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Paul Craig Roberts is being facile in his defense of Robert E Lee

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By Dave Lindorff

In blasting the Counterpunch book reviewer Lee Ballinger as an "identity politics freak" for his favorable review of historian John Reeves book "The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee," OpEd News contributor Craig Paul Roberts makes some claims that are incorrect.

He claims that the lead commander of the Confederate Army, who was indicted for treason after the war, but who, along with other leaders of the Confederate rebellion against the United States escaped facing trial because of the intervention of President Ulysses S. Grant, and that it was an appropriate decision because Lee was no traitor, merely a Virginia patriot, and in any event was a Union soldier and then Confederate soldier he never been a slave-owner or supporter of slavery. He says the only time Lee actually owned or was responsible for owning slaves was when he inherited his father's plantation which had 200 slaves which the will stated were to be freed.

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Roberts claims Lee, before the Civil War even happened, "took a two-year leave" from the US military to settle the estate during which time he freed all his inherited slaves. As well,

However, accordiing to the Encyclopedia Virginia, the reality is that after his father died, "Robert E. Lee, as executor of his estate, was responsible for manumitting them within five years. He was widely criticized for takiing the full five years."

As well, the encyclopedia entry notes that far from opposing slavery, as some of his modern defenders claim, "During both the Maryland (18620 and Gettysburg (1863) campaigns, Lee's officers kidnapped free blacks and sold them into slavery." Other accounts also state that black Union soldiers captured by Lee's army were brutally killed, sometimes after first being paraded in front of Southern crowds to be spat on and abused, instead of being imprisoned as with white Union captives. In a prisoner exchange arranged with Gen. Grant, Lee refused to return black soldiers, which he referred to as "property" of the Confederacy.

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It should be noted, but Roberts pointedly did not, that many of Lee's descendants oppose his posthumous deification as a good guy.

If you want to know Lee's real thinking about the institution of slavery, read this letter he wrote in 1856:

"I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy."


Roberts doesn't mention in his effort to argue that the secession of the Southern states was not a civil war, but simply an assertion of "states' rights" -- the basic argument of a recidivist and revisionary history popular today in the south among white supremacists -- that many of Lee's own descendants think he should not be celebrated or lionized as some virtuous man. This

As the Rev. Robert Lee, a namesake and great-great-great-great nephew of the Conferacy's top general stated in a video critical of Trump's response to the Charlottesville alt-right violence:

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"Last night I was disheartened to hear Donald Trump, our president, make comments about Robert E. Lee as a great general, as an honorable man. These were far from the truth...Robert E. Lee fought for the continued enslavement of black bodies. It was for state's rights, yes, but it was for state's rights to own slaves."


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 
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9 people are discussing this page, with 16 comments  Post Comment


Daniel Geery

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It appears that several comments here were deleted. I continually see other strange happenings, particularly with Google, but other sites as well. I like to think I'm not alone in seeing desperate grabs by TPTB for full dominance control--in large part to confirm I have some semblance of sanity left.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 3:36:26 PM

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Do you mean comments on OEN are being deleted, or somewhere else?

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:15:06 PM

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Please see below.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 5:58:34 PM

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no comments were deleted or in any way handled on this article.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 4:18:49 PM

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See below, por favor...

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 5:58:01 PM

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Reply to Daniel Geery:   New Content

In this instance, it is my sanity! Or I'd prefer to call it overload. I had commented on another article by Dave and got confused. Apologies, most sincere.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 5:56:47 PM

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The Civil War was not fought to free slaves. Lincoln wanted to stop the South from seceding from the Union.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 5:52:40 PM

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You missed my point. The reason for the war was the Southern states seceding, but the reason the Southern states seceded was because the US was refusing to allow more slave states, and the southern states knew it was curtains for their retrograde economy based upon slave-labor plantations if they Congress were run by a majority of representatives from non-slave states where the emphasis was on industry or family farmers and hired labor.


The Emancipation Proclamation, which surely would have been passed for the entire country the moment the war ended, was passed when it was, and in the geographically limited way it was passed, for purely tactical reasons: to induce slaves in the South to rebel and demand their freedom, causing the South to devote needed troops to putting down rebellion, and to encourage union soldiers to fight and black residents of the north to enlist to fight.


If there had been no slavery, there would have been no secession, and if there was no secession there would have been no Civil War. The argument you are making Leslie, is specious, with all due respect. The civil war was not about tax policy, and it was not about states' rights. It was about a plantation-based mono-culture cotton and tobacco economic system based upon slave labor that was doomed but whose wealthy practioners decided to stretch out its lifespan and their profits by leaving the United States.


Dave Lindorff

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Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 6:11:05 PM

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We had a history teacher that tried to present the very same correct information you've imparted here. He filed a report about the text books supplied to him that had a number of points on various events that "weren't accurate".

This quest for truth brought our teacher some trouble with the school board and a media-fueled confrontation by some group (whose name I can't remember now) with ties to the American South. The teacher's job and license were in complete jeopardy, but thankfully, the teacher prevailed.

This was long ago, and in Canada, but it illustrates the scope of the harm being done by those who would subvert the truth through "selective writing" of history. If you can't trust the text books (and you really can't), what does that do to society moving forward?

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 7:04:10 PM

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Lies My Teacher Told Me is a prominent book criticizing the US history textbook industry. A People's History of the United States was written to supply an alternative.


It was not too long ago a public school teacher was fired in Pico Rivera CA (where the B-2 Armageddon bomber was first designed) for pointing out the folly and immorality of the current Terror Wars.


Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:49:00 AM

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For the most part I think you are correct.

However, the issue of states rights was a component of the American Civil War. When you consider that when this country was founded, you literally had 13 individual countries who acted on their own. Many people in each state, North and South, believed that their state was superior towards the federal governemnet.

You are right, the war would had been avoided if the slavery issue could have been resolved. But the issue of state vs federal power would not have been resolved. Another crisis would have caused the issue to re-appear.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 10:13:44 PM

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I agree, States Rights versus Federalism. Despite all our differences one can see the differences in bottom up (state rights) and top down (Federal coercion). The "Kingfish" offered bottom up and was successful until bludgeoned by top down powers to be long after the civil war. The struggle continues!

Huey Pierce Long Jr. (August 30, 1893 September 10, 1935), nicknamed "The Kingfish", was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and was a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935.

Share Our Wealth was a movement begun in February 1934, during the Great Depression, by Huey Long, a governor and later United States Senator from Louisiana. Huey Long first proposed the plan in a national radio address, which is now referred to as the "Share Our Wealth Speech".

Murder of Huey Long. On September 8, 1935, Weiss confronted and shot Huey Long in the Capitol building in Baton Rouge. Weiss was then cornered and killed by Long's bodyguards, being shot sixty-one times.

Huey Long right or wrong fought the same powers to be that we are facing today!

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 7:44:09 PM

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Why is this website covered in wingnut ads? It's offensive, and I often avoid this site for that reason. If I wanted to see this much idiot propaganda I'd just tune into Fox nooze...

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 10, 2019 at 6:51:44 PM

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This website does not have wealthy donors who support bombing and killing for fun and profit, or greed and glory.


Someone has to pay the bills.

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:44:12 AM

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Robert E Lee WAS an honorable man. So were the people who killed a half million babies in Iraq, and decided that was not enough and went to kill a million more. That is the definition of honor.


Consider what the word honor really means the next time you are in a courtroom. (Not all judges are rotten, of course; the rotten politicians that appoint them sometimes make mistakes.)

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 12:52:41 AM

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If the Civil War between the states was not considered an Honorable war by Honorable men, then was the War of Independence considered an Honorable war? Manufacturing consent can only be accomplished if those who actually sacrifice Treasure, Blood and life think that it is!

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing tactics, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception." -- Mark Twain

Submitted on Thursday, Apr 11, 2019 at 4:18:35 AM

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