April 17, 2003

Tortured Lefty Condemnation...

Tortured Lefty Condemnation of Fidel's Torture: So there I was, cruising the new LA Weekly, when I saw a teaser for a Marc Cooper column saying "Stop it, Fidel. It's wrong to kill people."

Great, I thought. A fine way to remind the pile-on artists on the Right that much of the Left won't shy away from a little righteous Castro-bashing.

Then I read Cooper's intro:

Have you ever imagined what it would be like living in a society where, say, a John Ashcroft would be unrestrained by the niceties of constitutional law? Where draconian enforcement of a Patriot Act includes long prison terms for alleged thought crimes? Where, in the name of fighting "terrorism," nonviolent prisoners are summarily executed after being denied even the trappings of due process?

Imagine no more. Just read the latest news reports, I'm sorry to say, coming not out of Guantánamo but out of Havana.

What the hell? You can't even condemn a wretched dictator without comparing him, inaccurately, to the non-dictator John Ashcroft? You can't condemn Cuba's illegal, arbitrarily enforced police-state laws without comparing them to the not-remotely-as-horrible PATRIOT Act? And why on earth would you be "sorry" that news of atrocities were emanating from Havana (which is run by a murderous totalitarian) as opposed to Guantanamo, which is run by the U.S. government? I'm sorry, the dictatorship is worse than the democracy I live in ... huh?

There's one other telling paragraph:

Some friends of mine urged me not to write this column, arguing that at a time when U.S. troops are occupying Iraq, this would only "play into the hands of the right." That is, of course, ridiculous. There are many enemies of freedom in the world, and — no — not all of them live in Washington. The actions taken by Fidel Castro this past month, precisely in this moment of American belligerence, are guaranteed to only please the ultraright.
Wow. Is this the kind of pretzel-like contortion you must wrench your prose into when you want to write sensible things about Cuba yet still be on Team Left? I sure hope not. And if anyone out there can identify a single "ultaright" type who is "guaranteed" to be pleased by Castro's executions and show trials, please let me know. I was always taught that the right hated Communism....

Posted by at April 17, 2003 03:54 PM
Comments

Matt,

Wow.

Do you still count yourself as a liberal, after writing that?

;-)

More importantly, do LIBERALS still count you as liberal, after writing that???

If more liberals condemned people like Fidel as unreservedly and unabashedly as you do (and Hussein and their ilk), it would do wonders to reattract moderates to the left side (as opposed to Left side) of the spectrum.

Kudoes to you.

Posted by: Dean at April 17, 2003 04:13 PM

Dean -- Answer to all your questions: Who knows! I'm being a bit mean to Cooper (who, after all, is saying the same thing I am, but in a different way), and I really really really really didn't want to join the "Lefties Looooove Dictators!" campaign ... but I thought the column was goofy & that people should know about it.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 17, 2003 04:17 PM

I can count myself as a liberal after reading that because there's nothing liberal about this kind of leftism. That was as true in the 60s, when a Hubert Humphrey was staunchly anti-Castro and leftists were idolizing him, as it is now.

Posted by: Mike G at April 17, 2003 04:51 PM

Matt, I don't think you're being mean at all. I think you're calling him on some pretty disgusting ideas that need to be paid attention, because he's not the only one spouting them. (And, gee, his friends sure sound like a pleasant bunch.) People are letting their unbridled hatred -- and I really don't think that's overstating it -- for the Bush administration cloud their judgement in a most unbecoming way. You're absolutely right: people should know about it.

I'd like to see the issue of the left's tendency towards moral equivalence between anything Thug X (Mugabe, Castro, Saddam, Hitler...take your pick, really) does and the Bush administration become a dead horse that people just keep on beating -- until it's as least as dead as the whole "George W Bush is stupid, Rumsfeld's a jerk, Ashcroft's worse than Hoover and, oh yeah, they're all a bunch of Hitlers" horse that they're all beating. They are an embarrassment to their cause, and it's high time they started feeling some shame for it.

Not that I feel strongly about this, you understand...

Posted by: Jackie D at April 17, 2003 04:59 PM

I don't read the LA Weekly that much, so I may just be uninformed, but it seems that when New Times was still in business this sort of thing appeared less often. Hey, maybe someone could start another weekly that doesn't force its writers to perform OSHA-violation mental contortions. But who would be silly enough to do that?

Posted by: RR Ryan at April 17, 2003 05:20 PM

Talk about contorted!

You know, it's extremely important that it become "mainstream" for liberals to condemn obvious human-rights abusers like Castro without having to twist and turn like that: it's what liberalism should be all about, isn't it?

Liberals need to retake the label from the (once-considered) radical left. It's unhealthy for our political system to have the "middle of the road" drift too deep into one political party's territory as I can see it now beginning to do. (Yeah, I'm registered Libertarian, vote Republican, say I'm Conservative, yet I worry about the implosion of liberalism and the Democratic party. Go figure.)

Posted by: Mac at April 17, 2003 05:22 PM

RR -- The New Times rarely discussed foreign policy of any type. It was basically two brash columns about city politics & such, then one 10,000-word cover story about whales, or perverted priests. With A&E in the back. The Weekly, bless 'em & curse 'em, are forever probing the Soul of the Movement or whatever, which means they will publish more foreign-policy covers in a month than the New Times would in a year.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 17, 2003 05:25 PM

BTW, some liberals are condemning Cuban repression. Good for them.

Posted by: Jackie D at April 17, 2003 05:47 PM

Jackie D -- I think *many* are; hence my original enthusiasm for Cooper's piece before actually reading it.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 17, 2003 05:50 PM

As Roger Simon points out, the Cooper piece includes a link to how you can help the victims of Castro's latest purge. Go there for more details.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 17, 2003 05:53 PM

Sorry, Matt, but I've not heard a peep of condemnation from the left here in the UK -- that's what I was, perhaps unfairly, basing my comment on. I have to admit, my view of this is probably further skewed by the fact that all I've seen lately on the web are examples of people making excuses for Castro. I look forward to seeing more condemnation, but it's not coming to my attention like the moral equivalency is.

Posted by: Jackie D at April 17, 2003 06:04 PM

This is strikingly similar to the responses of the Left that Christopher Hitchens received when he argued for the need to respond militarily against what he calls "Islamofascism." Viz., Bush and Ashcroft were as bad as bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

Lord know, the Right has its own failings and shortcomings. And I would no more wish to live in a nation dominated entirely by the Right as I would one dominated by the Left.

But, this inability (or unwillingness) to make moral distinctions seems to me to be peculiarly unique to the port side of the political spectrum. To be sure, the Right overlooked or excused the excesses of the Pinochets, the Somozas, the Marcoss; but never to the extent, it seems to me, that the Left has done for Castro.

But they did this as well for Mao and Stalin and various other brutal rulers as well. Paul Hollander in "Political Pilgrims" documents and tries to explain the causes of this behavior.

I'm continually perplexed, though.

SMG

BTW, the USSR had free health care, too. You know the funny thing, though? Their life expectancy declined from the early 1980s onward.

Now, why might that be?

Posted by: Dean at April 18, 2003 09:17 PM

Matt--I don't see anything illiberal about your comments. And I'm a liberal, unlike most of the commentators it seems.

SMGalbraith--Here's the right (Jonathan Last in the Weekly Standard) describing Pinochet as a "relatively benign" dictator.

You may also want to search on "Contras 'Moral Equivalent of the founding fathers.'"

And remember Jeane Kirkpatrick's distinction between "totalitarian" and "authoritarian" dictatorships? That was official right-wing government policy, and designed to excuse dictators who were aligned with the US.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at April 19, 2003 06:51 AM

Matt:
I think you may have missed part of my earlier comments. To wit: "To be sure, the Right overlooked or excused the excesses of the Pinochets, the Somozas, the Marcoss; but never to the extent, it seems to me, that the Left has done for Castro."

No one on the Right made bootlicking pilgrimmages to Chile extolling the virtues of the Pinochet Regime. Groups of conservatives intellectuals didn't fawn over Somoza or Marcos and praise their devotion to social justice.

The policies of the Right towards these thugs during the Cold War was essentially realpolitik and anti-communism. And, to be sure, the Right too often subordinated concerns for human rights in favor of national interest (as they perceived it). But no one that I know of believed that Pinochet was a more "just" leader than Jimmy Carter.

Take a poll of the Left - Question: Who's a "better" leader? George Bush or Fidel Castro? No Talmudic counting of hanging chads needed to figure out who would win that election.

What Kirkpatrick said in "Dictatorships and Double Standards" is eerily similar to what we see with Castro. The double standard is with the Left who will condemn the abuses (real and mostly imagined) of those nations friendly to the US while being silent over those committed by adversaries of the nation. How many demonstrators will march this weekend in Europe protesting Cuba's death penalty laws? or the recent crackdown against political dissent?

That was what Kirkpatrick said; not that it was "okay" for rightwing dictators to suppress their people. Nowhere can you find in that essay any excuse for such policies.

And she also noted the distinction, first made by Hannah Arendt, between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The former are easily dealt with - a little push here or there and they're gone. The latter are much more difficult to "fix."

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 07:45 AM

I am on the left side of the political spectrum and I have been extremely critical of Castro from day one.

Margaret Thatcher has been strongly supportive of Pinochet and visited him regularly when he was under house arrest in London. Milton Friedman visited Chile in 1975 and told Pinochet to ignore what the world was saying about him and focus on fighting the "disease of statism" and inflation. The British right publsihed a booklet titled "The Tale of Two Chileans" that purported to justify the Chilean coup and promised a list of those who suffered violent death under Allende's regime as well as the mysterios Plan Z that purported to show that Allende was working toward a Soviet takeover of Chile. Curiously in the nearly two years that Pincohet was under house arrest neither of these documents appeared.

Jeane Kirkpatrick hosted a state dinner for the Argentine generals, Reagan commented that anyone criticizing them should "spend a day in their shoes." If Galtieri had not invaded the Falklands, I have no doubt that she would have continued to support them. I f you can find the book Labyrinth written by Eugene Propper, I urge you to read it. He was one of the prosecutors prosecuting the figures behind the Orlando Letelier-Ronni Moffitt car bombing in Washington, Dc, an act of state-sponsored terrorism that was planned and executed by Pinochet's secret police. Reagan dismissed the "El Mozote Massacre" as a fiction and never acknowledged the veracity of it after forensic investigators started recovering the bodies (nor to my knowledge did Elliott Abrams, Thomas Enders or any of the right-wing defenders of the Salvadoran military). Don't even get me started on Jesse Helms and Roberto D'Aubuisson.

I posted in my blog here in a post on January 5 titled " APOLOGIZING FOR PINOCHET, APOLOGIZING FOR CASTRO" that there were plenty of apologists in the extreme end of both camps. I reject them both and I have always found them both equally detestable. Neither side has clean hands here.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 09:50 AM

SMG--
William F. Buckley described himself as a friend of Marcos, and let's not mention Franco.

The problem with Kirkpatrick's classification is that she used totalitarian and authoritarian as a proxy for "aligned with the USSR" and "aligned with the US." That was hypocritical.

People protest things done by their own governments and their own allies in part because those things are done in their name, and they have a shot at influencing them. Hence, there's little point in protesting Cuba (except in Venezuela, where there are more pressing matters).

But really, this paragraph of yours says it all about your standards of argument:
"Take a poll of the Left - Question: Who's a "better" leader? George Bush or Fidel Castro? No Talmudic counting of hanging chads needed to figure out who would win that election."

Well take a poll of the Right: Question: Who was a "better" leader? Bill Clinton or General Pinochet? I guarantee you, everyone will say Pinochet. Which just proves that the right is soft on coups and state-sponsored murder.

Well, no I don't; that's just some bull***t I made up. But you know, when you make up bull***t like that you can prove anything. So, end of discussion.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at April 19, 2003 09:53 AM

If you want to look for good information on US ties to Lain American dictatorships, you can't do better than this source.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 09:56 AM

Matt:
What's the old saying about lawyers in the courtoom?: "If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you can't argue facts, argue equity. If you can't argue equity, just pound the table."

The late Michael Kelly once pointed out that there is a "hole" in the soul of liberalism and that liberalism's chief goal, for some reason, seems to be to make it appear as ugly as possible.

Interesting observation.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 10:02 AM

>No one on the Right made bootlicking pilgrimmages to Chile extolling the virtues of the Pinochet Regime.

No? In August 1981 Jeane Kirkpatrick made a four day visit to Chile in which she met with Pinochet, praised his economic policies and said that the administration hoped to completely normalize relations with Chile "in order to work together in a pleasant way." My source: A Nation of Enemies: Chile Under Pinochet written by Arturo Valenzuela of Georgetwon University and Pamela Constable, a Washington Post reporter. Their source is a contemporary report in the Washington Post on August 13, 1981. During that visit, Kirkpatrick pointedly refused to meet with Jaime Castillo, a Christian Democratic Party member and head of the Chilean Human Rights Commission who was later appointed to serve on the Rettig Commission to document the fate of the disappeared. Less than a week after Kirpatrick's visit Pinochet had Castillo arrested and expelled him from Chile for the second time.

Kirkpatrick also visited Buenos Aires and refused to meet with the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Keep dreaming that the right's hands are spotless in this area. You're only fooling yourself.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 10:43 AM

Randy:
Jeanne Kirkpatrick was wrong. Terrible. Shameful.

Now, about Castro?

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 11:00 AM

SMG--
I take it that this remark is directed to me, rather than Our Host:
"If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you can't argue facts, argue equity. If you can't argue equity, just pound the table."*
Which is odd, because I provided and Randy documented (thanks Randy!) examples of right-wing government officials cozying up to nasty dictators. You've relied on some hypothetical "poll of the left." Well, one side has the facts, and one side is pounding the table.

Since you've conceded that Kirkpatrick was wrong, terrible, and shameful, what's left of your initial claim that this problem is "peculiarly unique to the port side of the political spectrum"?

Randy's already condemned Castro, by the way. I condemn Castro. Atrios, Matt Yglesias, and Emma of Late Night Thoughts condemn Castro, and Nathan Newman has a petition of left-wing condemnation of the Cuban repression. Signed by Marc Cooper, and without Bush comparisions (though it does mention the Moscow show trials).

*BTW, the version I heard is, "If you don't have the facts, pound the law. If you don't have the law, pound the facts. If you don't have the facts or the law, pound the table." Makes the joke better.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at April 19, 2003 11:19 AM

As I've said, if you would read my previous post, I have been consistently harsh on and critical of Castro in my blog. Since you haven't apparently bothered to read it, the links for posts critical of Castro on my blog are here, here, here, , here, here, here, here, here here, here, here, and here.

That enough to shatter your stereotypes? I've been consistent on this issue. I really don't need to prove my credibility to you on this issue, especially when you haven't acknowledged that you were wrong when you wrote this false statement:

"No one on the Right made bootlicking pilgrimmages to Chile extolling the virtues of the Pinochet Regime."

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 11:47 AM

Matt:
In reverse order:
No, your quote doesn't make sense: it's argue "equity" not the law. If you've got the facts, you argue the facts. But if you don't have the facts (i.e., your argument is baseless), you have to argue equity, NOT the law. Arguing for equity is an attempt to override or ignore the law because if you argued the "law" with no facts, you lose.

You might argue the law on appeal (e.g, substantive or procedural due process violations).

Oy, fugghetaboutit. Talk about Talmudic disputes.

Anyway: as I pointed out in just about every post, the Right did overlook/excuse/defend human rights violations of rightwing regimes. Nowhere did I state otherwise. For some reason, you and your friends seem to believe I stated that the Right never did so.

But, I remain adamant in my view that the Right did not and has not worshipped these rightwing dictators the way the Left has swooned over Castro. Matt Welch documents this with his post both in the article and the letters to the editor.

Not everyone, of course. There are principled individuals on both sides of the political spectrum who stood by their principles. But there are people, as Welch pointed out (and as Hitchens has pointed out) on the left who view Bush as worse than Castro (and, yes, there are/were idiots who believe that Clinton is worse than Pinochet).

However, Pinochet turned power over to Frei (albeit reluctantly). Somoza is gone; Marcos is gone; the Greek colonels are gone; the Argentine generals are gone; Franco is gone. Castro remains.

That's the topic that Welch brought up. The continuing willingness by some on the Left to apologize for him.

It was wrong for the Right to do it, it's wrong for the Left. But the Left is doing it now. They shouldn't.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 11:50 AM

Marc Cooper, for what it's worth has always been on the extreme far left end of the political spectrum. As Matt Weiner noted, Jonathan last referred to Pinochet as a "benign dictator" and Bob Novak recently said about Pinochet that "In many ways he was a great man." I have no doubt that I can find someone on the right to echo support for right-wing dictators. I am certain that Jeane Kirkpatrick hasn't said that she was wrong on that subject.

Support for dictators is not an exclusive part of either extreme end of the political spectrum; not in the past, not now and probably not in the future, unfortunately.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 12:01 PM

I'm sorry, but I just noticed this:

>But, I remain adamant in my view that the Right did not and has not worshipped these rightwing dictators the way the Left has swooned over Castro. Matt Welch documents this with his post both in the article and the letters to the editor.

If you know of an instance in which a left-wing US President had an ambassador or Secretary of State, or other cabinet member who "swooned" over a left-wing dictator to the extent that Jeane Kirkpatrick did with Pinochet in the incident I cited and kept his or her job, please enlighten us citing your sources.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 19, 2003 12:04 PM

Randy:
Re Kirkpatrick.

No, I can't. You've got this round won. As I said before (twice), Kirkpatrick was wrong. Don't know how many times I have to type that (I'll just copy and save it to paste to the next post; saves me time).

I'm still ahead on points, though.

Didn't Pinochet hand over power during the Reagan years? Pressure from Admin. to hold elections and give power to Frei? No credit for the Reaganites, Randy? Just a little?

I could use the diplomatic boilerplate argue in defense of Kirkpatrick's statements? FDR repeatedly praised Uncle Joe and denied that there was religious persecution in Soviet Union. Scowcroft toasted Butchers of Beijing two weeks after Tianamen Square. Et cetera, et cetera.


No, that's a bankrupt argument for indefensible statements.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 12:14 PM

For some odd reason, I keep thinking that Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile after the Pinochet junta turned over power.

Frei was defeated, albeit by a small plurality, by Allende in the early 1970s.

This will be on the final.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 12:28 PM

Question for our liberal/left friends here. And I'm not being "cute" or trying to play "gotcha" or catch you in an inconsistency. Neither side has a monopoly on being, well, two-faced; we can find it everywhere - left, right and center.

Serious query: One of the arguments made by some (repeat some) on the Left, is that the U.S. doesn't have the moral standing or stature to criticize other nations such as Cuba for its repression. We've got 40 million Americans without health care, we have a criminal justice system that is, if not openly racist, unfair to minorities and the poor, we have social injustices from disparities in income to unequal access to courts, schools, et cetera.

So, the U.S. doesn't have the moral stature or credibility to go around condemning the shortcomings of other nations. Thus, the argument goes.

I think I'm being fair in presenting that point of view by SOME progressives.

And yet, we hear these same voices argue that we need to condemn Sharon, condemn Musharaff or, in previous years, condemn Pinochet, Marcos, Somoza et cetera. We need to promote democracy and human rights more aggressively in these regimes by pointing out their failings or inadequacies.

Again, not being polemical or contentious. How can we square these two thoughts? Why is this so? Why does the U.S. NOT have the standing to condemn Castro, the Sandinistas, et cetera on the one hand and yet have an obligation to condemn Sharon, Musharaff, et al.?

Because we give them foreign aid? We subsidize them? Or??

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 02:12 PM

"One of the arguments made by some (repeat some) on the Left, is that the U.S. doesn't have the moral standing or stature to criticize other nations such as Cuba for its repression."

SMG--Those people are idiots. No point in expecting consistency from them. I won't try to explain their thinking. I'm all in favor of condemning Castro; I think the embargo is counterproductive, but that's an issue of means, not ends.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at April 19, 2003 02:22 PM

Matt:
Thanks but I really don't think we can just dismiss them as "idiots." I've personally heard Jesse Jackson say this (or words similar to it); and good folks from the National Council of Churches who have, to their credit, fought against racism and injustice, have said similar things.

Some really good people, who do a lot of "dirty" work helping the poor or helping people with AIDS or cancer, say these really strange things. These are really remarkable people if you look at their lives. For nothing they help the hopeless.

And yet the things they say leave me speechless.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 19, 2003 02:36 PM

Matt: Yikes, I wasn't suggesting that New Times and LA Weekly were competing in the area of foreign policy. I did actually read New Times. They did, however, both cover local politics and the competition made the Weekly sharper in general. I'm optimistic(most of the time, in fact) that another local weekly would have the same salutary effect. Good luck!

Posted by: RR Ryan at April 19, 2003 04:35 PM

Galbraith:

>I'm still ahead on points, though.

In your dreams.

Regarding Kirkpatrick, her statements and support in defense of the Argentine and Chilean dictators were done in an official capacity as US Ambassador to the UN. Her distinction without a difference in the area of human rights argument about totalitarian v. authoritarian governments is what got her noticed and got her the job. Official policy in the 1980's was to support right wing dictatorships regardless of what they did in the human rights sphere. My argument is that has been official policy for some time and when such an activity is official policy it is far more damaging than when some on the left with no official standing seek to praise Castro. It's damaging not only for those who suffer under such regimes, but also for our reputation. It gives the not undeserved impression that we talk out of both sides of our mouth on the subject of human rights.

Pinochet lost a plebiscite in 1988, but did not leave office until 1990. The 1988 plebiscite was called for in the 1980 constitution and it simply was a yes or no vote: yes for another seven years (after his current term expired) of Pinochet's rule or no for presidential elections in 1989. In an interview a couple of years ago on Chilean television, General Fernando Matthei, the commander of the Air Force at the time of the 1988 vote recounted what happened on the night of the plebiscite. When it appeared that the "no" vote was winning, he was asked by the press as he arrived at La Moneda what his thoughts were. He acknowledged that it appeared the no vote was winning and said "We are calm."

Inside La Moneda there was a markedly different scene. Pinochet was furious according to Matthei. He even wanted to send trroops out onto the streets, perhaps to invalidate the vote as there was no unrest taking place (I'm speculating here), but in any event, Matthei, the commander of the Carabineros and the commander of the Navy all overruled Pinochet and said they wouldn't cooperate. Presidential elections were held in December 1989 and Patrício Aylwin was elected, starting his term in 1990. Eduardo Frei was president from 1964 to 1970 and was not elegible ot run against Allende in 1970 as he was term-limited. His son was president from 1994 to 2000. You'd better study harder for the final :-).

I mention the 1988 plebiscite for a couple of reasons: 1.) to show that left to his own devices, Pinochet would have used the military to maintain his grip on power and 2.) to show that by that stage in his 17 years in power, Pinochet had become and embarassment to the Reagan administration. I don't believe that there were upset with the nature of Pinochet's rule as they were upset that he seemed to be extremely reluctant to cede power and his very nature was undemocratic, which essentially put a lie to Kirkpatrick's distinction.

> I've personally heard Jesse Jackson say this (or words similar to it); and good folks from the National Council of Churches who have, to their credit, fought against racism and injustice, have said similar things.

>Some really good people, who do a lot of "dirty" work helping the poor or helping people with AIDS or cancer, say these really strange things. These are really remarkable people if you look at their lives. For nothing they help the hopeless.

>And yet the things they say leave me speechless.

Agreed, but your question should be directed to them unless I missed the meeting in which ALL people on the left agreed to let these people speak for all of us on all subjects.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 20, 2003 08:08 AM

Paul:
First, I thank Matt Welch for the forum and apologize for taking up this much space.

This is not exactly the best forum to go back over the history of American foreign policy or even, in a narrower sense, our policies towards Chile in the 1980s. But I believe that history is clearly on my side of this debate, unless it's one written by a Noam Chomsky or a Howard Zinn (need to coin a neologism for that, how about "fictional history"?).

You keep mentioning these incidents in the 1980s; I can refer to sycophantic statements about Castro made by SOME on the Left in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and now - 40+ years. Not to mention the praise of Lenin and Stalin and Mao from the Left throughout the 20th century. Just pick any issue of "The Nation" in the 20s or 30s or 40s or 50s or 60s or 70s for details. The volumes supporting my position dwarf those slim works supporting your argument. Again, in all my posts I've never said ALL of the Left. Horse being flogged has been dead all along.

(1) Re "official policy statements" versus "private parties". This is, to be blunt, a very misleading comparison. Official policies have to take into considerations much more complex and difficult issues that private individuals do not have to consider. Recall the definition of a diplomat: "A nice person paid to go abroad and lie for his country."

I can say as a private citizen that Prince Bandar is a womanizing fraud or that King Faud is a senile fart keeping his country in the 14th century. And that's pretty accurate in both cases. Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell, of course, cannot say such things, as demonstrably true as they might be. They have to say that the "U.S. looks forward to working with the Saudi government in promoting democracy and self determination and blah, blah, blah." And so, our nice diplomats go abroad and say nonsense about other countries. Rice does it. Albright did it. Vance did it. State Department officials from Democratic Administrations or Republican Administrations have done it.

Similarly, I can present to you dozens if not hundreds of statements and policy pronouncements by FDR or Henry Wallace or other high ranking Administration officials extolling the virtues of Joseph Stalin that make what Kirkpatrick said about Pinochet sound mild in comparison. One can even include, if forced, the statements/policies of FDR supporting at the time the greatest colonial empire in world history.

(2) And why did FDR/Wallace et al. say and promote this? Well, Wallace did it because he was a stooge for the Soviet Union. But FDR did it for the same reason that Kirkpatrick and Reagan (and Bush 43) did. Because for all their (Stalin, Pinochet et al.) faults, they were AT THE TIME better for their own people than those who would replace them OR because we needed their support in order to fight a larger battle on a global scale. That is why, today, we are siding with a Musharraf here or a House of Saud there. Bush Administration officials (like Clinton officials) have said some silly things about the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia or about Mubarak in Egypt. And have overlooked, FOR THE TIME BEING, some awful things.

Because, again, the alternatives were worse or because we were, as now, engaged in a larger mission.

We all know too well - at least most of us - the horrific misery that followed the fall of those allies in previous years before the 1980s. Genocide in Cambodia, boat people in Vietnam, theocratic murder in Iran. Those who replace the flawed rulers proved to be far more horrific and sinister than their predecessors. Chile today, had Allende maintained power, would NOT be a thriving democracy. It would resemble Cuba - a complete police state with the populace little more than prisoners dependent entirely on the graces and whims ruler. Chile TODAY is a democracy with a free economy and a free press. Cuba TODAY has neither.

(3) Would I have wanted to live under Pinochet? Of course not. He was a brutal ruler. But I wouldn't have wanted to live under Allende either as he was assembling, with Castro's help, a police state that would have dwarfed anything done by the Junta. Let's not romanticize Allende and his supporters. They were thugs worse than Pinochet. Sorry, that's irrefutable. I wouldn't have wanted to live under Batista either; but had he not been overthrown Cuba today would be a democracy and not a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by a megalomanical koot. My guess is that you think Chile would have been better under Allende and without the military dictatorship and that, similarly, Cuba is better with Castro replacing Batista. I think otherwise; I can't convince you otherwise and you can't convince me otherwise.

But to make this clear: I hope I would have had the courage to oppose BOTH Allende AND Pinochet; BOTH Batista AND Castro. I certainly intellectually oppose all four; I don't know, to be honest, if I would have had the physical courage to do so (I pray I never have to answer that question).

(4) It would be nice if the U.S. could go around the world picking out Jeffersonian democrats taught the niceties of constitutional democracy by their local League of Women Voters. Unfortunately, they're not always there. They weren't in Chile at the time; but they are there now.

Should the Reagan Administration have been more forceful in demanding that these regimes be more democratic and less brutal? In hindsight, yes. Just as FDR and Henry Wallace should have been more demanding of Stalin, especially at Yalta.

But, sorry, I don't believe that Jeanne Kirkpatrick or Ronald Reagan or Elliott Abrams are the monsters the Left portray them because of their policies in Central/South America. Their policies in the 1980s was based on a recognition of the limits of American power and the limits presented to them by historical factors far beyond the control of this nation. They weren't dealt much of a hand; they played the cards given them.

So, when Kirkpatrick praised Pincochet, she was, I believe, lying. Yes, LYING. When Jesse Jackson or Saul Landau or a hundred other progressive figures praise Castro, they're being sincere.

Happy Easter.

Thanks Matt. Off to Paypal to pay my dues.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 20, 2003 11:14 AM

>Let's not romanticize Allende and his supporters.

No one is romanticizing Allende here.

>Chile today, had Allende maintained power, would NOT be a thriving democracy. It would resemble Cuba - a complete police state with the populace little more than prisoners dependent entirely on the graces and whims of a fanatical ruler. . . .They were thugs worse than Pinochet. Sorry, that's irrefutable.

It is impossible to argue with someone who says that his opinion is irrefutable. I'm sure all the scholars who have studied Chile are now gathering in their offices and saying "Why research anymore? Galbraith said his statement is irrefutable, thus whatever we have discovered and researched is worthless unless it echoes his opinion." That is patently absurd. I hear that argument all the time and while there may be some credence to it, at it's heart it's still pure speculation and speculation most assuredly can be refuted. Remember, in the sentence that proceeded that statement, you are using the subjunctive case and that case is conditional. History, as a record of what actually happened is not written in the subjunctive case.

There is empirical evidence to contradict that statement, however. In the three years of Allende's administration, torture was not institutionalized and people were not being disappeared. There was social unrest and there were a great deal of problems, but torture, extrajudicial executions and disappearances were not widespread. In the first three year period of Pinochet's rule, torture, disappearances, extrajudicial executions were institutionalized and widespread.

>So, when Kirkpatrick praised Pincochet, she was, I believe, lying. Yes, LYING. When Jesse Jackson or Saul Landau or a hundred other progressive figures praise Castro, they're being sincere.

In 7 years of extensively contributing to and reading forums on the internet that may be the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. This is so self-serving that it hardly merits comment. So when a right-winger praises a right-wing human rights abuser, they're lying and when a left-winger does it they're being sincere. Keep deluding yourself. Goodbye and good luck.

Posted by: Randy Paul at April 20, 2003 05:09 PM

Randy:
You're welcome. Glad to correct your mistakes. Any time. If you need more help, I'll try to find some time.

Goodbye and good luck to you, too.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 20, 2003 05:46 PM

Paul:
In case you missed this important point: this is a "comments" section on a weblog. We're not here to present a doctoral thesis for our PH.Ds in Central or Latin American history. We give our opinions and thoughts, such as they are, on current and historical events.

We get to play Clio here, foretelling future events and pointing out how history would have been altered if other decisions had been taken.

Mostly, we're full of it, grabbing at things based on our knowledge and understanding of history, whether extensive or limited. Some are more full of the blarney than others. Especially those who don't understand the point above.

Happy Easter/Passover/Holidays

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 20, 2003 06:18 PM

Matt, your final comment was stupid. The last thing the ultraright wants to see is Castro behaving like a moderate. That's the dirty little secret of politics, right, center, and left--we all like to see our favorite demons behaving badly. Rightwingers like to see Communists behaving very badly--they don't even like to admit that Democrats aren't closet totalitarians. People on the far left feel the same about the right. And centrists like to see themselves as the sensible folk who never fall into the errors of extremism. And of course they're the last to admit it when mainstream society is guilty of some great wrong. But they love to see extremists behaving badly.

Cynical, but true, at least part of the time.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 20, 2003 06:31 PM

SMG said:
"For some odd reason, I keep thinking that Eduardo Frei was elected president of Chile after the Pinochet junta turned over power.

Frei was defeated, albeit by a small plurality, by Allende in the early 1970s."

Close, but no cigar. There are two Eduardo Freis in Chile: one the father, and one the son. Eduardo Sr. was the candidate of the Christian Dems in 1964 and 1970. They were not part of the left-wing coalition government led by the Socialists under Allende.

(FYI, did you know that the US spent more $$ on the Chilean presidential race of 1964 than both Johnson and Goldwater did in the US presidential race COMBINED??? The US spent even MORE in 1970! If you look at it that way, the Socialists were STILL able to defeat the right, even though they were badly outspent).

After Pinochet and the military lost the 1988 plebiscite, Patricio Aylwin of the Christian Democrats headed up the new national unity government. It was later in the 90s that the Socialists beat the Christian Dems led by Eduardo Frei Jr., the son of Eduardo Frei Sr.

FYI on Marc Cooper: I doubt most people here know much about his past, in that in the early '70s he worked as a translator for Allende in the Chilean government. As a matter of fact, he barely escaped after the US-supported coup on September 11, 1973. He even wrote a book about this experience. Highly recommended if you want to understand the non-liberal left in this country.

Posted by: The Ghost of Victor Hara at April 21, 2003 02:18 PM

Ghost:
Thanks for the correction. I could have done a Google search before posting but was too lazy.

Wasn't the "tragedy" in Chile really about the collapse or the failure of what Arthur Schlesinger called "the vital center"? We had the Socialist left with support from Castro taking power and then the fascist right taking it back. So, Chile was caught between the pincers of the extremes with the moderate/vital democratic center suffering the consequences. Sorta' like being caught in the crossfire between two competing drug gangs.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 21, 2003 02:51 PM

Moral equivalency is your trump card, SMG? Did Allende come to power through a military coup? Did Allende's administration practice torture and mass murder? If so, please offer evidence.

Posted by: D. W. Breen at April 22, 2003 09:15 AM

DW:
There is no doubt - history clearly shows it - that Pinochet's Junta was brutal and murderous and committed acts that the Allende government did not do. Allende and his Marxist and Cuban allies were never able - for lots of reasons - to fully consolidate power. Had they done so, in my opinion and based on the historical record of how Marxist regimes rule, their brutality would have made Pinochet's brutality look like a picnic. We'll never know; but we can make educated guesses.

Again, to be clear, the record clearly shows that the Junta did things that the Allende government never did. Far more brutal and far worse.

The only moral equivalence I'm embracing is my belief that communists - like the ones allied with Allende - and fascists - like the ones allied with Pinochet - once they achieve and consolidate power, brutalize their people. I'm against both. I'll leave it to others to defend one or the other.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 22, 2003 02:08 PM
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ks">He even wrote a book about this experience. Highly recommended if you want to understand the non-liberal left in this country.

Posted by: The Ghost of Victor Hara at April 21, 2003 02:18 PM

Ghost:
Thanks for the correction. I could have done a Google search before posting but was too lazy.

Wasn't the "tragedy" in Chile really about the collapse or the failure of what Arthur Schlesinger called "the vital center"? We had the Socialist left with support from Castro taking power and then the fascist right taking it back. So, Chile was caught between the pincers of the extremes with the moderate/vital democratic center suffering the consequences. Sorta' like being caught in the crossfire between two competing drug gangs.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 21, 2003 02:51 PM

Moral equivalency is your trump card, SMG? Did Allende come to power through a military coup? Did Allende's administration practice torture and mass murder? If so, please offer evidence.

Posted by: D. W. Breen at April 22, 2003 09:15 AM

DW:
There is no doubt - history clearly shows it - that Pinochet's Junta was brutal and murderous and committed acts that the Allende government did not do. Allende and his Marxist and Cuban allies were never able - for lots of reasons - to fully consolidate power. Had they done so, in my opinion and based on the historical record of how Marxist regimes rule, their brutality would have made Pinochet's brutality look like a picnic. We'll never know; but we can make educated guesses.

Again, to be clear, the record clearly shows that the Junta did things that the Allende government never did. Far more brutal and far worse.

The only moral equivalence I'm embracing is my belief that communists - like the ones allied with Allende - and fascists - like the ones allied with Pinochet - once they achieve and consolidate power, brutalize their people. I'm against both. I'll leave it to others to defend one or the other.

SMG

Posted by: SMGalbraith at April 22, 2003 02:08 PM
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