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February 11, 2008

Tom Lantos
Posted by Max Bergmann

I was struck with great sadness this morning learning of the death of Tom Lantos.

As an immigrant and a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, whose thick accent and life story mirrored that of my grandparents, Lantos was revered in my family. To my grandparents the mere fact that someone like them could achieve so much here, spoke volumes about America.

His stubborn persistence on human rights pushed the notion that American foreign policy “national interests” were not just defined by geopolitics or economics, but by our values as well. Lantos’ advocacy on behalf of human rights and combating genocide came, not just because of some abstract belief in these values, but because he had experienced the horrors of genocide first hand. But Lantos had also experienced the power of America to help those in need. He was a constant reminder to us of the good that America could do in the world. He did this not just through his efforts in congress, but through the power of his story. He will be missed. 


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I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but Lantos was also an advocate for war and military dominance, as this pre-war Haaretz article makes clear:

"My dear Colette, don't worry," said Tom Lantos, the California congressman, as he tried to calm MK Colette Avital of the Labor Party, who was visiting Capitol Hill last week as part of a delegation of the Peace Coalition. "You won't have any problem with Saddam," the Jewish congressman continued. "We'll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you.".

Lantos explained to his guest from Israel that there's no lack of Iraqi opposition figures in exile, but until they learn how to run a state, "we'll be there." According to Lantos that interim period, with an American-sponsored dictator in power, should last between five to six years.

Avital says she asked how one can talk about a dictator in Iraq and at the same time demand "democratic reforms" in the territories as a precondition for renewing the peace process. Lantos said that democratization in the territories is just a general "road map." He reminded her that "the U.S. didn't turn into a democracy overnight." In any case, he promised her that after America gets rid of all the regimes of evil, it will go straight to Syria, "and tell young Assad that's what will happen to him if he doesn't stop supporting terrorism."

5 years later, hundreds of thousands are dead because of this man's cynicism and stupidity.

Cal - Don't lie. You did intend to speak ill of the dead. By cherry-picking heresay from a self-interested source, you do an injustice to this life-long Democrat's heroic career. He was a statesman of principle and integrity whose own life saved many and inspired more. I traveled extensively with Lantos before he was made Chairman, and was awed by his command of history, his diplomatic flair, and his keen sense of the power of moral authority which he wielded faithfully and expertly. He was and eccentric and not without flaws (who isn't?), but on balance, he was gift all Americans and all who believe in human rights and freedom should be thankful for. Shame on you.

Yes I did mean to speak ill of this particular dead man, and I'll do it again

Lantos' most memorable effort, though, may be his role in pushing a tale that is now regarded as a museum-worthy specimen of war-time propaganda — the discredited Gulf War 1 yarn of Iraqi soldiers yanking Kuwaiti babies from their incubators as they looted hospitals.

...Though compelling, Nayirah's story was completely false... Hill & Knowlton VP helped organize hearings on Iraq's misdeeds and produced the girl, who was billed as a "nurse."...

"Lantos basically turned over the Human Rights Caucus into a front for Hill and Knowlton," John MacArthur, who authored the book Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, told the Institute for Public Accuracy recently. "When you called up the Human Rights Caucus Foundation, you got the