Counterpunch answers social democratic warhawk

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Feb 10 12:16:18 MST 2003


February 10, 2003

Not Another Leftist Ideology Czar!
Kazin's Ground Rules for Dissent

Is Michael Kazin proud to be among the long list of writers sent to the
frontlines of the Washington Post's propaganda war against anyone
opposed to a U.S. invasion of Iraq? In the run-up to the U.S.
government's planned massive military strikes on Iraq, virtually every
column inch of the Post's op-ed pages related to the Iraqi issue has
been devoted to blood-thirsty ravings in support of the War Party's
agenda or to liberals and leftists attacking their own for not meeting
their tortuous criteria for becoming an authentic antiwar activist.

Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University, must have known the
odds of getting the Post to publish his piece were far greater if he
lectured the U.S. peace movement on its faults rather than followed the
much riskier course of attacking the U.S. establishment for its
militaristic ways. Given his usual sensible assessments of the current
state of the world, one has to wonder why Kazin wrote an article --
adapted from a piece he wrote for the fall issue of Dissent -- entitled
"The Best Dissent Has Never Been Anti-American" for the Post's Feb. 9,
2003 Outlook section
that clearly draws an inaccurate and generalized portrait of the antiwar

The level of McCarthyism on the left continues to grow in tandem with
the rising discontent with Washington's imperial policies. In his Post
piece, Kazin inexplicably makes some broad generalizations about the
left that exist only in the fantasies of Bill O'Reilly and his fans.
Sadly, in recent months, we've grown accustomed to Kazin's crowd
creating straw men on the left so that they can easily knock them down
and look reasonable in the eyes of the major media.

Early in his article, Kazin, who sits on the editorial board of Dissent
magazine, says "no one in the current peace movement has put forth a
moral vision that might unite and sustain it beyond the precipice of war."

Of course, many people involved in the peace movement are putting
forward arguments that could sustain the movement beyond the issue of
U.S. government aggression against Iraq. That the U.S. government should
stay out of the affairs of other countries and should call its troops
home is one of the most compelling arguments currently being forwarded
by many in the peace movement. The vision of the U.S. government
practicing what it preaches, as the peace movement has forwarded, could
serve as a unifying force in the United States. Most rational Americans
would agree that other countries and terrorist groups should not send
agents to kill people on our soil and should not send troops to occupy
our land. So why does our government continue to pursue a policy that we
find abhorrent when others do it?

Washington officials and pundits argue that, in the name of national
security, the U.S. government should continue to enact policies that
essentially infringe on the freedom of Americans and people around the
world and that end up bolstering only the goals of the U.S. elite. Are
advocates for these types of measures traitors to the American ideals of
democracy and freedom? Many of those in the peace movement embrace the
pursuit of freedom and democracy for all, concepts that certainly are
more aligned with the ideals of America than any of the current policies
emanating from Washington.

In a wonderful piece on the ZNet website
(, Brian
Dominick challenges the assumptions of "former leftists" David Corn,
Christopher Hitchens, Marc Cooper, and Todd Gitlin. "Each man has
published at least one commentary (in LA Weekly, The Washington Post,
The LA Times and Mother Jones, respectively) taking cheap shots against
the Left and regurgitating standard establishment lies about subjects
like September 11, Afghanistan and Iraq," Dominick writes. "It's no
surprise that a bunch of white men might want to hijack or undermine the
Left while currying favor from the liberal establishment."

I'm not sure of the relevance of these writers' gender or race, but
Dominick's description of them wanting to curry favor with the liberal
establishment also appears to apply to Kazin.

As with the four "former leftists," Kazin cannot resist the urge to take
aim at Noam Chomsky in the pages of the Post. Chomsky's crime is that he
developed a definition of patriotism that does not conform to the
patriotic message conveyed by the U.S. elite. Kazin says that Chomsky
describes the establishment's patriotism as the governing elite's way of
telling the American people, "You shut up and be obedient, and I'll
relentlessly advance my own interests." This is a perfectly acceptable
definition of the elitist brand of patriotism, and Kazin actually does a
service by highlighting Chomsky's view on patriotism. Kazin's intent, of
course, was to argue that Chomsky's view is out of the mainstream, even
on the left.

Toward the end of his Outlook piece, Kazin implies that the antiwar
movement does not care enough about the security of its neighbors here
in the United States. He writes that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 will
"inevitably force activists to clarify how they would achieve security,
for individuals and the nation. How can one seriously engage in this
conversation about protecting America if the nation holds no privileged
place in one's heart?"

Once again, Kazin joins the establishment chorus by questioning whether
the peace movement really is concerned about the safety of Americans or
if they care only for those harmed by the U.S. government's imperial
policies. Any honest assessment of the situation would recognize that
people in the peace movement are patriots, even if they eschew the
ugliness that's attached itself to the word over the years, because they
understand that the security of Americans will be significantly
jeopardized if the War Party in Washington continues its belligerent ways.

The peace movement recognizes this. Apparently, the likes of Michael
Kazin are blinded to history's lesson that bullying eventually proves
counterproductive and often leads to fits of rage, irrational or not, by
those who perceive themselves to be on the receiving end of a bully's wrath.

Mark Hand is editor of He can be reached at
mark at


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