Henwood on Willis

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 28 17:26:45 MST 2003

Although I have been very critical of Doug Henwood, his reply to the LBO
talker I just cited is tip-top although I am not sure why he signed the
post "Dug".

s-t-t at juno.com wrote:
 >Good Behind the News yesterday.

Thanks. I was a bit worried it was a bit cerebral and detached for
the present moment. And I didn't think I managed to whip the four
interviewees into a coherently structured narrative.

 > But, jeez, Ellen Willis was
 >exasperating. What gives? It's the military's job to kill, so we
 >needn't get all "emotional" about the death toll of US foreign policy or
 >the reasons for this. WTF?
 >And why the harping on independent judgements? I could be fooled into
 >believing she thought that switching Washington's rationales for war with
 >more palatable ones of our own would magically swap the war fought for
 >the war as scripted on the laptops of Western liberals. It's not so much
 >that she supported the war in Kosovo that gets me, but her "independent"
 >rationales put forward on the radio show were in and of themselves
 >distressing, *especially* for someone writing for a book on the dynamics
 >of power in a global order.
 >George Orwell once said that a machine gun doesn't cease to be a machine
 >gun because a "good" person pulls the trigger. Nor is a cruise missile
 >any less lethal because a bleeding-heart sets it upon its mark, or claims
 >to. There's a tenuous line between realism and power worship.

Well, she's said she doesn't like the peace movement because she's
not for peace. And I'd better be careful, because she googled herself
a couple of weeks ago and found some unkind things I'd said about her

I really like her earlier work - what she wrote in the Voice, what's
collected in Beginning to See the Light. Lately, though, she's gone a
bit around the bend with the humanitarian interventionism. I was
stunned at least twice during the interview - the first time when I
said that the liberal enlightenment depended in part upon a material
base of imperialism; she dismissed that as "mechanistic." And the
other time was when I'd said that the U.S. military was a pretty
untrustworthy instrument of liberation, because it's one of the most
violent and repressive mechanisms ever devised. That, she said, was
"hyperbolic." Of course, neither "hyperbolic" nor "mechanistic" are
arguments - they're dismissive epithets. I would have like to go at
this more, but there were three other folks to interview too.

I agree with her that psychosexual factors are important in politics
- but she needs to integrate them with a political economy
perspective. And I agree that "fundamentalism" is a threat too - but
the 82nd Airborne should never be confused with a progressive social
force. To her that's naive.

Her Salon review of contra apologist Paul Berman's book is pretty
alarming too. And here's a real shocker of a passage from her
contribution to Implicating Empire:

Another clue to the psychopathology that drives the Islamist movement
is its increasingly hysterical Jew-hatred, which has borrowed
liberally from both Nazi and medieval Christian polemics. True to its
characteristic evasions, the left has tended to dismiss Islamist
anti-Semitism as a mere epiphenomenon of justified anger at Israel,
which would presumably go away if justice were done. But is it not
worth examining the strange mental processes that transmute a
political grievance against Israel into a widespread delusion that
the Jews masterminded the World Trade Center massacre? And what do we
make of the execution of an American journalist who, before being
beheaded, is forced to intone, "I am a Jew, my mother is a Jew, my
father is a Jew"?

In any case, the war between Israel and the Arab and Islamic worlds
has never been only about conflicting claims to a piece of land, the
homelessness of the Palestinians, or the occupation of the West Bank;
if it were, it would have been settled long ago. Rather, Islamist
passion for Israel's obliteration has at its core revulsion at the
perceived contamination of the holy land by an infidel nation; worse,
a modern democracy; even worse, one populated by that
quintessentially alien, bloodsucking tribe of rootless cosmopolitans,
the Jews. just as the Europeans once handed their unwelcome Jewish
refugee problem to the Arabs, their genocidal antiJewish rhetoric has
migrated to the Middle East; but the emotions that give the rhetoric
its power are strictly indigenous. They are unlikely to be assuaged
by an Israeli-Palestinian settlement; they are far more likely to be

And if the worst should happen, the world will once again be shocked.
We still don't know-and don't want to know.

She denies being a Zionist, but this is pretty indistinguishable from
Zionism. Forget that land grab - it's really all about old-fashioned
anti-Semitism. And she seems to have forgotten about the role of
religious lunatics within Israel.


Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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