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Jewish World Review March 3, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

David Limbaugh

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Cold war libs still don't get it | Some have suggested the conservatives' hawkishness toward Saddam Hussein can be traced to their search, since the end of the Cold War, for new bogeymen to replace the Soviet Communists as the focus of their aggressive propensities. They're wrong.

It is not the conservative psyche that needs analysis. Conservatives were right in the Cold War -- so right that liberals are pretending they were with us all along -- and they are right about Iraq. It is leftists who need to account for their consistently disgraceful positions throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror.

That's where Mona Charen's "Useful Idiots, How Liberals Got it Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First" comes in. In this scholarly, yet page-turning read, Mona finally brings liberals to account, not just for their behavior during the Cold War, but because they're at it again.

With meticulous research and trenchant analysis, she irrefutably documents the common threads tying yesterday's war protestors to today's with a clarity that only Mona's crisp pen can deliver, making the book historically instructive and currently relevant.

Book reviews are difficult because you can only provide a snapshot of a book's voluminous material. But let me just share a number of uncanny similarities between the anti-Vietnam War left and today's war protesting throngs that I gleaned from the pages of this excellent book.

  • Liberals have never admitted their error in misjudging the Communists, even after the slaughter of 2,000,000 Cambodians when we exited Indochina. Worse, they've even rewritten history to include themselves as Cold Warriors. Today, they are at it again with an equal degree of sanctimony and a comparable dearth of credibility.

  • Liberals were more contemptuous of Cold Warriors than they were of the Soviets; today, they are more contemptuous of President Bush and conservatives than Saddam Hussein.

  • As such they protested in the streets against America (then and now), but not against the murderous Soviet or Iraqi regimes.

  • Their anti-war protests were not just about the Vietnam War, and they're not just about Iraq. In both cases they have decried and despised America for everything from its "materialism" to its "militarism."

  • The protestors in both cases have been "Useful Idiots" -- useful to the Soviets and to Saddam. With the devastating information in the book as to their culpability concerning the Cold War, however, one wonders whether at this point "idiot" is too charitable a term. But I won't quarrel with the title.

  • The protestors of yesteryear denied sympathy for the Communists, all the while romanticizing Soviet life and Castro's Cuba. Today, they insist they have contempt for the "despicable" Saddam, yet appear utterly unwilling to back up those words with action.

  • In the sixties, they leveled outlandish, conspiracy-based allegations that America was in it for South Vietnam's minerals. Today, they say it's the Iraqi oil fields, even though we had those for the taking in 1991 and allowed Saddam to keep them.

Mona even answers those -- then and now -- who claim it is outrageous to accuse war opponents of being anti-American. That's not what Mona and other conservatives are saying. Indeed, Mona readily admits that "a reasonable and credible case could have been made, and here and there was, that sending ground troops to Vietnam was neither prudent nor necessary." But most of the protestors weren't making that reasonable case; that's not what they were about. Too often their efforts were "dishonorable and dishonest," and their "willful blindness to the reality of the Communist enemy was a grave moral lapse."

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Similarly, most conservatives would agree that a reasonable case can be made to oppose the war against Iraq, and by no means are all who oppose it guilty of the attitude and behavior Mona describes in her book. But a good number of them are, and they are of the same ideological blood as their Vietnam-protesting and Cold-War-denying predecessors, and have the same egg of culpability and shame on their faces.

You will want to add this book to your library. You'll find that you don't have to wait hundreds of years to forget lessons of history -- just a generation or less can erase memories. But books like this remove the erasers. You'll be glad you bought it.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.