Désinformation: Retour sur l’Affaire Sacco-Vanzetti (Looking back on Comintern’s most successful lying-for-the truth operation)

24 août, 2006

Comintern_3

The purpose was « to Stalinize the glamor culture, while simultaneously giving the apparatus a cash cow capable of producing a large, untraceable supply of much-needed American hard currency to finance various operations around the world. » (…) You do not endorse Stalin. You do not call yourself a communist. You do not declare your love for the regime. You do not call on people to support the Soviets. Ever. Under any circumstances. You claim to be an independent-minded idealist. You don’t understand politics, but you think the little guy is getting a lousy break. You believe in open-mindedness. You are shocked, frightened by what is going on right here in our own country. You are frightened by the racism, by the oppression of the working man. You think that the Russians are trying a great human experiment, and you hope it works. You believe in peace. You yearn for international understanding. You hate fascism. You think the capitalist system is corrupt. You say it over and over again and you say nothing, nothing more. Stephen Koch

Pour en terminer avec le mythe Sacco-Vanzetti, il nous faut bien sûr revenir sur le magistral travail de l’historien américain Stephen Koch qui a le mérite de l’inscrire dans la perspective plus générale de l’appareil de propagande stalinien. Notamment dans son livre de 1994 sur le Komintern (Double lives*) où, s’appuyant sur des archives soviétiques récemment ouvertes, il évoque l’étonnant parcours d’une de ses grandes figures (nécessairement cachée!), le propagandiste allemand Willi Münzenbuger.

Chef d’orchestre invisible d’une campagne de manipulation sans précédent (du milieu des années 20, le système Münzenberg se perpétua même au-delà de sa mort jusqu’aux années 60), la liste est longue de ceux que ses services réussirent à « recruter », au moins comme « compagnons de route ». Hemingway, Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Bertold Brecht, Thomas Mann, les deux André, Gide et Malraux, rien de moins en fait que le gotha de l’intelligentsia occidentale. Sans parler des Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Heinrich Mann, Romain Rolland, Aragaon et sa muse russe Elsa Triolet, etc.

Et ce justement… à partir de l’Affaire Sacco et Vanzetti, cette magistrale opération de « mensonge au service de la vérité » dont le Komintern se fera par la suite une spécialité:

Extraits :

Around 1925, the Comintern entrusted Münzenberg and his propaganda machine with a little-known but large role in giving shape and political function to the Communist Party of the United States as it was to be under Stalin. At that time, the American party, that congregation of the militant naïve, home and battleground for John Reed and Louise Bryant, needed to be re-assembled. It had been left in a shattered state by its late-Leninist internal struggles combined with devastating police action inflicted on it by what later became the FBI.

(…)

For the world proletariat of 1925, the leading counter-myth to the myth of revolution was, by far, the idea of America. That vision—the notion of the melting pot, the Golden Door, the Land of Opportunity— is what held the real political attention of the International. To the Bolsheviks, this was the true American menace. And in 1925, the task of the American party was to counteract it.

So Münzenberg’s first idea was to create and sustain a worldwide anti-American campaign that would focus its appeal upon the mythology of the country’s immigration. The purpose of such a campaign would be to instill a reflexive loathing of the United States and its people as a prime tropism of left-wing enlightenment. To undermine the myth of the Land of Opportunity, the United States would be shown as an almost insanely xenophobic place, murderously hostile to foreigners.

To this end, Münzenberg surveyed his options, in search of a cause that would disgrace America in the eyes of the proletarian foreign-born. He found it in the obscure case of two anarchist immigrants who’d got themselves into some very bad trouble: Niccola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

(…)

Together with the Dreyfus case, this is perhaps the most famous legal struggle in the whole history of modern propaganda and injustice. It seemed at first incredible to me that this epochal case could have been manipulated at such a distance, and so cynically.

And indeed the origins of the Sacco–Vanzetti case are far more complex than that. Yet in one sense the Sacco–Vanzetti campaign does turn out to have been “Münzenberg’s idea.” It was indeed at Münzenberg’s instigation that Communist propaganda networks worldwide took up the plight of the two Boston immigrants and made it the centerpiece of a vast new anti-American operation—just as a little later it was Willi’s executive decision to turn the Scottsboro Boys into prime martyrs for the International. The Comintern and Willi’s organization were the ones who transformed a case of troubled local injustice into a worldwide cause célèbre.

In that effort, however, the Communists latched onto the Sacco–Vanzetti case as latecomers and opportunists. Sacco and Vanzetti were not themselves Communists, and theirs was not, at first, a Communist struggle. The two Italians were anarchists, and so their political myth was shaped during the early 1920s by anarchists, guided especially by that doyen of Italo-American radicalism, Carlo Tresca.

By the mid-1920s, however, the political sponsorship of the case decisively changed. In 1926, the American Communist Party stood directionless and in disarray, very much in need of a new motivating spirit and a new task. At the same time, the International was demanding its anti-American cause. The Soviet propagandists decided to satisfy both these needs at once. In 1926, speaking to his colleagues in the WIR, Münzenberg announced it was their task, as propagandists, to rescue the American party and supply its new direction. And so it was: the first task of a revived American party was to seize and hold the Sacco–Vanzetti case for its own, while around the world the Comintern turned it into the preoccupying moral issue of the era. By 1928, Willi was cooly and quite correctly claiming credit for the Sacco– Vanzetti campaign, understood as a worldwide political moral mania, and among the highest triumphs of his apparatus.

Here is how it worked. Way back in 1920, two Italian immigrants, both militant anarchists, were arrested and charged with stealing the payroll of a Braintree, Massachusetts, shoe factory and murdering its paymaster and his guard. In 1921, they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

The two men belonged to a small anarchist cell of Italian immigrants like themselves. When the pair was arrested, this group immediately formed a defense committee. Naïvely convinced that the two would get off, they proposed creating “great publicity for the anarchist movement.”

But Sacco and Vanzetti did not get off. Nor did their case advance the anarchist cause; its later co-option by the Communists was used to betray and undermine American anarchism. The Defense Committee was right about one thing: These two men’s condemnation offered the basis for a political vision.

That vision in its anarchist incarnation was the creation of one man above all: an eccentric Westerner, one of the grand lawyers of the American left, a brilliant but more flaky Clarence Darrow named Fred Moore, recommended to the Defense Committee by Carlo Tresca.

(…)

Moore invented the case. He set out to rescue his clients with any and every maneuver a fertile legal mind could conceive, convinced they were lost without the pressure of outraged world opinion. To this end, long before Münzenberg knew anything about the case, he single-handedly created the political argument of Sacco and Vanzetti: that they were powerless, despised, radical immigrants being subjected to judicial murder by a smug, chauvinist, puritanical, nativist, red-scared New England establishment. In promoting this defense, Moore was unscrupulous, ingenious, indefatigable, driven. Of his passion and sincerity there can be no doubt. He was a man obsessed. And his belief in his clients’ innocence was quite genuine. At first.

Except unfortunately their innocence wasn’t quite genuine. Best evidence shows beyond all reasonable doubt that Sacco was in fact one of the Braintree gunmen and the murderer of the guard, whom he shot to death after the man had fallen to his hands and knees, begging for his life while struggling to reach his own revolver. Vanzetti may have been innocent of the Braintree holdup, though he probably knew or guessed Sacco’s guilt. He certainly had guilty knowledge of Sacco’s participation in an earlier robbery where no blood had been spilled.

In a way, the facts make the two men’s political solidarity all the more compelling. One word of the truth from either man—Sacco in ordinary decency; Vanzetti in ordinary self-protection—would have saved Vanzetti’s life. But it also would have demolished their cause in disgrazia. Bartolomeo Vanzetti laid down his life on the bloody altar not of justice but of propaganda. He died lying for the truth.

The murky integrity of this self-sacrifice gives Vanzetti—he was in every way the more interesting of the pair—a tremendously affecting dignity. It also sustained his stumbling, broken, justly famous eloquence. “If it had not been for this thing, I might have live out my life talking on street corners to scorning men. I might have die unknown, unmarked, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph.”

The little coterie of anarchists on the Defense Committee also knew the truth, and they too maintained the vow of silence for la causa. The last survivor, a man named Ideale Gambera, wrote a full account of the affair for disclosure by his son after his death. Gambera died in 1982, and his son released the documents to Francis Russell, a principal scholar of the case. It was the last word.

Somewhere along the way, Fred Moore seems to have stumbled onto the truth as well. There is no evidence that this in any way modified Moore’s passion for his clients’ defense, but in 1923, in the midst of a paranoid psychotic episode (he’d attempted suicide and was hospitalized), Sacco dismissed Moore in a violent incoherent rage. Taking his dismissal with dignity, Moore packed up, got into his car, and drove back west, selling knickknacks as he went to pay for his gasoline.

The case now began to die. The appeals dragged on, but the headline makers of the world had dropped the Massachusetts fishmonger and shoemaker. Then, in 1925, on orders of Münzenberg and the Comintern, an American branch of the Red Aid called the International Labor Defense, created in Chicago with James Cannon as its director, was set up to be the focus of organization for the new American Communism. Its first mission was to make the Sacco–Vanzetti case into a worldwide myth.

The campaign became a juggernaut, tenaciously co-ordinated from Berlin, vast and unrelenting. Now, once again, protest meetings gathered to shout and sob in the great squares. From all its outlets, organs of the Trust produced an unstanchable stream of attacks on the assassin viciousness of American justice, defending the innocence and holiness of the immigrant martyrs in Braintree. Around the world, heart-rending appeals for cash were staged to provide for Sacco and Vanzetti’s defense and “protection.” Children gave their pennies, workers donated wages, philanthropists opened their checkbooks.

The apparat’s fund-raising was, incidentally, an almost complete fraud. Sacco and Vanzetti and their Defense Committee saw next to none of the money raised in their names. Of the approximately half-million dollars raised in the United States, the Defense Committee received something like $6,000. Of large sums collected in mass protest meetings around the world, the Defense Committee saw precisely nothing.

Cannon seems to have understood that Sacco was guilty, and so Münzenberg very possibly also knew the truth. Not that anybody cared. The Communist goal was never to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti. Acquittal would have dissolved the whole political point. Katherine Anne Porter, like hundreds of writers and artists of the time, participated in the Boston deathwatch. She reports an exchange with the Comintern agent who was her group leader, Rosa Baron, “a dry, fanatical little woman who wore thick-lensed spectacles over her accusing eyes, a born whiphand, who talked an almost impenetrable jargon of party dogma. … I remarked … that even then, at that late time, I still hoped the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti could be saved. … ‘Saved’ she said, ringing a change on her favorite answer to political illiteracy, ‘who wants them saved? What earthly good would they do us alive?’”

Francis Russell, in his Sacco and Vanzetti: The Case Resolved (1986), describes the European demonstrations:

« Demonstrations took place that autumn in France and Italy, with lesser demonstrations in Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, and South America. A bomb exploded in the American embassy in Paris. Another was intercepted in the Lisbon consulate. Reds in Brest stoned the consulate there. American consuls in Mexico were threatened with death if Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. In Rome, thousands of workers marched on the American embassy demanding justice for their compatriots. »

Some of this agitation was anarchist inspired, some actually spontaneous, but most of it was directed by Communist leaders in Paris.

(…)

Felix Frankfurter, then a leading professor of law at Harvard and later one of this century’s great justices of the U.S. Supreme Court (…) was drawn into the affair by the dual force of his passion for justice and his concern for his wife.

(…)

When the condemned men’s last appeal was denied, the outraged Felix proceeded to write one of the most powerful polemics of his career, a denunciation of the case’s legal history, a brilliant exercise in controlled vituperation. The piece appeared in The Atlantic. It was more influential than any other factor in marshaling American non-radical opinion behind the pair, and it was even more influential in Europe. Münzenberg’s Berlin office arranged for it to be reprinted throughout the world, while in London H. G. Wells produced a flamboyant summary which promptly became the received British view.

What followed was orchestrated multinational mass hysteria.

August 22 was the night of the executions, and around them the apparat, poising itself for the outpouring of international grief, organized a vast international deathwatch. Francis Russell describes the event:

After the news flashed from Charleston that Sacco and Vanzetti had at last been executed, the reverberations were international. Demonstrations in American cities were duplicated and in many places exceeded all over Europe. In Paris the Communist daily Humanité printed an extra sheet on which was splashed the single block word “Assassinés!” Crowds surged down the Boulevard Sebastopol, ripping up lampposts and tossing them through plate glass windows. Protective tanks ringed the American embassy, and sixty policemen were injured when a mob tried to set up barricades there. Five thousand militants roamed the streets of Geneva the evening before the executions, overturning American cars, sacking shops selling American goods, gutting theaters showing American films. One of the greatest demonstrations in the history of the Weimar republic took place in Berlin; there were tumultuous demonstrations in Bremen and Wilhelmshaven and Hamburg, and a two hour torchlight parade in Stuttgart. During that turbulent week, half a dozen German demonstrators were killed. No one was killed in England, but on the night of the executions, a crowd gathered in front of Buckingham Palace and sang “The Red Flag.”

The night of the executions was marked by a vigil at Charleston Prison. Before this dour building an enormous crowd gathered in the dark. “I was never in that place before,” Porter wrote, “but I seem to remember that it was a great open space with the crowd massed back from a center the police worked constantly to keep clear. They were all mounted on fine horses and loaded with pistols and hand grenades and tear gas bombs.” The law in its generosity provides that the condemned are entitled to every minute of their last day. After having been granted this largess, Sacco and Vanzetti were led to the death chamber at midnight exactly. Sacco entered it first, at 12:11. Vanzetti followed at 12:20. By 12:27 both had been pronounced dead. Both men met their end with indescribable dignity.

So the American Communist Party was revived, in part, to function as a local instrument in a worldwide and remarkably successful effort to create a new anti-American myth, the support and development of which persisted for decades to come.

Lying for the truth:
Münzenberg & the Comintern

Stephen Koch
1994

* Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas against the West, traduit en français en 1995 sous le titre: La fin de l’innocence : les intellectuels d’Occcident et la tentation stalinienne – 30 ans de guerre secrète

Voir aussi:

Double Lives: Spies and Writers in the Secret Soviet War of Ideas Against the West.
book review by Ronald Rodosh
National Review, 1994

THE name Willi Munzenberg is familiar to readers of Arthur Koestler and Manes Sperber, writers whose chronicles of European and German Communism first told us of his work on behalf of the Comintern. But it has been the unique task of Stephen Koch, who was able to utilize material hidden until recently in the archives of the former Soviet Union, to tell us the whole story of how this remarkable Comintern operative fashioned a widespread network of agents–« Munzenberg’s men, » as Mr. Koch calls them–who created a propaganda apparatus that gained the allegiance of the most prominent writers, intellectuals, artists, and politicians in the major capitals of the Western world.

Indeed, the network Munzenberg fashioned went beyond merely creating Communist propaganda. Rather, it was at times indistinguishable from an espionage organization. Munzenberg’s chief operatives–the urbane Otto Katz, a Sudeten German born in Prague, and the « elegant but slightly seedy » Louis Gibarti, a Hungarian– were most likely not only Comintern agents, but NKVD cadre as well. And the task they accomplished went to the heart of what Stalin wanted to develop in the West: a legion of true believers who could be counted upon to justify the most egregiously brutal Soviet policies and practices. Their task, as Mr. Koch explains, was to propagate the idea that to « criticize or challenge Soviet policy was the unfailing mark of a bad, bigoted, and probably stupid person, while support was equally infallible proof of a forward-looking mind committed to all that was best for humanity and mankind by an uplifting refinement of sensibility. »

In that task, Munzenberg succeeded all too well. With willing victims ranging from Lillian Heilman, Josephine Herbst, and Dorothy Parker in America, to Thomas and Heinrich Mann in Germany, to Elsa Triolet and Louis Aragon in Paris, Munzenberg’s agents, led by Katz and Gibarti, used the lure of « anti-fascism » to attract their prey, and a strong lure it was. At its center was the distinction these gullible intellectuals made between Communism and fascism. The former, they thought, derived from the Enlightenment, and hence they were incapable of discerning the evils stemming from a Marxist-Leninist state. « Protecting the progressive ideal, » Mr. Koch explains, « seemed to rest on denying or evading the manifest horrors that had sprung from their radical application. And within the needs of such a denial, Munzenberg and his heirs moved and found their element. »

Again, that element was « anti-fascism. » It is perhaps Mr. Koch’s signal contribution to reveal, in a complex and textured analysis, that in reality this anti-fascism was a complete illusion. From the very beginning Josef Stalin planned a secret working relationship with the Nazi Party and Hitler’s Germany. That pattern began, Mr. Koch shows us, with the real story of the Reichstag Fire trial in 1933 and the role played by Comintern leader Georgi Dimitrov. For decades, it has been part of the fiction of received history that the Nazis themselves burned down the Reichstag, blaming it on the Communists and subjecting the Bulgarian Dimitrov to a mock trial–in which Dimitrov, due to an outstanding performance and to world support, turned the tables on the Nazis and gained his acquittal.

The truth, until Mr. Koch’s discoveries, has lain buried in the vaults of the Comintern and, as one might have suspected, is much more complex and nuanced. Of course, the passions roused against fascism were quite genuine, and justified. Hence the « progressive » world was enthralled by Dimitrov’s unflinching and seemingly brave challenging of the Nazis from the Leipzig courtroom. What Mr. Koch tells us is that Dimitrov was brave for one reason alone: « He was in no danger and knew perfectly well there was nothing for him to fear. » In effect, the Nazis had rigged the trial in Dimitrov’s favor. It was all part of a covert operation organized jointly by the NKVD and the Gestapo, « through which he was assured of acquittal and a triumphant return to Russia at the end of what was a propaganda charade played out as a whole high drama of defiance. »

How could this be? Indeed, how could the totalitarian Nazi regime allow its courts to free the top Comintern leader, who supposedly was using their courtroom to expose the Nazis’ own perfidy? As is often the case with espionage, we here enter the wilderness of mirrors. Katz and Munzenberg had already created the world-famous Brown Book of Hitler Terror, which appeared simultaneously with the Leipzig trial, and which did so much to inform the Western world of the nature of German fascism. As Mr. Koch says, every informed person was aware of its contents, and the volume was a best-seller throughout the West. But close examination reveals the limits of its anti-fascism. Stalin’s real policy, as Mr. Koch writes, was « overt anti-fascism plus secret appeasement. » The Brown Book of Hitler Terror, despite its title, let Hitler off the hook. As did the Reichstag trial, and the Western response. Mr. Koch writes:

Hitler’s persecution of German Communism was almost certainly pursued in full collaboration with Stalin and the full knowledge and direct personal co-operation of the future head of the Communist International, using the Comintern’s « anti-fascism » as cover. Almost certainly, the acquittal of Georgi Dimitrov was the result of secret arrangements with the Nazis, and the founding scandal of the Soviet-sponsored anti-fascist movement, one of the leading forces in the moral life of this century, was created in direct collaboration with Hitler himself.

As Mr. Koch explains, this charade was really not as surprising as it may at first seem. The Brown Book, as it turns out, and the expose of the Nazis by Dimitrov, concentrated on the paramilitary Brown Shirts, or SA, a group Hitler had come to see as a major contender for power, and which he rightly saw as standing in the way of his own authority. Stalin, meanwhile, feared the SA’s ability to militarize Germany quickly, and he believed the stabilization of the new regime by Hitler would forward his own interests. Hitler and Stalin alike saw that the SA and its leader, Ernst Rohm, had to be prepared for slaughter, and Hitler thus allowed Dimitrov to use his courtroom pulpit, as Mr. Koch puts it, « to discredit the SA, prior to its elimination. »

In that effort, the propaganda apparatus of Munzenberg sprang into action. A « counter-trial » was held to much fanfare in London, and the gullible « progressives » in the West flocked to sign up for service in various Munzenberg fronts. And there were many.

It should be acknowledged here that the idea of a Dimitrov conspiracy orchestrated jointly by Hitler and Stalin seems preposterous on the face of it. Is the evidence that Mr. Koch has unearthed in the Comintern files confirmed elsewhere? Reviewing this book in The New York Times Book Review, Maurice Isserman states definitively that no historian has « ever stumbled across evidence of the Hitler-Stalin partnership of 1933. » In fact, that is not so. In Robert Tucker’s important biography, Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (1990), Mr. Tucker points out that, in seeking stability, Moscow saw that its « best bet, from Stalin’s point of view, was a diplomacy of accord with Germany. » Fearing a non-Communist socialist Germany should fascism be defeated, Stalin sought a Nazi takeover, which he thought would give him a better chance of cementing his power in Russia. Hence, as Mr. Tucker puts it, « Stalin abetted the Nazi victory, » by engaging in « a certain amount of collaboration. »

Mr. Tucker goes on to document precisely what Mr. Isserman denies: that in 1933, « Stalin signaled his interest in doing business with Berlin. » That cooperation included secret diplomacy carried out by Comintern head Karl Radek in October 1933. The policy continued into the late 1930s. And like Stephen Koch, Mr. Tucker refers to « the mask of anti-fascism, » and shows how Stalin used the Popular Front as cover for his purge against such actual anti-Nazi elements as Field Marshal Tukhachevsky. Among other historians, Walter Laqueur, in his own book on Stalin, notes that the documents used to frame Tukhachevsky were forged for Stalin by the Gestapo.

While Karl Radek orchestrated the policy in Moscow, Munzenberg’s men carried it out with zeal in the West. Munzenberg’s had his greatest success in the United States. Indeed, one of his most notable victories was his courting of the Hollywood liberal Left, with its writers, directors, and actors whose new-found wealth during the Great Depression led to pangs of guilt, and made them willing participants in Otto Katz’s legion of front groups. The key to success was the Popular Front, portrayed as a broad anti-fascist alliance.

As Mr. Koch writes, the Front was really Stalin’s mechanism for gathering support while he carried out the Great Terror at home. His followers in the West simply could not understand that the Front was conceived, as Mr. Koch writes, to be « what no decent person could turn against, in spite of the trials. » And so Willi Munzenberg devised the technique of zeroing in on the best of the adversary culture—the enlightened elite of the middle classes–using their sensibility and concern in service to the malign purposes of Stalin. It worked all too well. In England his men recruited the Cambridge spy network. In Washington, D.C., they formed the notorious Ware group, which infiltrated the ranks of the State Department and the Roosevelt Administration. Nor was the press ignored. In England Claud Cockburn’s influential newsletter The Week passed along to its readers the Comintern disinformation provided by Otto Katz. In New York, Katz was instrumental in forming the supposedly independent Left-liberal newspaper P.M., which Mr. Koch describes as a « classic Munzenberg-style daily. » (P.M. did employ a few prominent anti-Communists, but as cover for its generally pro-Soviet foreign-policy line.)

In Hollywood Katz touched the lives of Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett, Donald Ogden Stewart, and scores of others of the Tinseltown nobility. Here were the beginnings of the molding of Hollywood on behalf of the « right » causes, something that has continued through our own day. The purpose was « to Stalinize the glamor culture, while simultaneously giving the apparatus a cash cow capable of producing a large, untraceable supply of much-needed American hard currency to finance various operations around the world. » And so Munzenberg’s agent Otto Katz charmed his way through Hollywood, appearing at functions and testifying falsely about his heroic struggle against the Nazis, and asking for checks at the end of each appearance. The main concern was support for Stalin, not resistance to Hitler. When the Nazi-Soviet Pact was finally announced, not one of the Hollywood set defected. Instead, they applauded the invasion of Poland and the Soviet attack on Finland, which Miss Hellman promptly described as « a pro-Nazi little republic. »

Mr. Koch presents a powerful challenge to the anti-fascist pretensions cherished by the Left from the Thirties to the Fifties. It has long been said that whatever Stalin’s own motives and policies, at least the anti-fascist crusade and the Popular Front were a genuine response by idealists to the betrayal of the Western heritage. And indeed, for some, they were that. But the same well-meaning idealists allowed themselves to be used as instruments in the campaign orchestrated by Stalin to consolidate his totalitarian regime, either as actual agents (Hiss, Field, Herbst, and others), or as apologists (Hellman, Parker, and other members of the literary elite). Anti-fascism, Mr. Koch writes, « was the most urgent moral cause of the 1930s » and it was « betrayed from within precisely by the Communists who most ardently claimed it as their own. » This should put to rest the claim made by the pro-Communist Left that they were fighting « the good fight. » It is not surprising that writers who, like Mr. Isserman, have sought to defend that claim, now turn fiercely against Mr. Koch’s findings.

The story that Stephen Koch tells, then, is not very pretty. Of course, it is a cliche that a revolution devours its own children. Katz was most likely involved in the murder of Munzenberg, who died, seemingly alone, in a woods in France in 1940. As for Katz, he was to meet his end in the Prague trials of 1952, accused of being a Western agent and convicted on the « evidence » of the American traitor and Soviet agent Noel Field, betrayed in fact by the very apparatus he had helped create in the Thirties and Forties. What Mr. Koch has shown us is nothing less than the complete involvement of the Soviet secret services in the intellectual life of the West from the years before World War II into the early Cold War. It was Willi Munzenberg in particular who shaped key operations directly for Stalin, from the Sacco-Vanzetti defense of the Twenties, to the peace movement of the Thirties. What appeared to be independent acts of protest, it turns out, were either run by Soviet intelligence from the start or taken over and orchestrated by it shortly thereafter. One hopes–given the new availability of files still to be opened and examined–that this superb effort will be but the first step toward a full understanding of what until now has been the hidden history of the twentieth century.

Mr. Radosh is Professor Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and co-author, with Joyce Milton, of The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth.

Publicités

Le mythe Sacco-Vanzetti (Who wants them saved? What earthly good would they do us alive?)

23 août, 2006
Saccovanzetti_1Aff1924_saccovanzetti_4
Therefore, I, Michael S. Dukakis, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts … hereby proclaim Tuesday, August 23, 1977, « NICOLA SACCO AND BARTOLOMEO VANZETTI MEMORIAL DAY »; and declare, further, that any stigma and disgrace should be forever removed from the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, from the names of their families and descendants, and so … call upon all the people of Massachusetts to pause in their daily endeavors to reflect upon these tragic events, and draw from their historic lessons the resolve to prevent the forces of intolerance, fear, and hatred from ever again uniting to overcome the rationality, wisdom, and fairness to which our legal system aspires. Michael S. Dukakis
It is hard to explain, harder no doubt for a new generation to understand, how the « intellectuals » and « artists » in our country leaped with such abandoned, fanatic credulity into the Russian hell-on-earth of 1920. They quoted the stale catchphrases and slogans. They were lifted to starry patriotism by the fraudulent Communist organization called the Lincoln Brigade. The holy name was a charm which insured safety and victory. The bullet struck your Bible instead of your heart. Katherine Ann Porter

Reprenant, en ce 29e anniversaire du Sacco-Vanzetti Memorial Day, notre exploration de l’antiaméricanisme renaissant, il nous faut naturellement revenir, après le grand sommet dans les années 50 de l’Affaire Rosenberg, au véritable mythe fondateur que fut 20 ans plus tôt l’exécution des célèbres anarchistes italo-américains.

Même mythique erreur judiciaire (tout comme Julius Rosenberg, Nicola Sacco était réellement coupable et, à l’instar d’Ethel Rosenberg, Bartoloemeo Vanzetti aurait préféré se sacrifier plutôt que de parler). Même aveugle conviction (jusqu’à aujourd’hui !) de l’intelligentsia américaine et internationale de leur innocence (de Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos et Upton Sinclair aux Etats-Unis à George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells et Bertrand Russel en Grande-Bretagne). Et surtout même campagne mondiale de désinformation orchestrée par les services secrets soviétiques qui avaient déjà largement infiltré les milieux intellectuels américains, provoquant en cascade toute une série de mouvements de masse en Europe (émeutes à Londres et en Allemagne, bombe à l’Ambassade américaine à Paris, etc.).

D’où l’intérêt du récit (repris par l’historien américain Stephen Koch) de ce véritable acte de naissance de la pensée de gauche américaine (son Affaire Dreyfus en quelque sorte) que fit, 50 ans après et dans le magazine the Atlantic, Ia grande dame des lettres américaines Katherine Anne Porter.

Surtout que pour elle ce fut à la fois sa première et… dernière grande expérience de militante de gauche:

Extraits :

It is hard to explain, harder no doubt for a new generation to understand, how the « intellectuals » and « artists » in our country leaped with such abandoned, fanatic credulity into the Russian hell-on-earth of 1920. They quoted the stale catchphrases and slogans. They were lifted to starry patriotism by the fraudulent Communist organization called the Lincoln Brigade. The holy name was a charm which insured safety and victory. The bullet struck your Bible instead of your heart.

(…)

« For me and others like me, the Kremlin meant the Third Internationale and this meant the organization of the ‘workers of the world’ to vindicate their human rights against everything we hated in contemporary society. » Edmund Wilson wrote that, as well and clearly expressed as it has been until now.

« I have seen the future and it works. » Lincoln Steffens is reported to have said this, though it has been much denied.

(…)

It was some time later that afternoon when we were discussing world events, and all of us wanted to know how in the world Russian people could survive the latest disaster to their government, and he said: « All progress takes its toll in human life. Russia is the coming power of the world. I have seen the future and it works. » So much for that. No matter how sad it may seem now, Mr. Steffens said it then, jovially, but in earnest. I wrote it down word for word, then and there, in my notebook.

My group was headed by Rosa Baron, a dry, fanatical little woman who wore thick-lensed spectacles over her blue, accusing eyes–a born whip hand, who talked an almost impenetrable jargon of party dogma. Her « approach » to every « question » (and everything was a question) was « purely dialectical. » Phrases such as « capitalistic imperialism, » « bourgeois morality, » « slave mentality, » « the dictatorship of the proletariat, » « the historical imperative » (meaning more or less, I gathered, that history makes man and not the other way around), « the triumph of the workers, » « social consciousness, » and « political illiteracy » flew from her dry lips all day long. She viewed a « political illiterate » as a conventional mind might a person of those long-ago days born out of wedlock; an unfortunate condition, but reprehensible and without remedy even for its victim. Conservative was only a slightly less pejorative term than Reactionary, and as for Liberal, it was a dirty word, quite often linked in speech with other vaguely descriptive words, even dirtier, if possible. There were many such groups, for this demonstration had been agitated for and prepared for many years by the Communists. They had not originated the protest, I believe, but had joined in and tried to take over, as their policy was, and is. Their presence created the same confusion, beclouding the issue and discrediting the case as it always had done and as they intended it to do. It appeared in its true form and on its most disastrous scale in Spain later. They were well organized to promote disorder and to prevent any question ever being settled–but I had not then discovered this; I remarked to our Communist leader that even then, at that late time, I still hoped the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti might be saved and that they would be granted another trial. « Saved, » she said, ringing a change on her favorite answer to political illiteracy, « who wants them saved? What earthly good would they do us alive? »

I was another of those bourgeois liberals who got in the way of serious business, yet we were needed, by the thousands if possible, for this great agitation must be made to appear to be a spontaneous uprising of the American people, and for practical reasons, the more non-Communists, the better. They were all sentimental bleeders, easily impressed.

(…)

Lenin was known to think little of people who let their human feelings for decency get in the way of the revolution which was to save mankind: he spoke contemptuously of the « saints » who kept getting underfoot; he had only harsh words for those « weak sisters » who flew off the « locomotive of history » every time it rounded a sharp curve. History was whatever was happening in Russia, and the weak sisters, who sometimes called themselves « fellow travelers » were perhaps, many of them, jolted by the collision with what appeared to be a dream of the ideal society come true, dazzled by the bright colors of a false dawn.

I flew off Lenin’s locomotive and his vision of history in a wide arc in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 21, 1927; it was two days before the putting to death of Sacco and Vanzetti, to the great ideological satisfaction of the Communist-headed group with which I had gone up to Boston. It was exactly what they had hoped for and predicted from the first; another injustice of the iniquitous capitalistic system against the working class.

Toasts were drunk at parties « To the Red Dawn »–a very pretty image indeed. « See you on the barricades! » friends would say at the end of an evening of dancing in Harlem. Nobody thought any of this strange; in those days the confusion on this subject by true believers, though not great, was not quite so bad and certainly not so sinister as it is now. It was not then subversive to associate with Communists, nor even treasonable to belong to the Communist Party. It is true that Communists, or a lot of people who thought themselves Communists–and it is astonishing how many of them have right-about-faced since they got a look at the real thing in action–held loud meetings in Union Square, and they often managed to get a few heads cracked by the police–all the better! Just the proof they needed of the brutalities of the American Gestapo. On the other hand, they could gather thousands of « sympathizers » of every shade of political and religious belief and every known nationality and carry off great May Day parades peaceably under police protection. The innocent fellow travelers of this country were kept in a state of excited philanthropy by carefully planted stories of the struggle that the great Russian reformers were having against local rebellious peasants, blasted crops, and plagues of various kinds, bringing the government almost to starvation. Our fellow travelers picketed, rebuking our government for failure to send food and other necessaries to aid the great cause in that courageous country. I do not dare say that our government responded to these childish appeals, but tons upon tons of good winter wheat and other supplies were sent in fabulous quantities. It turned out that the threatened famine took place there–it was real–under orders from Lenin, who directed a great famine or an occasional massacre by way of bringing dissidence under the yoke, and I remember one blood-curdling sentence from a letter of his to a subordinate, directing him to conduct a certain massacre as « a model of mercilessness. »

What struck me later was that I had already met and talked to refugees from Russia in Mexico who had got out with their lives and never ceased to be amazed at it. In New York I saw picketing in Times Square and Wall Street, solemn placard-carrying processions of second-generation descendants of those desolate, ragged, hopeful people who had landed on Ellis Island from almost every country in the West, escaping from the dreadful fates now being suffered by their blood kin in Russia and other parts of the world. Not one of them apparently could see that the starvation and disease and utter misery were brought on methodically and most successfully for the best of political and economic reasons without any help from us, while the Party was being fed richly with our wheat.

Then there was AMTORG, headquartered in New York, managed by a Russian Jewish businessman of the cold steel variety, advertised as a perfectly legal business organization for honest, aboveboard trade with the Soviets.

There was ROSTA (later TASS), the official Russian news agency and propaganda center in America, run by an American citizen, Kenneth Durant, who enjoyed perfect immunity in every Red scare of the period when dozens of suspects were arrested–not he. I assisted the editor of ROSTA for a short time and I know the subsidy was small, though the agency was accused of enjoying floods of « Moscow gold. » If this was so, I don’t know where it went. The editor claimed that Moscow gold was passed out at the rate of $75.00 a week for salaries (he took $50.00 and gave me $25.00). A perennial candidate for President of the United States popped up every four years regularly on the Communist ticket–an honest man. I knew nothing of his private politics, but his public life was admirable and his doctrine was pure Christian theory.

Once on the picket line, I took a good look at the crowd moving slowly forward. I wouldn’t have expected to see some of them on the same street, much less the same picket line and in the same jail. I knew very few people in that first picket line, but I remember Lola Ridge, John Dos Passos, Paxton Hibben, Michael Gold, Helen O’Lochlain Crowe, James Rorty, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Willie Gropper, Grace Lumpkin, all very well known then and mostly favorably–most of them have vanished, and I wonder who but me is alive to remember them now? I have a strangely tender memory of them all, as well as the faces of strangers who were being led away by the police.

We were as miscellaneous, improbable, almost entirely unassorted a gathering of people to one place in one cause as ever happened in this country. I say almost because among the pickets I did not see anyone identifiably a workingman, or « proletarian, » as our Marxist « dialecticians » insisted on calling everybody who worked for his living in a factory, or as they said, « sweatshop, » or « slave mill, » or « salt mine. » It is true that these were workdays and maybe all the workingmen were at their jobs. Suppose one of them said to his boss, « I want a day off, with pay, to picket for Sacco and Vanzetti. » He would be free to picket at his leisure from then on, no doubt. There were plenty of people of the working class there, but they had risen in the world and had become professional paid proletarians, recruits to the intelligentsia, dabbling in ideas as editors, lawyers, agitators, writers who dressed and behaved and looked quite a lot like the bourgeoisie they were out to annihilate. What a vocabulary–proletarian, intelligentsia, bourgeoisie, dialectic–pure exotics transplanted from the never-never-land of the theoretically classless society which could not take root and finally withered on the stalk. Yet, they had three classes of their own and were drawing the lines shrewdly. During that time I went to a meeting of radicals of all kinds and shades, most of them workers, but not all by any means; and Michael Gold made a speech and kept repeating: « Stick to your class, damn it, stick to your class. » It struck me as being such good advice that I decided to take it and tiptoed out the way one leaves church before the end.

The Never-Ending Wrong
Katherine Anne Porter
The Atlantic Monthly
June 1977

Source illustrations:
1) détail mosaïque de Ben Shahn, Syracuse University
2) affiche française, 1924
3) dernière déclaration de Vanzetti, Ben Shahn

traduction française: Si cette chose n’était pas arrivée, j’aurais passé toute ma vie à parler au coin des rues à des hommes méprisants. J’aurais pu mourir inconnu, ignoré : un raté. Ceci est notre carrière et notre triomphe. Jamais, dans toute notre vie, nous n’aurions pu espérer faire pour la tolérance, pour la justice, pour la compréhension mutuelle des hommes, ce que nous faisons aujourd’hui par hasard. Nos paroles, nos vies, nos souffrances ne sont rien. Mais qu’on nous prenne nos vies, vies d’un bon cordonnier et d’un pauvre cœur de poisson, c’est cela qui est tout ! Ce dernier moment est le nôtre. Cette agonie est notre triomphe. (réponse de Vanzetti au juge Thayer le 9 avril 1927)


Idiots utiles: Epouser toutes les mauvaises causes de sa génération sans en manquer aucune (Gunther Grass as the ultimate useful idiot)

22 août, 2006
Plutôt rouges que morts! Manifestants allemands (années 80)
Les fusées sont à l’Est, les pacifistes à l’Ouest. Mitterrand

Latuff_palestinian_che_1Latuff_vietLatuff_iraqiresistance_1Latuff_cpeJustes paroles encore que celles de Guy Sorman dans Le Figaro d’hier sur toutes ces « consciences nationales » qui, comme Gunter Grass, auront chacun à leur tour, en leur temps et à leur niveau, « épousé toutes les mauvaises causes de sa génération sans en manquer aucune » …

A l’instar de notre Sartre national qui, fidèle compagnon de route et emporté par sa fièvre anti-américaine, « oublia, pendant toute la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, de protester contre le nazisme et l’antisémitisme”.

Et avec qui tant d’entre nous (ou de nos parents) préféraient se tromper et qui, tout en prétendant aussi subrépticement que fallacieusement que chaque Français avait comme lui plus ou moins été – au moins “en pensée – “résistant”), écrivait en septembre 44:

“Jamais nous n’avons été plus libres que sous l’occupation allemande” /…/ Et je ne parle pas ici de cette élite que furent les vrais Résistants, mais de tous les Français qui, à toute heure du jour et de la nuit, pendant quatre ans, ont dit non.”

Ou plus tard (en… 75 !):

“J’ai menti. Enfin ‘menti’ est un bien grand mot. J’ai dit des choses aimables sur l’URSS que je ne pensais pas. Je l’ai fait d’une part parce que j’estimais que, quand on vient d’être invité par des gens, on ne peut pas verser de la merde sur eux à peine rentré chez soi, et d’autre part parce que je ne savais pas bien où j’en étais par rapport à l’URSS et par rapport à mes propres idées. (…) Je ne savais pas qu’ils [les camps] existaient encore après la mort de Staline, ni surtout ce qu’était le Goulag.”

Heureusement qu’il y avait quelques Aron ou Camus:

Toute idée fausse finit dans le sang, mais il s’agit toujours du sang des autres. C’est ce qui explique que certains de nos philosophes se sentent à l’aise pour dire n’importe quoi.

Et juste parole aussi que cet avertissement de Sorman:

On ne se garde pas assez, en revanche, de l’artiste quand son talent le dissimule, surtout quand le talent est grand : des magiciens, grimés en moralistes, on ne se méfie jamais assez.

Que nous rappelions dans notre dernier billet à propos d’un des dessinateurs-fétiche des nouvelles générations d’anti-américains (pardon; d’ « anti-impérialistes »), le fameux… “boy from Brazil”, Carlos Latuff ! (Voir sa photo ci-dessus au côté de Leila Khaled, la passionaria – désormais recyclée dans le « pacifisme » – de… Black September!)

Dont le fait que, comme tout bon compagnon de route (ou « idiot utile », si l’on préfère) et pas plus que Sartre lui-même, il ne porte littéralement de valises fait justement toute la séduction et… toute la valeur pour tous les “Kominterns” de l’histoire !

Cette apparence d’indépendance qui mine de rien sape l’esprit critique de générations et générations, leur faisant successivement militer puis espionner (à la Rosenberg et Fuchs – ce qui leur a quand même fait gagner 5 ans pour l’acquisition de la bombe, sans parler du radar et des technologies dérivées) pour les totalitaires, avant d’avaler tout rond le pacte Ribbentrop puis refuser de “mourir pour Dantzig” ….

Avant de proférer des imbécillités du style “better red than dead” … Pour finir aujourd’hui par soutenir (au moins objectivement) des Saddam et proférer d’autres nouvelles imbécillités du style “Bush = Sharon = Hitler ou, pire encore, gueuler ou laisser gueuler des… “mort au Juifs” dans les mêmes manifs pour… “la paix” !

Mais bon, comme le rappelle Sorman, il y en aura toujours qui refuseront « d’avoir raison avec Aron » …

Extraits:

tout au long de sa phénoménale carrière publique, il n’aura cessé d’adopter des postures consternantes. «Homme de gauche», absolument de gauche, il aura épousé toutes les mauvaises causes de sa génération sans en manquer aucune, aura approuvé toutes les révolutions sanguinaires, de Cuba à la Chine. Toujours disposé à accabler ces fascistes d’Américains, Ronald Reagan et, bien sûr, George W. Bush (c’est sans risque), l’a-t-on en revanche entendu, ne serait-ce qu’un peu, dénoncer le fascisme de Mao Zedong ? Ou celui des islamistes ?

comment s’interdire de songer à cette génération entière d’intellectuels et d’artistes en Europe, en France surtout, autoproclamée de gauche – au point que le mot ne fait plus sens –, qui n’ont cessé d’adopter des postures morales tout en illustrant des causes absolument immorales ? Comment ne pas voir surgir des spectres : ceux qui hier, ont aimé Staline et Mao et, bientôt, vont pleurer Castro ? Ceux qui n’ont rien vu à Moscou, Pékin, La Havane, Téhéran, Sarajevo, et Billancourt ? Ceux qui, maintenant, devinent dans l’islamisme une rédemption de l’0ccident ? Cette grande armée des spectres, de l’erreur absolue, dieu merci, elle n’a jamais cessé de se tromper d’avenir.

par-delà ce cas singulier, on ne se méfie pas assez du grand écrivain et de la star dès qu’ils abusent de leur séduction pour propager des opinions politiques, seulement politiques, mais déguisées autrement. (…) On se garde de l’homme politique, l’élu démocratique, beaucoup trop puisqu’il avance à découvert. On ne se garde pas assez, en revanche, de l’artiste quand son talent le dissimule, surtout quand le talent est grand : des magiciens, grimés en moralistes, on ne se méfie jamais assez.

Lire le reste de cette entrée »


Plus fort que Serguei: Le meilleur caricaturiste antisémite est… brésilien! (Carlos Latuff: The new boy from Brazil)

21 août, 2006
Latuff_freud_2Les Vietnamiens se battent pour tous les hommes, et les forces américaines contre tous. Sartre
L’islam est aujourd’hui la foi des opprimés comme le communisme l’était hier. Robert Redeker

A l’heure où les Iraniens s’apprêtent à annoncer le lauréat de leur concours de la meilleure caricature antisémite, quelqu’un devrait peut-être les avertir que celui-ci est connu depuis belle lurette et qu’il a déjà une abondante oeuvre derrière lui.

On aura bien sûr reconnu, bien plus fort que Serguei ou Plantu, le célèbre dessinateur brésilien Carlos Latuff, coqueluche des sites palestiniens et anti-américains occidentaux (dits « Indymedia »).

Infatigable compagnon de route du nazislamisme, il est, comme au bon vieux temps de l’agitprop du Komintern et de ses légendaires « Appels » ou « Conférences pour la Paix » (appelée aussi en interne: « défaitisme révolutionnaire »), passé maitre dans l’art du détournement et du retournement de toutes les images (camps nazis, ghetto de Varsovie, apartheid, esclavage, racisme, guerre du Vietnam, etc. – ne dédaignant pas à l’occasion les bons vieux stéréotypes médiévaux du juif dévoreur d’enfants ou détournant à son profit le fameux faux tsariste des « Protocoles des sages de Sion »!).

Et notamment dans l’inversion systématique du rapport oppresseur-opprimé, tout se ramenant dans ses dessins à l’équation de base juifs = nazis ou Américains = nazis (les deux apparaissant interchangeables, notamment via le thème commun du lien supposé guerre-affairisme et ses symboles habituels Mc Donald’s et Coca Cola) et les Palestiniens reprenant tout aussi systématiquement la place de victimes.

D’où, en plus d’un réel talent graphique et artistique, une redoutable efficacité idéologique (on peut difficilement faire plus « simple » ou plutôt plus « simpliste ») et une instante lisibilité qui ne sont pas pour rien dans son succès dans les divers milieux anti-américians (pardon: « anti-impérialistes ») et antijuifs (repardon: « antisionistes ») de la planète.

Latuff_nazi_camp_2
Latuff_camp_2_2

Latuff_camp_barbed_wire_1

Latuff_wall_protest
Latuff_gaz_chambers_1
Latuff_ghetto
Latuff_warsaw_ghetto_1

Latuff_sharon_devourer_1

Latuff_the_lobby
Latuff_protocols_2
Latuff_noseless

Latuff_slave_2

Latuff_kkk_4
Latuff_township_2

Latuff_my_lay_4
Latuff_nam_2

Latuff_landless_1

Latuff_peon_lady
Latuff_palestinian_che

Latuff_che_2

Latuff_ushitler1_1
Latuff_adolf_1

Latuff_bush_911
Latuff_devoil

Latuffcoke_my_lai

Latuff_war_biz

Latuff_holywood

Latuff_mc_christ
Latuff_cartoon_controversy_1

Latuff_islam

Latuff_islam_in_crooked_hand_1

Voir aussi:

Carlos Latuff
Wikipedia

Carlos Latuff is a political cartoonist, born in November 30, 1968, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He is the author of the famous « We are all Palestinians » series, depicting oppressed people of the world over history (Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, Blacks in South Africa and so on), and comparing them to Palestinians. Latuff’s works have been published on different Indymedia websites and on the Gush Shalom website, as well.

A Swiss-based Jewish organization « Aktion Kinder des Holocaust » sued him in 2002 with anti-Semitism allegations. The subject was the last cartoon of « We are all Palestinians » series (published in Switzerland Indymedia), depicting a Jewish boy in Warsaw Ghetto saying: « I am Palestinian. »
Criminal proceedings which AKdH had instituted against Indymedia and the Brazilian cartoonist were suspended by Swiss court. In the official judgement, it is said:
Even if the observer is emotionally biased against the Jewish people with this [cartoon], it is not the Jewish people as such that is being criticized, but their political behaviour towards the Palestinians. The issue is not a certain characterization of the Jews, but their stance in the current conflict. The constitutional equality of the Jews as human beings is thereby not denied. (p.2, paragraph 1.2.) In February 2006, Latuff had one of his artworks published in an Iranian Web site for cartoonists, « Iran Cartoon », which launched a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust, in response to a series of caricatures about the Prophet Mohammed. Latuff’s cartoon depicts an old man wearing a Nazi-era concentration camp uniform, with the Israeli « Separation Wall » and guard tower in the background. On his chest is a red Muslim crescent with a letter « P » for Palestinian:

Voir aussi la très complète collection du site de l’historien antisioniste américain  Norman Finkelstein.


Caricatures: Pourquoi j’ai publié ces caricatures (Flemming Rose: Why I published those cartoons)

19 août, 2006
Plantu9Plantu4Je suis offensé par des sujets dans le journal chaque jour: traductions des discours de Osama bin Laden, photos de Abu Ghraib, de personnes qui insistent pour qu’Israël soit effacé de la surface de la terre, de gens qui prétendent que l’Holocauste n’a pas existé. Mais cela ne signifie pas que j’hésiterai à publier ces sujets. (…) Des voix furieuses prétendent que la caricature dit que le prophète est un terroriste ou que tous les musulmans sont des terroristes. Je lis cette caricature différemment: certains individus ont pris la religion musulmane en otage en commettant des actes terroristes au nom du prophète. Ce sont ceux-ci qui ont donné une mauvaise image à cette religion. Flemming Rose

Enfin ! Après le flot ininterrompu de paroles et de pages pour le déligitimer, soit (pour les plus réactionnaires ou munichois) pour son mépris supposé des musulmans et de leur religion, soit (pour les plus « progressistes ») pour son mauvais goût, une chance pour l’éditeur du journal danois par qui le scandale est arrivé de s’expliquer.

Une chance pour montrer le vrai courage et les vraies nouveauté et force de ces dessins. D’autres comme Plantu du Monde avait déjà montré la fameuse bombe dans un turban (mais c’était celui d’un imam anglais) ou dans la main d’autres imams mais juste à côté du Coran (dans la main gauche !). Le dessin du Mahomet à la bombe dans le turban (que moi-même, je dois dire, je n’aimais pas trop au départ, lui préférant celui plus « soft » des vierges) est lui le premier, que je sache, à oser dire la vérité qui fâche (et qui semble dépasser l’éditeur danois lui-même ?).

A savoir que le problème n’est PAS SEULEMENT un problème de dévoiement ou d’une interprétation dévoyée de l’islam mais… l’islam lui-même, à partir du moment où on fait (ce que n’ont toujours pas rejeté la plupart des musulmans, « modérés » ou pas – du fait notamment d’une conception de la nature du texte lui-même comme « incréé », c’est à dire d’origine divine et donc théoriquement inamendable) une interprétation LITTÉRALE du Coran et donc des paroles de Mahomet.

La vérité que personne ne veut dire explicitement, c’est que le Coran pour ceux qui prennent la peine de le lire et ceux qui le lisent LITTÉRALEMENT, c’est AUSSI  un texte GUERRIER qui relate et fait l’apologie de la GUERRE et que Mahomet lui-même était AUSSI (contrairement par exemple au prophète judéo-chrétien Jésus, vénéré par nombre d’occidentaux)… un chef de GUERRE !

Et donc tant que (comme cela a dû être fait par la plupart des juifs et chrétiens avant eux pour certains des passages les plus guerriers de la Bible – même s’ils n’atteignent pas ce niveau d’explicitation du Coran et des hadiths) cette lecture LITTÉRALE-là ne sera pas déclarée CADUQUE  (explicitement et solennellement – et réellement, pas comme Arafat avec la charte de l’OLP !) par l’ensemble des musulmans ou leurs représentants, les tribuns dits « radicaux » et autres djihadistes auront beau jeu de s’appuyer sur ces textes pour continuer à jouir, malgré les faibles et occasionnelles protestations du contraire devant les caméras occidentales, de l’assentiment ou du moins de la complaisance ou du silence plus ou moins consentant ou « compréhensif » de la plupart des musulmans pour continuer leurs appels (et réguliers passages à l’acte) au meurtre et à l’assassinat ou à la destruction de tout ou partie d’Israël ou de l’Occident, juste parce qu’ils sont peuplés de prétendus « infidèles »  …

D’où l’importance particulière de ce texte de Flemming Rose parce qu’il montre qu’en gaspillant leur (précieuse parce que rare) voix à se joindre à la meute PC des imbéciles qui passent leur temps à démolir ces dessins pour leur mauvais goût supposé, les « progressistes » eux-mêmes (même Charlie Hebdo, aussi bénis soient-ils sur ce coup-là pour leur courage, n’évite pas tout à fait ce travers!) passent encore hélas à côté d’une belle occasion:… en montrer le vrai courage et la vraie profondeur!

Pourquoi j’ai publié ces caricatures
Flemming Rose
The Washington Post
19 février 2006

Puéril. Irresponsable. Expression haineuse. Une provocation juste pour le plaisir de provoquer. Un gag de pub. Les critiques des douze caricatures du prophète Mahomet que j’ai décidé de publier dans le journal Jyllands-Posten n’ont pas mâché leurs mots.

Ils disent que la liberrté d’expression n’implique pas la permission d’insulter les sentiments religieux de personnes et, de plus, ils ajoutent que les médias s’autocensurent constamment. En conséquence de quoi, “nous vous prions de ne pas nous donner de leçons en ce qui concerne la liberté d’expression sans limites”. Je suis d’accord pour dire que la liberté de publier ne signifie pas la liberté de publier n’importe quoi. Jyllands-Posten ne publierait jamais d’images pornographiques ou des images montrant en détail des cadavres; des jurons trouvent rarement leur place dans nos pages. Nous ne sommes donc pas des fondamentalistes dans notre support de la liberté d’expression.

Mais l’histoire des caricatures est différente.

Les exemples précédents sont liés à l’exercice d’une retenue pour des raisons éthiques et de bon goût; appelons cela la mise en page. Par contraste, j’ai lancé l’histoire des caricatures pour répondre à plusieurs incidents d’autocensure en Europe, incidents causés par les peurs croissantes et les sentiments d’intimidation ressentis en adressant des problèmes liés à l’Islam. Et je suis plus que toujours persuadé que c’est un thème que nous, Européens, devons confronter, afin de pousser les Musulmans modérés à s’exprimer. L’idée n’était pas de provoquer gratuitement – et certainement, notre intention n’était pas de provoquer des manifestations violentes dans le monde musulman.

Notre but était simplement de faire reculer des limites que nous nous imposons nous-mêmes et qui semblaient devenir de plus en plus étroites. Fin septembre, un humoriste danois a dit dans une interview avec Jyllands-Posten qu’il n’avait aucun problème à uriner sur une Bible devant une caméra, mais qu’il n’oserait pas faire la même chose avec le Coran. Cet aveu a été le point culminant d’une série d’instances troublantes d’autocensure. En septembre dernier, un écrivain pour enfants danois avait de la peine à trouver un illustrateur pour publier un livre sur la vie de Mahomet. Trois personnes ont refusé le travail par peur des conséquences. La personne qui a finalement accepté a insisté pour garder son anonymat, ce qui, selon moi, est une forme d’autocensure. Des traducteurs européens d’un livre critique de l’Islam ne voulaient pas que leur nom apparaisse à côté du nom de l’auteur, une politicienne néerlandaise née en Somalie qui, elle-même, vit cachée.

Environ à la même époque, la galerie d’art Tate à Londres a retiré une oeuvre par l’artiste d’avant- garde John Latham montrant le Coran, la Bible et le Talmud déchirés en morceaux. Le musée a expliqué qu’ils ne voulaient pas envenimer la situation après les attentats de Londres. (Quelques mois plus tôt, un musée de Göteborg en Suède, a enlevé une peinture contenant un motif sexuel et des citations du Coran afin de ne pas offenser les Musulmans.)

Finalement, fin septembre, le premier ministre danois, Anders Fogh Rasmussen a rencontré un groupe d’imams dont l’un d’entre eux a demandé au premier ministre d’intervenir auprès de la presse afin de produire une présentation plus positive de l’Islam. Ainsi, au cours de deux semaines, nous avons observé une demi-douzaine de cas d’autocensure, opposant la liberté d’expression à la peur de confronter des questions concernant l’Islam. Tout celà constituait une information légitime à publier, et Jyllands-Posten a décidé de le faire en adoptant le principe journalistique bien connu: montrer mais ne rien dire. J’ai écrit à des membres de l’association danoise des caricaturistes, leur demandant de “dessiner Mahomet comme ils le voyaient”. Nous ne leur avons certainement pas demandé de se moquer du prophète. Douze des 25 membres actifs ont répondu. Nous avons une tradition satirique lorsque nous parlons de la famille royale et d’autres personnes publiques et ceci est visible dans les caricatures. Les caricaturistes ont traité l’Islam comme ils traitent le christianisme, le bouddhisme, l’hindouisme et d’autres religions. Et en traitant les Musulmans au Danemark comme des égaux, ils ont démontré un point: nous vous intégrons dans la tradition danoise de la satire parce que vous faites partie de notre société, et vous n’êtes pas des étrangers. Les caricatures incluent, plutôt qu’excluent les Musulmans.

Les caricatures en aucun cas ne démonisent les Musulmans, et ne veulent pas créer de stéréotype. En fait, elles diffèrent l’une de l’autre tant dans la manière dont elles représentent le prophète que dans leur but. Une caricature se moque de Jyllands-Posten, représentant ses rédacteurs culturels comme une bande de provocateurs réactionnaires. Une autre suggère que l’auteur du livre pour enfants, ne pouvant pas trouver d’illustrateur, a rendu ce problème public juste pour se faire de la publicité à bon marché. Une troisième a mis la tête de la présidente du parti “Danish People’s Party “, parti au programme anti-immigratoire, dans une rangée de personnages, comme si elle était suspectée d’activités criminelles.Une caricature – montrant le prophète avec une bombe dans son turban – a attiré les critiques les plus sévères. Des voix furieuses prétendent que la caricature dit que le prophète est un terroriste ou que tous les musulmans sont des terroristes. Je lis cette caricature différemment: certains individus ont pris la religion musulmane en otage en commettant des actes terroristes au nom du prophète. Ce sont ceux-ci qui ont donné une mauvaise image à cette religion. La caricature évoque aussi le conte d’Aladin et l’orange qui est tombée dans son turban, lui assurant ainsi la fortune. Cela suggère que la bombe vient du monde extérieur et n’est donc pas une caractéristique inhérente au prophète. Parfois, Jyllands-Posten a refusé de publier des caricatures satiriques de Jésus, mais pas parce que nous appliquons des règles différentes. En fait, le même caricaturiste qui a dessiné Mahomet avec une bombe dans son turban a dessiné une caricature de Jésus sur la croix avec des billets de dollars dans ses yeux et une autre avec l’étoile de David attachée à la mèche d’une bombe. Cependant, lors de leur publication, nous n’avons pas vu d’ambassades incendiées ni reçu de menaces de mort.

Jyllands-Posten a-t-il insulté l’Islam ou manqué de respect? Ce n’était certainement pas son intention. Mais que signifie “respect”? Lorsque je visite une mosquée, je montre mon respect en enlevant mes chaussures. Je suis les coutumes de la même manière que je le ferais dans une église, une synagogue ou tout autre lieu saint. Mais lorsqu’un croyant demande que moi, non croyant, je respecte ses tabous sur le domaine public, il ne demande pas mon respect, mais ma soumission. Et ceci est incompatible avec une démocratie laïque. C’est exactement à cause de cela que Karl Popper dans son ouvrage « La Société ouverte et ses ennemis » insiste sur le fait qu’il ne faut pas être tolérant avec l’intolérant. Nulle part d’autre que dans une démocratie, où la liberté d’expression est un droit fondamental, ne coexistent autant de religions de manière pacifique. En Arabie Saoudite, vous pouvez être arrêté pour avoir porté une croix ou pour avoir une Bible dans votre valise, alors qu’au Danemark, pays laïque, les Musulmans peuvent avoir leurs propres mosquées, cimetières, écoles, stations de télévision et de radio.

Je reconnais que certaines personnes ont été offensées par la publication des caricatures, et Jyllands-Posten s’en est excusé. Mais nous ne pouvons pas nous excuser pour notre droit à publier certains sujets, même des sujets offensifs. On ne peut pas publier un journal si on est paralysé par la crainte d’une insulte. Je suis offensé par des sujets dans le journal chaque jour: traductions des discours de Osama bin Laden, photos de Abu Ghraib, de personnes qui insistent pour qu’Israël soit effacé de la surface de la terre, de gens qui prétendent que l’Holocauste n’a pas existé. Mais cela ne signifie pas que j’hésiterai à publier ces sujets, pour autant qu’ils respectent la loi et le code éthique du journal. Le fait que d’autres rédacteurs feraient d’autres choix fait partie de l’essence même du pluralisme. En tant qu’ancien correspondant en Union Soviétique, je suis très sensible à des demandes de censure basées sur la notion d’insulte. C’est un truc populaire des mouvements totalitaires: taxer chaque critique ou appel au débat d’insulte et punir les offenseurs. C’est ce qui est arrivé aux activistes des droits de l’homme et a des écrivains comme Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Soljenitsyne, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. Le régime les a accusés de propagande anti-Soviétique, de la même manière que certains Musulmans décrivent 12 caricatures parues dans un journal danois comme anti-Islamiques.
La leçon de la guerre froide est la suivante: si vous cédez a des impulsions totalitaires une seule fois, de nouvelles demandes suivront. L’Occident a prévalu dans la guerre froide, parce que nous avons défendu nos valeurs fondamentales et n’avons pas apaisé des tyrans totalitaires.

Depuis la publication des caricatures, le 30 septembre, un débat constructif concernant la liberté d’expression, la liberté de religion, ainsi que le respect pour les immigrants et les croyances individuelles s’est instauré au Danemark et en Europe. Jamais auparavant, autant de Musulmans danois ont participé à un dialogue public – dans des rencontres communales, lettres aux rédacteurs, opinions de lecteurs et débats à la radio et à la télévision. Nous n’avons pas eu d’émeutes anti-musulmanes, de Musulmans fuyant le pays et nous n’avons pas vu de Musulmans commettant des actes violents. Les imams radicaux qui ont informé leurs collègues au Moyen-Orient de manière erronnée concernant la situation des Musulmans au Danemark ont été marginalisés. Ils ne sont plus les porte-paroles de la communauté Musulmane au Danemark, parce que des Musulmans modérés ont eu le courage de s’exprimer contre eux. En janvier, Jyllands-Posten a publié trois pages complètes d’interviews et de photos de Musulmans modérés, disant ne pas être représentés par les imams. Ils insistent sur le fait que leur foi est compatible avec une démocratie laïque moderne. Un réseau de Musulmans modérés, respectant pleinement la constitution, a été établi, et le parti anti-immigration “People’s Party” a appelé ses membres à faire la différence entre les Musulmans radicaux et modérés, c’est à dire entre les Musulmans propageant la charia et les musulmans acceptant la tradition de la loi laïque. La face du Danemark musulman a changé, et il devient clair que ce n’est pas un débat entre “eux” et “nous”, mais entre ceux qui sont attachés à la démocratie au Danemark et ceux qui ne le sont pas.

Ceci est le genre de débat que Jyllands-Posten a espéré produire, lorsqu’il a choisi d’explorer les limites de l’autocensure en appelant des caricaturistes à remettre en question un tabou musulman. Avons nous réussi? Oui et non. Certaines défenses de notre liberté d’expression faites avec esprit, nous ont inspirés. Mais les tragiques manifestations à travers le Moyen-Orient et l’Asie ne sont pas ce que nous avions attendu et encore moins désiré. De plus, le journal a reçu 104 menaces, 10 personnes ont été arrêtées, des caricaturistes ont été forcés de se cacher à cause de menaces pesant sur leur vie et les bureaux de Jyllands-Posten ont été évacués plusieurs fois à cause d’alertes à la bombe. Ceci est un climat qui encourage peu à modérer l’autocensure.

Je pense cependant que les caricatures ont leur place dans deux histoires différentes, l’une en Europe et l’autre au Moyen-Orient. La politicienne néerlendaise d’origine somalienne, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, dit que l’intégration des Musulmans dans les sociétés européennes a été accélérée de 300 ans par la parution des caricatures; peut-être ne devrons nous pas rééditer la bataille du Siècle des Lumières en Europe. L’histoire du Moyen-Orient est plus complexe, mais a en fait très peu à voir avec les caricatures.

Flemming Rose est le rédacteur culturel du journal danois Jyllands-Posten
flemming.rose@jp.dk

Cet article est paru dans le Washington Post

Traduction en française: Galat

 Voir aussi:

Why I Published Those Cartoons
Flemming Rose
The Washington Post
Sunday, February 19, 2006

Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I decided to publish in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people’s religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn’t mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

But the cartoon story is different.

Those examples have to do with exercising restraint because of ethical standards and taste; call it editing. By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out. The idea wasn’t to provoke gratuitously — and we certainly didn’t intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter.

At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran.

This was the culmination of a series of disturbing instances of self-censorship. Last September, a Danish children’s writer had trouble finding an illustrator for a book about the life of Muhammad. Three people turned down the job for fear of consequences. The person who finally accepted insisted on anonymity, which in my book is a form of self-censorship. European translators of a critical book about Islam also did not want their names to appear on the book cover beside the name of the author, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who has herself been in hiding.

Around the same time, the Tate gallery in London withdrew an installation by the avant-garde artist John Latham depicting the Koran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces. The museum explained that it did not want to stir things up after the London bombings. (A few months earlier, to avoid offending Muslims, a museum in Goteborg, Sweden, had removed a painting with a sexual motif and a quotation from the Koran.)

Finally, at the end of September, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with a group of imams, one of whom called on the prime minister to interfere with the press in order to get more positive coverage of Islam.

So, over two weeks we witnessed a half-dozen cases of self-censorship, pitting freedom of speech against the fear of confronting issues about Islam. This was a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don’t tell. I wrote to members of the association of Danish cartoonists asking them « to draw Muhammad as you see him. » We certainly did not ask them to make fun of the prophet. Twelve out of 25 active members responded.

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures,
and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

The cartoons do not in any way demonize or stereotype Muslims. In fact, they differ from one another both in the way they depict the prophet and in whom they target. One cartoon makes fun of Jyllands-Posten, portraying its cultural editors as a bunch of reactionary provocateurs. Another suggests that the children’s writer who could not find an illustrator for his book went public just to get cheap publicity. A third puts the head of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party in a lineup, as if she is a suspected criminal.

One cartoon — depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban — has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.

On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn’t intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work « The Open Society and Its Enemies, » insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.

I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralyzed by worries about every possible insult.

I am offended by things in the paper every day: transcripts of speeches by Osama bin Laden, photos from Abu Ghraib, people insisting that Israel should be erased from the face of the Earth, people saying the Holocaust never happened. But that does not mean that I would refrain from printing them as long as they fell within the limits of the law and of the newspaper’s ethical code.
That other editors would make different choices is the essence of pluralism.

As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.

Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people’s beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue — in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them.

In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People’s Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between « them » and « us, » but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo. Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no. Some of the spirited defenses of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired. Moreover, the newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten’s headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship.

Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe. The narrative in the Middle East is more complex, but that has very little to do with the cartoons.

flemming.rose@jp.dk

Flemming Rose is the culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.


Islam: On ne sert pas la paix en ignorant l’histoire (Peace is not served by ignoring history)

19 août, 2006
MuftiI think most people believe that enough time has passed so that historical facts can be ignored. Carter

Au moment où, du côté occidental et chrétien, la désinformation et la politique d’apaisement battent leur plein, petite remise des pendules à l’heure par l’Archévèque de Denver (merci Dhimmi watch):


Extrait:

Islam has embraced armed military expansion for religious purposes since its earliest decades. In contrast, Christianity struggled in its divided attitudes toward military force and state power for its first 300 years. No “theology of Crusade” existed in Western Christian thought until the 11th century. In fact, the Christian Byzantine Empire had already been resisting Muslim expansion in the East for 400 years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade — as a defensive response to generations of armed jihad.

Much of the modern Middle East was once heavily Christian. Muslim armies changed that by imposing Islamic rule. Surviving Christian communities have endured centuries of marginalization, discrimination, violence, slavery and outright persecution — not always and not everywhere; but as a constant, recurring and central theme of Muslim domination.

That same Christian suffering continues down to the present. In the early years of the 20th century, the Muslim Ottoman Empire murdered more than 1 million Armenian Christians for ethnic, economic, but also religious reasons. Many Turks and other Muslims continue to deny that massive crime even today. Coptic Christians in Egypt — who, even after 13 centuries of Muslim prejudice and harassment, cling to the faith — continue to experience systematic discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamic militants.

Harassment and violence against Christians continue in many places throughout the Islamic world, from Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq, to Nigeria, Indonesia and even Muslim-dominated areas of the heavily Catholic Philippines. In Saudi Arabia, all public expressions of Christian faith are forbidden. The on-going Christian flight from Lebanon has helped to transform it, in just half a century, from a majority Christian Arab nation to a majority Muslim population.

These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.

In Christian-Muslim relations, peace not served by ignoring history
Healing of conflict requires honesty, repentance from both parties
Charles Chaput, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver
August 16, 2006

Over the past few decades, studies have shown again and again that Americans tend to have a poor grasp of history. In fact, the scholar Christopher Lasch once wrote that Americans love nostalgia, because we see it as a form of entertainment. But we dislike real history, because real historical facts are inconvenient. Yesterday helps shape today. Real history places annoying obligations of truth on our present and future, and gets in the way of re-inventing ourselves.

As a result, quipped a teacher friend, “history is whatever we say it is, as long as we can get away with it.”
I remembered her words recently as I read a news story. The story reported an Islamic leader as suggesting that it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who didn’t agree with them.
Perhaps the reporter misunderstood the speaker. Perhaps the speaker made an honest mistake. Both Muslims and Christians have committed many sins against each other over the centuries. In the United States, we have an opportunity to overcome that difficult history and learn to live with each other in mutual acceptance. But respect can’t emerge from falsehood.

Catholics who do know history may remember the following:
Islam has embraced armed military expansion for religious purposes since its earliest decades. In contrast, Christianity struggled in its divided attitudes toward military force and state power for its first 300 years. No “theology of Crusade” existed in Western Christian thought until the 11th century. In fact, the Christian Byzantine Empire had already been resisting Muslim expansion in the East for 400 years before Pope Urban II called the First Crusade — as a defensive response to generations of armed jihad.

Much of the modern Middle East was once heavily Christian. Muslim armies changed that by imposing Islamic rule. Surviving Christian communities have endured centuries of marginalization, discrimination, violence, slavery and outright persecution — not always and not everywhere; but as a constant, recurring and central theme of Muslim domination.

That same Christian suffering continues down to the present. In the early years of the 20th century, the Muslim Ottoman Empire murdered more than 1 million Armenian Christians for ethnic, economic, but also religious reasons. Many Turks and other Muslims continue to deny that massive crime even today. Coptic Christians in Egypt — who, even after 13 centuries of Muslim prejudice and harassment, cling to the faith — continue to experience systematic discrimination and violence at the hands of Islamic militants.

Harassment and violence against Christians continue in many places throughout the Islamic world, from Bangladesh, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq, to Nigeria, Indonesia and even Muslim-dominated areas of the heavily Catholic Philippines. In Saudi Arabia, all public expressions of Christian faith are forbidden. The on-going Christian flight from Lebanon has helped to transform it, in just half a century, from a majority Christian Arab nation to a majority Muslim population.

These are facts. The Muslim-Christian conflict is a very long one, rooted in deep religious differences, and Muslims have their own long list of real and perceived grievances. But especially in an era of religiously inspired terrorism and war in the Middle East, peace is not served by ignoring, subverting or rewriting history, but rather by facing it humbly as it really happened and healing its wounds.

That requires honesty and repentance from both Christians and Muslims. Comments like those reported in the recent news story I read — claiming that historically, it was European Christians, never Muslims, who tried to root out those who disagreed with them — are both false and do nothing to help.


Terrorisme: It’s the religion, stupid! (Proliferation is also an issue of theology)

19 août, 2006

Ahmadinejad_at_un_3Alors que l’échéance, à la fois politique (réponse de l’Iran au Conseil de sécurité sur la question nucléaire) et religieuse (Coran 17:1) du 22 août approche …

Et suite à la toute récente première démonstration, par ses supplétifs du Hezbollah interposés, de la détermination iranienne au Sud-Liban …

Petit retour sur une intéressante explication de texte, par l’islamologue américain Hillel Fradkin, de la fameuse « lettre de toutes les ruses » qu’avait envoyée Ahmadinejad au président américain en mai dernier :

Extraits:

Ahmadinejad did decide to approach the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, theologically–to insist that nuclear proliferation is not only an issue of policy but also of theology, indeed of the most fundamental and important issues of theology. He defends the right not only of Iran to nuclear technology but also of all Muslim countries as Muslim. Indeed they have not only a right but a duty to pursue such technology. The issue must be understood in the light of the most fundamental and important conflict in the world today as Ahmadinejad sees it–a fundamental conflict between Islam and its rivals, most immediately liberal democracy as embodied in the United States, but also Christianity.

Ahmadinejad’s emphasis on Christian hypocrisy, which may in this context mean two things: violations by self-professed Christians of the standards and teachings of historic Christianity, or the violation by historic Christianity of the true teachings of the Prophet Jesus. The latter is a traditional Islamic view of the defect and even crime of historic Christians. In calling upon Bush, as Ahmadinejad does emphatically, to embrace the « teachings of the prophets, » he is calling upon him not only to abandon liberal democracy but Christianity as well–to embrace Islam, to which all the world must ultimately submit, and which is gathering momentum in our time.

Ahmadinejad has presented himself as the herald or « prophet » of the Hidden Imam–the ultimate, if absent, ruler and authority for so-called Twelver Shiism–and has gone so far as to claim that he had a vision of the Imam, at the U.N. of all places. (…) At least one ayatollah is reported to have declared in recent days that Ahmadinejad’s letter was the « hand of God. »

what is known, or what should be known and deeply grasped, is that everything Ahmadinejad–and for that matter the radical movement as a whole–does is guided by an ideological vision and commitment. It needs to be addressed as such.

It is necessary to inform Ahmadinejad and his radical allies that they are in for a real fight. This may not suffice to lead them to question their fundamental assumption and inspiration that we are on the run. But it may give pause to the many Muslims and non-Muslims standing on the sidelines, who see radical success and do not see American or Western resolve.

we have within living memory experience of revolutionary leaders who faced apparently great odds in coming to personal power and great odds in taking on the powers of the world and nevertheless achieved both.

Reading Ahmadinejad in Washington
The Iranian president’s letter needs to be taken seriously.
by Hillel Fradkin
05/29/2006

WILL THE UNITED STATES declare war on the Islamic Republic of Iran? For months, this question has been the theme of diplomatic and public discourse–with horror usually expressed at the idea. But it now seems that we have this backwards. For the import of the letter that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, sent to President Bush in the first week of May is that Ahmadinejad and Iran have declared war on the United States. Many reasons are given, but the most fundamental is that the United States is a liberal democracy, the most powerful in the world and the leader of all the others. Liberal democracy, the letter says, is an affront to God, and as such its days are numbered. It would be best if President Bush and others realized this and abandoned it. But at all events, Iran will help where possible to hasten its end. (The full text of the letter, translated into English from the original Persian, can be found at http://www.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/Ahmadinejad%20letter.pdf.)

Neither the Bush administration nor its many critics appear to appreciate the significance, ideological and practical, of the letter. Nor do they appear to appreciate the remarkable boldness of Ahmadinejad personally. For the formal characteristics of the letter as well as its substance have ancient and modern analogs–letters of Muhammad to the Byzantine, Persian, and Ethiopian emperors of his day warning them to accept Islam and his rule or suffer the consequences, and a letter from Khomeini to Mikhail Gorbachev along similar lines. Thus, Ahmadinejad presents himself as the true heir of Muhammad and Khomeini and may even be suggesting that he is a founder himself. At the least, he presents himself as the spokesman and leader of Islam and the Muslim world in its entirety, transcending the Shiite/Sunni divide. Both this boldness and this claim are consistent with the whole series of pronouncements and actions Ahmadinejad has taken in the brief period since he was elected last summer. But the letter, in its form and substance, raises this to a new and much higher level of clarity and power as well as menace.

The Bush administration and its critics have ignored all this. They have chosen to view the letter within a narrower prism–the question of negotiations or rather non-negotiations over Iran’s enrichment of uranium. For the administration, the letter contained « nothing new » in this regard. For Bush’s critics, it was an « opening, » one that could best be exploited if the United States were to drop its resistance to direct participation in negotiations with Tehran.

This reaction is not entirely surprising. Ahmadinejad’s letter does have a bearing on the struggle over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. Its long catalog of alleged U.S. crimes against Muslim interests and states specifically, and against Africa, Latin America, and the poorer parts of the world more generally, mimics the standard litany of anti-American complaints. It is intended to further undermine support for the United States and weaken its position in the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program. In this it may have some success. But for these purposes, it need not have presented its critique in a religious and ideological mode, up to and including the charge that Bush is a hypocrite in his claim to be « a follower of Jesus Christ. » That is, Ahmadinejad could have done without the theological « meanderings » about which both the administration and its critics complained. Indeed, for these purposes it would have been better if he had. Bush’s critics–including most recently Russia’s Vladimir Putin–like to charge him with hypocrisy, but they are by and large not concerned with Christian standards. And above all, the attack on liberal democracy could not be assumed to appeal to secular critics.

Yet Ahmadinejad did decide to approach the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, theologically–to insist that nuclear proliferation is not only an issue of policy but also of theology, indeed of the most fundamental and important issues of theology. He defends the right not only of Iran to nuclear technology but also of all Muslim countries as Muslim. Indeed they have not only a right but a duty to pursue such technology. The issue must be understood in the light of the most fundamental and important conflict in the world today as Ahmadinejad sees it–a fundamental conflict between Islam and its rivals, most immediately liberal democracy as embodied in the United States, but also Christianity.

All of this can be seen partially but still somewhat dimly in Ahmadinejad’s emphasis on Christian hypocrisy, which may in this context mean two things: violations by self-professed Christians of the standards and teachings of historic Christianity, or the violation by historic Christianity of the true teachings of the Prophet Jesus. The latter is a traditional Islamic view of the defect and even crime of historic Christians. In calling upon Bush, as Ahmadinejad does emphatically, to embrace the « teachings of the prophets, » he is calling upon him not only to abandon liberal democracy but Christianity as well–to embrace Islam, to which all the world must ultimately submit, and which is gathering momentum in our time.

THIS IS THE WAY THE LETTER will be understood and received by many Muslims, both inside and outside Iran. Far from being simply meandering, the letter manages to interweave appeals to two different audiences, the non-Muslim and largely secular world and the Muslim world. Its objective–to prosecute the war on behalf of Islam–unites the two. To that end, it aims to divide and weaken Islam’s adversary–the non-Muslim world–and to rally the Muslim world behind Ahmadinejad. In both respects it seems so far to be succeeding. Ahmadinejad followed the publication of the letter with a visit to Indonesia, the largest and most moderate of all Muslim countries and also very far removed from Iran’s usual sphere of concerns. Iran invested heavily in ensuring that he received a warm and even triumphal reception there. Ahmadinejad seems to have received praise from Indonesian officials and the leaders of other Muslim countries in the region, as well as from clerical figures, including the head of Indonesia’s Islamic State University, generally regarded as a leader of moderate Islam. Ahmadinejad has not only declared war but has taken an interim victory lap.

But, it may be asked, So what? So what if Ahmadinejad has declared that Islam is in fundamental, even mortal, conflict with the rest of the world? Formally that has always been the position of the Iranian Revolution. So what if he declares that Iran and the Muslim world are now on the march and have seized the initiative? The power of Iran may be measured in concrete ways and is, for now, limited and may remain so if we can only reach agreement on halting uranium enrichment. Are Ahmadinejad and Iran not further limited by his disability that he is a Shiite in a Muslim world that is overwhelmingly Sunni? And so what if Ahmadinejad implicitly lays claim to the mantle of Khomeini? Will he not ultimately be constrained by the very regime Khomeini established and built, in which he is presently subordinate to others–the regnant ayatollahs, including Khamenei the Supreme Guide–with a greater claim on authority? Will not the latter constrain him, if only out of self-interest and their own ambition to rule?

So what, in short, if Ahmadinejad wants to see the world in theological terms and to believe Islam is on the march and he is at its head? So what if he sees fit to burden us with these theological musings? The world, when all is said and done, is something else, and his views are out of touch with its reality and even, may it be said, delusional.

These objections would be more persuasive if we could forget that we have within living memory experience of revolutionary leaders–for that is what Ahmadinejad emphatically is–who faced apparently great odds in coming to personal power and great odds in taking on the powers of the world and nevertheless achieved both. Such people come up with practical if brutal solutions to their apparent disabilities. For us, who are ever so prudent and cautious, it would be safer to entertain the possibility that Ahmadinejad is a man who may also find solutions to the obstacles in his way, a man who finds great opportunities to be exploited and has the cunning and the will to do so.

Indeed, there is substantial evidence that he has already begun. Although subordinate to higher authority in the Iranian regime, he came to office in that regime at a time when its morale was low. He has managed to revive its spirit, especially among the cadres, like the militia, on whom it depends. It is a serious question whether his superiors–who ever since the rise of the reform movement in 1997 have been preoccupied by fear of collapse–do not need him as much as he needs them.

It is true that Ahmadinejad presently occupies a subordinate office, a deficiency reinforced by the fact that he is not a jurist, let alone an ayatollah, and thus lacks the credentials for supreme rule as defined by the principle of the regime–« the rule of the jurisprudent. »

But he may be in the process of addressing that difficulty by enlisting a source of authority–the Hidden Imam–consistent with and even superior to that principle. Ahmadinejad has presented himself as the herald or « prophet » of the Hidden Imam–the ultimate, if absent, ruler and authority for so-called Twelver Shiism–and has gone so far as to claim that he had a vision of the Imam, at the U.N. of all places.

It remains to be seen what further use Ahmadinejad may make of this status and the kind of authority it may convey and with what success. It would amount to a further radicalization of Khomeini’s original radical break with the tradition of Twelver Shiism, which opposed and still opposes the political engagement of clerics. Formally it is constrained by the regime Khomeini founded, but emotionally it is a plausible extension. At least one ayatollah is reported to have declared in recent days that Ahmadinejad’s letter was the « hand of God. »

AT ALL EVENTS, there is little evidence that his ostensible superiors are inclined to restrain him. Ayatollah Khamenei gave a talk prior to the letter that endorsed Ahmadinejad’s policies without reservation. Moreover, Ahmadinejad’s supporters in the Basij militia and other « revolutionary » institutions have announced and begun to implement a purge of « opponents of the revolution » in key places, including the universities. In the presently unforeseeable event that his superiors tried to force a showdown, it is not clear who would have more « troops. »

Outside Iran, Ahmadinejad encounters a world of opportunities. The non-Muslim countries are very much divided over Iran’s ambitions, acting either hesitantly or at cross purposes. Even his main adversary, the United States, seems divided and uncertain.

The Muslim world, for its part, is rich with the opportunities created by great longing, great resentment, and great anger. Those longings (for a more glorious role for Islam) and those resentments (over the fallen estate of Islam) have been brewing for a long time. For those in the Muslim world moved by these sentiments, the attacks of September 11, 2001, offered the satisfaction of a victory and produced admiration for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

But Osama also promised further victories, that this was the beginning, not the end, of the new Islamic jihad. And in this he has not been successful, presumably because of the vigor of American and allied attacks on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Even in Iraq, where al Qaeda under the direction of Abu Musab al Zarqawi keeps up the battle, it has not yet achieved its aim of driving American forces out and may not. Moreover, its engagement in Iraq has had liabilities for al Qaeda, which were the substance of al-Zawahiri’s letter of last summer. Al Qaeda as such may be in decline.

In these circumstances, Ahmadinejad has attempted to step into bin Laden’s place as the leader of the radical Islamic movement, as the man with the will and capacity to challenge and threaten the United States. Ahmadinejad has already enjoyed some success in parts of the Muslim world. This has been accompanied by the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and especially Palestine, where Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority. This has permitted him to assert, as he does in his letter, that the forces of radical Islam–or, as he would have it, simply Islam–are on a roll. Ahmadinejad has bent every effort to support and join forces with Hamas and may well succeed. And, as always, he has Hezbollah in Lebanon at his disposal.

From all these developments, the radical movement has gained renewed confidence in the claim, first put forward by Osama bin Laden, that its adversaries, principally the United States, do not have the stomach for a long fight, or even a short one. Islam’s enemies can and will be pushed back and defeated by radical forces, because the latter, unlike their enemies, do not fear death and even welcome it. They can even, as Ahmadinejad recently said, accept the possibility of nuclear war as a necessity of the struggle. Altogether the spirits of the radical Islamic movement are high, and Ahmadinejad is the most powerful voice of that spirit.

This renewed ideological vigor and confidence present us with a host of difficulties in addition to the more material problem of the prospective Iranian bomb. It remains to be seen what we can and will do to keep the mullahs from obtaining nuclear bombs. Were we to be successful by diplomacy–unlikely–or by military action–ruled out of bounds by many–it would certainly affect the ideological struggle, as well as be a great good in itself. It would do so because it would be a defeat, and a significant one, for radical Islam. But given the temper of the man and the needs of the Iranian regime, it would not end ideological and other kinds of warfare.

For the moment all this is unknown. But what is known, or what should be known and deeply grasped, is that everything Ahmadinejad–and for that matter the radical movement as a whole–does is guided by an ideological vision and commitment. It needs to be addressed as such. For the moment and not only for the moment, this requires that liberal democrats declare that they have no intention of abandoning their way of life and see no need to do so, since they are fully prepared to defend it and because that way of life provides the resources–political, economic, and military–to defend itself.

It is necessary to inform Ahmadinejad and his radical allies that they are in for a real fight. This may not suffice to lead them to question their fundamental assumption and inspiration that we are on the run. But it may give pause to the many Muslims and non-Muslims standing on the sidelines, who see radical success and do not see American or Western resolve.

Of course the best person to make the first such declaration is President Bush–not as a Christian but as the world’s leading liberal democrat. And not to Ahmadinejad, for whom a direct reply would be a victory, but to the Iranian people, the Muslim world, and the non-Muslim world.

Hillel Fradkin is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and coeditor of Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.


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