In the late 1960s and early '70s, then US President
Richard Nixon appealed to the country's "Silent Majority" to oppose
growing anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the United States.
A decade later, President Ronald Reagan had the Rev. Jerry Falwell's "Moral
Majority" working by his side in support of Reagan's low-intensity warfare
in Central America, and contra movements in Africa.
During the run-up to, and period following the 1994 Republican revolution that
gave that conservative party control of Congress for the first time in decades,
the high-profile Georgia legislator Newt Gingrich's band had the Rev. Pat Robertson
and Ralph Reed's Christian Coalition stirring the conservative grassroots into
action against the Bill Clinton administration.
Now, in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, Gary Bauer, a
former Reagan administration official and longtime conservative activist, is
heading up a new organization aimed at countering liberal groups like MoveOn.org,
and supporting President Bush's global "war on terror."
The "Forgotten Americans Coalition" is composed of a number of veteran
conservative leaders, including the American Family Association's Dr. Don Wildmon,
Christian Broadcasting Network's Robertson, the Free Congress Foundation's Paul
Weyrich, and Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the wildly popular "Left Behind"
series of apocalyptic novels, and his wife, Beverly, the founder of Concerned
Women for America.
Just prior to their testimony before Congress of General David Petraeus and
Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the situation in Iraq, the Forgotten Americans Coalition
(FAC) issued a Declaration "warning Americans of the catastrophic consequences
of a US withdrawal from Iraq."
"Many of the  signers – who lead organizations with millions of members
– are usually associated with issues like abortion, marriage and the family.
Still, they feel compelled to speak out against a cut-and-run strategy being
pushed by isolationists inside and beyond the confines of Congress," Bauer
said in a FAC press release.
Don Feder, a conservative columnist and a member of the FAC steering committee
observed: "By signing this declaration, religious conservatives are saying:
'Yes, we care about marriage, the family and the unborn. But we also care about
national security, the morale of our servicemen and women and the war on terrorism.'
The left, which thinks neocons are the only ones on the right opposing an Iraq
withdrawal, had better think again."
But critics like Fred Clarkson, co-founder of the blog TalkToAction, says the
coalition appears to be "a classic inside the beltway paper tiger."
"It doesn't exist except to issue 'messages' to true believers and to
make it appear in the media that there is more support for a failed foreign
policy than really exists," he told IPS. "It smacks of a desperation
move to shore up support even among religious conservatives, whose support for
the war seems to be melting faster than the polar ice cap."
Rob Boston, the assistant director of communications for the civil liberties
watchdog group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, agreed
that the Forgotten Americans Coalition could be "just another Astroturf
[rather than grassroots] organization."
"But if we assume this is a serious effort," Boston told IPS, "it
appears to be an attempt to create a 'public relations surge' among the far
right to match the military one."
Although support for the Iraq war has pretty much disintegrated among the general
population, "many religious right leaders have not wavered," Boston
"Bauer, for example, was among a coterie of religious right leaders who
met with Bush at the White House Feb. 1 for an update on the war. Bauer and
his allies tend to view the war through a sectarian lens with the US leading
the way against 'Islamo-fascism.' It's a type of new crusade," Boston added.
The declaration, entitled, "The Tragic Consequences of a US Withdrawal
From Iraq", is FAC's first public project. It says in part that "The
Iraq war must be seen in the broader context of Islamo-fascism's war on America
and Western Civilization... If we pull out now, or announce a timetable for
withdrawal, the region will be destabilized and Israel further endangered. Iran
and Syria, two legs of the axis of evil, will become far more powerful..."
"It took 20 years to recover from the demoralizing experience of our failure
in Vietnam," the document reads. "How will we convince young Americans
to enlist in the next effort to combat terrorism, if – by withdrawing now –
we tacitly admit that more than 3,600 of our service men and women died in vain?"
"The coalition's declaration shows us how closely top religious right
leaders have hitched their wagon to the star of neoconservative militarism,"
Clarkson observed. "These leaders have made it clear, like Bush, that there
is no going back. They are also at considerable pains to try to show that the
religious right's concern about domestic culture has anything to do with an
unjustifiable war on the other side of the world."
In a column dated Sep. 14, Bauer wrote that "what's most striking"
about FAC "is the involvement of dozens of religious and family values
leaders. Historically, values organizations have been reluctant to engage in
foreign policy. But six years into a struggle that has reshaped understandings
of the relationship between war and duty, our unique coalition reaffirms a fundamental
insight: Victory is a values issue. We believe defeat at the hands of an ideology
that worships death would be immoral."
Reading straight out of the Bush administration playbook, Bauer added: "Values
voters also recognize that the battle against Islamic extremism, with Iraq as
its central front, and their decades-long battle against materialism and cultural
relativism are in fact two fronts in the same war for our survival...In a very
real sense, victory in Iraq is inextricably linked not only with victory in
the larger war on terror but also with our ability to protect our cherished
values at home."
But in Clarkson's view, "The cold war conservatives had an identity crisis
when the cold war ended. But thanks to the neoconservative program, framed by
Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis, cold war ideology is being
revived in the form of anti-Islamism, and these leaders of the religious right
are completely on board."
Americans United's Rob Boston also connected the founding of FAC to the 2008
US presidential election. "Gary Bauer undoubtedly also wants to use the
war on terror to energize the far-right base in advance of the 2008 election.
They need some new issues. You can only pass so many constitutional amendments
banning same-sex marriage in the states, and the immigrant-bashing is getting
a little tiresome," he noted.