- Alexander Cockburn
Infobox journalist | name = Alexander Cockburn
birthname = Alexander Claud Cockburn
birth_date = Birth date and age|1941|6|6|mf=y
Andrew Cockburn, Patrick Cockburn
credits = CounterPunch, "The Nation", "
Wall Street Journal", " Los Angeles Times"
Alexander Claud Cockburn (pronEng|ˈkoʊbɚn "koh-burn)," born 6 June 1941, is an
Irish-Americanpolitical journalist. Cockburn was brought up in Irelandbut has lived and worked in the United Statessince 1972. Together with Jeffrey St. Clair, he edits the political newsletter "CounterPunch". Cockburn also writes the "Beat the Devil" column for "The Nation" and a weekly syndicated column for the " Los Angeles Times" as well as for " The First Post".
Life and career
Scotland, Cockburn grew up in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland, eldest son of the well-known sometime Communistauthor and journalist, Claud Cockburnby third wife Patricia Byron, néeArbuthnot (who also wrote an autobiography, "Figure of Eight"). He has two younger brothers, Andrew Cockburnand Patrick Cockburn, who are also journalists, and a half-sister, mystery writer Sarah Caudwell. In addition, journalists Laura Flandersand Stephanie Flandersare his half-nieces, daughters of his half-brother-in-law Michael Flanders, and actress Olivia Wildeis his niece, daughter of his sister-in-law Leslie Cockburn. After studying at Glenalmond College, an independent boy's boarding school in Perthshire, Scotland, and at the Keble College, Oxford, Cockburn worked in Londonas a reporter and commentator.
After moving to the United States, Cockburn wrote extensively for numerous publications, including "
The New York Review of Books", "Esquire", and "Harper's". Until 1983 he was a writer with " The Village Voice", originating its longstanding "Press Clips" column, but he was suspended, the "Voice" stated, "for accepting a $10,000 grant from an Arab studies organization in 1982." [cite news | title = Village Voice Suspends Alexander Cockburn Over $10,000 Grant | work = Wall Street Journal| publisher = Dow Jones| page = 12|date = 18 January 1984] [cite web | url = http://www.villagevoice.com/specials/0543,50th1984,69230,31.html | title = "This Year in New York History: A "Voice" Timeline" | accessdate = 2006-08-22 | year = 2006 | work = The Village Voice 50th Anniversary Special | publisher = Village Voice] His defenders charge that his criticism of Israeli policies was behind the firing. Cockburn has said that he left the Voice upon being offered a regular column in "The Nation" called "Beat the Devil" (after the title of a novel by his father). Since leaving the "Voice" he has also written columns for the " Wall Street Journal", " New York Press" and the " New Statesman". Cockburn has also been a regular contributor to the " Anderson Valley Advertiser".
Themes and opinions
There have been a number of consistent themes in Cockburn's political writing, among them:
*Outspoken criticism of
US foreign policy, from its policies in Central Americain the 1980s, including the Iran-Contra scandal, to the First Gulf Warin 1991, the Kosovo Warin 1999, and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2003 invasion of Iraq.
* Criticism of the government of
Israelbased on its treatment of the Palestinians.
* Calls for political reform in the United States, mostly focused on criticizing the Democratic Party for failing to provide a progressive alternative to the Republican Party, as well as strong support for
Ralph Nader's presidential candidacies in the 2000 and 2004 elections.
* Contempt for the mainstream establishment, in particular for public figures who, in his view, garner mainstream respectability by criticizing those to their left; targets have included the "
New York Times", Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the late academic Irving Howeand some of his colleagues at "The Nation," including Marc Cooper, David Corn[" [http://www.CounterPunch.org/cockburn1114.html The Anti-War Movement and Its Critics] ", Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch, 14 November 2002, accessed 29 April 2006] and Eric Alterman. Cockburn has also been highly critical (see below) of his former friend and colleague, Christopher Hitchens. [" [http://www.CounterPunch.org/snitch.html Hitch the Snitch] ", Editorial, CounterPunch, 1999, accessed 29 April 2006]
* Criticism of
9/11 conspiracy theories[ [http://www.counterpunch.org/ninelevenconsp11252006.html Debunking the Myths of 9/11] , by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, "Counterpunch", November 28, 2006 ] [ *en icon [http://mondediplo.com/2006/12/02conspiracy Distractions from awful reality - US: the conspiracy that wasn’t] , by Alexander Cockburn in " Le Monde diplomatique", December 2006 *fr icon [http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2006/12/COCKBURN/14270 Scepticisme ou occultisme? Le complot du 11-Septembre n’aura pas lieu] , by Alexander Cockburn in " Le Monde diplomatique", December 2006 * [http://ir.mondediplo.com/article1024.html Iranian translation] *pt icon [http://diplo.uol.com.br/2006-12,a1465 PODERES IMAGINÁRIOS - A "conspiração" das Torres Gêmeas] ]
Aside from the perspectives described above, Cockburn has others outside the U.S. mainstream. For example, he has criticized the
German governmentfor passing restrictive laws against the Church of Scientology, invoking several comparisons with Nazi Germany. Although he stated that Scientology deserved scrutiny, he also maintained that the demonization of any particular unpopular group — even one officials consider a cult— presented a far more imminent danger than the activities of Scientologists, or the organization they belong to. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20000615133733/http://www.scientology.de/scnnews/press/eng/mar/97031301.htm About Scientologists Take Offensive In Reich Land Statement From The Church Of Scientology ] ]
Cockburn's viewpoint on
Iraq, in particular during the rule of Saddam Hussein, was one not often seen in mainstream U.S. publications. He denounced the economic and political sanctionsimposed on the Iraqi governmentby the United Nations, but Cockburn was more aggressive than most in his criticisms of American and British actions during the 12 years between the formal resolution of the Persian Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. In a column published in 2000, Cockburn averred that the economic embargo imposed upon Iraq was "demonically designed to prompt gnawing, endless suffering throughout Iraq's social economy." In the same column, Cockburn concluded that every major Republican or Democratic nominee running in the 2000 presidential election was supportive of Iraq sanctions, and was therefore complicit in mass murder. [ [http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/2/2000/617 The Free Press - Independent News Media - Alexander Cockburn ] ]
Cockburn also joined the widespread criticism of the subsequent occupation of Iraq by American, British and other national military forces (the self-described "
Coalition of the Willing"). In the wake of the capture of Saddam Hussein, Cockburn penned a column entitled "How to kill Saddam," in which he argued that the ensuing trial of Hussein would be a mock tribunal, conducted by a " kangaroo court," and that Hussein's conviction and ultimate execution were foregone conclusions. [ [http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/2/2003/799 The Free Press - Independent News Media - Alexander Cockburn ] ]
In contrast, Cockburn's position on
global warmingis consistent with views usually held on the right. He believes the phenomenon has not been proven to be caused by humans, [ [http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn04282007.html Is Global Warming a Sin?] ] citing the statements of Dr. Martin Hertzberg that rising CO2 levels are a symptom, not a cause, of global warming, which Hertzberg asserts is the result of natural, predictable changes in the earth's elliptic orbit. [cite web
title=ZNet presents a debate about Global Warming between Alexander Cockburn and George Monbiot
year=2007] In fact, Hertzberg is a semi-retired explosives expert who does not claim to be a climatologist. [ [http://www.explosionexpert.com/pages/1/index.htm Martin Hertzberg, Ph D ] ] This has prompted accusations that Cockburn is not consulting with and deferring to the appropriate experts, much as he complains that 9/11 conspiracy theorists don't defer to the NIST. [ [http://www.counterpunch.org/ninelevenconsp11252006.html Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair: Debunking the Myths of 9/11 ] ]
Cockburn also has been critical of the author of the
Green Revolution. In an article in "the Nation" on Al Gore's 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, Cockburn made the following statement on Norman Borlaug's 1971 Nobel Prize: "Line up some of the more notorious Nobel Peace Prize recipients, such as Kissinger, and if you had to identify the biggest killer of all it was probably Norman Borlaug, one of the architects of the Green Revolution, which unleashed displacement, malnutritionand death across the Third World." Cockburn has criticized Borlaug previously on this issue. [ [http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20071105&s=cockburn The Real Al Gore ] ]
At times acerbic, Cockburn can also be gently and humorously ironic, once declaring
Gerald FordAmerica's greatest president for doing the least damage and praising the Lewinsky scandal's entertainment value. [ [http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/sep1998/cbrn-s02.shtml Prostration before reaction] , David Walsh, World Socialist Web Site, 2 September 1998, accessed 29 April 2006] In the same vein, he has also expressed his admiration for the beauty of both Tipper Goreand Laura Bush. His nudge-nudge, wink-wink brand of humor is demonstrated in his response to a question asking for a comparison between George W. Bushand Napoleon Bonaparte. He replied that he wasn't sure about Bush as Napoleon, "though surely Josephine's heart beats beneath Laura's delicious bosom." [ [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/opinion/articles/031222/22john.htm The extreme sport of insult] , Reported by John Leo, 22 December 2003, in US News and World Report online]
Cockburn and anti-Semitism
Cockburn has written a great deal on the use of
anti-Semitismaccusations in modern politics, particularly by the state of Israel and its supporters, and has co-edited a book on the subject, "The Politics of Anti-Semitism" [The Politics of Anti-Semitism (co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair) AK Press, 2003, Oakland, CA, http://books.google.com/books?id=yW3DYzUHcLwC] . Cockburn himself has also been accused of anti-Semitism, which he denies and considers an example of the use of that accusation to intimidate criticism of Israel and avert attention from Israel's policies.
One of those making anti-Semitism charges against Cockburn is Harvard law professor
Alan Dershowitz. In November 2005, Dershowitz wrote to the " National Catholic Reporter" that Cockburn's "Counterpunch" web site was anti-Semitic [cite web
date=11 November 2005
accessyear=2006] . This was in response to a review of
Norman Finkelstein's book "Beyond Chutzpah" by "Counterpunch" contributor Neve Gordon. Cockburn had previously accused Dershowitz, in 2003, of plagiarism, [cite web
title=Alan Dershowitz, Plagiarist?
date=26 September 2003
accessyear=2006] and, in October 2005, of supporting
torture. [cite web
title=When Divas Collide: Maureen Dowd v. Judy Miller
date=26 September 2003
accessyear=2006] Cockburn and Dershowitz have each denied the other's charges. Dershowitz has also claimed that Cockburn has been one of three writers (along with
Norman Finkelsteinand Noam Chomsky) who are engaged in an attempt to discredit him, which Cockburn has also denied. [" [http://www.jbooks.com/interviews/index/IP_Dershowitz.htm The Hazards of Making The Case for Israel] ", Alan Dershowitz, JBooks.Com Promotional Interview, accessed 29 April 2006] [" [http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=24 Nutty Professor Screams About "Plot" Against Him, Cites Troika of Evil] ", Alexander Cockburn, 28-30 May 2005, Norman Finkelsteinwebsite, accessed 29 April 2006]
A 2002 Cockburn article on anti-Semitic remarks by Reverend Billy Graham [cite web
title=When Billy Graham Planned To Kill One Million People
date=12 March 2002] reprinted elsewhere, [cite web
title=Billy Graham: War Criminal
publisher=New York Press
accessyear=2006] discussed the furor over recently released tape recorded conversations between Graham and President
Richard Nixon. Cockburn contrasted that response to the response to revelations in 1989 that Graham had advocated destroying Vietnam's irrigation infrastructure, which by Nixon's estimate would kill a million civilians, if the Paris peace talks failed. The latter revelations, in Cockburn's view, received little press coverage, while the anti-Semitic remarks caused a media firestorm. [cite web
title=Nixon, Billy Graham make derogatory comments about Jews on tapes
date=28 February 2002
accessyear=2006] [cite web
title=Nixon, Billy Graham target Jews on tape
publisher=St. Petersburg Times
accessyear=2006] [cite web
title=Nixon and the Jews. Again.
date=12 March 2002
accessyear=2006] Taking issue with what he argued was the media's selective shock, Cockburn wrote that Graham's anti-Semitic comments were
consonant with the standard conversational bill of fare at 75 percent of the country clubs in America, not to mention many aBut it was the article's final paragraph, quoted in part below, that allowed his critics to accuse Cockburn of spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories: [cite web|url=http://www.timeswatch.org/articles/2003/0716.asp |title=Kristof’s Conspiratorial Sources |accessdate=2006-07-20 |last=Waters |first=Clay |authorlink=Clay Waters |date=16 July 2003 |work=
Baptistsoiree? But they (Nixon, Graham, and White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman) didn't say they wanted to kill a million Jews. That's what Graham said about the Vietnamese and no one raised a bleat. TimesWatch|publisher= Media Research Center] [cite web|url=http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/fields062502.asp|title=The multiple facesof anti-Semitism |accessdate=2006-11-24 |last=Fields |first=Suzanne |date=25 June 2002 |publisher= Jewish World Review]
Certainly, there are a number of stories sloshing around the news now that have raised discussions of Israel and of the posture of American Jews to an acrid level. The purveyor of
anthraxmay have been a former government scientist, Jewish, with a record of baiting a colleague of Araborigins, and with the intent to blame the anthrax on Muslim terrorists. Rocketing around the web and spilling into the press are many stories about Israeli spies in America at the time of 9/11. On various accounts, they were trailing (Mohammed) Atta and his associates, knew what was going to happen but did nothing about it, or were simply spying on US facilities.
One of the Cockburn critics was
Franklin Foerof " The New Republic", who first noted Cockburn's response:
To be fair, Cockburn doesn't exactly endorse these theories. Rather, by noting that all of these Jewish conspiracy stories are "sloshing around the news," Cockburn seems merely to be pointing out that, hey, anti-Semitic ideas are still out there today--so why the shock that Graham endorsed them 30 years ago? Indeed, when I reached Cockburn to ask him about these conspiracies, he insisted he was just reporting what was already in circulation.
Part of Cockburn's response to the Graham article controversy is his ironically entitled essay "My Life as an "Anti-Semite", from the "The Politics of Anti-Semitism." Cockburn writes:
quote|Over the past 20 years I've learned there's a quick way of figuring out just how badly Israel is behaving. You see a brisk uptick in the number of articles here accusing the left of anti-Semitism. ...
Back in the 1970s when muteness on the topic of how Israel was treating Palestinians was near-total in the United States, I'd get the anti-Semite slur hurled at me once in a while for writing about such no-no stuff as Begin's
fascistroots in Betar, or the torture of Palestinians by Israel's security forces. I minded then, as I mind now, but overuse has drained the term of much clout. [Alexander Cockburn, "My Life as an 'Anti-Semite'", The Politics of Anti-Semitism (co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair) AK Press, 2003, Oakland, CA, pp. 21-22]
Cockburn and Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchensis often mentioned in connection with Cockburn because of their similar origins (Cockburn from Ireland, Hitchens from England), similar educational background, both being columnists at " The Nation", and their one-time friendship. Hitchens' ideological differences on various issues has caused a bitter falling out between the two. Beyond issues such as the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the split also involves ethical disputes involving writers such as Sidney Blumenthaland Edward Said. In a "Counterpunch" article in August 2005, Cockburn attacked Hitchens as: "A guy who called Sid Blumenthal one of his best friends and then tried to have him thrown into prison for perjury; a guy who waited til his friend Edward Said was on his death bed before attacking him in the " Atlantic Monthly"; a guy who knows perfectly well the role Israel plays in US policy but who does not scruple to flail Cindy Sheehanas a LaRouchie and anti-Semite because, maybe, she dared mention the word Israel." [cite web
title=Can Cindy Sheehan Stop the War?
date=20 August 2005
Counterpunch] Hitchens responded by withdrawing his criticism of Sheehan, but he defended his deposition to House prosecutors regarding Blumenthal during the Clinton impeachmentand his critical review of Said’s book, "Orientalism" (Hitchens stating that the review was determined by the 25th anniversary of the book’s original publication and not the state of Said’s health). [cite web
title=Hitchens Backs Down
date=24 August 2005
* "Incompatibles" (1967) (co-edited with
* "Student Power" (1970) (co-edited with
* "Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death" (1975)
* "Smoke: Another Jimmy Carter Adventure" (1978) (with
* "Political Ecology" (1979) (co-edited with
* "Corruptions of Empire" (1988) ISBN 0-86091-940-4
* "The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon" (1989) (with
Susanna Hecht) ISBN 0-06-097322-6
* "The Golden Age Is in Us: Journeys and Encounters" (1995) ISBN 0-86091-664-2
* "Washington Babylon" (1995) (with
Ken Silverstein) ISBN 1-85984-092-2
* "Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press" (1998) (with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-85984-258-5
* "5 Days That Shook The World: The Battle for Seattle and Beyond" (2000) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-85984-779-X
* "Al Gore: A User's Manual" (2000) (with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-85984-803-6
* "CounterPunch: The Journalism That Rediscovers America" (2002) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-85984-455-3
* "The Politics of Anti-Semitism" (2003) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-902593-77-4
* "Serpents in the Garden" (2004) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-902593-94-4
* "Imperial Crusades" (2004) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-84467-506-8
* "Dime's Worth of Difference" (2004) (co-edited with
Jeffrey St. Clair) ISBN 1-904859-03-8
* "End Times: Death of the Fourth Estate" (2006) (with
Jeffrey St. Clair
* "Beating the Devil: The Incendiary Rants of Alexander Cockburn"
* [http://www.CounterPunch.org CounterPunch website]
* [http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/alexander_cockburn Alexander Cockburn bio] at "The Nation".
* [http://www.outloudopinion.com Podcasts of Cockburn's recent articles]
* [http://www.booktv.org/program.aspx?ProgramId=7879&SectionName=In%20Depth&PlayMedia=Yes C-SPAN Interview] Archived three hour C-SPAN, InDepth interview, 1 April 2007.
NAME=Cockburn, Alexander Claud
SHORT DESCRIPTION=author and historian
DATE OF BIRTH=6 June 1941
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=living
PLACE OF DEATH=
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