Alexander Cockburn
author and historian
Alexander Cockburn
Alexander Claud Cockburn was an Irish American political journalist and writer. Cockburn was brought up in Ireland but had lived and worked in the United States since 1972. Together with Jeffrey St. Clair, he edited the political newsletter CounterPunch. Cockburn also wrote the "Beat the Devil" column for The Nation as well as one for The Week in London, syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
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Books of The Times: ‘A Colossal Wreck’ Is Alexander Cockburn’s Take on America
NYTimes - over 3 years
In “A Colossal Wreck,” Alexander Cockburn puts forth his searing opinions on America.     
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NYTimes article
Our national pastime: Press criticism
Reuters Canada - almost 4 years
In early 1946, Albert Camus emptied into New Yorker press critic A.J. Liebling’s ear his plan for a new newspaper. “It would be a critical newspaper, to be published one hour after the first editions of the other papers, twice a day, morning and evening,” said Camus, who knew a thing or two about journalism, having recently resigned his editorship of the Paris daily Combat. “It would evaluate the probable element of truth in the other papers’ main stories, with due regard to editorial policies and the past performances of the correspondents. Once equipped with card-indexed dossiers on the correspondents, a critical newspaper could work very fast. After a few weeks the whole tone of the press would conform more closely to reality. An international service,” Camus told Liebling. Camus never found a backer for his “critical newspaper” and eventually left journalism. But the idea stuck to Liebling like duct tape, and he cited the interview in his 1948 book, The Wayward Pressman, as w ...
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Reuters Canada article
The enduring cliches of North Korea coverage
Reuters Canada - almost 4 years
If the family of nations has ever known a more recalcitrant son than North Korea, journalists have neglected to include it in their pages. No treaty, armistice, agreement, compact, or covenant signed by North Korea can ever be considered a done deal. A North Korean signature marks only a prelude to renegotiation or default on the part of that nation. It’s the sort of country that would phone in an immense take-out order and then, as the delivery man pedaled the bags of food through the Panmunjom checkpoint, would call back to demand a volume discount, stipulate that the meals be placed on a running tab, and then cancel the order before reordering, this time insisting on going off-menu. Upon receiving the check, North Korea would likely torch it. North Korea doesn’t change its views very often. Why should it, when it can hold two opposing points of view in its mind at the same time, campaigning simultaneously for war and peace, capitalism and communism, diplomacy and confrontation? Os ...
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Reuters Canada article
Palestine is Drying Up Before Our Eyes
Counter Punch - over 4 years
The water crisis in Palestine is 100% human-made, not a climate change catastrophe, not an issue of deforestation or drought.  Don’t let the location fool you; as Ziyad Lunat from the Thirsting For Justice campaign pointed out, “Palestine and Israel get the same amount of rainfall as England. “ We say Palestine, mind you, not the West Bank and/or Gaza and/or the Occupied Territories. When we say Palestine, we mean all of it.   The Palestine that is Gaza, the West Bank, the 64+ year flood of refugees in Jordan and Syria and Turkey and Chicago, the largest flood of refugees in modern history that span across the globe. This water catastrophe — this other type of nakba — is definitively the result of Israel’s apartheid policies that are being conducted continuously, evident in the waterborne disease spreading throughout Palestinian refugee camps that are perhaps not an accident, an inconvenient oversight.   Perhaps they are part of the continuing collateral damage of a so-called unsol ...
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Counter Punch article
Israel’s Master of Mischief
Counter Punch - over 4 years
Avigdor Lieberman has a restless nature. From time to time he has to do something, anything. As Minister of Foreign Affairs he should be doing something about, well, foreign affairs. Trouble is, Israel’s foreign affairs are managed by others. The most important sector of our foreign affairs concerns the relationship with the United States. Indeed, this is so important that Binyamin Netanyahu keeps it entirely to himself. Our ambassador in Washington reports to him personally, after being handpicked by Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire. Relations with the Palestinians are mostly (mis)managed by Ehud Barak, who, as Minister of Defense, is formally in charge of the occupied territories. The main actor there is the Shin Bet, which is under the authority of the Prime Minister. The relations with the Arab world, such as they are, are maintained by the Mossad, also under the authority of the Prime Minister. In practice, Netanyahu and Barak together make all the decisions, includ ...
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Counter Punch article
Conn Hallinan: Remembering Alexander Cockburn
Huffington Post - over 4 years
For Chaos heard his voice: him all his Traine Follow'd in the bright procession to behold Creation, and the wonders of his might. --Paradise Lost, John Milton It was fitting that writer and critic Alexander Cockburn's funeral should include a passage from Milton. For more than 50 years, Cockburn combined polished, erudite writing with fierce political insight in the tradition of the great 17th-century English polemicist. Cockburn died July 20 in Germany at age 71, following a two-year struggle with cancer. He was buried July 28 in his beloved Petrolia, Calif. It is hard to sum up his career because it was catholic in true meaning of that word: all-embracing. He wrote for newspapers in England as well as New York's Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation -- and, along with Jeffery St. Clair, founded the investigative publication CounterPunch. For more than 50 years, Cockburn was a relentless critic of U.S. foreign policy, opposing the Yugos ...
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Huffington Post article
Where Have All Our Racist Aristocrats Gone? A Requiem For Gore Vidal
The New Republic - over 4 years
The most cunning, odious and successful of Gore Vidal’s provocations was surely a mid-career contribution to a special issue of The Nation in 1986, marking the magazine’s one-hundred-twentieth anniversary. The essay was called “The Empire Lovers Strike Back” and is best read today in conjunction with a previous Nation essay from the same year, “The American Empire Ran Out of Gas,” and a clarifying subsequent commentary in The Sunday Telegraph in 1993 called “Race Against Time,” all of which he went on to reprint in his essay collections, perhaps under different titles. His argument was a Ku Klux Klan screed. Vidal was a champion of the white race. He worried that, because of American imperial overreach, the white race’s moment of world domination had come to an end. He believed that Tokyo had replaced New York City as the global capital of finance. World power had shifted from the white race to the “Asiatic colossus” and the “yellow man.” And he feared that, if the white race failed ...
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The New Republic article
The fractured brilliance of Alexander Cockburn
Reuters - over 4 years
“He was using words as a weapon, using them as one would use a club,” Richard Wright wrote of H.L. Mencken in Black Boy, his autobiography. “Could words be weapons? Well, yes, for here they were.” Thoughts like these visited me when I first read Alexander Cockburn’s “Press Clips” column in the Village Voice in the early 1970s. Like Mencken, Cockburn excelled at offense – both playing it and giving it. Long before the acid reporting and splenetic commentary of Spy magazine, decades before the predictable venom of blogs, Cockburn had mastered the art of vituperation. Dipping his pen into the sewer of news, he savaged all comers. He went after Nelson Rockefeller after his “coronation” as vice-president, he attacked Commentary Editor Norman “The Frother” Podhoretz whenever the mood moved him (which was often), and returned again and again to the villains he kept in his pillory: New Republic owner Martin Peretz, New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal, Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson ...
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Reuters article
Alexander Cockburn: Mellowed Radical
National Review Online - over 4 years
Alexander Cockburn, the left-wing radical columnist for The Nation who died on Saturday of cancer at age 71, once said he would disdain any obituary from the right that didn’t bitterly attack him. The early Alexander Cockburn wouldn’t like this one at all. The Alex Cockburn of his later years might have appreciated the irony in it. I loathed most of Cockburn’s views when I edited his columns for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. (He was the beneficiary of the late editor Bob Bartley’s belief that his readers should know the unadulterated views of the Left.) But I came to respect him for his passion, his willingness to examine a new development outside his normal orbit without blinders, and his ability to carry on countless grudges with others for slights both substantive and trivial — sometimes for the sheer fun of it. Keep reading this post . . .
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National Review Online article
Alexander Cockburn, Left-Wing Writer, Dies at 71
NYTimes - over 4 years
Mr. Cockburn took pleasure in condemning what he saw as the outrages of the right and what he often considered the tepidness and timidity of the American liberal establishment.
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NYTimes article
Failure in Rio
Counter Punch - over 4 years
The predictable word is in from Rio: failure. The conference twenty years on from the huge Earth Summit, Rio 92, has been unable to produce even the pretense of an energetic verbal commitment of the world’s community to “sustainable principles.” The reason? These conferences have always been pretty fraudulent affairs, lofted on excited green rhetoric  and larded with ominous advisories that “this time we cannot afford to fail” and that “the tipping point” is finally here.  But failure has been a loyal companion, and many a tipping point has tipped without amiss. There is no such thing as a world “community.”  There are rich nations and poor nations, all with differing national interests and the former will never accede willingly  to the agendas of the latter, however intricate the language of the final  windy “declaration”. Since Gro Bruntland lofted it to glory in 1987, the word “sustainable” has long been drained of all meaning. The general absurdity of these earth summits – Rio, ...
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Counter Punch article
Gay Marriage – It May Destroy Western Civilization, But It Sure is a Wonderful Fundraiser
Counter Punch - almost 5 years
It started with lesbian couples in Vermont in the mid-90s, freaked out they’d lose their babies. Vermont Freedom to Marry was born, and is now the most powerful Democratic organization in the state, most certainly responsible for the victory of Gov. Peter Shumlin, elected in Nov 2010 and, nine months later, the first sitting governor in the United States to preside over a same-sex wedding ceremony. Fairly early on, gay marriage lobbying groups realized that whatever else, they had a gigantic money-raising machine on their hands. Not long thereafter, the right wing realized the same thing. John Scagliotti, maker of Before Stonewall, says he reckons gay marriage is so potent a fundraising tool because whereas it’s hard to visualize anti-discrimination, it’s not at all hard to visualize two men or two women saying “We do.” So Obama didn’t really have too much of a choice and it was essentially risk-free anyway. “Obama’s gay marriage stance sets off money rush” was the headline in the ...
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Counter Punch article
Wait Till Chen Guangchen Goes on His First Occupy Demonstration in New York
Counter Punch - almost 5 years
Chen Guangchen, the Chinese human activist, got four separate articles in the New York Times for May 5. Jane Perlez and Michael Wines reported from Beijing on the deal that would get Chen and his family visas to the US, for him to take up a fellowship at NYU. Andrew Jacobs weighed in with the news that “Once exiled, nettlesome prisoners of conscience, like Chen Guangcheng, almost invariably lose their ability to grab headlines in the West and to command widespread sympathy both in China and abroad.”  The op-ed page carried Wang Dan reflecting that “It’s the right decision for Chen Guangcheng to study in the United States. Democracy and human rights are of great importance, but so are a family’s love and affection.” A mop-up NYT editorial declared that “What seems to have been forgotten in all the political roiling here is that this episode is first and foremost an embarrassment for China and a glaring reminder of its abysmal mistreatment of its own citizens.” Let’s suppose that ...
Article Link:
Counter Punch article
As the Mutiny Spreads, It’s Clear: Europeans Have Had Enough!
Counter Punch - almost 5 years
Watch Europe tip left and right as voters rise in fury against the austerity menu that’s been bringing them to utter ruin. In Holland, the right-wing Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders brought down the governing coalition on Monday bellowing his defiance for the  “Diktats from Brussels”, and asserting that “We must be master of our own house.” Labour and Christian Democrats, Holland’s major parties, are crumbling. Almost certainly doomed is France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, with François Hollande poised to win in the second round, but Marine Le Pen’s fiery, anti-banker populism has reaped her deserved rewards. As Ambrose Evans’Pritchard writes in the Daily Telegraph: “Elected governments have already been swept away – or replaced by EU technocrats without a vote, indeed to prevent a vote – in every eurozone state where unemployment has reached double-digits: Spain (23.6 per cent), Greece (21 per cent), Portugal (15 per cent), Ireland (14.7 per cent) and Slovakia (14 per cent).The politica ...
Article Link:
Counter Punch article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Alexander Cockburn
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2012
    Age 70
    In May 2012 Cockburn stated "I think gay marriage is an incredibly boring subject; though, I do like to hear right-wingers say that it will bring the whole edifice of Western civilization crashing down.
    More Details Hide Details It's hard, these days, to find such messages of good cheer." Cockburn took an anti-assimilationist position on same-sex marriage asking "Why would an institution which is basically taking church principles, you know, and applying them to a state license to get marriage be regarded as 'progressive'?" He felt it was inconsistent with a radical position, which sees the state as "intrusive on human freedoms", though he did support equality at the level of civil partnerships he didn't see why this should be limited to monogamous relationships. Cockburn criticized the German government for 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. He expressed concern over the designation of "cult" status given the Waco Siege of 1993 and how it may have contributed to the demonisation of groups. He later said in 2007 that "There is more evil in one second of the history of the Roman Catholic Church than there is in the entire lifetime of Scientology".
    In May 2012 Cockburn wrote of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, that she is a "nationalist politician, quite reasonably exploiting the intense social discontent in France amid the imposition of the bankers' austerity programs".
    More Details Hide Details This was interpreted by some as a defense of the National Front. Cockburn went on to state that "Marine Le Pen certainly has made some unsavoury comments about immigrants and Islamisation. But she has gone to the heart of the matter, asserting that monetary union cannot be fudged, that it is incompatible with the French nation-state." He went on to claim that Le Pen won 18% of the vote by campaigning to pull France out of the euro and, with reference to a poll finding only 3% of French voters consider immigration the main issue, that the National Front cannot owe its popularity to the issue. Rather, Cockburn stressed "The number-one issue is employment." Cockburn wrote a great deal on the use of anti-Semitism accusations in modern politics, particularly by the state of Israel and its supporters, and co-edited a book on the subject, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Cockburn was, himself, accused of anti-Semitism, which he always denied. He considered it an example of the use of that accusation to intimidate criticism of Israel and avert attention from Israel's policies.
    In April 2012 there was a memorial for Christopher Hitchens and Cockburn penned a satirical playlet in which Hitchens goes to heaven where he is met by Henry Kissinger, Mother Teresa, Pope Pius V and John Paul II.
    More Details Hide Details The playlet was later incorporated into A Colossal Wreck. At the age of 71 Cockburn died in Bad Salzhausen, Germany, after suffering from cancer for two years. His death was a shock to many of his readers as his deterioration was a closely guarded secret of his friends and colleagues. Not long after Jeffrey St. Clair wrote on CounterPunch "He didn't want the disease to define him. He didn't want his friends and readers to shower him with sympathy. He didn't want to blog his own death as Christopher Hitchens had done. Alex wanted to keep living his life right to the end. He wanted to live on his terms. And he wanted to continue writing through it all, just as his brilliant father, the novelist and journalist Claud Cockburn had done. And so he did."
    In spite of these doubts Alexander Cockburn appeared at the nearest occupation to him in Eureka, California in January 2012.
    More Details Hide Details There he gave a speech on Martin Luther King, Jr. as it was an event celebrating King's memory: So there’s no real choice this year, but what the Occupy movement has done has taken us back to the era when Martin Luther King was in the Sixties said ‘This is unacceptable!’ We cannot have a situation where everything is owned by the 1% in the same way that Martin Luther King said in the Riverside Church that we have a government that is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, we are exploiting the planet, and that is unacceptable. So the memory of Martin Luther King – it’s about dreams, but it’s also about the courage to draw a line right there and say ‘We cannot go on crossing this line. This is a moral line, this is a line concerning power and the world’. And there today America is on that line. And people know that what we got to – these years after Martin Luther King was murdered – is completely unacceptable, and it’s his example that will inspire us as we go forward into this year.
  • 2011
    Age 69
    With the emergence of the Occupy movement in 2011 Cockburn expressed support "Its strength lies in the simplicity and truth of its basic message: the few are rich, the many are poor.
    More Details Hide Details In terms of its pretensions, the capitalist system has failed." He went on to elaborate "right now most people love OWS. The Financial Times ran an editorial in favour of it. But in the end, to reform finance capital you have to offend people and institutions, including the Financial Times."
    In 2011 Cockburn wrote in favour of a substantial increase in the minimum wage, continued his opposition to anti-immigrant hysteria, envisioning a high-wage economic model as the alternative.
    More Details Hide Details While at the same time Cockburn writes sympathetically of proposals by Ron Unz to institute a tax-free cash payment of $5,000 to $10,000 to immigrants looking to return to their country of birth. He writes "Unz does us all a favor by raising important questions about the role of the reserve army of the unemployed or of migrants in sustaining the current low-wage capitalist economy. He poses an escape from the low-wage vortex, which is also all to the good."
  • 2010
    Age 68
    Never shy to draw upon right-wing sources, in April and March 2010, Cockburn wrote articles on Hispanic crime statistics, drawing on the work of Ron Unz, editor of The American Conservative, arguing that "Hispanic crimes rates are at least the same as whites and--given the unknown number of illegal Hispanic immigrants in the country--could be considerably lower."
    More Details Hide Details In CounterPunch Alexander went on to argue, on the basis of these statistics, and the US Census, that the estimates of 25 million Hispanic unreported illegal immigrants would mean that the true crime rates will be 35% lower than Unz estimates. He writes "Almost beyond the shadow of a doubt, white crime rates nationwide are significantly higher than Hispanic ones." He went on to criticise Lou Dobbs for "scaremongering" on the subject of illegal immigration.
  • 2007
    Age 65
    When asked about his standpoint on illegal immigration in 2007 Alexander Cockburn said "It is fundamentally wrong for a country, such as the United States, to have a lot of its economy posited on labour, demanding labour, which they then cause to be 'illegal'," and went on to claim that "Californian agriculture would collapse without 'illegal' immigrant labour. 'Illegal' in the words of the state."
    More Details Hide Details He criticised neoliberal reforms like free trade, "which destroy Mexican agriculture" through dumping American and Canadian corn in Mexico; as well as the denial of land reform citing examples such as Honduras and Guatemala. He elaborated "Gradually you make it impossible in the Southern countries for a peasantry to survive and make a go of it," and concluded that this process has left people in Mexico, Central and South America little choice except to find work in the United States.
    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, malnutrition, and death across the Third World."
    More Details Hide Details Cockburn had criticized Borlaug previously on this issue.
    In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007 Cockburn wrote "There have been the usual howls from the anti-gun lobby, but it's all hot air.
    More Details Hide Details America is not about to dump the Second Amendment giving people the right to bear arms." He advocated instead to arm hall-monitors and appropriately screen teachers and cited the instance of the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in which the shooter was disarmed by students after killing three faculty members. By the late 1980s Cockburn had turned his attention to the deforestation of the Amazon basin and the response to it by the conservation movement at the time. Alongside Susanna Hecht, Cockburn wrote The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers and Defenders of the Amazon (1989) in which they criticised environmentalists for disregarding indigenous rights, highlighting the Yanomami people in particular, and challenged the European belief that the Amazon was "virgin forest". Cockburn and Hecht estimated that there may have been as many as 12 million people living in the Amazon basin when Europeans first arrived in 1500. In the third chapter of the book Cockburn and Hecht covered the greenhouse question as reproduced below:
  • 2004
    Age 62
    In his writing Cockburn was a consistent exponent of free speech. On the campaign trail of 2004 Cockburn wrote "Free speech counts most when it’s most risky.
    More Details Hide Details If you used the word 'Palestinian' in any public place when I first arrived in New York in the early 1970s you risked being punched in the face." When it came to 'political correctness' in the early 1990s Cockburn was critical, though he often stressed that the term had its origins as an in-joke on the Left in the 70s. He went as far as taking a critical stance on hate speech legislation and wrote in 2009 "America is well on its way to making it illegal to say anything nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women. “Hate speech,” far short of any direct incitement to violence, is on the edge of being criminalized, with the First Amendment gone the way of the dodo." In 1995, Cockburn wrote approvingly of a right-wing Patriot rally against gun control in Macomb County, Michigan.
  • FIFTIES
  • 2001
    Age 59
    The major break was over the 'War on Terrorism' beginning in 2001 when Hitchens launched an attack on Noam Chomsky for the position he took in the aftermath of 9/11.
    More Details Hide Details Not long after Cockburn lambasted Hitchens in a speech at an anti-war rally: Now there's a weird thing going on. Partly proposed by a colleague of mine writing in The Nation, Christopher Hitchens. He is saying, somehow he seems to be saying, it is wrong to look at history, it is wrong to look at the history of the past century. You don't have to exonerate the appalling deeds of Osama bin Laden and his associates, if it be Osama bin Laden, to say who brought this down, who contributed to this, a number of factors. We have to look at history. For someone like Hitchens to attack Chomsky, as he's done in The Nation, saying he is somehow 'soft' on fascism because Chomsky tries to read history is an outrage – an absolute outrage. In a CounterPunch article in August 2005, Cockburn referred to 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 Sheehan as a LaRouchie and anti-Semite because, maybe, she dared mention the word Israel." In response Hitchens stood by his standpoint on the deposition he made to prosecutors regarding Sidney Blumenthal during the impeachment of Bill Clinton and his critical review of Edward Said's book Orientalism (1978).
    At CounterPunch Cockburn and St. Clair ran articles by Manual Garcia, a physicist, on the events of September 11, 2001, challenging the conspiracy theories that have been circling since the attacks.
    More Details Hide Details In an interview with Tao Ruspoli, Cockburn said, "No doubt about it, since I got here in the early 70s things have gone downhill. The Left is in terrible shape. What's the leading obsession of the Left right now? This whole, I think, mad idea that Bush and Cheney organised the attack on the World Trade Towers. I think it's absolutely insane. I think and Cheney are capable of monstrous evil, I just think the theories they have - of no plane hitting the Pentagon - is nutty. It's like flying saucers." He noted that his friend Chuck Spinney had a friend on the plane who was later identified by his dental records because his teeth were found inside the Pentagon. Cockburn writes in standard incisive wit "This doesn’t faze the conspiracists. They’re immune to any reality check. Spinney “worked for the government.” They switched the dental records. The Boeing 757 was flown to Nebraska for a rendez-vous with President Bush, who shot the passengers, burned the bodies on the tarmac and gave Spinney’s friend’s teeth to Dick Cheney to drop through a hole in his trousers amid the debris in the Pentagon."
    At times Cockburn displayed prescience in his writing. On 12 September 2001, he wrote "The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects: rogue states (most of which, like the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, started off as creatures of US intelligence).
    More Details Hide Details The target at home will be the Bill of Rights." Cockburn went on to join the opposition to the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq by American, British and other national military forces (the self-described "Coalition of the Willing"). He forged alliances with libertarians and others concerned by the USA PATRIOT act. 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 sham, conducted by a "kangaroo court", and that Hussein's conviction and ultimate execution were foregone conclusions. Alexander Cockburn was an opponent of conspiracism and particularly in regard to the 9/11 conspiracy theories interpreted its rise as a sign of the decline of the American Left.
  • 2000
    Age 58
    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.
    More Details Hide Details
    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".
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1995
    Age 53
    In September 1995 Cockburn had also accused Franjo Tudjman of anti-Semitism while covering the expulsion of 150,000 Serbs from Krajina writing that "President Franjo Tudjman bellowed coarsely from his 'freedom train' that the refugees fled so fast that they didn't have time to take 'their dirty hard currency and their dirty underwear' – language somewhat similar in timbre to Tudjman's diatribes against the Jews in his professorial writings."
    More Details Hide Details In his ironically entitled essay My Life as an "Anti-Semite", from the The Politics of Anti-Semitism (2007), Cockburn wrote "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." He went on to add: "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 fascist roots 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." In 2007 Alexander Cockburn was being interviewed by C-SPAN when a caller leveled the accusation that "Anti-Semitism is thought of as a right-wing phenomenon traditionally, however, you left-wingers using Israel's struggle for survival, as an excuse, are the anti-Semites of the last quarter of the 20th Century and you're on your way in the 21st Century." Cockburn responded "I think Israel is secure. I don't think it's struggling for survival... It's protected by the United States. I don't see any threat to Israel's survival, it's ludicrous to say so. I do see a threat to the survival of Palestinians, who are living on what a dollar a day in Gaza."
  • 1993
    Age 51
    He wrote in 1993 that "In all the assassinology I've read or seen, Oswald is always unpersuasive.
    More Details Hide Details In JFK Oliver Stone hadn't the slightest idea how to portray him, which pointed up the weakness of his artistic insight and the preposterous premises on which it was based." He interpreted the assassination as an attempt by Lee Harvey Oswald, whom he deemed a leftist, to "take the pressure off Fidel Castro", and to that end it was successful at the level of the propaganda of the deed, Cockburn claims, because President Johnson later "suspended the CIA assassination bids" against Castro. He reiterated this view at a conference in 2010. Although an opponent of the 9/11 Truth movement and the JFK assassination theories, when it comes to the possibility of prior knowledge of an attack on Pearl Harbor Cockburn maintains that "there is strong evidence that FDR did have knowledge that a Japanese naval force in the north Pacific was going to launch an attack on Pearl Harbor. It's quite possible Roosevelt thought it would be a relatively mild assault and thought it would be the final green light to get the US into the war."
  • FORTIES
  • 1991
    Age 49
    Earlier, Cockburn had been moved to present rebuttals to the JFK assassination conspiracy theories by the Oliver Stone film JFK when it came out in 1991.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1988
    Age 46
    On July 3, 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 killing 290 passengers and Cockburn set out to cover the story with Ken Silverstein.
    More Details Hide Details The Pentagon claimed that the incident came about because the USS Vincennes misidentified the Airbus A300 for an F-14 Tomcat about to attack. Cockburn challenged this account in his Wall Street Journal column. Later, Alexander and Ken Silverstein would research and co-author an article on the incident for Harper's Magazine in September 1988. The Harper's piece concluded "A pair of binoculars could have told the officers of the Vincennes what was flying overhead. But binoculars don’t cost half a billion dollars. The more complex the weaponry, the deeper the pork barrel and the more swollen the bottom line." Cockburn denounced the economic and political sanctions imposed on the Iraqi government by 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.
  • 1987
    Age 45
    In an interview with C-SPAN in 1987 Cockburn was questioned by a caller on this statement and he explained that "it was a part of a satirical piece which was tasteless."
    More Details Hide Details He went on to say "I would ask you to look at some of the Mujahideen and how they treat women. They have virtual slavery of women. They are in favour of the bride price. And I think a lot of people don't have a slightest of idea of social conditions in Afghanistan." When asked about the same article on Afghanistan in 1995, Cockburn stated "I shouldn't have written it it was a joke". He later became an opponent of the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan.
    As an author of around twenty books Alexander Cockburn produced work covering an array of different areas and with many fellow writers. In 1987 Cockburn completed what would be the first of a series of books composed of columns, diary entries, letters, and essays from 1976 over the preceding decade.
    More Details Hide Details It was called Corruptions of Empire (1988) and its cover featured a portrayal of Admiral George Cockburn torching the White House with slaves escaping. To follow up Cockburn published The Golden Age Is In Us: Journeys and Encounters (1995) in the much the same mode combining diary entries with columns, essays, and letters even including hate mail. The last collection in this series was A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption, and American Culture (2013), which was published posthumously, and he only completed it days before his death. Cockburn was a permanent resident of the United States since 1973 as an Irish citizen. He became a US citizen in 2009. He lived in New York City for many years, before moving to Humboldt County in northern California. In 1993 Ken Silverstein set out to establish a newsletter upon moving to Washington from Brazil and Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair were soon on board. The aim was a newsletter capable of "muckraking with a radical attitude" drawing on inspiration from Edward Abbey, Peter Maurin, and Ammon Hennacy, as well as the left-wing populist newsletter Appeal to Reason. The end result was CounterPunch. It was first a printed newsletter until 1998 when Cockburn and St. Clair took CounterPunch online. By that time Silverstein had moved on, leaving Cockburn and St. Clair to co-edit the newsletter from 1996 until Cockburn's death in 2012.
  • 1984
    Age 42
    In 1984 Cockburn found a regular position at The Nation with a column called "Beat the Devil" after the title of the novel written by his father.
    More Details Hide Details He went on to write columns for the New York Press, the LA Times, and the New Statesman. Cockburn was also a regular contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser and later The Week. He was not afraid to write for newspapers which took a conservative editorial standpoint, such as The Wall Street Journal for which Cockburn wrote for 10 years, even becoming a columnist for Chronicles in 2009.
  • 1982
    Age 40
    Cockburn was later suspended, as The Voice stated, for "accepting a $10,000 grant from an Arab studies organization in 1982".
    More Details Hide Details His defenders charge that his criticism of Israeli government policies was behind the firing.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1973
    Age 31
    From 1973 to 1983 he was a writer with The Village Voice, originating its longstanding "Press Clips" column, in his time there he interviewed Rupert Murdoch after a struggle over the ownership of The Voice culminated in Murdoch buying the paper.
    More Details Hide Details James Ridgeway later noted "Murdoch, when he owned the Voice, was said to gag on some of Alex's pointed epithets, but he never did anything about it. He actually had us both to lunch and offered us a column." Cockburn went on to write Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death (1975) as a class history of chess, and a lot of "bogus Freudian stuff", as he would later put it, in a critical evaluation of the claims made for chess. In the late 1970s Cockburn and Ridgeway wrote Political Ecology in which they went through numerous areas of US domestic policy, whether it was housing or agriculture, critically examining each topic, making proposals to adjust policy.
    Cockburn and Tennant divorced in 1973.
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  • 1972
    Age 30
    Alexander Cockburn moved to the US in 1972 and once there he set himself up as a journalist.
    More Details Hide Details He would become close friends with Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Israel Shahak, Andrew Kopkind, and Saul Landau, among others. Cockburn wrote for many publications, including The New York Review of Books, Esquire, and Harper's.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1968
    Age 26
    Around the same time Alexander married the writer Emma Tennant in December 1968 and they had one daughter Daisy Alice Cockburn in February 1969.
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    On 30 October 1968, Cockburn published a letter to The Times defending British socialists who were marching against the Vietnam War against the newspaper's criticism.
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  • 1966
    Age 24
    Alexander helped in the early re-shaping of New Left Review, joining the editorial committee and becoming managing editor in 1966, while he held a job as an assistant editor at the Times Literary Supplement and moved to the New Statesman in 1967.
    More Details Hide Details His early published work was as a co-editor to his friend Robin Blackburn, together they first worked on The Incompatibles: Trade Union Militancy and the Consensus (1967). In Blackburn's words the first project "brought together trade-union organizers, leftwing journalists including Paul Foot, Marxist economists and two liberals—Michael Frayn and Philip Toynbee—who mocked the demonization of union activists by Labour as well as Conservative pundits." Looking back Blackburn writes "Sales were reasonable, not amazing; but the book did register a syndicalist militancy that was to upset three British governments, those of Wilson, Heath and Callaghan." The second jointly edited collection was Student Power: Problems, Diagnosis, Action (1969), which compiled contributions from such figures as Herbert Marcuse, Perry Anderson, and Tom Nairn. It sold 75,000 copies. It covered the student occupations of the late 1960s, which had just peaked in Paris in 1968.
  • 1963
    Age 21
    Cockburn graduated in 1963 and worked in London as a journalist associated with the New Left Review.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1941
    Born
    Born on June 6, 1941.
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