Religious perspectives on money-lending

So, I had an encounter with a rather unreasonable libertarian atheist who insisted the Church held back economic development for centuries by outlawing usury, which he said to be a clear indicator of an anti-capitalist worldview. This position is simplistic, contains error in basic facts, and a possible example of anachrony in narrating historical events.

While there existed since Gratian a broad principle that the lending of money for profit is sinful, often overlooked is the fact that canon lawyers used the word “interest” to mean a lawful charge for the loan of money. Generally this was seen as a fair charge to cover factors like risk and opportunity cost. “Usury” then and today has connotations of an unreasonable charge on borrowing money. In the Church, the law on this was often unclear and for a long time not systematized. Many inveighed against charging interest on personal loans, but not commercial ones. Some condemned both.

The Medieval Church proclaimed blanket prohibitions on usury in the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries. However, this must be seen in light of the economic structure of the time. Borrowing prior to the twelfth century was almost entirely for consumption rather than production or investment. In an agrarian society, tillers of the soil tend to simply borrow to get through hungry periods before the harvest.

With the rapid development of commerce in the 11th and 12th centuries, however, the Church began to properly systematize the law on usury and declared many for-profit financing operations and credit devices as non-usurious. The Church and the Papacy were themselves borrowers and lenders of large sums of money at interest, and Church institutions themselves pioneered strategies for investing the large sums of money they had lying idle in deposit.

Today, governments are borrowing large amounts of money to cover day-to-day operations, like the welfare bill, that they cannot pay off with direct tax collections in the course of a fiscal year. That cannot be justified like borrowing for large, expensive infrastructure projects with long-term benefits. So we might want to consider the nuances of the Medieval Church’s position on borrowing and debt.

The Jewish perspective on this is very similar with some interesting differences. Rabbi Baruch Epstein of Belarus, writing in the early 20th century, says that with economic development in the latter Middle Ages, offering a loan to a neighbour was no longer only to offer him some of your surplus to get him through bad days. It was now handing over capital and ultimately the main tool by which one earns a livelihood. This can be classed as an investment, which enjoys greater esteem in Jewish law than the acceptable interest-free loans and the totally forbidden act of usury.

However, Jewish law, unlike the Church and other systems, never drew a distinction between taking interest and usury. Thus there is the legal category called iksa, where the lender becomes a silent partner in the business so it is not considered a loan at all but an investment.

As is said in the Talmud:

He who lends money is greater than he who performs charity; and he who forms a partnership is greater than all (Talmud Shabbat 63a).

I used to disparage the iksa system as a legal fiction to justify usury but lately I see a beautiful consistency in it.

Good sources on this are Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition by Harold Berman, and Judaism, Law, and the Free Market by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz.

Race in America: A conflict of visions, most of them false

Real History

I’m quite the secessionist, but I’m sick of hearing that Lincoln was a ‘racist’.

I am also tired of hearing that Lincoln was an anti-racist.

The first has become something of a trope in Neo-Confederate circles, otherwise doing some admirable revisionist history. See, among others, gripes like this from Tom DiLorenzo.

The second view seems to be shared by just about everybody else, or at least it predominates among mainline conservatives and liberals. In the case of the former, see the recent Lincoln hagiography from Official Conservatism’s Rich Lowry. For the liberals, there’s the hit-pieces of Michael Lind in Salon.

Before elaborating, I want to say that its fairly obvious Lincoln was a ‘racist’. That’s what positions like this are dubbed today:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

For anybody defending the South’s prerogative to secede, however, this is a particularly puerile line of inquiry, and a strategic dead-end.

Firstly, I am loathe to call towering figures in history racists, homophobes, or moral failures if they did not adhere to a post-1960’s worldview on matters of race or homosexuality. Its arrogant, and its sinister. Follow this through and you will end up demonizing everybody from John Locke to Voltaire, and from America’s Founding Fathers to the French Revolutionaries. You will end up repudiating all of human accomplishment up until 1968 or so. Which I figure is what some people want.

Secondly, Lincoln’s views would have been shared by the bulk of his secessionist counterparts to the same or to an even fiercer extent. Crying racism is a knife that cuts both ways. At best you can say Lincoln was no better than his enemies, if you accept conventional views that such positions are wrong.

Finally, Lincoln’s worldview was one very much in the American grain and in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. I would go so far as to say many of his ideas were perfectly sensible for his time and place. To understand this, we need to understand what Lincoln’s long term goals on the Negro Question actually were, and honestly address the place of race in the American project.

There were heated debates on the issue of slavery prior to the War Between the States, but they did not focus on the merits of complete abolitionism, which was very much a minority position. The issue was slavery’s expansion into Missouri after 1818 and into the new western territories after the Mexican-American War. The ideal for most residents of the Northern states, including Lincoln, was to keep not just slavery out of these territories, but all blacks. This was not unlike the situation in many Northern states at the time, which under the Black Codes required blacks seeking to enter to post enormous bonds, or forbade their assembly, or forbade them from residing at all. Lincoln’s home state of Illinois possessed all of these laws (black settlement eventually being banned entirely in 1853). He demonstrated absolutely no opposition to them in his many years in Illinois politics or during his Presidency.

That’s because, like all of the Founders, Lincoln did not believe in miscegenation or the equality of the races. Like many, he believed the best long-term solution to the race question was to free blacks (thus avoiding a slave revolt) and promptly get them out of the country. This idea, popular throughout the North, was backed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Madison even proposed that all public lands be sold off to pay for the forcible removal of the black population, as well as a constitutional amendment to establish a colonization office to be run by the President.  Madison would eventually head the American Colonization Society, advocating the shipment of blacks to Africa or the Caribbean. Other prominent figures who served as officers of the society were Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, William Seward, Francis Scott Key, Winfield Scott, John Marshall, and Roger Taney. James Monroe worked so tirelessly for the cause that the capitol city of Liberia is named Monrovia.

A few years back at a Young Americans for Freedom event a typically deluded activist for Official Conservatism tried to tell me that Lincoln was such an enlightened politician that he was the first President to invite a black delegation to the White House. He certainly was, on August 14th of 1862, when he urged that black delegation to leave the country. In the midst of the war, he appointed the Rev. James Mitchell Commissioner of Emigration to work on this problem, and argued that blacks should be forcibly removed from the United States before Congress. Yet many people, conservative and liberal, still spread this myth of the black delegation to prove that Lincoln was not a racist.

Colonization faced many difficulties. The primary reason for its failure may be that Americans became too reliant on black labor. Theodore Roosevelt would go so far as to curse Southerners for importing blacks and keeping them in the country, to the point where their descendants, he lamented, “can neither be killed nor driven away”. It reminds me of an Afrikaner who told me, bitterly, that most whites in South Africa would rather die in their beds than make them. Their position on the continent of Africa is precarious. Perhaps this is a fate some feared could be in store for whites on the American continent.  Benjamin Franklin himself said that “the number of purely white people in the world is proportionally very small…. I could wish their numbers were increased… why increase the sons of Africa, by planting them in America?” The Zionist pioneers realized the importance of Jews becoming as economically independent as possible. Kibbutzim often forbade the use of non-Jewish labor even when such a policy raised enormous difficulties. For a new nation seeking to establish itself in a hostile environment, the long-term success of the project may very well require the sacrificing comfort in the short-term.

The words of Franklin and others give lie to the notion that America is, uniquely, a universal nation built on an idea. This claim would have shocked John Jay, who wrote in the Federalist Papers that “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs”.

Benjamin Franklin himself sought to restrict the entry of German immigrants, in which he was partly successful in colonial Pennsylvania. Franklin’s reasoning seems to have been based on three factors:

1. He wanted to preserve the country’s Anglo-Saxon character.

2. The complex internal politics of Pennsylvania. Franklin felt his rivals in the Penn family were ruling the place in a feudal manner, and much of their support hinged on the German population. Indeed, the Penns and Franklin’s opponents in the Quaker party actively recruited immigrants from Germany to strengthen their position. There is probably a lesson for the modern Republican Party there somewhere.

3. He also believed that a smaller population combined with an ample supply of land would help the average man prosper and obtain the liberating effects of land ownership.

The United States seems to have become a “propositional nation” built by immigrants after the fact. Only two years after the Constitution was ratified, a naturalization law was enacted stipulating that only “free white persons” could become citizens. This lasted until after the Civil War. America is no “nation of immigrants”. It was built by settlers, most importantly of Anglo-Saxon stock. As settlers, they built the society, to which people later immigrated. This is an important distinction.

Many libertarians claim the United States was always country of open borders, and that the restrictionist period of 1921-65 was an aberration. They are either lying, or ignorant, or both.  There were long periods of lulls in American immigration. If anything, the period of largely unrestricted mass immigration from the late 1840’s to just after WW1 was the aberration, but one that was justified in a rapidly expanding nation where most people still made their living in farms and factories. Because of the economic structure of the time, the average immigrant from Europe could quickly find the same type of work with the same remuneration and opportunities as the native.  Today, Americans import 19th century workers into a 21st century economy and seem shocked that these people don’t advance like the Irish, Poles, or Jews did. But that’s another story.

A New Narrative

There currently appears to be two broad narratives on the history of America. The typical mainstream conservative, like Michelle Bachmann or Glenn Beck, will cast the Founding Fathers as highly progressive classical liberals. They will either ignore the white consciousness of these men, or even claim that racial egalitarianism was their goal for the United States from the very beginning. Peculiar factors like slavery just got in the way. Beck has even claimed that “American history can be described as one long Civil Rights struggle”.

The left, in a Howard Zinn kind of way, cast America as an evil, sweltering pile of racism and apartheid under the thumb of cruel and paranoid white men, all built on genocide and slavery. This was the case until Martin Luther King and Ted Kennedy’s 1965 immigration reforms came along. Lincoln is seen as the most important 19th century precursor to that result. Look at Spielberg’s portrayal of Lincoln as a racially enlightened progressive in his most recent epic.

I believe we are badly in need of a new narrative, as the main two are really under the same paradigm. I call this the John Ford narrative of American history.

John Ford, in my estimation, is the greatest ever film director (or at least he is second only to Stanley Kubrick). Just about the only decent initiative the Irish artistic community has come up with in my lifetime has been the annual John Ford Symposium. At one of the public discussions on Ford held last year, it took Ken Loach, of course, to offer the most predictable clichés about Ford when he said: “I never was interested in American cinema. The ideology does not appeal to me. It’s all to do with the lone gunman who will sort things out”.

This is absolutely the opposite of the spirit of Ford, whose work is profoundly collectivist in many senses. The protagonists of my two favorite Ford films, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Searchers act for the good of their people, not for themselves. If you haven’t seen them, you must. Behind the manifest content about killing ruthless bandits or rescuing young women from Indians, they offer profound insights into the building of America.

Liberty Valance portrays a young lawyer arriving in the Old West, who seeks to use the law, and not violence, to bring down a criminal terrorizing the small settlement of Shinbone. A common theme here and in The Searchers is the blow-in Easterner, who represents the future, clashing with the earlier settler-types who still carry the stench of hay and blood. There are memorable moments towards the end of The Searchers, for instance, when hardened Texas Rangers walk all over a young and rather clueless professional Yankee cavalryman. The Yankee at one point sounds a bugle before an assault on an Indian camp, to the ire of the old Texans planning a surprise raid. He represents how Texans will defend themselves in the future: with a professional military replete with all the inevitable ranks and rules. But before that happens, you need local militiamen not afraid to act roguish and with frequent brutality in defense of their own homes and firesides. In another scene, a woman tells the protagonist, played by John Wayne, that Texas will one day be a great state. Texans, she says, just need “bones in the ground”. This is how humans plant roots. The Indians in the film seem to realize this. As does John Wayne, whose philosophy is best summed up by the words “us or them”. With this as his guide, he sees it as his moral duty to send every Indian to an early grave, even to the point of wantonly slaughtering buffalo to make sure there are fewer for any of them to eat. To Wayne’s character, this is only self-defense.

Back to Liberty Valance. One of my favorite scenes is when a character makes a speech on behalf of Jimmy Stewart, playing the lawyer protagonist, who seeks to become a delegate for the never-named territory and campaign for statehood. His natural constituency are the farmers and townspeople, but he is fiercely opposed in his efforts by the cattlemen, the kind of rough stock who originally settled the territories, and who, as the films says, had

[N]o law to trammel them except the law of survival, the law of the tomahawk and the bow and arrow… with the westward march of our nation, came the pioneer and the buffalo hunter, the adventurous and the bold.

The boldest of these were the cattlemen, who seized the wide-open range for their own personal domain, and their law was the law of the hired gun. But now, today have come the railroads and the people. The steady, hard-working citizens, the homesteader, the shopkeeper, the builder of cities…

We get it by placing our votes behind one man. One man! And we have that man with us here. He is a man who came to us not packing a gun, but carrying instead a bag of law books. Yes. He is a lawyer and a teacher!

In the film, the man of violence, Liberty Valance, represents the first wave of Westerners. Most of the people of Shinbone represent the second generation. Jimmy Stewart – the educated, the professional, the one who plays by the rules, as opposed to living by a stark code of honor, and the one who believes America is built on an idea – is the future. Yet ultimately even he could not transcend the reality of what it took to build the West. I wont spoil that for anybody who hasn’t seen it.

Ford is showing us the real story of America, which is not so much about the progress of an idea, but the progress of European peoples seeking to build roots and expand in a new continent. This reality of this has been dressed up in myth and legend. Indeed, the power of legend is what Liberty Valance is all about. The reality is that the kingdom, like all kingdoms, was established over dead bodies and skulls. Yet in examining Ford’s telling, one is left with the feeling that it was all worth it in order to build the new American civilization, one that would eventually make room for those who despise it and seek to undermine its very existence. This kind of critical self-examination only exists among white westerners, most of whom would not be here if it weren’t for the cattlemen who seized the open range and drove the buffalo to extinction. I often say that our fight with the far-left should not be reduced to economics: Hayek vs. Keynes, or Mises vs. Marx. The enemy today is trying to destroy the civilization that gave birth to both Hayek and Keynes.

The Revolution

Bill Clinton was the first President to talk honestly about the shift in opinion on race and immigration in the United States in the late-20th century. That is because he openly admitted that what happened was no less than a revolution, a complete abrogation of what came before. Clinton triumphantly declared at Portland State University in 1998 that there would be no majority race in the United States in fifty years time. This, he acknowledged, is “the third great revolution of America”, after the War of Independence, which forged a republic, and the War Between the States, which changed the nature of the American Union. He claimed that America must “prove that we literally can live without having a dominant European culture”.

This would, however, involve spurning the Founding Fathers. Conor Cruise O’ Brien once said that “there can be no room for a cult of Thomas Jefferson in the civil religion of an effectively multiracial America… Once the facts are known, Jefferson is of necessity abhorrent to people who would not be in America if he could have had his way”.

Americans seem to have undergone the revolution, but they have not consigned the Founders to the dustbin of history. Instead, they just make stuff up, as the statements of Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann demonstrate. Can history really be censored in such a way in a modern and free society? It seems it can, and this isn’t unique to America. On June 14th of this year, the leader of the Scottish National Party at Westminster, Angus Robertson, actually told Nigel Farage, with a serious face, that Scotland was “built on immigration” (see 29 mins on). One day, Scottish schoolchildren may be forced to recite this same lie.

I am not advocating a positive political platform here. I just want to talk honestly about race and immigration. While Clinton is entitled to work for a “post-racial” America, however, I am left wondering two things: is such a place really America, and is it even possible?

For if any man represents a post-racial America, it is probably a resident of Florida by the name of George Zimmerman. I speak of the half-Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer with the German surname, who fought the police in his hometown of Sanford to secure justice for a mistreated homeless black man. George Zimmerman: the resident of a heavily-black community who tutored black children in his own home.

Yet they came to lynch Zimmerman, too.

On Accepting Blame

150 years ago today, on July 3rd, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was lost for the Army of Northern Virginia.

The nine infantry brigades that advanced in Pickett’s Charge were repulsed and suffered 50% casualties. The day before, the Union line had held at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top. The enemy Army of the Potomac was secure in a clever fish-hook formation that allowed for easy reinforcement of weaker sections.

Pickett’s Charge was a bloody mess. It could have been avoided. It left a psychological blow from which Southern morale never quite recovered.

“It’s all my fault”: that’s what General Lee said as routed Confederates were falling back. The greatest American was willing to admit his mistakes and accept the blame. The affections of his countrymen have often shielded Lee from responsibility. Blame is often laid at the feet of J.E.B. Stuart, the cavalry general who was absent at the early stage of the battle, depriving the army of its ‘eyes and ears’. But Stuart was absent on the orders of Lee, cutting telegraph lines, capturing supplies, and giving the Yankees  hell elsewhere. My own hero, Robert E. Lee, knew who was at fault and never hid the fact.

Which brings me to yesterday’s abortion vote in the Dáil.

The bill that passed overwhelmingly in the Chamber will allow for termination of a pregnancy when doctors agree that a woman is at risk of suicide as a result of that pregnancy.

This suicide clause will inevitably cause in Ireland a repeat of the bloody history of the United Kingdom, where 98% of abortions are carried out as a result of mental trauma. This system is a great ruse between the doctor and patient, and everybody involved knows it. It has led to abortion becoming another form of contraception, a concept that the majority of people have always found distasteful. This year, Lord Steel admitted this was not at all envisaged when he introduced the 1967 bill.

Ireland had the chance to demonstrate a different path, one which would hold the life of the mother and the unborn child in equal regard, and one which would reach the best possible compromise in situations of conflict between the two. What we have now is the wholesale abandonment and derision of Christian principles in favor of secularist barbarism, mediocrity, and conformity; a new milieu in which there is no room for a small nation that refuses to sell its soul.

There are nowhere near enough TDs to stand firm and shout ‘stop!’. Similarly, after Gettysburg, it would have taken nothing short of a miracle to save Dixie.

And how did we get here? In 2002 the 25th Amendment would have amended the Irish Constitution in order to clarify the law on abortion. It would have specifically removed the threat of suicide as a grounds for abortion in the state; a bone of contention since the infamous X-Case of 1992. Pro-life parties made a terrible mistake in advancing the ‘No’ vote even as the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin was saying that informed Catholics were free in conscience to vote as they wished. The amendment was rejected by the electorate, 50.42% to 49.58%.

Nobody thought this would be the end of the matter of abortion. The pro-life movement had a chance to close the suicide loophole. Now the specter of abortion on mental health grounds hovers over us yet again. This foolish decision in 2002 seemed to put tactics ahead of strategy, and the immediate fight before the war.  The Confederates too could have avoided contact with the Union at Gettysburg. What started as a skirmish Lee urgently escalated with reinforcements because he felt he had a shot at destroying the Union Army there and then. There were alternatives. Lee could have interposed between the Federal left flank and Washington to take them on better ground and prevent the enemy from retreating to D.C. He could have retreated to the passes of South Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania and forced Meade to attack him there.

Perhaps moral or abstract principles have no place in a world of strategy, and this has been the pro-life movement’s mistake. Perhaps sentiment and certainty in 2002 trumped good reasoning. What I feel for sure is that what occurred in the Dáil yesterday is partly our fault.

The Politics of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Today, the New York Times features on op-ed on the anniversary of the first shots of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is significant that it is written by a professor of intellectual history who specializes in “the history of literary and political engagement with Marxism and phenomenology”. We are told by this lady, Marci Shore, that the Uprising was led by an assortment of Zionists, led by Mordechai Anielewicz, joined by the non-Zionist socialists of the Bund like Marek Edelman, all under the banner of the Jewish Combat Organisation (ZOB). We are told of their brave battle from the bunkers of the Ghetto, and the raising of the Zionist and Polish flags on its tallest building. We are told that the ” Zionist far-right” had its own resistance organisation, the Jewish Military Union (ZZW), but nothing else is said of them.

There we have it: the standard, misleading, fairy-tale account of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, from the original paper of record.

The Real Story of the Uprising

What you wont know from reading the New York Times is that this mysteriously absent group, the ZZW, was roughly the same size as the ZOB. It was they who raised the Jewish and Polish standards on the Ghetto’s tallest building in Muranowski Square. They kept those flags flying under days of bombardment, much to the ire of the Germans and the awe of the city’s Poles. The longest, fiercest fighting during the the three weeks of the Uprising took place on this square, in the district defended by the ZZW. This is clear from the report of Jürgen Stroop, the SS man in charge of the Ghetto’s liquidation. After the war, Marek Edelman, given a prominent place in the New York Times account, was told by unequivocally by Stroop that “the strongest defense was at Muranowsi Square”. He could vividly recall the fighting there, but not at other areas like the Ghetto’s Brushmaker’s workshop, where Edelman and most of his colleagues were positioned – even when Edelman tried to remind him of it.

So, who were the ZZW? They were mostly composed of Jewish veterans of the Polish armed forces. They were politically to the right: anti-Communist and followers of Vladimir Jabotinsky’s brand of Revisionist Zionism. The ZOB, on the other hand, were dominated by labor Zionists like their leader, Anielewicz. Therein lies the issue: for a long time, there was no powerful political constituency to raise awareness of the ZZW’s struggle. There were plenty who wanted to suppress it. It is amazing to think that even in the face of such a ruthless enemy and imminent death, there were especially vicious and disastrous political animosities among the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the rivalries were still at work many years after the event.

It is also remarkable that as early as December 1943, the great historian of the Ghetto, Emmanuel Ringelblum, a left-wing Zionist who denounced the ideology of the Revisionists, complained that the ZZW were being written out of history. In a letter to a colleague he asked “[W]hy is there no information on the ZZW in the history? They must leave an imprint, even if in our eyes, they are unsympathetic”.

First, a little more background.

The ZZW was founded in November 1939, much earlier than ZOB, which was founded in the summer of 1942. It was better armed and had better military training, given the veterans in its ranks and the militaristic nature of Revisionist youth movements like Betar that were attracted to it. They had much better contact with the Polish Home Army than the ZOB, because so many were former comrades in arms. The ZZW was able to secure machine guns, while other Jewish groups were not.

In fact, prior to the war, the Polish government had been secretly transferring arms to the Irgun, the Revisionist militia in the British Mandate of Palestine. The extent of this cooperation is demonstrated in a very moving story told by Moshe Arens in Flags Over The Warsaw Ghetto. During the Nazi bombardment of Warsaw in September 1939, Lili Strassman, founder of a group of Jewish intellectuals in the city who supported the Irgun, was confined to a bomb shelter while her husband, Henryk, was fighting. He would become one of the officers murdered under Stalin’s orders at Katyn. Strassman knew there were arms stored in the city that had been transferred to the Irgun but not yet shipped. She braved intense bombing to find these arms and take them to the commander of the defense of Warsaw, General Walerian Czuma. She received a receipt for the weapons and wrote of her happiness to help the Poland in its hour of need.

While the leadership of the ZZW was right-wing, they stressed they were foremost a fighting organisation. They welcomed leftists into their ranks if they were skilled enough fighters. One of their men was even nicknamed Moshe the Bolshevik.

The same could not be said of their rivals. The ZZW approached the ZOB about uniting the efforts of the Jewish Resistance. They could not get the ZOB to accept this, partly because the ZZW proposed that the leadership should have some combat experience. This suggestion seems entirely reasonable. However, because combat veterans were disproportionately involved with the ZZW, the ZOB saw this as an attempt at a power grab. Some socialist factions under the ZOB umbrella slandered the ZZW as “fascists”. They put the welfare of their own people behind left-wing ideology, even at that moment in history.

Such behavior gives you a good indication of why the Polish Home Army was less inclined to assist the ZOB. They saw them as political demagogues, many too sympathetic to the Bolsheviks to be trusted.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the ZZW, Pawel Frenkel and Leon Rodal, died in the fighting. The story of their amazing bravery was forgotten. These people were offered the chance to escape the doomed Ghetto and take up the fight with the Home Army, but they insisted on fighting and dying with their people. During the Uprising, Rodal was able to don an SS uniform, join a group of Germans, and lead them right into an ambush.

But their story was not only neglected after the war. It was covered up.

Myth and Memory

One of the conspirators here was Marek Edelman, praised extensively in today’s New York Times. The other was the Soviet Union, and to Shore’s credit she mentions their distortion of the record.

Edelman had an agenda in his famous book, The Ghetto Fights. He sought to downplay the role of the Revisionists and the Jewish right-wing, and play up the role of socialists and socialism. Firstly, he lied about the size of the ZZW, depicting it as far smaller than it actually was. Most unforgivably, he claimed at one point in the book that they fled the fighting almost as soon as it began. None of this was true. The German reports completely contradict it. As do the accounts of non-Jewish Poles, many of whom saw the Jewish and Polish standards being raised by the ZZW and being flown during the fight. Left-wing extremists of Edelman’s ilk also sought to portray the Polish Home Army as an anti-Semitic force that failed to adequately assist the Jews.  It suited the agenda of the new Soviet occupiers to paint the Polish Home Army as anti-Semitic and reactionary, after Stalin had so blatantly betrayed them. This was a communist caricature, but it has a hold on the popular image of the Uprising even today.

It must also be mentioned that successive Israeli governments, dominated by Labour Zionists for about 30 years, were in no hurry to correct false portrayals of their political rivals in the Revisionist camp.

It is a shame for ideological agendas to distort the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It is sad that this happened in the 1940’s, but its truly pathetic that it goes on 70 years later in the New York Times. I cannot help but recall the words of Ghetto fighter and ZZW leader Leon Rodal said to his comrades on the eve of battle:

During that far-off period of slavery, when the Roman legions trampled almost the entire ancient world, and the whole world kneeled before them, only one small Roman province, Judea, took up arms, rose up to fight for freedom and in defense of the honour of man, against a world of injustice. And this is the reason why Judea is inscribed in the history of man as a symbol of the fight for the spirit of man… Maybe, some day, after many years, when the history of the struggle against the Nazi conquerors is written, we also will be remembered, and who knows, we will become – like small Judea in its day, which fought mighty Rome – the symbol of man’s spirit that cannot be suppressed, whose essence is the fight for freedom, for the right to live, and the right to exist.

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The defense of the Warsaw Ghetto was based on a triangle, whose apex was Muranowski Square. The corners of the base were to be the Mila -Zamenhofa and the Gensia-Nalewki intersections. ZZW was to hold Muranowski Square and the ZOB the two angles of the base.

Janusz Korczak

Below is a picture I took of the Janusz Korczak memorial at Yad Vashem.

Korczak, a Polish Jewish pediatrician, educator, and author, wrote books on the plight of poor children and hosted a popular radio show. He was known all over Poland as ‘Mr. Doctor’ or the ‘Old Doctor’.

He founded an orphanage in Poland for Jewish children, which operated in a unique way. He believed in giving children responsibility and dignity. One of his books was called ‘The Child’s Right to Respect‘ . The children published their own newspaper (the first of its kind in Poland) and ran the school on democratic lines, with unprecedented control of the curriculum. It was so successful, he was asked to found one for Polish Catholic children as well, which he did. Unfortunately, he was forcibly estranged from that orphanage after an anti-Semitic smear campaign waged against him, as a result of his public Zionist activities.

During the war, his orphanage was moved into the Warsaw Ghetto. Korczak was offered a chance to escape when the orphanage was marked for liquidation. He refused, as he did not want to leave the children, wherever they were being sent. He led the children in song to the trains, re-assuring them all the way, probably even in the gas chambers.

For Yom HaShoah.

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Women in Combat

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The Amazons, the mythical race of female warriors who lived on the fringes of civilization,  were said to cut off their right breasts to enable them to effectively throw javelins and use a bow. In some accounts, they could not have sex, or restricted intercourse to one encounter per year. It is telling that to be warriors, the Amazons had to give up all marks of femininity and even the organs identifying them as women.

There is truth in the myth of the Amazons. Captain Katie Petronio of the Marine Corps recently told CNN that the missions she endured over seven months in Iraq caused her to stop producing estrogen, rendering her infertile. She also admitted to only doing a fraction of what her male colleagues did.

One should be very afraid of the prospect of gender ‘equality’ in combat. What do feminists mean by it? Forty percent of female soldiers in the British army got pregnant within months of arriving in Iraq. This earned them an immediate trip home. Female British Military Police unable to get pregnant simply refused to go on foot-patrol because it was “too dangerous”. Male MPs had to do double-patrols. The Daily Star got these figures from the Ministry of Defense after a Freedom of Information request. I cannot recall the BBC ever reporting them. I have never seen a debate in Parliament on the subject. The Official Line is that Girls Can Do Anything. The madness goes beyond Britain. According to Steve Sailer (writing in 1997), for every year a coed warship is at sea “the Navy has to airlift out 16% of the female sailors as their pregnancies become advanced”.

The Israeli Example, The Nature of War, and Why The Israeli Example Does Not Apply

Somebody will inevitably bring up all those pretty girls in the Israel Defense Forces. I contend that Israel is not necessarily a success in this regard, and certainly not an example for America or any other country to emulate. I also believe that women who meet the criteria for the armed forces should still be excluded from the military as much as possible, even if the criteria haven’t been lowered to facilitate greater gender integration.

For a start, one expects that forcibly integrating combat units would have the same effect as forcibly integrating sports, given the sometimes astounding physical requisites of both endeavors. Most world-class female athletes cannot compete against world-class male athletes. In fact, the top women in most fields of sport would not even be able to compete against the top male high school equivalents. So, sensibly, we don’t do mixed basketball games.

Disparities in physical abilities are a clear indication that opening up combat units to women will not double the talent pool, as some have absurdly argued. Most women are unable to carry the standard gear a US soldier is required to schlep around at all times. Factors like this mean that the only way gender integration would work is if female combat units were to only take on other female combat units, as we do in sport. This arrangement may be negotiated, but one cannot expect armies to adhere to this.  The massing of the troops on weak points is standard practice. In the words of Field Mar­shal Paul von Hindenburg, “an operation without Schw­er­punkt is like a man without character”. Some civilized nations may indeed be persuaded to sign up to this, but the likes of the Taliban certainly wont.

But lets go beyond physical differences and presume that a military can easily have women in combat.

Martin Van Creveld, in my opinion the greatest military historian and theorist of our time, largely dismisses the argument that women are physically incapable of fighting alongside men. This I do not quite agree with, but I’ll leave my objections aside for the moment. In his Transformation of War, he provides the example of the highly effective Palmach, the elite all-volunteer strike force of the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish militia that later formed the core of the IDF. The Palmach had a higher rate of female participation and sexual integration than any military force before or since. Women were particularly valued for intelligence gathering, arms smuggling, and transmitting messages. There were plenty of women throughout the Haganah, too. Famous ‘sexpert’ Dr. Ruth Westheimer was a sniper (where her diminutive height of 4 ft 7 in proved advantageous). However, as the British left and the Arabs armies massed, the IDF was officially established and a near complete winnowing out of women began. After the war, Israeli women were confined to being secretaries, telephone operators, and the like, though they were still subject to the draft.

Now, war has throughout history been the most important male preserve. The association between war and manliness is so strong that in some languages the word for “man” and “warrior” is the same. One can go farther and say that in most societies, things are considered important to the extent that they are the preserve of men, though this is perhaps changing in certain places. Teaching and secretarial work, when dominated by men, enjoyed a far higher status than they do today. Female penetration of a field beyond a critical point will cause men to desert. This applies to war.

So what made the Palmach work?

It was all in the context. The Palmach were a small band of semi-underground insurgents facing the mighty British Empire as well as the Arab foe. With such a disparity in power, numbers, and equipment, women can be allowed to participate without undermining the significance of what the men are doing. Female participation can be rife in other insurgencies, including that of the Palestinians. In Ireland, examples can be found in women like Countess Markievicz.

Women largely vanished from important roles in the IDF for decades, training with weapons discarded by the men or those that were extremely plentiful. The reason why women continued to be drafted and receive weapons training at all is closely related to why they were welcomed by the pre-state Zionist militias. Israel was outnumbered, outgunned, and surrounded by foes. The Soviet Union was around to support its enemies. Israel’s wars have been seen as wars for survival, close to home, and certainly not optional adventures or crusades thousands of miles away. Even today, with peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, Israel fears failure in a way that the surrounding Arab nations don’t. Few countries face threats of an existential nature like Israel, and certainly not the United States. However, even though its women get trained in the use of arms, very few females serve in Israel’s combat units.

In Israel, a post-1973 expansion of the army strained available manpower and created a demand for skilled operators. Women were found to make good technicians, communicators  and weapons instructors. As a result, the presence of women was increased noticeably at all ranks. On the whole the job they have done has been excellent, though women still tend to get assigned the worst positions. However, there has also been an enormous social cost to this. Jobs got considered undesirable by men precisely because they began to be done by women. Thus, these roles are not seen as a display or test of manliness, a fundamental part of the traditional culture of war, in what is a very macho culture in the first place. More women at all ranks has in fact made it tougher to attract first-class manpower.

As a side-note, it must be said that Israeli women, from the Palmach and beyond, have always performed admirably in certain crucial capacities like Intelligence. Since the time of Rahab, and Judith’s beheading of Holofernes, women do have some innate advantages in this field that men will find difficult or impossible to acquire.

Its a Symptom

That the US military is now prepared to take women into combat infantry positions indicates that its role as an actual fighting force is coming to an end. It is a symptom of the demise of the style of war that arose after the state asserted its monopoly over conflict at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, military theorists have pointed out the fact that we are living through the greatest transformation of the nature of war since 1648.

State-run armies are being made obsolete by nuclear weapons keeping the peace on the one hand, and low-intensity conflicts featuring non-state actors on the other. Against non-state opponents, the US military has lost in Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The wars that matter are now fought by gangs, tribes, and militias. They fight for pride, for God, for women, for money. Essentially, the old pre-state causes.

What can a state do with a useless army? Turning it into an equal opportunities jobs program is one option.

Debunking Clinton on Economic Recovery

Bill Clinton notably defended Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention by saying that no president could have gotten the United States out of the recession in just one term. Yet he also claims Barack Obama might have been able to sort this mess out faster if it wasn’t for those darn Republicans and their obstructionist ways. Is this true?

The history of economic downturns and government reactions to them tells us otherwise. Thomas Sowell writes about this over at Townhall today. He notes that “for the first 150 years of this country’s existence, the federal government felt no great need to “do something” when the economy turned down”. Laissez-faire was the traditional rough guide in regards to economic crises before 1929. Lets compare recessions, then and now.

The first major financial crisis in America was the Panic of 1819. In his definitive work on the subject, Murray N. Rothbard writes that the federal government’s only action was to ease the terms of payment for its own land debtors. The Panic was history by 1923. That’s less than one full Presidential term, Mr. Clinton. Martin Van Buren, a highly underrated President, stayed the laissez-faire course during the Panic of 1837. That took five years to finally get over, but we wont quibble over a year or so, as Van Buren was a good fellow. Subsequent federal governments followed a similar approach, the occasional nasty exception being state governments which sometimes permitted insolvent banks to continue operating without paying their obligations.

The last of the real laissez-faire Presidents was Warren G. Harding. In the 1920–21 depression, unemployment hit 11.7 at its height. This is higher than its reached so far under Obama. Harding – the unsung hero of the day – did nothing, possibly because he was too busy boozing and fornicating. Wage rates were permitted to fall. Government spending and taxes were actually reduced significantly. This largely forgotten depression was over in one year. The Austrian School economist Dr. Benjamin M. Anderson called it “our last natural recovery to full employment.” Unemployment came to 2.4 percent in 1923.

Unfortunately, the laissez-faire tradition was abandoned after 1929 when progressive, Keynesian policies took hold of governments. This was true for both the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. Some still perceive Hoover as a laissez-faire man, but let him tell the story in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination in 1933:

[W]e might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action. . . . No government in Washington has hitherto considered that it held so broad a responsibility for leadership in such times. . . . For the first time in the history of depression, dividends, profits, and the cost of living, have been reduced before wages have suffered. . . . They were maintained until the cost of living had decreased and the profits had practically vanished. They are now the highest real wages in the world.

Creating new jobs and giving to the whole system anew breath of life; nothing has ever been devised in our history which has done more for . . . “the common run of men and women.” Some of the reactionary economists urged that we should allow the liquidation to take its course until we had found bottom. . . . We determined that we would not follow the advice of the bitter end liquidationists and see the whole body of debtors of the United States brought to bankruptcy and the savings of our people brought to destruction.

Modern studies continue to prove that the interventionist policies of Hoover and Roosevelt only prolonged the Great Depression by several years. Well into Roosevelt’s second term unemployment stood at the terrible rate of 15 percent, indicating that the much-vaunted New Deal was an utter failure. Obama is making the same mistakes, prolonging a crisis that could have been over already if men like Van Buren and Harding were in Washington today. This was proven by Reagan. According to Sowell again:

Something similar [to 1920-21] happened under Ronald Reagan. Unemployment peaked at 9.7 percent early in the Reagan administration. Like Harding and earlier presidents, Reagan did nothing, despite outraged outcries in the media.

The economy once again revived on its own. Three years later, unemployment was down to 7.2 percent — and it kept on falling, as the country experienced twenty years of economic growth with low inflation and low unemployment…

Despite demands that Mitt Romney spell out his plan for reviving the economy, we can only hope that Governor Romney plans to stop the government from intervening in the economy and gumming up the works, so that the economy can recover on its own.

Amen to that.

Forty Years On, and Watergate Still Doesn’t Make Sense.

Public Perception vs. The Truth

In all seriousness, what is the root of the American fixation on Watergate and Richard Nixon? The fortieth anniversary of the break-ins this year has led to mass media commemoration and yet more pats on the pack for the folks at the Washington Post.

Its not as if there haven’t been worse political scandals before or since: Chappaquiddick, JFK’s disgusting sex and drug habits, Iran-Contra and Bill Clinton’s entire political career come to mind. What we have been through in the last ten years alone is enough to sicken even the most seasoned of political observers. Compared to the American government’s lies about Pat Tillman, and Obama’s arming of violent Mexican gangs that went on to murder Americans under Fast and Furious, Watergate seems almost like a jolly college prank.

Ben Bradlee happens to agree. As the former executive editor at the Washington Post said to his friend Jeff Himmelman in Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee:

“Watergate … achieved a place in history … that it really doesn’t deserve. … The crime itself was really not a great deal. Had it not been for the Nixon resignation, it really would have been a blip in history.”

Not only that, Bradlee went on to express his doubts about much of Woodward and Bernstein’s account of the story:

“Did that potted palm thing ever happen? … And meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage. Fifty meetings in the garage … there’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight… I just find the flower in the window difficult to believe and the garage scenes…

If they could prove that Deep Throat never existed … that would be a devastating blow to Woodward and to the Post. … It would be devastating, devastating.”

Witnesses say that Bob Woodward became highly stressed when he heard what Bradley told Himmelman, and repeated the statement about “a residual fear… that that isn’t quite straight” countless times to himself. Woodward tried to get Bradlee to withdraw his statements. He even threatened legal action to prevent Himmelman from publishing them. It didn’t work. Far more people really should have heard the words of Bradlee.

There may indeed have been a Deep Throat in the form of Mark Felt. But we now know – thanks to Max Holland’s great work in Leak: How Mark Felt Became Deep Throat – that the man was no hero. Felt was not motivated by his conscience or a sense of justice. He simply wanted to get back at Nixon for not appointing him as J. Edgar Hoover’s successor. He also wanted to bring down the outsider and squeaky-clean L. Patrick Gray to protect the FBI’s ‘turf’.

It seems to me that the obsessive focus on the identity of Deep Throat distracted the public from the more important questions raised during Watergate. For the Washington Post and the Pulitzer Committee, there is the important matter of the unethical and flagrantly illegal methods used by Woodward and Bernstein in the course of their work. This was discovered years before Felt revealed himself.

However, the most important mystery concerns the real story behind the break-ins at the offices of the DNC – something still largely unknown by the American public.

The Break-Ins: What Really Happened

The clue to solving this mystery begins with a woman known as Maureen Elizabeth Kane Owen “Mo” Biner. “Mo” was the wife of the far more famous John Dean: one of those responsible for the espionage at the Democratic National Committee and mastermind of the subsequent cover-up. As the man who pleaded guilty to a single felony count in exchange for becoming a key witness for the prosecution, history has judged Dean favourably. This might not be justified, but we’ll get to that. Maureen was the author of Mo: A Woman’s View of Watergate. Its a real turd of a book, devoted mostly to her love for John and what the people at the centre of the Watergate scandal were wearing. For the discerning reader, there is one part of interest: a wedding photograph with a woman called “my very dear friend Heidi”. We don’t read much at all about this dear friend elsewhere in the book. That is because “Heidi” was in fact Erika “Heidi” Rikan, a.k.a. Cathy Dieter: a notorious DC stripper at Washington’s Blue Mirror Club, a madam, and mistress of the mafia boss Joe Nesline.

Rikan and Maureen Biner were roommates and long-time friends. In all likelihood, Biner was once a prostitute. Before dating John Dean, she was the girlfriend of the notorious deviant and sexual blackmailer Bobby Baker. He once tried to compromise John F. Kennedy by setting him up with the East German spy Ellen Rometsch.

The truth is that the break-ins at Watergate were entirely the result of a sex scandal involving a DC call-girl ring. Larry O’ Brien’s office was not even the main target.

In 1971, a call-girl operation was set up in the DNC’s Watergate offices and nearby Columbia Plaza by Phillip Mackin Bailey. Bailey was a Washington attorney known for representing prostitutes. With his amassed contacts, somewhere along the line he began pimping. Its a good business in Washington. Bailey set up the DNC operation at the request of Biner’s dear friend “Heidi” Rikan. Her lover, Nesline, was also linked to a sexual blackmail operation run out of the Georgetown Club involving the Korean intelligence agent Tongsun Park and the CIA agent Ed Wilson. Both appeared in Rikan’s address book.

Bailey arranged for a secure telephone line between the Watergate offices and Rikan’s operation, where the clientele could hear a description of all the girls available. For this they used the office phone of the frequently-absent Democratic Party employee R. Spencer Oliver. It was in the desk of his secretary, Ida Maxine Wells. A key to this desk was found in the possession of the Watergate burglar Eugenio Martinez when he was arrested on June 17th, 1972, only to be kept in the National Archives until this very day.

Bailey was arrested on account of his sleazy activities only days after the initial Watergate burglary. One of the Assistant US Attorneys who investigated Bailey’s ring, John Rudy, later testified in a different case that he had evidence tying R. Spencer Oliver to Bailey’s call-girl ring. He claims he was told by his superiors to suppress it because it was politically explosive.

Maureen “Mo” Dean, listening to her husband’s testimony at the Watergate Hearings

Rudy also uncovered an address book listing all of Bailey and Rikan’s girls and clientele. It included the name and contact details of a woman they dubbed “Clout”. This was a name used for Rikan’s dear friend Maureen Biner. Biner was by this time dating John Dean. Hence, she was political “clout”.

The first Watergate break-in was actually masterminded by the chief executive of the infamous White House Plumbers, G. Gordon Liddy, as well as John Dean, simply to get sexual dirt on the Democrats. Such operations had been planned and done before. In October 1971, John Dean ordered a White House security advisor, John Caulfield, to investigate a recently-busted call-girl ring in New York to see if any Democratic politicians happened to be clients. In January of the next year, Liddy proposed something called ‘Operation Gemstone’. ‘Gemstone’ aimed to spy on the Washington headquarters of Ed Muskie and George McGovern, as well as the site of the Democratic National Convention – the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. The Fontainebleau was also connected Meyer Lansky and the Syndicate, and prostitutes were expected to be at the convention. Operation Gemstone proposed recruiting prostitutes to help videotape convention attendees in compromising positions.

Nixon certainly did not order the break-in. The legendary lawyer James F. Neal, prosecutor of the Watergate Seven, did not believe this was the case. He cited Nixon’s surprised reaction to news of the burglary on June 23, 1972 when he asked his aide, Harry Haldeman: “who was the asshole that did it?”

Dean very quickly married Biner, asking Haldeman for some very brief time off to do so. A wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband, after all.

The second break-in was planned by John Dean, who needed to find out if a picture and contact information of “Mo” (his own nickname for her) was in the desk if Ida Maxine Wells.

Wiretaps transcripts exist of the conversations that took place over the phone in Oliver’s office, but they have been sealed by a federal judge. Philip Mackin Bailey spent the rest of his life in and out of mental institutions.

While the full truth will likely remain buried for a long time, its quite clear from available evidence that the typical picture the public has of Watergate is severely distorted.

They Were No Heroes

Not only does the John Dean get off easy and appear regularly on news shows, Woodward and Bernstein are still considered the princes of American journalism. This is despite the fact we now know from Jeff Himmelman that Carl Bernstein interviewed a Watergate grand juror. The intrepid duo showed contempt for one of the most sacred institutions of the justice system and lied about it for 40 years. And The Post knew about the whole thing.

Himmelman discovered this second gem from his work on Yours in Truth. He found seven pages of interview notes with what was clearly a Watergate grand juror in the Washington Post’s records. This is the source that Bernstein falsely described as a secretary for the Committee to Re-elect the President in ‘All the President’s Men’, whom he called ‘Z’.

What’s more shocking is that Bob and Carl had the audacity to attempt contacting several other Watergate grand jurors, the names of which Woodward had illegally obtained from the District Court clerk’s office. One juror complained to the prosecuting attorney, Earl Silbert in December of 1972. Silbert’s team informed Judge John Sirica. Sirica called Woodward and Bernstein into court two weeks later and warned against any further meddling. Edward Bennett Williams, chief legal counsel to the Washington Post, was dispatched to a private meeting with the judge. Sirica wanted the journalists to be jailed. Assured that their attempts to breach the secrecy of the grand jury were unsuccessful, he merely issued a warning to all reporters to avoid any grand juror contact.

Forty years on, the traditional account of Watergate given by John Dean and the Washington Post is becoming hard to defend indeed.

Terrorism, Jew-Hatred and Lies: The Soviet Contribution to the Middle East

“This book, I am proud to say, proceeds from grand theft aggravated by high treason”.

So begins Pavel Stroilov in Behind the Desert Storm, one of the most important and informative books I have read in a long time, and one that could change many a reader’s understanding of the Middle East.

Stroilov is a Russian dissident researcher and historian, who smuggled a vast secret archive of 50,000 documents from the Soviet era out of Russia. In the dying days of the Soviet Union, it was Mikhail Gorbachev who illegally took these documents from the Kremlin, keeping them within the Gorbachev Foundation where Stroilov was employed. A furious Putin administration learned of their existence in 2003 and forced Gorbachev to bury them. Yet Stroilov had managed, with modest manipulations in the Foundations computer system, to turn his very limited access to the documents into an unlimited one shortly before. He now lives in London, working to make what he discovered public.

The documents revealed in this book paint Soviet expansionism as the root of most of the strife in the Middle East. The most interesting ones cover the covert Soviet war against Israel, the Soviet-Egyptian relationship and how it worked to spread socialist revolutions throughout the region, the struggle for Iran and the Persian Gulf as well as the duplicitous dealings of the First Gulf War.

Firstly, the Soviets did not have much success in the grand prize of the region – the Persian Gulf. The Western powers relied on it heavily for their energy needs, and the British demonstrated how committed they were to keeping it in the Western camp when they sent troops into Kuwait in 1961 to defend it from the Iraqi leader Abd al-Karim Qasim. After this, the Soviets “postponed the conquest of the Gulf… although some of them were sorely disappointed with that decision.”

Egypt

They did much better in Egypt, which with the Soviet-friendly Nasser became the bridgehead of Soviet expansion in the Middle East.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the pro-Western regimes in Syria, Tunisia, Iraq, Algeria, Yemen, and Libya were, like Egypt itself, overthrown in Soviet and Egyptian backed coups. Save for a few pro-Western oases such as Israel or the Gulf monarchies, the Middle East was dyed Red.

The Soviet empire has collapsed, but what Stroilov calls the “Red Arab” regimes survived, like so many minefields of past wars that nobody bothered to clear. The Soviet client states were socialist regimes, and sooner or later socialism exhausts economies and the patience of the populations who dwell in them. Stroilov argues that the mines have finally exploded in the recent unrest across the Middle East, dubbed either the Arab Spring or the Islamist Winter depending on your point of view. Stroilov may be stretching his analysis, but it is interesting that it is the more socialist, secular and formerly Pan-Arabist states like Libya that have seen successful coups and the most internal strife. The more traditional monarchies have fared much better.

Even Mubarak, who cemented Egypt’s peace with the West, is revealed to be a true Soviet at heart. His secret conversations with Gorbachev revealed in this book make fantastic reading. Mubarak envisaged a day when the Soviet and Egyptian economies would recover from the malaise they faced at the time, and once again stand against America, capitalism and Israel. He appears to have genuinely felt communism could be rescued. However, he expressed his relief that most of Egypt’s agricultural land was still privately owned, because Khrushchev, in strictest secrecy, advised Nasser in 1964 not to implement collective farming. Mubarak openly admitted he backed the coalition against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf Crisis because he wished to ensure the continued flow of American aid, and hoped to get tens of billions of Egyptian government debt written off (which indeed happened). Mubarak informed Gorbachev that Egyptian government debt amounted to “50 billion dollars… But we can always negotiate on the debts and get postponement of payments again and again. Nowadays, almost nobody repays debts”.

Later at the same meeting, Mubarak said: “I would like to tell you that we continue military cooperation with the USA. They give us $1,3 bn. aid. We still cannot do without it: we need spare parts for military equipment, and so on. But time will come when things turn in different direction. I am telling this to you absolutely frankly”.

Israel

Some of the most unsettling revelations in this book are centered around the operation codenamed “SIG”, for Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Zionist Governments”. States Stroilov:

Though not as good as the Gulf oil fields, Israel would also be a big prize. It was the only democracy in the region, the strongest military power in the pro-Western camp and, indeed, the bridgehead of the Western world. Even more importantly, the very process of crusading (or jihadding) against Israel offered fantastic political opportunities. A besieged Israel effectively meant millions of Jewish hostages in the hands of the comrades, and the threat of genocide could intimidate the West into making great concessions in the Gulf or elsewhere. On the other hand, by making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the central problem of the Middle East, the Soviets could exploit Arab nationalism, anti-Semitism, and even Islamic religious feelings to mobilize support for their policies. Indeed, under the banner of Arab solidarity, the socialist influence in the region grew far beyond the socialist regimes and parties.

General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking defector from the Soviet Bloc, recalls a conversation he had in 1972, as the head of Romania’s intelligence service, with the KGB chairman Yuri Andropov:

We needed to instill a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews throughout the Islamic world… No one within the American/Zionist sphere of influence should any longer feel safe…

According to Andropov, the Islamic world was a waiting petri dish in which we could nurture a virulent strain of hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought. Islamic anti-Semitism ran deep. The Muslims had a taste for nationalism, jingoism, and victimology. Their illiterate, oppressed mobs could be whipped up to a fever pitch… We had only to keep repeating our themes – that the United States and Israel were “fascist, imperial-Zionist countries” bankrolled by rich Jews… whose aim was to subordinate the entire Islamic world…

In the mid 1970s, the KGB ordered my service, the DIE – along with other East European sister services – to scour the country for trusted Party activists belonging to various Islamic ethnic groups, train them in disinformation and terrorist operations, and infiltrate them into the countries of our “sphere of influence”… According to a rough estimate received from Moscow, by 1978 the whole Soviet-bloc intelligence community had sent some 4,000 such agents of influence into the Islamic world.

In the mid 1970s we also started showering the Islamic world with an Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a tsarist Russian forgery that had been used by Hitler as the foundation for his anti-Semitic philosophy. We also disseminated a KGB-fabricated “documentary” paper in Arabic alleging that Israel and its main supporter, the United States, were Zionist countries dedicated to converting the Islamic world into a Jewish colony.

With the defeat of the Soviet-backed Egyptians and Syrians in the Six Day War, the Soviets realised a change of tactics was required in their war on Israel. Gen. Alexander Sakharovsky, head of the KGB’s intelligence arm, told his intelligence colleagues that “[W]hen nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon.”

Sakharovsky even boasted that airplane hijackings were his own invention. Stroilov reveals that “his personal office decoration at KGB headquarters was a large world map, covered with countless red flags, each pinned by Sakharovsky to mark a successful hijacking”. Though the PLO itself united dozens of terrorist organizations, the supreme headquarters of the whole network was, of course, the Kremlin, and Stroilov claims “the evidence accumulated at this point leaves no doubt that the whole system was invented by Moscow as a weapon against the West, and the PLO was a jewel in their crown”. In the KGB, the PLO was known under the codename “Karusel”, or “merry-go-round” in Russian.

Andropov, 1982

On Zionism, the Soviets practiced what they preached. It was a non-approved aspect of Jewish identity, like the Jewish religion, and was thus suppressed. In the USSR, Hebrew was banned. In fact, they even attempted to ban the traditional Yiddish alphabet based on Hebrew. Prominent Jews were forced to sign their names to articles denouncing Zionism, including the legendary ballerina Maya Plisetstkaya, who was threatened with losing her touring privileges. Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda spread to Communist movements all over the world, and its effects still linger on.

Iran

Enter the Ayatollahs, and here again conventional views of the Middle East are demolished. Stroilov argues that the 1979 revolution was a carefully prepared Communist revolution that went awry and got hijacked by Shiite fanatics. After the Second World War, Soviet forces withdrew from Iran under Western pressure, but left behind an espionage network bigger than any other in the world. The standard ratio of KGB residencies (stations) was one per country. In Iran, the Soviets had nearly forty residencies and sub-residencies. They worked for the next 33 years against the Shah. The KGB trained numerous agents from the Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan who could pass as members of Iran’s ethnic groups and help set up KGB residencies on Iranian territory. Both the KGB and the Iranian Communist Party made failed attempts on the Shah’s life.

The man in charge of the Tehran KGB residency, the secret army of phony Iranians, and financing the Communist Party was Najor Vladimir Kuzichkin. He worked out of the Soviet Embassy. In July of 1978, Yuri Andropov gave personal instructions to KGB operatives in Tehran to step up their campaign. The banned Communist Party resumed its operations through various proxies and fronts, very much in the style of communist movements. In September, as the protests in Iran escalated into riots, British Prime Minister James Callaghan told his Cabinet that “we must continue to support the Shah against the mad mullahs and the Soviet agents who are opposing him”. Tony Benn, then Energy Secretary, noted in his diaries that the American and British establishments were fully behind the Shah, and “the primary reason” was “to keep the Russians out of Iran”.

Vladimir Kuzichkin

What Callaghan did not tell the Cabinet was that Vladimir Kuzichkin, the most important KGB spymaster in Iran, was secretly working for MI6. All the information about the KGBs network in Iran, the activities of the underground Communist Party, the Soviets posing as Iranians – was leaked to the British. The British shared this with SAVAK, but by then it was too late. The mad mullahs eventually captured SAVAK’s records, and the Soviets lost everything overnight. Every last Soviet agent was rounded up, and the communists went to the gallows, not into government.

A humorous incident is worth recounting here. When Ayatollah Khomenei heard the news about Gorbachev being  a great reformer, he dispatched another ayatollah to deliver a handwritten letter to him. The exact content of the letter is unknown, “but the whole Politburo is on record laughing their heads off when reading it” says Stroilov. Transcripts of later meetings of the Politburo indicate the Iranians urged Gorbachev to convert to Islam.

Iraq

Stroilov wishes to destroy the standard narrative of the First Gulf War, which involves the Soviet Union and the United States putting their differences aside and engaging in historic cooperation to stop the menace Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, ushering in a new era global harmony and a New World Order. The real story is that Gorbachev and others, such as Mitterand in France and Mubarak in Egypt, only went into the anti-Saddam coalition to prevent the US from actually overthrowing the Baathists. The Soviets envisaged that the new American eagerness for coalitions and international institutions would lead to stronger world government more in line with the communist agenda. Gorbachev discussed this quite frankly with the leadership of the Italian communists:

A. Okketto: The UN shall become an instrument of the world government.

A. Rubbi: Berlinguer spoke about the world government as early as at the 15th Congress of the ICP.

A. Okketto: At that time, many in the audience smiled at this.

M. S. Gorbachev: We also have many people smiling at this. Maybe, indeed, it is worth thinking about arranging for the communists, social democrats and someone else to work out an agreed constructive proposal. It should be not propaganda, but a real policy.

A Okketto:  [Willie] Brandt wants to involve representatives of parties, statesmen and other major figures in this work, to discuss the problems during seminars and conferences.

M. S. Gorbachev: Let us arrange all this, and also consult Brandt and others.

At another meeting:

A. Oketto: We highly appreciate the Soviet Union’s role in this conflict. Your actions in the UN have been a real masterpiece of diplomacy. If the Soviet Union condemned the US action in the first place, it would not have so many trump cards to restrain the aggressiveness of the US now…

M. S. Gorbachev: For the first time, we formed a united front in the United Nations. This is a great achievement. Now everything is being done under the UN auspices. This was achieved not without our influence, and the US duly appreciate that. This enables us to restrain them from unilateral action.

Part of Gorbachev’s agenda to protect Saddam Hussein and build a New World Order was to put Israel back at the forefront of world attention even at the height of the crisis over Kuwait. The Soviets drew up a peace plan on October 8th, 1990, to present to Hussein promising to do exactly that. In exchange for a withdrawal from Kuwait, the Soviets promised an international conference on the Middle East, with the aim of destroying Israel. As a gesture of goodwill, the Soviets and their comrade, Yasser Arafat, colluded to make an international drama out of an incident at the Temple Mount that month when the Israelis shot 21 Arab rioters. Delegates from several nations at the UN called upon the members to act as decisively over the issue of Israel and Palestine as Iraq and Kuwait. While anyone can see that numerous regimes have repeatedly waved sticks at Israel in order to distract other countries and even their own populations from their own internal problems, it is still fascinating to see actual concrete plans laid down about this.  We know for certain thanks to research like Stroilov’s that whenever the UN is having  a field day bashing Israel, its almost certainly a coordinated distraction from something else.

Despite his hatred for Israel, by the way, Gorbachev had no problem asking the Israelis in Septmeber of 1990 for billions of dollars in aid. He effectively used Soviet Jewry, eager to flee to Israel, as a ransom. Neither did he have any problem restoring relations with those reactionary royals in Saudi Arabia after the Americans had coaxed them into giving the Soviets four billion dollars in development assistance.

Peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East is still elusive. After reading this book, all I can say is thank God one of the main barriers to it – the Soviet Union – has left us.

Behind the Desert Storm: A Secret Archive Stolen From the Kremlin that Sheds New Light on the Arab Revolutions in the Middle East [Paperback] [Kindle]

Lincoln’s Marxists

Was Abraham Lincoln a Marxist?

No. No he wasn’t.

Yet Marx certainly adored Lincoln, and there was an abnormally high Marxist presence around Lincoln, the Republican Party and the Union Army. These shocking facts are recounted in a fascinating new book, Lincoln’s Marxists, by Al Benson and Walter Donald Kennedy. Neither writer was very familiar to me prior to reading this, though I remember an appearance by Kennedy on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect some time ago.

The book has two main thrusts:

1. An examination of the socialist/communist support for Lincoln, his war against the South and the reasons for this support.

2. Exploring the role played by socialist/Marxist veterans of the 1848 revolutions in Europe in the founding of the Republican Party, supporting Fremont and Lincoln, and the War Between the States itself.

Socialist and Communist Support for Lincoln and the War

The fact that Marx was vigorously supportive of the Union is not a new revelation. I’ve mentioned this before. The reason is simple. Marx sought the creation of a single, powerful and indivisible state to replace the multiple sovereign states that existed in Germany, the United States and elsewhere as a preliminary for the Communist revolution. As he wrote to his colleague Joseph Weydemeyer in the London Communist League (a future brigadier general in the Union Army!) about the situation in Germany in 1853:

“The preliminaries of the proletarian revolution, the measures that prepare the battleground and clear the way for us, such as a single and indivisible republic, etc., things that we had to champion against the people whose natural, normal job it should have been to achieve or, at least, to demand them – all that is now convenu [taken for granted]”.

What is amazing in Marx’s writings on the War Between the States is his sheer ignorance of the situation. He frequently makes major mistakes in some of the most basic facts, claiming “the South embraces more than three-quarters of the territory hitherto comprised by the Union”. He writes easily spotted falsehoods about the Confederate Constitution, the Confederate war effort and American history in general. I couldn’t help being reminded of the communist propaganda and hyperbole directed against their current obsession, Israel, today. But that’s for another post.

Interestingly, Marx was hired by in the 1850’s to write for the New York Tribune by its managing editor Charles A. Dana. Dana had become a personal friend of Marx and Engels while reporting on Europe in 1848. Dana was an associate of the famous socialist and abolitionist Horace Greeley, and was sympathetic to many communist movements. He later became assistant secretary of war under Lincoln, the first communist, or at least communist sympathiser, to hold such a position.

Communism and socialism (the terms were more interchangeable in the 19th Century) had a significant presence in the United States in the antebellum years. Numerous attempts at Utopian communistic communities sprang up, almost entirely in the North. These ranged from the religious-based, such as the Shakers and the Oneida Community, to more secular Owenite and Fourierist communal systems. These always failed, and within a short period (though the Shakers might have lasted much longer if they hadn’t banned marriage and sex). The ideologues within tended to be fanatically anti-Southern. The famous Brook Farm produced two notable officers to the Union Army: General Francis Channing Barlow and Colonel George Duncan Wells. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a well-known member of the Transcendental Club/Brook Farm group once stated: “If it cost ten years, and ten to recover the general prosperity, the destruction of the South is worth so much”.

The reasons for this hostility were complex, and probably best illustrated by the economist and polymath Murray Rothbard in his fantastic talk on Just War:

“The North, in particular the North’s driving force, the “Yankees” – that ethnocultural group who either lived in New England or migrated from there to upstate New York, northern and eastern Ohio, northern Indiana, and northern Illinois – had been swept by a new form of Protestantism. This was a fanatical and emotional neo-Puritanism driven by a fervent “postmillenialism” which held that as a precondition for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, man must set up a thousand-year Kingdom of God on Earth.

The Kingdom is to be a perfect society. In order to be perfect, of course, this Kingdom must be free of sin; sin, therefore, must be stamped out, and as quickly as possible. Moreover, if you didn’t try your darndest to stamp out sin by force you yourself would not be saved. It was very clear to these neo-Puritans that in order to stamp out sin, government, in the service of the saints, is the essential coercive instrument to perform this purgative task. As historians have summed up the views of all the most prominent of these millennialists, “government is God’s major instrument of salvation”…

…If anti-slavery, prohibitionism, and anti-Catholicism were grounded in fanatical post-millennial Protestantism, the paternalistic big government required for this social program on the state and local levels led logically to a big government paternalism in national economic affairs. Whereas the Democratic Party in the 19th century was known as the “party of personal liberty,” of states’ rights, of minimal government, of free markets and free trade, the Republican Party was known as the “party of great moral ideas,” which amounted to the stamping-out of sin. On the economic level, the Republicans adopted the Whig program of statism and big government: protective tariffs, subsidies to big business, strong central government, large-scale public works, and cheap credit spurred by government.

The Northern war against slavery partook of fanatical millennialist fervor, of a cheerful willingness to uproot institutions, to commit mayhem and mass murder, to plunder and loot and destroy, all in the name of high moral principle and the birth of a perfect world. The Yankee fanatics were veritable Patersonian humanitarians with the guillotine: the Anabaptists, the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks of their era. This fanatical spirit of Northern aggression for an allegedly redeeming cause is summed up in the pseudo-Biblical and truly blasphemous verses of that quintessential Yankee Julia Ward Howe, in her so-called “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.”

The Impact of 1848

And now we come to the refugees of 1848. In the left-wing historian Theodore Draper’s book, The Roots of American Communism, the first Marxist socialists in the United States are said to be the exiled revolutionaries who arrived in the wake of the famous failed revolts of that year. When these radical socialists settled in America, they quickly resumed their old habits. Though their numbers were not large, historians such as Arnold Whitridge have written that “the influence of these few thousand refugees was out of all proportion to their numbers”. They would see the newly-founded Republican Party and the war against the South as a continuation of their revolution. Many became prominent in the German language press, founding or editing newspapers to recruit Germans to their cause. These men contrasted greatly with the peaceful and pious farmers that were the older generation of Germans.

The socialists championed Lincoln as a working class hero, despite the fact he was a wealthy corporate lawyer, and were just as enthusiastic for John Fremont’s campaign in 1856. They had reason to admire the Republican Party. After all, Republican Senator John Sherman (brother of General Sherman) had stated the United States should “nationalize as much as possible [and thereby] make men love their country before their states”. During the War Between the States, it was Gen. Fremont’s camp that became a magnet for the radical socialists. Indeed, his chief of staff was a former Hungarian socialist revolutionary, Alexander Asboth.

Other notable ‘Forty-Eighters’ in the Union Army include General August Willich, Louis Blenker, Gen. Weydemeyer (mentioned earlier) and Franz Sigel.

Karl Marx described his friend Willich as a “communist with a heart”. He was a member of the Central Committe of the Communist League and referred to as the “Reddest of the Red”. Willich gave a speech in 1859 urging Northeners to “whet their sabers with the blood” of Southerners.

Brigadier General Louis Blenker has the distinction of creating a new word that came into common usage during the war. This Forty-Eighter, due to having inadequate supplies from Union command, led his 10,000 man division to forage and loot from all over Virginia in the spring of 1862. The term “Blenkered” was applied to the unfortunate souls who had been victims of his German-American troops. Blenker became notorious for allegations of corruption in his camp and the lavish lifestyle he lived during the war (off the back of many stolen goods, of course).

Gen. Joseph Weydemeyer was a close friend of Karl Marx, and a fellow member of the London Communist League. Marx assisted Wedemeyer in meeting Charles A. Dana, the communist sympathiser and future assistant secretary of war in Abraham Lincoln’s administration. Dana assisted him in producing various communist journals in the United States, as well as the first American edition of the Communist Manifesto. Weydemeyer was active in the Republican Party as well as both the Fremont and Lincoln Presidential campaigns.

Franz Sigel had led a failed socialist uprising in Baden, Germany in 1848. His career in the Union Army was mixed. He is probably most known for the rout he took at the Battle of New Market. There, teenage cadets of the Virginia Military Institute (the oldest being barely 19) led a fateful charge that broke the Union line.

Gen. Carl Shurz (pictured above) was an active participant in the unsuccessful socialist revolution of 1848 in Germany. Like thousands of others he sought asylum in America. Shurz obtained the rank of Major General in the Union Army. After the war, he served a s a Senator from Missouri and Secretary of the Interior in the Hayes administration. He became notorious for his treatment and neglect of the Indians in the Reservations system (which he helped fashion into effective Gulags). A Native American delegation were once so impressed by the size of his eyes and named him Mah-hah-Ich-hon, meaning ‘Big Eyes’. They wondered how a man with such large eyes was unable to see the needs of their people. His wife pioneered the kindergarten system.

I have focused mostly on the Forty-Eighters of German extraction, perhaps unfairly. Hungary produced many of note, and one of the most interesting might just be Albin Francisco Schoepf. Schoepf was appointed to the rank of Brigadier General at the beginning of the war with the assistance of contacts in the War Department. Wounded at the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, in 1862, he resigned his command yet surfaced six months later as the commander of Fort Delaware. Fort Delaware was one of the worst POW camps of the conflict. As one historian put it: “Schoepf allowed his subordinates unrestrained control inside the compound, and it eventually evolved into the most brutal POW institution in America”. Torture such as ‘thumb-hangings’ were a daily occurrence, and beatings were inflicted on prisoners to compel them into forced labour.

So, these were the men who came to shoot at the grandsons of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry to teach them how to be good Americans.

Conclusion

Commenator William Grigg said it best: “Lincoln’s war didn’t preserve or restore the Union; it destroyed it and supplanted it with a new polity based on radically different premises. Just as Marxists of his era gravitated naturally toward Lincoln and vibrated like tuning forks when he spoke the language of raw power and ruthless centralization, Marxist academicians of our era understand the true nature of what Lincoln accomplished”.

The Forty-Eighters did not dominate Lincoln’s Party, but they were a very strong element within it. They recognized that  the Union cause was a step in their desired direction. Now its time for our generation to see that too. Which is why a book like Lincoln’s Marxists is so important.

Lincoln’s Marxists [Hardcover] [Kindle Edition]