TCS Daily


Stalin Would Be Proud

By James K. Glassman - March 18, 2003 12:00 AM

The lead singer for the Dixie Chicks has apologized for saying she is "ashamed" of President Bush. Now, as America heads into war, it's time to hear other anti-war protesters say they're sorry, too.

They have been participating in demonstrations led by avid supporters of the North Korean regime and marching next to banners carrying pictures of George Bush dressed up like Adolf Hitler and placards that call the president an "international terrorist," proclaim that "The Difference Between Bush and Saddam Is That Saddam Was Elected," and urge that "Workers, Soldiers and Students Fight for Communism."

To protest this war is a valid exercise of the right of free speech. No one argues with that. Protesters, however, have moral obligations, too, and one of them is to treat their opponents with dignity and honesty and to refuse to lend even tacit support for backers of vile communist dictatorships. In addition, all Americans - even those in the press - have the obligation to condemn the kind of disgusting slurs that so many of these marchers, and others, have been hurling.

For example, Wallace Shawn, an actor and playwright, wrote recently in The Nation magazine: "Why are we being so ridiculously polite? It's as if there were some sort of gentleman's agreement that prevents people from stating the obvious truth that Bush and his colleagues are exhilarated and thrilled by the thought of war,...by the scale, the massiveness of the bombing they're planning, the violence, the killing, the blood, the deaths....

"Why do they want this war so much? Maybe we can never fully know the answer to that question.... Why do some people want so desperately to have sex with children that they can't prevent themselves from raping them, even though they know what they're doing is wrong? Why did Hitler want to kill the Jews?"

This, remember, is from Wally Shawn, darling dumpling of New York's intelligentsia. It is rank obscenity. What is remarkable is that decent Americans let it go, ignore it. That is a terrible mistake.

Another terrible mistake is for protesters themselves, even the most civil and reasonable, not to recognize their culpability in prolonging a war and keeping Saddam in power. Again, this is not to say that they should not excercise their free-speech rights, but they have to be aware of the moral burden they carry - which is as great as the burden carried by backers of the war.

For example, the Associated Press reported Tuesday: "The Iraqi president and his commanders are banking on body bags combining with anti-war protests in the West to halt the military advance on their power base in Baghdad."

In other words, anti-war protests are an important weapon in the arsenal of the most brutal dictator in the world. Demonstrators who ask merely to give peace a chance are, at the same time, helping Saddam and hurting U.S. troops. It is possible that, if Saddam had not been so encouraged by the protests in the first place, he would have capitulated. Protesters cannot ignore the effects of their actions.

I'll admit that until Saturday, I didn't pay much attention to what people like Shawn were writing or to what was going on at the protest marches, but sitting in the back of a cab on the way to the airport, I listened as the driver's radio, tuned to C-SPAN, spewed out the vituperation of one Brian Becker. This was not some hippie peace marcher. He spoke in strident tones I had heard before, many years ago. This guy was a throw-back, a Stalinist. What was he doing leading an anti-war march?

After a little research, the answer was forthcoming.

Last November, David Corn, a writer with impeccable liberal credentials, pointed out in the L.A. Weekly that the initial anti-war demonstration in Washington "was essentially organized by the Workers World Party, a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party to support the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

"The party advocates socialist revolution and abolishing private property. It is a fan of Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba, and it hails North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il for preserving his country's 'socialist system,' which, according to the party's newspaper, has kept North Korea from 'falling under the sway of the transnational banks and corporations that dictate to most of the world.' The WWP has campaigned against the war-crimes trial of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. A recent Workers World editorial declared, 'Iraq has done absolutely nothing wrong.'"

The official organizer of the Washington protests, including last Saturday's, is something called International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism). "But ANSWER is run by WWP activists," wrote Corn, "to such an extent that it seems fair to dub it a WWP front." Key ANSWER officials are WWP members, among them the chief spokesman, Brian Becker, and another highly visible speaker, Larry Holmes, who was emcee during several of the protests and ran for president twice on the WWP ticket.

At the Jan. 18 demonstration in Washington, Holmes "used his time to lecture the crowd on the plight of political prisoners in the U.S.," wrote Byron York, who covered the event for the National Review. Holmes "cited two examples, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Jamil Al-Amin (better known as H. Rap Brown), who have both been convicted of murdering police officers and have become causes celebres in radical circles. 'There are so many political prisoners,' Holmes told the crowd. 'They want peace more than any of us, and they're in prison fighting for it.'"

In his piece, Corn takes care to say that he is not "redbaiting." And he isn't. He is simply pointing out that the leaders of the big U.S. protests have a very different agenda from most of the followers. For example, he says that, while most anti-war demonstrators seem to favor inspections as an alternative to war, Sara Flounders, a WWP activist, says that "inspections ARE war."

Flounders, by the way, also spoke at the Jan. 18 rally, where she denounced President Bush's "racist arrogance" and "plans for a criminal war of colonial conquest," reported York.

Corn wrote that "many of the protesters, I assume, were oblivious to the WWP's role in the event.... They filled red ANSWER donation buckets with coins and bills. But how might they have reacted if Holmes and his comrades had asked them to stand with Saddam, Milosevic and Kim? Or to oppose further inspections in Iraq?"

Paul Donahue, who works with the Thomas Merton Peace and Social Justice Center in Pittsburgh, was one of the few who was wise to what was happening, Corn reported. He shouted "Stalinist!" when Becker appeared on stage. "They're Maoists," said Donahue, "but they're the only game in town, and I've got to admit they're good organizers."

Becker's obsession until recently has been Korea. KCNA, the official news agency of North Korea, reported on an article in Workers World newspaper a few years ago with the headline, "More U.S. war crimes exposed."

The article, according to KCNA, "quoted Brian Becker, co-chairman of the International Action Center and co-chairman of the U.S. Get Out of Korea Committee, as saying the Pentagon imposed a bestial war on Korea, but the U.S. suffered defeat in the war, the first of its kind in history, and the United States could not conquer North Korea and establish a colonial enslavement system there. Brian Becker demanded the U.S. troops should be withdrawn from South Korea and the United States compensate to the war victims [sic]."

In an article in Workers World, cited by York, Becker "bitterly condemned the 'lawless aggression' of the 'imperialist' and 'racist' U.S. air patrols that enforce the no-fly zone. He rails against "U.S. imperialism" and praises the late, great Soviet Union in speeches. This is your leader, anti-war protesters.

Many demonstrators have complained that the media have not given their rallies enough coverage. I agree. It would be good for Americans actually to hear what is said from the podium, where, as far as I could tell, no one, with the possible exception of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has a negative word to say about Saddam Hussein.

My guess is that, after the war begins, the fanaticism by the anti-war crowd - both the hard-core radicals like Becker and Holmes and the fantasist artistes like Wally Shawn - will grow worse. Responsible Americans, whether they favor war or not, need not only to separate themselves from such people but to condemn them vigorously and repeatedly.

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