Cockburn answers the red-baiters

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 14 12:49:21 MST 2002


Counterpunch, November 14, 2002

American Journal

The Anti-War Movement and Its Critics:

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

Do we have an antiwar movement? We're getting there. We must be, because
we're catching flak from the anti-anti war movement, Light Infantry
division, staffed by Marc Cooper, Todd Gitlin, David Corn, and
Christopher Hitchens.

Marc Cooper, like Gitlin, has carved out a pleasant niche for himself,
belaboring various left causes from a position purporting to represent
robust common sense. It's a posture endearing to op-ed editors,
particularly if there's an insinuation that somewhere, way back, the
author had left credentials. It's fair to raise the issue of
credentials, since the prime line of attack by the Light Infantry is to
belabor the credentials of the antiwar left, as dumbos, catspaws,
dictator-lovers, cultists, practitioners of unmentionable vices.

Back of the start of 2000 Cooper publicly prayed to God to make that
same year "free of Mumia". How precisely the year would be liberated
from this man on Death Row he tastefully left unstated. In the jibes at
the Mumia cult that followed Cooper hiccuped bashfully that Mumia
"probably" didn't get a fair trial, then suppressed important facts
about the fatal encounter between and the police officer , or even that
the Mumia "cult" probably saved his life by drawing attention to Mumia's
situation in the mid-80s when no one cared a whit.

In a recent Los Angeles Times column Copper prays once more, this time
for "an effective, attractive and moral opposition". And how can the
antiwar opposition become effective, attractive and moral? Cooper's
recipe: condone the US rationale for continuing sanctions; accept as
framework for discussion of the war and military action the rationales
offered by George Bush and his associates.

Cooper derides Ramsey Clark for calling the sanctions "genocidal". Would
you march with Clark or Cooper? If you are hesitating read Karen Foley's
chilling description in the November Harper's of how the US has been
applying sanctions designed to kill children in Iraq, then make up your
mind.

Todd Gitlin has made a career out of issuing advisories about the "hard
left", the "Old Left" and other. Though Gitlin usually pretends that
he's trying to counsel the left towards improved conduct under the
Gitlin Seal of Approval, I don't think he has much interest in the left,
as anything other than raw material for his unctuous punditry.

In a recent Mother Jones Gitlin reports that at a rally outside the UN
he spotted placards saying "No Sanctions, No Bombing". Snappy, you say.
Exactly the message a peace movement might want to get across. Gitlin
disagrees. His preferred placard would be the most heavily footnoted
text since Lynn White Jr's history of the stirrup. Like Cooper, Gitlin
craves for respectability which means that he wants the placard to make
it clear that (a) Saddam bears responsibility for his country's plight,
(b), the bombings of Iraq since 1991 by the US (tactfully described by
Gitlin, echoing the DoD, as "no fly zone sorties") are okay. Tough
placard to design, and pretty heavy, if you factor in the square footage
required for Gitlin's text.

David Corn's most substantial piece of work to date is The Blonde Ghost,
which could described as a not unsympathetic account of Ted Shackley, a
CIA supervisor of one bloodbath after another, most notably the Phoenix
program. Corn has now taken to issuing cop-style intelligence reports
reminiscent of FBI field advisories to Hoover, on the Workers World
Party. stigmatizing the Workers World Party for its nefarious role in
the DC and Bay Area antiwar demonstrations.

No need to dwell any longer on Hitchens, at least as a "left"
commentator, speaking in good activist faith. When Hitchens libels the
left (in modes excellently pilloried by Katha Pollitt) he now does so as
one who has foresworn any left credential, and who is new born as a
neocon, dispensing to the Washington Post anti-left prose whose frothing
crudity eerily echoes that of his erstwhile butt, Norman Podhoretz.

A recent Hitchens piece in Slate attacks the term "chicken hawks", while
carefully avoiding the main point of its use now, which is to indicate
that many of the current civilian war-whoopers like Bush or Cheney
shirked the call to duty back in the Vietnam period but are mustard keen
on deploying others to the front lines. It now seems that G. Bush was an
actual deserter from the National Guard. It's well documented on
www.awolbush.com: that George W. Bush never showed up for National Guard
duty for a period of approximately one year, possibly more, in
1972-1973. Some definitions: AWOL, absent for 30 days or less.
Desertion, absent for more than 30 days with evidence of no intent to
return to duty.

General Hitchens invokes the "fairly good pay" of the Armed Forces, a
view he should impart personally on his next tour of inspection at Fort
Bragg, where members of the Special Forces get $25,000 a year, which is
probably less than Hitchens' annual bar bill. As with Poddy, Hitchens'
mind appears to have become clouded by the fog of warwhooping. He
reviles his old chum Bob Kerrey, seemingly unaware that this particular
war criminal favors attacking Iraq, then states flatly that "Lincoln
became the first and last president to hear shots fired in anger." While
president? What about Madison, fleeing the advancing troops commanded by
Admiral Sir George Cockburn? TR too if you count the angers and joys of
the chase. Hitchens invokes the "glorious Douglas McArthur". Is this
written with a straight face? Hard to know these days with General
Hitchens. He's offended that chickenhawk's original meaning was that of
preyer on young people. Reading the above-mentioned article on
sanctions, this seems appropriate.

So, having scouted out the anti-anti-war movement, now we can ask, what
sort of an antiwar movement do we have?

Look back to the early 1960s. In 1962, a full eight years after
President Eisenhower had decreed secretly that Ho Chi Minh could not be
permitted to triumph in open elections, the left was just beginning to
educate itself about Vietnam.

When President Kennedy was sending the first detachments of US troops to
South Vietnam and setting the stage for the assassination of South
Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem there was scarcely the semblance of
an antiwar movement. In Oxford in 1962 I remember being incredulous when
one of my radical mentors, the historian Thomas Hodgkin, remarked to me
that the next big anti-imperial battleground would be Vietnam.

It wasn't until 1966 and 1967, that the left, particularly the Socialist
Workers Party, managed to stage the big anti war rallies that that broke
forever the pro-war consensus, and set the stage for more radical
actions. And by then there was that potent fuel for an antiwar movement,
the draft, which prompted Stop the Draft Week.

By 1968 we had a worldwide anti-imperial movement; we had the May-June
upheavals in Paris; we very definitely thought history was on our side.
Not any more.

Today? We have the premonition of a big antiwar movement. Like the SWP
forty years ago, the Workers World Party did much of the organizing of
the recent demonstrations, which doesn't mean the 150,000 or so who
marched in the Bay Area and in Washington DC are dupes of Karl Marx,
Ramsey Clark and Saddam Hussein, but merely that organizing big
demonstrations takes a lot of dedication, energy and experience. I have
a dream, said Martin Luther King, and so he did, but the Communists in
the south helped him put flesh on that dream as they did the dreams of
Rosa Parks.

Will there be a war with Iraq? To judge by the amended US resolution
rubber stamped by the UN Security Council we can have one any time the
commander in chief decrees it, with February/March 2003 as probably the
earliest practical slot. A draft? No time soon. A calling up of the
National Guard? More likely, and already there are tens of thousands of
reservists on duty, many of them no doubt chafing at their condition.

And if George Bush lets loose the dogs of war on the grounds that Saddam
wouldn't submit to a full personal cavity search, will we see a new age
of protest? Certainly, if the war goes on long enough and Americans get
killed in large numbers. There's a slab of the right that's denouncing
America's imperial wars. That wasn't happening in the early Sixties. If
the left could ever reach out to this right, which it's almost
constitutionally incapable of doing, we'll have something

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