I first became aware of Robert Nordlander in my teenage years, when I had stopped delivering The Post-Crescent and began reading it. Nordlander was a regular in the letters column (and remains so to this day), a perpetual gadfly waiting in the wings to point out the errors of those who spoke about religion or American history in a way that made it clear they were ignorant of the topic.
Until this interview, I was not aware of many other characteristics and callings of Mr. Nordlander: a political candidate, a devout atheist, a strong critic of Zionism and a man willing to do the research into history when no one else will.
While the notorious Mr. Nordlander probably has most people wishing he would just quietly fade away, he is in fact actually the element that makes democracy great: the antithesis, the dissenting voice and the knife of reason that cuts through propaganda in a world that would rather remain chained in Plato’s cave.
GS: You are an adherent to positive or “strong” atheism, the belief that deities are logically impossible . Yet, many of your letters seem to suggest you are primarily concerned with denying only the Christian god and not so much deities in general. Could you elaborate on this?
RN: Actually, my position is one of “soft” atheism. We are all agnostics – both theists and atheists. No one knows if ultimate reality does entail a transcendental intelligent mastermind or not. My belief is that the only reality is matter – the material universe. No credible evidence has been produced to show that there is another reality beyond the material. Theists have their beliefs grounded in mythology and wishful thinking. Atheists have beliefs grounded in reason and reality, i.e., as far as reality can ever be said to be known.
Since we are culturally “a Christian nation,” my letters have focused on the Christian divinity and holy book. There is no point in denying Zeus or Wotan as no one believes in them any more – as far as I know. One of these days I may take a whack at the
Koran and Allah!
GS: On October 8, 1988, you delivered a speech to the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison concerning the public misconception that Madalyn Murray O’Hair was responsible for removing prayer from schools. Since your speech, O’Hair has died at the hands of a killer. With both today and the future in mind, what do you believe is O’Hair’s legacy?
RN: I believe Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s legacy to Freethought will be a burden for Freethinkers to endure.
She was as bigoted and narrow-minded and self-serving as any of the televangelists hustling the public for money today. She ran American Atheists as her personal money-generating fiefdom. Local chapters of American Atheists were dissolved at her whim lest any dissenting and challenging voices might appear. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin came about because of a revolt of independently-minded members.
In 1983, she came to the 150th birthday party of Robert G. Ingersoll held in Peoria, Illinois to denigrate Ingersoll’s memory – not to honor it. The humanity of Ingersoll was indeed illuminated by the smallness and pettiness of the O’Hair ego on that occasion, an occasion where I was present.
You have repeatedly made a point of explaining how the Founding Fathers were not Christian, and did not conceive of America as a Christian nation. Do you feel that the vision a country’s founders have should impact the decisions of lawmakers centuries later?
RN: In a broad idealistic sense the vision of the Founding Fathers should impact the living generation. They were, in a sense, philosopher kings. George Washington’s Farewell Address is an excellect case in point. He warned against having a “passionate attachment” for a foreign country. He pointed out that nations do not have permanent friends – only permanent interests. The “passionate attachment” many Americans have for Israel suggests those Americans have not imbibed the wisdom of Washington.
GS: Records (from the website “Political Graveyard”) indicate that you were a Democratic candidate for state assembly 55th District in 1966, Socialist Labor candidate for Senator in 1976 and Socialist Labor candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 1978. Apart from these campaigns, what political experience have you had?
RN: The records are mistaken in part.
I was the Democratic Party candidate for County Treasurer in 1958. I was the Democratic candidate for the Assembly in 1960 and carried Menasha but lost in Republican Neenah. Disillusioned by the Vietnam treachery of Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party, I joined the Socialist Labor Party in which I was a member for nineteen years. I was the SLP candidate fo US Senator in 1976 and Lt. Governor in 1978.
This is the extent of my political involvement except for sounding off in letters forums in the newspapers.
GS: The winner of the race for Senate was William Proxmire. What are your thoughts on Senator Proxmire?
RN: Senator Proxmire was a brilliant politician but I enjoyed pointing out his hypocrisy during a forum held in Madison. The abortion issue came up. I was sitting next to Proxmire. The senator was declaiming about how precious human life is. My chance to comment came next. I pointed out that Senator Proxmire supported the Johnson war in Vietnam. He did not seem to be worried about the sanctity of human life then. I then pointed out he withdrew his support for the war when it became politically expedient for him to do so.
His awards exposing government waste were absolutely phony. He never complained about the wasted dollars America bestowed upon Israel and the consequences thereof.
Proxmire was no Bob LaFollette, Senior or Junior – just a politician slicker and more sophisticated than most.
GS: Why did you leave the Socialist Labor Party after nineteen years of service?
RN: The Socialist Labor Party has a beautiful theory concerning
working-class mastery of its own destiny. But that is all that it is. You can check it out on its web site. Like Marx, it has some excellent analysis of political problems and issues re capitalism but the cure is a pipe-dream and utopian. I decided to return to the real world of political nonsense instead of indulging in the SLP’s pipe dream about the workers of hand and brain uniting in one grand industrial union to get rid of capitalism and to institute a regime of production for use instead of profit.
Thorstein Veblen’s The Engineers And The Price System, written in 1919, put me on the path to the SLP although Veblen was not a socialist. His work actually inspired the Technocracy, Inc. movement of Howard Scott in the 1930s.
GS: If you could change one thing politically about this country, such as a law or a way the system works, what would that be and why?
RN: I would have members of the electoral college chosen by congressional district with the winner of the state taking only two electoral votes. As Bush carried the sixth congressional district that vote should automatically belong to Bush while Kerry should have received only two electoral votes for carrying the state and any others for congressional districts he may have carried.
GS: What organizations, clubs or establishments are available in the Fox Cities for people with religious or political views outside of the mainstream?
RN: I belong to the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship which includes deists, atheists, theists, polytheists, wiccans et al. I also belong to a debate/discussion club in Oshkosh that has been around since 1895. It meets eight times a year at Robbins Restaurant where two speakers debate a topic and everyone gets in his two-cents worth. It is called The Candlelight Club. I also belong to local group of people called Hegelians who meet once a week for talk about politics, religion and philosophy. The slogan of the latter group is “Everybody talks! Nobody listens!” Other associations: I am on the Fox Valley Board of the American Civil Liberties Union and am a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
GS: You and I both share a passion for the books of world-renowned linguist and historian Noam Chomsky. As a former teacher and librarian, what other books would you recommend more people ought to read?
RN: I would strongly recommend the following:
The Republic by Charles A. Beard. This book was published around 1943. It is a series of conversations between Beard and fictional characters about American politics and government. It is very readable. The conversational style is obviously patterned after Plato’s Republic.
Euthyphro by Plato in which Socrates exposes a religionist’s ignorance in the very subject he is supposed to be an expert.
The Zionist Connection II by Alfred M. Lilienthal, an excellent review of Middle East history and America’s involvement.
The Passionate Attachment by George W. Ball and Douglas B. Ball. The subtitle tell it all: America’s involvement with Israel, 1947 to the present.
The Decadence Of Judaism In Our Time by Moshe Menuhin, an excellent work by the father of violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin on how Judaism, for the most part, has become a pimp for Zionism and the State of Israel.
Perfidy by Ben Hecht depicts a trial in Israel wherein Adolf Eichmann’s bargaining partner is exposed as a person who was complicit in the Nazi murder of Hungarian Jews.
Scandalmonger by William Safire is an excellent read about the dirty politics of the 1790s and early 1800s and the Hamilton and Jefferson sex scandals.
The Works Of Robert G. Ingersoll which can be found on line. America’s foremost evangelist for Freethought is a must read for any serious student of religion.
The Age Of Reason by Thomas Paine does an excellent job debunking the Bible as a “divine revelation.”
Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith presents the case for Atheism in readable lucid style.
British Brutality In Ireland by Jack O’Brien tells us why the Queen and monarchy are not celebrated in Ireland.
Pirates And Emperors by Noam Chomsky gives us a view of “terrorism” not even acknowledged by the American media and the American political establishment.
The Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky is another excellent review of the Middle East and America’s connection to it.
This Was Normalcy by Karl Schriftgiesser is an excellent review of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover and the politics that brought them into office.
Adolf Hitler by John Toland is an excellent biography of Hitler and a superb history of the Nazi era.
Out Of The Night by Jan Valtin (pseudonym) gives an insight into the mind of a true communist believer operating in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s who becomes disenchanted with Moscow and his political handlers.
GS: In the mid-1990s, you had a disagreement with David Rubitsky concerning his war record that ultimately led to litigation and a minor physical encounter. Could you explain your dispute and whether or not Rubitsky ever received his medal?
RN: David Rubitsky is an 89-year old veteran of World War II presently living in Milton, Wisconsin. He served with the Wisconsin-Michigan 32nd “Red Arrow” Division in the Pacific Theatre of Operations.
On December 1-2, 1942, during a 21-hour period on Papua New Guinea, if we are to believe Rubitsky, he killed 600 Japanese soldiers all by himself without even suffering a scratch. He then claimed that a superior officer denied his battalion commander’s recommendation that he be recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. According to Rubitsky, he didn’t get the Medal of Honor because the person who denied the application did not like Jews. Rubitsky is Jewish.
Rubitsky’s battalion commander at the time was then Lt. Colonel Herbert A. Smith, who subsequently retired from National Guard/ Reserve Service with the rank of Major General. He was a well-known and respected citizen of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The officer, who allegedly was the anti-Semitic devil in this melodrama, was Colonel John Mott in charge of that part of the Buna operation called the Urbana Front.
Rubitsky also claimed that he was denied the Medal of Honor on another occasion in late 1944 during the Leyte campaign in the Philippine Islands. On that occasion, he claimed that he killed 200 Japanese soldiers all by himself while destroying seven machine-gun nests. Again, another anti-Semite allegedly prevented him from being recognized for his valor with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Such is the Rubitsky phenomenon in rough outline.
What is amazing about all this, and this is why I consider Rubitsky an extraordinary person who does indeed impress me, is that Rubitsky got the attention of the entire nation through the media which served, for all practical purposes, as his propaganda mouthpiece.
But it is not all the fault of the media. The media merely noted that Rubitsky had an important ally in his former company commander, Joseph M. Stehling, who was a captain in Papua New Guinea but who in 1988 was and still is a retired National Guard/Reserve officer with the rank of Brigadier General who lives in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Stehling, in an interview with William Gartland and me repudiated his support of Rubitsky. He also had the support of MajorGeneral Herbert A. Smith, who on paper, at least, supported Rubitsky’s claim.
Backed by the endorsements of Generals Smith and Stehling, Rubitsky was able to persuade his representative in Congress, Les Aspin, that his claim ought to at least be investigated by the Army. Aspin, at that time was the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Rubitsky testified before a group of congresspersons and military brass in Washington, D.C. on March 11, 1988. By that time the Awards Branch of the U.S. Army had been prevailed upon by Aspin to conduct an investigation. Governor Tommy Thompson, Senator Robert Kasten, and eventually Senator Kohl jumped on the Rubitsky bandwagon. Senator Kohl and nearly a hundred other members of Congress demanded that Rubitsky be given the Medal of Honor. The Army was under considerable media and political pressure to grant Rubitsky his coveted prize.
Unfortunately for Rubitsky, the Army did indeed conduct a serious investigation. On December 15, 1989, it announced its conclusion that Rubitsky’s Papua New Guinea claim was without merit. It was not charged to investigate the Leyte claim and made no pronouncement on it. For some reason Rubitsky has not made any attempt to pursue seriously his Leyte claim to the Medal of Honor.
The Army file on Rubitsky is just loaded with documents that cause one to wonder how many of them might be forgeries. I discovered one forgery in May 1990. I noticed a document signed by Lt. Colonel Herbert M. Smith of Neillsville, Wisconsin, which tended to support Rubitsky’s claim. I called Colonel Smith and asked permission to send him two copies and then to get his comments on one of them. He was happy to comply with my request. In a handwritten letter, he pronounced the document a fake. He said he signed a document about a movie Rubitsky had given him with no mention of Rubitsky heroics. He speculated that a Xerox machine transferred his signature. It should be noted that General Robert Eichelberger called Herbert M. Smith one of the great combat commanders of World War II in his autobiographical account of the Pacific campaign called Our Jungle Road to Tokyo.
More forgeries were attested to by Evelyn Smith, General Smith’s widow, when she visited me in October 1990 accompanied by retired UW-Oshkosh chemistry professor Max Bowman. She granted permission to record our conversation. Some of them had General Smith confessing to “not liking Jews.” That was why Rubitsky never got the Medal. This “confession” and Rubitsky’s accusations of anti-Semitism against Smith never were reported by the media when the documents were made available to the public.
Actually the most compelling evidence against Rubitsky is in Samuel Milner’s Victory in Papua, the official U.S. Army history of the Papua campaign. It records in graphic detail the events of December 1-2, 1942 when the Buna front was relatively quiet.
Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger had been sent to the Buna front to find out why the campaign was not going according to General MacArthur’s expectations. His inspection of the front convinced him that the discipline was lax and that the men were not imbued with a fighting spirit. Colonel John Mott, in a heated defense of the troops, offended Eichelberger. Moreover, Major General Edwin Harding, 32nd Division commander, supported Colonel Mott in this dramatic verbal confrontation. Both Harding and Mott lost their commands being sacked by Eichelberger.
Certainly, if Mott had been able to report Rubitsky’s great victory, a military feat unrecorded in the annals of warfare, his command certainly would have been saved along with General Harding’s and Rubitsky would have been sent home to help sell war bonds. Even if Mott had been an anti-Semite, it is extremely doubtful that this West Pointer would have indulged his prejudice at the expense of his military career. This is the position ultimately adopted by Les Aspin.
Victory in Papua also records that on December 1-2, 1942, Hymie Epstein, a medic, whom we can presume to have been Jewish, had risked his life going to aid wounded soldiers under heavy Japanese fire. His luck ran out on December 2nd and he was killed. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously in April 1943. So we do have an authentic Jewish hero who served heroically on December 1-2, 1942, and who received due recognition for his valor. His name was not David Rubitsky.
Finally, a word about General Smith. His family received a medical report on his physical and mental condition from 1985 until his death in 1989. That report showed him to be suffering from a condition called “global amnesia,” an organic brain syndrome brought on by a severe cardio-vascular condition. The general was also dying of cancer at the time. Rubitsky drove him to veterans’ reunions in full uniform and manipulated the general in other ways, taking full advantage of his deteriorated physical and mental condition.
It should be noted that when General Smith was in full possession of his faculties, he was one of many consultants on Victory in Papua. Nowhere did he make mention of David Rubitsky’s “great adventure.” This was in 1950. Had he forgotten? Or did he fail to mention it because it never happened? General Smith played a vital role in the Papua New Guinea campaign. I invite skeptics to check the index of that volume which was finally published in 1957.
Fortunarely, Rubitsky did not receive the Medal of Honor after two more attempts to have the Army award it to him. This occurred in 1992 and 1998.
Rubitsky did receive honors from the government of Papua New Guinea in spite of racist remarks made about Papuans by Rubitsky in Washington, D.C. The government also prevailed upon Queen Elizabeth II for him to be an honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his alleged WWII heroism. A Papua New Guinea history professor is said to have written a monogram supporting Rubitsky’s claims. No one has seen this alleged history.
Rubitsky received further honors from the government of Papua New Guinea on the occasion of its 30th year of independence as a soverign nation.
GS: Any final thoughts?
RN: A final thought from Anne Gaylor, founding mother of the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
“NOTHING FAILS LIKE PRAYER!”
 It has been brought to my attention that while “positive atheism” can mean the same thing as “strong atheism”, there is another definition as well. In the writings of Indian philosopher Gora (available here), there is no connection between “positive” and “strong” atheism.