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David Horowitz vs. Michael Berube By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, November 27, 2002


David Horowitz and Michael Berube, a professor of American literature at Penn State, battle it out over Horowitz’s blog entry, "Where is the patriotic left's fervor against America's internal enemies?" http://frontpagemag.com/blog/index.asp

In his blog on Nov 25, 2002, "Michael Berube's Half a Second Thought," Horowitz writes,

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has an article by Michael Berube, normally a fulminating leftist, on the subject of the fifth column anti-war left (of course he doesn't call it that). The article is pompously (and Marxistly) called "Towards an Ideal Anti-war Movement: Mature, Legitimate and Popular." He has half a second thought here which should be applauded. Of course he still sloughs off all responsiblity for communist atrocities (that has to do with irrelevant ancestors apparently), calls Milosevec a right-winger even though he is a life-long Communist "progressive," and fails to understand that when your own country is attacked there cannot be a mature, legitimate and popular anti-war movement.

Berube responds:

Hello David. Thanks for reading my essay on the antiwar movement seriously, you know you fulminate much more energetically and frantically than almost anyone, but I appreciate your taking the time to read one of my lesser fulminations. Anyway, one small point and two large ones:

First, I did not title my essay. The Chronicle titles its "Opinion" essays, as you probably should know by now. So the pompousness and the Marxism -- it's all theirs. I'm not kidding. There are Marxists at work at the Chronicle of Higher Education, at the very highest levels of the organization. I can trust only you with this information!

But on to the serious points. You say that when your own country is attacked, there cannot be a mature, legitimate and popular antiwar movement. This may be true, but as you probably know, Iraq did not attack us. I supported the war in Afghanistan but will not support the war in Iraq -- since I make precisely the distinction that neither you nor your opposite numbers on the radical left acknowledge. And as for sloughing off Communist atrocities, I'm afraid I have nothing to answer for here, never having been a party member or a Communist apologist. In your remaining years on the planet, you really should stop trying to blame everyone else on the left for your own poor political judgement in your younger years. It's exceptionally bad faith on your part.

Horowitz reponds:

Dear Michael,

Nice of you to send me a civil email. If you were to bother to look over my history of polemics you will find that virtually every harsh characterization I have ever made of a political opponent has been a response to a harsh often vicious personal attack on myself. My characterization of you as a fulminator (pretty mild at that) was a response to your atrocious attack on six conservatives as "un-Americans" more than a decade ago because they opposed political correctness in universities, and your recent attack on me as a proto-propagandist for the Third Reich because I had the temerity to point out that life for the working classes in post-Pinochet Chile was better than life in Castro's Cuba. As for the title of your piece, whoever is responsible for it, it reflects the pervasive culture of discredited Marxism in all its varieties in our academic culture, which is the intellectual disgrace of our times.

On to what you consider the serious points. I think it's perfectly legitimate to have reservations about the Administration's war policies in regard to Iraq. It's quite another to call for an anti-war movement against the Administration, presumably one that will be marching in the streets instead of voting in the polling booths. This is called dividing the home front when the nation is under attack. You understand the importance of political unity when you are under attack I'm sure. There is no disputing that Saddam Hussein is

1) at war with the United States;

2) an ally of the terrorist enemies of the United States;

3) building weapons of mass destruction for use against us; and

4) contrary to what you say has already attacked us.

The mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was an Iraqi intelligence agent, Ramzi Youssef who also came up with the idea of using commercial airliners as bombs. Laurie Mylroie and others have argued persuasively that Iraq was behind not only this attack but also the bombing of the embassies and the attack on the Cole. I recommend to you Robert Pollack's The Threatening Storm if you have doubts about the dangers posed by Saddam.

We have a system of governance in this country that is called democracy. The war policy of the Bush Administration has been ratified at the polls. Now is the time to rally behind your country, not call for a movement against the defensive strategy that Americans have approved. When our country is faced with enemies who can kill us in our homes, your advocacy of a political movement to attack our government, thus providing aid and comfort to our enemies is strange to say the least.

Your attempt to wriggle out of your leftist commitments and responsibilities for the collective slaughters that progressives have been responsible for in the last 50 years is disingenuous to say the least. The fact that you were never a Communist or Communist apologist is irrelevant. Neither was I. I was always a New Left critic of the Communists, starting with my first book in 1962. The problem was that exactly like yourself I was an anti-anti Communist on the one hand, and a progressive advocate of the idea that America -- oppressive, capitalist America was the problem on the other; Every progressive believed that America should lose its battles with liberation movements around the world, i.e., with its Communist enemies. And every progressive worked to that end.

Unless you supported America's efforts to support the Vietnamese and Cambodians resisting Communist conquest, or to the contras resisting the Sandinista Marxist dictatorship, or to the Reagan Administration attempting to hold back the Communist tide in Central America generally, my characterization of your politics is just. Your inability to idenitify Milosevic as a product of the progressive left, your refusal to take responsibility for the blood bath in Indo-China that Johnson and Nixon correctly predicted (should the US withdraw as the antiwar movement demanded), and your horror that Pinochet should have been better for Chile than Castro was for Cuba, shows your inability to this day to make a reasonable accounting of the consequences of your political commitments.

Berube responds:

David, this is why so many reasonable people, including myself, regard you as the political equivalent of the reformed Satan worshipper who now speaks directly to God. No, no, no, no, the progressives who fought for the eight-hour day, the Social Security Administration, unemployment insurance, the National Labor Relations Board, the Clean Air and Water Acts, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and so on are not responsible for the gulags, for the Cultural Revolution, or for Stasi.

What you've said here is basically this: unless you supported the murderers and torturers of nuns and peasants in central America, you are liable for all the crimes committed under Communism since 1928. That's not even close to a serious political argument, David. It's just manic Manicheanism. It may rouse the troops on your side, but it's light years from being a serious intellectual assessment of the world.

You're right about Milosevic. But it makes my case against the WWP only stronger: these are people who defend every last Communist thug, whether in Tiananmen or Srbrenica. I can distinguish between them and the decent left. You should make the attempt, in your spare time.

Horowitz responds:

Anti-American is the word I use. It's specific; it refers to agendas not identities.

Comparisons to the Third Reich are, well, inflammatory. Also, if you look at the piece I wrote calmly you'll see that it was temperate in tone and meant to open a discussion not close one as per your letter. Since leftists do not disprove coups, violent seizures of power per se, looking at the coup from the vantage of its consequences did not seem out of place. In the piece I was confronting the left with an argument based on its own standards.

Moreover, I explicitly said in the article that I did not approve of Pinochet or his methods. That this history was problematic for me as it should be for the left. But that if you looked at the balance sheet, Chileans -- all Chileans from top to bottom -- were better off than Cubans whose model was Allende's own. Here was an invitation to a dialogue and you dropped a nuclear device on me. Why don't you invite me to your university for a debate on these issues. A civil one.

Titles. This is a trivial matter, since you didn't write the title. "Towards A Feminist Theory of the State" (MacKinnon) would be an example. I guess I read too many tracts with titles like this in my time.

I have absolutely no desire to quash dissent on tactical methods with dealing with Iraq, containment vs. war. I have never suggested otherwise. I am not for quashing dissent of any kind even treasonous dissent (which is how I would characterize the Workers World Party position). I am for freedom of expression. I am also for calling things by their right names.

You continue to misunderstand my position. I do not hold that patriots can't oppose the war ala Wellstone or Mondale. I'm talking about organizing mass demonstrations and linking them emotionally and tactically to the anti-Vietnam movement. That's all.

In re "slander". Perhaps I misunderstood you. You are talking about a movement aren't you, not a political caucus say in the Democratic or Green Party. Given that the anti-Vietnam movement forced the United States to withdraw from that war and give the victory to the Communists (and all our enemies are aware of this), calling for an antiwar movement is tantamount to calling for a movement to divide the country on the home front. I did it once, I'm going to be fighting against people who want to do it again.

Re: the reformed Satan worshipper. Are you telling me that the Nation left did not support every Communist revolution (and the Ayatollah's revolution)in sequence? Even Paul Berman who called the Sandinista secret police chief Borges an "authentic new leftist" now concedes that the contras were the largest peasant army in 20th century Latin America and were called into being legitimately by the oppression of the dictatorship. But leave Central America out for the sake of the argument -- I want to see the leftist who accepts responsibility for what happened in Indo-China after the U.S. left.


David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.


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