Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Truth vs. Fantasy in the Pages of the Times [Political Affairs Archives]
By Thomas Riggins

The New York Times, the paper of record, and all the news that’s fit to print, etc., likes to think of itself as a sophisticated and intelligent publication. But it has been going steadily down hill over the last few years. It is becoming increasingly more frequent that you only get nonsense to read on the editorial pages. In the good old days you had to at least do some thinking before realizing you were getting a bill of goods from their stable of op-ed writers, but nowadays they have writers who are completely up front about misinforming and misleading readers with their prejudices. It became obvious once they appointed writers from the ultra-right and dishonest Weekly Standard to permanent op-ed status that any attempt to be objective and truthful had gone by the board.

Recently we were treated to an article by Pu Zhiqiang (4/28/05) that equates the Tienamen Square events to the genocide perpetrated by the Japanese in Nanking. It seems that criticizing Japanese fascism, which consciously planned mass murders, should be seen in the light of mistaken policies and blunders by the Chinese leadership. And, incidentally, whatever we may think about these things, No! the Gulag was not the moral equivalent of Auschwitz.

Just a couple of days before (4/26/05) Nicholas Kristof ("N. Korea, 6, And Bush, 0") carried on about the "single greatest failure" of American foreign policy under Bush – no, not the disastrous bungled war against the Iraqi people, but the fact that North Korea has the bomb and thus there is "a greater risk that terrorists will acquire plutonium or uranium." Not only that, but the fact that the North has the bomb increases the chances of a new Korean War! Why is that? Are we to believe that North Korea is itching to attack the United States?

It was the US that introduced atomic weapons into South Korea and pointed them at the North – this despite the armistice agreement of 1953 which prohibited such an action. And it is official US policy to use atomic weapons against the North (in its H + 1 doctrine) within one hour of an outbreak of hostilities. So who is the mad man responsible for the nukes in the North? Would not Kim Jong Il be totally irresponsible not to develop atomic weapons to defend the North from an openly aggressive and hostile US. Be it noted that the North was willing to forego all the expense and risk of developing atomic weapons if the US would have made a public commitment not to use them against the North and not initiate an attack against the North. This is a perfectly reasonable position.

Kristof in his article actually demonstrates that it is President Bush’s ineptitude that has brought about the stand off with the North. But, he says, "In fairness, all this [i.e., terrorists getting nukes, a new war, etc.,] is more Kim Jong Il’s fault than Mr. Bush’s." How does he come to that conclusion when the US refuses to even talk to the North and after the North has stated it is willing to give up nukes if the US will just negotiate with it in good faith? Kristof even says that if Bush had adopted Colin Powell’s ideas "then this mess could probably have been averted." Yet "to be fair" this is Kim Jong Il’s fault! Are we reading serious news analysis or fantasy?

Not to be out done in the fantasy department, David Brooks ("Mourning Mother Russia" 4/28/05) reports on Vladimir Putin’s "bizarre speech" last week when he said the collapse of the USSR was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." This is "bizarre" because Brooks thinks the demise of communism is a good thing. He even tells us about all the good things that have happened to the Russians since they gave up socialism for the glories of capitalism. Here is list of these good things: Divorce Rate 75%, population 146 million heading towards 104 million by mid-century [42 million missing people, just about what was lost in W.W.II], fertility rates under socialism 2.19 births per woman, under capitalism, 1.7 [a sure sign people see a rosy future], and the death rate is 16 people die for every 10 that are born – the death rate is, in fact, up by 40 percent, greater that in India or Bangladesh. A 20 year old American man has an 80 per cent chance of making it to 65 – a Russian, 46 percent. Brooks says "What we are seeing, in short, is a country with nuclear weapons that is enduring a slow-motion version of the medieval Black Death."

Yet "most of us are grateful" for the end of the old system and Putin is "bizarre" for thinking his people have endured a "catastrophe." They have had a catastrophe, its called capitalism.

--Thomas Riggins is the book review editor for PA and can reached at

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