FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:|
November 5, 1999
PAT BUCHANAN'S RESPONSE TO NORMAN PODHORETZ'S OP-ED
November 5, 1999 Wall Street Journal
To the Editor:
In Orwell's 1984, employees at the Ministry of Truth were given time off for "the Two Minutes Hate," to shout curses at the enemies of Big Brother. In "Buchanan and Anti-Semitism" (October 25), Norman Podhoretz shows a fine aptitude for the exercise. While clearing up all the debris he left on your page would require a small book, let me respond to a few of his charges.
He calls my new book, A Republic, Not an Empire, "soft on Hitler." Yet, in it, I call Hitler a "monster," charge him with "ugly actions and discriminatory laws" against German Jews as early as 1933, equate his treatment of rivals to Al Capone's, and describe the post-1939 situation in Poland as "the peace of Auschwitz and Katyn, where SS and NKVD killers roamed free and labored long into the night." This is "soft on Hitler"?
Mr. Podhoretz says that I have a "habit of championing the cause of almost anyone accused of participating actively in Hitler's genocidal campaign against the Jews."
But whom have I defended? Six men. Frank Walus of Chicago and Ivan Stebelsky of Denver, accused by Simon Wiesenthal of being Nazi war criminals, were proven to be wholly innocent. Tscherim Soobzokov of New Jersey was about to receive compensation for the vile slander that he was an SS killer, when he was blown to pieces by a bomb outside his home.
I defended John Demjanjuk for ten years, insisting he was not "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka. On the eve of Mr. Demjanjuk's scheduled execution, Moscow released documents proving "Ivan" was another man. Demjanjuk had never even been at Treblinka. Due perhaps to my columns, John Demjanjuk's wrongful execution was delayed, and averted, and Israel was spared the international disgrace of having hanged an innocent man.
Karl Linnas was accused of being a Nazi killer at the Tartu camp in Estonia. Along with the Washington Post, I opposed his being sent back to certain death in the USSR. All I asked for was a fair trial for Linnas, right here in the U.S.A.
As for Dr. Arthur Rudolph, the German rocket scientist who built the Saturn that took Armstrong to the moon, he was cleared by two post-war investigations and brought to America under Harry Truman. Under threat of a loss of his pension, Social Security, and honors, Rudolph, the victim of a heart attack, did renounce his U.S. citizenship and return to Germany. There, the German government investigated the U.S. Justice Department's charges against him and found them baseless. What did I ask for? Only that Dr. Rudolph be given a hearing before a congressional committee, so that both his accusers and his defenders could present their respective cases.
Now, why did I take up the causes of these men?
Because I believed they were innocent, or I believed they had not been given a fair chance to prove their innocence. And because no one else would. While I have paid a high price for having done so, I have never regretted it. It was the best journalism I ever did.
As for my views on Israel, they have changed. With the Intifada, I came to believe that Israel's survival now mandated a homeland, a flag, and a nation of their own for the Palestinian people. A friend I made in Israel at the end of the Six Day War, Yitzhak Rabin, reached the same conclusion at the same time. For attempting to negotiate peace with Arafat, Rabin, too, was called an anti-Semite and Nazi, and was murdered in that climate of hatred.
Do we really want to recreate this climate in our own country?
All but one of Mr. Podhoretz' charges are recycled garbage from his old compactor, Commentary. But his newest shows how his obsession with me over ten years has begun to impair his reason.
Mr. Podhoretz speaks of the "incredible words" I wrote for Ronald Reagan to justify a presidential visit to Bitburg. "Through Mr. Reagan's mouth," says he, "Mr. Buchanan declared that the soldiers buried there, who included members of SS units...were 'victims of the Nazis just as surely as the victims in concentration camps.' No more disgusting example of moral equivalence can ever have been recorded or can scarcely even be imagined."
What is wrong with this? Just about everything.
First, there is the insinuation that I could put in the "mouth" of Ronald Reagan "incredible words" he did not understand or believe. This is grossly insulting; the Ronald Reagan I served could not be manipulated by anyone into saying what he did not believe.
Second, President Reagan never equated SS troops and camp victims. He equated the teenage boys Hitler put in uniform and sent to certain death at war's end with concentration camp victims. Here is Mr. Reagan's statement in full:
These [SS troops] were the villains, as we know, that conducted the
persecutions and all. But there are 2,000 graves there, and most of
those, the average age is about 18. I think that there's nothing wrong
with visiting that cemetery where those young men are victims of
Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform,
drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They
were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.
Third, I did not write these words, no one did. Mr. Reagan made this remark spontaneously, in answer to a questioner, as he was departing an editors' briefing on April 18, 1985. He drew the parallel. I had nothing to do with it. We are thus left with the accusation that Ronald Reagan gave the world the most "disgusting example of moral equivalence" ever recorded or imagined. Strange that no one but Mr. Podhoretz has noticed this.
As I wrote years ago, true anti-Semitism-a hatred of Jews for who they are or what they believe-is a disease of the heart. Unrepented of, it corrupts the soul. There is no such hatred in my heart for any group or any individual. That includes Mr. Podhoretz, a one-time comrade. Perhaps Norman should review his own past writings and search his own soul to determine which of us harbors the morally unhealthy obsession.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish," Mr. Podhoretz says of my leaving the GOP. Decades ago, I was among those conservatives who urged that we throw open our doors and welcome to our ranks the "neoconservatives," fleeing the party of McGovern. Now they have become our inquisitors, hurling anathemas as any who decline to embrace their revised dogmas. Non serviam, Norman.
All my life I labored in the vineyards of the Republican Party, and fought in more campaigns than ever did Mr. Podhoretz and his cohorts. But, today, I look upon that party the way a man looks on a beloved home in the old neighborhood where he grew up, as he sees squatters convert it into a crack house. You don't know whether to burn it down in rage, or just drive away and never look back. I have decided to leave; and the sentiment I feel most on reading such as Norman's 3000-word rant against me, is liberation. Free at last.
Patrick J. Buchanan
-------- 30 --------