WAR PARTY ORGANIZES
right: the opposition to extending the "war on terrorism"
to Iraq and throughout the Middle East is already coalescing,
on the Left, predictably, but
also on the Right. The neoconservatives,
however, are ready for that: their answer is a new organization,
Americans for Victory Over
Terrorism (AVOT). Heading up the group is William Bennett,
former drug czar and self-appointed public scold. The list
of "senior advisors" includes
avowed purpose, according to Bennett, is to "take to task
those groups and individuals who fundamentally misunderstand
the nature of the war we are facing." Ah, but it may not be
just a "misunderstanding" on the part of people like me –
for example – who oppose a US policy of global intervention.
A full-page ad taken out by AVOT in the New York Times
denounced not only bin Laden & Co. but those Americans on
the home front:
are attempting to use this opportunity to promulgate their
agenda of 'blame America first.' Both [internal and external]
threats stem from either a hatred for the American ideals
of freedom and equality or a misunderstanding of those ideals
and their practice."
Enemy Within is an even greater danger than Osama bin Laden
and his supporters abroad: that is the clear implication of
AVOT’s rhetoric, and this perfectly reflects the view of Podhoretz
that we are in for a repeat of the tumultuous 1960s if something
isn’t done to cut off the ‘anti-Americans" at the pass. In
a preemptive first strike, AVOT is going after these internal
"threats" by compiling a list of professors, legislators,
writers, and others whose zeal on behalf of our endless "war
on terrorism" is deemed insufficient by the arbiters of the
new political correctness. Among the guilty:
Maxine Waters, whose great crime is apparently her blunt
assessment of a war that has gone radically off-course:
"Some of us, maybe foolishly, gave this president the
authority to go after terrorists. We didn't know that
he, too, was going to go crazy with it."
Jimmy Carter, whose sin was to suggest that Bush's "axis
of evil" war-cry is "overly simplistic and counterproductive."
Dennis Kucinich, who trenchantly pinpointed the inevitable
domestic consequences of Bush’s battle plan as "canceling,
in effect, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth
Kuttner, editor of The American Prospect, for daring
to criticize Bush's "dubious notion of a permanent war."
Lapham, editor of Harper's, for pointing out the
glaringly obvious: that Washington has used tactics that
might justifiably be called "terrorist": for example,
bombing civilian targets in Baghdad and the Balkans.
according to observers at Tuesday’s [March 12] news conference,
the blustery Bennett reserved his most pointed comments, not
for the usual left-liberal suspects, but for Llewellyn H.
Rockwell, Jr., president and founder of the libertarian Ludwig
von Mises Institute and editor of the most politically
incorrect website of them all: LewRockwell.com.
Lew’s crime? An article, entitled "The
Dread Prospect," in which he amusingly mocked the idea
of a "shadow government" slated to take over in case Washington
was nuked. Written just as the rumors
of an alleged nuclear threat to New York City were exposed
as a hoax, Rockwell averred:
say that Washington really was incinerated. As difficult and
alarming as this sounds, we live in times when horrible realities
confront us every day. It is time that we deal frankly and
honestly with the ugly prospect. The first thing that would
happen is that your personal income would rise equal to the
40 percent you currently pay Washington in taxes. Because
there would be nowhere to actually send the checks – excise
taxes, income taxes, and payroll taxes would be meaningless.
Instead of having to wait for politicians to give us ‘private
accounts’ for some portion of Social Security, we’d get real
privatization with no FICA at all. The country would be immediately
vulnerable to attack by terrorists! On the other hand, there
would be no one to enforce sanctions against Iraq, pay the
troops in Saudi Arabia, or fund the settlements on the Gaza
Strip, so the terrorists would lose their rationale for suicide
bombings and the like. They might just choose to go home to
their wives and kids."
thundered Bennett, is "outrageous" – and, no doubt it is to
someone like the ex-drug czar, who has spent much of his life
on the payroll of some government agency or other. And how
dare Rockwell suggest that our adversaries worldwide
are so human as to have wives, kids, and – cutting close to
home – family values. Why, this is nothing less than "moral
equivalence," a tiresome phrase resurrected from the cold
war neoconservative lexicon. This familiar mantra is being
revived to neutralize the arguments of Lapham, and others,
that if we can kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in
Iraq, what is to stop bin Laden from claiming that 3,000 civilians
in the World Trade Center were a legitimate target? This question,
say the neocons, is impermissible, because it equates the
Good Guys (the US government) with the Bad Guys – and AVOT’s
conception of the Bad Guys includes not only bin Laden &
Co., but virtually every Arab government in the Middle East,
including the Saudis.
AS GRAND INQUISITOR
Sullivan whose role as the self-appointed Grand Inquisitor
of the war effort on the home front has inspired
a cyber-subculture of Junior Thought Police chimed
in, remarking that the Rockwell piece looks "on the bright
side of the nuclear destruction of the capital. As sick as
Rall – but from the far right."
is a liar. No one can conclude from the context – and
title – of his piece that Rockwell is calling for nuclear
terrorism in the nation’s capital. His article, which is not
really about the war at all, but about the inherent incompetence
and serio-comic irony of the political class, far from being
an expression of treason, is an expression of deep loyalty
to the anti-centralism and anti-statism that animated the
Founders of this country. Rockwell’s opposition to Big Government,
and his radical skepticism when it comes to the competence
of Washington kleptocrats, used to be a commonly held value
on the Right, but was downplayed after the neoconservative
takeover of the movement and has now been completely ditched
in the post-9/11 era. Income taxes, excise taxes, any and
all kinds of taxes are necessary to keep the War Machine running,
and if the high tax rate has to be maintained, or even increased,
then right-wing social democrats like Bennett, Sullivan, and
their fellow neocons are more than willing to oblige.
for Rockwell’s blasphemous remarks directed at the sacred
cow of Social Security, in the neoconservative view this is
what supposedly consigns him to the "far right," instead of
just the plain old Right: the "far-out" notion that conservatives
ought to take their own ideas seriously, and act not just
to slow America’s march to de facto socialism but to
actually reverse course. In the post-9/11 era, the
neocons exult, such views are fundamentally "anti-American"
– what, you want to radically reduce the size and power
of the federal government? What are you, some kind
and Rall couldn’t be more different, politically and culturally,
and yet they have something in common that suck-ups to Power
like Sullivan will never have: courage. While Sullivan
delights in his self-appointed role as the War Party’s Vyshinsky,
the libertarian Rockwell and the idiosyncratic cartoonist-essayist
Rall, second-favorite hate-object of the "war-bloggers"
(below Noam Chomsky) dare to question the moral legitimacy
of this perpetual war for perpetual insecurity – and that
really gets under the War Party’s skin.
much so that they have resolved to do something about it:
to create, as
during World War I, a committee of intellectual vigilantes
who will smear all critics of the war into silence or permanent
unemployment, and AVOT is the vanguard of this movement. Their
first target is the center of opposition to the last spate
of foreign adventurism, the college campuses. It was there
that Podhoretz’s dreaded antiwar movement was spawned, back
in the dark old days of the 1960s, before the Fall of the
Towers inaugurated a new age of bloodthirsty enlightenment.
AVOT is clearly addressing Poddy’s great fear that it could
all happen again.
A MIL – AND MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM
from Lawrence Kadish, AVOT is sponsoring a series of campus
events supposedly starting this fall, where it will doubtless
raise Podhoretz’s call to gut Muslim or Arab studies programs.
These, as Podhoretz complained in his speech, are supposedly
whitewashing the "real" nature of Islam, as demonstrated in
the television coverage of 9/11 (what station is he watching,
and on which planet?):
it was from the universities, not from the politicians, that
the substantive content of the broadcasts derived, in interviews
with Muslim academics whose accounts of Islam were—how shall
I put it?—selectively roseate. Sometimes they were even downright
untruthful, especially in sanitizing the doctrine of jihad
or holy war, or in misrepresenting the extent to which leading
Muslim clerics all over the world had been celebrating suicide
bombers as heroes and martyrs."
this is said at a time when the FBI and other law enforcement
and intelligence agencies are bewailing the lack of Arab speakers
doesn’t bother Podhoretz. Never mind the practical mechanics
of intelligence-gathering: a department of Middle East studies
might stir up sympathy for the Arabs, and that must be avoided
at all costs.
the "anti-American" reaction to 9/11 in the nation’s colleges,
there was the campus, to which I am tempted to apply Hamlet’s
words: ‘Fie on it! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,/ That grows
to seed; things rank and gross in nature/ Possess it merely.’"
and his pals can’t wait to get their hands on the hoe and
start turning over the soil. Instead of the "noxious weeds"
– a phrase, oddly enough, used
also by the Chinese Communist Party to identify "revisionists,"
"bourgeois elements" and other criminal heretics – the neocons
plan to raise a garden of obedient little blossoms, all bending
in unison to the same wind.
rhetoric is filled with disdainful references to "blame America
firsters," while the neocons rail against the "anti-Americanism"
of the left and the "far right" – but who are the real anti-Americans
here? The AVOT website is filled with material that would
lead the average casual visitor to think that this is a branch
of the official Republican party: there is even a link to
the White House. But a deeper probe reveals an undercurrent
of … well, of anti-Americanism, albeit not of the traditional
GEORGE BUSH AN ‘APPEASER’?
an essay by Bennett, "Standing
up for Israel is standing up for our principles," the
leader of AVOT joins Ariel Sharon in comparing
Bush to Neville Chamberlain, who "sold out" Czechoslovakia
in order to appease Hitler:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has reason to fear Israel will
end up being a de facto Czechoslovakia. And that is why broaching
the question of a Palestinian state at this critical juncture
is wrong. It gives the appearance of rewarding the intifada.
Even though we are absolutely confident the Bush administration
has no intention of abandoning Israel, one must fully appreciate
Israeli sensitivity to any suggestion that the United States
might change policy during such perilous times."
wound of 9/11 was still fresh and bleeding, and yet the Prime
Minister of Israel could not resist the temptation to rub
a little salt in it by comparing the American President to
a British Prime Minister whose name is a synonym for weakness
and appeasement. Bill Bennett, the super-patriot, thinks this
was a good thing: Sharon was right, he says. This kind of
anti-Americanism is okay, because it’s not disloyalty to America
but loyalty to America’s indissoluble alliance with Israel.
But what happens when the interests of Israel and the US diverge?
is precisely what is happening now, as the President demands
the exit of Israeli troops from the occupied territories
and calls for precisely what Bennett was polemicizing against
in his piece: a Palestinian state. As Bush tilts toward the
moderate rulers of pro-American Arab states – the linchpin
of his anti-terrorist strategy – AVOT and the neocons will
increasingly employ rhetoric that is objectively anti-American.
For, in any contest between American national interests and
the wishes and desires of the Israeli government, it is always
the latter that the neocons champion, and Bennett is among
the more fanatical of the lot.
all their palaver about "patriotism" and ostensible devotion
to distinctively American values, the AVOTistas and
their neocon allies are all about putting Israel first. Their
antipathy for Arabs, including our Arab allies; their equation
of American and Israeli interests; their polemics against
any Israeli concessions to America; the elevation of Israeli
"sensitivities" to top priority, even when the Israelis are
outright insulting – not since the Communist Party of the
1930s and 1940s has there been an ideological group in American
politics so thoroughly committed to pursuing the interests
of a foreign power. As long as Israeli goals and American
interests are congruent, it’s "united we stand" within the
new post-9/11 Popular
Front. But when the two nations come into conflict, look
out – because, in that case, Bill Bennett makes Ted Rall
look like a flag-waving superpatriot.
NOTE TO MY READERS
I winced, too, at that mention of the $500,000 contribution
to AVOT. And, as you can see from the banner on the front
page of this site, and the letter you may have gotten from
me – we’re in the midst of a fundraising drive where our very
survival is at stake. Can Antiwar.com survive the war hysteria?
I hope so, but it’s an open question – and one that only you,
our loyal readers, can answer.
don’t have the kind of donors who can afford to lay half a
mil on us: the War Party, for some reason, seems to have a
monopoly on those guys, an inexhaustible supply of money as
well as guaranteed access to the mainstream media. Bennett
has just signed on as a "consultant" to CNN News, and we’re
going to be bombarded with this warmongering fool’s fulminations
unto eternity. The AVOTistas are going to be invading
the campuses, the op ed pages, and the airwaves with a vengeance,
doing their best to whip up enough war hysteria to sustain
an all-out US invasion of the Middle East.
anti-interventionist answer – will there be one? On the internet,
Antiwar.com has been waging a heroic battle, swimming against
the stream and making surprising headway. Our audience has
grown exponentially since 9/11, and, in recent weeks, has
taken another leap upward: if this trend continues, we will
soon be approaching half a million visits per month.
come so far – and, yet, now we are faced with the prospect
of radical cutbacks.
big real estate magnate is not going to come to our
rescue – although we wouldn’t be against it, we aren’t counting
on it, either. We’re counting on you, all the loyal
readers who know that without Antiwar.com they would be very
much in the dark – and the world would be a much darker place.
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