May 9, 2003

Does Senator Bob Graham have the goods on the Bushies and 9/11?

The mystery of 9/11 only gets murkier as time goes on. How did a rag-tag group of 19 (plus one) conspirators manage to hijack three airliners and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon without so much as a small blip showing on law enforcement's radar screen? We may never know the answer to that troubling question, but some people do know and Senator Bob Graham may well be one of them.

In an interview with PBS, as we noted last year, Graham declared that certain intelligence agencies were involved and/or had foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks. Now we have the Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford telling the ABC Radio team of John Batchelor and Paul Alexander:

"I think Bob Graham has a smoking pistol on the Bush administration."

But there's just one hitch, as Crawford explains:

"The problem is that what [Graham] knows – and he knows some very damaging stuff about the Bush administration's failures before 9/11 to prevent 9/11 – he can't talk about because it's classified."

According to Crawford, who is covering the Florida Democrat's White House bid, Graham is looking for a way to drop a dime on the Bushies without overstepping his bounds as a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee:

"He's got something on Bush. He just can't figure out how to use it."

All I can say is: use it, Bob, use it!

In an interview on MSNBC's Buchanan and Press, Crawford revealed a series of events that purportedly occurred in the months prior to 9/11 which should have led the Bushies to suspect something was up. The implication is that this administration could have prevented the attacks, but didn't because they failed to act. Graham has consistently charged that they were more concerned about Saddam Hussein than Osama bin Laden, but that needn't worry the Bushies. After all, we are talking about an electorate that believes Saddam, not Osama, was behind 9/11, the two villains having merged in the public's mind. Now, however, Graham is raising the stakes, and his critique if true – is a veritable sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

In his interview with PBS, you'll remember, Graham cited "evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States."

Who knew? Speculation along these lines has developed in a wide variety of, um, directions, most of it wacko in extremis: "Bush knew!" is the war cry of the tinfoil hat brigade, whose partisans write me long indignant letters every time I label them as such. But my best guess is that the truth about 9/11, if and when it comes out, will prove a lot more interesting and surprising than the rather pedestrian and stridently partisan conspiracy theories coming out of the far-left fever-swamps, which posit Bushian foreknowledge and outright complicity. I suspect that what Graham has yet to tell us will show that Bush should have known, but didn't and that included among those who did know is at least one duplicitous "ally."


The ubiquity of the view that points to the neocon factor as the progenitor of the Iraq war – and all the subsequent Middle East wars we are seemingly fated to fight, continues to amaze me. Ha'aretz weighed in recently, with a story subtitled "the war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals," and the New York Times delved even deeper by unearthing the Leo Strauss connection.

Yet the Times piece failed to come to grips with the real reasons why Strauss has acquired iconic status among influential neocons such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol, and Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century. Luckily, we have David Gordon's timely essay on, which shows that, long before Strauss became known as the philosopher king of the War Party, Murray N. Rothbard writing over forty years ago – had Strauss's number:

"As Strauss sees matters, classical and Christian natural law did not impose strict and absolute limits on state power; instead, all is left to the prudential judgment of the wise statesman. From this contention, Rothbard vigorously dissents. 'In this [Straussian] reading, Hobbes and Locke are the great villains in the alleged perversion of natural law. To my mind, the 'perversion' was a healthy sharpening and development of the concept.' Strauss's rejection of individual rights led him to espouse political views that Rothbard found repellent: 'We find Strauss . . . praising 'farsighted', 'sober' British imperialism; we find him discoursing on the 'good' Caesarism, on Caesarism as often necessary and not really tyranny, etc... he praises political philosophers for yes, lying to their readers for the sake of the 'social good'. I must say that this is an odd position for a supposed moralist to take.'"

More than 40 years later, Strauss's disciples in the American government lied us into war while their amen corner in the media shouted "Hail Caesar!" at the birth of an American Empire. The Times article depicts this sort of analysis as the preoccupation of "intellectual conspiracy theorists," and this disdain is shared by the clearly exasperated Amid Eden, writing in The Forward, who exclaims: "Now It's Trotsky's Fault?" His critique of the spread of the "neocon" meme focuses on Michael Lind's "How Neoconservatives Conquered Washington and Launched a War":

"Lind's most creative innovation is his claim that these neocons are 'products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed... finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history.' The reference appears to be to the aging group of onetime Trotskyites from New York's City College, including Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and others – none of them currently in government – who founded the original neoconservative movement that spawned today's conspirators. Tracing his conspiracy to the CCNY cafeteria allows Lind to make the intriguing claim that the neocons are not really motivated by the Wilsonian vision they like to invoke. Such idealism is really a cover for a potent brew of Trotskyite 'permanent revolution,' somehow combined with the 'far-right Likud strain of Zionism.'"

In other words: Pshaw! To link the neoconservative Right of today with the socialist sects of yesteryear seems oddly counterintuitive, to say the least or does it? In that case, someone should have told that to the editors of the staunchly neoconnish National Review when they recently re-ran this piece by Joshua Muravchik describing a meeting held in Washington, D.C., celebrating May Day, 2002:

"Among those sponsoring or joining the evening's festivities – funded mainly by the estate of the widow of Trotskyist icon Max Shachtman – were, on the right, former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former Christian Coalition spokesman Marshall Wittmann, and former Secretary of Labor nominee Linda Chavez; and, on the Left, teachers' union chief Sandra Feldman, Clinton USIA director Penn Kemble, and New Yorker editor Hendrik Hertzberg. In between were former arms negotiator Max Kampelman, National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, and scholars like Nathan Glazer and Seymour Martin Lipset."

Muravchik author of Heaven on Earth, a critical yet admiring history of American socialism – was himself among the celebrants, in his capacity as the former national chairman of the Young Peoples Socialist League (1968 73). The finishing touch on Muravchik's account is the bit about the widow Shachtman's "estate" as the organizer of this little conclave: it was Shachtman's particular schismatic brand of Trotskyism, as advocated by the "Yipsels," as Comrade Muravchik and his fellow young commies called themselves, that over time was transmuted into a militant push for global "democracy." Shachtman died a champion of U.S. global intervention, in Vietnam and around the world, a view he shared with Jeanne Kirkpatrick, whose account of her days as a Yipsel and her subsequent political evolution has to be read to be believed. As Wittmann, a top advisor to John McCain and the champion of "national greatness" conservatism, summed up the significance of the neocons' Trotskyite heritage:

"When I see this distinguished panel and all the distinguished people in the crowd, I'm thinking that we haven't had so many clear-thinking people in one room since Max Schachtman dined alone. We are all Shachtmanites now, in one way or another."

Applying the Straussian concept of "esoteric writing" – which holds that ancient philosophers wrote with censorious rulers in mind, so one has to read between the lines – we can now understand what David Brooks, editorial writer at the Weekly Standard, really meant when he said:

"We're all neoconservatives, now."

And that's why National Review, an ostensibly conservative magazine, ran an account, affectionately told, of a gathering held by a bunch of old commies, who sang "The Internationale" and, fittingly, "Which Side Are You On?"

Which side, indeed.

All this just goes to show how right Lew Rockwell was when he remarked to me the other day that the two founding fathers of neoconservatism are "Leon and Leo."

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of 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 is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and 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.

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