Alexander Cockburn, a Great American

Readers have expressed puzzlement about the ability of Alexander Cockburn and I to get along despite our differing views on 9/11. There are many reasons to appreciate Alex, and conformity of views is not required. When Alex died last July, I wrote that “I will have more to say about him at a later time.” CounterPunch wanted to include my remembrance of Alex in the printed tribute to him. With the appearance of the memorial issue, my appreciation of Alex is available below.

Alexander Cockburn, a Great American

Paul Craig Roberts

In order to stay in touch with his adopted country, Alex would periodically travel from his home in northern California to the East Coast where he would purchase a clunker and drive it back across the country to California, stopping along the way to converse with Americans about the events that were affecting and shaping their lives. It was on one such journey that Alex stopped off at my home for a few days.

What a delight he was! Civilized and feisty. Conversation with Alex convinced me that intelligent and involved beings were still extant in America.

I had given up on academicians, politicians, corporate boards, think tanks, and media pundits years previously and had taken up residence in a relatively low density area in the Florida panhandle. Alex enjoyed the area, and we had a great time. He also enjoyed my cats, and it is his photo of me with the cats in my arms that graces my web site.

What I admire most about Alex is that he held everyone accountable, not only his opponents and enemies but also his friends and supporters. Alex was a real person, one in a million or a billion. He held his old country accountable and his new one, and every other one.

Despite Alex’s acute awareness of the descent of the western world into greed and mendacity that would make Karl Marx blush over his mild portrait of capitalism and democracy, Alex remained optimistic. He believed that truth, justice, and people infused with these values would ultimately prevail, no matter how many dungeons, tortures, and
deprivations they suffered in the meantime. I told Alex that he shared optimism in common with Ronald Reagan.

Alex believed in the good things, not in the bad things. This made him almost unique as a writer and observer. I discovered in our conversations that he was far more optimistic than I. For example, many have wondered and speculated over the disagreement Alex and I had over 9/11. Being pragmatic, having been a graduate student of one of the best 20th century physical scientists, and trained to respect evidence, I reported the findings of the experts who concluded that the US government’s account of 9/11 was improbable.

Alex, despite my popularity on CounterPunch, would not post my columns that reported experts’ questions about 9/11. If you think about it, it seems odd that one of the last few legitimate leftists ended up on the side of the government’s account of the event. Many, who don’t know Alex, have accused him of helping to cover up a false flag event. People who say this do not know the man.

It was very important to Alex’s optimism about our future as a free, just society, respectful of other ways and cultures, that Washington’s imperialistic oppression of Muslim countries produced blowback and 9/11.

Alex derided David Ray Griffin and the 9/11 Truth Movement, because he interpreted their questioning of 9/11 as a statement that oppressed peoples were impotent to repay the US for its crimes against them.

Alex objected to the implication that the US government is so competent that, by following the rules on the books, the government could have easily prevented the attack. For Alex, the implication of the totally successful attack was that the US government is incompetent, a pleasing thought to a person concerned about the US government’s underhanded ways.

For Alex, the idea that Big Brother had control over us all and that Big Brother’s victims had no means of replying to Washington’s oppression was simply unacceptable.

Alex’s belief that the oppressed are capable now and then of throwing off their chains and striking back at injustice and oppression was important to his optimism. He would have found confirmation of his belief in the one million people who went into the streets in cities all over Spain on July 20, the day Alex died, to protest being looted in behalf of bankers’ profits. http://www.rt.com/news/spain-protests-austerity-cuts-634/print/

I agree with Alex that there are occasions when optimism can be more encouraging than facts and when hope might be more important than truth. As Alex was above all, despite his fire and fury, a gentleman, our difference over 9/11 did not affect our relationship. Alex put together a collection of my CounterPunch columns and published his selections of my articles as a CounterPunch book, How The Economy Was Lost, which sold out.

I will miss Alex as I watch intelligence and humanity drain from our society.

I am certain that Jeffrey St. Clair will succeed in keeping CounterPunch in the forefront of intelligent information where Alex and Jeffrey placed it. I will always support CounterPunch for its forthrightness and courage.