of speech and political association, or in the marketplace of ideas, or even in ideas themselves. He is happy to side with those who throw the innocent behind bars so long as it silences those who differ with him about Israel.

(Read the Mondoweiss post here: On blacklists)

File:Trumbo and Cleo 1947 HUAC hearings.jpg
Dalton Trumbo with Wife Cleo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947

Trumbo being removed from the HUAC witness table.
Dalton Trumbo
Trumbo in prison

(Speaking of strange bedfellows, Jack Ross might be interested to know that Commentary magazine agrees with him about Trumbo. You know, if both of them hate Trumbo so much, Trumbo must have been doing something right.)

UPDATE 9/15/2009 4:20 pm

The editor of Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss, has issued a statement distancing himself from Ross's column, but not for the reason you might expect. While acknowledging that his readers found that Ross's support for McCarthyism made them say "yech" (in their words), Weiss was more interested in the fact that one of the Hollywood 10, Alvah Bessie, was actually anti-Zionist. In fact, Weiss' post is called "Hey! Heroic Hollywood 10 included anti-Zionist" (read here).

Here's a news flash for both Weiss and Ross: the Hollywood 10 were not imprisoned for being Zionists. Zionism per se had nothing to do with McCarthyism. Your problem is that you view every event through the lens of anti-Zionism, hardly a recipe for historically accuracy.

Weiss, as the blog's editor, owes it to his readers to drop the special pleading against Israel and explain why he publishes such slanderous drivel.

Afterthought: What does it say about our time that a purportedly leftist blog like Mondoweiss feels comfortable publishing right wing conspiracy drivel of the sort broadcast by Glenn Beck?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blood Libel promoted by Counterpunch, Alison Weir

[Part 1 of a series. Part 2 here.]

The blog Counterpunch, which is edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, has published an article which alleges that the blood libel is true and is related to purported Israeli thefts of human organs from Palestinians. The blood libel, the charge that Jews ritually murdered gentiles and used their blood to cast spells, was a mainstay of medieval European anti-Semitism. In Europe, the blood libel led to pogroms, mass slayings and expulsions. The Counterpunch article may be the first instance of an American leftist media outlet promoting the blood libel.

The Counterpunch article (read here) supports and elaborates on spurious allegations concerning Israeli theft of body parts from Palestinians -- charges originally appearing in an article by Donald Bostrom which was published in the Swedish tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet. The controversy concerning that article has received extensive coverage internationally (read here). Medical experts have unanimously stated that the theft of organs from the dead for use in transplants, as alleged in the story, is medically impossible (read here). Bostrom's article claims that Israeli soldiers hunted down a Palestinian youth, shooting him in the chest and abdomen at close range in order to steal his organs. The alleged witnesses to the events described in his article, including the families of the purported victims, have completely disavowed the story (read here). Counterpunch alleges not only that such murders and thefts of organs in fact truly occur, but that they are part of a campaign which is sanctioned by the Israeli government and other Israeli institutions and that it is connected to religious traditions allowing the ritual murder of gentiles.

The Counterpunch coverage of these allegations was written by Alison Weir, the head of an anti-Israel organization called If Americans Knew. Weir's Counterpunch article derives in large part from articles written about the controversy by a notorious anti-Semite who goes by the assumed name "Israel Shamir". Weir deceptively identifies Shamir in her footnotes as an "Israeli writer" in spite of widely reported revelations that Shamir is actually a Swede of Russian descent and that he is associated with Russian ultra-nationalists. Shamir has been disavowed by many on the left and in the pro-Palestinian movement as the result of his overtly anti-Semitic writings and his connections to the far-right. Research into his real background has revealed that he began his journalism career under his assumed name working for a prominent far-right, Russian nationalist anti-Semite, Aleksandr Prokhanov, chief editor of the newspaper Zavtra. Even as he presents himself to the west as a leftist, anti-Zionist, "Shamir" has continued to publish explicitly right-wing articles in Russia and Eastern Europe. Shamir's original article in support of the spurious organ theft allegations is posted here. His advocacy of the blood libel can be read here. Shamir writes in the latter article that "'Blood libel' is the Jewish battle cry", thus claiming not only that the libel is in fact true, but that to say otherwise is an act of aggression.

In her Counterpunch article, Weir parrots Shamir's arguments that the blood libel is no libel, and that the charge that it is libel is a ruse used by Jews to suppress the revelation of their crimes. She writes:

"In scanning through the reaction to Bostrom’s report, one is struck by the multitude of charges that his article is a new version of the old anti-Semitic “blood libel.” Given that fact, it is interesting to examine a 2007 book by Israel’s preeminent expert on medieval Jewish history, and what happened to him.

"The author is Bar-Ilan professor (and rabbi) Ariel Toaff, son of the
former chief rabbi of Rome, a religious leader so famous that an Israeli journalist writes that Toaff’s father “is to Italian Jewry as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.” Ariel Toaff, himself, is considered “one of the greatest scholars in his field.”

"In February 2007 the Israeli and Italian media were abuzz (though most of the U.S. media somehow missed it) with news that Professor Toaff had written a book entitled "Pasque di Sangue" (“Blood Passovers”) containing evidence that there “was a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews.”

"Based on 35 years of research, Toaff had concluded that there were at least a few, possibly many, real incidents.

"In an interview with an Italian newspaper (the book was published in Italy), Toaff says:
"“My research shows that in the Middle Ages, a group of fundamentalist Jews did not respect the biblical prohibition and used blood for healing. It is just one group of Jews, who belonged to the communities that suffered the severest persecution during the Crusades. From this trauma came a passion for revenge that in some cases led to responses, among them ritual murder of Christian children.”

"(Incidentally, an earlier book containing similar findings was published some years ago, also by an Israeli professor, Israel Shahak, of whom Noam Chomsky once wrote, “Shahak is an outstanding scholar, with remarkable insight and depth of knowledge. His work is informed and penetrating, a contribution of great value.” )

"Professor Toaff was immediately attacked from all sides, including pressure orchestrated by Anti-Defamation League chairman Abe Foxman, but Toaff stood by his 35 years of research, announcing:

"I will not give up my devotion to the truth and academic freedom even if the world crucifies me… One shouldn't be afraid to tell the truth."

"Before long, however, under relentless public and private pressure, Toaff had recanted, withdrawn his book, and promised to give all profits that had already accrued (the book had been flying off Italian bookshelves) to Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League. A year later he published a “revised version.”

"Donald Bostrom’s experience seems to be a repeat of what Professor Toaff endured: calumny, vituperation, and defamation. Bostrom has received death threats as well, perhaps an experience that Professor Toaff also shared.

"If Israel is innocent of organ plundering accusations, or if its culpability is considerably less than Bostrom and others suggest, it should welcome honest investigations that would clear it of wrongdoing. Instead, the government and its advocates are working to suppress all debate and crush those whose questions and conclusions they find threatening."

Many of the claims in that excerpt are falsehoods intended to support an unsupportable conclusion: that Jews ritually murdered gentiles. Let's debunk some of them in order:

1) Ariel Toaff is not "Israel’s preeminent expert on medieval Jewish history". Weir has no reason to believe that he is and provides no citation for this invented claim. Toaff is not a rabbi. Toaff did not conduct 35 years of research into the question of whether Jews conducted ritual murders of gentiles, or used blood to cast spells. All of these claims by Weir are untrue and were invented by Weir to burnish Toaff's reputation as an expert on the subject of ritual murder and bolster his opinions about it.

2) In the first edition of the book in question, Toaff relied on faulty logic to reach the conclusion that a small group of Jews may have conducted ritual murders and ritually used blood in contradiction of Jewish law as a form of revenge for the anti-Jewish atrocities of the Crusades. He based his conclusion on testimony extracted from Jewish victims under the extreme duress of medieval torture chambers, the sole documentary record of these events. One would expect that a historian researching this subject would bring an understanding of the tainted origin of these documents and counterbalance them with that understanding and a knowledge of the historical context. In the annals of lapses of judgment by historians, Toaff's initial credulous reliance on these documents must rank high. Neither Toaff nor Weir offer any reason for the reader to accept the veracity of statements extracted under extreme duress, and readers shouldn't do so.

3) Toaff, since the initial publication of his book, has retracted his earlier conclusions concerning ritual murder. (Read here.) He has issued a new version of his book which states unequivocally that "Jews were not involved in ritual murder, which was an entirely Christian stereotype". Weir neglects to mention this statement, continuing to maintain that Toaff found that "there was a factual basis for some of the medieval blood libels against the Jews. Based on 35 years of research, Toaff had concluded that there were at least a few, possibly many, real incidents." Toaff's retraction occured 18 months prior to Weir's article. While Weir does mention that Toaff has issued a new version of his book, she fails to detail his more recent findings, dismissing them as a capitulation to pressure by Abe Foxman and the ADL -- proof to her of a Jewish conspiracy of silence.

4) In order to shore up Ariel Toaff's credentials, Weir quotes a Haaretz article with respect to the high regard for Toaff's father, Rabbi Elio Toaff. Elio Toaff served with great distinction as chief rabbi of Rome in the 1950s and 1960s. He also demonstrated extraordinary bravery as an anti-fascist partisan during World War II. Weir quotes the Haaretz article to the effect that Elio Toaff “is to Italian Jewry as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris”. She fails to cite that article in a footnote, however, because to do so would have forced her to give its headline: "The wayward son". A footnote or link also would have allowed Weir's readers to see the following quote from Rabbi Elio Toaff in the lede paragraph:
"(T)he criticism that everyone has expressed about his book was justified. His arguments in the book were an insult to the intelligence, to the tradition, to history in general and to the meaning of the Jewish religion. It saddens me that such nonsense was put forward by my son of all people."
The Haaretz article Weir quoted but failed to cite goes on to describe the reaction to the publication of the first version of Ariel Toaff's book as "the shock currently being felt by the Italian Jewish community over this human tragedy". Weir either completely misunderstood the point of the article or she deliberately withheld it. She either inadvertently failed to cite the quote's source, or she deliberately suppressed it. You be the judge.

5) Weir cites Israel Shahak as a purported expert on Judaism who supported the truth of the blood libel, stating point blank that Shahak reached similar conclusions to those reached by Toaff. The footnote Weir provides for this claim, a biographical sketch of Shahak by Norton Mezvinisky on the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs website, does not in any way support this assertion. (In fact, the only aspect of what Weir wrote about Shahak which is supported in the article she cited is that Noam Chomsky provided Shahak with an extremely generous blurb for a book cover.) Shahak, who was a chemistry professor at Hebrew University and not an authority on history or religion, was infamously the author of a polemical pamphlet concerning Judaism entitled Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years. This book, which largely consists of very obvious falsehoods, is a favorite among those who want ammunition against Jews but are not particularly concerned about accuracy. It is notable not for scholarship but for its palpable disdain for its subject. To give a sense of the tone of Shahak's book, it literally argues that the Chmielniki massacres, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, were justified. (Read here and here.) The book also absurdly claims that religious Jews worship Satan. It even falsely contends (at length) that Judaism permits the murder of gentiles and forbids violating the Sabbath to save a gentile's life. (As the grandson of an Orthodox Jewish physician who routinely broke the Sabbath to care for Jews and gentiles alike, this argument is especially galling to me.) In spite of all that, I know of no instance where even Shahak alleged that the blood libel was literally true. In fact, he said the contrary. On page 21 of the 1994 Pluto Press edition of Jewish History, Jewish Religion (available here), he makes a point to distinguish such claims from medieval arguments against the Jewish religion with which he agrees.
"We are not referring here to ignorant calumnies, such as the blood libel, propagated by benighted monks in small provincial cities."
It is precisely such an ignorant calumny which Alison Weir and Counterpunch have published.

Anecdotal Evidence

Weir's article makes the case that Israel plays a disproportionate role in the illegal trade in human organs, that the government and military is involved, and (as indicated above) that this trade has its roots in Jewish religious traditions involving ritual murder of gentiles. The obvious spuriousness of her evidence for this is helpful because it puts the bad faith behind the inaccuracies of the rest of her arguments into clear focus. But the rest of her arguments hardly stand up to close scrutiny even without taking her support of the blood libel into consideration.

To make her argument, Weir provides a deceptive history of the issue, citing no statistical studies of the issue, but relying exclusively on anecdotes from media coverage of a number of Israeli cases concerning illegal or unethical medical use of organs. Her version of events cites a few reports concerning claims made by anonymous sources to bloggers and activists. She cites an editorial from the Forward which details some Israeli cases involving parts taken from corpses and used for medical instruction, not transplant. The Forward editorial decries the inappropriate use of human organs for research or study as an international problem concerning treatment of the dead, and specifically reaches the conclusion that the charge that Israel is harvesting Palestinian organs for transplants is baseless. (Read here.) Weir, as usual, selects from this piece the facts which tend to support her case and completely withholds its main point. She also repeatedly cites "Israel Shamir". Based on unreliable or cherry-picked anecdotal evidence and completely lacking supporting statistics, Weir reaches the conclusion that Israeli involvement in the illegal organ trade is uniquely widespread, and is state and institutionally sanctioned.

The first anecdote Weir cites is a case in point. It concerns the sad case of the donor for Israel's first heart transplant, a stroke victim who had not consented to be an organ donor. His family protested this surgery and was allegedly forced by the hospital to sign a release from liability before the body was released to them. This troubling case was widely reported at the time, and rightfully led Israel to enact greater protections from such practices, which Israel, like other nations, did not properly regulate in the early transplant era. Not only does Weir not provide this historical context, she goes so far as to imply without basis that the donor was deliberately allowed to die (or worse) in order to transplant his heart, that this practice is allowed under Israeli law and that it is commonplace there.

Where is Counterpunch headed?

It is bad enough that Counterpunch, in the name of defending human rights, would publish such patently false charges as true. It is outrageous that they would present the anti-Semitism of the middle ages as a progressive response to the Jewish people, whom they portray as intrinsically reactionary and criminal. In doing this, Counterpunch has turned the definitions of "progressive" and "reactionary" on their heads. In fact, they have completely turned logic on its head. What will they support next? The Spanish Inquisition?

NOTE: Counterpunch is publishing other articles supporting the spurious charges from Aftonbladet. One, entitled "Israeli Bodysnatchers", was authored by Bouthaina Shaaban, chief spokesperson for President Assad of Syria and a former Syrian "Minister of Expatriates". Shaaban describes herself as "a Nobel Peace Prize nominee". (I love when people claim that as a credential. Literally anyone can be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, so those who cite it as an honor always do so fraudulently.) In addition to repeating the absurd organ trafficking charges, her article also baselessly blames Israel for the assassination of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

Cross-posted at HARRY'S PLACE

Michael Scheuer: Obama detests the moral obligation to protect the U.S.; Israel supporters should resign from Congress

Michael Scheuer, in a commentary dealing with the war in Afghanistan, has declared that President Obama "detests" his "moral obligation . . . to protect the United States and the American people". He writes in a forum entitled "Obama's Afghan Dilemma: Go Big Or Go Home?" in the current internet edition of the National Journal:

"Quite simply, there is no moral dimension to our Afghan War other than to protect the United States and the American people. That moral obligation was ignored by Bush and is detested by Obama, being Harvard educated and the good student of Rev. Wright, Saul Alinsky, and Bill Ayers."
Scheuer's commentary, which is premised on the idea that U.S. troops should not be fighting to establish democracy in Afghanistan, goes on to oppose the use of American military force and diplomacy for anything other than defense. He also advocates that members of Congress who support Israel should resign and join the Israeli military.

"No U.S. soldier or Marine should ever be called on to be maimed or killed to make sure Mrs. Muhammad can vote or little Ibrahim can go to a secular school; they should be called on to make such sacrifices only in an effort to decisively defeat America's enemies on the battlefield or to defend its borders. In other words, if Mrs. Clinton wants to install women's rights in Afghanistan; and if Senator McCain wants to become involved in the civil war in Darfur; and if most members of the Congress want to do everything possible to defend Israel, let them all resign their official positions and go and take up their "sacred" causes as private citizens following their personal beliefs. They would all be likely to get their butts shot off, and America would be no poorer for their loss. Indeed, all Americans would be better off because we would stop intervening in other peoples' wars and we would preserve the lives of our soldier-children for the few occasions where the application of overwhelming military power is necessary to defend America."

Scheuer concludes his commentary by attributing the rallying cry of World War II era isolationists, "America first", to the founding fathers.

"Our moral obligation in Afghanistan is framed solely by the requirement laid down by the Founders: America first."

Scheuer, who served as the head of the CIA office assigned to monitor Osama bin Laden in the decade preceding 9/11, has moved toward the far-right, advocating an increasingly isolationist position. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he served as an adviser to Ron Paul in his run for the Republican nomination.

Scheuer's commentary has been reposted by far-right forums, including the Ron Paul forum (read here) and the Concealed Carry Forum (read here). The Ron Paul Forum administrator who posted it indicates in her post that Scheuer submitted it to that forum via email (read here).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Buchanan: Churchill caused World War II, fall of western civilization

Pat Buchanan, in a London debate timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the British and French declaration of war against Germany, has blamed Winston Churchill for starting the Second World War. (Read about it here: U.S. politician puts blame on Churchill for Second World War.) This follows close on the heels of Buchanan's widely published essay blaming the Poles for provoking the Nazi invasion.

The debate was sponsored by Intelligence Squared and took place in London's Methodist Central Hall. Two historians who debated Buchanan took dim views of Buchanan's historical analysis. Antony Beevor said:
"I never expected to hear Pat Buchanan backing up Vladimir Putin's idea that somehow the Brits were responsible for World War Two.

"Pat Buchanan's arguments during the debate were quite bizarre. At times people didn't know whether he was sympathising with Hitler or just being anti-British."

Historian Richard Overy said: "I thought what Pat Buchanan said was a load of historical nonsense that was all completely out of context."
Justin Raimondo's neo-isolationist website Antiwar.com has prominently featured both Buchanan's earlier column (read here) and a new one consisting of Buchanan's opening statement at the London debate (read here). Antiwar.com published the latter under the headline "Churchill Spurred the Decline of the West".

Raimondo agrees with these views pretty strongly, as evidenced by his own recent column supporting and elaborating on Buchanan's pro-Nazi historical revisionism. (Read here.) Raimondo starts by (completely unconvincingly) defending Buchanan against the charge of white-washing Hitler's record, then goes on to express his own opposition to the Spanish Republicans and to U.S. efforts to stop Japanese imperialism. (For some reason, some Google News' search results list Antiwar.com as "satire". Sadly, it is not.)

In Buchanan's earlier column, entitled "Did Hitler Want War?", he asserted that Hitler did not want war with Poland, but an alliance of the sort he had with the fascist regimes of Spain, Italy, Hungary and Slovakia -- this in spite of the long documentary record of Hitler's intention to conquer and subjugate Poland and the other Slavic nations.
"Hitler had never wanted war with Poland, but an alliance with Poland such as he had with Francisco Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, Miklos Horthy’s Hungary, and Father Jozef Tiso’s Slovakia."
It is also worth noting that the Nazi-allied regimes touted by Buchanan were very obviously far from innocent, each having committed massive war crimes in concert with the Nazi regime.

This column also bizarrely asserted that Hitler, in attempt to reach out to Britain with a show of good faith, allowed British forces to escape from Dunkirk. I use the word "bizarre" deliberately. His argument implied that Britain's subsequent self-defense against Nazi aggression was somehow unappreciative of Hitler's good will.

In his current column, Buchanan blames Churchill for starting the Second World War, and for his role in the First World War, claiming that Churchill's actions resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Europeans, and opened the door for what Buchanan believes to be inferior races to ascend to world power. This argument's connection of racism, isolationism, belief in the decline of the western civilization and sympathy for Nazism echo those of earlier generations of the far-right, including figures such as Lindbergh and Charles Coughlin, both of whom Buchanan has expressed admiration for. Buchanan's dire predictions of the impending end of western civilization, which he sees in racial terms, seems to derive from Madison Grant's 1921 book The Passing of the Great Race, which viewed geopolitics through a lens of racial eugenics. (Buchanan's 2001 book The Death of the West also evidences the influence of Madison Grant's theories.) Buchanan shares his apparent regard for Grant's racism with Hitler himself. Karl Brandt, the physician who helped provide the "scientific bias" for the Holocaust, cited it's influence on Hitler in his own defense at the Nuremberg Trials (read here), claiming that the intellectual roots of Nazi war crimes were American.

Buchanan's views about who's to blame for World War II, though extreme, should not come as a surprise. They're nothing new; his support for fascism is long-standing. He has admitted his admiration for Francisco Franco. Moreover, Buchanan published a column in 1977 (read here) which advocated some of the same distorted view of Hitler currently at issue. It included the following:
"Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him. But Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path."

In the 1980's, Buchanan expressed support for the neo-Nazi leader David Duke and advised conservative voters looking beyond his Nazi uniform and swastikas. While working in the Reagan White House, Buchanan pushed President Ronald Reagan's trip to Bitburg's military cemetery to pay tribute to members of the Wafen SS, at which Reagan described the SS dead as "victims", a word perhaps put in Reagan's mouth by Buchanan. In response to opposition to Reagan's tribute to the SS dead, Buchanan advocated against "succumbing to the pressure of the Jews", and issued a public statement to American Jews that they should start thinking of themselves as "Americans first". (Read here.)

Buchanan is the United States' most public advocate of Holocaust Denial, having falsely argued in several television broadcasts that the use of mobile gas chambers and crematoria to carry out the Holocaust was technically impossible. Buchanan has, in at least six cases, campaigned against the deportation of accused Nazi war criminals, even going so far as to compare one to Jesus. (Read here and here.) Although he claims that he only defends these individuals because he believes them to be innocent (read here), this is plainly false. For ideological reasons, Buchanan has singled out only Nazi war criminals out of all accused criminals for this special attention. He has not mounted similar defenses in any other type of case.

What ideological reasons might be behind his defense of accused Nazi war criminals? He has written in support of the views of the British fascist author F.J.P. Veale, whose Advance to Barbarism equated Nazi war crimes with those of the Allies and opposed the Nuremberg Trials, views parroted by Buchanan in his recent columns and debate. Buchanan cited Veale's book in his Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, a book which promoted at great length the same ideas Buchanan is now publicizing. Whether or not he is currently willing to admit so publicly, Buchanan shares Veale's opposition to prosecuting Nazi war criminals regardless of their guilt.

Perhaps the most flagrant of Buchanan's attempts to whitewash Nazi war crimes, and the one which had the greatest potential to impede legitimate prosecutions, occurred when he working for President Reagan. Buchanan vigorously campaigned within the Reagan administration to close down the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, the office which successfully investigated and prosecuted numerous Nazi war criminals. Buchanan publicly wrote disparagingly that this office was only "running down 70-year-old camp guards."

Speaking of F.J.P. Veale, the following quote from Graham Macklin's biography of Oswald Mosley called Very Deeply Died in Black (Taurus, London, 2007; page 133) seems appropriate to Pat Buchanan as well as Veale.

"(R)evisionists played a crucial role in fostering an intellectual amnesia that spread far more widely than the study of ephemeral fringe publications might suggest and, in doing so, provided a prism through which mainstream political figures could refract their own strident anti-Communism and political concerns regarding the Nuremberg Trials and German war guilt."

Neither Veale nor Buchanan could possibly undo the memory of the barbaric nature of Nazism, but both, motivated by pro-fascist and anti-Semitic sentiments, have contributed to a selective amnesia among a range of people on the right who find this particular form of selective memory loss politically useful.

Speaking of Justin Raimondo, like Pat Buchanan, his brand of neo-isolationism all too often glides almost effortlessly into paranoia and neo-McCarthyism. (Funny how the new version of isolationism follows the patterns laid down by the original.) Check out his column defending the original isolationists called "They fought the good fight: the legacy of the America First movement". (Read here.) Here's a quote from that piece, which I offer without comment:

"perhaps (the) most important theme of the America First movement was an acute consciousness of a raft of common enemies, first and foremost the British."
Raimondo goes on to unintentionally identify one of the unnamed other groups he considers U.S. enemies when he uses the unusual phrase "perfidious Albion" with respect to the British. That's what poker players call a "tell", an unusual mannerism which unwittingly reveals what's actually on a player's mind.

Raimondo's column then follows Murray Rothbard down the road to John Birch Society style paranoia when it comes to the subject of who was really behind the war:

(T)he Rockefeller interests were pushing for war with Japan throughout the 1930s on account of competition for rubber and oil resources in Southeast Asia and "the Rockefellers' cherished dreams of a mass 'China market' for petroleum products." The Morgan group, on the other hand, "as usual, deeply committed to their financial ties with Britain and France, once again plumbed early for war with Germany, while their interest in the Far East had become minimal." World War II, says Rothbard, "might therefore be considered, from one point of view, as a coalition war: the Morgans got their war in Europe, the Rockefellers theirs in Asia."

This is not the only evidence of the politics of paranoia on display in the column. In the last several paragraphs, Raimondo makes the completely unsupported assertion that a conspiracy involving FBI infiltration of America First "allowed" Lindbergh to make his anti-Semitic speech blaming "the Jews" for leading the U.S. towards war. Yes. Raimondo believes that Lindbergh's infamous speech was part of an anti-isolationist conspiracy.

Raimondo's neo-McCarthyism comes into play when he describes the America First opponent and anti-fascist activist Rev. Leon Birkhead. Here's what Raimondo says:

Reverend Leon Birkhead (was) a liberal clergyman who never had a bad word to say for the Soviet Union but was quick to label anyone who questioned the need for war as an agent of Hitler.
On the contrary, Rev. Birkhead was a liberal who opposed both fascism and communism. A 1949 article in TIME (that notorious pro-Soviet mouthpiece) quoted Birkhead on the subject of a publication called The Churchman which was then under fire for supporting what were then called "communist fronts" (read here):

"The Churchman has become so involved with the Communist party line that it is quite impossible for me any longer to participate in its activities."

Contrary to Raimondo's assertions, Birkhead was vocally anti-communist. Also contrary to Raimondo, the isolationists Birkhead fought were not innocent, harmless and without connections to fascist regimes.

Among those Rev. Birkhead opposed (to great effect) was the so-called Jayhawk Nazi, Rev. Gerald Winrod, who ran for the U.S. Senate from Kansas in 1938, and might have won the Republican nomination if not for the intervention (pardon the expression) of Rev. Birkhead. (Read here.) Birkhead issued a widely read pamphlet titled "What's wrong with Winrod", and helped spur a former Republican governor of Kansas, Clyde M. Reed, to enter the Republican primary and defeat Winrod, who had been leading in the polls. It can be argued that Winrod was the most prolific anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activist in the United States in the 1930s. His newspaper, called The Defender, had a circulation of 100,000. There is strong evidence that Winrod received material assistance in publishing this paper from the Third Reich in the form of bags of cash. Those payments reportedly amounted to in excess of $50,000 -- a tidy sum in those days. I for one am very glad Rev. Birkhead rose to the occasion and helped prevent the Nazi-supporting and Nazi-supported Winrod from winning a seat in the U.S. Senate.

With respect to some of the others whom Raimondo apparently believes were wrongly accused by Rev. Birkhead, read this:

In 1939 Birkhead resigned his Kansas City ministry and opened a Friends of Democracy office in New York City. He spent the remaining fifteen years of his life directing "pitiless publicity" at purveyors of anti-democratic propaganda. In this category he included the radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-semitic preacher Gerald L. K. Smith, the American Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn, and Elizabeth Dilling, whose Patriotic Research Bureau published "The Red Network," a book that smeared hundreds of liberals and moderates...

His last targets, in his regular column for Exposé magazine, were Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Justin Raimondo, like Pat Buchanan, chooses his historical allies very poorly. He also has a similarly distorted view of history, and an almost comically contentious way of expressing it. Here's how he describes the reaction of American liberals to the German offenses which were compelling U.S. involvement in World War II:

"As the liberals gave up their noninterventionist principles and joined with the Stalinists in the Popular Front and FDR's drive to war..."

And, like others on the far-right, Raimondo has a way of describing those who oppose fascism and racism using terms best deployed upon fascists and racists themselves. The term "smear Bund", by which Raimondo repeatedly refers to anti-isolationists, really sticks in the craw. How obviously and deliberately offensive to call those who opposed fascism a "Bund"! For what reason would Raimondo use such an expression? The man is nothing if not consistent: he can't resist a certain sort of outlandish expression, even when they reveal his biases. He seems to be completely unashamed of his shameful belief that the anti-fascists were the real fascists and the isolationists their victims.


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