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April 04, 2007

I Appreciate Right-Wing Honesty

David Neiwert at Orcinus reprints an impressive letter from 1942 that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

...we took this country from the Indians, killed thousands of them, arbitrarily moved other thousands from their homes to far distant lands, and to this day have denied them the rights, duties and privileges of citizenship.

That's pretty enlightened for 1942, wouldn't you say? It sounds like Howard Zinn!

Except I've edited it slightly. Here's what the whole letter said:

If there be those who would say we can't do this [put Japanese-Americans in internment camps], let them remember that we took this country from the Indians, killed thousands of them, arbitrarily moved other thousands from their homes to far distant lands, and to this day have denied them the rights, duties and privileges of citizenship.

If we could do that to the Indians, we can do something about the Japs.

Let's do it now!

This is a common phenomenon when countries are doing horrible things. At such moments, nice liberals generally present a wholly false picture of their country's history, either because they're incredibly ignorant or just because they think it makes their argument stronger: "Our Great Nation has never [put minorities in internment camps/tortured people/launched aggressive wars/taken candy from a baby] before! We mustn't start now!" Meanwhile, interestingly enough, conservatives are often more honest. In normal times conservatives go into a frenzy if anyone mentions their Great Nation may not be flawless. But when new horrible things need to be done, they'll tell the truth about the past in response to the nice liberals' lies: "It's preposterous to say we've never [put minorities in internment camps/tortured people/launched aggressive wars/taken candy from a baby]. Of course we have! AND LET'S DO IT AGAIN NOW!"

One of my favorite examples of this is an August, 1982 speech by Menachem Begin, then Israel's Prime Minister, to the Israeli National Defense College. Begin's invasion of Lebanon had occurred just months before, and was being heavily criticized in Israel and elsewhere. Predictably enough, nice liberals were saying the invasion was something completely new in Israeli history—all of Israel's previous wars, including in 1956 and 1967, had been purely in self-defense.

Here's what Begin said about the Lebanon invasion (aka Peace for Galilee):

Operation Peace for Galilee is not a military operation resulting from the lack of an alternative. The terrorists did not threaten the existence of the State of Israel.

And was this war of choice something new in Israeli history? No, said Begin:

In November 1956 we had a choice. The reason for going to war then was the need to destroy the fedayeen, who did not represent a danger to the existence of the state...

In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.

We did not do this for lack of an alternative. We could have gone on waiting. We could have sent the army home. Who knows if there would have been an attack against us? There is no proof of it. There are several arguments to the contrary.

In other words: "It's preposterous to say we've never launched wars of choice before! Of course we have! AND LET'S DO IT AGAIN NOW!"

Amusingly, the nice liberals lying about Israel's past in order to criticize the invasion of Lebanon somehow all were supporters of Israel's Labor Party—which hated Begin's hard-right Likud. Feel free to draw any parallels you wish with George Bush, Iraq and the Democrats.

So this is why I say: I appreciate right-wing honesty.

THIS POST DEDICATED WITH AFFECTION TO: The worldviews of Donald Johnson, Nell, J. Alva, Dennis and Arthur.

Posted at April 4, 2007 12:09 PM | TrackBack

Oh, lordy Jonathan, I laughed so hard my hyena was traumatized. Of course, he's a conservative and will get over it pretty quickly. He'll be back to extracting the marrow from the neighbor's Golden Retreiver (they're liberals, as you may have guessed) in a couple of hours.

Posted by: Scruggs at April 4, 2007 12:51 PM

Thanks, though I'm not sure how I got into that company.

Great minds do think alike though. I was reading the beginning of your post and thinking "When I get home I'll dig out the Chomsky book "Towards a New Cold War" and find some examples of rightwing Israelis doing precisely this." (Or was it some other Chomsky book? Not sure.) Anyway, you had the same example in mind.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 4, 2007 12:58 PM

And all good nations have to go on acting like nightmares to those less able to defend themselves in the off chance that history might require us to do something noble against a real foe. Or just be beacons of light and truth. Or something.

And, jey, you ever tried taking candy from a baby? I mean, REALLY tried? I did, and brother, let me tell you, I ended up in the ER with a mouthful of bloody chiclets and a punctured lung. Those babies are FIERCE!


Posted by: Stinky Flamingo at April 4, 2007 01:10 PM

Governments pick fights with other governments, but it's THE PEOPLE WHO GET SHOT. Did Begin catch a bullet? How about Nasser, did an artillery round blow him and his cabinet away? I didn't think so. These "leaders" command rows of tanks, miles of cannon, hundreds of aircraft, millions of rifles, yet you NEVER see them in a foxhole covered with mud and BLOOD, finger on he trigger, never in the cockpit(except for the photo op) diving hard for the ground to shake that radar lock, no lanyard in hand smelling like burnt cordite or standing dust covered in a turret all day making a beautiful target. No you ALWAYS see the Begins, Nassers, Omerts, Bushs, etc. in snappy uniforms or Armani Suits, brushed shiny and spit polished, airconditioned and bullet proofed, rambling on and on senselessly about how they're right and the rest of the world is wrong, well paid and pampered until the BLESSED DAY they finally fucking die. But meanwhile, the population that due to the misfortune of being born under said leaders thumbs, sweats like dogs to prop them up and BLEED RIVERS AS PAYMENT FOR THEIR MISTAKES. Thus, my friend the reason for the question, just whom are we discussing , the respective governments or their populations, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 4, 2007 01:25 PM

Thanks, Jonathan. Your link is a prod to post something more indicative of my worldview -- or something at all. I'm back in my once-every-two-weeks trough.

And I can't think why I've waited until now to visit Scruggs' excellent blog; thanks for the pointer!

Posted by: Nell at April 4, 2007 01:44 PM

“The hostility of those who have power toward those who have who can be called inferior because they are different – because they are others, the strangers – has been a historical constant. Indeed, at times it seems to be the dominant theme in human history.”

--Lewis Hanke

In a recent post by Arthur Silber he spoke of how he was directed to a thread that was discussing his blog by a friend. Arthur seemed pretty upset by it and though he did not say where that thread was it seems obvious which one it was. Arthur has not posted for several days but I sure hope he comes back to post some more because I will miss him and his insights if he does not.

Posted by: rob payne at April 4, 2007 02:19 PM

Rob (Payne), where did Lewis Hanke say that?

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 4, 2007 02:25 PM


“Indians and Spaniards in the New World: A Personal View,” in Howard Peckham and Charles Gibson, eds., Attitudes of Colonial Powers Toward the American Indian, Provo: University of Utah Press, 1969, p.13.

Posted by: rob payne at April 4, 2007 03:10 PM

strawman sez:

yeah, it's not like we didn't do those things, it's that we weren't wrong to do them. so when you say, we were wrong to do those things, and we deny the historical importance, the nature of the crime, or the current relevance, it's because we are arguing against your definition of crime, not your accusation. any ambiguity in our statements is caused by needing to communicate such a critical but difficult concept to the general public. or for bureaucratic purposes.

Posted by: hibiscus at April 4, 2007 05:48 PM