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My Invitation to "The President's Dinner," Warmonger Podhoretz and Absurd Condi Rice

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Absurdity No. 2:

On June 1, 2007, BookExpo America 2007 will feature a panel discussion devoted to the topic, "The Ethics of Book Reviewing: The More Things Change….?" The panel will be led by Carlin Romano, book critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Board Member of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) and the individual, who "conducted a survey for the NBCC on ethics in book reviewing" almost two decades ago.

In preparation for the panel discussion, Mr. Romano issued an updated survey, one designed to take into consideration the proliferation of reviewers and reviews on "the brave new blogosphere." Being a NBCC member and, increasingly, a reviewer on the blogosphere, I dutifully completed the ethics survey.

Yet, after answering such questions as: (1) "Should a book review editor assign a book to a friend of the author?" and (2) Is it ever ethical to review a book without reading the entire book?" it occurred to me that the survey was more concerned about situational ethics connecting book publishers to book review editors to book reviewers than it was with the astounding ethical breaches that find their way into actual articles about books.

Two examples immediately come to mind. First, we have the egregious ethical lapse recently committed by Mr. Romano, himself. While discussing Noam Chomsky's book, Hegemony or Survival, Romano made the following outrageous observation: in Chomsky's book is "a world in which, chronology be damned, 9/11 seems like an understandable response, if not justifiable one, to our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq." [Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 23, 2006]

Not only did I call attention to Mr. Romano's calumny, I also notified Professor Chomsky about Romano's vile slander. He responded by writing a few choice words about Romano before noting that my response was "quite accurate."

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My response to Romano included the following observations: "I found nothing in Hegemony or Survival to suggest that Mr. Chomsky is either so illogical or dishonest as to assert that two events occurring after 9/11 - America's attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq - make the horrible attacks on 9/11 'understandable.'

Consequently, readers who recall his scathing review of Chomsky's book, 9/11 -- in which he called Chomsky a "pop-off" and "Noam the Foam" -- now have greater reason to question Romano's own integrity. Thus, I challenge Mr. Romano to clear his name and reassure his readers (including this reader) by providing evidence to support his seemingly vile "chronology be damned" accusation. Moreover, I remind Mr. Romano of Henry David Thoreau's famous observation: 'It is not all books that are as dull [or dishonest!] as their readers.'"

The second example is Norman Podhoretz's March 1983 article in Harper's, "If Orwell were Alive Today." Very similar in motivation to his Wall Street Journal article of May 30, 2007 ("The Case for Bombing Iran: I hope and pray that President Bush will do it"), in 1983 "Podhoretz appeared to embrace Orwell's fear that a long Soviet-American stalemate would cause the United States to increasingly emulate the "totalitarian" practices of its adversary, leading (as Orwell suggested in Nineteen Eighty-Four) to 'the division of the world among two or three vast totalitarian empires unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion.' [Norman Podhoretz, "If Orwell were Alive Today," Harper's, March 1983, p. 35]

Podhoretz also implied that Orwell would have found a nuclear war preferable to the prospect of creeping Western totalitarianism. He did so by claiming that Orwell 'thought that "the worst possibility of all," was that "the fear inspired by the atomic bomb and other weapons yet to come will be so great that everyone will refrain from using them.'" Moreover, Podhoretz offered this 'worst possibility' in the very same paragraph in which he discussed the intolerable nightmare of a worldwide totalitarian stalemate." [See, http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/Reviews/Poddy.html ]

Yet, one simply needs to recall the rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev and his successful initiatives to democratize the Soviet Union and end the Cold War peacefully to recognize the extremism and evil of Podhoretz's warmongering. Had Podhoretz's views prevailed, we would have unleashed nuclear war before Gorbachev came to power. He was wrong then and so is his lust for war against Iran today.

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Scholars who know Iran not only know that "Islamofascism" is a bogus term, they also know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is far less powerful than Podhoretz -- the Louis Farrakhan of American Jews - suggests. Moreover, there's reason to believe that Gore Vidal was correct when (in 1986) he asserted: Podhoretz's "first loyalty would always be to Israel." And, thus, Americans should be wary, lest the country's neoconservatives drag their sons and daughters into yet another misguided war for the sake of Israel.

But, beyond his despicable warmongering, we have Christopher Hitchen's studied opinion that Podhoretz's 1983 article about Orwell was: "Straight out of bad faith -- chopping bits that don't support his case out of an excerpt. If he had done that in the academy he would have been fired." [Ibid]

That such a man is still permitted to spread his warmongering filth is beyond absurd.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)

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