Taking on the the NeoCons in Print

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Here’s a response to a historically inaccurate OpEd written by Lawerance Whitner, a scholar of history and a Peace Action Board Member.

Peace groups never shilled for Soviets

In “Forgetting evils of communism” (Commentary, Aug. 6), Jonah Goldberg makes a thoroughly unwarranted attack upon the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (the Freeze), suggesting they were “intellectual heirs to the ‘useful idiots’ Lenin relied on,” organizations whose activities “were aimed most passionately against America’s policies, not the Soviet Union’s.”

Actually, SANE emerged in 1957 as an organization dedicated to securing a nuclear test ban treaty and bringing the nuclear arms race under control.

It was never pro-Soviet. In fact, it played a central role in laying the groundwork for the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. President John F. Kennedy was so grateful for the work of Norman Cousins, SANE’s co-chairman, in securing the treaty that he presented Mr. Cousins with one of the original signed copies of the document.

Other prominent supporters of SANE during these years included Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Schweitzer and Walter Reuther – none of whom was, I think, an “intellectual heir” to Lenin’s useful idiots or a supporter of the Soviet Union.

Subsequently, SANE went on to urge a negotiated settlement of the Vietnam War, ratification of nuclear arms control treaties negotiated by Democratic and Republican administrations and economic conversion legislation.

Meanwhile, in the late 1970s, Randall Forsberg founded the Freeze campaign, which called for negotiating a U.S.-Soviet agreement to halt the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.

Backed by public support that pollsters reported as running from 70 percent to 85 percent, a Freeze resolution sailed through the House of Representatives in May 1983 by an overwhelming vote, though it stalled in the Senate.

In 1984, the Freeze became a key plank in the Democratic presidential campaign platform.

This political pressure was felt keenly by President Ronald Reagan, who made a 180-degree turnabout from his former opposition to nuclear arms control and disarmament and became a spokesman for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

SANE and the Freeze merged in 1987, and some years later, the new group was renamed Peace Action.

Today, with its headquarters located in Silver Spring, Peace Action is the largest peace and disarmament organization in the United States.

In short, Mr. Goldberg is a very creative writer but a rather poor historian.

Lawrence S. Wittner

Albany, N.Y.

The writer is a professor of history at the State University of New York, Albany and the author of the trilogy “The Struggle Against the Bomb.”

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