Posts tagged Condoleezza Rice

Two and a half wars

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday a North Korean nuclear test would be a very provocative act and the United States would have to assess its options should it be carried out.

Rice’s warning, at a news conference in Cairo, reflected widespread concern within the Bush administration. She stressed, however, that a North Korean test was an issue for the neighborhood and not just for the United States.

It would be a very provocative act, she said. Still, she said, they have not yet done it.

Rice did not elaborate on the options she said the United States would consider if North Korea followed through on it threat.

— Ann Gearan, Forbes.com (2006-10-03): U.S.: N. Korea Nuclear Test Unacceptable

Now, I reject, root and branch, the whole terror-empire geopolitics that are so proudly endorsed by both the ruling Right and the Cold War liberals who dominate the Loyal Opposition. But suppose that you take those ideas on their own terms for a second. The strategic question that Rice’s blustering raises is this. Even granting the legitimacy of the enterprise, given the way the United States is hopelessly mired in ever-worsening civil wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention whatever the endgame for the increasingly bellicose diplomatic confrontation with Iran may be, just what options does the United States realistically have left at this point?

Everything has limits, even global superpowers. The War Party, especially in its more bellicose factions, fantasizes that the United States has the muscle, resources, know-how, and will to sustain itself as the head of a geopolitical power structure which amounts to world empire in everything but name; and it is precisely these people who are most fond of passing themselves off as hard-nosed policy realists against the saccharine dreams of hippies, pacifist zealots, moonbats, the terminally clueless, and countless other denizens of whatever La-La Land they imagine you have to be from to possibly have doubts about the latest march to war. But they are wrong, dead wrong, and their pose is growing more evidently absurd every day. Unfortunately, we, not they, will be forced to deal with the human consequences of the colossal disasters they are pulling us into.

In Their Own Words, The Anniversary edition

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

Jus ad bello

Like Judas of old,
you lie and deceive
A world war can be won
you want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), Republican Party fund-raiser, 12 April 2002:

Why don’t we just take his oil? Smith bellowed to the crowd during a fiery 13-minute speech, referring to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Why buy it? Take it!

President George W. Bush, speech before the United Nations General Assembly, 12 September 2002:

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge — by his deceptions, and by his cruelties — Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations’ inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence.

Perry G. Smith, guest column for the Opelika-Auburn News, 27 February 2003:

The editorial board asked these questions:

  1. How can we start a war with Iraq while waging a war against terrorists all over the place?

  2. Would the battlefront be too much to manage?

  3. Might al-Qaida appreciate us going into Iraq?

  4. If we attack Iraq, will we be more vulnerable to terrorists?

It’s too bad those people whom we elected to make decisions about those questions for us (President Bush, Vice President Chaney [sic] and our Republican-controlled Congress) and our nation’s National Security advisers and military leaders don’t include the [Opelika-Auburn News] on every little aspect of their planning. Our smart leaders use intelligence that is gathered by very sophisticated sources in their decision-making process. Disclosure of our secret intelligence and plans (necessarily the answers to your questions) to the liberally biased news media usually gets the people who gave the information on which we based our decisions killed or stops any further disclosure of information to our sources. I believe that our leaders have made a full assessment of those and other questions and the best courses of action have been decided upon for the best interest of our nation. All of us should fall in behind our president and whole-heartedly support him and our committed military personnel now.

Saddam needs to disarm now. If he does not, this superpower intends to make him. I personally believe that this conflict will be over more quickly than Desert Storm and with even fewer U.S. casualties.

Jus in bello

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

George W. Bush, 20 January 2002:

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, … do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 20, 2002, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to reflect upon the sanctity of human life. Let us recognize the day with appropriate ceremonies in our homes and places of worship, rededicate ourselves to compassionate service on behalf of the weak and defenseless, and reaffirm our commitment to respect the life and dignity of every human being.

Alberto Gonzales, memo to George W. Bush, 23 January 2002:

Positives

The consequences of a decision to adhere to what I understood to be your earlier determination that the GPW does not apply to the Taliban include the following:

  • Substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441). ** That statute, enacted in 1996 prohibits the commission of a war crime by or against a U.S. person, including U.S. officials. War crime for these purposes is defined to include any grave breach of GPW or any violation of common Article 3 thereof (such as outrages against personal dignity). Some of these provisions apply (if the GPW applies) regardless of whether the individual being detained qualifies as a POW. Punishments for violations of Section 2441 include the death penalty. A determination that the GPW is not applicable to the Taliban would mean that Section 2441 would not apply to actions taken with respect to the Taliban.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:

And there have not been large numbers of civilian casualties because the coalition took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians as well as holy sites. … When the dust is settled in Iraq, military historians will study this war. They’ll examine the unprecedented combination of power, precision, speed, flexibility and, I would add also, compassion that was employed.

General Tommy Franks, Bagram Air Force Base, 19 March 2002:

I don’t believe you have heard me or anyone else in our leadership talk about the presence of 1,000 bodies out there, or in fact how many have been recovered. You know we don’t do body counts.

Donald Rumsfeld, interview on FOX News Sunday, 9 November 2003:

Well, we don’t do body counts …

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, interview with BBC Today, 18 May 2004:

Q: How many people, Iraqi people, have been killed during the occupation? Do you have a figure or don’t you?

A: … And I gave answers to a Parliamentary Question on this. I went into it in a great deal of detail. We’ve made use of NGO estimates, and others, but the last estimate which I gave in answer to a Parliamentary Question, and I speak from recollection but I’m happy to have this checked, was about ten thousand.

Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, 7 September 2004:

A spike in fighting with Sunni and Shiite insurgents killed eight Americans in the Baghdad area on Tuesday and Wednesday, pushing the count to 1,003. That number includes 1,000 U.S. troops and three civilians, two working for the U.S. Army and one for the Air Force. The tally was compiled by The Associated Press based on Pentagon records and AP reporting from Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cited progress on multiple fronts in the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism and said U.S. enemies should not underestimate the willingness of the American people and its coalition allies to suffer casualties in Iraq and elsewhere.

Dr. Les Roberts, 29 October 2004:

Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths.

James Massey, interview on Democracy Now!, 24 May 2004:

Iraq violated every rule of engagement that I have ever been taught - violated every rule of the Geneva Convention that I have been taught.

Adam Gorlick, Associated Press, 16 October 2004:

Depression set in, and Jeff dealt with it by going on heavy drinking binges. On Christmas Eve, he sat down with Debbie and gave his first account of being told to shoot two unarmed Iraqi soldiers.

The way he told the story, Jeff was about five feet away from two Iraqis — each about his own age — when he was ordered to shoot them. He said he looked them in their eyes before closing his own, then pulled the trigger.

He took off two dog tags around his neck, threw them at me and said, Don’t you understand? Your brother is a murderer, Debbie said.

Doug Struck, Washington Post, 7 December 2004:

A former U.S. Marine staff sergeant testified at a hearing Tuesday that his unit killed at least 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq during the war in 2003 and that Marines routinely shot and killed wounded Iraqis.

Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the killing of innocent civilians, but that nothing was done.

U.S.-appointed Iraqi Defence Minister Sheikh Hazem Shalaam, 9 November 2004:

We’ve called it Operation Dawn. God willing, it’s going to be a new, happy dawn for the people of Falluja.

U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, 9 November 2004:

There is no confusion, if you’re on the street, you’re a bad guy. Ninety per cent of the civilian population has left

Rory McCarthy and Peter Beaumont, The Guardian:

The moves came amid renewed warnings from aid groups that Iraq’s civilian population was facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Although many of Falluja’s 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting.

The horrific conditions for those who remained in the city have begun to emerge in the last 24 hours as it became clear that US military claims of precision targeting of insurgent positions were false.

According to one Iraqi journalist who left Falluja on Friday, some of the civilian injuries were caused by the massive firepower directed on to city neighbourhoods during the battle.

If the fighters fire a mortar, US forces respond with huge force, said the journalist, who asked not to be named.

The city had been without power or water for days. Frozen food had spoiled and people could not charge their cellphones. Some people hadn’t prepared well. They didn’t stock up on tinned food. They didn’t think it would be this bad, he said.

At the main hospital, cut off from the rest of the city, doctors have reportedly been treating the injured with nothing but bandages, while the Red Crescent says people have been bleeding to death for lack of medical attention.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:

Q: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I’m Sergeant Cramer (ph) from the 502nd (Transit ?), and I was just curious to know whether or not you’ve been bombarded with apologetic phonecalls from your critics who had perceived a doom and gloom scenario.

(Applause; cheers.)

Rumsfeld: My answer’s off the record. (Laughter.) There were a lot of hand-wringers around, weren’t there? (Laughter; applause.) You know, during World War II, I think Winston Churchill was talking about the Battle of Britain, and he said, Never have so many owed so much to so few. A humorist in Washington the other day sent me a note paraphrasing that, and he said, Never have so many been so wrong about so much. (Laughter; applause.)

Jus post bellum

How much do I know
to talk out of turn?
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Thought I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never forgive what you do

George W. Bush, remarks to reporters, 3 May 2003:

We’ll find them [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. It’ll be a matter of time to do so

George W. Bush, interview with TVP Poland, 30 May 2003:

But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 10 February 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not recall British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pre-war claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to be deployed in 45 minutes.

I don’t remember the statement being made, to be perfectly honest, Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he didn’t remember the statement either.

The claim made headlines around the world after Blair leveled it in a 55-page white paper presented to the House of Commons in September 2002.

Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority, 2 September 2003:

The Iraqi people are now free. And they do not have to worry about the secret police coming after them in the middle of the night, and they don’t have to worry about their husbands and brothers being taken off and shot, or their wives being taken to rape rooms. Those days are over.

George W. Bush, press availability in Monterrey, Mexico, 12 January 2004:

One thing is for certain: There won’t be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, report to Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, 11 March 2004:

On 19 January 2004, Lieutenant General (LTG) Ricardo S. Sanchez, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Seven (CJTF-7) requested that the Commander, US Central Command, appoint an Investigating Officer (IO) in the grade of Major General (MG) or above to investigate the conduct of operations within the 800th Military Police (MP) Brigade. LTG Sanchez requested an investigation of detention and internment operations by the Brigade from 1 November 2003 to present. LTG Sanchez cited recent reports of detainee abuse.

I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts: (a) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet; (b) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees; (c) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing; (d) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time; (e) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear; (f) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped; (g) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them; (h) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture; (i) Writing I am a Rapest (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked; (j) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture; (k) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee; (l) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee; (m) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees. … These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements.

Several US Army Soldiers have committed egregious acts and grave breaches of international law at Abu Ghraib/BCCF and Camp Bucca, Iraq. Furthermore, key senior leaders in both the 800th MP Brigade and the 205th MI Brigade failed to comply with established regulations, policies, and command directives in preventing detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and at Camp Bucca during the period August 2003 to February 2004.

Then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, CBS Early Show, 19 March 2004:

There are no more rape rooms and torture chambers in Iraq.

George W. Bush, remarks on the first anniversary of the Iraq War, 19 March 2004:

All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression and instability in the Middle East. … Who would prefer that Saddam’s torture chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?

George W. Bush, interview with Al-Arabiya Television, 5 May 2004:

It’s very important for people, your listeners, to understand in our country that when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act—and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. And we act in a way where, you know, our Congress asks pointed questions to the leadership. … Iraq was a unique situation because Saddam Hussein had constantly defied the world and had threatened his neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction, had terrorist ties, had torture chambers …

George W. Bush, Presidential radio address on the second anniversary of the Iraq War, 19 March 2005:

Good morning. On this day two years ago, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world from a grave danger.

Et cognoscetis veritatem

Let me ask you one question.
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
when your death takes its toll
all the money you made
will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I’ll follow your casket
in the pale afternoon
I’ll watch while you’re lowered
down to your death-bed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead

White ribbon, for an end to violence

IN MEMORIAM.

Condoleezza’s Right

Here’s something that you may have thought you’d never see in the pages of the Rad Geek People’s Daily: Condoleezza Rice is absolutely right.

Over at Stone Court (thanks again, Feminist Blogs!), Fred Vincy’s pointed out Condoleezza Rice’s stance on gun control, offered up by The Times (2004-11-21):

Violence was turning her hometown into Bombingham as Alabama’s governor George Wallace fought a federal court order to integrate the city’s schools. The Ku Klux Klan bombed the homes of blacks who were beginning to move into white neighbourhoods. Among the targets was the home of Arthur Shores, a veteran civil rights lawyer and friend of the Rices. Condi and her parents took food and clothes over to his family.

With the bombings came marauding groups of armed white vigilantes called nightriders who drove through black neighbourhoods shooting and starting fires. John Rice and his neighbours guarded the streets at night with shotguns.

The memory of her father out on patrol lies behind Rice’s opposition to gun control today. Had those guns been registered, she argues, Bull Connor would have had a legal right to take them away, thereby removing one of the black community’s only means of defence. I have a sort of pure second amendment view of the right to bear arms, she said in 2001.

— The Times 2004-11-21: Condi: The girl who cracked the ice

Condi’s experience wasn’t out of the ordinary. During the hardest fights of the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama, ordinary Black families and civil rights activists defended themselves against the Klan terror by arming themselves. (Yes, organizers who were passionately committed to the principles nonviolent civil disobedience did too—nonviolent demonstrations don’t mean letting the night-riders burn or bomb your house. When they asked Fannie Lou Hamer why her house in Sunflower County never was dynamited, her answer was I keep a shotgun in every corner of my bedroom.)

And I think they were right to do so. So I can’t agree with Fred when he objects:

My initial, flip reaction, was — well, that’s not the lesson I would have drawn. Vigilantes make a practice of driving through your neighborhood shooting, and you conclude that making guns more available is a good thing?

Yes, it is—because the night riders wouldn’t have any trouble getting guns even with stringent gun control laws. Stricter gun control in Bombingham would have only meant fewer Black families able to defend themselves against the night riders. And what would they have done? Called the cops? Bull Connor’s cops? Condi is right to point out that what gun control means is that somebody in the government—usually the sheriff or the police commissioner—has the power to decide who can arm himself or herself and who can’t. It means that the government prohibits some substantial portion of the population from buying the weapons that they can use to defend themselves, in the expectation that they will depend on the Authorities for the protection of their lives. But for a Black woman in Bull Connor’s Birmingham, depending on the Authorities to defend your life was a sucker’s bet. Depending on Bull Connor to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous white supremacist terrorists was a sucker’s bet. And the fact is that, for all the progress we’ve made, it’s still far from clear that relying on the cops is a good bet for Black people—or for that matter, for women, for Muslims, for any number of people who have historically had the boots on their necks (see, for example, GT 2004-11-14, GT 2002-02-13, GT 2001-10-25, GT 2001-04-21, and GT 2001-04-04).

You might be inclined to say: look, Jim Crow is over; things got better, and they still can get better. (I think this is the take that Fred’s suggesting when he says for Rice, the deeper lesson of growing up in Birmingham in the early 60s was that government is fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy.) Yes, gun control now wouldn’t be as bad as it would have been in Bull Connor’s day. But it will still be bad. The answer is not to throw the wankers out and find the right people to head up the gun control regime in their place. There’s a strong historical argument against that suggestion: the first gun control legislation in American history were laws to ban free blacks from owning guns in the South; later efforts were driven by fear-mongering against the alleged criminal (or revolutionary) tendencies of labor leaders, Slavic and Italian immigrants, and urban Blacks. And I can’t see any good reason to set the history of gun control aside when we consider what it means for real people in the present world.

Even setting the historical arguments, though, I still can’t find a good reason to trust the right people to manage a gun control regime. In fact, I’d argue that there aren’t any right people to find: the power to disarm a whole class of people is inevitably a corrosive power. There is no way to do it without creating a class of people who are completely dependent on the ruling class and their agents for the defense of their very lives and livelihoods: that’s what gun control means. As Leftists—opponents of unjust and arbitrary power—it should be very troubling to those of us on the Left when the powerful have all the weapons and the people over whom they have power have none to defend themselves. That’s absolute power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You see it today in the professional paramilitary police forces that occupy most major cities today; and it’s important to see how it’s a power that can’t help but corrupt any class that seizes it.

Écrasez l’infâme.

Further reading

Whited sepulchres

(thanks to feministe: The Gazillion Things Crowding Up My Desktop for the link)

The Boondocks: A Right to be Hostile
photo: Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman, the whitest Leftist on the planet

The Nation is a well-written, insightful magazine that’s well worth reading. Eric Alterman is one of the best popular media critics today. These are people well worth supporting with your time, money, and attention. Nevertheless, I can’t find an ounce of sympathy for them in my heart—or an ounce of pique at Aaron McGruder—on reading The New Yorker’s profile of McGruder and its account of a shouting match between McGruder and white liberals at a recent $500-a-plate dinner for The Nation:

On the day of Saddam Hussein’s capture, last December, the left-leaning political weekly The Nation celebrated its hundred-and-thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday night, and the weather was dreadful—forbiddingly cold and wet, heavy snow giving way to sleet—but three hundred people could not be deterred from dropping five hundred dollars a plate for roast chicken amid the marble-and-velvet splendor of the Metropolitan Club, on Fifth Avenue.

Toward the dessert (chocolate torte) portion of the evening, Uma Thurman rose to introduce a special guest: Aaron McGruder, the creator of the popular and subversive comic strip The Boondocks, who, as it happens, had travelled farther than anyone else to be there, all the way from Los Angeles. McGruder, one of only a few prominent African-American cartoonists, had been making waves in all the right ways, poking conspicuous fun at Trent Lott, the N.R.A., the war effort. … It seemed to be, as a Nation contributor said later, his coronation as our kind of guy.

But what McGruder saw when he looked around at his approving audience was this: a lot of old, white faces. What followed was not quite a coronation. McGruder, who rarely prepares notes or speeches for events like this, began by thanking Thurman, the most ass-kicking woman in America. Then he lowered the boom. He was a twenty-nine-year-old black man, he said, who got invited to such functions all the time, so you could imagine how bored he was. He proceeded to ramble, at considerable length, and in a tone, as one listener put it, of militant cynicism, with a recurring theme: that the folks in the room (courageous? Please) were a sorry lot.

He told the guests that he’d called Condoleezza Rice, the national-security adviser, a mass murderer to her face; what had they ever done? (The Rice exchange occurred in 2002, at the N.A.A.C.P. Image Awards, where McGruder was given the Chairman’s Award; Rice requested that he write her into his strip.) He recounted a lunch meeting with Fidel Castro. (He had been invited to Cuba by the California congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of the few politicians McGruder has praised in The Boondocks.) He said that noble failure was not acceptable. But the last straw came when he dropped the N-word, as one amused observer recalled. He said—bragged, even—that he’d voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish, the host of the party, it got interactive.

Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, Thanks for Bush! Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, Try these nuts. Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When asked about this incident later, McGruder said, I ain’t no punk. I ain’t gonna let someone shout and not go back at him.

Alterman walked out. I turned to Joe and said, I can’t listen to this crap anymore, he remembers. I went out into the Metropolitan Club lobby—it’s a nice lobby—and I worked on my manuscript.

Newfield joined in the heckling, as did Stephen Cohen, a historian and the husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel. It was like watching LeRoi Jones try to Mau-Mau a guilty white liberal in the sixties, Newfield says. It was out of a time warp. Who is he to insult people who have been putting their careers and lives on the line for equal rights since before he was born?

Can you see his face as he says this? The teeth gritted, the lip curled up, the words Ungrateful nigger— just barely stifled between his tongue and his teeth.

Nevertheless, Newfield is right in one respect: the whole fracas reads like a bad flashback from the 1960s. Not, however, for the reasons that Newfield thinks it does: what feels like it came out of a time warp is a bunch of pretentious, comfortable white radicals (oh, I’m sorry, progressives — a terminological shift that looks like a bad flashback from the 1910s) lecturing everyone else on how to do enlightened politics, patting themselves on the back, angrily shouting down speakers they disagree with, and snivelling about anyone who says things that make them feel guilty.

Here, meanwhile, is what McGruder has to say about the whole thing:

At a certain point, I just got the uncomfortable feeling that this was a bunch of people who were feeling a little too good about themselves, McGruder said afterward. These are the big, rich white leftists who are going to carry the fight to George Bush, and the best they can do is blame Nader?

There’s not much to say on the latter point that I haven’t already said elsewhere in considerably more depth; the main thing to stress here is that, while I have quite a few problems with Green Party strategy since the 2000 election, and a lot of problems with Nader’s campaign for 2004, it’s dreadfully foolish for lefty Democrats to waste their time and effort alienating people who are sympathetic to the independent party movement with slash-and-burn Nader-blaming tactics. The target is Bush: energize your base by taking the fight to him and you will win. Demoralize your base with hectoring and finger-pointing and you will lose, and you will deserve to lose.

It’s the former point that I want to dwell on for a moment: the stifling sense of complacency and self-congratulatory politics that we on the Left are all too often prone to. If there is a characteristic vice of the white, male Left, it is pride: specifically, the phony simulacrum of self-worth that comes from indulgence in a certain sort of Pharisaic purity. The basis of our politics, after all, is the repudiation of some of the very roots of the society we live in — the ugly, daily realities of white supremacy, gay-bashing, war, colonialist occupation, men’s rape and battery against women, and so on. The constant temptation is to act as though we’ve somehow managed to extricate ourselves from the sins of the society that surrounds us, and to purify ourselves through our own virtue.

What happens when that self-image is endangered is all too familiar—all too often we answer criticism with a sort self-righteous, defensive backlash. (This is a lesson that we owe especially to the writings by feminists on the male Left; see, for example, Cocktales, anthologized in Dear Sisters; everything I say here about the white Left just as much to the male Left, the straight Left, the collegiate Left, or whatever form of privileged background you care to look at.) And when this happens, the tactics are all too familiar. We change the subject from what we’re doing to how we’re feeling and what we’ve done—changing the subject from institutional structures and the interpersonal character of our acts, to our own personal good intentions. It shifts from being a question of whether or not I’m doing something fucked up (and if so, what I can do to be accountable for that), to being a question of whether I’m one of Us or one of Them (the bigots, the running-dogs, the misogynists, the Bush Administration—everyone that I, the pure one, have defined myself against). From there it’s not far to taking up criticism as a personal attack rather than as a serious critique; and it becomes very easy just to attack back, to scapegoat the critic and—natch—to reiterate all the virtuous things I’ve done for you (or think I’ve done, anyway), that set me apart from the demoniacal Them—and how dare you not realize it, &c.

But if we want to help build an open and just society, some day or another we are going to have to answer for all the big and little ways that we’ve participated in injustice—and the sooner the better for all concerned. Courage, and pride in accomplishments, is a great thing to have — but without humility and accountability there is no real courage or pride; there is only boldness and egotism. Salvation needs works, but it also needs grace; good intentions alone won’t feed a person who’s hungry or stop an assault or defuse a bomb. I, for one, haven’t always made my good intentions do some good for other people more than once; and I know also that I’m not the only one, either. If pompous white radicals progressives won’t cop to that on our own, then we could use a good Mau-Mauing every now and again—hell, anything to get us to sit down and shut up and think about what other people are saying for two seconds. It’s not about guilt, and it’s not about radical chic. It’s about having the guts to acknowledge that you’ve fucked up from time to time (and if the elite Left hasn’t been fucking up pretty frequently for the past two decades, what the hell has it been doing?!) and having the humility to listen to people (even if you disagree with half of what they are saying) when they take you to task on it.

Aaron McGruder was right; folks like Eric Alterman and Jack Newfield write some good stuff, but they are feeling way too good about themselves. If McGruder’s shock therapy did not work, then I’m not sure what to suggest, except perhaps a long-term prescrption of Daily Abnegations. Every morning, before they sit down to work, maybe they should repeat to themselves: Black people know more about racism than I do. Women know more about sexism than I do. Poor people know more about poverty than I do. Now let’s work together to do some good by the end of the day.

This may seem like a tall order for someone like Eric Alterman, who describes himself as A contributor to virtually every significant national publication in the US and many in Europe, but surely the most honest and incisive media critic writing today can suck it up and manage it.