July 19, 2002

When it comes to foreign policy, there's only one party in America – the War Party

Oh, for joy! The New York Times is telling us there's a "Call in Congress for Full Airing of Iraq Policy" – this after George W. Bush has been rattling his saber in Saddam's face for the past year or so, developed a comprehensive invasion plan, and already decided that the US will occupy Iraq "for a year or more." So what's left to debate – the color of the new Iraqi flag?

But then again, what kind of a debate can we expect when, as the Times points out,

"Democrats and Republicans said there was broad bipartisan support for ousting Mr. Hussein, even if that requires a military invasion if other options fail."

Not that Congress isn't complaining. Their beef, however, is not that we're initiating a bloody war entirely contrary to our own national interests, not that the war will destabilize an already tortured region of the world for many years to come, and will require a major outlay of resources – but that Bush is

"Moving toward a major commitment of American troops under a veil of secrecy, with too little consultation with Congress. Members complain that much of what they know comes from news leaks."

Yeah, why should the President and Rummy have all the fun – Congress wants a piece of the action, too! This is their idea of a "debate" – haggling over details and maneuvering for maximum political leverage.

The big issue in Congress is not a question of war or peace – they're already practically unanimous on the desirability of the former. The big bone of contention is whether or not the President is required to come to Congress for formal approval of an invasion – or if he's going to do it as a "courtesy." To the Bushies, obeying the supreme law of the land – that is, the Constitution of the United States – is a mere "courtesy," i.e. an empty formality. It's mostly Democrats who insist on paying lip service to that nearly forgotten document, but even this "is being hotly contested within the party," as the Times puts it.

Both the House and the Senate will hold hearings on the Iraq issue in late summer or early September, but the expressed concerns of legislators don't bode well for a wide-ranging debate. The Times reports:

"Many legislators say the time has come for a more robust discussion of several issues, including the threat from Iraqi chemical weapons, whether the administration sees any potential successors to Mr. Hussein, the views of European and Arab allies and whether the White House has a strategy for extricating American troops after an invasion."

. Hussein, indeed. The deadpan, largely unintentional humor of New York Times-ese captures the grey miasma of American politics when it comes to making decisions in the foreign policy realm. Where else but in the Grey Lady could such a one-sided "discussion" be described as "robust"? Instead of debating whether our role in the world is to effect "regime change" wherever and whenever we so desire, they're already arguing over Saddam's successor! Some "debate"! About as "robust" as any held at a Soviet party congress.

If you're expecting visible opposition to this dangerous and even fateful war of conquest from the Democrats, then you're sure to be disappointed. A piece by Dan Balz in the Washington Post [July 15], averring "Democrats Speak Up on Foreign Policy," tells us that the reluctance to criticize Bush has faded:

"After months of hesitancy, leading Democrats have begun to challenge President Bush directly on his conduct of foreign affairs," Balz writes – forgetting to add from the right. We are told, initially, that the Democrats are "offering pointed criticisms of [Bush's] policies on the Middle East, U.S. relations with key allies and even the war in Afghanistan." After this promising lead-in, however, disappointment rapidly sets in, and by the time we get to the end of the article we learn that those "pointed criticisms" are somewhat blunted:

"On the Middle East, Democrats have criticized the administration's initial decision to disengage from the region, and some said Bush's most recent speech, in which he called for Palestinians to replace Yasser Arafat and others in the leadership, set out conditions that would be so difficult as to be impractical. But they have been reluctant to offer public pressure on Israel to alter any of its tactics, either in combating terrorist attacks or halting settlement activity."

When Ariel Sharon tells Bush to "Jump!", his only question is: "How high?" – and the Democrats can't bring themselves to criticize this sad state of affairs.

As the presidential wannabes of 2004 jockey for position, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), seems to have taken the initiative in criticizing the Republican foreign policy, raising the sensitive question of "Where's Osama?" but otherwise speaking in grandiose generalities, to wit:

"In a recent telephone interview, Kerry offered an across-the-board critique of the administration's foreign policy.

"'It's reluctant. It's shifting. It's inconsistent – and to some measure disengaged globally,' he said. 'It's reactive, not proactive. Up until 9/11 it was singularly unilateral. Since then it's less so, but not half as forceful and encompassing as I think America's foreign policy ought to be at this moment. Not as bold and not as visionary.'"

Let's see: the conquest of Iraq, and the military occupation of much of the Middle East – how much more "visionary" can you get? In asking for boldness and then denouncing unilateralism, Kerry cuts the ground out from under his own feet. As for being "disengaged globally," this seems an unlikely characterization of an administration that has recently asserted its intent to pre-emptively destroy an alleged potential threat. Far from not being "all-encompassing," the ambitions of this administration encompass far too much – indeed, they encircle the globe, as the US openly asserts its imperial prerogatives from Iraq to Venezeula.

Kerry opposes the Saudi peace plan – mutual recognition and Israel's withdrawal to its 1967 borders – as "not workable" and otherwise faithfully echoes the American Likudnik line. When President Bush made some noises in April about how maybe Ariel Sharon should please – pretty please! – withdraw from the West Bank, Kerry earned a commendation from William Safire for joining fellow presidential hopefuls Joe Lieberman and Richard Gephardt in "speak[ing] out against the liberals' crusade to force Israel to abort its clean-out of terrorist nests," as the Amen Corner's columnist-in-chief characterized this open kow-towing to a foreign leader.

As a former leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry once seemed to understand the criminal futility of a global crusade to impose American values throughout the world. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Senator William Fulbright, in April, 1971, Kerry said:

"We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American."

One wonders why, today, Kerry thinks the Iraqis will react any differently to the prospect of their "liberation" by American (or American-backed) troops.

Says Kerry:

"One of the great lessons I learned in Vietnam the hard way is that bad things happen when people don't ask hard questions."

Too bad he isn't asking any.

So I guess it's up to us – you and me, i.e. The People – to start the interrogation. How, exactly, is Iraq threatening American interests? Yes, yes, I know all about these alleged "weapons of mass destruction" he's supposed to be on the verge of developing, but former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter doesn't seem to think so. And there's no Iraqi connection to 9/11. As for the possibility that Saddam might have chemical weapons, his neighbors aren't too concerned about that: indeed, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and even our old allies Kuwait and Qatar are all opposed to a US invasion, and refuse to let us use their territories as a launching pad. Only Israel is egging us on – and there's the rub.

A US invasion of the Middle East, sure to ignite the region in a general conflagration, serves the interest of one and only one country, and that is Israel. After all, whatever weapons Saddam has managed to cobble together out of rusted spare parts and Crazy Glue will be aimed at Tel Aviv, not Toledo. But it isn't only the Israelis who will benefit.

When the bombs start to fall on Baghdad, once again, you can be sure that hosannas will be heard not only in Israel but also in whatever cave Osama bin Laden is hiding in. As 200,000-plus Crusaders come pouring into the epicenter of the Arab world, the Mad Sheik's promise of an implacable struggle against the invading infidels will swell al-Qaeda's ranks, provoking fundamentalist uprisings in Pakistan and throughout the Saudi peninsula. The fundamentalist tide, rippling outward, will threaten moderate pro-Western regimes in Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan: even the stalwartly pro-American Turks will feel the tremors, as the houses of cards that constitute the governments of the region collapse in rapid succession.

No American interest is served by such a mad course. Yet not only do we continue to pursue it, but the "debate" over our foreign policy becomes more one-sided, and less democratic, the more our politicians bleat about opening up "a national dialogue."

Look, guys, you can "dialogue" this! We know you don't want any real discussion, "robust" or whatever, over Gulf War II, and that whatever your party you all belong to the War Party when it comes to foreign policy. Oh, a few of our esteemed representatives – remembering the wisdom of the Founders – will warn against the consequences of this suicidal course, but they'll be brushed aside in the rush to war, unless they receive support from the public.

The problem, as always, is that the interventionists are emboldened by greed and bloodthirstiness, while the partisans of peace are largely passive. Visions of bombs dancing in their heads – of Afghanistan, Christopher Hitchens declared "We bombed them out of the Stone Age"!– today's warmongers, left and right, are motivated by a dream of Empire, a vision of a world remade. Clearly they envision a "MacArthur Regency"-style regime in Iraq, as in post-World War II Germany and Japan. If such hubris is not defeated politically, it will be humbled, in the end, by economics. As the Soviets learned to their dismay, overextension can be dangerous and even fatal; the Romans, too, learned this lesson the hard way. Speaking of the Romans….

Today [July 18] marks the anniversary of the day when, in A.D. 64, Nero fiddled while Rome burned – and that is exactly what our Congress is prepared to do as New Rome is plunged into the Middle Eastern inferno.

is the time to get in touch with your representatives in Congress and let them know what you think about the issue of war and peace in the Middle East. Tomorrow will be too late.

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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 US 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.