by Justin Raimondo
THE WAR AT HOME
The attack at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, has preempted the usual war news: at least 15 dead, more wounded, and the television is filled with images of terrified students crying and screaming, and a SWAT team moving in military formation down a suburban street. The story, at this hour, is that two black-clad students, heavily armed, went on a rampage at the school, spraying gunfire and heaving hand grenades. In an eerie premonition of what is to come on the Balkan battlefield, for hours today an American high school was the scene of terrible carnage -- indeed, almost as much carnage than has been suffered by Americans in all our wars since "Desert Storm."
CALL IN THE CRISIS RESPONSE TEAM
In a matter of hours, the President takes time off from directing the destruction of Yugoslavia to direct his attention to the carnage at home, reassuring the nation that the federal government is on the job. Clinton responds with a New Age homily: "we need to teach our children to express their anger in a an acceptable way," a quote from St. Paul -- "we see the world through a glass darkly" -- and also an appeal to science: "We need to get the early warning signs." But what can we do insists a reporter. How can the federal government act to prevent this from happening? Clinton details plans to send in the grief counselors --and the Crisis Response Team is on the way. This is the most gruesome of similar crimes that have occurred at high schools around the country, almost a national epidemic. The last rash of such incidents was the occasion for a national conference called by the President, and the creation of a national task force which put out a handbook for all school principals -- as if that could possibly solve the problem of youthful anomie and alienation. Big Government liberals respond to every social problem, from Colorado to Kosovo, by sending in the Crisis Response Team -- or the Marines. The results are a disaster all around.
Our fame continues to grow. In addition to a piece in the Washington Post, the Atlantic magazine has taken note of antiwar.com in a rather snooty review of antiwar sites, "Not Your Father's Antiwar Movement," by Wen Stephenson. [April 14, 1999]. "So far there has been little significant opposition within the United States and other NATO countries (and little coverage in the mainstream media of whatever opposition -- mostly pro-Serb -- does exist). " What planet has Stephenson been living on? Has he missed the huge demonstrations in Greece that may yet bring down the pro-NATO government?. Perhaps the Greeks are too "pro-Serb" for Stephenson's taste: then what about the Italians? Massive demonstrations in Rome and right in the shadow of Aviano air force base, with the Italian Communist Party uniting with the Italian Right against NATO -- this is not "insignificant." Stephenson sneers at the crunchy-granola leftist set -- ZNet, Nonviolence Web, and Peace Net -- as likely to "leave anyone with a mind to protest more puzzled than fired up." Yes, but hardly more puzzling than this rather laconic analysis. Stephenson notes that 'opposition to this war is already making for some strange bedfellows" -- and that, I guess, is us. The "irony" of a Left-Right alliance against this war "are seen vividly at Antiwar.com, a site . . . which reveals a decidedly [sic] right-wing cast of thought." But what is so "ironic" about that? The biggest antiwar movement in this country was organized by conservatives and libertarians: the America First Committee, which opposed U.S. intervention in World War II. The AFC mobilized millions against FDR's war drive, in alliance with leftists like Norman Thomas.
The Left, he claims, is split between "humanitarian interventionists" and "knee-jerk pacifists," and the Right is "equally split between whose who would win at all costs and those for whom the fate of thousands of ethnic Albanian Muslims is not worth risking one drop of American blood. The Committee Against U.S. Intervention seems to be of the latter persuasion." Since this is a war for political correctness, those who oppose it are racist fascist bigots -- this is the perspective of "humanitarian interventionists" like Stephenson, whose humanitarianism doesn't seem to extend to the victims of NATO warplanes. While proudly owning up to the "right-wing" designation, the editors of antiwar.com indignantly deny the charge of Albano-phobia. Seriously, does anyone in America really harbor feelings of ill will toward Albanians? Give me a break. As for being anti-Muslim: actually, I thought it was rather charming when the Taliban decided to rid Afghanistan of pernicious cultural influences by systematically smashing every TV in the country. Every time I tune in to CNN's coverage of the war I think of the Taliban and how much we need them right here in America.
The arrogance and ignorance of The Atlantic is nothing, however, compared to the willful blindness of ZNet, a website sponsored by Z Magazine, a leftist monthly. As the unofficial Voice of Noam Chomsky, Z is the house organ of the crunchy-granola Left; mired in identity politics, like the Clintonians, but still retaining enough of a Marxist perspective to oppose imperialism. With so many of their socialist comrades jumping on the pro-war bandwagon -- including the Democratic Socialists of America, who turned the recent Socialist Scholar's conference into a "win the war" rally -- Z is isolated from its natural constituency of militant do-gooders. It is a proud and lonely thing to be an antiwar leftist in these dark days of "humanitarian" unanimity when it comes to the Balkan war. But this hasn't stopped ZNet from splitting and further isolating the antiwar movement: in an insufferably smug and condescending reply to a letter from Stephen Preston, a Z reader, asking why they don't link their Kosovo website to antiwar.com, they make it clear that they will have no truck with the likes of us. "This message," writes Preston," is provoked by a statement in "Kosovo Q&A" on the ZNet web site. In it, (paraphrasing) somebody asks what right-wingers think about the bombing, and why they're opposed to it. The response is rather condescending, I thought, and states that right-wingers are opposed to it for entirely different reasons than we left-wingers are, and that it's mostly just over impeachment anyway."
Answering on behalf of ZNet, one Michael Albert sniffs: "I suspect you may mean dismissive or condemnatory, not condescending...and yes, it was those things. . . . Having written it, if I remember correctly what it says is that right wing opposition is sometimes a function of simple partisan politics -- which is inconsequential -- and sometimes a function of disagreeing that the bombing serves the interests of U.S. elites, but is rarely if ever a function of sincere human concern for the Kosovars or anyone else."
To accuse someone of being condescending, and then be condescended to in reply -- is poor Stephen Preston to be spared nothing? He was just looking for a straight answer to a simple question: why not build a single-issue antiwar movement? Isn't that a moral imperative? He bravely persevered, writing "I strongly disagree with both this statement and the logic behind it. My personal belief is that war is so horrible as to override any other sentiments (that makes me a pacifist rather than just a leftist, I suppose), and that therefore all antiwar groups should unite, no matter what their opinions on other topics such as social security, capital gains taxes," etc.
"DRUG KINGPINS" AND OTHER DELUSIONS
The insufferable Albert replied: "While one might be happier that a drug kingpin happens to take a stance against, say, some other criminal trend in the downtown of one's city than abetting it, one will not welcome him, or celebrate him, or jump to the ridiculous conclusion that his motivations for doing so are anything like one's own... One would also not point one's kids to the don or one's friends or even just an acquaintance, or anyone at all...at least I wouldn't."
It is sad to see how far the Left has degenerated since its heyday in the sixties. Like some frightened middle-aged spinster who does not dare leave her house because of all those terrible "drug kingpins" out there, Albert huddles in the self-enclosed world of ZNet, preaching to (and linking up with) the converted, and shunning the rest of the world for fear of some lethal contamination. A more dishonest and evasive critique of the rightist case against this war would be hard to imagine. And what, pray tell, is all this law enforcement imagery about? This sounds mighty strange coming out of the mouth of an avowed "leftist." In likening the editors and staff of antiwar.com with "drug kingpins," I fear Albert has somehow gotten us mixed up with the KLA.
A SENSIBLE LAD
What is interesting in this exchange is not the tired bleatings of the ZNet webmaster, but the earnest young Preston -- at least, he seems young -- who is honestly interested in building an effective antiwar movement, i.e. in taking action to stop the bombing and prevent a ground war: "I would like to see links put up to, at the very least, www.antiwar.com.. . . The site has links all over the place, including news collected from various sources (updated quite frequently) about how bad the situation is: opinions, mostly from conservatives, but a lot of them use the same arguments that ZNet's commentaries always do; and links to many other antiwar sites, including ZNet itself." In other words, this site is quite useful as a resource -- and, not only that, but "this group has decided . . . that no matter what their differences with kooky leftists, that any antiwar group deserves support. . . . I think leftists should reciprocate, and not dismiss all right-wing groups as Clinton-hating, apathetic, selfish, and deceitful." Young Preston is a sensible lad, and smart enough to see the many of the same themes are found on both "extremes" of the political spectrum, but his leftist mentors at Z will have none of it. While Albert admits that "some libertarians are, in fact, seriously against horrors of this sort" he is "not even a tiny bit interested in 'Advertising' [sic] groups whose overall agenda is a horrendous affront to humanity . . . nor even ones that are basically not so bad, but just not so good either." Albert's priggish moralism quickly becomes a caricature of itself, and so I will spare my readers any further quotations from his interminable tirade.
FOR A LEFT-RIGHT ALLIANCE
What is interesting, however, is Preston's insight that a Left-Right alliance is possible on issues other than the war: on corporate bailouts, and the evils of the International Monetary Fund, and not only that but "more generally, I think we should try to realize that right-wingers and left-wingers are not as separate as the terminology suggests, Rather, a better way to look at it is 'in and out,' or 'up and down,' as some crossover-leftists have done." This is exactly correct. The old constraints imposed by the Left-Right polarity crumbled away with the downing of the Berlin Wall. With the end of the Cold War, conservatives are returning to their anti-interventionist roots in the realm of foreign policy -- and liberals and a good part of what used to be the hard Left are returning to their statist, globalist, and militantly interventionist roots.
WHERE WE STAND
Both world wars were sold to the American people by good liberal internationalists: the Wilsonians, who wanted to make the world safe for democracy, and the Commie-totalitarian liberal alliance of the old Popular Front days, when the Left turned on a dime and came out for war the moment the Soviet Union was invaded. In making opposition to war his number one issue, Preston -- who calls himself a leftist -- is taking up a preeminently libertarian stance. For the libertarian opposes war as the fullest and deadliest expression of State power in all its awful malevolence. War is inevitably and invariably the occasion for a great leap forward in the size and power of government, a pretext for the curtailment of civil liberties, and the centralization of economic power in the hands of a few government-privileged cartels. War is, in short, "the health of the State," as the great early Twentieth Century liberal Randolph Bourne put it -- and that is why we oppose this disastrous and immoral war, not because we don't like Albanians, or because we like Slobodan Milosevic. The enemy is not in Belgrade, but in Washington, D.C. The American Left, or much of it, has forgotten this, which is why they are fast defecting to the War Party.
Please Support Antiwar.com
A contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of my Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans, a 60-page booklet packed with the kind of intellectual ammunition you need to fight the lies being put out by this administration and its allies in Congress. Send contributions to
Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).