Katrina vanden Heuvel is Editor and Publisher of The Nation.
She is a frequent commentator on American and international politics for ABC, MSNBC, CNN and PBS. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Foreign Policy magazine, and The Boston Globe.
She writes a weekly web column for The Washington Post. Her blog “Editor’s Cut” appears at TheNation.com.
She is the author of The Change I Believe In: Fighting for Progress in The Age of Obama; Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover; and co-editor of Taking Back America—And Taking Down The Radical Right.
She is also co-editor (with Stephen F. Cohen) of Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers; editor of The Nation: 1865-1990; and of the collection A Just Response: The Nation on Terrorism, Democracy and September 11, 2001.
She is a recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Maggie Award for her article, “Right-to-Lifers Hit Russia,” and the National Women’s Political Caucus 2013 EMMA (Exceptional Merit in Media Award) for her piece “Women for Paid Sick Days.” The special issue of The Nation that she conceived and edited, “Gorbachev’s Soviet Union,” was awarded New York University’s 1988 Olive Branch Award. Vanden Heuvel was also co-editor of “You and We,” a Russian-language feminist newsletter.
She has received awards for public service from numerous groups, including The Liberty Hill Foundation, The Correctional Association, and The Association for American-Russian Women.
In 2003, she received the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Callaway Prize for the Defense of the Right of Privacy. She is also the recipient of The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s 2003 “Voices of Peace” award and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s 2006 “Justice in Action” award. In 2010, she received the Exceptional Woman in Publishing Award honoring women who have made extraordinary contributions to the publishing industry. In 2013, she received American Rights at Work’s Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award.
In 2014, vanden Heuvel received the Norman Mailer Center Award for Distinguished Magazine Publishing; the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal; the Center for Community Change’s Champion in Activism Award; and New York’s Young Democrats’ Engendering Progress Award. In 2015, she received the Progressive Congress Leadership Award on behalf of her work “creating pathways of success on behalf of progressive causes.”
Vanden Heuvel serves on the boards of The Institute for Policy Studies, The Campaign for America’s Future, The Correctional Association of New York, The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, Research to Prevent Blindness, The Jules Stein Eye Institute, The Nation Institute, The Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, and The Sidney Hillman Media Foundation.
She is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, and she lives in New York City with her husband.
Earlier this month, The Nation and The Economist held a debate in New York City. Billed as "America's Role in the World: Protector or Predator," it was a wide-ranging discussion about US foreign policy, the Bush Administration, American intentions and neo-liberalism.
WNYC's Brian Lehrer was an artful moderator and Economist editor Bill Emmott a civil and informed adversary. While he and I disagreed on many issues, we did agree on the importance of independent media in this era of consolidation. CSPAN, which broadcast the debate on June 21, plans subsequent airings and is selling copies of the videotape on its website. (You can also listen and watch on your computer.) Below is an adapted version of my opening remarks:
These are perilous times, ones that raise large and fateful questions: What kind of country does the US want to be in the 21st century? Empire or Democracy? Global Leader or Global Cop? I believe that in pursuit of global dominance, the Bush Administration is endangering the world order abroad and the republic at home.
President Bush's support for Iranian student protesters reminds me of something a Russian friend said to me many years ago, during the Soviet era: "You Americans are an odd people. You love our dissidents, but you don't like your own dissidents. You should support your local dissidents, too."
Don't get me wrong. I think Americans should support Iran's student movement--while understanding that fundamental reform must come about peacefully, indigenously and without US interference. But I'd like to see a little respect for our own dissidents too.
On February 15th, when more than two million Americans protested the Administration's rush to war in Iraq, Bush contemptuously dismissed them as a "focus group." White House spokesman Ari Fleischer added that "Often the message of the protesters is contradicted by history." Millions of Americans who have opposed corporate globalization have been treated with even more derision.
Deploying his smashmouth style of personal diplomacy, Newt Gingrich is again assailing the State Department as a "broken institution," for its failures in implementing President Bush's foreign policy. This isn't Gingrich's first broadside.
In a speech last April at the American Enterprise Institute, the citadel of neoconism, he called for a purge of State, causing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to retort: "It's clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his meds and out of therapy." It would be an amusing sideshow if this discredited politician didn't reflect the thinking of so many in the Bush Administration.
A close associate of Donald Rumsfeld and a member of the multi-conflicted Pentagon Defense Policy Board, Gingrich is a stalking horse for Administration forces who scorn diplomacy and international treaties in favor of unilateralism, pre-emption and overwhelming military supremacy. Like the men he fronts for, Gingrich is a threat to world order, national security and American interests abroad.
Want to know where to find weapons of mass destruction? Last weekend, the New York Times buried an article on how authorities in Thailand had seized as much as sixty-six pounds of Cesium-137, a radioactive material which could be used to make "dirty" bombs.
Experts said they were startled by the amount found. "Pounds? Most studies of 'dirty' bombs start off by describing weapons with an ounce of Cesium," said Joseph Cirincione, director of the non-proliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. "Cesium-137 is serious stuff, highly radioactive. You put it alongside ten pounds or more of dynamite, and you've got a really dangerous terror weapon."
Non-proliferation experts said they wouldn't be surprised if the Cesium came from the former Soviet Union--the source of much of the radioactive material seized on the black market in recent years. Just three days later, the New York Times' World Briefing section ran a tiny item noting that police in Tbilisi, Georgia had just discovered 170 pounds of Cesium-137, along with strontium 90 in a taxi.
Remember General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, who warned that occupying Iraq might require hundreds of thousands of soldiers for an extended period? He was immediately reprimanded by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for being "wildly off the mark."
It's now two months since Baghdad fell, no WMD's have been found and US forces are bogged down in Iraq. American generals, happy to boast about the rapid defeat of Saddam's regime, now admit the war is far from over. The other night, General Barry McCaffrey predicted that US troops would be in Iraq for five years and warned that three divisions of the National Guard might be needed to reinforce Army divisions already deployed. And Lieutenant General David McKiernan, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, recently said his troops would be needed for a long time to come, that Baghdad and a large swathe of northern and western Iraq is only a "semi-permissive" environment, and that "subversive forces" are still active.
Since Bush strutted onto the USS Lincoln to declare "Mission Accomplished," more than forty Americans have been killed with many more wounded, (sixty-six have been killed since the fall of Baghdad on April 9.) No wonder General Shinseki--the highest-ranking Asian-American in US military history--retired the other day with a blast at the arrogance of the Pentagon's civilian leaders:
"We face an unemployment problem that is certainly without precedent in my lifetime," said Paul Bremer, the US-appointed Governor of Iraq, as he unveiled a $100 million public works program for that battered country, using funds drawn from the Iraqi Central Bank. The move, according to the Wall Street Journal, is part of a broader effort to get Iraqis back to work, rebuild the country's hospitals and highways and, generally, jump-start the moribund economy.
Meanwhile, back in Palestine, West Virginia--best known as the hometown of Private Jessica Lynch--nearly half of the adults in Wirt county are unemployed, the poverty rate hovers near 20 percent and funds for civic projects like rebuilding the 41-year old county swimming pool have completely dried up.
West Virginia generally derived little benefit from the "boom" years of the 1990s, and has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn. Research by the National Center for Children in Poverty shows that the state's child poverty rate of 27.5 percent is almost ten points higher than the national average. And, according to recent census data, six percent of all West Virginia families still use wood as the sole fuel to heat their homes, five percent of households have no telephone service of any kind, and 12,009 families live without either plumbing or kitchen facilities.
Remember the outrage over Bill Clinton's dissembling about Monica? But where's the outrage on the right over this Administration's manipulation of intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD? (Factoid: Did you know that the investigation of what went wrong in the run-up to 9-11 is currently funded at $15 million, less than one-fourth of what the Republican-led Congress authorized for the Monica Lewinsky investigation?)
New York Times columnist William Safire, who lived in a constant state of outrage during the Clinton years, argues that anger over the Bush Administration's manipulations is overblown. But the evidence that a cabal of neocons misled America into war just keeps on coming. (On Friday, a declassified September report from the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that there was "no reliable information" that Iraq was producing new chemical weapons.)
The White House faces a mounting credibility gap of staggering scale. Newspapers around the globe are accusing the Administration of lying to the world. Tony Blair is facing fierce pressure at home over the issue. Analogies to Watergate are rife. Indeed, the celebrated question of that scandal is as relevant today as it was then: What did the President (and his key people) know and when did they know it?
As Gore Vidal likes to say, we're living in the United States of Amnesia. If you had any reason to doubt the great man, check out the new reality shows crowding our TV screens currently. There's Dog Eat Dog, NBC's new offering, in which "six sexy and savvy players play upon each other's strengths and weaknesses" to compete for $25,000.
The other night, in the show's quiz section, a young female contestant was stumped when asked: "Which West Point graduate led the allied forces in Gulf War One?" A fog of amnesia passed over her youthful face, then she lit up and blurted: "Al Gore." Gore Vidal would have enjoyed that.
Ari, Watch What You Say
Remember Vice President Dick Cheney's dire warning, in the run-up to war against Iraq: "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action." I'd like to see Congressional hearings in which the VP is forced to account for that statement, in light of growing evidence that the Bush Administration grossly manipulated intelligence about those weapons of mass destruction.
While we're at it, let's throw Cheney's warning back at him in another context. How about the argument that the risks of inaction on fundamental healthcare reform are much higher than any of the risks associated with a major overhaul of our failing system?
As David Broder noted in a recent Washington Post column, even leading private sector leaders and heads of several of America's major corporations are beginning to make the case that, as the head of California's public employees retirement system known as CalPERS put it, "fixing our dysfunctional health care system...needs to be our top priority."
Condoleezza Rice is still lecturing the French for refusing to support war against Iraq. Congress is still serving "freedom" fries for lunch. Donald Rumsfeld has consigned France to the dustbin of "Old Europe." And George W. is withholding the coveted Crawford ranch invitation from French President Jacques Chirac.
So, you'd never know that a majority of American citizens have more in common with Chirac's view of world order than with the Bush Administration's unilateralism. Don't believe me? Check out an April poll by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes. The survey found strong opposition to Bush's "global cop" approach and overwhelming support for a multilateral US foreign policy--with a central role for the United Nations. Most striking is the degree to which the public rejects the kind of international role pushed by neocon hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney's office.
When asked to choose among three options to describe the role Washington should play in the world, only 12 percent favored the "preeminent" world leader position; 76 percent said "the US should do its share in efforts to solve international problems with other countries;" while 11 percent said Washington should "withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems." With each passing day, it's clearer that this Administration has no mandate to pursue an extremist agenda at home--or abroad?