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Monday, November 14, 2005

I.F. Stone for today

I've been reading some I.F. Stone, which, if you're not familiar with that name, means that I've been reading some kick ass political writing from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Stone was a blogger before blogging, writing for the one man journal I.F. Stone's Weekly. In that respect, he's the precursor to Josh Marshall, Billmon, Digby and Atrios...and a successor to Benjamin Franklin. You'd think that reading topical pieces from decades ago would be stale and irrelevant. It's not.

Writing about LBJ in a piece entitled A Man the Whole World Has Begun to Distrust, Izzy Stone could have been writing about Bush in 2003, not Johnson in June of '65:

The good will built up by Kennedy for our country in every section of the world except East Asia has been dissipated by his successor. It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson is today distrusted everywhere: in Latin America, where he has destroyed the hopes aroused by the Alliance for Progress; in Western Europe, where he is regarded as impulsive and high-handed; in India, where he affronted Shastri by cancelling his visit rather than risk hearing an Asian dissent on our Vietnamese war; and in Eastern Europe, where the Russians had expected a continuation of the detente begun under Kennedy and the stellites had hoped for a continued thaw in the Cold War as their one sure means of liberation. Rarely has one man blasted so many hopes so quickly.


Ah, yes, that seems familiar. Or take this flashback to Kennedy's nomination of John A. McCone to replace John Foster Dulles at the head of the CIA from 1961's An Appalling Choice to Head the CIA:

Mr McCone's rising fortunes, financial and political, have been associated with the war and the arms race. In 1937 he helped to form the Bechtel-McCone-Parsons Corporation, a construction and engineering firm. In January 1941he organized and became the president of the California Shipbuilding Company; the Bechtel concern was then given a managment contract to run the shipbuilding company. After the war the General Accounting Office told a House Merchant Marine Committee investigation that the company had made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000. The same committee a few months later complained that Mr McCone's company was paid $2,500,000 by the govenment to take over a shipyard costing $25,000,000 and containing surplus material costing $14,000,000.

Mr McCone did not confine his interests to shipbuilding. Bechtel-McCone-Parsons also built a huge installation at Birmingham, Alabama, during the war for the air force and became a leading construction firm for the A.E.C. Mr McCone also organized a private shipping company which did a big transport business for some of the largest A.E.C. contractors, firms like Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. These diverse enterprises had a common stake in armament expenditure, and Mr McCone made his debut in public service as a member of Truman's Air Policy Commisssion which in 1948 advocated a stepped-up indefinitely prolonged arms race...


Hmm. Bechtel, where have we read that name? John McConewas indeed confirmed to head the CIA; one can read about his exploits here.

One interesting note, McCone was one of the early principals of the Committee on the Present Danger, a bi-partisan militarist orgainzation...now given a new lease on life....in the war on terror. (Click on that link. Trust me.) I.F. Stone is relevant once again.

Stone's writings on the report of the Symington Subcommittee in January 1971's The Price we Pay for Empire, as well, read with a strange familiarity:

Considering the monumental misjudgements of U.S. intelligence in the past two decades in Korea, in Cuba, and in Vietnam, it's just as well that intelligence reports are confined to a select circle. The Symington report has a lovely quotation from Walter Lippmann. He once wrote of the information funnelled into our policy makers that the men reporting to them realize 'that it is safer to be wrong before it has become fashionable to be right'. Every bureaucracy likes its intelligence apparatus to confirm its preconceptions. But couldn't this reassuring yeamanship be done more cheaply?

The passion for secrecy, and its use to hide misjudgements from those who must ultimately foot the bill in lives and money, was the main obstacle in this two-year investigation. If ever there was a David-and-Goliath operation, this was it. A newspaperman, Walter Pincus, and a lawyer, Roland A. Paul, were the two-man staff of this special subcommitte of the Senate Foreign Relations under Senator Symington.


Ah, not only are we stalled out (waiting with Harry Reid & Co.) for our David and Goliath investigation to even begin...but here's Walter Pincus doing due diligence...thirty five years ago...hot on the trail of how our policy makers have deceived the public and manipulated intelligence. 35 years isn't that long a time, I guess...in Washington. Maybe it's a timeless city.

Finally, an account of I.F. Stone would be remiss if it didn't include a McCarthy era posting. This one from 1953 -Time for a Deportation -- to Wisconsin--reads with a burning relevance to our day, just substitute Karl Rove for Joe:

McCarthy will never be beaten on the defensive. He loses one fight and starts two new ones. Charges are always more exciting than their refutation, and the thereby dominates the front pages...[snip] He has hardly begun to hit his stride as master of the Big Lie. LIke Hitler and Goebbels, he knows the value of ceaseless reiteration. He has their complete lack of scruple, and sets as low an estimate as they on the popular mind's capacity to remember. His defeat in the fight against Bohlen is a minor episode in the perspective of his ambition and his potentialities.

If--the fatal if that shadows democratic governments in their contest with fascist pretenders-if this Administration had guts, it would move now to act on the findings of the buried McCarthy report submitted by the Senate subcommittee on privileges and elections. The new Attorney General, in a cheap and vulgar St Patrick's Day speech, announced a heightened deportation campaign against so-called 'subversives'. The most subversive force in America today is Joe McCarthy. No one is so effectively importing alien conceptions into American government. No one is doing so much to damage the country's prestige abroad and its power to act effectively at home. If 'subversion' is to be met by deportation, the it is time to deport McCarthy back to Wisconsin.


Substitute Texas for Wisconsin...and we've got a oped relevant for this week....deportations, lack of scruple, vulgar holiday speeches...and damage to our country at home and abroad. I.F. Stone has BushCo. down.

It's worth thinking about that.

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