Miss Ross, Mr. Buchanan, the Pope & God

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:19

    Bad Rubbish If Pius XII was Hitler's Pope, I'm Monica Lewinsky. Leave it to an Englishman?one John Cornwell?to come up with such crap, and Vanity Fair to publish excerpts. After all, it was a fellow English self-publicist and lunch-bucket pilferer, Christopher Hitchens, who libeled Mother Teresa in the same magazine three years ago. Now, yet another Brit who never feels bound by the despotism of fact wants us to believe that Pius XII was anti-Semitic and soft on Hitler. Better to be raped by a Transylvanian leper than to have to listen to such crap, says poor little me. What I love about the English is the extent of their hypocrisy and deviousness. To avoid accusations of a hatchet job, Cornwell's spin doctor tells us that the author set out to defend Pius XII, and was so horrified by what he found in the Vatican archives that he wrote an angry denunciation. Cornwell, like the Clintons, is a bald-faced phony and a liar to boot. The title of the hatchet job is appalling, and nowhere borne out by the evidence. Profit and publicity aside, Cornwell's reasons for publishing such rubbish is the attempt to have Pius XII declared a saint by the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, and by branding him "Hitler's Pope," Cornwell is aiming a dagger at the heart of this campaign.

    Here are the facts, although, as Pat Buchanan is finding out, they no longer count when they stand in the way of a good yarn. Hitler was determined to do what he did and no pope, or power for that matter, would have deflected him. Churchill and Roosevelt are open to the same criticism as Pius XII, and the latter had no military divisions with which to persuade the Fuhrer to change his mind. Pius XII knew the German-speaking world very well. He knew that it was full of well-meaning people who were both Roman Catholics and supporters of National Socialism. He had two choices. Try to sway the Roman Catholics to think again about their allegiance to Hitler?and risk putting millions in jeopardy if he issued a denunciation of the Nazis?or speak sotto voce and try to help as best he could. He wisely chose the latter option.

    It is easy for an opportunist like Cornwell to judge 60 years on. And even easier to bash Catholics, as seems to be the order nowadays. (Giuliani cannot be more correct about the Brooklyn Museum. The Saatchi collection has absolutely no merit, and what I'd like to see is Saatchi?an Iraqi Jew who made his fortune in advertising?exhibit the equivalent of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung but substitute the Prophet Mohammed in her place. In no time the Muslims would put out a fatwa on his ugly head, and like Salman Rushdie he would have to give up the London high life. I will not, alas, hold my breath for a Catholic fatwa to be declared.)

    Pius XII bore an intolerable burden, and threaded the needle throughout the war. Let us not forget that he had in his flock the neutral Irish (de Valera was an open admirer of Hitler), plus the neutral Spanish, Portuguese and pro-Axis Italians.

    Calling someone anti-Semitic has always worked wonders since the Holocaust. Abe Rosenthal smeared me with it because I admire the fighting qualities of the German army and have said so. When our house was occupied by German officers, who, incidentally, behaved impeccably, we had a Jewish man posing as my mother's brother living in our midst. Just before the Germans arrived my father told him to shave his beard. No sooner had he shaved than Daddy told him to grow it again: "You look more Jewish without it." Just before he left for the Middle East, Capt. Murgen told my mother he knew very well that "Nico" was not her brother. "Not all of us are monsters, cher madame..." (Murgen used to take me in his lap and I would sing "Ach du lieber Augustine" to him. I am writing a memoir of all this, which should make the professional anti-Semite watchdogs very happy. The German officers particularly admired my mother, because the day after war was declared she saw five brothers and a husband leave for the front. No Clinton she.)

    The complexity of true historical judgment is mind-boggling. Yet the burden of proof against Cornwell's argument is overwhelming. The bad reputation of Pius XII owes a great deal to the notorious Hochhuth play of 1963. Cornwell's book is simply the coup de grace. The truth is that the Vatican was one of the first to denounce the evils of Nazism, in Pius XI's encyclical of 1937, an encyclical that Cardinal Pacelli, later Pius XII, helped write. In 1937 the West was still trying to make up its mind about Herr Hitler. So much for the facts.

    Which brings me to Pat Buchanan. I am sorry we are losing Scott McConnell to his campaign, but proud that Pat knows a good man when he sees one. (If I were Buchanan I, too, would switch parties; he went to the Republican National Convention in 1996 with three million votes and 200 delegates and wasn't even allowed to speak.) Although MUGGER will never lunch with me again because of my defense of Buchanan, I must nevertheless defend him in the cause of truth.

    All Buchanan said was we should have fought Hitler in 1942, after he and Stalin had exhausted themselves. And it is preposterous to suggest that Hitler could have threatened Uncle Sam after he had lost the Battle of Britain. Pat did not say anything worse than what George Szamuely suggested a month ago in this space: England and France went to war over Poland and nevertheless seven million Poles died. We did not go to war over Czechoslovakia, and not only did Prague remain intact, but only 100,000 Czechs perished.

    Many historians agree with Pat, starting with Niall Ferguson and the great, late Alan Clark, who believed to his dying day England could have made peace with Hitler in 1941 and saved European Jewry. Buchanan wants a foreign policy that is undistracted by various ethnic groups who plead their cases in Congress, starting with the Israeli lobby, and if that makes him an anti-Semite pigs may fly.

    The media, needless to say, has been disgraceful. Let me give you an example of the yellowness and shallowness of American television. Last week on CNBC, Geraldo Rivera, the Clinton shill who has managed to trivialize even a downmarket program like his, allowed Alan Dershowitz to slander Buchanan and rant nonstop about anti-Semitism. Dershowitz called Pat a liar because Pat wrote that the American national anthem was booed in a soccer match between the U.S. and Mexico. This was reported in the Los Angeles Times. Rivera, of course, did not want to know. Dershowitz ranted on, his eyeballs protruding behind thick glasses, his mouth twitching like a blowfish on cocaine, obviously someone conceived by a man with a dose of the clap. If this is a serious professor, I'm Hillary Clinton.

    And it got better when Pat came on. Rivera is such an ignoramus he told Buchanan that England and France were under attack when they went to war over Poland on Sept. 3, 1939. The fact that hostilities didn't break out until May 1940 is immaterial to the man whose breathless autobiography named the women (Marian Javits, Margaret Trudeau and Bette Midler among others) whom he'd bedded. A gent of the old school, obviously.

    When Pat denied being an anti-Semite since hundreds of Jewish editors picked up his column, the Puerto Rican sage came up with, "is that another way of saying Jews control the media?" Last but not least, he asked Pat "Is it true that you never met a Nazi war criminal you didn't like?" Pat had defended Demjanjuk, a man whom an Israeli court judged innocent, but also said he thought Barbie should've been shot or hanged. Watching that program I realized why Clinton keeps getting elected. Too many Riveras and Dershowitzes pulling the wool over the eyes of the people.


    Sam SCHULMAN HAMLET Is God So Godawful? The plot of a new French novel tries to imagine living in a world that believed in God. In it, an academic philosopher discovers an entirely new logical proof for His existence. The intellectual world finds it as irrefutable as the Black-Scholes equation. As a result, scientists, intellectuals and businessmen start leaning back on their heels, utterly blissed out, slacking. In the end, the Church has to take steps to suppress this knowledge so things can get back to normal. We're hardly in that boat, you might say, but we're in a situation so opposite to it that it begins to seem familiar. We're living through an outbreak of attacks on religion of such fury that the fury begins to seem suspicious. Several commentators have noticed that most of the school child massacres of the last couple of years?Paducah, Columbine, Fort Worth?have targeted children making public displays of piety: attacks on Christianity itself.

    I see this as the extreme side of another less violent but no less obsessive concern with Christianity. Liberal Jews and gay men and women seem to have lost their heads about, of all things that don't concern them, the Roman Catholic Church. Without priests and nuns to kick around, the lights of Broadway and Off-Broadway would be darker places. For Jews the question is more complicated. In our feelings toward someone else's church we seem to have put off our feelings of having been let down by our own God. The Jewish establishment is besotted with the notion that, of all the forces that conspired to allow Hitler to rise to power, the most powerful was the Vatican. John Cornwell's ridiculous new book on Pius XII merely proves how weak this case is. True, Pius XII might have made more meaningless gestures than he did (and he did make some), but they would have made no difference. If the Concordat with the Nazis had not been signed, nothing would have been different. Hitler regarded believing Catholics, properly, as his enemies, as he believed all Christians to be.

    If one were to make a list of parties who could have prevented Hitler's accession to power, you'd start with the other German political parties, with Stalin and his German Communists?just about everyone but the poor Catholics.

    In fact, what the Jews ought to be disappointed in is our own "idols of the marketplace": our belief in democracy, the basic goodness of man, patriotism, socialism, idealism. The German Jews lived by these beliefs and were betrayed by them. But it is the Roman Catholic Church that, all agree, must apologize. (We're just as nutty about what we call "fundamentalist Christians," and Jeff Jacoby in the Globe has brilliantly punctured the hand-wringing in the Jewish liberal establishment about prayers for the conversion of the Jews.)

    As for gays and lesbians, their obsession with nuns and priests, the supposed disciplinary procedures of parochial schools, the mockery of the Mass, make no more sense. The church was hardly the most antihomosexual of religious authorities: Indeed the stricter interpretation of celibacy that grew in the Victorian era meant that it was as much a refuge for homosexuals (and even pederasts) as it was a persecutor. And the Roman Church's de-emphasis of Bible reading by the populace meant that it spared the people the most eloquent denunciations of sodomy (such as Leviticus 18:22).

    The point is this: It's nothing that the Catholic Church says or has done or not done. It's what Americans want to see in the church rather than what is there. Americans?most of us non-Catholics?can't escape from seeing the Roman Church as the fount of transcendent authority and sacred order: a stand-in for God. There is something about its self-confidence that simply drives us nuts.

    What is closest in this country to an official intellectual establishment, ensconced in academia and the entertainment industry, wants us to believe that divinity resides in the hands of anti-Semitic, homophobic popes on the one hand and mad fundamentalist preachers on the other. But the extremity of this view reveals that Divinity is seeping in through the cracks.

    Think about it: What's so bad about God? When atheism first began to avoid the stake in the late 17th century, free-thinkers adopted a tone of calm, scientific unbelief, in contrast to the heated piety of the faithful. Nowadays the big fanatics are the unbelievers.

    Contemplating the anti-Catholic antics of the Gay Pride festivities, the superiority to faith of movies like Stigmata, you might squint your eyes and see something else going on. It's not mockery but rather self-loathing, not affected superiority but a sign of yearning for belief?and a bitter envy of those who can accept that there might be something to believe in other than the cold and solitary self. It may still be the case that the notion of St. Edith Stein drives poor Anne Roiphe off her nut because Ms. Roiphe is, without knowing it, a saint herself.


    Jim Holt THE TIRED HEDONIST God Is Godawful: A Response Sam: As usual, your argument is long but vigorous, like the penis of a jackass. It can be refuted quite succinctly, however. Antireligionists are not secretly envious of believers, as you say. They are contemptuous, and reasonably so. For the God that believers worship, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is not a fit object of veneration. Consider: Broccoli quiche exists. Either God is willing but unable to prevent it, or He is able but unwilling. In either case He cannot be both all-powerful and all-good. Therefore, He is God in name only?if He exists at all.

    What I am alluding to here, of course, is the Problem of Evil. What can we think of a God who did not lift a finger to prevent the Holocaust? I have heard believers advance the strangest hypotheses to account for this divine defect. God's omnipotence is constrained only by the laws of logic, one of them once told me, and the laws of logic, properly elaborated, imply Einstein's theory of relativity. Thus God cannot act faster than the speed of light. So, the believer continued, it is possible that by the time God heard of the Holocaust it was too late for Him to do anything about it. He rushed here as fast as he could, but by the time He arrived it was over. Unfortunately, this excuse is not available to Pope Pius XII.

    When you look at the way things are in this world, the idea that it is presided over by a Being who is 100 percent good and 100 percent powerful is simply ludicrous. Indeed, the hypothesis that best explains the world is that it is presided over by a Being who is 100 percent malevolent but only 85 percent efficient.

    Then there is the question of Jesus' character. This is not something that you, Sam, as a Jew, have to worry about, but Christians have some explaining to do. Take the incident of the Gadarene swine in Luke 8:26. When Jesus cast the demons out of the possessed man, why did He send them into a herd of innocent pigs, who were then caused to run downhill into a lake and drown? Being all-powerful, He could just have easily dispersed these demons into the ether. I'm sure that is what Socrates or Buddha would have done. There is also the curious story of the fig tree (Mark 11:12). Jesus is hungry, we are told. "And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.'" The next morning the poor fig tree is observed by Jesus' disciples to have withered away. Was this a meet punishment for the crime of not bearing fruit out of season, or was it just a fit of petulance on Jesus' part?

    The most distressing thing in the Gospels in Jesus' evident relish of the idea of his enemies being cast by angels into a "furnace of fire" where "there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Recently the Vatican has been backpedaling a bit on hell. It is not really a subterranean place of fire and brimstone, we are now told, but a "state of being" in which the damned soul suffers from the deprivation of God.

    And why should anyone be consigned to this eternal fate? Because they have, in an inexplicable exercise of their free will, died in a state of mortal sin?that is the dogma, at any rate. It is sometimes difficult, however, to know just what a mortal sin is supposed to be. In the film Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen briefly visits Hell. Approaching one of the damned, who is being tormented by a demon, Allen asks him what terrible thing he did to end up there. "I invented aluminum siding," the man mournfully replies. Now, why couldn't an omniscient God have foreseen that and simply refrained from creating a man who would abuse his free will in this particular way? In other words, why didn't God elect to bring into being only those souls who would use their free will for good rather than evil? Then absolutely everyone created would end up in Heaven wearing ermine and eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets for all eternity.

    In fact, the Catholic Church "has never truly declared that a person?not even Judas?has damned himself," according to a recent editorial in La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine in Rome that is said to have close ties with the Vatican. Is it really possible that the ultimate population of Hell will be zero? That was the fond belief of the third-century theologian Origen, a man so holy that he castrated himself to ward off unwelcome desires. So great is God's goodness, Origen taught, that in the fullness of time even the blackest and most wretched souls will be brought to salvation. Even Anne Roiphe.

    I do not think that the antireligionists will be much assuaged by this doctrine. Yet there does seem to be some hope for a future rapprochement between the forces of religion and of antireligion in our society. Last spring the Vatican made it known, in a very cautious and nuanced way, that it did not necessarily consider masturbation to be in all circumstances completely wicked. I am sure this will come as good news to secular humanists and diabolists of every stripe, just as it will to several of the writers on this page.


    Toby Young ARRIVISTE Touched This hasn't been a month in which I've felt particularly proud to be British. First there was the revelation that Melita Norwood, an 87-year-old great-grandmother, had been a KGB spy during the 40s. Next we were told that a Stasi spy ring had been operating in Britain in the 70s and 80s. Then came the news that the British government had decided not to prosecute any of these traitors. It wasn't until last week that some semblance of nationalistic pride was restored to my breast. Finally, it seemed, the British security services were doing their job: they'd arrested Diana Ross. As you've heard, the ex-Supreme was frog-marched off the Concorde last Wednesday after a female security officer at Heathrow complained of being assaulted by her. According to Ross, the officer touched her breast during a routine search after she'd set off the metal detector, and she retaliated by touching the security guard's breast. "How do you like it?" snapped the 55-year-old diva.

    There's no doubt the police acted correctly. It's almost impossible not to make physical contact with a woman's breasts in the course of frisking her. Indeed, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, I briefly considered a career as a Heathrow security officer for precisely that reason. To respond, as Ross did, by lashing out at the security guard, was completely inappropriate. Airport security officers have, on occasion, touched my penis?no, not in George Michael-type situations, but during routine body searches. Yet it's never occurred to me to retaliate by grabbing their crotches. Ross was lucky to get off with a caution.

    A spokesman for the British Airport Authority put his finger on exactly why the postmenopausal singer acted out in the way she did. "Occasionally, high-profile celebrities take offense at having to comply with the same procedure as other passengers, and it would appear that this has been the case," he said. (He might as well have held a sign up with the words "Hissy Fit" on it in huge capital letters.) It's not hard to imagine Ross' fury on being treated like an ordinary member of the public. She's the Norma Desmond of Rock 'n' Roll.

    Some cynics have suggested it was all a publicity stunt, an attempt to boost sales of her new album, Every Day Is a New Day, which isn't about to go platinum any time soon. A similar theory circulated when Hugh Grant was caught with his trousers down on Sunset Blvd. just before Nine Months was released. However, it's naive to imagine celebrities only behave badly when they have an album or a film to shill; most of them act like pigs all the time. The theory that Diana Ross provoked her own arrest in order to get a little press attention presupposes that her diva-like behavior was out of character, that ordinarily she wouldn't carry on in such a high-handed manner. In fact, she's famous for being a world-class prima donna.

    According to Michael Browne, a former assistant road manager for Miss Ross?she insists on being called "Miss Ross"?she got through 42 secretaries in five years. "All you had to do was say one thing she didn't like or ask a question without her permission," he told The Times of London, "and you were out." Her most recent tv movie, Double Platinum (ha!), contains a scene in which Ross imperiously orders her costar to take her chewing gum out of her mouth. This turned out to be an unscripted on-set moment that found its way into the film. Thirty years of fame will give even those from the most humble backgrounds an aristocratic sense of entitlement.

    Heathrow's security staff are notorious for being unimpressed by such illusions of grandeur. One of the pleasures of returning to Britain from New York is passing through Nothing To Declare and seeing some German industrialist being humiliated by customs officers, the contents of his suitcase sprawled all over a desk as it's picked through by hatchet-faced security officers looking for kiddie porn. No doubt in other countries customs officers show some deference toward these plutocrats, with their handmade shoes and Louis Vuitton luggage. But in Britain, where our feudal class system has created a festering cesspool of envy and resentment, members of the lower orders never pass up an opportunity to embarrass their social superiors. Oddly enough, I've never been stopped.

    Earlier this year, Harvey Weinstein ran afoul of the Concorde's flight attendants when he lit up a cigar somewhere over the Atlantic between New York and London. (Perhaps he was celebrating the fact that he'd hired Tina Brown as a glorified D-girl.) British Airways has a strict no-smoking policy?duh!?and he was asked several times to extinguish the offending torpedo. The Concorde, by the way, is a very small aircraft, no wider than four seats abreast. Incredibly, the big bully refused, proving that those who come into daily contact with celebrities become infected with their droit de seigneur like a sexually transmitted disease. When the Concorde landed he was duly met by the police.

    The day after Diana Ross finally made it home she appeared on Larry King Live to relive her ordeal. Seeing her in the studio, with her moist-eyed look of wounded indignation, made me think perhaps it was a publicity stunt after all. People from all over America called in to complain about their rough treatment at the hands of Heathrow's security goons. As a glow of patriotism warmed my heart, I found myself hoping Larry himself would decide to run Britain's Nothing To Declare gauntlet on his next honeymoon. God knows what they might find if they submitted him to a really thorough cavity search, quite apart from all those celebrities, desperate for a little publicity.


    Scott McConnelL THE CONFORMIST Pat Smears The mere thought that Pat Buchanan might find in the Reform Party a national platform for his views on trade, immigration and foreign policy has plunged the punditocracy elite into a frenzy. The reasons for this are obscure. Its members can't really be worried Buchanan might become president, because no poll shows him drawing more than 15 percent. Nor can it be?as was the case after his New Hampshire primary win in 1996?that they fear Buchanan would take the Republican Party away from the corporate and neoconservative factions that now dominate it. If Pat left the GOP, his opponents would have the party to themselves; they could push for lower taxes for the rich, high immigration rates and a foreign policy of firing cruise missiles promiscuously all over the globe, without any significant opposition. This should delight the anti-Pat corps, but if the newspaper columns are any indication, they're more worried than ever.

    I think the source of the anti-Buchanan reflex is that deep down the media elites suffer from the fear?one they can never afford to acknowledge?that many of Buchanan's core positions are popular among both mainstream Republicans and Democrats, more popular than Buchanan himself. If he found a way to get them a hearing in the ideological marketplace, they would become institutionalized and impossible to ignore. Thus desperate to avoid anything like a straightforward contest of political ideas, the anti-Pat corps will do anything it can to distract the country from Buchanan's message: resurrect all the tired attacks from the last two campaigns, utilize innuendo to ensure that the word "German," or even better "Hitler," appears as often as possible next to Buchanan's name. Above all, don't let voters focus on his views. Not all Buchanan foes sink to this. At least not all the time. In The Weekly Standard, I have read thoughtful and incisive criticism (by Irwin Stelzer) of Buchanan's economic positions, noting that many of his arguments were compelling and?here is faint praise for you?based on "a respectable body of economic literature." Similarly Stelzer (writing in neoconservative Commentary) has acknowledged much of the justice in the immigration reform arguments now percolating in the Buchanan campaign, and virtually nowhere else in American electoral politics.

    Charles Krauthammer, a fervent anti-Buchananite, has managed to concede that Buchanan is the most intellectually stimulating candidate. But these are exceptions, published in the last year but not in the last week; all one can read now is drive-by smears. Exhibit A among many was a column by William Safire, the gifted Timesman who is on the mark three-fourths of the time. Homing in on a Buchanan Meet the Press performance in mid-September, Safire said that the candidate's main appeal was to the "resentful fringes" of left and right, those who felt "cultural resentment" of Jewish connections. The idea is to link Buchanan with uneducated anti-Semites, those who dwell in the proverbial fever swamps of American life.

    In the actual program in question, the discussion turned to a chapter in Buchanan's recently published A Republic, Not an Empire that discussed the impact of ethnic lobbies on American foreign policy. The relevant chapter resonates with (and duly footnotes) ideas found in two essays that appeared in the fall of 1997 in the nation's leading foreign policy journals. One was by Harvard's Samuel Huntington, probably the preeminent American political scientist of his generation, in Foreign Affairs. The other, in The National Interest, was penned by James Schlesinger, who served in the cabinets of presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter. Both men lamented the lack of any American strategic vision in the post-Cold War period, seeing our policies now driven almost entirely by special interest groups.

    You could say that their arguments are all wet. But you can't fairly claim that by pushing into the political arena the views of such eminent figures writing in the leading publications of the day, Buchanan is reflecting the "resentful fringes" of American life. It just ain't so.

    As with foreign policy, so too with immigration. Buchanan, who seems to be the only candidate who has given the issue the thought it deserves, has arrived at a position closer than anyone else's to that of the presidential commission appointed by Barbara Jordan. (Clinton ignored its recommendations.) It is also the view that reflects the majority of American opinion: Americans want immigration rates reduced. Again, one can argue that this position is wrong, but one can claim it is the position of the "resentful fringes" only by ignoring the facts.

    How successful will the obfuscation strategy be? Perhaps if enough columnists assert often enough that Buchanan's views are marginal and extremist, it will scare off people from finding out what they actually are. But communication isn't as tightly controlled as it once was: Many broadcast journalists practice balance and fairness with a sense of professional duty; the Internet disseminates all kinds of information. My guess is that the journalistic smear brigade will in the end fail?fail not necessarily at keeping Buchanan from being elected, for his third-party bid is a very long shot?but fail at keeping his views off the table. And if they fail, the American democratic ideal will be that much the healthier.


    Charles Glass THE LONDON DESK Crimes of State Santa Monica, CA ? I've fallen in love again. What's surprising is that it happened south of the pier. During my Los Angeles childhood in the 1950s, south of the Santa Monica Pier was as bad, in Hampton terms, as north of the highway. We always went north of the pier. It had the better clubs, from the Jonathan up to the Bel Air Bay, and ostensibly bigger waves. Mae West's white beach house stood about a mile north of the pier. As children, my sister and I were fascinated whenever she strolled out of the house in her platinum wig with a monkey on her back. She wasn't a junkie. She kept real monkeys along with a young muscleman boyfriend who died recently. Peter Lawford's house was south of Mae West's, but just north of the pier. Jack Kennedy used to stay there when he was visiting his sister Pat, Lawford's wife. After JFK became president, the beach folk would mob him on his forays from the house down to the water. As a good Republican, my mother wouldn't let us join the gawkers. She thought it was vulgar. Vulgarity and Democrats belonged south of the pier. That's where the Del Mar Club, always a poor cousin to those farther north, stood. Some time in the 1960s, as I recall, it became the alcohol treatment center of Synanon.

    Also south of the pier were Muscle Beach and Venice. I remember sneaking south to see weightlifters with crewcuts and tattoos holding women in leopard-skin swimsuits aloft in one hand. Venice, despite its attempt at canals and arcaded buildings, never fulfilled its creators' 1920s dream of becoming a California version of its Italian namesake. By the time I was born, the canals were sewers and the arcades provided shade for beggars. Shootings were common.

    So, what has this to do with falling in love? I'm staying in a hotel south of the pier, one of many that have been built since I escaped from California in 1972. This morning, I had a long swim in the cool Pacific and rode a few waves. I've walked along the beach and up to the pier. I've stared at the ocean from my hotel room, scanning the white sands north to Malibu. I've watched the colors that are born only in the death throes of day that is a Southern California sunset. And I realized, after 27 years in exile, that I love it. Not enough to come back and live here. It's tempting, but it is surrounded, after all, by Los Angeles. Los Angeles is more of a mess than it was when I moved out. The air is murderous, and the police could teach a few things to the Indonesian army. The LAPD has a long history of racism against Latinos and black people, whether American or immigrant. But they were generally regarded, at least when I was a kid, as fairly honest. A terrible period of police bribery and extortion ended in the 1930s when reformer Fletcher Bowron was elected mayor. He fired the worst of the officers who were caught. My father, a retired criminal lawyer, told me they then left town to work for a new police force out in the Nevada desert.

    Poor Las Vegas. In Los Angeles after the war, the police under Chief William Parker, honest as they were, persecuted homosexuals and came down hard on Parker's bete brun, racial mixing. Cops raided jazz clubs and apartments where blacks and whites fraternized. Their reward was usually an arrest for reefer possession. That was good for a few years in jail.

    Something more sinister is taking place now, and it goes to the evil at the heart of my hometown. Some policemen are making the law up. One ex-officer told the Los Angeles Times from prison, where he is serving time for stealing 8 pounds of cocaine, that police corruption had become a "cancer." Rafael A. Perez also confessed involvement in the shooting of an unarmed suspect who is now in a wheelchair. (A judge ordered the suspect's release from prison, but the LAPD are holding him in a secret location?they say, for his own protection.) The police commission is demanding an independent investigation into allegations of, in the L.A. Times' words, "stealing drugs, shooting and beating suspects, planting evidence and lying to cover for fellow officers." Injunctions against L.A. gang members that denied them their right of association are being called into question, because the police appear to have fabricated evidence to persuade the courts to grant the injunctions in the first place.

    In my adopted hometown, London, many juries no longer believe police testimony and, as a result, let the guilty go free with the innocent. Americans, too, are learning to distrust the police. Former San Jose police chief Joseph D. McNamara, who has called for legalization of drugs in America, recently wrote that "the harm to good cops and to society can be reduced if politicians abandon their demagogic calls for a police war against drugs. Police officers who are true partners with the community in reducing crime will be far more likely to report thugs on the force than cops who think they are part of a warring occupation army."

    The war on drugs has turned the cops in Los Angeles into an occupying force. Drug money has tempted them, as it has judges, politicians and young gangsters. McNamara writes, "State and local police made approximately 1.4 million drug possession arrests last year. Very few took place with search warrants? It is so common for police to lie about how they obtained drug evidence that the term 'testilying' has replaced 'testifying' in police jargon."

    It's not just L.A. It's most of the cities in America. It's London and Glasgow. It's everywhere that politicians have declared war on drugs and deployed police on the frontline. The politicians are as crazy and hypocritical as they were during Prohibition, when they were too cowardly to admit the whole thing was a catastrophe for the public and a windfall for criminals. Where is the constituency to which the politicians are answering? Who are the ordinary citizens that want to send children to prison for doing what most of them do at one time or another, smoke a joint? Who is shocked when one of Rupert Murdoch's verminous journalists outs the son of some celebrity for using illegal drugs? Where are the votes in this idiotic war? I cannot figure it out.

    Reports from London, meanwhile, are ominous. Two people I know have been attacked by thugs. Three young black men mugged and beat the colorful casino owner John Aspinall, who is in his 70s and has cancer. Another young black male attempted to rape a woman I hold dear. She managed to get away, but he terrified her. Racial attacks?black on white, white on black?are increasing. Meanwhile, the police in London follow government orders to devote most of their resources to the victimless crime of consuming a drug. Easier, I suppose, to fill the prisons with junkies than with violent criminals.

    I gaze lovingly out at Santa Monica and recall that Raymond Chandler immortalized it in the 1940s as Bay City. Its main characteristic: police corruption. Philip Marlowe took a hell of a beating from the cops here. He didn't say whether it was north or south of the pier, not that there's much difference these days.


    George Szamuely THE BUNKER Immoral Imperialism Nothing illustrates better the bizarre, cocooned world of the military-media complex than the vituperation currently being hurled at Pat Buchanan. By ridiculing America's increasingly desperate quest to make sure that nothing can happen anywhere without our okay, the former Cold War stalwart has touched a raw nerve. Ten years ago, policymakers and pundits were in deep despondency. The Cold War was over. Defense contractors faced bankruptcy. Washington "foreign policy" experts in well-appointed offices were about to lose their grants. U.S. government officials were threatened with a loss of international status. A massive operation had to be undertaken to uncover or?better?make new enemies. The world, we were suddenly informed, was more dangerous than ever. Americans would need to shoot and bomb and invade as never before.

    This new imperialism was to be a moral imperialism. The United States would spread the gospel of "human rights," or "religious freedom," or "protection of minorities" or "market democracy" and pick up protectorates, dependencies, satellites and client-states along the way. Its proponents?weedy and bookish?thrilled at donning flak jackets, watching military parades or coining vacuous phrases like "national greatness" (Bill Kristol's gem).

    There was just one problem. It was an imperialism that dared not speak its name. While the Milosevic-/Saddam-/Zhirinovsky-/Li Peng-equals-Hitler argument was fine for the talk shows and the op-ed pages, the public stubbornly insisted on seeing proof of national interest before supporting a military expedition.

    There were several ways out of this dilemma. First, one could lie shamelessly. Clinton was, of course, the master of this technique. To justify the bombing of Serbia he blathered on about the threat to America's trade routes in Kosovo. To justify the intervention in East Timor, he came up with the supposed threat to the "sea-lanes."

    Such tales are not exactly plausible. There is therefore an even better option: ignore the public altogether. The military-media complex, not the people's elected representatives, is to decide who is to be bombed, who is to be put on trial at the Hague and when. The more intellectually ambitious plumped for a third option. They came up with a fairytale history of the 20th century, intended to demonstrate America's indispensability to the triumph of virtue. America, we were told, fought two world wars and a cold war to rid the world of tyranny. Thanks to the exertions of the United States, millions had been liberated from the grip of despots. Democracy had spread to all corners of the globe. Markets had triumphed over governments.

    But America's work is never done. There are still people living under the dead hand of bureaucrats. How could America give up now? How could America betray its fundamental principles and abandon its dream of "market democracy" for everyone now?

    This half-witted version of history animates most of the nation's policy-makers and pundits. It serves to rationalize the cruise missiles, the starvation of Serbs and Iraqis, the support for terrorist organizations and the violent overthrow of governments. It is also the easiest to refute. Buchanan does it without breaking a sweat in A Republic, Not An Empire. He advances no vast claims of his own. He merely questions whether America's interventions really served to help the virtuous and vanquish the vicious.

    For instance, by throwing in its lot with England and France in 1917, the United States encouraged these two powers to refuse any compromise and to hold out for total victory, no matter how ruinous for everyone. The result was a defeated and humiliated Germany dreaming of exacting revenge. The path was thus cleared for Hitler. Had the United States stayed out, the outcome would not have been German victory. That had been out of the question since September 1914. Instead, there would have been a draw in the West, and a German victory in the East. The Bolshevik Revolution would have been snuffed out. We would have had no Hitler and no Second World War.

    On the Second World War, Buchanan's argument is quite simple. He points out correctly that Nazi Germany could not have been defeated other than through an alliance with Soviet Russia. Such an alliance was bound to carry a heavy price. Stalin would demand handsome compensation for the Soviet Union's exertions. In 1939-'40 he had already laid claim to most of what he was to obtain in 1945: the incorporation of the Baltic states, the Sovietization of Poland and so on. Neville Chamberlain and many of the so-called "isolationists" were not prepared to pay that price. Churchill and Roosevelt were. Is Hitler preferable to Stalin? Or is Stalin preferable to Hitler? These are interesting questions, but hardly worth going to war over.

    The alternative to intervention was to let Hitler and Stalin fight it out themselves. This offered little help to anyone who got in the way. But they did not receive much help anyway. America's contribution to Hitler's defeat was minimal. By the time of the Normandy landings in June 1944 the Third Reich lay in ruins. The only question remaining was when the Red Army would reach the English Channel. America's signal contribution?a very significant one?to the Allied War effort was to save Western Europe from Communism. It did nothing for the people of Eastern Europe. They exchanged Stalin for Hitler. But did Hitler ever really pose a threat to Western Europe to begin with? It is by no means obvious that he did.

    However, paychecks are on the line. So the response to Buchanan's arguments was bound to be hysterical. "Anti-Semitic," "admirer of Hitler"?such lies were entirely predictable. Abusive, vulgar, slanderous?they nonetheless get the job done. Buchanan is drummed out of civilized debate. It is certainly a much safer option than the attempt at intellectual refutation of the sort embarked on by The Weekly Standard. It hired someone called Robert G. Kaufman to provide supposedly heavyweight history as antidote to Buchanan's outrages.

    In his review Kaufman manages to pack in every cliche under the sun. Here is this gem: "American security has always depended on a European balance of power, which a German victory would have obliterated? [T]he United States went to war not just to maintain freedom of the seas and make the world safe for democracy, but to prevent the German victory that would topple a balance of power that was in the American national interest." Here is a perfect summary of the contemporary American ideology. Not only are American goals selfless, like making the "world safe for democracy," they also happen to be in the "American national interest" as well. Moreover, plucky little America is always coming up from behind, snatching victory at the last moment from the jaws of defeat.

    These tales may work for retarded 10-year-olds, but grownups should expect more. If the United States was really concerned about the consequences of German victory in Europe, then the time to have intervened was in September 1914. Just before the Battle of Marne was the last time Germany had a realistic possibility of winning the war. From September 1914 on Germany's war objectives were simply to return to the status quo ante. There is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that Wilson or anyone around him seriously believed in 1917 that Germany would win the war. Or that Germany posed the remotest threat to the United States. Wilson entered the war as a moral crusade.

    When it comes to the Second World War, Kaufman again follows the familiar script: "The fact is well documented that Hitler not only strove to dominate the entire European continent, but the entire world. He expected that he would eventually fight the United States, when he had the enormous resources of Eurasia at his disposal?" Marvelous stuff! But how exactly was Hitler going "to dominate the entire European continent," let alone "the entire world," when by 1940 his vaunted Luftwaffe had been defeated by the Royal Air Force and by 1941 his armies had been demolished outside Moscow and Leningrad? If Hitler posed such an overwhelming threat to the United States, then the time to have come in was in June 1940, following the fall of France, when Nazi Germany was at the zenith of its powers. In fact, the United States did not "come into" the war. It waited for Hitler to declare war first. Buchanan-haters' problem is with history, not with Buchanan.