The National Post, a Toronto daily of indeterminate politics, has just published a startling exposé about President Bush by a Canadian conspiracy buff named Jeet Heer, an academic at York University. His “exposé, ” which ran June 7, is spread over a page of the National Post under the ungrammatical headline: “TROTSKY’S GHOST/WANDERING THE/ WHITE HOUSE .” Then come subheads: “Bush Administration Influence — Russian Bolshevik’s writings supported the idea of pre-emptive war.” Aha, Trotsky, yes, Communist Leon Trotsky was the inspiration for the war in Iraq.
On top of the page and above the headline are the words of Stephen Schwartz, a Washington journalist. Their relevance goes unexplained. In three lines of large type which newspapers traditionally have reserved to announce the Second Coming, Schwartz is quoted as saying: “Nobody who is a Trotskyist can really be a pacifist. Trotskyism is a militaristic disposition. When you are Trotskyist, we don’t refer to him as a great literary critic, we refer to him as the founder of the Red Army.”
And on the same page is a huge full face photo of Leon Trotsky described in the cut line thus: “Leon Trotsky (above) has influenced such White House confidants as journalist Christopher Hitchens, below, an advocate for military intervention in the Mideast. ” The National Post
story said: “Despite his leftism, Hitchens has been invited into the White House as an ad hoc consultant.” Here you see scandalous editing at work. In the caption Hitchens is described as a White House confidant and in the story he becomes a mere “ad hoc consultant.” I thought to myself: If Hitchens is really a White House confidant then things must be really pretty bad. So, I asked somebody who ought to know the goings and comings of White House “confidants.” All I got was a snort of disbelief.
I would have thought that in the aftermath of the New York Times editing scandal, a responsible newspaper (which it was when Conrad Black, its founder and onetime owner, ran it) would do a little fact-checking or allow the victims of the Post’s conspiracy theorist to utter a word of comment in the same account. After all, Heer dotes on conspiracies of which he alone has knowledge. For example, not only are the Defense Department Trotskyites behind It All, but the same people are acolytes of the late philosopher, Leo Strauss, about whom Heer wrote in the Boston Globe last May: “….But if you read Strauss with a skeptical mind, the way he himself read the great philosophers, a more disturbing picture takes shape. Strauss, by this view, emerges as a disguised Machiavelli, a cynical teacher who encouraged his followers to believe that their intellectual superiority entitles them to rule over the bulk of humanity by means of duplicity.”
And it is Strauss’s and Trotsky’s ideas which have influenced the supposed members of Trotsky’s Fourth International and who today allegedly populate the Bush administration right into the Pentagon and the Oval Office. Heer is full of admiration for Trotsky, who was assassinated in 1940 at Stalin’s command. He refers to Trotsky as “a man of genuine intellectual achievement, a brilliant literary critic and historian as well as a military strategist of genius.” Is that all he was? Is this the same Trotsky, who mercilessly wiped out rebellious anti-Bolshevik soldiers and sailors at Kronstadt, the same Trotsky who later humbled himself before his loving comrades at the 13th Soviet party congress and uttered some of the most-groveling words ever heard: “The party in the last analysis is always right because the party is the single historic instrument given to the proletariat for the solution of its fundamental problems…I know that one must not be right against the party. One can be right only with the party, and through the party, for history has created no other road for the realization of what is right.”
And this is the man, this Trotsky, whose ideas are still so powerful that they presumably determined the course of American foreign policy and directed us into war with Iraq. Donald Rumsfeld, a Trotskyite tool? Were there crypto-Trotskyites in the Oval Office when Ronald Reagan undertook Operation Urgent Fury on October 25, 1983, the successful preventive strike against a Communist coup in Grenada?
Now there is little new in conspiracy theories about American politics and politicians. And it’s easy to shout “McCarthyism” at the York University academic as he describes pro-war intellectuals, like the historian Paul Berman as having “a Trotsky-tinged past” but there is something more sinister at work here: to rob the Coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents.
So what after all of this sound and fury is the startling conclusion of all the smearing? An important intellectual finding: STOP THE PRESSES: Trotsky and an earlier generation of disciples wouldn’t have supported the Iraq war.
And to this kind of fatuous journalism, the National Post devoted almost an entire page.
— Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for the Washington Times.