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Top 10 Letters

Michael F. Scheuer and Thomas E. Woods Jr. respond to their critics, plus our first correspondence from a European Commissioner.

11:00 PM, Feb 23, 2005
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THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.

*1*

ONCE AGAIN, I write to thank The Weekly Standard for the attention they have paid to the ideas and arguments I presented in Imperial Hubris. Of the three articles that have mentioned my work, I thought Thomas Joscelyn's was the best, although the least thoughtful and analytic. In essence, Joscelyn made my point for me. By isolating a small part of my book, as well as a small part of my Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) interview that dealt with Israel, by failing to note the combative, baiting nature of the questions asked of me at the CFR meeting, by unleashing that old, reliable, and silencing epithet "anti-Semite," and by stroking America's sympathy for the underdog with the "tiny nation of Israel" phrase, and by making my book appear a "rambling" work meant only to dispense "invective," Joscelyn engages in what could be a case study of how to shut off discussion of a sensitive issue.

The article seems to suggest that no matter how criticism of Israel is phrased, it is not to be treated seriously. Indeed, Mr. Joscelyn goes a large step farther by implying that any criticism of Israel signals disloyalty to America when he says that Mr. Goss has more cleaning up to do at CIA than thought if anyone else there would dare to criticize Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship as I have and will. Without attributing my ideas or analysis to anyone else, I would say that Mr. Goss would have vastly more work to do if most intelligence officers did not recognize the hindering role unqualified U.S. support for Israel plays not only in America's relationship with the Islamic world, but, more important, in our efforts to defend America in the war on terrorism.

--Michael F. Scheuer

Thomas Joscelyn responds: Mr. Scheuer's response to my recent article, "CIA Conspiracy Theorist," both mischaracterizes my arguments and ignores the more substantive areas of my criticism.

First, I called on Scheuer to present any evidence he had that supported his claim that Israel has covertly "influence[d] the Congress." In his response to my article, Scheuer does not present any such evidence.

Second, Scheuer argues that my "article seems to suggest that no matter how criticism of Israel is phrased, it is not to be treated seriously" and that I go "a large step farther by implying that any criticism of Israel signals disloyalty to America . . . "

Nothing could be further from the truth. Rational criticisms that weigh the costs and benefits of U.S. foreign policies, including those policies that deal with the U.S.-Israel relationship, are a vital part of the public debate.

I do not question the right to criticize Israel or to debate the U.S.-Israel relationship; I question the usefulness of Scheuer's arguments in this debate. I do not find his unsupported (to date) claims about Israel's covert influence over the U.S. Congress, or his musings on the real purpose of the Holocaust museum, or his characterizations of the United States as the "American Gulliver" and as the "the dog that's led by the tail" to be helpful in furthering public discussion.

Third, he writes that I invoke "America's sympathy for the underdog with the 'tiny nation of Israel' phrase." I was not making an attempt to somehow manipulate readers' emotions. Ironically, I was simply (and intentionally) mimicking the phrase he used to describe Israel. See, for example, page 227 of Imperial Hubris, where Mr. Scheuer refers to Israel as "the tiny Jewish state." I even quoted this passage in my article.

Finally, he accuses me of trying to "to shut off discussion of a sensitive issue" by, among other things, "unleashing that old, reliable, and silencing epithet 'anti-Semite.'" But, I never labeled him an "anti-Semite," nor was that the intended effect of the one sentence where I use any form of that word. I simply pointed out that Scheuer's remarks concerning the true purpose of the Holocaust Museum have many parallels in anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim propaganda. In fact, the purpose of that state-controlled propaganda is to silence any rational discussion of those nations' relationships with Israel and the United States.

Differences of opinion aside, I remain hopeful that we can have a more "thoughtful and analytic" debate concerning the costs and benefits of U.S. foreign policy, including the U.S.-Israel relationship.

*2*

Max Boot hates nothing more than being told he's not a real conservative. But judging from his laughable review of my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, what could be more obvious?

We learn in his review that Mr. Boot agrees with the Left's assessment of just about all major episodes of the past century and a half of American history. We might call this "everything's fine" conservatism. For according to Boot, Reconstruction was fine, the Fourteenth Amendment is fine, Woodrow Wilson is fine, Franklin Roosevelt is fine, the New Deal is fine, Lyndon Johnson is fine, the Great Society is fine, affirmative action (to which anti-discrimination law inevitably leads) is fine, Bill Clinton's wars are fine. Is it not a little revealing that Boot's critique of my book is almost identical to that of the New York Times?

Boot's message to me, therefore, is apparently that the left may be wrong here and there, but it is not nearly as wrong as my book suggests. No, Mr. Boot: the left is every bit as wrong as I say they are. Hillary supported the Iraq war, too, so I'm afraid that issue alone does not a conservative make. Stop making excuses for the left, and for heaven's sake, if you want to be called a conservative without hearing all those snickers, quit siding with them on everything that matters.

--Thomas E. Woods Jr.

Max Boot responds: It will come as news to my former employers at the Wall Street Journal editorial page or to my current colleagues at The Weekly Standard--two of the preeminent conservative publications in America--that I am a closet pinko. But the issue isn't whether I am a "real" conservative; I couldn't care less how I'm labeled. The issue is whether Thomas E. Woods Jr. is a real conservative, or at least the kind other conservatives want to be associated with.

I note that he does not disavow any statements of the League of the South, of which he is a founding member. As I pointed out in my review, this is a racist, Southern secessionist group that reviles the present-day United States and looks back nostalgically on the Confederacy. Nor does Woods repudiate his past criticisms of the "barbarism of recent American foreign policy," which could just as easily have come from Noam Chomsky or Michael Moore.

One certainly can find fault with Reconstruction, Franklin Roosevelt, the Great Society, affirmative action, and a great many other things, but Woods' neo-Confederate outlook, his glaring omissions, and his cavalier disregard for the facts make him an unreliable and unpersuasive critic. Just because some leftists may be wrong doesn't mean that Woods is right. That he calls himself a conservative only does damage to mainstream conservatism by confirming all the liberal caricatures about the right.

*3*

It is with great disagreement that I must respond to Stephen Schwartz's recent article on the passing of Hunter S. Thompson. I don't know what to be more outraged about: Schwartz's seeming enjoyment, perhaps highly anticipated, of seeing the final nail put in Hunter S. Thompson's coffin, or his joy in using Thompson's life to herald the death of all that he represented, or his inability to separate great writing from bad living. Be it any of those three, or even any others, I find your piece highly disappointing for a magazine of such caliber, and a disservice to anyone trying to truly understand Hunter S. Thompson.

I happen to be one of the proud, and few, Republican fans of Hunter S. Thompson. Our flag bearer is P.J. O'Rourke; I merely man the Richmond cell of this fine organization. This will be a busy period for all of us in this august assemblage. We will spend our time combating our fellow conservatives, most of whom want to dance on Hunter's grave because of his political thoughts, rather than reflect on the genius that was Dr. Thompson. But we will do this gladly, for it is important work.

So, let's start with the first and principal objection to Hunter S. Thompson: His lifestyle. Yes, Thompson was given to using a large amount of drugs, and drinking a prodigious amount of alcohol. It is reflected in his work, and many know of him only for these reasons. But for those who know of Hunter only for his substance abuse, that is their loss. It is like only knowing Wilt Chamberlain for his womanizing. It is an attribute of his personality, but it ignores what makes him exceptional.

And so what if Hunter overindulged? Hemingway was a drunk and a jerk. Gauguin died of venereal disease surrounded by his child lovers in the South Pacific. Van Gogh was insane. John Kennedy Toole blew his brains out. Yet theirs' were works of beauty and genius. Oftentimes genius is accompanied by madness. That is a truth we should have learned by now.

But the reason we are all talking about Hunter S. Thompson is not his drug habits. Plenty of drug addicts die everyday, never to be noted in The Weekly Standard or the New York Times. The fact is that there is such a tremendous response to Thompson's passing because he was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

For myself, a conservative, it was not his theories that held me. It was the way he put them down on paper. He wrote paragraphs that were symphonies. They expanded, catapulted, bounced, jumped, rolled, flowed, dodged, weaved, and bobbed from idea to idea, thought to thought, in a way that I had never before witnessed.

He was able to put ideas down in a way that no one else could. He could find the one crack in a rock of thought and strike it dead on, exploding the thought into a million pieces. He established his own form of journalism that way, and, say what you will, history tends to remember those who start something new and worthwhile.

Rest in Peace, Hunter S. Thompson. We'll miss you.

--J. Tucker Martin

*4*

Paul Belien's words on President Bush's visit are nonsense. They mean nothing. I am French, and while I never voted for Chirac, I did share, from the very beginning, his certainty that going to war in Iraq would be a huge strategic mistake. My parents saw how war can destroy people, countries, and civilizations. How war can so easily be initiated but terminated only when thousands, if not millions, of people have died. President Bush and your fabulous country merit respect and admiration. As a head of state, George W. Bush has to be welcomed and honored. People who put his face in a toilet are stupid and ignorant--just as people who write in famous newspapers that the French (who carried the heaviest burden in the allied victory of 1918 with 1.7 million dead) are "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." We must all try to ignore such things. We must concentrate on substance. We must do our best to permit a peaceful world: The Weekly Standard has to listen to historians, to our ancestors, who quietly advise us not to promote violence and not to export systems of government to distant lands.

I will forget the French fries and the monkeys. Let's forget the pissing on President Bush's likeness. I would like to be sure President Bush would listen to wise European and American men. His visit (here yesterday, in our buildings) was great and useful. Let's try to be, together, abreast of it.

--Y Mollard La Bruyère

Directorate General for External Relations

European Commission

*5*

So America did what it thought right--to end the rule of a madman, comparable to Hitler, who had killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens in Iraq. A man who for 12 years had ignored a cease-fire requirement to disarm and prove he had done so. And after being attacked and losing close to three thousand of our citizens, we decided that an unstable ruler, who likely had weapons of mass destruction, could not be left to his own devices. We had the courage to remove him as a threat, and Europe said we were wrong. We spent billions to turn Iraq back over to its people, hopefully to be free and stable, just as we did in Germany and Japan after World War II, and Europe said we were wrong.

This is a letter from an American WWII veteran who did much to help Europe, who fought Nazis in the forests of Holland in 1944. Please take it to heart. Americans are not bad. We have the balls to stand up to things we think wrong. We don't ask for your praise, we just ask for your courage and understanding.

--Tim Hiestand

*6*

While reading John Hinderaker's piece, I recalled James Watts's comment about the needlessness of protecting environmental resources.

On the same theme, let's not forget what Watts' successor as Interior Secretary said about reducing ozone-destroying gasses. His view was that, instead of cutting chlorofluorocarbon emissions, people should just wear hats and sunglasses to protect from cancer causing rays. That is not a rumor but 100 percent truth.

--John Gilmour

*7*

Great article by Hugh Hewitt on the Eason Jordan affair. However, his line, "But because no names were named--lousy 'journalism,' that--the impression was communicated that this senior voice of the center-right had sided with Eason Jordan and CNN against the populism of the new media," misses the point that in siding against the bloggers, both the Wall Street Journal and the MSM are in turn siding against the military. I'm a Captain in the United States Marine Corps launching to Iraq next week, and my brother-in-law, also a United States Marine Corps Captain, is serving in Afghanistan. We'll handle the overseas terrorist threat, Hewitt and the bloggers should continue their outstanding work handling the MSM here at home!

Semper Fi!

--Captain Dan Sparks, USMC

*8*

I read Dean Barnett's "Taking Kos Seriously" with great interest. Let us hope that Barnett's premise regarding Kos's growing influence over Democratic party strategy proves correct. By forcing all Democrats to dart left and align themselves more closely with the likes of Barbara Boxer and Howard Dean, Kos ultimately serves to further highlight the disparity between liberal/Democratic ideology and the views of average Americans, be they residents of "Red" states or "Blue." Republicans would be wise to keep a close eye on this trend and should be poised to take full advantage of this disconnect. Perhaps it's time to start a "Draft Lieberman for the Republican Party" campaign? Or, better yet, a "Draft Lieberman for 2008" campaign to force the wayward drift of the Democratic party into even starker relief.

--Josh Doolittle

*9*

If Dean Barnett could leave aside personal feelings, he would see that Kos's labeling of the dead foreign workers as "mercenaries" is perfectly legitimate. Definition one in the OED is, "Working merely for money or other reward." The second definition, "A hired soldier in a foreign service." There is no need for a haughty editorial "sic" to draw attention to and delegitimize Kos's use of the word. The scandal is not Kos's choice of words, the scandal is the unresolved issue of privatizing or subcontracting war, which I think is a very bad idea for the American republic, as in res publica, not res privata.

The second problem I have with Barnett is his choice of words: "savage murders." Only the joystick wielders of impersonal, high-technology precision weapons, who are regrettably spared the up close and personal side of killing, would dare make such a comment. The conscience of such people is spared solely because they do not witness the deaths they surely caused. The minimum reliable estimate for dead Iraqi civilians in the war so far is "more than 10,000." I agree that these deaths are not "savage murders." But they certainly do qualify as cold-blooded killing, perhaps deficient in savagery, but fatal all the same.

--Eric Fern

*10*

It's a little scary to think that there are that many crazies out there.

--Frank Mauran