Memory and the Left

American Thinker | J.R. Dunn | July 15, 2008

It’s difficult to avoid exasperation over the left’s absolute refusal to acknowledge the new realities of the Iraq war. The surge, the Anbar awakening, the collapse of the militias (particularly that belonging to everybody’s favorite would-be caliph, Moqtada al-Sadr) — it’s as if none of it ever happened, as if one the most impressive turnabouts in modern military annals never took place.

The left, including its Democratic political wing and placeholders in the media, continue on with the same defeatist drone that we’ve heard since 2003, concentrating on lone (and mercifully rare) suicide bombers, emphasizing Coalition casualties, and highlighting the new government’s difficulties.

(Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Mr. B.H. Obama, a Democratic senator currently running for president. Reports last week hinted that Obama was about to climb down from his intention to abandon Iraq sixteen months after taking office. But he held tight, assuring reporters he had in no way abandoned his plan for peace in our time.)

There’s no point in waiting for the nickel to drop at last. The American left has not missed the unfolding victory in Iraq, nor are they ignoring it. They have forgotten it. They have taken it in, analyzed it, weighed the results, and then flushed it from memory as completely and brutally as a Ministry of Truth goon from 1984.

The process of selective amnesia is an important and often overlooked aspect of the left-wing mentality. It’s a direct inheritance from the communists, for whom the capacity to self-edit was often a matter of life and death. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, honored heroes of the Revolution could suddenly turn into traitors to the Worker’s Paradise and just as suddenly into nonentities on a day-to-day, if not an hour-to-hour basis. Among survivors, the capacity to manipulate memory was honed to a fine instinct. Mentioning the name of a nonperson could get you put on a list, if not shoved aboard the next cattle train headed for the Arctic. Soon, people would be forgetting about you.

This process was also extended to history. At the time of the Bolshevik coup, Stalin was dawdling well to the east of St. Petersberg. He played no serious role in the events that put the Soviets in power. But after he consolidated his position in the early 30s, it turned out he had been everywhere — advising Lenin, giving speeches to the masses, leading armed revolutionaries. People who remembered differently were soon trying to remember what life was like in regions where the temperature occasionally rose above zero.

The practice — and the choking terror that provoked it — soon spread to the international parties, including the CPUSA. Disasters and crimes occurring in the USSR were subject to the same treatment. When Walter Duranty, a paid Soviet propagandist, announced through the New York Times that the Ukrainian Famine hadn’t happened, the event was duly put away, even though photographs and eyewitness accounts had been circulating around the country for months. Fifty years later, Robert Conquest’s outstanding study of the atrocity, Harvest of Sorrow, was greeted as a revelation.

The same occurred with the purges, the show trials, the mass relocations. Numerous defectors, among them Walter Krivitsky, Igor Gouzenko, and Victor Kravchenko, laid out the facts repeatedly beginning in the late 1930s. All were run through the left’s forgetfulness machine.

Possibly the greatest act of selective mass amnesia — certainly the fastest — occurred in the summer of 1941. For two years following the August 1939 gangster pact between Hitler and Stalin, international communist parties protested the war against Nazism. The American left worked itself into a frenzy in support of Hitler and his occupation of Europe. A particular target was U.S. materiel aid to Great Britain, at the time standing alone against the Nazi monolith. The campaign’s centerpiece was to have been “Peace Week”, scheduled for the last week of June 1941. Unfortunately, Hitler chose June 22nd to send three army groups armed with over 4,000 Panzers against the Soviet Union.

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11 thoughts on “Memory and the Left

  1. Then I say – great. The Surge worked, Maliki feels strong enough to ask us for a ‘time horizon’ for departure.

    So go home, then. And, unlike what Obama wants, really go home instead of redeploying to Afghanistan to try and turn an ungainly artifact of British imperialism into a viable state.

    No, really go home, and stop wasting tax dollars protecting Europe from a defunct Soviet Union and South Korea from a pauper state to the North.

    The Left, which is always supposed to be anti-war in these little missives, has no problem with expanding the war in Afghanistan or continuing open-ended military involvements around the world that sap our national wealth.

    The ‘Left’ is not anti-war. The ‘Left’ loves wars and nation building and all the rest. The ‘Left’ doesn’t know how to deal with the Iraq War primarily because their arguement has been that the strategy in Iraq was ineffective. At no time did anyone in the ‘official Left’ try to argue, as did Ron Paul, that the war was unconstitutional and that all such wars are a massive waste of U.S. blood and treasure.

    Why? Because nation-building wars are a staple of the U.S. ‘Left.’ To argue that Iraq was unconstiutional or that nation-building is a misuse of military assets is to cast into the fire the primary legacy of the Democratic Party in the 20th Century.

    So they argue with the strategy. That’s all they have. Principles can’t come into play.

    But if the war improves somewhat, then they have egg on their faces, and we get snarky articles like this from ‘conservatives’ about how the Democrats can’t face reality. No, really, they can’t.

    But then again, if Obama is president and things look up, what then? Will Republican pundits applaud when faced with some success or other (no matter how temporary) of the Obama regime in the Iraq War?

    The Iraq War was a massively bad idea on a whole host of levels. So will be the next 10 nation-building wars the Democrats involve us in after Obama takes over as elected Messiah. I wonder what the Republicans will say about all those, when the come?

  2. Glen writes: “At no time did anyone in the ‘official Left’ try to argue, as did Ron Paul, that the war was unconstitutional and that all such wars are a massive waste of U.S. blood and treasure.”

    If most any mainstream Democrat were to say something like that, he would be eaten alive. The right-wing blogosphere, Faux News, and every right-wing talk radio station in the country would talk about nothing else. The person would be accused of “not supporting the troops,” “hating America,” being a “defeatist,” being a “traitor,” turning Iraq “over to Al Qaeda,” “losing the war on terror,” being a “radical leftist,” and so on. None of that would be true. But it wouldn’t matter. In the next election his opponent would have material for endless TV ads. Of course, it would be a courageous thing to do — the political equivalent of being a kamikaze pilot.

    Whether or not the “surge” worked is irrelevant. Wars of insurgency can go on for years. We could be there another 50 years, continuing to pour money and lives into that rat hole. But to say that we shouldn’t be in Iraq attacks the myth that through military power we can reshape the world in our image. And that’s a myth that few people want to abandon.

  3. Jim –

    Yes, you can check the vilification of Ron Paul for what would happen. However, this glaring issue remains – do the internationalist Democrats really oppose the idea of military force as a tool for reshaping the world?

    I would argue that no, in deed, they do not. As evidenced by the large numbers of ‘humanitarian’ interventions with Democrat origins. That is why the actual anti-war left has largely disavowed both Obama and the Democratic Party.

    The standard line is that Democrats are weak on defense and dovish while Republicans are hawks. This doesn’t bear out in reality. Democrats, as a whole, favor government mandated solutions to problems. The military is the ultimate government program, and the Democrats have tended to us the military option at a higher rate that Republicans.

    Which leaves us in a pickle here, as both candidates in this election are decidedly in favor of even more aggressive military action. Obama, in my estimation, is actually the more dangerous choice from that perspective. In order to dodge the ‘dove’ label, is likely to go to war with Iran, strike Pakistan, invade one or more African nations, and/or involve us in a dust-up in Latin America.

    To put this succintly – I don’t believe Obama has any compunction about preventative war, humanitarian wars, etc. I think Obama opposed the Iraq War because it was a convenient political tool to get elected.

    It isn’t the right-wing noise machine that keeps the elected Dems from denouncing aggressive war. Quite the contrary. It is their dedication to it that keeps them from denouncing it. They actually buy this stuff.

  4. Glen writes: “However, this glaring issue remains – do the internationalist Democrats really oppose the idea of military force as a tool for reshaping the world?”

    I would like to think that at this point we have enough experience with these wars to avoid engaging in them again. But I fear I may be wrong. I would also like to think that at this point both the country and the military are exhausted enough — physically, emotionally, and financially — to avoid such wars. Again, I fear I may be wrong.

    One of the problems is the Bush administration’s view of the presidency. In their view, when it comes to issues of national security, the president has virtually regal power; he is commander-in-chief, not only of the armed forces, but seemingly of the country as a whole. This view has not been officially repudiated by the Congress, either through impeachment, censure, or even public rebuke. Indeed, in many ways it has been confirmed in a number of actions by the Congress, most recently in the telecom amnesty legislation.

    Thus this new power will pass to subsequent presidents, Democratic and Republican. In a post from last year, I believe you referred to this power as the “Ring of Sauron.” The Congress apparently has decided not to dispose of the Ring of Sauron in the fires of Mordor, and thus, like the furniture and fixtures in the White House, it will become part of the equipment available to the next president. What’s at stake is not only military action but civil liberties as well.

  5. Jim & Glen, lest we forget the reason for the recent military activity–what is the proper response to agressive Islam both at home and aborad. Both Clinton and Bush have put into effect policies that tilt toward Islam, refusing to acknowledge the real source of the conflict especially with Muslims here in the United States. At the same time they involve us in wars. Until we arrive at a clear and consistent policy to combat aggressive Islam both here an abroad, the wars will continue. Gingrich in the video posted here in another thread is too optimistic IMO. I doubt that even the loss of a major city in the United States will move us to address the danger of the aggressive Islamic population already here in the United States.

    A couple of ideas:

    A. We should not allow any further mosques to be built with foreign money until ALL Islamic countries allow for the same freedoms in their countries to Jews, Christians, Zoasterians, etc. and the governments protect the life, property and employment rights of Christians in their own countries. That is the least we should do.

    B. If we are going to go after Christian preachers for making ‘political’ comments, we should do the same with imams.

    The bottom line is the question of how a country with civil liberties does battle with a fervent, tyrannical, barbarous enemy without sacrificing one’s own civil freedom at least to some extent. History does not show us an effective way. As long as we expect that civil liberties are a ‘freebie’ (come without consequences or effort whose source is government) we will not be able to respond effectively. As long as we are ruled by competing ideologies rather than making conscious decisions, matters will only get worse.

    We may have to consciously choose to apply specific limits to our civil freedoms for specific periods of time. It cannot be done on the sly or hidden under euphemisms.

    We have to have an honest national dialog about the threats we face. I don’t see that happening on the political level at all. Any statement any politician makes is immediately demagoged by political oppenents and the media. No honest discussion of real ideas is possible in such an environment. As you both noted, the political cost is simply too high. The result:every issue quickly becomes a frozen dicotomy in which both are wrong.

    To just flatly say, no more war is just as wrong as going to war at the drop of a hat, but we seem to be unable to address the issues of proper use of military force because of Vietnam and the ideological factions that formed around that war.

    Here are some questions that need to be answered:

    1. Are we going to go by the strict interpretation of the Constitution that requires Congressional declaration of war? If so then every war since WWII has been illegal.
    And the actions of all three branches of the governement completely derilict. If that is really our choice, the Congress is going to have to get some courage to demand and enforce its Constitutional role. It will have to fight the Executive Brach tooth and nail.

    2. Are we going to consciously allow for specific, pragmatic and limited exceptions to the specifics of the Constitution given the great increase in the reach and desctructive capapilities of modern weapons and the increase of assymetrical warfare? If so what are the parameters and procedures?

    3. What is a nation building war vs a proper military response to protect lives, freedom and our own interests in voltile and aggressive situations fostered by our enemies?

    4. Who is our enemy and what threats does the enemy pose (not just military threats) to whom and where? These threats ought to be identified and as much as a proper response allows, made public.

    5. How much are we willing to sacrifice to defeat the enemy (money, freedom, stuff, lives)?

    6. Will our leaders have the guts and the will to call us to that sacrifice?

    7. Are we willing to live with the possibility that the best solution may only be an uneasy, never fully stable standoff in which lives will continue to be lost and former freedoms curtailed?

    8. Do we really think what we have is worth defending or would be rather live under the tyranny of Sharia Law and have “peace in our time”?

    Soundbite politics and spin doctor monologs are unable and unwilling to address any significant issues in a reasonable manner. They simply identify the passions of a certain constituency and inflame those passions for their own benefit. Sure, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, et. all did the same but they also had a philosophy of government and a relatively homogeneous population to govern.

    It would seem that perhaps a parlimentary system might better serve the more diverse population we now have.

  6. Hello Jim –

    What’s at stake is not only military action but civil liberties as well.

    I couldn’t agree more. That is exactly what is at stake. The issue, however, is usually clouded by partisanship. The Dems bravely standing up for Civil Liberties and Peace, those nasty Republicans trying to spy on everyone and starting wars around the globe.

    Only that isn’t so. Wilson jailed people who protested the Draft. Opposition to his War got you put in the slammer. Ditto under Roosevelt. The first instances of Americans being arrested and prosecuted for such crimes as selling milk happened under Roosevelt and his Draconian National Recovery Act.

    The CIA was a Democratic initiative. Eisenhower refused military involvement in French Indochina. Kennedy and Johnson did not, giving America its second unconstitutional war. Nixon got us out, but used the power of the government to punish his political enemies and imposed wage and price controls that almost destroyed our economy.

    The partisan stereotypes are just marketing ploys. Obama will be even more authoritarian, even more anti-Civil Liberties, and even more belligerent than McCain. He will seize the power of the presidency, combine that with a pliant Democratic Congress, and will use it all to ‘do good,’ both domestically and abroad.

    Not that McCain will be a prince of a guy, and not that he won’t misuse this treasure trove of power. I just don’t think his ambition quotient for transforming the nation and world is the same as Obama. Obama has an ego that is bigger than most states, and he has a dream of what the world should look like. Men with power and big dreams usually equal Caesar much more often than Cincinnatus.

    But don’t blame me. I’m voting Libertarian, just as in the Republican Primary I voted Ron Paul.

  7. Original questions in Italics. My answers below in normal text:

    1. Are we going to go by the strict interpretation of the Constitution that requires Congressional declaration of war? If so then every war since WWII has been illegal.
    And the actions of all three branches of the governement completely derilict. If that is really our choice, the Congress is going to have to get some courage to demand and enforce its Constitutional role. It will have to fight the Executive Brach tooth and nail.

    Yes. Every use of military force in a war not declared by Congress is unconstitutional. They are also almost uniformly bad ideas. Eisenhower had to end the Korean War fiasco, remember? Nixon bailed on the fiasco in Vietnam. Remember? The fact that the Constitution is being ignored with impunity by our political class just means that our population has to wake up and demand a return to our own principles of self-government.

    2. Are we going to consciously allow for specific, pragmatic and limited exceptions to the specifics of the Constitution given the great increase in the reach and desctructive capapilities of modern weapons and the increase of assymetrical warfare? If so what are the parameters and procedures?

    You are confusing issues with this. There is no Muslim nation that ranks higher than a fourth rate power. Not even Pakistan with its nukes. The Muslim threat to the West is non-state in nature. It is a combination of non-state actors who engage in terrorism, and non-state actors exploiting the power of immigration to reshape the West. Muslim nations themselves are relatively powerless in military terms. Muslim money, however, is not. Muslim non-state money in the form of Sovereign Wealth funds are spreading Sharia through our banking system as it teeters on the brink of collapse. Muslim immigrants are changing Western Europe into Karachi. Muslim money is backing terrorists who hide in the large immigrant populations and carry out terror attacks.

    The answer to this was to – invade two countries, drive up the cost of oil, spend billions of dollars borrowed from the Chinese, and curtail the civil liberties of non-Muslims? I fail to see how the current situation calls for the abandonment of any part of our Constitution. How is the Constitution damaged if Muslims are denied the right to immigrate to the U.S., Muslims are denied the right to extend their stay in the U.S., or Muslim money is denied the right to buy ownership of strategic U.S. assets? The Constitution, last time I checked, was not written to protect foreigners.

    3. What is a nation building war vs a proper military response to protect lives, freedom and our own interests in voltile and aggressive situations fostered by our enemies?

    WWII – Germany and Japan were major military threats to the U.S. Japan actually attacked us. The war was fought to stop these twin threats. After the war, the U.S. agreed to help the defeated nations recover. The purpose of the war was not to transform German or Japanese society. The purpose was not to spread Democracy or to foster a New World Order. The purpose was to punish Japan for attacking the U.S., destroy its ability to do so again, and to crush Germany which declared war on us in support of its ally.

    Now compare that to Iraq. Hussein was every bit as much as threat to the United States as my Boston Terrier. The talk was about Hussein gassing his own people. He was a tyrant. He might be dangerous. Some day. He had attacked Iran. He had attacked other Arabs and overrun Kuwait. A transformed Iraq would be a beacon of liberty, transform the region, etc.

    The fact is, we were talking about rebuilding Iraq before we ever even destroyed it in the first place. Start to finish, the goal here was to use military force to transform a pivotal nation in the Middle East. This was, and is, a pipe dream.

    You fight a war because the state which you are attacking is a direct threat to your national well-being. Not because they are killing their own people. Not because they are mean or nasty. Not because you think you can improve the situation and help people.

    4. Who is our enemy and what threats does the enemy pose (not just military threats) to whom and where? These threats ought to be identified and as much as a proper response allows, made public.

    See above. Our primary enemy is non-state in nature. It has to be opposed on that basis. You can’t bomb Muslims in Basra and expect that to moderate the demands of Muslims in Liverpool for the Sharia. You can take ground in Afghanistan and expect that to stop Muslim ‘students’ in New York from planning an attack.

    5. How much are we willing to sacrifice to defeat the enemy (money, freedom, stuff, lives)?

    Nothing. I don’t believe Muslim money should be allowed to invest in strategic assets of the United States, including banking. That doesn’t impact me, I’m not Muslim. I don’t believe Muslims should be allowed to immigrate to the United States. Doesn’t impact me, I’m not Muslim. I believe the government should aggressively pursue, arrest, and repatriate Muslims in this country illegally. Doesn’t cause me any hardship, I’m not Muslim. I believe that Muslim propaganda fronts such as CAIR or any other group advocating for the Sharia should be shut down, the members arrested, and possibly expelled. Doesn’t concern me, I’m not Muslim.

    We can also cut off all foreign aid to Muslim nations, end all military guarantees to Muslim ‘allies,’ drill for domestic oil, and do a whole lot of other really useful things that won’t hurt me, or you, one little bit.

    But the government is not doing any of this. Muslim immigration is way up since the 9/11 attacks. Which means the Government is using this as a smokescreen to increase Federal power, erode overall Civil Liberties, and prepare the way for whatever nastiness the next President sees fit to throw our way.

    6. Will our leaders have the guts and the will to call us to that sacrifice?

    See previous answer. What sacrifice? Is drilling in every spot on the U.S. map that has oil sacrifice? Is ending Muslim immigration a sacrifice? Is blocking Sovereign Wealth funds from buying our banks a sacrifice?

    7. Are we willing to live with the possibility that the best solution may only be an uneasy, never fully stable standoff in which lives will continue to be lost and former freedoms curtailed?

    You may be. I’m not.

    8. Do we really think what we have is worth defending or would be rather live under the tyranny of Sharia Law and have “peace in our time”?

    Sharia Law in the West will not come from external military invasion. Sharia Law will be imposed at the ballot box. Fighting stupid wars in the Middle East that bankrupt us, ruin our currency, and allow major assets to slip into Muslim control at pennies on the dollar will not stop Sharia from coming. JPMC, Citibank, and others have taken massive infusions of Muslim money to stay afloat. Most of our media is at least partially owned by Muslim (usually Saudi) money. The policies of this administration, Bush, and the next (McCain or Obama) will do NOTHING to stop the spread of Sharia. Zippo. The policies that would are not on offer from either campaign.

  8. A. We should not allow any further mosques to be built with foreign money until ALL Islamic countries allow for the same freedoms in their countries to Jews, Christians, Zoasterians, etc. and the governments protect the life, property and employment rights of Christians in their own countries. That is the least we should do.

    I would not allow mosques to be built with foreign financing at all. The demands for Civil Liberties for Christians is based on a different premise that whether one is willing to permit foreign religious groups to evangelize.

    B. If we are going to go after Christian preachers for making ‘political’ comments, we should do the same with imams.

    Advocating the establishment of Sharia is sedition against the Constitution of the United States. It should be punished. Calling George W. Bush a chimp is Constitutionally protected freedom of expression. Calling for a Muslim state, working for the goal of a Muslim state, advocating Muslim Law, are all incompatible with American standards of political freedom. Calling the president names, opposing presidential policies, questioning government policy, campaigning against government policy, etc. should be completely protected by the First Amendment.

  9. Michael –

    Did you see this:

    Food workers at the Shelbyville, Tenn., plant for Tyson Foods, which boasts on its corporate website that it strives “to honor God,” will have time off for Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday closing the month of Ramadan, instead of the American tradition Labor Day.

    Officials with the company told WND the labor union representing the 1,200 plant workers, including about 700 immigrants from Somalia who largely are Muslim, sought the holiday change in the new five-year contract, and the company agreed.

    Which Muslim country should we invade because of this? Somalia?

    I would be willing to pay higher prices for chicken to keep Somali workers out of our factories. The government facilitated this by allowing those workers in the country. Multiply that out by 100 years, and you have a real, serious problem.

  10. It was the Somali taxicab drives in Minneapolis that were refusing to pick up folks with pets or alcohol because that offended their relgion. Shall we even talk about Dearborn, MI? Muslim taxi drivers and poultry workers are cow-towed to while pro-life doctors and pharmacists are being forced out of their profession by “ethics” standards.

    Unless we are willing to control our own borders and our own finances we’ve already lost. You’re right it is not the military stuff that is really the problem. If the terrorists were smart, they would never launch another terrorist attack anywhere, just inflitrate and take over by demographics and oil money. Heck they don’t even have to ‘inlfiltrate’ just come. We long ago lost the will to defend our freedom. because all we care about is money and sex–the almost 50 year orgy of bread and circuses begun in the 60’s. With embeds and 24/7 coverage of every military action on the globe, maybe the wars are our form of gladitorial contests. Unfortunately, the Libertarians just foster these things. They offer no real alternative except everyman -for-himself-and-the-devil-take-the-hindmost. Their convention looked looked like a bunch of bad comics doing an improv–sober (I think) Shriners taking themselves far too seriously. The absurdity of eqalitarianism on display–freedom transformed into license.

    So we either get force based tyranny or the tyranny of the passions with the government seal of approval–a Nietzchean/Orwellian tragi-comic opera.

    Lord have mercy.

  11. Unfortunately, the Libertarians just foster these things. They offer no real alternative except everyman -for-himself-and-the-devil-take-the-hindmost. Their convention looked looked like a bunch of bad comics doing an improv–sober (I think) Shriners taking themselves far too seriously. The absurdity of eqalitarianism on display–freedom transformed into license.

    No idea. I have never paid the slightest attention to the Libertarian Party. There are great people there, but the Party as a whole attracts too many headcases. I’ll be voting Bob Barr in November, but he is really a traditional conservative who is running there because his ideas are too conservative for the wreck the Republican Party has become.

    Ron Paul had great things to say about immigration, and I liked his fiscal stance. His movement attracted its share of pinheads, but a lot of Jeffersonian types also flocked to his banner. That movement is not dead, it has morphed from being his campaign to being a permenent feature of American politics. I don’t have time for it, but I keep track of it through friends.

    But we need to separate some things. I don’t spend a whole lot of time laying awake being worried about the Latin American threat. By and large, they are Christian, and their culture is similar to ours. They adopt readily enough. We can mix easily enough with them. I prefer border enforcement, but going more Latino doesn’t give me heartburn.

    Going Muslim does. In fact, I would say I am closer to heart palpations.

    As for the terrorism, they don’t need to make another strike. We are bankrupting ourselves responding to the last one. They succeeded in their goal – they materially harmed far in excess of the direct damage of the attacks. The budget deficit is a gaping financial wound, and we are busy kissing up to Muslims in two different countries and proving that we can enforce Sharia on our own troops not to offend anyone.

    Double that prayer for me.

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