Letter to Mark Danner


posted to www.marxmail.org on December 2, 2003


Dear Mark Danner,


I am a Bard College graduate who continues to be impressed by the ambidextrous political interventions of your President Leon Botstein and his major donor George Soros. When I saw not too long ago that the college's home page prominently featured a link to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, I wondered how long it would take for it to be renamed Open Society College. As a corporate raider of the nonprofit left, Soros shows an adroitness that would leave Oliver Stone's Gordon Geckko in the dust. While on one hand funding the Otpor-led coup in Belgrade that has served as a model for the more recent operation in Georgia, he funds Christian Parenti on the other--the son of one of the most outspoken critics of the Cruise-Missile Left, Michael Parenti. Simply breathtaking. Brecht could not have cooked this stuff up, even after taking LSD.


As impressive as this left-right juggling act is, nothing prepared me for your article in the latest New York Review of Books. As a high-profile critic of the war in Iraq and debater of Christopher Hitchens, you would certainly be expected to hit the war-makers hard in this prestigious magazine that can be found on coffee tables of Upper West Side lawyers who donate to PBS and shop at Zabar's. (Their Moroccan olives do leave something to be desired.)


In your final paragraph, you state:


"President Bush's audacious project in Iraq was always going to be difficult, perhaps impossible, but without political steadfastness and resilience, it had no chance to succeed. This autumn in Baghdad, a ruthless insurgency, growing but still in its infancy, has managed to make the President retreat from his project, and has worked, with growing success, to divide Iraqis from the Americans who claim to govern them. These insurgents cannot win, but by seizing on Washington's mistakes and working relentlessly to widen the fault lines in occupied Iraq, they threaten to prevent what President Bush sent the US military to achieve: a stable, democratic, and peaceful Iraq, at the heart of a stable and democratic Middle East."


Unless you have a sharply honed sense of irony, this business about Bush seeking a "democratic" Middle East stands as one of the most monumental pieces of horseshit since the days of Goebbels. Your language gives you away as a typical "dove" from the Vietnam era, although you were probably far too young to have had the dubious pleasure of reading Anthony Lewis and others who gave advice to the Presidents about how to achieve US goals in Indochina with the smallest loss of American life and treasure. The Iraqis are "ruthless", while we require "steadfastness". Washington makes "mistakes", or what was called a "tragic error" back in the days of LBJ.


I assume that your fence-straddling gifts must have been a key factor in naming you the Henry R. Luce Professor of Human Rights and Journalism at Bard College. I have no idea what your journalistic ideals are, but being called a Henry R. Luce professor of Journalism is tantamount to being named the Henry Kissinger Professor of Global Peace and Justice.


So shocked as I was to discover this kind of apologetics for occupation in your NYR article, I went to your website to see what had led up to this about-face. There I discovered in another NYR article, aptly titled "How Not to Win a War":


"As one who argued strenuously against invading Iraq, I find this prospect particularly troubling to contemplate. Having invaded and occupied Iraq, and unleashed a horde of political demons there, the United States faces a number of extremely difficult choices, one of the worst of which is precipitous withdrawal."




Can I make a suggestion, Mark? You should cut all ties to the left. You should not advertise the fact that you wrote once about US crimes in El Salvador, just as Christopher Hitchens no longer alludes to his powerful anti-war articles from the first Gulf War. The left in the USA is in a desperate fight to end a brutal occupation in Iraq that has cost the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians. "Staying the course" in Iraq invites the kind of senseless slaughter that marked our intervention in Vietnam. There are much better uses of the talents of an ambitious, talented Harvard University graduate like yourself. Pimping for US imperialism is not one of them.


Louis Proyect, class of 1965