September 4, 2002

Let’s settle the war question with a national referendum

As America returns to offices and factories after the long Labor Day holiday, the realization that this may be the last summer before a long and horrendous war has focused the nation’s attention on the issue policy wonks and ideologues have been debating for months: do we take Iraq?

It is either serendipity or divine intervention that, right at this pivotal moment, the voices of reason are making themselves heard, and they are coming from largely unanticipated quarters. No, it isn’t the Democrats, or what passes for the peace movement that is responsible for this turning of the tide. It’s the Republican establishment and an increasingly outspoken group of former high-ranking military officers that’s saying the equivalent of "hell no, we won’t go!" – and they have the War Party running scared.

Brent Scowcroft, a former National Security advisor under Bush 41, is joined by Lawrence Eagleburger, a former Secretary of State, Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska); Senator Dick Lugar (Republican, Indiana); and Senator Pat Roberts (Republican, Kansas) in expressing doubts about the wisdom of what amounts to a war of conquest.

Even more impressive – and alarming, from the War Party’s perspective – the charge against the President’s war policy is being led by a phalanx of former top generals: Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf, General Anthony Zinni, Marine Corps commander General James L. Jones, and retired four-star General Joseph Hoar, formerly of the U.S. Central Command. Zinni, speaking before the Florida Economic Club on August 23, was particularly acerbic, leading off with the "chicken-hawk" theme developed so extensively by anti-interventionist pundits in previous weeks:

"Attacking Iraq now will cause a lot of problems. I think the debate right now that’s going on is very healthy. If you ask me my opinion, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Powell, Gen. Schwarzkopf, Gen. Zinni, maybe all see this the same way.

"It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger and really hell-bent to go to war see it a different way. That’s usually the way it is in history.

"(Crowd laughter.)"

The neoconservative policy wonks, who blithely propose adding Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria to the U.S. target list, are really smarting over this one. Investment banker-cum -laptop bombardier Andrew Stuttaford, among the more frenetic conquistadores over at National Review, complained bitterly at this conspiracy by "the Left" to subvert "democracy," and darkly hinted at the specter of "fascism":

"Is Robert A. Heinlein winning some strange new respect? One of the more peculiar notions to emerge in the last few weeks has been the suggestion by the Left that only those who are - or who have been - in the military have the moral authority to commit the nation to war. It’s a zany, profoundly undemocratic argument and it also sounds like something out of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (a book liberals often criticize as ‘fascist’ ) a novel in which, if I recall correctly, the only people entitled to full citizenship were those who had completed a period of military service. What’s next? Will liberals be calling for our rule by a dynasty of warrior kings?"

So Stuttaford, the alleged conservative, is echoing the Left in hurling the "fascist" smear not only at Heinlein but at all things military – as if the spirit of Mussolini lies dormant in the soul of every general, only waiting to be awakened by...what? The prospect of another unwinnable war-without-end on the Asian landmass? Certainly that qualifies as a peculiar notion, particularly coming from the ostensible Right.

If "liberals" are calling for a return to the letter of the Constitution, which gives Congress the sole right to declare war, then they must be liberals in the classical mold. Contra Stuttaford, there is nothing "fascist" about listening to the voices of our military specialists – and letting them have their say. Far from restricting the decision-making to "a dynasty of warrior kings," opponents of this war are broadening the debate. It is the neoconservatives who believe the President has the royal prerogative to make war without consulting either Congress or the Pentagon. It is they who are advocating rule by a self-anointed dynasty of warrior-intellectuals who have never even seen a battlefield, let alone fought on one.

By the way, this guy Stuttaford is really a piece of work. Here is a citizen, or former citizen, of a make-believe Empire, ruled over by a monarch and still mired in the medieval paraphenalia of a titled aristocracy, putting each mention of the Saudi Kingdom in ironic quotes. What’s up with that? Anyway, it’s doubtful this Stuttaford character is even an American citizen, although he’s lobbying frantically to put our troops in the line of fire. A short biographical note on NRO describes his national loyalties in suspiciously vague terms:

"Born in the U.K., Andrew Stuttaford crossed the Atlantic to make his fortune. Despite that, he has been contributing to National Review since 1993 and has written on a wide range of subjects from post-Soviet Russia to Xena, Warrior Princess…."

Yes, folks, that’s what makes Sir Stuttaford oh so much more qualified than, say, Anthony Zinni, or that Marine Corps commander to pronounce judgement on the question of whether to go to war: he’s an expert on the subject of Xena, Warrior Princess.


Onward, and downward, we come to the always foam-flecked New York Post, which weighed in on the subject of the pro-peace Pentagon with a long vituperative whine by Jonathan Foreman, who inveighed against "the cult of the warrior now being embraced by antiwar pundits":

"The creepy thing about this newfound reverence for the political views of generals is not so much its hypocrisy, but rather that it implicitly lauds an un-American and anti-democratic notion of government long promoted by the Buchananite right (and by some misguided men in the armed forces).

"Indeed, when liberal-feminist Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory refers to Richard Perle, an administration adviser who favors the overthrow of Saddam, as ‘the generalissimo of the Cakewalk Corps, that ferocious band of civilians who have never worn their country’s uniform but wish to lead it into war’ she’s unknowingly sharing a platform with all manner of brownshirted types."

Speaking of things creepy, the pattern with these neocons is always the same: backed up against a wall, they simply yell "fascist" as a last resort. While the supposedly "brownshirted" Buchanan deplores the humanitarian catastrophe caused by our ongoing war on the Iraqi people, "anti-fascists" like Stuttaford and Foreman can’t wait to unleash American hellfire on the Arab peoples of the entire region. It’s funny that all the cruelty, the lust for power and conquest is on the "anti-fascist" side – now why do you think that is?

By the way, what is so "undemocratic" about not excluding the military from the national debate? The neocons sure wanted those military votes during the Florida recount, going so far as charging that the anti-military Democrats were trying to disenfranchise the troops, and demanding that the voice of the troops be heard loud and clear.

What a difference a war makes.

Now they are supposed to shut up and send their soldiers to die – and for what? So that Exxon-Mobil and British Petroleum can pump oil out of the soil of a "democratic" Iraqi? So that every country in the Middle East can be transformed into a Jeffersonian republic at gunpoint? So that Israel’s enemies are smitten, one by one, with the blunt end of American power, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians can proceed under cover of the resulting conflagration?

In giving any special weight to the opinion of military leaders, Foreman accuses the antiwar camp of advocating rule by American Junkers:

"It implicitly advocates a kind of militarism long associated with, say, Prussia but always rejected by the United States."

To begin with, the Prussian Junkers were not exactly known for their military restraint: certainly their arrogant belligerence reflects the attitude of our civilian War Party far more than those peaceniks in the Pentagon. No one is saying that the military ought to decide the war question in a closed session of the Joints Chiefs. But certainly such united opposition – and remember what Zinni said after naming half a dozen antiwar generals: "Maybe all see this the same way" – should almost be the equivalent of a veto. After all, when we have an economic problem to be solved, legislators and the executive branch naturally turn to the experts, i.e. the economists, and other specialists, and give their opinions special weight. And yet no one suggests that this means we have a dictatorship of the economists. When it comes to ensuring the nation’s health, we turn to the doctors. And when it comes to war, we solicit – and take very seriously – the views of our top generals. If all the doctors say, "No, we shouldn’t operate," how wise is it to override their veto?

What’s interesting about Foreman’s polemic is that it reveals the soul of a right-wing Social Democrat in its purest form, i.e. he is bad not only on foreign policy but even worse when it comes to domestic politics. He is shellshocked by the hardball tactics of these peace-mongering Prussians:

"By delegitimizing the hard line views of Perle, because (like President Franklin Roosevelt) he never wore a uniform, McGrory et al. don’t just fetishize uniforms, they use a logic that pre-empts political debate. (Should only those who can become pregnant have a voice on abortion? Should only those who pay taxes have a say in how they are spent?)"

The answers to the last two questions are: 1) yes, and 2) absolutely positively yes. That’s just too bad about pre-empting the political debate, now isn’t it? It’s about time the War Party had a good dose of their own medicine. I hope they choke on it.

As for delegitimizing uber-hawk Richard Perle – he did it to himself. That goofy Defense Policy Advisory Board "briefing" by ex-LaRouchie Laurent Murawiec. – which advocated a U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia, and eventually the entire region – was a deliberate provocation that backfired rather badly on Perle, who perpetrated the whole incident. Exposed as a longtime follower of the archetypal political fantast, whose name is a byword for kookery, Murawiec and his employer, the Rand Corporation, didn’t deign to comment on the controversy. But Murawiec was stoutly defend by that bellwether of wrongthink, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who wrote:

"This certainly isn’t something we’d be proud to have on our résumé, but Murawiec’s involvement with the LaRouchies doesn’t seem to be recent. [Jack] Shafer’s source for his revelation is a Financial Times article Murawiec wrote in January 1985. LaRouche-watcher Dennis King tells Shafer Murawiec probably left LaRouche’s orbit around 1988. Shafer quotes LaRouche himself describing Murawiec as ‘a real-life ‘Beetlebaum’ of the legendary mythical horse-race, and a hand-me-down political carcass, currently in the possession of institutions of a peculiar odor." (Translation: I don’t like him!) Meanwhile, the Saudis seem to view LaRouche as a respectable character. As we noted, the Jedda-based Arab News recently published an article by current EIR writer Jeffrey Steinberg."

It's no surprise that Taranto has his facts wrong, and covers up the long duration of Murawiec’s membership in LaRouche’s cult. Another defender of Murawiec’s honor, Arnaud de Borchgrave, informs us:

"To his credit, Murawiec objected to the March 1986 publication of an [LaRouchite] special report titled ‘Moscow’s Secret Weapon: Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Mafia.’ He continued working for EIR till 1990, but as an anti-Larouche mole, according to sources close to AEI [American Enterprise Institute]."

According to the LaRouche group, Murawiec was recruited by them in 1973, when they were known as the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC), and were still deep in their Marxoid phase. Some 17 years in a political loony-bin – now that is something you just don’t put on your resume, and no doubt this was omitted when, as de Borchgrave tells us, Perle "organized his U.S. debut at AEI in 1999." Furthermore, in 1973, the year Murawiec was recruited to the NCLC, the LaRouchies were embroiled in what they called "Operation Mop-up" – a series of brutal physical attacks on rival leftist groups. As Chip Berlet’s Political Research Associates describes the orgy of violence:

"NCLC thugs used bats, chains, and martial arts weapons in a campaign to establish "hegemony" over the American revolutionary movement. There were many injuries and some persons required hospitalization."

It’s not hard to see what drew Murawiec to the NCLC. It seems that he, alone, out of all our yawping war-birds, is no chicken-hawk, but an ex-streetfightin’ man. What’s pathetic is that Taranto, de Borchgrave, et al. are willing to go along with the whitewash of this nut-bag – including this unbelievable "mole" alibi – as long as Murawiec serves a propagandistic purpose. But, then again, from clueless cretins like Taranto – whose column has become the Dearborn Independent of the Hate All-Arabs Lobby – one never expected anything else. Knee-jerks are the worst jerks, especially when they masquerade as legitimate journalists.

As I have noted all along, the only really substantial – and politically relevant – opposition to our policy of global interventionism is bound to come from the Right – and from the U.S. military. Senator Hagel, a conservative Republican and a much-decorated Vietnam war veteran, has been particularly outspoken and effective. I am especially glad to see him challenging Vice President Dick Cheney’s bald-faced lie that Saddam is well on his way to getting nuclear weapons – and wondering aloud how and why deterrence worked with Stalin, but somehow won’t register with the Iraqis. On the nuclear question, Hagel comes out swinging:

"My bottom line is that I don’t think he does possess nuclear capability. Is he attempting to do that? You have to assume he is. But to scare the American public by saying this guy is a couple of months away from not only possessing nuclear weapons but a ballistic missile to deliver those, that’s dangerous stuff here."

The whole strategy of this administration has been to scare the American people into accepting the abolition of their Constitution and a program of perpetual war. But the transparency of this attempt is what will defeat the warmongers in the end: Saddam Hussein can no more lob an intercontinental missile at us than he can put a man on the Moon – or shoot down a single one of our jet fighters as they bomb and strafe and enforce the "no fly zone" over Iraq on a daily basis.

They’ve been chanting the same mantra since 1990! That year, Dubya’s dad, in his Thanksgiving peroration to U.S. troops massed in the Saudi desert, declared "Every day that passes brings Saddam one step closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal." According to Bush and American war propaganda, the Iraqis were about to nuke the Middle East. It was a lie then, and, after a decade-plus of draconian sanctions, and constant aerial surveillance, it is no less brazen a lie today.

It’s interesting, too, that the same stale images of World War II are being invoked now as they were then. Bush 41 averred that Thanksgiving in Saudi Arabia brought to mind "another group of Americans far from home" who also fought the good fight. "Once again Americans have stepped forward to share a tearful good-bye with their families before leaving for a strange and distant shore." Puffing out his chest, 41 roared: "Saddam is going to get his ass kicked!" to the cheers of his Praetorians. And he promised them that, this time, they would not have to fight with "one hand tied behind their backs," an obvious allusion to the myth that we lost in Vietnam because we held back (i.e. failed to nuke Hanoi). This time, he pledged, it would be different:

"This will not be another Vietnam. This will not be a protracted, drawn-out war. The forces arrayed are different. The resupply of Saddam’s military would be very different. The countries united against him in the United Nations are different. The topography of Kuwait is different. And the motivation of our all-volunteer force is superb."

Now can you see why 41 and 43 are fighting it out for control of American foreign policy? Because, this time, it will be a protracted, drawn-out war – perhaps not the act of conquest, but the prolonged military occupation that will follow.

As for the forces arrayed – this time, our Arab allies are opposing us, and our Western allies aren’t paying the bill. The topographical advantages are offset by the question of where to launch the invasion from – since only Kuwait, Turkey, and perhaps Qatar, will agree to host this particular party (in return for a good portion of party favors, I’m sure).

They key element is the motivation of our all-volunteer force – for that is precisely what is lacking. The opposition to this war within the military starts at the top, but it won’t stop there. The public stance of the generals is enormously significant, for it calls into question the legitimacy of the war-maddened clique that has seized the reins of power in Washington. We may yet succeed in stopping this war before it starts. And if that is "undemocratic," as the whiners in the War Party complain, then let them learn to live with it. If it’s "democracy" they want, both at home and abroad, then why aren’t they calling for a national referendum on the war question?

My message to the War Party is this: you want to export Democracy, capital-"D"? Well, why not start practicing it right here at home? We’re having a federal election coming up this November: how much trouble would it be to put the question on the same ballot? War with Iraq, yes or no? Let’s vote it up or down, and be done with it.

If we can guarantee a minimum of hanging chads, no foreign contributions, and a televised debate – perhaps pitting Richard Perle and Monsieur Murawiec against General Zinni and Scott Ritter – the Peace Party will win by a landslide.

Speaking of anti-interventionism on the Right: don’t forget to get in your charter subscription to The American Conservative, the new magazine co-edited by Pat Buchanan, Taki, and our columnist Scott McConnell. I have an article in the first issue, and I know you’ll want to support what is the most exciting new development on the political horizon in decades. Anti-imperialist, pro-peace, and dedicated to the idea that American foreign policy ought to serve the interests of Americans, and not our foreign satraps, the Old Right is back! TAC deserves your support. Go here and become a Charter Subscriber at a special bargain rate good only until September 30 – and tell them Raimondo sent you! You might also want to talk your local newstand operator into the idea of getting rid of that awful Weekly Standard, or perhaps dropping tired old National Review, and trying out TAC for a refreshing change of pace.

 Please Support
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your contributions are now tax-deductible Home Page

Most recent column by Justin Raimondo

Archived columns

Let's Vote On It

Classic Raimondo: The Evil of Sanctions

Classic Raimondo: Global Interventionism: The Price We Pay

Classic Raimondo: Dubya Dubya Dubya Dot Warmonger Dot Com

Christopher Hitchens, Neocon

Classic Raimondo: They Fought the Good Fight

Classic Raimondo:
The Middle East: War Without End

The Scowcroft Doctrine

Classic Raimondo: Blowback: Read This Book!

Classic Raimondo: The Myth of the Saddam Bomb

Hail Dick Armey!

Going After the Saudis

Neocons Go For the Gold

No Truer Love

Attack of the Chicken Hawks

Previous columns

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 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.">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.