“Denn uns fehlt der kritische Blick für uns selbst.”
“…alle kriegführenden Staaten noch unter den bösen Geistern zu leiden haben, denen sie selber den Weg freigegeben haben.”
Carl von Ossietzky.
As we were disembarking from our plane, yesterday, the steward made a few of the standard announcements about baggage and transfers and thanking us for choosing Southwestern. He then wished us a good stay in Los Angeles and assured us that this holiday, Southwestern Airlines was keeping our “military heros” in their thoughts. I stopped looking under the seat for various things Adam had scattered for a second, so dumbstruck was I by the intrusion of “military heros” into a simple arrival. I thought that I never keep our military “heros” in my thoughts, but wished, instead, that if we were going to remind each other of the series of aggressions that the US has committed over the last fifty years, that we would turn our thoughts to the victims of those aggressions. Now that would be a holiday wish! “and be assured, we keep in mind the Vietnamese, the Iraqis, and all others who have suffered and died due to the chosen military actions of this great country of ours.
Of course, I was coming home from Atlanta Georgia on a Dallas based airline, so that may partially explain the note of jingoism. But the next day – today – I am reading through the NYT and I come to the column by the public editor in which it is explained that the NYT knew for seven years that RobertLevinson, an ex fbi man who “disappeared” in Iran in 2007, was working for the CIA. It knew this and decided not to report it – because, in a bizarre excuse that could only be accepted by the kinds of simple hearts who shed patriotic tears about all our military heros on the holidays – the family believed it would hurt him. As if Iranians would be puzzling their head for seven years about whether the man was spying for the CIA or was just the kind of tourist who liked to ask questions about strategy and military preparedness in all the hot middle eastern vacation spots. So worn out is this excuse that the family, for whom the NYT has been extending such noble pity, has been suing the CIA in court about Levinson – a real coverbreaker, that.
Yet the bottom of the affair is not the coverup, but the lying:
“As the website Gawker has pointed out, The Times has repeatedly and without attribution falsely described Mr. Levinson as being on a business trip to Iran when he was captured. Two of those mentions were glancing ones in editorials; one was in a news story. In other cases, The Times attributed the “business trip” reference to family members or to the government.”
So nice of the Times not only to want to dry the tears of his bereaved relatives, but to lie as well to the rest of us. For after all, what does it matter to us if the actions of the Iranian government are portrayed as unprovoked aggression or the common response of nation’s to being spied upon? Get down too far into the granular level and we won’t be able to wage our good wars with our good military heros with a clear conscience!
Lately, I’ve been thinking a bit of the sentimental militarism that so sickeningly pervades American society at the moment in relation with a hopeful immune response against it – the inability of the powers that be to persuade the majority of the American public that Edward Snowden is a filthy traitor. Instead, a considerable portion of the population considers him a hero. His situation has been compared in the press to that of Daniel Ellsburg, but in my opinion the more interesting comparison is with Carl von Ossietzky.
Ossietzky, a committed anti-militarist, was the editor of one of Weimar Germany’s most famous lefty intellectual journals: the Weltbuehne. He was roundly hated by the right and the paramilitaries that formed after the German defeat in 1918. But what sent them overboard was a number of articles he published in 1932. Here’s a good summary from an article about the Weltbuhne by James Joll:
“Die Weltbühne not only accepted Germany’s responsibility for the war, it also repeatedly embarrassed successive governments by pointing out their failure to observe the disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and by reporting secret rearmament which was going on contrary to the terms of the peace settlement. To utter such criticisms or to draw attention to such matters led at once to the editors and contributors of Die Weltbühne being labeled as traitors by wide sections of the German public and by the nationalist press.
In 1932 the then editor, Carl von Ossietzky, and a contributor, Walter Kreiser, were charged with high treason (“Landesverrat“) and espionage because they had three years earlier pointed out that some of the activities of the Lufthansa Airline were being subsidized by the War Ministry and Admiralty and were in fact of a military nature forbidden by the peace treaty. Ossietzky was sentenced to eighteen months and although he might have left the country as Kreiser had done, he courageously went to jail.”
Ossietzky was not, incidentally, pardoned for making his “homeland” vulnerable to its foes even after World War II, although he’d been sent to a concentration camp when Hitler took power in 1933. His was definitely a case of “premature fascism”, and in the Cold war period it wouldn’t do to encourage such lack of patriotism. In fact, there is a whole slew of books blaming people like Ossietzky and his co-editor, Tucholsky, for Hitler – if only these lefties had been more understanding of the difficulties the Weimar Republic was withstanding! Luckily, in this country, we have no need to fear an Ossietzky at the NYT. Or, to quote from the infinitely mockable public editor’s article, when Jill Abramson, the NYT’s executive editor, was asked about the lies that the NYT had published ..
“Ms. Abramson called the unattributed statements that appeared in The Times “regrettable.””