Congressman Moran & the Dixie Chicks; Hitchens and Horowitz

At last the leaders of the Democratic Party have moved decisively, hauling out their ripest comminations and hurling them at-no, not at George Bush. The man at whom they’ve been leveling their fire this past week is 7-term US Rep James Moran of Virginia. Moran, a former mayor of Alexandria, Va., is in hot water over his head for having remarked in a March 3 town hall session with his constituents that, as quoted in the Virginia-area Connection newspapers, “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should.”

The House and Senate Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle, promptly denounced Moran’s remarks, and six Jewish House Democrats have taken it upon themselves to advise Moran that he not seek re-election in 2004. Should he do so, “we cannot and will not support his candidacy.” Moran has been forced to give up on his positions as Democratic Party leader in the mid-Atlantic region, though not as yet his committee posts on the Hill. The game plan is clearly what it was with Hilliard of Alabama and McKinney of Georgia, both evicted from Congress last year as conspicuous acts of retribution against critics of Israel: Breathe a word about justice for Palestinians, and you’ll lose your seat. Moran says he’ll certainly run again, and the decision will belong to the voters of his district.

One reason Moran is getting whacked so hysterically is that Jewish nerves are raw on precisely the point he raised, the role of Jewish opinion here in pressing for the attack on Iraq. It’s one thing for Pat Buchanan to raise the issue of dual loyalty in the American Conservative (as he has just done), but when Tim Russert starts pressing Richard Perle to assure us that he’s advocating an attack on Iraq in the interests of the United States, not some other power, we know it’s perched squarely on the front burner. Suddenly researchers from Nightline (one called me on the matter) and other mainstream outfits are rushing for copies of “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the 1996 briefing plan for Benjamin Netanyahu prepared by such pro-Israel hawks as Perle, Douglas Feith and others now high in the Bush Administration, advocating attack on Iraq.

It’s now OK for reporters (Robert Kaiser in the Washington Post, for example) to describe the Jewish neocon lobby for war, starting with Perle, Wolfowitz and Feith, and heading on down the list to Elliott Abrams, now running the Israel-Palestine portfolio at the National Security Council. The op-ed pages are beginning to vibrate with predictable charges from people like Lawrence Kaplan of The New Republic that all this talk of dual loyalty and Israel’s agenda is nothing but rank anti-Semitism. To his credit, Michael Kinsley, editor of Slate, ran a piece (subtitle: “If You’re Going To Be Jewish And Powerful, You Can’t Whine When Someone Notices It”) saying that uproar raised by American Jews was probably evidence that Moran was on the money, and that when it came to testimonies to the power of the Jewish lobby, none was more publicly boastful on the matter than AIPAC.

Moran is plummeting, whirling in the familiar downward spiral of contrition and self-abasement. But does his remark about “strong support” for attack on Iraq in the Jewish community have any basis in reality? What about American Jewish organizations?

Last fall the Forward reported that some Jewish groups, such as the Workmen’s Circle, were angry at the way the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations had been hijacked by the prowar faction and by its mad-dog president, Mort Zuckerman, who was openly howling for war in his own publication, U.S. News & World Report, as “the only appropriate and acceptable course.” In mid-September Michelle Goldberg began a piece on this topic in Salon with “Once a pillar of the American peace movement, mainstream Jewish groups and leaders are now among the strongest supporters of an American invasion of Baghdad.”

On October 11 the Forward reported that a draft resolution of the fifty-two-member Conference supported “measures necessary to ensure Iraqi disarmament.” Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, was quoted by the Forward as saying “the final statement ought to be crystal clear in backing the President having to take unilateral action if necessary against Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.” Abe Foxman of the ADL called the resolution “a consensus document,” and the Forward cited him as saying he would support a position that backs the President in “whatever he decides he needs to do.”

Of course there are Jewish groups, not least in the big peace coalitions, that are strongly and effectively antiwar. In January the American Jewish Committee released a poll claiming that a majority of American Jews-59 percent-approve of US military action against Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Thirty-six percent opposed such action. These findings, the AJC also emphasized, were comparable to the attitudes of the general American population.

It’s at the elite level that the Jewish voices one hears are overwhelmingly pressing for war. The Forward for October 18, 2002 reported that on the resolution granting GWB license to conduct a war against Iraq, which passed 296-133 on October 10, 81 Democrats supported it, 126 opposed and one abstained. Of 23 Jewish Democrats in the House, 16 voted in support of the resolution, while seven voted “no,” In recent weeks, fearing backlash, some Jewish groups have been carefully downplaying their support for Bush and the war. Some probably think the assaults on Moran may have been too much of a good thing. Who needs Colin Powell on tv denying that the war is being pressed in Israel’s interests.

Back once more to Moran. What is the nature of his supposedly “anti-Israel” record that the rabbis in his district are now seeking to avenge? In a speech to the American Muslim Council, Moran, who has traveled extensively in the Middle East, said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to Washington “probably seeking a warrant from President Bush to kill at will with weapons we have paid for.” True enough.

In a 1996 Jerusalem Post op-ed, Moran described an Israeli border policeman beating an unarmed Palestinian. “The unarmed youth was held on the ground while police officers armed with guns and clubs climbed over each other’s backs to land their own blows on his body,” Moran wrote. “Most of the witnesses to this scene said it happens all the time. When Israeli police and Palestinians are concerned there is no justice or fair play. Might makes right. I witnessed the police laughing and making self-congratulatory gestures after the beating.” How encouraging to know that an elected US representative has the sinew to describe such a scene. How chastening to realize that such indignation, in Nancy Pelosi’s words about Moran’s recent remarks in Virginia, has “no place in the Democratic Party”-or, given the broader Christian evangelical alliance with Sharon, in the Republican Party either.

Dixie Chicks Don’t Blink

Moran, now being put through the never-ending rituals of self-abasement should take a leaf from the songbook of the Dixie Chicks. The chicks are getting stick from some in the country music crowd after lead singer Natalie Maines stuck it to Bush in some remarks to a London audience last week.

“Just so you know,” Mains said, “We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” The group later released a statement Thursday saying they have been overseas for several weeks and “the anti-American sentiment that has unfolded here is astounding. While we support our troops, there is nothing more frightening than the notion of going to war with Iraq and the prospect of all the innocent lives that will be lost.”

In a separate statement Thursday, Maines, said, “I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view.” Way to go, Natalie, who went to UC Berkeley for a year. She knows how to keep it short and simple. It doesn’t even sounds as though her manager rushed in some fancy lawyer to draft her statement.

The Dixie Chicks will kick off a U.S. tour in support of their multi-platinum album “Home’‘ on May 1 in Greenville, South Carolina, not noted as a bastion of antiwar sentiment, at least when I was there a couple of months ago. CounterPuncher Jim Fahey of Arcata writes, “I’d love to see this group pick up support from unexpected sources, since it’s a cinch they’re going to lose a lot of their expected support.”

Gridiron Singsong

While the Chicks were standing tall for peace, the Washington Press corps was lauding “unrivalled might”. This year’s Gridiron dinner ended with the white-tied guests rising to their feet (at the request of the host) to sing a song written by journalists covering the Washington scene. The tune was that of Do You Hear the People Sing? from the Broadway production of Les Miserables. The lyrics were written by the members of the Gridiron Club. The closing stanza read: DO YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING? AMERICA’S SONG FOR ALL MANKIND IT IS THE MUSIC OF OUR NATION ONCE UNITED WE WILL FIND HOW TO USE UNRIVALLED MIGHT TO STOP THE BEATING OF THE DRUMS SO THAT THE WORLD WILL LIVE IN PEACE WHEN TOMORROW COMES.

The Washington Post described this as “a moving anthem” and those singing it sang it with their right hand on the heart, with the exception of a few churlish foreigners who failed to stand. (And we all know where THEY can go…)

Hitchens: The Jampot Files (Just Another Middle-Aged Porker of the Right)

The long-awaited nuptials took p[lace Friday morning, March 14. On that solemn day Hitchens was the guest of the Wednesday Morning Club in Hollywood, a front for David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Its web site is part of the Center’s web site and has links both to his old magazine, Heterodoxy, to his website FrontPage, and to something called the Individual Rights Foundation. Out of curiosity CounterPuncher Jeffrey Blankfort called the number to make reservations for the breakfast with 323-556-2550, “and ask for Tony.” He reached Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the Individual Rights Foundation.

This is from its web site: “The Wednesday Morning Club seeks to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Washington by introducing entertainment community leaders to national political leaders in an environment conducive to intellectual growth and understanding.

“The Wednesday Morning Club’s guest speaker list is unequaled by any other Hollywood political group. “The idea for the Wednesday Morning Club was conceived the morning after the 1992 elections, hence the name. The Wednesday Morning Club does not necessarily meet in the morning, nor on Wednesday.” Some of its past speakers: Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes , William Bennett, Judge Robert Bork, Joe Lieberman, Trent Lott, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Larry Elder, Newt Gingrich, Dore Gold, Henry Hyde, Ben Wattenberg, J.C. Watts.

On the topic of the Barstool bombardier we are in receipt of a note from James Graham of Lexington, Virginia, advising caution on the matter of Hitchens and Korsakoff’s Syndrome, noting that “it is a relatively rare and very severe neurological disorder that appears in ‘chronic’ alcoholics, people so far gone in the addiction that they are long since incapable of functioning in society. It would not be found in a person who makes frequent appearances on television. He could not find his way to the studio.” Graham suggests “temporary amnesia” as typical of boozers in the early and middle-stages of their drinking careers. Graham also sent his book “Vessels of Rage, Engines of Power: The Secret History of Alcoholism”, which we’ve been dipping into. One central thrust: big boozers have a very great need for ego satisfaction, which is certainly true of Hitchypoo. Eric Fine noted in a review of the book that Graham is correct ion noting that “when alcoholics stop drinking, many of their symptoms persist including, in many, the pathological need for power. Unless significant changes are made in the personality, particularly the ego, many alcoholics remain severely problematic.” This brings us back to G. Bush.

Perry Anderson’s War Talk

Amid mounting world ridicule for US arguments for war, the barstool bombardiers are gratefully passing from hand to hand the London Review of Books, which contains New Left Review editor Perry Anderson’s disingenuous hailing of Bush’s rationales for attacking Iraq as “ironclad”, and his haughty put-downs of the antiwar movement for loose argument, (although Anderson fails to provide any antiwar ammunition matching his own exacting standards). We are very proud to feature Peter Linebaugh’s eloquent riposte to Anderson on this site this weekend. Peter is one of our favorite historians, and the Many-Headed Hydra, coauthored with Marcus Rediker should be at every CounterPuncher’s elbow.

Meanwhile, D. Monroe writes to us as follows:

Perry Anderson’s “Are We Sure We Can Get Away With It This Time?” is truly strange.

It is, on the face of it, a plea to anti-war activists to find a more “principled” set of arguments for opposition to War Plan Iraq. To illustrate why this is necessary, Mr. Anderson takes us carefully through a series of arguments, counter-arguments and alternative arguments.

He assures us that we’d best find a better reason for protesting than the possibility of disaster because “.war, if it comes, will not be like Vietnam. It will be short and sharp”.

This is not unreasonable; there are moral reasons for opposing war (or, more generally, uninvited intervention of any sort) that have nothing to do with whether or not it will succeed or fail.

Nevertheless, Mr. Anderson’s apparent confidence that the war will be brief and the occupation error free – even resulting in the reconstruction of Iraq – is truly strange, and gives me pause regarding the value of his observations overall.

Indeed, at various points in his essay, he (speaking ostensibly through the voice of a Bush Admin official answering anti-war arguments but seemingly Mr. Anderson’s POV as well) tells us that terrorism is not really all that important an issue – this is only represented by Al Qaeda and “its leadership [was] killed off in Afghanistan” so nothing to worry about there – Israel has prevailed over the Palestinian uprising and Afghanistan is being rebuilt by the UN.

These are truly extraordinary claims, indicating a nearly complete lack of attention to the situation we face. Just to take Afghanistan as an example, if, as Mr. Anderson seems to believe, the UN is doing such a marvelous job of rebuilding the country, why did Mr. Hamid Karzai recently travel to Washington to plead that Congress not forget his people?

You would think all the clinic constructions, road re-building ceremonies and school openings throughout the country would have kept him too busy to travel and too confident of his international friend’s generosity to feel a need to travel. Sadly, the President of Kabul appears to have a calendar free of too many such events.

Mr. Anderson appears to know nothing of this.

Yes, he makes some interesting points but, all in all, the underlying premise of his position is that US power is unchallenged and unchallengeable – so, if you’re going to argue with it, you’d best have a nicely packaged, logical and “principled” argument because any discussion of potential disaster will look foolish once our armed forces succeed.

As they’ve done spectacularly across the globe to international acclaim.

I cannot take his arguments seriously if he can’t even see the disastrous consequences that are in plain view.

D. Monroe

And since we’re burrowing through our mailbag, this just in from the United Kingdom.

To CounterPunch:

While knowledge is power, the ignorance of the many enables the corrupt few to amass absolute power. Thus the few who own and control the general media shape our perceptions. Thus it appears from this (UK) side of the Atlantic that George and Donald speak and act for the whole American people. How refreshing then to find a website such as yours, that presents an alternate to the hysterical rhetoric favored by much of the media and the government.

Your site provides much needed counterbalance and intelligence in an otherwise homogenous and shallow debate. It does credit to the American people and to the freedoms that you cherish that is under assault from the right.

In turn, let me assure you that Tony does not speak for us. He has proved to be a right-wing cuckoo usurping the cradle of liberal democracy that is the Labour party. The vast majority of the British people seek a peaceful disarmament, not only of Iraq, but also of Israel and North Korea. I have little doubt that common sense will prevail and we will ditch “the poodle” in due course.

Yours Faithfully,

Raquib Shamsad


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.