Catching up with the selectively proud Hanoi Jane

That famous picture

Last year, as a service to young people who were born long after Jane Fonda (she’s an elderly movie actress, ICYDK) made a fool of herself in Vietnam, we revisited that reprehensible 1972 incident, when – in the midst of a proxy war between her own country and its totalitarian foes – she traveled to North Vietnam, chummed around with its soldiers, read their propaganda aloud on the radio for an audience of American servicemen, praised the murderous North Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh, called U.S. troops war criminals, urged members of the U.S. Air Force to disobey orders, and (last but not least) had her picture taken on an anti-aircraft battery.

Fraternizing with the enemy

Fonda has claimed innumerable times that the last-named action, which earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane,” was “a two-minute lapse of sanity that will haunt me forever.” But it was more than a matter of just two minutes. And it was no lapse. At the time of her visit, Fonda was already a dyed-in-the-wool antagonist of her own nation and an outspoken friend of totalitarian Communism. “If you understood what communism was,” she told an audience in 1970, “you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become communist.” In her extensive whitewash of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, Fonda lied about their brutal treatment of American POWs – and then, after those POWs returned home and called her a liar, she had the nerve to call them liars. In more recent years, she’s taken part in Communist-led rallies, shared stages with Saddam Hussein’s chum George Galloway, vilified Israel, and said that her “biggest regret” was that she “never got to fuck Che Guevara.”

With Ted Turner. Communism pays off!

As we pointed out last year, authors Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer published a whole book in 2002 in which they showed that Fonda’s actions in Vietnam amounted to treason. In Fonda’s own 2005 memoir she rewrote the whole episode, depicting herself as a tribune of peace rather than a Communist traitor. Of course, she’s a Communist traitor with a difference: for ten years, she was married to CNN honcho Ted Turner, one of the most powerful men in America as well as America’s largest private landowner. So she’s not just a world-class Communist; she’s a world-class Communist hypocrite.

Giving Megyn Kelly the evil eye earlier this month, in response to a question about plastic surgery

Since we dropped in on Hanoi Jane last year, she’s been in the news several times. At the Emmy Awards, on September 17, she and Lily Tomlin, with whom she appears in a Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, joined in calling President Trump “a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” (Their 9 to 5 co-star Dolly Parton, standing onstage between them, looked distinctly uncomfortable.) But that was relatively nothing. Later Fonda made headlines when, on The Today Show, Megyn Kelly dared to ask her about plastic surgery. Well, Fonda may believe in Communism, but it’s clear she also believes that the entertainment-media serfs shouldn’t dare pose certain questions to cinema royalty such as herself. She shot Kelly a look that could kill.

Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Fonda at the 2017 Emmys

But let’s set that aside too, and move on to earlier this month, when she sat down for an interview with the BBC. Asked whether she was “proud of America today,” she replied with a quick, firm “no.” But, she added, “I’m proud of the resistance. I’m proud of the people who are turning out in unprecedented numbers and continue over and over and over again to protest what Trump is doing.” The topic of Vietnam came up – and again the lies came out. Rejecting the idea that she had been “siding with the enemy,” she claimed that after being photographed on that anti-aircraft battery, she’d thought: “Oh my gosh. It’s going to look like I am against my own country’s soldiers and siding with the enemy, which is the last thing in the world that was true.” Fonda is 79 now; presumably she will continue to promote this lie until she dies.

Still fabulous. And still dishonest!

But that wasn’t all. She actually tried to sell the idea that her trip had helped save “two million people who could have died of famine and drowning.” We don’t remember hearing her make this claim before. Fonda still looks fabulous, but perhaps the years are taking their toll on the old noggin. Or maybe it’s just another example of Celebrity Narcissism Syndrome, the symptoms of which do tend to intensify as time goes by. In any case, here’s her logic: “The United States was bombing the dikes in North Vietnam….If the dikes had given way, according to Henry Kissinger, somewhere around 2 million people could have died of famine and drowning. And we were bombing, and it wasn’t being talked about. And I thought, ‘Well, I’m a celebrity. Maybe if I go, and I bring back evidence.’ And it did stop two months after I got back, so I’m proud that I went.”

Another recent glamour shot

As far as we can tell, there aren’t any serious historians who feel that Fonda had anything to do with an end to the U.S. bombings. On the other hand, her visit didn’t exactly enhance American morale, and it could be that, in the long term, Fonda’s PR job for the enemy helped tip the balance toward ultimate U.S. withdrawal. But if you’re going to make that argument, you’re going to have to give Fonda a share of the responsibility for the fact that after the U.S. pulled out of Indochina, the Viet Cong murdered tens of thousands of South Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge exterminated 1.5 to three million Cambodians. Are you proud of that, Jane?

Halberstam: Ho’s happy hagiographer

David Halberstam

One last foray into the career of writer and journalist David Halberstam (1934-2007), who on his death, as we’ve noted, was the subject of breathtaking paeans throughout America’s mainstream media. The thrust of most of these glowing obits was that he’d been that rara avis, a brilliant investigative reporter who was, at the same time, one of the most incisive analysts of the events of the day.

On the contrary. Halberstam was celebrated in the usual places for one reason and one reason alone: because he provided a certain demographic (i.e. the kind of people who read the New York Times religiously and believe every statement they encounter there) with texts designed to confirm their lockstep prejudices and received opinions. Originally a cheerleader for the Vietnam War, for instance, Halberstam changed his mind about the subject exactly when all the right people in the U.S. changed their minds, and in The Best and the Brightest he told them exactly what they wanted to hear about the not-so-wise men who had led America into what he now professed to view as a quagmire.

The Best and the Brightest, published in 1972, was a huge hit and made Halberstam famous, as we’ve discussed. Another book of his, issued the year before, is less well known and deserves some attention here. It’s entitled, quite simply, Ho. Michael Lind, in his own 1999 book about Vietnam, described Ho as “perhaps the most sympathetic portrait of a Stalinist dictator ever penned by a reputable American journalist identified with the liberal rather than the radical left.” Bingo. For instance, the book “omits any mention of the repression or atrocities of Ho Chi Minh’s regime.” Lind reminded us that in 1945-46 Ho oversaw “a reign of terror in which thousands of the leading noncommunist nationalists in territory controlled by Ho’s regime were assassinated, executed, imprisoned, or exiled.” While Halberstam, in Ho, condemned South Vietnamese President Diem’s “massive arrests [of] all his political opponents,” he breathes “not a word” about “the far more severe repression in North Vietnam.” Some examples:

Ho Chi Minh

The Maoist-inspired terror of collectivization in the mid-fifties, in which at least ten-thousand North Vietnamese were summarily executed because they belonged to the wrong “class,” is not mentioned. Nor is the anticommunist peasant rebellion that followed; nor the deployment of the North Vietnamese military to crush the peasants; nor the succeeding purge of North Vietnamese intellectuals; nor the fact that almost ten times as many Vietnamese, during the brief period of resettlement, fled from communist rule as left South Vietnam for the North. The equivalent of Halberstam’s book would be a flattering biography of Stalin that praised his leadership during World War II while omitting any mention of the gulag, the purges, and the Ukrainian famine, or an admiring biography of Mao that failed to mention the Cultural Revolution or the starvation of tens of millions during the Great Leap Forward.

Michael Lind

As if all that weren’t bad enough, Halberstam omitted “mention of Soviet or Chinese support for North Vietnam after 1949”; failed to note that “Ho’s dictatorship modeled its structure and policies on Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union”; was silent about the fact that members of the Chinese and Soviet military actually “took part in the Vietnam War”; and so on. Lind examined the sources cited in Ho and noticed something very interesting: Halberstam systematically avoided citing “everything critical written about Ho Chi Minh” by those sources. In short, this writer who after his death was eulogized throughout the American media for “speaking truth to power” was, in fact, a happy hagiographer of a totalitarian tyrant.

Three stooges: Halberstam, Sheehan, Karnow

David Halberstam

Yesterday we saw how the widely feted journalist and historian David Halberstam (1934-2007) helped inspire the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem, whom he viewed – incorrectly, as it turned out – as a hindrance to the South’s war effort. Halberstam, it should be underscored, had started out as an enthusiastic supporter of the cause of South Vietnam and a strong believer in the need to resist the spread of Communism. But when the murder of Diem on November 2, 1963, resulted in political and military disaster for South Vietnam, necessitating a massive introduction of U.S. troops into the region that resulted in a long-term commitment that became increasingly unpopular back home, Halberstam and two other more or less equally misguided and meddling American journalists, Neil Sheehan and Stanley Karnow, both of whom had already made a habit of steadily selling lies to the American public about the way things were going in Vietnam, set about rewriting recent history and their own catastrophic part in it.

Ngo Dinh Diem

As historian Mark Moyar explained after Halberstam’s death, the three journalists mendaciously “contended that the South Vietnamese war effort had crumbled before Diem’s overthrow, not after it. No one of influence succeeded in pointing out that these men’s own articles in 1963 contradicted this claim. The journalists thus succeeded in persuading the American people that Diem, rather than his successors, had ruined the country, and therefore that the press had been right in denouncing him.” Moyar pointed out that documents recently made public showed, on the contrary, “that the South Vietnamese were fighting very well until the last day of Diem’s life, and that their performance plummeted immediately after the coup because the new rulers purged suspected Diem loyalists and failed to lead.”

Stanley Karnow

This, according to Moyar, wasn’t the end of Halberstam’s damage-doing. Early on, he strongly supported the U.S. intervention in Vietnam; but when the war became unpopular among bien pensant Americans, he shifted his views to fit in with theirs, avoiding “reporting on American military heroism in the belief that reports of American valor would increase support for the war in the United States and would put servicemen in a more favorable light than those who did not serve.” Charming! In Moyar’s view, America has Halberstam, among others, “to blame for the fact that the pantheon of American military heroes is empty for the period from the end of the Korean War in 1953 onward.” What was especially grotesque was that while American soldiers returning from Vietnam were abominably treated by their fellow citizens, people like Halberstam himself “became heroes, as has been reflected in the obituaries.”

Moyar’s own view is that Halberstam, Sheehan, and Karnow, because of the enormous damage” they caused “to the American effort in South Vietnam,” can fairly be considered “the most harmful journalists in American history.”

More tomorrow.

The untrustworthiness of Uncle Walter

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Walter Cronkite at his anchor desk

He wasn’t evil, really, but he was immensely influential, often in very counter-productive ways. In fact, when his career was at its height, few people anywhere wielded the kind of power he did to shape the way in which Americans thought about the world around them. No single person today, in a time when the news media are so highly fragmented, comes close to having as much influence as he did.

His name was Walter Cronkite, and for almost twenty years, from 1962 to 1981 – though it feels like longer – he was the anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News.

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Cronkite (far right) during World War II

It was an era when almost every American’s main source of information about the world was one of the three evening network news shows. And of the three, CBS, during the reign of Cronkite, was the undisputed champion. It had the biggest budget and the highest viewership. And it had Cronkite, who, year after year, was voted the most trusted man in America. It was long before the Internet, which helped people around the world to understand just how foolish it was to place their unreflecting trust in any single news source.

©Globe photos / lapresse 18-07-2009 Washington, USA varie È morto Walter Cronkite, leggenda del giornalismo Usa Aveva 92 anni. Racconto' agli americani i piu' importanti eventi del secolo scorso Walter Cronkite, il celebre anchorman della CBS che per il pubblico televisivo americano fece la cronaca di eventi storici quali lo sbarco sulla luna, l'assassinio di John Kennedy e lo scandalo Watergate, e' morto all'eta' di 92 anni Only Italy WALTER CRONKITE ©DM/GLOBE PHOTOS, INC.
Reporting on Vietnam

To careful observers, it was clear that Cronkite (who, born and raised in Texas, had been a war correspondent in Europe and spent several years at CBS before taking over the evening news) admired John F. Kennedy and favored Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. His reporting during the latter campaign was manifestly intended to reinforce LBJ’s message that Goldwater was a dangerous right-wing war hawk who might well plunge the nation into nuclear war.

Later, Cronkite played a pivotal role in shifting public attitudes toward the Vietnam War. After the 1968 Tet Offensive, which was really a U.S. victory, Cronkite spun it as a U.S. defeat, calling the war itself “unwinnable” and suggesting that American troops be withdrawn. President Lyndon Johnson famously said that by losing Cronkite, he had lost America. There’s no way to know what course the war might have taken had Cronkite stuck to reporting the news instead of commenting on it, but his verdict on the war caused millions of Americans to view it fatalistically and led many government officials to think not in terms of how to win but of how to back out honorably.

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In Vietnam

Similarly, in the early 70s, Cronkite’s relentless attention to the story of the Watergate break-in (he had always hated Nixon) helped to turn it into the political scandal of the century. Indeed, the glorifying of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein by the movie All the President’s Men served to downplay the role of Cronkite and CBS in bringing down the Nixon administration. (After all, few Americans outside of the Beltway read the Washington Post.) In this instance, too, Cronkite may have affected the course of history.

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In 1985

Throughout his years at CBS, Cronkite – known affectionately to the nation as “Uncle Walter” – carefully maintained his pose as an impartial, hard-working reporter, digging for the truth and fearlessly following it wherever it led. After his retirement, he dropped the act and made clear his far-left leanings. Among much else, he attacked President Reagan’s invasion of Grenada and his plans for a so-called “Star Wars” weapons system (which, in fact, actually ended up helping to bring down the Soviet Union). Cronkite was also an early eco-hysteric, reporting seriously on “expert” predictions that the planet was on the verge of environmental catastrophe. (Even so, as one critic has noted, “he thought nothing about hopping on the gas-guzzling supersonic Concorde.”)

In his later years, when he gradually morphed into a far-left crank, Cronkite said that he had always considered fear of the Soviet Union ridiculous and overblown, and called for a United Nations-run world government that would strike a balance “between capitalism and communism.”

And that’s the way it was. Alas.

Howard Zinn, Stalinist

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The young Howard Zinn

In 2003, Howard Zinn was described as “the most influential historian in America.” As of that year, his book A People’s History of the United States was selling 128,000 copies annually; total sales have now topped two million. What a remarkable coup this was for Zinn, whose parents were working-class immigrants from Russia and Ukraine and whose father worked as a fruit peddler and ditch digger. Had Zinn’s parents not emigrated to America, any child of theirs would have grown up as a peasant under Communism. And if that child had grown up to be half as outspoken as Zinn, he’d soon have ended up either in the Gulag or in front of a firing squad. That the son of such a couple could end up as a prominent historian and a wealthy man is a tribute to the reality of the American dream.

zinnbookBut Zinn himself didn’t see it that way. Indeed, perhaps the best way to sum up his life goal is to say that he was out to destroy Americans’ belief in the American dream. For Zinn was a Communist. And he wasn’t just any Communist. He was a very active Communist who belonged to a New York branch of the Party and attended Party meetings five nights a week between around 1949 and 1953.

And that wasn’t all. He taught informal courses in Communism to other Communists. He participated in various Communist front groups, such as the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee and the International Workers Order, and in a number of Communist-infiltrated organizations, such as the American Veterans Committee. Although, as noted, he ceased being active in the Party during the 1950s, his political views remained the same, as evidenced by his enthusiasm for the Castro revolution in Cuba.

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One of Zinn’s heroes

As many observers have noted, the timing of Zinn’s involvement in the Party is interesting. He wasn’t one of those who joined the CPUSA in the 1920s or 30s, when ignorance was still a credible excuse and some of Stalin’s worst atrocities remained in the future. No, he joined up after the Ukraine famine, after the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and after the USSR’s postwar occupation of Eastern Europe. By the time he signed up as an agent of the Kremlin, it was clear to any well-informed Westerner that Josef Stalin was a thoroughly evil piece of work, fully on a par with Hitler, and that the people living in the Soviet Union and its satellites were the helpless, terrorized subjects of a monstrous tyranny.

Zinn would later go on to become a prominent academic and a leader of the anti-Vietnam movement. We’ve already written here about his friendly wartime visit to Hanoi with Father Daniel Berrigan, a fellow Communist. But it wasn’t till A People’s History came out in 1980 that Zinn became famous.

We’ll get to that tomorrow.

Ho as Gandhi: the mind of Daniel Berrigan

Back to Father Daniel Berrigan, the Vietnam War activist who died recently at age 95. As we noted yesterday, his mainstream-media obits were overwhelmingly glowing. One aspect of his life that they either omitted or downplayed dramatically was the fact that, far from being simply an advocate of peace in Vietnam, he was a man who held America and Americans in contempt and looked upon the North Vietnamese with a special kind of regard.

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Berrigan being arrested in 1967

Let’s just examine a few excerpts from Night Flight to Hanoi, his memoir of a 1968 visit to North Vietnam with Communist historian Howard Zinn. Prior to the visit, Berrigan meets with a U.S. State Department officer, whom he accuses, in the book, of “making the worse cause [i.e. the U.S. side in the Vietnam War] appear the better.” Berrigan refers to “the contrast between the facts of Hanoi and the words of Washington.” America, he asserts, is undergoing “the most profound spiritual turmoil in its history” thanks to “a little, broken, unbreakable Asian nation which is working this enormous change in the spiritual constitution of the Western giant.” The conflict between the evil Goliath and the noble David reminds him that “the meek shall inherit the earth or at least that portion of the earth which destiny and their own bloodletting and their own unkillable sense of history and the rightness of cosmic ecology have allotted to them.”

As we noted yesterday, Berrigan and Zinn went to Hanoi to pick up three POWs – American Air Force pilots who’d been shot down over North Vietnam and who were released into Berrigan’s and Zinn’s custody as part of what was apparently a canny PR bid on Hanoi’s part. But Berrigan professed to be riddled with doubts about the situation. What kinds of doubts? He puts it this way:

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The cover of a collection of Berrigan’s “essential writings,” published as part of a series of “modern spiritual masters”

Can it be true that in going to face these prisoners of war we are truly leading them from prison? Or are we rather not leading them from a physical prison back to a prison society? And are Zinn and myself of such quality that we can truly free others? And are they of such spiritual capacity as to be enabled to become free men?

Or are we doing something different? Are we bringing children by the hand from one prison into a larger prison yard? What account will they have to tell us of their selves? And if they have grown into free men, what alternative would be truly open to them except to desert, to condemn the war, and to reject once and for all the slavery that hems them in?

Berrigan is unsure, then, whether members of the American military who are being held behind bars in North Vietnam are truly prisoners, in the deepest sense. But he does know “beyond any doubt that Americans are ‘prisoners of war,’ locked in our dungeons of illusion, of fear, of hatred and contempt and joylessness.”

berrigan5What hateful, joyless people we Americans are! And what a contrast we are to our enemies! Meeting officials at the North Vietnamese Embassy in Peking, Berrigan writes that the “little men,” as he puts it, “could not have been more courteous. Their way is hard and small and gentle.” When he and Zinn fly on to Hanoi and walk around the city, the people there “look at us with a certain curiosity, but we have yet to see on a single face marks of animosity.” He compares the feel of Hanoi favorably with that of New York City, with its “fever and violence and pace.”

But back to the U.S. pilots. The North Vietnamese officials, Berrigan writes, tell him that “they are trying to educate the pilots so that when they return to the United States they will be good citizens, and give up the dark thinking of clichés. They are being released so that they will become good fathers and husbands.” Berrigan makes it clear that he buys the idea that this is, indeed, Hanoi’s intention. To read this passage now is to marvel at Berrigan’s staggering credulity: if the pilots’ captors made any attempt to “educate” them, it’s obvious that what was going on was Chinese Cultural Revolution-style indoctrination, likely accompanied by occasional doses of torture. But it doesn’t occur to Berrigan that he’s being naive; he thinks it’s the North Vietnamese who are naive: in believing that they can improve the pilots through education, he concludes, they’re exhibiting “a strange mixture of naiveté and human confidence,” presumably attributable to the fact that they have “not lost all hope in the decency of the American public.”

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Ho Chi Minh

While in North Vietnam, Berrigan and Zinn are shown a documentary about the life of Ho Chi Minh – obviously sheer propaganda. Berrigan, naturally, loves it: the film “conveyed the spirit of his life with the people, with no heavy hand. A life came through, cut to the bone, the life of a peasant, a man with nothing to sell except his capacity for living for others….Quite Gandhian in spirit. Imagine the Pope or Johnson or Kennedy moving among the poor in such a way, allowing spiritual forces to be liberated so that one’s whole life was showed new confidence.”

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Mahatma Gandhi

Yes, that’s right: Berrigan likened Ho Chi Minh to Gandhi. While disdaining his fellow Americans, he had nothing but adulation for a bloodthirsty dictator who executed countless political opponents and tortured his own people in unimaginable numbers – all with the backing of one of the few people in modern history who were even more murderous than he was, Mao Zedong.

This, then, is the true legacy of Daniel Berrigan, who is widely considered a modern “spiritual master” and whose death, almost exclusively, occasioned hymns of praise in the mainstream media.

Stooge in a clerical collar: Daniel Berrigan

When the Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan died on April 30 at age 95, the mainstream media painted him as a well-nigh heroic figure. This was, we were told, a man of deep and contemplative faith, a crusader for peace, a consoler of the sick, an advocate for the poor, and – on top of it all – a gifted poet.

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Daniel Berrigan

Not until a couple of dozen paragraphs into its obituary did the New York Times bother to note Berrigan’s anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slants (he was so ugly about Israel that Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg accused him of “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism”), his reprehensible silence on the scandal surrounding sexual abuse of children by his fellow clergy, and his apparently congenital failure to criticize Communism.  A follow-up profile in the Times by Jim Dwyer omitted these unpleasant details entirely, painting Berrigan as a veritable saint who “filled his life to the brim with poetry and protest, preaching and witness” and spoke “from a distinctly Catholic perspective against war, capital punishment, abortion, bigotry and indifference to the poor.” 

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With his brother on the cover of Time

Other mainstream media took more or less the same approach, either overlooking his views on Jews, child abuse, and the USSR or treating them as minor flaws in an otherwise stellar character. On the contrary, Berrigan’s softness on Communism, in particular, was utterly inextricable from the ideology that motivated him throughout his career. A founder of what became known as the Catholic New Left, Berrigan – along with his brother, Philip, who was also a priest (and who died in 2002) – raided draft boards during the Vietnam War, pouring blood on some selective-service records while burning others with homemade napalm. (For the latter act, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced, only to take it on the lam; the law eventually caught up with him and he spent two years in the slammer.)

Berrigan’s protest activities, legal and otherwise, invariably involved vicious rhetoric about America – rhetoric which, as the historian Michael B. Friedland has written, “did nothing to dispel the image of activist priests as fuzzy-headed moralists.” By contrast, when asked about the Communist threat, Berrigan dismissed it outright: “communism as an issue in the Vietnam war is a myth,” he insisted.

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With Zinn in Hanoi

What exactly was Berrigan’s view of Communism? More than a few observers maintain that he was a Communist himself. “Daniel romanticized the North Vietnamese,” one commentator has written. To revisit his writings about them is to conclude that that’s putting it mildly. One thing is for sure: he was no fan of any aspect of American culture or the American political and economic system; routinely, he condemned his own country as violent, genocidal, and imperialistic, a nation bereft of spirit, of virtue.

We do know this: in 1968, Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn, who would later become famous as the author of the 1980 propaganda tract-cum-bestselling textbook The People’s History of the United States. In Hanoi, the two men met with North Vietnamese officials, who handed over to them three U.S. Air Force POWs to take home with them to America, supposedly as tokens of good will and as a first step toward a negotiated peace.

berriganbookIt is interesting that of all the people Berrigan could have had as travel companions, he went with Zinn. As has been well established in recent years by FBI files and multiple other records, Zinn was at the time an active member of the U.S. Communist Party. He had joined the Party at the height of Stalin’s postwar power, and when interviewed by the FBI in 1953 he flat-out lied about his Party membership. Zinn later openly supported the Castro regime in Cuba and, during the Vietnam War, cheered unequivocally for the Communists to win.

No, Berrigan’s readiness to link arms with Zinn doesn’t necessary indicate that he, too, was a card-carrying Communist. At the very least, however, it shows that he had no problem associating himself and his cause with that of a man who was explicitly rooting not for peace but for the enemy’s victory. Indeed, in Night Flight to Hanoi, the memoir Berrigan later published about their “peace mission,” Berrigan calls Zinn “my cherished brother and friend and Old Testament man of heart and guts.” Zinn wrote the introduction to the book, which provides a fascinating window on Berrigan’s mindset; we’ll riffle through a bit of it tomorrow.

Ted Turner’s fidelity to Fidel

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Ted Turner

We’ve been looking at the history of Ted Turner‘s friendship with Fidel Castro. Apropos of which, here’s an illuminating excerpt from a 2008 interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News:

O’REILLY: Fidel Castro, do you admire the man?

TURNER: Yes.

O’REILLY: Now he has murdered people. He’s imprisoned people. There are political prisoners now. He won’t let his people use the Internet. Nobody can use that. And you admire the guy?

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O’Reilly and Turner

TURNER: Well, I admire certain things about him. He’s trained a lot of doctors, and they’ve got one of the best educational systems in the developing world. And you know, he’s still popular with a lot of people down there. He’s unpopular…

O’REILLY: But he’s a killer. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who…

TURNER: But that has never, to my knowledge, that’s never been proven. I mean…

O’REILLY: He’s executed political prisoners. I mean, he enslaves people who don’t see it the way he sees it. Come on. He runs a dictatorship.

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Jane Fonda and Ted Turner

Later in the interview, O’Reilly brought up the fact that Turner and his wife Jane Fonda had been ardent opponents of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. O’Reilly told Turner that on a previous show he’d wondered aloud if it bothered Fonda that “after all your activism and getting America out of Vietnam…that 3 million human beings were slaughtered by the people that you were lionizing, the North Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge Communists who wouldn’t have been slaughtered if we stayed. And their skulls were stacked on top of each other.” O’Reilly added that he’d never received a response to his question from either Fonda or Turner. To which Turner replied: “You’ve got me. I didn’t really think about it. You know, it didn’t make the news very much.”

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Humberto Fontova

Yes, this is what the founder of CNN said about the murder of millions of people by the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge: “it didn’t make the news very much.” And he hadn’t really given it much thought. 

After Turner’s interview with O’Reilly, exiled Cuban writer Humberto Fontova commented on Turner’s claim that it had “never been proven” that Fidel had killed anybody. “Even the Cuban revolution’s most die-hard apologists,” wrote Fontova,

have never made so transparently preposterous a claim, and for good reason. According to the Black Book of Communism, 14,000 men and boys had been executed in Cuba by 1964 – the equivalent of more than 3 million executions in the United States….Indeed, like al-Qaeda generations later, mass murder (often in public), was always key to the Communist quest for and maintenance of power. Communists have always wanted this to be known, as a means to intimidate opposition.

Also in 2008, Turner himself interviewed Castro on CNN. It may well be the feeblest interview ever conducted by anyone with a head of state. Castro made a series of absurd statements – for example, that during his presidency Cuba had always enjoyed total freedom of religion, and that his country’s economic problems were entirely the fault of the U.S. embargo. He also made outrageously exaggerated claims about Cuba’s medical and educational achievements. And Turner – who came across as totally uniformed and utterly credulous – didn’t challenge a word of it.

This year saw the publication of a new book, The Double Life of Fidel Castro, by a longtime Castro bodyguard. He revealed that Castro, who pretended to enjoy a simple life, actually had a secret island getaway where he had a “small port for a high-speed (42 knots!) luxury yacht, vacation home, floating bar/grille, mini-Sea World, etc.”

Only a very few select individuals were invited to visit the island. Among them was Ted Turner, who dutifully kept his comrade’s secret.