In an op-ed for the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, radical leftist Robert Jensen and journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, calls on Americans to pursue “the most courageous act of citizenship in the United States today: pledging to dismantle the American empire.” Jensen insists, “The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing.” With Professor Jensen, leftist stalwart pundits and publications—including The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Howard Zinn—have abandoned pacifism in favor of rooting for America's terrorist (“insurgent”) enemies in Iraq.
To witness the extent to which the radical Left has become a willing agent of Islamist terror, it is sufficient to tour some of its more unhinged tribunes. For instance, over at The Nation, that bastion of bourgeois leftism, you’ll find no mention of our armed forces’ recent string of victories against Islamist die-hards. Instead, from the magazine that maintained a studied silence concerning the cruelties of Saddam Hussein, comes now much hair pulling about the supposed human rights abuses visited on Iraqi “civilians” by American troops.
Even as Marines were clearing Fallujah of its terrorist population, the Nation’s Miles Schuman, of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, was bemoaning the operation and calling for “an end to assaults on Falluja’s civilian population.” Apparently untroubled by the actual terrorist assaults on the Iraq’s civilian population, a reign of terror that found its most ghoulish expression in the 20 torture sites discovered in the course of the military offensive, Schuman set about the task of smearing the troops’ efforts as war crimes. As evidence, he adduced a BBC report that U.S. air strikes had leveled a hospital in Fallujah.
Absent from Schuman’s article was any mention of the hospital’s history. By no means a neutral shelter for the city’s sick, the hospital had been operated by an Islamist Saudi charity. Last spring, it had been the source of trumped-up casualty reports about civilian casualties. Military reports further registered that the hospital had been converted it into a headquarters for insurgent fighters. Moreover, contrary to Schuman’s claims that U.S. forces had destroyed the hospital with no regard for civilians, not even the BBC’s determined reporters could find any indication of even a single death. Rather than grappling with the available facts, however, Schuman gave free reign to his febrile imagination. Intent on making up with outrage what he lacked in evidence, Schuman wrote, “The bombing of hospitalized patients, forced starvation and dehydration, denial of medicines and health services to the sick and wounded must be recognized for what they are: war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Still more recessed from reality was the Nation’s editors’ take on the Fallujah battle. One November 18 editorial, titled “No Victory in Fallujah,” endeavored to debunk the prevailing wisdom that the offensive had been a resounding success. To this end, the magazine determinedly ignored numerous reports attesting to the fact that the Fallujah offensive had dealt a crippling blow to Iraq’s terrorist insurgency: In the process of depriving terrorist leaders of their principal base of operations, coalition troops killed nearly 1,600 terrorist fighters and captured more than 1,000. Moreover, by securing some 26 bomb-making facilities and 350 weapons stockpiles, including a score of chemical weapons laboratories, the offensive sapped terrorists’ ability to carry out attacks. All this would have come as news to the Nation’s readers. Scornful of the mere possibility of U.S. success, the magazine’s editorialists insisted that the terrorists who had fled Fallujah, taken together with the lingering insurgence in several other Iraqi towns, signaled the unmitigated failure of the United States to achieve its mission of a stable and democratic Iraq. The magazine foresaw only one bleak option: the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and the unconditional transfer of authority to a United Nations-led international trusteeship.
At the very least, such a prescription seems unduly defeatist. Still, it is a measure of the fanatical anti-Americanism that currently prevails on the anti-war Left that its standard-bearers are willing to seize on the slightest setback to U.S. military efforts in Iraq as immutable evidence of American defeat. A yet better illustration of this desperation was provided by the Nation’s claim that the victory in Fallujah, far from a boon for Iraq’s democratic prospects, vindicated the anti-war movement’s doom saying. “Thus,” the Nation reasoned, seemingly without irony, “we must conclude that the destruction of Fallujah is just the beginning of the next phase of a long and costly tragedy for us and the Iraqi people--and that only an active antiwar opposition that builds the broadest possible coalition, one capable of exerting concerted pressure on Congress and the White House, can bring this tragedy to a close.”
However defective its conception thereof, the magazine at least seems aware of a Fallujah offensive. Not so the radical leftist newsletter Counterpunch, which has yet to update its anti-Americanism to the new millennium. Here fulminating against sanctions imposed on Baathist-era Iraq is still the fashion. On December 1st, the journal featured an article by a Kathy Kelly, described as a co-coordinator for Voices in the Wilderness, “a campaign to nonviolently resist U.S. militarism at home and abroad.” Kelly had few insights to offer regarding of the siege of Fallujah. On the subject of sanctions, however, she was a fount of righteous indignation. “These economic sanctions constituted the most comprehensive state of siege ever imposed in modern history,” Kelly shrieked. Kelly declined to respond to an email asking whether she had really intended this sentence in earnest, but much of her article suggests that she does. Though Kelly, like most of her leftist fellow travelers, has no patience for the notion that United Nations officials colluded with Saddam Hussein in conning Iraqi civilians for their own pecuniary advantage—“I’m not equipped to comment on those charges,” Kelly blithely explains—she is perfectly content to repose the blame for the miseries of Iraq squarely on the United States. Kelly simply cannot grasp why columnists don’t point out what is conventional wisdom in leftist circles, namely, that the imperialist United States, having infiltrated the UN’s operational hierarchy, employed the agency to commit the “crime of child sacrifice in Iraq.” “[I]s there no columnist who will remind us that 500,000 children under age five died as the US used the UN to wage economic warfare against children?” Kelly asks.
Not outside the conspiracy-riddled pages of Counterpunch, it appears. There are however, more than a few leftist scholars who are eager to produce “research” that confers a lacquer of legitimacy to the crackpot claims that issue from the disaffected Left while undermining the U.S. military efforts in Iraq. Over at the Transatlantic Institute, for instance, one can read the latest policy paper from Phyllis Bennis. A fellow at the leftist Washington, D.C., think tank the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Bennis’ stock in trade is passing of her radical anti-Americanism, with its dogmatic disdain for U.S. foreign policy, as dispassionate policy research. From this standpoint, her November 18 analysis of the battle in Fallujah does not disappoint. In Bennis’s judgment, the offensive was an utter failure. Heedless of the specifics of international law, Bennis casually asserts that one Marine’s killing of an injured terrorist demonstrates the illegality of the offensive. “The U.S. Marines’ on-camera killing of an unarmed and wounded Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque has escalated the visibility of the humanitarian catastrophe and the crisis of international illegality inherent in the Fallujah assault,” she argues. As for the notion that snuffing out the source of the most violent opposition to Iraqi democracy will pave the way for elections, Bennis will hear none of it. “The U.S. claim is that the invasion of Fallujah was necessary to insure free and fair elections. But Iraqi elections held under the boot of U.S. military occupation will not be legitimate, whoever is in control of Fallujah,” she writes. To be certain, Bennis’s conclusions betray not a hint of anything resembling scholarship. Their chief merit, such as it is, is to convey the sense of profound impotence currently gripping an anti-war Left whose incessant calls for the defeat of the United States have consistently fallen on deaf ears.
Much the same can be said of a recent IPS “study” that replicates many of Bennis’s views. Titled “A Failed Transition: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War,” it purports to chart the destructive costs inflicted on Iraq by the U.S. invasion. In actuality, it serves to showcase the left’s zeal to whitewash the atrocities committed by terrorist insurgents while condemning the efforts of the U.S. military to carpenter a free and stable Iraq. Detailing the putative environmental costs exacted by U.S. military operations, the study notes that, “U.S.-fired depleted uranium weapons have contributed to pollution of Iraq’s land and water, with inevitable spillover effects in other countries. The heavily polluted Tigris River, for example, flows through Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.” About the repeated attacks by terrorist saboteurs on Iraqi pipelines, an immeasurably greater threat to the environment, the study has nothing to say. Nor do the terrorists’ serial executions of foreign noncombatants, Iraqi civilians, and Iraqi soldiers rate a mention in the IPS study. A section on human rights instead makes veiled reference to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, positing that this “widely publicized mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence officials, gave new license for torture and mistreatment by governments around the world.”
As allies against the United States, terrorists are above the Left’s reproach. Of course, the U.S. government is afforded no such luxury. Reflecting on the U.S. election, Bennis recently lamented, “We citizens of empire in this country failed to defend the interests of the subjects of empire in the rest of the world, who are denied even the illusion of a vote. We are all less safe as a result.” Bennis is hardly alone in her conviction that the United States poses the greatest threat to global order. Indeed, a recent post-election symposium hosted by the Nation suggests that this is now an article of faith on the Left.
Although the question posed by Nation editors is telling—“Why did so many voters embrace a President whose Iraq policy was paved with lies and deceptions, who has shown contempt for science, the rule of law and many of the principles of the Enlightenment, and whose economic policies favor the rich at the expense of the vast majority of Americans?”—it is the answers that shed the harshest light on the advanced moral corruption afflicting the far Left. “We need a new civil rights movement, a mobilization against the Bush regime, against its nascent totalitarianism, with marches on Washington that will stir the dormant American conscience,” insists Susannah Heschel, a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College.
Another leftist academic convinced of the ascendance of totalitarianism in the United States is Troy Duster, a professor of sociology at New York University. While Duster passes no judgment on totalitarianism in the Middle East, he sees evidence of it in American democracy. “It is a mistake to think of 1930s Germany, Italy and Spain as exceptional and inexplicable political aberrations that could not happen here,” he says. Fortunately for Duster, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink and a Green Party candidate for Senate in 2000, has just the solution: “We need--urgently--to send massive people-to-people aid to Fallujah. They desperately need the aid and we desperately need to show the world that there are caring, compassionate Americans who are appalled by Bush’s thuggery. We need to demand from both the Republicans and Democrats a realistic exit strategy to end the occupation. We need to hound Halliburton until it cries uncle and gives up on war profiteering.”
Meantime, Dan Carter, a professor at the University of South Carolina, thinks he may have the winning formula for a future Democratic candidate. While Carter is doubtful of Democratic success in the south, the 2004 election has led him to an unpleasant conclusion. Along with most leftists, Carter holds that it is U.S. foreign policies, and not Islamist terrorism, that need to be defeated. Nevertheless, he reckons that, alas, it may be necessary for Democrats to pay lip service to the notion of fighting terrorism, even if they don’t believe it. “[The Democratic candidate] should forget about most of the Old Confederacy, since a clear majority of white Southerners will vote Republican as long as there is a flag to be waved, a homosexual to be pilloried, an abortionist to be consigned to hell, a tax to be cut and a program for the poor to be eviscerated. As the Iraq body count mounts, it may be advantageous for him to point out--regretfully--the criminal stupidity of the current Administration's foreign policies while swearing to kill more terrorists if he's elected.”
It should be noted that this interest in sifting through the ashes of electoral defeat is not shared by all leftists. The Progressive, for instance, can’t be troubled to traduce the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. As it happens, the leftist magazine is busily crafting an exit strategy of its own. The January 2005 issue carries a column by Progressive mainstay Barbara Ehrenreich, advising disgruntled leftists to break for the border. Writes Ehrenreich, “Many people write to ask: Am I betraying my country by leaving? The answer is NO, your country has already betrayed you. Maybe you grew up believing America meant bacon cheeseburgers, Martin Luther King, rock 'n' roll, and Saturday afternoon softball. But-as you've probably noticed-the operative images in the world today are Abu Ghraib, Condi Rice, and the flattening of Fallujah.”
To those of her embittered readers who may have qualms about turning their backs on their country, Ehrenreich offers palliative counsel: “Would you loiter at a party where gross drunken acts are being performed and, on top of that, people are dissing you everywhere you turn?” she asks. Another article in the magazine’s December issue celebrates American soldiers—that is, those American soldiers who have defected to Canada over the years.
Their superficial differences notwithstanding, the commentaries that stem from the margins of the Left are marked by one common purpose: Whether they are convicting American troops for crimes they have not committed, rehabilitating Islamist bitter-enders as blameless “civilians,” heaping reflexive scorn on American “empire,” plotting their escape from U.S. “totalitarianism,” or celebrating American “defeat,” leftists are working to ensure a victory for the forces of Islamic radicalism. Leftist historian Howard Zinn, in the course of despairing at the U.S. victory in Fallujah, gave expression to the warped worldview that informs these efforts in a recent column. “The war in Fallujah cannot be won,” Zinn wrote. “It should not be won.” With slogans like that, the antiwar Left should brace itself for many more cruel months ahead.