Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, a pair of rightist factions in the
Bush administration are hoping to take the United States on
the road to Baghdad. Unlike the beloved Hope-Crosby 'road'
pictures, however, the adventure in Iraq is not going to be
AXIS OF KRISTOL
but some will definitely be all smiles, among them what Matthews
calls the "neoconservative faction" of the administration:
namely, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who, with
his sometime co-author Robert Kagan, proclaimed in a famous
article that the goal of American foreign policy must be "benevolent
world hegemony." Matthews dolefully notes that the two
of them "write a regular column for the Washington Post
pushing war with Iraq," as the rest of the neocon chorus dutifully
shouts "Amen!", including Frank Gaffney, William Safire, and
a host of Washington political operatives deeply embedded
in the Bush administration. One widely-noted example of neocon
dominance: as neocon presidential speechwriter David
Frum, author of the "axis of evil" phraseology, exits
the White House, neocon Joseph
Shattan takes his place.
pointed out in the Washington Post that a cadre
of young neocons dominates the White House corps of speechwriters:
Shattan once worked for Kristol, when the latter was shilling
for Dan Quayle, a job history young Shattan shares with Bush
speechwriter Matthew Scully and Cheney scribe John McConnell.
Other Kristolian alumni: Peter Wehner, another Bush speechwriter,
and National Security Council wordsmith Matthew Rees. What's
odd about Shattan's ascension, however, is that he had just
gotten through savaging the Bushies in National Review
for not being sufficiently pro-Israel. By endorsing a Palestinian
state, Bush was exhibiting "America's
cowardice and corruption," averred the future White House
entirely to the president and his team . . . the campaign to
defeat the Islamist challenge has gotten off to a singularly
that, naturally, Shattan was vetoed for a job in the administration
as a speechwriter for the Energy Department by the munchikins
in the Office of Presidential Personnel and, not so naturally,
invited to work at the White House.
no such thing as a "neocon agenda" National Review
rushes to reassure us: this is an invention of "the Left."
NR writer Neil Seeman, a policy analyst at the Canadian
Fraser Institute, complains:
9/11, terms like 'neoconservative agenda' and 'neoconservative'
have acquired a new frisson in the anti-war lexicon."
goes on to attack none other than Pat Buchanan for
firing "the first fusillade." Some "leftist"!
the first and loudest complaints against the neocons and their
agenda came not from the Left but from their critics on the
Right, not only Pat Buchanan but Tom Fleming of the Rockford
Institute and conservative scholar Paul Gottfried: the latter's
Conservative Movement, chronicles what Gottfried regards
as the degeneration of authentic conservatism since the neocons
gained the upper hand over traditionalists and libertarians.
My own book, Reclaiming
the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement
also tells the story of how the limited
government and pro-peace conservatism of Senator Robert A.
Taft was subverted by a coterie of ex-Stalinists and ex-Trotskyists
and made consonant with a right-wing form of social democracy.
is old news: the neocon-"paleocon"
debate has been playing out in
the pages of conservative journals for a decade. But Seeman
is blissfully oblivious to all this, or pretends to be, and
blithely derides the very idea of a neocon agenda as "one
of those gems you might find littered in fascinating periodicals
with names like the Journal of Canadian Studies." Well,
uh, not exactly: try
Chronicles magazine, which is to National Review
what real gold is to fool's gold, if you want the
real dirt on the neocons.
major target of the paleocon
critique has been the globalist outlook of the neocon
faction, whose foreign policy views can be summed up by simply
inverting the title of Pat Buchanan's best-selling anti-interventionist
Republic, Not an Empire. The paleocons, for their
part, abhor war, albeit not on pacifist but on decentralist
and libertarian grounds. Kristol and his fellow neo-imperialists
have never seen a war they didn't support, even going so far
as threatening to abandon the Republicans, during the Clinton
era, if they didn't get squarely behind Clinton's rape of
Serbia. Kristol called for "cracking Serb skulls" long before
the Great Pantsdropper decided, three years ago today [March
24], to drop bombs on Belgrade.
and his followers did walk out of the GOP to support
warhawk John McCain, who, from Day One of the Kosovo war,
called for putting in American ground troops, and whose blustering
bullying style perfectly reflects the neocon foreign policy.
For years, Kristol and his gang have been clamoring for war
not only with Iraq, but with the entire Arab Middle East.
Now, in the wake of 9/11, they have seized their chance, and
are taking the offensive: Kristol and a coterie of his fellow
neocons recently signed an
open letter to the President calling for the military
occupation of not only Iraq, but also Syria, Iran, and much
of the rest of the Middle East. That would leave the US with
a lone ally in the region: it would be a war pitting the US
and Israel against a billion-plus Muslims worldwide. What's
scarier is that they may even get their way
show you how much presidential elections, or any sort of elections,
mean in this country: the Kristolians are not-so-quietly infiltrating
a White House whose election most of them fiercely opposed,
or supported only tepidly. So now we are getting the rhetoric
of "Mad John" McCain coming out of George W. "Humility"
Bush's mouth. And you wondered why
LOOK AT THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!
but not to worry, says Seeman, it's not the neocons because,
you see, there was this poll of "opinion leaders," and it
shows that the idea of expanding the war to Iraq is real
popular if that country can be shown to "support terrorism."
(A big "if," but never mind
.) So, you see, practically everybody
or, at least, anybody who's anybody has forgotten
all about Osam-bin-What's-his-name, and is now just as determined
to see US troops take Baghdad, even if it means vicious house-to-house
streetfighting, as, say, Charles Krauthammer. "Sorry folks,"
no vast right-wing conspiracy here. Curiously, though, the anti-war,
anti-neocon cant continues. Neocons are 'Washington's War Party';
the neocons are implacable and blood thirsty; and so on and
so forth. Not so long ago, neoconservatives were a few estranged
liberals, mugged by reality. Now they're everywhere, mugging
America's entire political agenda? I don't think so."
us? Seeman's indignant denial may seem disingenuous
to intellectual historians of the Right, who have traced the
neoconservatives' promiscuous odyssey from schismatic
Trotskyism to the far-right wing of Social Democracy and
then into the arms of the conservative establishment. Yet
it is perfectly in synch with the conceit that their predecessors
on the Right the traditionalists and the libertarians
hardly mattered. In celebrating the complete takeover of conservative
institutions by "a few estranged liberals mugged by reality,"
Weekly Standard writer David Brooks once triumphantly
all neoconservatives now!" So, it seems, they are
everywhere, mugging American's entire political agenda and
the number one item on their agenda is war.
DO NEOCONS BELIEVE?
article by Joe Sobran that I link to above describes the neocons
as essentially "pragmatists" who are, at best, "muddled centrists"
with "conservative leanings," and as basically lacking any
coherent ideology beyond support for the New Deal's statification
of American capitalism and a general feeling that they'd "had
enough of liberalism." Sobran is right about their statist
inclinations, but he's wrong on the essential point. The neocons
may be all over the map on domestic policy, exhibiting none
of the gut-level distrust of government power that defines
the traditional American Right, but on the vital question
of foreign policy they have been the most consistently belligerent
faction in American politics.
TRIUMPH OF SIDNEY HOOK
warmongering is the very essence of neoconservatism: the first
Burnham, and Max
Shachtman, two dissident Trotskyists who turned right
staring in 1940) split with the Left over the question of
World War II: Burnham went on to set the tone at National
Review, and Shachtman had an influence on the slower-moving
ex-lefists who became Reaganites in the 1970s and 80s. During
the Vietnam era, the leading lights of the neocon movement
left the Democratic party when the antiwar McGovernites took
over. During the cold war, as Sobran correctly notes, the
neocons were the most militant faction, and they came into
policy positions during the Reagan administration, boring
their way into the National Endowment for Democracy, and under
the aegis of such ex-Democrats as Jeanne Kirkpatrick. This
marriage of Right and ex-Left was consummated, symbolically,
when President Ronald Reagan awarded the Medal of Freedom
to Sidney Hook, a lifelong socialist and fervent anti-Communist.
such forerunners of neoconservatism as Professor Hook, the heroes
of the Old Right Senator Robert A. Taft, Joe McCarthy, and
even Barry Goldwater were disreputable (to liberals, that
is) and therefore beyond the pale. They didn't want to dismantle
the Welfare-Warfare State that had grown up in the wake of the
New Deal: indeed, they didn't care much about domestic policy,
as most of the neocons' attention was directed abroad, at the
battlefields of the cold war in Europe and Asia. With the end
of the cold war, however, the neocons were temporarily in a funk.
What to do?
all, their primary ideological focus had suddenly, without
warning, dissolved before their very eyes, like a mirage in
the desert. And what could take the place of the Kremlin in
their pantheon of evil? In the neocons' never-ending wargame,
a militant Good always requires an even more militant Evil.
But no one was quite up to snuff: Slobodan Milosevic was supposed
to be "another Hitler," but instead turned out to be a smalltime
hoodlum. Saddam Hussein was only a threat to Israel and Kuwait,
in spite of the propaganda campaign that tried to paint his
regime as the second coming of the Third Reich. Besides, in
a post-cold war world that looked forward to a "peace dividend" remember that? their desperate search for a suitable
enemy was more than a little unseemly: it seemed to many,
on the right as well as the left, that the neocons were just
trying to make trouble (trouble which, in their case, always
breathed new life into the neocons, and animated them as never
before. They immediately sprang into action, taking full advantage
of the war hysteria to broaden the scope of the public's anger
toward all things Arab. From the beginning, they looked beyond
Afghanistan and took a position that was, as they say, more
royalist than the King. As the President and his secretary
of state looked to build a broad anti-terrorist coalition,
including key Arab countries, the neocons accused him of selling
out Israel. And here we come to yet another key element of
the neocon agenda, and that is unconditional support for Israeli
aggression and expansionism. As far as they are concerned,
any talk of compromise or conciliation in the Middle East
is "appeasement." When Ariel Sharon compared George W. Bush
to Neville Chamberlain, and his own nation to poor little
Czechoslovakia, neocon Bill
Bennett sided with Sharon. Never mind coalition-building:
the neocons want nothing less than all-out war between America
and the Islamic world, and don't mind at all if Israel is
the prime beneficiary.
NEW POPULAR FRONT
Matthews is right that this administration is led by a bunch
of "oil patch veterans" who have a "sense of entitlement"
to the oil reserves of the Persian Gulf. He is also wise
to the fact that a war on Iraq can only benefit Israel,
and that the neocons are more than ready to sell American
interests down the river if that is what Israel requires. It
scares him that a cabal of ideologues who revel in the idea
of waging World
War IV has worked its way into the White House, and is
being given the run of the place. As well it should.
he's spot on in his analysis of the mechanics of the neocons'
pact with Big Oil. This working alliance is a revamped version
of the same right-wing Popular Front that took over the conservative
movement in the late 1980s, the union of big business and
neoconservative intellectuals that blossomed into lushly funded
thinktanks, magazines, and front organizations which proliferated
like worms after a rain. The neocons crawled up through the
ranks during the Reagan era, and began to aggressively assert
their dominance on the Right. Having purged most of the libertarians
and anyone else in the least bit original or interesting for
any number of heresies, the Right was short of intellectuals
and was more than glad to welcome new recruits with open arms
especially those whose acceptability as former liberals
made the New York Times and the Washington Post
begin to take conservatives seriously.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
conservatives of, say, 1952, would find the triumphalist rot
trumpeted by our bellicose neocons nothing short of crazy.
Invade and conquer the Middle East? I can hear old
Bob Taft, who opposed NATO, questioned the Korean war,
and like virtually all conservatives of the day derided
the Marshall Plan as "globaloney," rolling over in his grave.
The conservative writer Garet Garrett whose Saturday
Evening Post salvos against the New Deal have
just been issued in
book form by Caxton Press warned, in 1952, that "we
have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire."
But to today's "conservatives" of the neo variety, that's
a good thing
transformation of the American Right from a bunch of crusty
"anti-government" types who worry that Social Security is
the last step on the road to socialism and fear the power
of government into spineless suck-ups to Power is best illustrated
by the antics of the new generation of neocons exemplified
in their lightweightness by National Review Online
editor Jonah Goldberg. We've just been treated to a
dose of Goldbergian conservatism in his latest column
supposedly debunking the idea that we are living in an increasingly
Orwellian age: that the prophetic novel written by the man
called the conscience of his generation was not prophetic
British have had cameras in train stations for over a decade
in order to combat IRA terrorism. Is the United Kingdom a
police state? When you go over there and hang out in a pub,
are you worried that some pockmarked dude with a black leather
trench coat might be eavesdropping? Okay, maybe you are, but
that's probably because he's gay and cruising for a good time
(the leather coat is a dead giveaway)."
of Jonah's "charm" is a constant stream of unfunny fag jokes
he seems to have a few "issues," to say the least, when
it comes to queers but what's so emblematic of the degeneration
of the Right (intellectually, that is) is that Goldberg, unlike
the older generation of neocons, just doesn't know much of
anything about anything. Or else how do we explain
this London Times story ("Distasteful
Views Policed") about a squad of undercover British cops
deployed in pubs, and assigned to eavesdrop on conversations?:
who suspect the couple at the next table are eavesdropping
on their conversation may not be far from the truth. Police
in Gloucester have begun a crackdown on racial abuse in ethnic
restaurants by going undercover to make sure that diners keep
unpalatable opinions to themselves.
Napkin was started last week with four plain-clothes officers
eating in pairs in Indian and Chinese restaurants. The first
two days resulted in a 51-year-old man being arrested for
racially aggravated harassment in an Indian restaurant. He
is to appear before magistrates in Gloucester tomorrow. Another
man was overheard by the plain-clothes officers as he mimicked
an Indian waiter, but police decided that his behaviour was
not bad enough to warrant prosecution.
Gloucestershire police are warning that they will be carrying
out more covert operations in ethnic restaurants. Chief Inspector
Dean Walker said: 'Racist behaviour is unacceptable. The constabulary
is now taking a proactive stance in relation to racist offences
rather than waiting for people to report them to us.'"
was in March of 2000, and have we any reason to doubt that
things have gotten worse much worse since then?
Tony Blair's Britain, at the eve of its amalgamation into
the socialist EU, is frighteningly close to the "Airstrip
One" of Orwell's imagination which is one reason our
original British columnist not only adopted this name
as his logo, but wrote under the Orwellian pseudonym of "Emmanuel
Goldstein." He didn't feel safe in Tony Blair's Britain, and
I, for one, don't blame him. But, then, Goldstein, unlike
Goldberg, is an authentic conservative (of a libertarian bent),
and actually knows something about the British condition.
intellectual level of the conservative movement, under neocon
suzerainty, is abysmally low, as Goldberg's clumsy apologetics
for the new authoritarian trend make all too clear. Here is
someone who rose to prominence on the strength of his connection
with his mother, Lucianne
Goldberg, whose 15 minutes of fame occurred when she had
the Clinton-Monica tapes in her hot little hands. In a post-cold
war Right without any real ideology except a defunct anti-Communism,
Jonah naturally slithered into place as a key figure at National
Review, the fountainhead of conservative orthodoxy. In
his role as chief
defender of John Ashcroft Goldberg's wife is the attorney
general's speechwriter and confidante his mushy brand of
neoconnish double-talk comes in handy, as it can be used to
justify any position (except, of course, the antiwar
GOLDBERG-IZATION OF CONSERVATISM
of the Goldbergs, Lucianne's site has been experiencing a
bit of a clampdown, recently: strict enforcement of the rule
against posting anything that isn't from a "legitimate" news
site. Of course, Debkafiles.com is A-ok, but Antiwar.com is
verboten. Another no-no is The
New York Review of Books: when someone dared to post
an article by Gary Wills on the Jesuits, the webmaster cracked
the whip, and closed the thread with an officious notice:
is a NEWS site. Please post news articles, columns and comment
from legitimate on-line newspapers, magazines or news sites
self-important, and clever I can see: but those first
two qualities combined with sheer stupidity are too much to
bear. I couldn't resist the temptation to write and ask: "Are
you sure you don't think the New York Review of
Books is 'legitimate'?" Lucianne wrote back almost immediately
and thanked me for the correction: the thread was restored.
Okay, I thought, maybe they're not so dumb after all. Just
the other day, however, they did it again: this time
it was an article by Michael Lind in the online
edition of Britain's respected Prospect magazine. Once
again, that self-consciously overweening proclamation was
posted for all to read:
is a NEWS site. Please post news articles, columns and comment
from legitimate on-line newspapers, magazines or news sites
only THREAD CLOSED."
wrote again, and asked the same question: Are you sure about
that? This time, I got a rebuke about sending "rude emails"
and, as of this writing, Lind's analysis of Israel's stranglehold
on American politics and how it might be loosened, if not
undone has yet to see the light of day on Lucianne.com.
If there's anything the neocons hate, it's anyone who dares
question whether Israel's interests are one with our own.
On Lucianne.com, it is a hate-crime to post such materials,
and its authors and those who truck in their works are banned,
left and right, as not quite "legitimate" enough for Goldbergian
ON THE FUTURE
of course, Lucianne's website is her own private property,
and she is perfectly entitled to post only articles from the
Debkafiles or from anywhere
she pleases: half her stuff is posted by paid professionals,
anyway. But as an indication of the Goldbergian "conservative"
temperament of the kind of society we can expect to live
under if the neocons and their allies should get much closer
to the seat of Power this censorious and hectoring regime
is a window on the future. No wonder Jonah dismisses the 1984
metaphor with such airy disdain, and valorizes the authoritarian
Ashcroft: this is the "new" conservatism of today's Bright
Young Things, the neo-conservatism whose triumph was hailed
by David Brooks and it isn't pretty. Nor is it recognizable
as conservative in any meaningful sense of the term: for just
how "conservative" and stabilizing is a program of perpetual
war? The "conservatives" of today the neocons who inhabit
key positions in this administration, and have just about
consolidated near-complete control are pragmatists, true,
but they do hold firm to three principles which contradict
the original premises of American conservatism in every respect:
PRINCIPLES OF NEOCONSERVATISM
the domestic front, far from opposing the growth of Big Government,
or even seeking to slow it down, the neocons want to utilize
the centralizing federal apparatus to achieve their own "conservative"
ends. If "war is the health of the state," as Randolph Bourne
put it, then the neocons would agree, except they would add:
and a good thing, too. On the foreign policy front,
the neocon policy is not only perpetual war, but, specifically,
war on behalf of Israel. The one leftover from their left-wing
days has been the affinity for serving the interests of a
foreign power: in one of his books, Norman Podhoretz relates
the gently self-mocking story of how he, as a young Commie,
wrote an ode to the heroic Soviet fighters of Stalingrad.
Today, he writes about the Palestinian siege of Israel with
the passion he once reserved for the "workers' paradise,"
and the neocons run true to this same pattern. Oldtime conservatives
put America first: the neocons put Israel first.
whining that the neocons are being picked on by the "liberal
media" and the "Left" is a joke coming from those busy compiling
lists of "unpatriotic" college professors and others whose
loyalty to America is being questioned on account of their
opposition to the policy of perpetual war. Here's Jonah in
National Review's "blog" oh, those Gen-Ex neocons
are so trendy and cool! kvetching
just read the transcript of Chris Matthews' anti-neoconservative
rant (I'd link to it, but I got it through Nexis, I couldn't
find it at MSNBC). Good Lord, Matthews sounds like he's about
to say 'I have in my hand a list of neoconservatives inside
the American government.' He makes David Frum a Canadian
by birth sound like a Soviet mole. And, most bizarre, he
calls Dana Milbank's puff piece on Bill Kristol a 'very courageous
piece,' as if Milbank had the guts to name names. He asks
Milbank, 'Are [the neoconservatives] are they loyal to the
Kristol neoconservative movement, or to the president?' I
don't like calling people McCarthyites, partly because McCarthy
was right about a lot of stuff, but Matthews seems to be doing
his best impersonation."
see if I get this straight: it's okay for his wife's boss
to say that critics of the draconian measures taken by this
administration, including opponents of the "USA-PATRIOT Act,"
aiding the terrorists," but it's not okay to discuss
the political and ideological complexion of the President's
staff. To give him credit where it's due, Goldberg takes the
right line on McCarthy: "Tail-gunner Joe" was indeed right
about the US government being riddled with Commies and so,
I would contend, is Matthews right about the neocons. The
analogy of the "Soviet mole" is exactly on target,
including the implication that a mole naturally pursues the
interests of a foreign power. In this case, the foreign power
is supposed to be "friendly" but, as
the Israeli spy scandal story underscores, that is one
myth bound to die a hard death.
THEY BE STOPPED?
is clear, above all, about the new push for war with Iraq,
and now even Iran, is that any such war will benefit Israel
and only Israel. Saddam's missiles, which he doesn't
even possess, could not reach New York, or Burbank: they could
reach Tel Aviv. Iran, too, is Israel's avowed enemy, and thus
its inclusion in the "axis of evil." Evil is defined, in the
neocon sense, as any power that stands in the way of Israel
and the current right-wing govenment's plans to ethnically
cleanse Palestine of the Palestinians and solve the "Arab
problem" once and for all. Under cover of a general Middle
Eastern conflagration, with US troops and planes targeting
Arafat's possible protectors, Israel hopes to use the US as
a shield while she puts her enemies to the sword.
ugly, even monstrous and it just may work. What could stop
it, however, is if enough people like Matthews, and others
in the media, catch on to the neocons' wargame and decide
it's time to pull the plug.
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