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Can the Times Break the Liberal Mold?

It has taken decades to get the story right, but the New York Times magazine on April 11th actually ran a story headlined, “What the World Needs Now Is DDT.”  Author Tina Rosenberg admits that the environmentalism popularized by the Rachel Carson book “Silent Spring” is “killing African children”?millions of them today because of the banning of DDT which resulted.

Rosenberg, an editorial writer for the paper, said that when she re-read the book, she was “struck by something that did not occur to me when I first read the book in the early 1980’s.  In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions.”

That story is a great breakthrough.  But it is far more common to find stories like the one appearing in the Times on April 10 by Hugh Eakin, which attempts to blame Islamic terrorism on the U.S.  Eakin’s source is Mahmood Mamdani, described as “a Uganda-born political scientist and cultural anthropologist at Columbia University.”  Eakin says that Mamdani argues that terrorism “is largely an outgrowth of American cold-war foreign policy.  After Vietnam, he argues, the American government shifted from a strategy of direct intervention in the fight against global Communism to one of supporting new forms of low-level insurgency by private armed groups.”

One can sense from this statement of his blame-America view that he is far more than an objective academic.  Indeed, he is described by various sympathetic sources on the Internet as a radical or a Marxist.  He is a regular contributor to Monthly Review, a socialist magazine, and contributes to the Socialist Register, a publication that currently highlights “The New Imperial Challenge” and the dangers of “American empire.”  Explaining Mamdani’s view, Eakin says, “The real culprit of 9/11, in other words, is not Islam but rather non-state violence in general, during the final stages of the stand-off with the Soviet Union.  Using third and fourth parties, the C.I.A. supported terrorist and proto-terrorist movements in Indochina, Latin America, Africa and, of course, Afghanistan? The best-known C.I.A.-trained terrorist, he notes dryly, is Osama bin Laden.”

Dryly or not, there is no evidence that bin Laden was trained or paid by the CIA.  Richard Miniter’s book, Losing bin Laden, notes that the CIA supported other factions against the Soviet occupation army in Afghanistan, and that bin Laden was supported by the Saudis.  It is certainly true that bin Laden may have benefited from U.S. support of the campaign to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan.  But that doesn’t mean that one can blame the U.S. for bin Laden’s radical Islamic terrorism two decades later.

Mamdani’s view is that Soviet client states were just “nationalist movements influenced by Marxist-Leninist principles,” Eakin writes.  Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. should be ashamed that this kind of blatant Marxist propaganda could find its way into his paper.  Walter Duranty, the Times reporter exposed as an apologist for the old Soviet Union, would be proud.