In his new book The Millionaire was a Mole: The Twisted Life of
David Karr, Harvey Klehr, the distinguished historian of
Communism, recounts the colorful, sordid, and altogether unlikely
story of a man who, born into an ordinary middle-class Brooklyn
family in 1918, was, in turn, a writer for Communist newspapers like
the Daily Worker, an employee of the Office of War Information
in Washington, a flunky for the syndicated D.C.-based columnist Drew
Pearson, a PR guy in New York, the CEO of a major defense contractor,
a corporate raider, a Broadway and Hollywood producer, the general
manager of the George V Hotel in Paris, and – finally, from 1973
until his mysterious death in 1979, which has been attributed
variously to the CIA, the Mossad, the Mafia, and the KGB – a Soviet
Along the way, Karr acquired a multitude of friends, enemies, and
acquaintances in high places, becoming a target during his years with
Pearson of Senator Joseph McCarthy and columnist Westbrook Pegler;
after relocating to France, he became a business partner of Aristotle
Onassis and a friend of Kennedy clan member Sargent Shriver, who
introduced him to famous oil tycoon Armand Hammer. In turn, Hammer,
who had enjoyed close ties to the Kremlin since 1919, and who helped
fund Communist operations in the U.S. and Europe in exchange for
business concessions in the Soviet Union, introduced Karr to Soviet
officials and ended up with a lucrative job helping U.S. firms set up
business in the USSR. It was Karr, for example, who set up the
financing for the first Western hotel constructed in the Soviet
What exactly did Karr do during his brief stint as a KGB agent? He
provided his Kremlin bosses with inside information on the
presidential campaigns of several Democratic candidates – Shriver,
Henry Jackson, Jerry Brown, and Jimmy Carter. “He tried to
insinuate himself in the Gerald Ford White House,” said Klehr in an
“He probably also worked for the Mossad.” Was he a convinced
Communist, betraying his country in the name of principle, however
misguided? No. Throughout his life, Karr seems to have been a man who
believed only in advancing his career and lining his pockets. Almost
certainly, he committed treason – serving the interests of
America’s totalitarian enemy – only because it was profitable.
When you think about it, becoming a Kremlin pawn was the natural last
act in the career of this sleazy, thoroughly unscrupulous character.
The historian and journalist David Halberstam, who died in 2007 at the age of 73, was one of those mid to late twentieth-century figures who were held up as lustrous luminaries by mainstream American culture (another one, whom we discussed recently here, was Walter Cronkite) and who, upon their death, were publicly mourned almost without exception. Roger Kimball, noting in the New Criterion that Halberstam had over the course of his career acquired “an inviolable place in the pantheon of liberal demigods,” offered a few examples of high-profile obituaries that praised Halberstam in strikingly glowing – and strikingly similar – terms. Even the headlines were strikingly similar: Newsweek‘s obit was entitled “A Journalistic Witness to Truth,” while the New York Times‘s ran under the title “Working the Truth Beat.” (Others included “Speaking Truth To Power All His Life” and “Halberstam Spoke Truth to Power.”)
Beginning in the 1950s and for decades thereafter, Halberstam was one of those guys who were almost always at the center of the action. Raised in New York and educated at Harvard (where he was managing editor of the Crimson), he went on to report on the civil-rights movement for the Nashville Tennessean and from Vietnam and then pre-Solidarnosc Poland for the New York Times. He then wrote a series of big, fat, bestselling, and highly influential books about such topics as JFK and his cronies (The Best and the Brightest) and the mainstream news media of the day (The Powers that Be). Both his newspaper reportage and his books helped shape the way in which his educated contemporaries thought about the America of their time.
Almost universally, Halberstam’s reporting was viewed as stellar: in 1962 he won the George Polk Award, in 1964 the Pulitzer Prize. But there were dissenters who made vitally important points about his work. Upon his death, the editors of the New York Sun noted that Halberstam had played a key role in shaping the “enlightened” American view that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was morally wrong and strategically ill-advised and that U.S. actions there had had overwhelmingly negative consequences. The Sun added that more recent historians of the Vietnam War had reached drastically different conclusions than Halberstam did.
One of those historians was Mark Moyar, who own commentary upon Halberstam’s death was bluntly headlined “No Hero.” Writing in National Review, Moyar lamented that the mainstream-media obituaries for had “made clear that Halberstam’s elevation to the status of national hero is intended to be permanent.” Therefore, argued Moyar, it was crucial “to point out how much Halberstam harmed the United States during his career.” Moyar cited “the viciousness of his attacks on public servants he disliked,” among them then-President George W. Bush, whom he had recently attacked with “snide malice and arrogance.”
In his writings on the Vietnam War, charged Moyar, Halberstam had “horribly tarnished the reputations of some very fine Americans, including Gen. Paul Harkins, who served as head of U.S. forces in Vietnam, and Frederick Nolting, who was U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam.” Halberstam hadn’t just offered opinions about these men with which Moyar disagreed; he had presented “false portrayals” of them, smearing them in ways that pained their loved ones years after their deaths.
Along with fellow journalists Neil Sheehan and Stanley Karnow, Halberstam had also deliberately lied about Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam, both in print and in private conversations with Diem’s opponents in the U.S. government. They “convinced Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge to accept their reports in place of much more accurate reports from the CIA and the U.S. military, which led Lodge to urge South Vietnamese generals to stage a coup.”
The coup occurred – and, three weeks before JFK’s assassination in Dallas, Diem was murdered. But it wasn’t just Diem that was killed. With his death, South Vietnam lost an effective government – and an effective independent war effort. The precipitous decline in the South’s fortunes in the struggle against Communism led the U.S. to feel compelled take up the slack by pouring its own armed forces into the country. The rest is history.
In 2004, a Boston-based group called the David Project produced a 40-minute video, Columbia Unbecoming, in which fourteen Columbia University students and recent graduates recounted classroom encounters with anti-Israel “bias and intimidation” on the part of various faculty members in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). Among the three professors who were considered most guilty of this offense was Hamid Dabashi, whom we met yesterday and who, as Israeli-British historian Ephraim Karsh later reported in Commentary, “was accused of, among other things, canceling classes to attend, and to permit his students to attend, a pro-Palestinian rally on campus that featured a call for Israel’s destruction.” In Dabashi’s view, wrote Karsh, “Israel not only has no legitimate place but can hardly be said to exist, except as an unnamed Dark Force.”
In 2002, a Columbia University student named Aharon wrote an op-ed critical of Dabashi in the New York Post. Three years later, Dabashi claimed in a radio interview that he’d “stopped speaking publicly” after Aharon’s Post piece “because of a rash of threatening phone calls” that he had received from readers of it. During the radio interview, Dabashi played a recording of one of the phone calls, in which the caller said the following: “Mr. Dabashi, I read about you in today’s New York Post. You stinking terrorist Muslim pig. I hope the CIA is studying you so it can kick you out of this country back to some filthy Arab country where you belong, you terrorist bastard.” Aharon pointed out that three years earlier, in an article for the Times Higher Education Supplement, Dabashi had cited the exact same phone message. “This double use of the same call, years apart,” wrote Aharon,
spurs several thoughts:
It confirms my doubts about the onslaught of threatening calls he supposedly received due to my critique. The call he received is indeed vile and inexcusable, but it is not a threat. (Meaning, law enforcement would not find it actionable.)
The recycling of this call years apart confirms how few calls he received – or why else would Dabashi keep coming back to the same old one?
Dabashi falsely presented a call from 2002 as though it happened in 2005.
His claim in the March 6, 2005, radio interview that he “has stopped speaking publicly” because of threatening phone calls is untrue. [Aharon proceeded to list several occasions since 2002 on which Dabashi had, indeed, given speeches in public.]
Dabashi’s inability to get the facts of his own life correctly emulates his mentor, Edward Said, who famously lied about his childhood, as Justus Weiner so remarkably exposed in a September 1999 article, “’My Beautiful Old House’ and Other Fabrications of Edward Said.”
But all this is just prologue to Dabashi’s more egregious offenses. More tomorrow.
When Tom Hayden died on October 23, the mainstream-media obituaries made him sound like a prince among men. The Associated Press called him “an enduring voice against war” and “a prolific writer and lecturer advocating for reform of America’s political institutions.” The Washington Post’s Elaine Woo described him as “one of the most articulate spokesmen of youthful angst” and as the “ideological lodestar of Students for a Democratic Society.” Hayden, Woo maintained, was a man of “deep social conscience.”
Some people would argue with that. Take Hayden’s position on the Vietnam War. He has routinely been described as an antiwar activist. In truth, he wasn’t against the war – he was on the other side. So fervently did he support the enemy, in fact, that he made multiple trips to Paris and elsewhere to meet with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders, to whom he offered strategic and tactical advice – an unequivocal act of treason.
There’s more. He wrote a letter to a North Vietnamese officer, Colonel Lao, that closed with the words: “Good fortune! Victory!” While in North Vietnam, he and his then wife, Jane Fonda, recorded radio broadcasts consisting of nothing but Communist propaganda, knowing that these broadcasts would be used to try to brainwash captive GIs. When American POWs returned home and claimed to have been tortured, Hayden branded them liars. Then there was his and Fonda’s ardently pro-Communist film, Introduction to the Enemy, in which they confidently asserted that a win by the North Vietnamese would usher in a veritable utopia.
The fact that the enemy’s victory led not to utopia but to genocide didn’t shake his Communist faith in the least. On the contrary: after the war, when antiwar songstress Joan Baez condemned the brutality of the victorious Communist regime, Hayden labeled her a CIA stooge. So trapped was he in his own ideological prison that when he returned to Vietnam decades after the war, Hayden was crushed to find that the Vietnamese people he met were drawn far more to American-style capitalism than to Marx.
When he wasn’t committing treason by promoting the cause of the enemy, Hayden was up to no good at home. His New York Times obit, by Robert D. McFadden, stated that Hayden “opposed violent protests.” This is sheer revisionism, betraying either ignorance or mendacity on McFadden’s part. In fact Hayden spent much of the 1960s fomenting armed revolt in American cities. He championed the savage, cop-killing Black Panthers. “Perhaps the only forms of action appropriate to the angry people are violent,” Hayden said in 1967. “Perhaps a small minority, by setting ablaze New York and Washington, could damage this country forever in the court of world opinion. Urban guerrillas are the only realistic alternative at this time to electoral politics or mass armed resistance.”
When Fidel Castro turned 90 on August 13, some of the leading news organs in the English-speaking world took the opportunity to commemorate the occasion. How? By recalling his decades of tyranny, torture, and terror? Nope. Mostly, they chose to portray Fidel as “the great survivor” – which, as it happens, was the title of Will Grant‘s piece for BBC News, for which Grant journeyed to Fidel’s hometown to collect cozy stories about the Great Man’s childhood.
It was dismaying, but hardly surprising, to witness the readiness of one major news organization after another to whitewash Fidel’s brutality and to pretend that he’s actually accomplished anything positive for his freedom-deprived people. Take CBS News, whose Portia Siegelbaum provided us with the adorable information that Fidel spends most of his birthdays “sharing a cake with young children.” Cuban TV, she noted, had recently been broadcasting “a massive class in Cuban history” every night; it seemed not to have occurred to her that this offering by the state-run media might be less history than propaganda.
Siegelbaum also told us that “most Cubans feel Fidel Castro has earned the right to celebrate reaching 90.” What was her evidence for this claim? She didn’t say. How do you perform a scientific survey of such questions in a country where the people risk being imprisoned and tortured if they whisper a single word in criticism of their leaders? (One thing’s for sure: very few of the 1.5 million Cubans who’ve fled their island prison to live in the U.S. feel the nonagenarian dictator “has earned the right to celebrate reaching 90.” Not to mention the opinions of the long-dead victims of Che’s firing squads and those who perished in Fidel’s prisons.)
Concluding her piece, in what was apparently meant as some sort of affectionate salute to Fidel’s enduring influence, Siegelbaum actually called him “the man who for more than five decades set the political discourse on what life should be like on the largest of the Caribbean islands.”
Um, yeah, Portia – that’s called dictatorship.
Then there was Jon Lee Anderson‘s Fidel piece for the New Yorker, in which the word dictator appeared exactly twice – not to label Fidel, but to describe, first, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo and, second, Fidel’s predecessor, Fulgencio Batista. Anderson summed up the purported highlights of Fidel’s rule – the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the hundreds of alleged CIA attempts to kill Fidel – but there was no mention of the soul-crushing, economy-destroying Communist system itself, or of Fidel’s mass incarceration, torture, and murder of thousands of his own subjects.
Calling Fidel an “elder statesman” in “the twilight of his life,” Anderson reflected that the ongoing changes in Cuba “must be deeply poignant” for the old man, accepted with credulity the claim that Fidel’s chief concerns nowadays are with “the risks posed by arms proliferation, global warming, and food scarcities,” and stated, in a sentimental concluding flourish, that Fidel, at the most recent Party Congress, “reaffirmed his faith in Communism, in the future of Cuba, and the legacy that he believed Cuba’s Communists had forged.” As if this “legacy” were anything other than pure, unadulterated evil.
CNN’s Patrick Oppmann made one of the most curious choices of all, putting front and center the hundreds of supposed murder attempts that Fidel supposedly survived over the decades. Fidel, Oppmann wrote, “has lived much of his long life in the spotlight – and much of it in the crosshairs – surviving a half century of assassination plots.” (It seemed highly likely that the authors of several of these birthday pieces were working from the same official Havana press release.) No mention, naturally, of the number of people Fidel managed to bump off during that half century. Oppmann cited Fidel’s “reputation as a cheater of death” – never mind, again, his longtime career as a dealer of death.
Instead of acknowledging, moreover, that the overwhelming majority of those who wanted Fidel dead were freedom-loving Cubans, many of whom had been tortured by Castro’s henchmen and forced to flee their beloved homeland, Oppmann painted Fidel as the victim in a struggle against (who else?) the Mob: “Few had as much reason to want Castro dead as the American mafia.”
In short, a shameful showing by the Western media. But of course we should have expected that the 90th birthday of Cuba’s vile old despot would bring the useful hack-journalist stooges crawling out of their ratholes.
Yesterday we looked at the first wave of denial about the Holodomor, the famine that Stalin engineered in the Ukraine in 1932-33. We saw how New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty cemented his place in history by denying the reality of a genocide that he knew very well was taking place.
But denial of the Holodomor has lived on. One example: Jeff Coplon. Born in 1951, he’s spent most of his career working as a sports journalist and hack writer, ghosting autobiographies for the likes of Cher. But he made himself notorious with a 1988 article in the Village Voice, “In Search of a Soviet Holocaust,” in which he spun the Holodomor as a Big Lie served up by the American right to impugn the Soviet Union. The article began with an epigraph from Adolf Hitler, no less: “Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most impudent lies…. The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed.” Coplon went on to sneer at the 1983 documentary, Harvest of Despair, calling the entire history of the Holodomor “a fraud.” Yes, he admitted,
There was indeed a famine in the Ukraine in the early 1930s. It appears likely that hundreds of thousands, possibly one or two million, Ukrainians died — the minority from starvation, the majority from related diseases. By any scale, this is an enormous toll of human suffering. By general consensus, Stalin was partially responsible.
Stalin, Coplon insisted, hadn’t meant to kill all those people. He just made some really big mistakes. What’s more, other officials, further down in the power structure, were guilty, too. Even some of the starving Ukrainians themselves did things that weren’t in their own interests. In short, it’s one big muddle.
Those who have pushed the narrative of the Holodomor, Coplon further argued, have had unsavory motives. They’ve been – gasp! – anti-Communists. Coplon dismisses one of them, Robert Conquest, as a know-nothing propagandist with CIA ties and careerist bent. This crude depiction of a truly great historian by a hack sportswriter is breathtaking in its audacity. Coplon does everything he can to discredit Conquest – pointing out, for example, that the research for Conquest’s book on the Holodomor was funded in part by “an $80,000 subsidy from the Ukrainian National Association, a New Jersey-based group with a venerable, hard-right tradition.” As for the book itself, Coplon mocks it as yet another piece of what he sneeringly calls “faminology.” For good measure, he ridicules Conquest as “an ideologue whose serious work is long behind him.”
Alas for Coplon, timing was not on his side. Soon after his article came out, the Iron Curtain fell. The Soviet archives were opened. Conquest was vindicated – and then some. (The author Kingsley Amis, who was a friend of Conquest’s, suggested that his first book after the opening of the archives should be entitled I Told You So, You F***ing Fools.) By the time of his death last August, Conquest had been awarded a Order of the British Empire and named a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; meanwhile, Coplon went on to co-author such classics as My Story with Sarah, Duchess of York (1996) and My Father’s Daughter with Tina Sinatra (2000).
Never, as far as we know, has Coplon publicly apologized for his reprehensible whitewash of the Holodomor and his inexcusable slander of Robert Conquest.
We’ve just finished surveying some of Robert Redford‘s celluloid agitprop. On The Milagro Beanfield War, Lions for Lambs, and The Company You Keep, he was director; on the 2004 film Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles from José Rivera’s script and based on Che Guevara’s memoir of his youthful travels around South America, Redford served as producer. Depicting Che as a sensitive charmer, the film purported to depict the process by which he developed the supposedly noble political “convictions” that ended up making him a hero to millions. In other words, the picture entirely ignored Guevara the cold-blooded, pathological mass murderer and firmly endorsed the thoroughly twisted popular image that led him to become the face on a million T-shirts.
Enthusiastic but clueless critics used words like “charming” and “poetic” to describe the Che movie; A.O. Scott of the New York Timespraised it as “a lyrical exploration of the sensations and perceptions from which a political understanding of the world emerges”; with apparent approval, he stated that the film’s closing scenes depicted Che “as a quasi-holy figure, turning away from the corruptions of the world toward a higher purpose.” Some understanding! Some purpose!
At least Roger Ebert didn’t join in the cheering. “Che Guevara,” he wrote, “makes a convenient folk hero for those who have not looked very closely into his actual philosophy, which was repressive and authoritarian….He said he loved the people but he did not love their freedom of speech, their freedom to dissent, or their civil liberties. Cuba has turned out more or less as he would have wanted it to.” Jessica Winter of The Village Voice agreed, noting that the film “politely overlook[ed]” Che’s “totalitarian leanings” and served up hackneyed images of “noble” peasants and “plucky lepers” who in shot after shot “face the camera in a still life of heroic, art-directed suffering.” (The Milagro Beanfield Wars does exactly the same thing.) While the filmmakers didn’t so much as hint that its glamorous hero would go on to become a psychopathic killing machine, they did manage to slam the CIA in the closing credits.
In January 2004, Redford went to Cuba to screen The Motorcycle Diaries for Che’s widow, Aleida, and their children. Aleida pronounced it “excellent.” While Redford was there, Fidel Castro dropped in to see him at the Hotel Nacional. It wasn’t their first meeting: the movie star and the dictator had gone scuba-diving together 16 years earlier, and according to some reports, which described them as “friends,” had met several times – a fact that didn’t exactly endear Redford to the Cuban exile community in the U.S.
And what’s Redford’s latest? We’ll talk about that one next time.
American journalist Liz Wahl, whose grandparents fled Hungary after the 1956 uprising was crushed by the Soviets, worked at the Russian TV network RT America for two years. Her job ended on March 5, 2014, when she quit live on-camera, denouncing her employers for serving up Kremlin propaganda about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Her resignation made headlines; she was widely interviewed. “RT is not about the truth,” she told Anderson Cooper on CNN. “It’s about promoting a Putinist agenda. And I can tell you firsthand, it’s also about bashing America.”
Her action drew predictable condemnation from her ex-bosses at RT America, who called it “a self-promotional stunt.” But that wasn’t all. The far-left website Truthdig.com ran a bizarre attack on Wahl co-authored by fanatical Israel-basher Max Blumenthal, son of longtime Clinton family bagman, consiglieri, and all-around political operative Sidney Blumenthal, and Rania Khalek, a freelancer for such unsavory outlets as Al Jazeera America and the anti-Israeli propaganda website Electronic Intifada.
In a staggeringly long article that read as if it had been dictated by Putin himself, Blumenthal and Khalek concocted a conspiracy scenario out of whole cloth, representing Wahl’s resignation not as an act of individual conscience but as a put-up job, orchestrated by a “cadre” of Putin-hating U.S. conservatives, chief among them journalist James Kirchick.
Kirchick had known Wahl for several months. In an interview with her posted at The Daily Beast shortly after her resignation, Kirchick wrote that he’d been aware of her growing ethical concerns about working for RT, and that he’d “encouraged her to follow her conscience in making a decision about her professional future.” Any decent human being who was even glancingly familiar with Kirchick’s record of courageous reporting from world trouble spots and of principled opposition to tyranny everywhere would have no trouble accepting his account at face value.
But Max Blumenthal, as he has already conclusively established, is far from the most decent of human beings. He’s made a career of slandering Israel and exculpating some of its most violent enemies. He’s also, as mentioned, the spawn of master manipulator and spinmeister Sidney (“Sid Vicious”) Blumenthal – the ultimate professional behind-the-scenes creep, the guy who gives pond scum a bad name, the man who was recently described by Reason editor Nick Gillespie as one of those “barely human” characters whose “rottenness ultimately overtakes and deforms whatever humanity they once might have possessed.” For Sidney’s scion, whose own oeuvre so far has demonstrated that he didn’t fall far from the tree, it’s only second nature, when confronted by an act of genuine moral principle on the part of an ideological opponent, to set about depicting it as a low scam, motivated by a lust for power, money, and/or attention. (To be fair, given Max’s family background, it’s fully possible that he’s incapable of believing there is such a thing as an act of genuine moral principle.)
Thus the argument, made at epic length by Blumenthal and Khalek, that Kirchick was behind Wahl’s on-air resignation – and that Kirchick, in turn, was acting as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy, motivated not by principle but by an iniquitous desire to rekindle the Cold War. After all, look at Kirchick’s repellent connections: he “worked for part of 2011 out of Prague for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a media network funded by Congress (formerly backed by the CIA) that functions like the American answer to RT in Russian-aligned Eastern European countries.” (This is really all you need to know about Max Blumenthal: he’s the kind of guy who can equate Radio Free Europe with RT.)
But he and Khalek were just warming up. Kirchick, they pointed out, is now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is linked to something called FPI, which has ties to something called ECI, among whose advisers is some guy who lobbies for the “U.S.-oriented” (horrors!) Republic of Georgia. Aha! See? Gotcha! Kirchick is opposed to Putin not on principle but because he’s on the Georgian payroll. Blumenthal and Khalek backed up their fairy tale with nasty quotes about Wahl from RT employees, who were risibly presented as reliable sources with “no particular affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin or his policies.”
Kirchick, by the way, wasn’t Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s only target. Also smeared was Rosie Gray, a writer for Buzzfeed, who’d committed the offense of writing a splendid, thoroughgoing exposéof RT entitled “How the Truth Is Made at Russia Today.” Like Kirchick, Gray – whose article on RT was as honest, fact-filled, and solidly reported as Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s was duplicitous and packed with innuendo – was also accused by them of being a Georgian tool.
Seth Mandel, writing in Commentary,summed up Blumenthal’s and Khalek’s piece quite aptly: “a textbook example of character assassination.” Indeed, their article made it crystal clear that Max has learned his father’s lessons well: namely, when you’re facing off against upstanding people who have the truth on their side, get to work misrepresenting the facts, inventing new ones, and throwing mud, confident that even the most outrageous lies, if repeated often enough, will convince at least some of your audience.
Although Blumenthal does, admittedly, devote more of his time to reviling Israel than to vilifying Putin’s enemies, the article he co-wrote with Khalek wasn’t his only effort in this genre. In a February 2014 piece, he faithfully echoed the Kremlin line that the Euromaidan revolution – which, it will be recalled, overthrew a despotic, Russia-friendly oligarch and replaced him with a democratic Western-leaning government – was engineered by fascists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Two months later, in a New York Times op-ed, Polish sociologist Slawomir Sierakowski gave Blumenthal’s vile charges the response they deserved:
True, such people were present at the square, but they were marginal figures, and slogans about ethnic purity never gained popularity. Yes, generally speaking, Ukraine has its skinheads and its anti-Semites and even serial killers, pedophiles and Satanists. They are not present in smaller or larger numbers than in any other country, even in the most mature European state.
None of which truths, needless to say, can be expected to deter Blumenthal in his efforts to serve Putin as loyally as his wily ol’ dad has served the Clintons.
Wahl, by the way, wasn’t the last RT reporter to resign for ethical reasons. Four months later, Sara Firth quit the network, admitting that she and her colleagues “work for Putin” and “are asked on a daily basis if not to totally ignore then to obscure the truth.” And just a few days ago, Konstantin Goldenzweig, the Berlin correspondent of Russia’s state-run domestic news channel, NTV, was fired after criticizing Putin in an interview with a German TV station. Goldenzweig said afterward that he was ashamed of having spread “propaganda,” which, he said, included being forced to report Kremlin-invented “news” that had no basis in fact and that had been concocted to defame Ukraine and its leaders.
Funny how some people are capable of being ashamed – while others make a career out of never feeling any shame whatsoever.
Every year for the past several decades, an event called the World Russia Forum has taken place in Washington D.C. This confab – which back in the days of the Cold War was a reasonably respectable affair – has in recent times degenerated into “a gathering of Kremlin apologists, conspiracy theorists, and other assorted nut jobs.”
The quote is from James Kirchick, who reported on this year’s Forum in March. Among the creeps who turned up: our old pal Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (who, as we’ve seen, arm-wrestled Putin one night at a D.C. bar and fell in love). Also present were – surprise! – that most lovable of American couples since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: left-wing Putin apologists Stephen F. Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel.
At the Forum, Cohen gave a speech in which he repeated his usual plaint: that back in the good old days, both the US and USSR had their “legitimate spheres of influence,” aka “zones of national security.” But after the fall of the Iron Curtain, this “parity” disappeared and Russia was treated “as a defeated nation.”
For Cohen, these developments are profoundly lamentable. But why? In what way was Moscow’s subjugation of the Baltic and Eastern European countries ever “legitimate? What would make such subjugation “legitimate” now? Why should a dozen smaller countries suffer subordination and oppression – and perennial insecurity – in the name of Russian “security”? Why, for that matter, should anyone in the West buy into the notion that Russia needs a “security zone” in the first place? Does anyone seriously believe that the US would ever decide to invade Russia? Or that, even if it wanted to, it could get its NATO partners to play along?
After Cohen’s talk, Kirchick challenged him directly. How, he asked, could Cohen equate NATO, a voluntary defense alliance, with Russia’s so-called “zone of national security” – which, like the earlier Soviet “zone,” “consists of countries that are cajoled, blackmailed, threatened, and then – if those tactics don’t work – invaded by Russian occupation troops”? Cohen offered an incoherent, “meandering” reply, maintaining that NATO’s “original intent” was lost with the dissolution of the USSR and that the Ukraine crisis is a result of “reckless NATO expansion,” which has caused unnecessary tensions and insecurity.
Kirchick’s take on that nonsensical claim was right on the money:
On the contrary; had the Baltic states and former Warsaw Pact members not joined NATO, the security situation in Europe would be much more tenuous than it already is today. Before their membership, these nations’ status vis a vis Russia was ambiguous, constituting a security gray area. Today, they all have—at least in theory—a rock-solid security guarantee as members of the world’s strongest military alliance.
But of course Cohen has rarely if ever expressed any concern about the security status of these little countries. For him they’re peripheral – bit players; pieces on Washington and Moscow’s chessboard. What matters for him, first and last, is Russia; he sees all these issues from the perspective of the Kremlin; his take on all of this stuff is effectively indistinguishable from that of Vladimir Putin himself.
And why is that? Because Putin challenges American power. And for the likes of Stephen Cohen, nothing could be more important than the “balance” the USSR provided to American international “hegemony.”
Never mind the Gulag, the Holodomor, Stalin’s reign of terror: for Cohen and his ilk, the Soviet Union was, take it for all in all, a good thing, if only because it represented a counterweight to Uncle Sam. Hence Putin, however much of a monster, must be defended, precisely because he’s pushing back against the US. And if this pushback means crushing freedom in a few small countries on Russia’s fringes – well, that’s a small price to pay for keeping America in check.
Such is the thinking of NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen. And of course Mrs. Cohen, Katrina vanden Heuvel, longtime editor and publisher of the perennially Kremlin-friendly Nation, feels exactly the same way. At the World Russia Forum, vanden Heuvel congratulated herself for putting out a bravely “heretical” publication that rejects received opinions on Russia only to be subject to vitriol (“as opposed,” Kirchick wryly observed, “to those who express ‘heretical’ ideas in Russia, who—if they’re not shot in the back four times like opposition leader Boris Nemtsov—are thrown in jail”).
At the Forum, vanden Heuvel joined her hubby in condemning the “demonization” of Putin. She also chaired a panel consisting of three former US journalists – Robert Parry, Martin Sieff, and Patrick Smith – and a former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern. The whole gang, apparently, echoed Cohen’s Orwellian rhetoric – talking about Russian aggression as if it were purely defensive, while depicting US and NATO defensive moves as the real acts of aggression.
Who are these guys? Sieff, a former national security correspondent for UPI, has been a frequent contributor to Pat Buchanan’s far-right American Conservative magazine. (In a fine example of the cozy Ribbentrop-Molotov camaraderie between today’s far right and far left, Sieff penned a glowing review, in 2007, of a book about Donald Rumsfeld by Alexander Cockburn, late editor of the loony left’s flagship rag, Counterpunch.) Smith is a frequent Nation contributor; Parry writes regularly for the left-wing site Alternet, where, in a February piece that summed up his take on US-Russia tensions, he put the words “free market” in scare quotes, defended the cruelly “demonized” Putin by demonizing billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky – whom Putin put in prison – and slung mud at the democratic leaders of Ukraine, a country that Parry has previously smeared as a nest of neo-Nazis. (Parry has also made something of a specialty of “exposing” the darker side of American history, as if Howard Zinn hadn’t made it there long before him.) And, last but not least, McGovern is a guy who, since leaving the CIA in 1990, has become a fanatical anti-Israel activist and 9/11 Truther.