: We note with great admiration the life of

Victor Rabinowitz

, champion of and lawyer to the left for nearly seven decades, who died at the age of 96 on November 16. His grandson,

Michael Rabinowitz

, who carries on in Victor’s spirit as a political director at UNITE HERE, offered these words:

“My grandfather was someone who participated in a million (almost literally, it seems) good fights to make the world better–in organizations from the

National Lawyers Guild

to the

American Labor Party

in New York. He provided legal representation to unions from


to the


, civil rights activists, the

Black Panthers

and left-wing governments like

Salvador Allende

‘s in Chile. Wherever there was a left, he was of it. While he knew the world was many shades of gray, he also knew there was a right and a wrong. And he relished taking a stand for right–even (perhaps especially) if it was unpopular. As I think about my grandfather, I will treasure the great personal memories–the baseball games, the free legal advice and the smile he’d form when he was about to make a particularly devastating argument. But what will live on, what he has passed on to me, is that it’s not enough to believe the right rhetoric–you have to get your hands dirty. Victor was my moral and political compass, and that’s something that will never die.”


: A recent New York Times/CBS poll of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire revealed that America is indeed a deeply polarized country, not when it comes to abortion or other hot-button social issues but on a matter often thought to be of broad concern: national security. According to the poll, 30 percent of Republicans in Iowa and 29 percent in New Hampshire rank national security as the most important issue in deciding which candidate they’ll support next year. But just 6 percent of New Hampshire Dems and 3 percent of Iowa Dems feel this way. On no other issue is the gap so wide, a fact about which the Times was curiously silent. What might account for the chasm?

One possibility is that seven years into the Bush era, Democrats have come to associate “national security” with torture, secret prisons, wiretapping and official lies. Another is that for many voters, security isn’t about projecting hard or soft power abroad. It’s about dealing with problems (poverty, disease, environmental degradation) that aren’t amenable to war, and worrying less about spreading our values to other countries. Healthcare, the economy and the environment all ranked ahead of national security among Democrats’ concerns. Republicans might take this as a sign that the left is naïve about grave dangers in the world. Democrats running for President might view it as proof that, as

William D. Hartung

has suggested in these pages, the time has come to avoid the “toughness trap” and to redefine security as something other than a willingness to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into more weapons and wars.   EYAL PRESS


: During the darkest days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

The notion of the winter soldier, the patriot who recognizes a duty to stand for what is right even when it is not easy, was taken up by

Vietnam Veterans Against the War

at a point when politicians and media outlets attempted to downplay the horrors of the conflict in Southeast Asia. The VVAW’s call for a

Winter Soldier Investigation

drew more than 100 vets to Detroit in January 1971. Their testimony destroyed the fantasy that the war was a noble, necessary mission. In so doing, those vets identified themselves as the true descendants of the winter soldiers who fought with Washington at Valley Forge.

Almost thirty-seven years after the first Winter Soldier Investigation comes the call from

Iraq Veterans Against the War

for a new inquiry into atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. They ask veterans and nonvets alike to sign a statement of support for troops who oppose the war. It reads:

“The U.S. Government lied to get us into war and continues to conceal the true nature of military occupation. On the weekend of 13-15 March, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will assemble history’s largest gathering of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors. They will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. We support Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Join us in supporting the effort to reveal truth in the way that only those who lived it can.”

The full statement can be read, and signed, on the IVAW website.   JOHN NICHOLS


: As Congress considers a US-Colombia free-trade agreement, human rights objections raised by unions have taken center stage. In the past sixteen years, more than 2,000 Colombian union members have been murdered, but less than forty cases have led to convictions; at least 400 killings took place on the watch of President

Álvaro Uribe

, who has been slow to launch investigations. Uribe’s former intelligence head,

Jorge Noguera

, is charged with providing a list of union members to right-wing paramilitary assassins. Meanwhile, more information is emerging about the connections between paramilitaries and US corporations.

Chiquita Brands International

recently admitted to paying nearly $2 million to such groups. The

International Labor Rights Fund

is appealing the acquittal of Alabama-based mining company


, which was charged with conspiracy in the killings of

Valmore Locarno Rodríguez


Victor Hugo Orcasita

, president and vice president of a northern Colombia mineworkers local.

Murders of union members are down since the ’90s, and the government has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the killings. Nevertheless, more union members were murdered in Colombia last year than in any other country in the world. That should be reason enough to reject preferred trade status for the world’s most dangerous place for organized labor.   MATTHEW BLAKE