Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rosenberg Case Closed

Source: Houston Chronicle

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed 55 years ago, on June 19, 1953. But earlier this month they were back in the headlines when Morton Sobell, the co-defendant in their famous espionage trial, finally admitted that he and his friend Julius had both been Soviet agents.
It was a stunning admission; Sobell, now 91 years old, had adamantly maintained his innocence for more than half a century. After his comments were published, even the Rosenbergs' children, Robert and Michael Meeropol, were left with little hope to hang on to — and last week, in comments unlike any they've made previously, the brothers acknowledged having reached the difficult conclusion that their father was, indeed, a spy. "I don't have any reason to doubt Morty," Michael Meeropol told Sam Roberts of The New York Times.
With these latest events, the end has arrived for the legions of the American left wing that have argued relentlessly for more than half a century that the Rosenbergs were victims, framed by a hostile, fear-mongering U.S. government. Since the couple's trial, the left has portrayed them as martyrs for civil liberties, righteous dissenters whose chief crime was to express their constitutionally protected political beliefs. In the end, the left has argued, the two communists were put to death not for spying but for their unpopular opinions, at a time when the Truman and Eisenhower administrations were seeking to stem opposition to their anti-Soviet foreign policy during the Cold War.
To this day, this received wisdom permeates our education system. A recent study by historian Larry Schweikart of the University of Dayton has found that very few college history textbooks say simply that the Rosenbergs were guilty; according to Schweikart, most either state that the couple was innocent or that the trial was "controversial," or they "excuse what (the Rosenbergs) did by saying, 'It wasn't that bad. What they provided wasn't important.' "
Indeed, Columbia University professor Eric Foner once wrote that the Rosenbergs were prosecuted out of a "determined effort to root out dissent," part of a broader pattern of "shattered careers and suppressed civil liberties." In other words, it was part of the postwar McCarthyite "witch hunt."
But, in fact, Schweikart is right, and Foner is wrong. The Rosenbergs were Soviet spies, and not minor ones, either. Not only did they try their best to give the Soviets top atomic secrets from the Manhattan Project, they succeeded in handing over top military data on sonar and on radar that was used by the Russians to shoot down U.S. planes in the Korean and Vietnam wars. That's long been known, and Sobell confirmed it again last week.
To many Americans, Cold War espionage cases such as the Rosenberg and Alger Hiss cases that once riveted the country seem irrelevant today, something out of the distant past. But they're not irrelevant. They're a crucial part of the ongoing dispute between right and left in this country. For the left, it has long been an article of faith that these prosecutions showed the essentially repressive nature of the U.S. government. Even as the guilt of the accused has become more and more clear (especially since the fall of the Soviet Union and the release of reams of historical Cold War documents), these "anti-anti-communists" of the intellectual left have continued to argue that the prosecutions were overzealous, or that the crimes were minor, or that the punishments were disproportionate.
The left consistently has defended spies such as Hiss, the Rosenbergs and Sobell as victims of contrived frame-ups. Because such a demagogue as Sen. Joseph McCarthy cast a wide swath with indiscriminate attacks on genuine liberals as "reds" (and even though McCarthy made some charges that were accurate), the anti-anti-communists came to argue that anyone accused by McCarthy or Richard Nixon or J. Edgar Hoover should be assumed to be entirely innocent. People such as Hiss (a former State Department official who was accused of spying) cleverly hid their true espionage work by gaining sympathy as just another victim of a smear attack.
But now, with Sobell's confession of guilt, that worldview has been demolished.
In the 1990s, when it was more than clear that the Rosenbergs had been real Soviet spies — not simply a pair of idealistic left-wingers working innocently for peace with the Russians — one of the Rosenbergs' sons, Michael, expressed the view that the reason his parents stayed firm and did not cooperate with the government was that they wanted to keep the government from creating "a massive spy show trial," thereby earning "the thanks of generations of resisters to government repression."
Today, he and his brother, Robert, run a fund giving grants to the children of those they deem "political prisoners."
Ironically, if there was any government that staged show trials for political ends, it was the government for which the Rosenbergs gave up their lives, that of the former Soviet Union.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Re-thinking Gandhi

What Did Gandhi Do?
One-sided pacifist.

By David Lewis Schaefer

n the weeks leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, American college campuses were plastered with posters asking “What Would Gandhi Do?” The implication, of course, was that the U.S. should emulate the tactics of the celebrated Hindu pacifist who successfully led the movement for Indian independence from Britain.

The analogy, it should go without saying, overlooks major differences between the two cases. Whereas the 20th-century British were far too benign an imperial power to choose to slaughter peaceful resisters to their rule, there’s no evidence that Saddam Hussein, already responsible for the massacre and torture of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen (to say nothing of the many more who died in his aggressive wars against Iran and Kuwait) would likewise have succumbed to friendly persuasion — Jacques Chirac to the contrary notwithstanding. (It’s not that we didn’t try!)

It is interesting, in this regard, to recall how Gandhi himself responded to the evil perpetrated by one of Saddam’s role models, Adolf Hitler. In November, 1938, responding to Jewish pleas that he endorse the Zionist cause so as to persuade the British government to open Palestine to immigrants fleeing Hitler’s persecution, Gandhi published an open letter flatly rejecting the request. While expressing the utmost “sympathy” with the Jews and lamenting “their age-old persecution,” Gandhi explained that “the cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me,” since “Palestine belongs to the Arabs.” Instead, he urged the Jews to “make that country their home where they are born.” To demand just treatment in the lands of their current residence while also demanding that Palestine be made their home, he argued, smacked of hypocrisy. Gandhi even went so far as to remark that “this cry for the national home affords a colorable justification for the German expulsion of the Jews.”

Of course, Gandhi added, “the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history,” and “if there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified.” Hitler’s regime was showing the world “how efficiently violence can be worked when it is not hampered by any hypocrisy or weakness masquerading as humanitarianism.” Nonetheless, the Hindu leader rejected that notion, since “I do not believe in any war.” And for Britain, France, and America to declare war on Hitler’s regime would bring them “no inner joy, no inner strength.”

Having rejected both the plea that Palestine should be offered as a place of refuge for the Jews and the idea that the Western democracies should launch a war to overthrow Hitler, Gandhi offered only one avenue for the Jews to resist their persecution while preserving their “self-respect.” Were he a German Jew, Gandhi pronounced, he would challenge the Germans to shoot or imprison him rather than “submit to discriminating treatment.” Such “voluntary” suffering, practiced by all the Jews of Germany, would bring them, he promised, immeasurable “inner strength and joy.” Indeed, “if the Jewish mind could be prepared” for such suffering, even a massacre of all German Jews “could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy,” since “to the God-fearing, death has no terror.”

According to Gandhi, it would (for unexplained reasons) be “easier for the Jews than for the Czechs” (then facing German occupation) to follow his prescription. As inspiration, he offered “an exact parallel” in the campaign for Indian civil rights in South Africa that he had led decades earlier. Through their strength of suffering, he promised, “the German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German Gentiles in the sense that they will have converted [them] to an appreciation of human dignity.” And the same policy ought to be followed by Jews already in Palestine enduring Arab pogroms launched against them: if only they would “discard the help of the British bayonet” for their defense, and instead “offer themselves [to the Arabs] to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without raising a little finger,” the Jews would win a favorable “world opinion” regarding their “religious aspiration.”

In a thoughtful personal response dated February 24, 1939, the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber — who had himself emigrated to Israel from Germany a short time earlier and combined his Zionism with earnest efforts to peacefully reconcile Jewish and Arab claims in the Holy Land — chided Gandhi for offering advice to the Jews without any recognition of their real situation. The individual acts of persecution that Indians had suffered in South Africa in the 1890’s hardly compared, Buber noted, to the synagogue burnings and concentration camps instituted by Hitler’s regime. Nor was there any evidence that the many instances in which German Jews peacefully displayed strength of spirit in response to their persecutors had exercised any influence on the latter. While Gandhi exhorted them to bear “testimony” to the world by their conduct, the fate of the Jews in Germany was to experience only an “unobserved martyrdom” without effect.

Source: National Review

Friday, September 5, 2008

Historical Lessons

This article is an 'oldie' but its message is important

Author: Tim Radford

Edward Gibbon opened chapter seven of volume one of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire with a set of characteristic sentences about power and stability and hereditary monarchy. In the cool shade of retirement, he mused, one might try to devise an imaginary form of government bestowed on the most worthy by the free and incorrupt suffrage of the whole community: experience, however, teaches otherwise.

"The army is the only order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow-citizens; but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery, tenders them very unfit guardians of a legal or even a civil constitution," he wrote.

"Justice, humanity or political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them in others. Valour will acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase their suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the expense of the public; and both may be turned against the possessor of the throne, by the ambition of a daring rival."

All this was a preface to the story of Maximin, the giant barbarian who seized the imperial purple from Alexander Severus in AD 235. He might have been talking about Francisco Franco of Falangist Spain, Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean-B├ędel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Leopold Galtieri of Argentina, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, the colonels who seized power in Greece from 1967-1974, or the military junta that terrorises Burma now. There, in a few elegant 18th century sentences about 3rd century Rome, is a brief and brutal lesson in the political history of the 20th century.

All scholarship has its rewards, but history is the one that might deliver the richest rewards of all: if we learn from it, we might gain from it.


Bloodiest Wars of the 20th Century

Bloodiest Wars of the 20th century
Source: Wars
Death toll alongside

1. Second World War - 20 million +
2. First World War - 8.5 million
3. Korean War - 1.2 million
4. Chinese Civil War (1945-49) - 1.2 million
5. Vietnam War - 1.2 million
6. Iran-Iraq War - 0.85 million
7. Russian Civil War - 0.8 million
8. Chinese Civil War (1927-1937) - 0.4 million
9. French Indochina 0.385 million
10. Mexican Revolution (1911-20) - 0.2 million
10(tied) Spanish Civil War - 0.2 million
12. French-Algerian War - 0.16 million
13. Afghanistan (1980-1989) - 0.15 million
14. Russo-Japanese War - 0.13 million
15. Riffian War - 0.1 million
15. First Sudanese Civil War - 0.1 million
15. Russo-Polish War - 0.1 million
15. Biafran War - 0.1 million
19 - Chaco War - 0.09 million
20. Abyssinian War - 0.075 million