June 2, 2007
Absurdity No. 1:
On May 24, 2007, just a day after returning from Russia, I received my fifth consecutive invitation to the annual President's Dinner, held in Washington, D.C. Signed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, and John "crybaby" Boehner, the House Republican Leader, the form letter invitation opened as follows:
They'll be talking about this one for years.
The 2007 President's Dinner will mark the turning point for our Republican Party.
On June 13th the most dedicated GOP leaders nationwide will gather under one banner and pledge a total commitment to victory in next year's elections.
Walter, will you join President Bush for dinner in Washington?"
Judging by their form letter, Messrs. McConnell and Boehner are "betting" that I've "had enough" of Democrats (now in power), who "are appeasing the worst elements of their Party in a pathetic display of retribution and cowardice." Such Democrats are "more interested in embarrassing President Bush than solving problems." Worse, "Democrats in Congress are introducing socialist, far-left legislation and using vitriolic rhetoric."
Thus, unless people like me support President Bush - by reserving a table for eight ($25,000) or purchasing an individual ticket ($2,500) - we'll soon "have a new President who, instead of vetoing liberal bills that raise taxes, expand welfare programs and cut military spending….could sign them all into law and take our nation in a disastrous new direction."
It was their words about a "disastrous new direction" that prompted me to RSVP this time. You see, virtually any new direction, including virtually any disastrous new direction, would resemble a utopia, when compared with the Bush administration's disastrous "old" direction that has brought our once great country to its knees. But rather than submit the RSVP as printed, I made a slight change to it.
Thus, whereas the original RSVP read:
Dear Senator McConnell and Congressman Boehner,
Thank you for inviting me to The 2007 President's Dinner. I understand the importance of the upcoming elections, and I'm committed to recapturing our Republican majority and maintaining a Republican White House. To do my part:
0 YES! I/We wi1l attend The 2007 President's Dinner on Wednesday,
June 13, 2007. I am enclosing:
0 $25,000 for a table of eight. 0 $2,500 for a single ticket
My amended RSVP read as follows:
Dear Senator McConnell and Congressman Boehner,
Thank you for inviting me to The 2007 President's Dinner. I understand the importance of the upcoming elections, and I'm committed to assuring that not one Republican wins election who still supports the illegal, immoral Bush/Cheney war in Iraq. Which means:
0 NO! I would not attend The 2007 President's Dinner on Wednesday,
June 13, 2007, even if you paid me $2,500. I am not enclosing:
0 $25,000 for a table of eight. 0 $2,500 for a single ticket
AND I MAILED IT!
Absurdity No. 2:
On June 1, 2007, BookExpo America 2007 will feature a panel discussion devoted to the topic, "The Ethics of Book Reviewing: The More Things Change….?" The panel will be led by Carlin Romano, book critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Board Member of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) and the individual, who "conducted a survey for the NBCC on ethics in book reviewing" almost two decades ago.
In preparation for the panel discussion, Mr. Romano issued an updated survey, one designed to take into consideration the proliferation of reviewers and reviews on "the brave new blogosphere." Being a NBCC member and, increasingly, a reviewer on the blogosphere, I dutifully completed the ethics survey.
Yet, after answering such questions as: (1) "Should a book review editor assign a book to a friend of the author?" and (2) Is it ever ethical to review a book without reading the entire book?" it occurred to me that the survey was more concerned about situational ethics connecting book publishers to book review editors to book reviewers than it was with the astounding ethical breaches that find their way into actual articles about books.
Two examples immediately come to mind. First, we have the egregious ethical lapse recently committed by Mr. Romano, himself. While discussing Noam Chomsky's book, Hegemony or Survival, Romano made the following outrageous observation: in Chomsky's book is "a world in which, chronology be damned, 9/11 seems like an understandable response, if not justifiable one, to our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq." [Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23, 2006]
Not only did I call attention to Mr. Romano's calumny, I also notified Professor Chomsky about Romano's vile slander. He responded by writing a few choice words about Romano before noting that my response was "quite accurate."
My response to Romano included the following observations: "I found nothing in Hegemony or Survival to suggest that Mr. Chomsky is either so illogical or dishonest as to assert that two events occurring after 9/11 - America's attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq - make the horrible attacks on 9/11 'understandable.'
Consequently, readers who recall his scathing review of Chomsky's book, 9/11 -- in which he called Chomsky a "pop-off" and "Noam the Foam" -- now have greater reason to question Romano's own integrity. Thus, I challenge Mr. Romano to clear his name and reassure his readers (including this reader) by providing evidence to support his seemingly vile "chronology be damned" accusation. Moreover, I remind Mr. Romano of Henry David Thoreau's famous observation: 'It is not all books that are as dull [or dishonest!] as their readers.'"
The second example is Norman Podhoretz's March 1983 article in Harper's, "If Orwell were Alive Today." Very similar in motivation to his Wall Street Journal article of May 30, 2007 ("The Case for Bombing Iran: I hope and pray that President Bush will do it"), in 1983 "Podhoretz appeared to embrace Orwell's fear that a long Soviet-American stalemate would cause the United States to increasingly emulate the "totalitarian" practices of its adversary, leading (as Orwell suggested in Nineteen Eighty-Four) to 'the division of the world among two or three vast totalitarian empires unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion.' [Norman Podhoretz, "If Orwell were Alive Today," Harper's, March 1983, p. 35]
Podhoretz also implied that Orwell would have found a nuclear war preferable to the prospect of creeping Western totalitarianism. He did so by claiming that Orwell 'thought that "the worst possibility of all," was that "the fear inspired by the atomic bomb and other weapons yet to come will be so great that everyone will refrain from using them.'" Moreover, Podhoretz offered this 'worst possibility' in the very same paragraph in which he discussed the intolerable nightmare of a worldwide totalitarian stalemate." [See, http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/Reviews/Poddy.html ]
Yet, one simply needs to recall the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and his successful initiatives to democratize the Soviet Union and end the Cold War peacefully to recognize the extremism and evil of Podhoretz's warmongering. Had Podhoretz's views prevailed, we would have unleashed nuclear war before Gorbachev came to power. He was wrong then and so is his lust for war against Iran today.
Scholars who know Iran not only know that "Islamofascism" is a bogus term, they also know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is far less powerful than Podhoretz -- the Louis Farrakhan of American Jews - suggests. Moreover, there's reason to believe that Gore Vidal was correct when (in 1986) he asserted: Podhoretz's "first loyalty would always be to Israel." And, thus, Americans should be wary, lest the country's neoconservatives drag their sons and daughters into yet another misguided war for the sake of Israel.
But, beyond his despicable warmongering, we have Christopher Hitchen's studied opinion that Podhoretz's 1983 article about Orwell was: "Straight out of bad faith -- chopping bits that don't support his case out of an excerpt. If he had done that in the academy he would have been fired." [Ibid]
That such a man is still permitted to spread his warmongering filth is beyond absurd.
Absurdity No 3:
During my recent discussions in St. Petersburg with Russian scholars specializing in Russian-American relations, I was struck by the low opinion they held about our Secretary of State (and Russia expert), Condoleezza Rice. I must admit to bolstering that low opinion, when I informed a few of them about Ms. Rice's Cold War revisionism in support of President Bush's September 2002 National Security Strategy (that championed preemptive war).
As I've written elsewhere, " In late September or early October of 2002, while serving as Bush's national security advisor, Ms Rice attempted to persuade members of the House of Representatives of the necessity of the September 2002 National Security Strategy, which she played the major role in writing.
The new strategy emphasized preemptive attacks, rather than allowing dangerous threats to gather. In reality the strategy was advocating preventive war, which is illegal under international law... Yet, as Ms. Rice attempted to make her case for waging war against a country that had not first attacked the United States, a Democrat asked her whether America should have invaded the Soviet Union in 1948 to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. According to Time magazine's account of this conversation, Ms. Rice responded: 'In light of 50 years of bondage of Eastern Europe, that was probably a reasonable thing to do.'" [See http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/Reviews/VE_Day.html ]
Which explains why I took seriously the newest rumor about absurd Ms. Rice to reach my ears in St. Petersburg. Allegedly, during a private meeting attended by Ms Rice, she was asked about Point 1 of the Algiers Accords signed by the United States and Iran in January 1981. These accords, you'll recall, became the "mutually acceptable resolution of the crisis in their relations arising out of the detention of the 52 United States nationals in Iran," and were signed by the Carter administration and Iran. They were begrudgingly honored by the Reagan administration.
Point 1 of the Accords states: "The United States pledges that it is and from now on will be the policy of the United states not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs." Yet, according to the rumor passed to me in St. Petersburg, when Secretary of State Rice was asked about Point 1, she denied that it was legally binding on the United States, because it was agreed to "under duress."
Although I have not been able to verify the truthfulness of this rumor, it does fit well with Ms. Rice's penchant for politically expedient revisionism. Moreover, if true, it's something to keep in mind whenever you read that President Bush's decision to follow the path of diplomacy, through his Secretary of State, is finally the voice of reason prevailing over obnoxious Cheney's mongering for war.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).