September 27, 2002

– and make the War Party answer for its recklessness

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is shocked – shocked! – that President Bush and the Republicans are playing politics with the onrushing war. In a emotional speech on the Senate floor, Daschle demanded an apology from the White House for remarks cited in a Washington Post story that accused the (Democratic-controlled) Senate of not caring about national security. Daschle, who usually has all the passion of a pocket calculator, was visibly angry, his voice husky with conviction:

"We ought not politicize this war. We ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death."

What worries Daschle is that he and his fellow Democrats have been cornered by the President and the GOP, and will soon either be forced to come out against the war – or else share in the responsibility for starting it. But Daschle & Co. have a problem: Iraq is at the center of the public consciousness, and it is no longer politically tenable to sit on the sidelines. The Post reports:

"At a fundraiser for GOP House candidate Adam Taff in Kansas Monday, Vice President Cheney said security would be bolstered if Taff were to defeat Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.). 'Cheney talks about Iraq at congressional fund-raiser/ Electing Taff would aid war effort,' read the headline in the Topeka Capital-Journal."

In his speech to the assembled Republicans, who paid $250 a plate to partake of his wisdom, Cheney tied the conquest of Iraq to the GOP's conquest of the state's Third Congressional District. Iraq's offer to admit the UN inspectors "without conditions" was dismissed by the Vice President as, er, "another attempt by Hussein to avoid weapons inspections." According to the Capital-Journal, Cheney suggested a military motif for the Taff campaign:

"Cheney said the administration's efforts would be helped by sending Taff to Congress. Taff is a Navy veteran running against two-term incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore, and Cheney said Taff's military experience would be an asset. After Cheney's speech, Taff said he intended to emphasize his military background in the campaign."

It is hard to fathom why Daschle is shocked by any of this. After all, Democrats have used war as a political bludgeon to beat down the opposition more ruthlessly than any Republican:

  • During the "great debate" over the Korean "police action," Truman descried conservative Republican "appeasers," and the President's liberal supporters at The New Republic lambasted "the Stalinist caucus in the [Chicago] Tribune tower" for questioning the war.

President Bush and his supporters are now questioning the patriotism of any and all who look cross-eyed at his policy of perpetual war – and the student of history can only ask, with a world-weary sigh,"So what else is new?"

The Democrats are crying foul because they had their hearts set on a campaign about Enron, "corporate greed," and other social democratic shibboleths – and now George W. Bush has gone and spoiled it all by starting a war. Oh, boo hoo hoo! But even as Daschle was going ballistic in the Senate chambers, his fellow crybaby Democrats were negotiating with the White House on the final wording of a war resolution that would give the President most of what he asked for. What wimps!

Henry Hyde has crafted a compromise resolution that strikes the administration's phrase implying the possibility of intervention on a "regional" scale, much to the Democrats' relief, but the latter are fooling only themselves – and perhaps not even that. For once the dogs of war are unleashed, our legislators will be hard put to rein them in: what will Daschle and Henry Hyde do, exactly, if U.S. forces spill into Iran, in "hot pursuit" of Iraqis? To imagine that a congressional resolution can hold back the chaos unleashed throughout the Middle East by a massive U.S. invasion of Iraq recalls King Canute, who commanded the tides to be still.

Canute was trying to point out to his fawning courtiers that his power was limited, that even kings are helpless before such elemental forces, but our own rulers lack Canute's wisdom. They really believe they can unleash chaos in the Middle East and control it, as one would control an atomic explosion in order to extract and utilize some benefit: if this sounds like the scheme of some mad scientist, rather than the policy of an American President, then the roots of such madness are to be found, not in the Middle East, but right here at home.

The idea that a war must not be "politicized" is like decreeing that a child must not resemble its parents. For the causes of the Iraq war, like all wars, are the result of the internal political dynamics of the aggressor regime – in this case, the U.S. Why an American President would interrupt a war against non-state terrorists who have killed 3,000 of our citizens to go after Saddam Hussein is a mystery to those who fail to examine the politics of the President's misdirection.

The core of the GOP's activist base is an unholy alliance of neoconservatives and "born again" Christian fundamentalists – who both believe, for different reasons, that Israel must be unconditionally supported and that a war of the West against Islam is inevitable. Beholden to his power base, the President, in opting for this war, is appeasing Ariel Sharon and catering to the Israeli lobby. A war with Iraq will pit the U.S. and Israel against the entire Arab world – and give Sharon the kind of cover he needs to finally expel the Palestinians from their homeland, into Jordan. A U.S. military occupation of Iraq would eliminate a major threat to Israel – and focus the anger of the Arab world on the Americans, leaving Ariel Sharon free to become the architect of a Greater Israel.

But Israel's amen corner isn't going to be satisfied with just Iraq's scalp – they want the U.S. to take out the entire Middle East. Norman Podhoretz, the grand old man of the Israel Firsters, advances this agenda in the current issue of Commentary magazine, wherein he writes that it isn't enough to go after the Afghans and the Iraqis: we must also, he avers, take out after the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis, the Egyptians, and naturally the Palestinians, etc., etc. "Changes of regime are the sine qua non throughout the region," writes Field Marshall Podhoretz, because we must "fight World War IV – the war against militant Islam."

A world war – this is what Israel's fanatic partisans look forward to, and I like what Paul Craig Roberts has to say in reply to Poddy:

"Americans are indebted to Podhoretz for making it clear that a U.S. invasion of Iraq is the beginning of World War IV. President Bush and his strategic thinkers should ponder this carefully and be upfront with the American people. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein will not solve the Israeli-American conflict with militant Islam. On the contrary, it will widen the conflict."

Yeah, thanks a lot, Poddy, for coming clean. If only the Bushies had your brutal sense of honesty. But perhaps Karl Rove, the President's chief political strategist, would have a word or two to say about such a frank admission. Perhaps, like Roberts, he would be asking:

"How many sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, grandsons, uncles, cousins and friends are Americans willing to give to a war, the object of which is the social and political reconstruction of the Middle East?"

How many are willing to sacrifice their sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, grandsons, uncles, cousins and friends to a war for Israel's sake? The answer is surely almost none. Is this because Americans are "anti-Semites" – or because they believe Israel needs to fight its own battles?

While the Democrats whine that they want to talk about the economy, instead of the war, Roberts points out that the two issues cannot be separated:

"Are the American people prepared to bear the tax and economic burden of such a prodigious undertaking? Indeed, with significant portions of its manufacturing and high-tech capability now located offshore, can the U.S. economy bear the burden?"

This war will cost anywhere from $50 billion to $200 billion, according to some estimates, but in reality the price of "victory" is going to be so high as to be incalculable. Since there is no way to know what businesses might have been created, how wealth seized by the government in taxes might have been productively invested, there is no way to know how much World War IV is going to cost us. Suffice to say that the vast diversion of capital will siphon off economic energy and divert it from productive investments, slowing down and eventually stalling the engine of the market. Conservatives are already complaining about Bush's retreat on the tax cut issue, and they aren't buying the "everything's changed" post-9/11 mantra. The day conservatives start opposing tax cuts is when they starting morphing into big government liberals. I just can't wait until they hear the Bush administration's rationale for a tax hike….

Held captive by his core constituency, a coalition of war-mad fundamentalists and kill-crazy belligerati who pine for a world war, the President and his War Cabinet are hurtling toward disaster – but Roberts has a sensible plan to stop World War IV before it starts:

"Before the United States finds itself embroiled in a Middle East conflict for which it lacks both economic means and popular support, I propose a different solution: Terminate the Middle Eastern conflict by inviting the 5 million Jews in Israel to settle in the United States. The entire population of Israel amounts to no more than two years of illegal Mexican immigration…."

That is a great idea, one that I have long advocated on the grounds that the "promised land" described in the Bible is not Israel, but America – not some socialist Sparta plonked down in the middle of the desert, but the freest, the strongest, and the most culturally diverse nation on earth.

Oh, and, by the way: if you oppose this, you're obviously an anti-Semite….

It doesn't matter how many Palestinian school-kids General "Bulldozer" Sharon rolls over, in the end the Arab birth-rate is the ultimate Palestinian weapon, and the Zionist project is doomed – whether by its own excesses or an inherent impracticality, is open to debate. In any case, Roberts says it is time for the Israelis to jump ship:

"Despite extreme measures, Israel is unable to defend itself from Palestinian terrorists. The United States will not be able to defend Israel or itself from one billion Muslims. Trying to create a small Jewish state in a sea of Muslims was a 20th century mistake. Trying to reconstruct the Middle East would be a bigger mistake. Why not recognize the mistake, evacuate the Jews, leave the Muslims to themselves and focus on saving our own country?"

A good question, but one the arbiters of political correctness (neocon version) would rather not hear asked. Roberts' column naturally enraged James Taranto, whose copy exhibits a zeal on behalf of a foreign power not seen in the pages of a major American newspaper since Walter Duranty's paeans to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The porcine pundit's Wall Street Journal column, somewhat dishonestly titled "Best of the Web," has become the Iskra of the War Party, and really should be re-named "The Amen Corner." Under a typically clever subtitle, 'Stupidity Watch," Taranto interprets the Roberts plan thusly:

"The way to solve the problem in the Middle East is to dismantle virtually the only state in the region that is not an abject failure in the hope of appeasing its neighbors' envy. Of course, it seems unlikely that all five million Israeli Jews – including those who are U.S. citizens, and who already can come here to live anytime they like – would accept Roberts's 'invitation,' so his call to 'evacuate the Jews' sounds like a forced relocation."

Of course, it is okay, from the Tarantonian point of view, to forcibly relocate the Palestinians driven off their land by the Israelis. Naturally no one would or could force the Israelis to give up their failed attempt to found a state: a policy of non-intervention would certainly forbid it. We could, however, let Israel fail on its own, and not allow ourselves to be dragged down along with it. That means cutting off all foreign aid, economic as well as military, and basically saying: "Well, guys, you're on your own: goodbye, and good luck." Call it international welfare reform and tell the Israelis the truth: it's for your own good.

As for those Israelis who are also American citizens, the solution is simple: we ought to issue an official State Department "alert" to the effect that we cannot guarantee the safety of our citizens who choose to live in Israel – and stipulate that there will be no rescue by American military personnel if they choose to stay. In any case, we ought to get rid of this dubious idea of "dual citizenship," which seems highly problematic if not totally counterintuitive, and make everyone choose either the American way or the highway.

A fine spray of spittle seems to spew forth from the page as Taranto rants and raves:

"Roberts's proposal is both monstrous and naive. It's monstrous to the Jews, whom it treats as mere pawns to be shipped from continent to continent en masse for America's convenience."

But isn't the present policy monstrous to the American taxpayers, who have so far shelled out $90 billion-plus and counting, and are about to be fleeced for far more – all to keep Israel's leaky ship of state afloat? Must our sons and daughters, as well as our tax dollars, be shipped off to the Middle East for Israel's convenience? As for the Israelis being our pawns, try explaining that to Prime Minister Sharon, who seems to believe – with some justification – that it's quite the other way around. But naturally a party-lining apologist for the Israeli government doesn't quite see the world in these terms, and Taranto works himself up into quite a lather:

"It's even more monstrous to the Muslims, whom it blithely condemns to continued tyranny and misrule. And what about the Middle East's Christians and other religious minorities? They don't even rate a mention in Roberts's column."

I have news for Taranto: the Christians of the Holy Land, at least the Orthodox and the Catholics, are sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians and certainly do not look forward to a new world war centered in the Middle East. The Orthodox Patriarchate is the single biggest private landowner left standing in a country where most land is state-owned (i.e. stolen from Palestinians and Israelis), and the Israeli government has had its eye on these rich pickings for quite a while. Now they are refusing to recognize the Patriarch in order to loosen Orthodox control over church property. The mainline Protestant churches are likewise hostile to Israeli expansionism. It is only the nut-ball millennialists who can't wait for Armageddon, and they are numerically minuscule in the Middle East.

If Taranto is so concerned about "misrule," then let him start his crusade to rid the world of it in Washington, D.C., where at least there is some slight chance of success. He writes that "it's laughably naive to suggest that dismantling Israel would solve all the Middle East's problems" – but that is precisely the point made by the "isolationist right," as Taranto would have it. Why should the goal of U.S. foreign policy be concerned with solving the Middle East's problems, including but not limited to Israel's? It can't happen, it won't happen, and it shouldn't happen – let them solve their own problems in their own way. But Taranto, oblivious to the obvious, barrels right along:

"It would appear Roberts has forgotten that the last time America intervened militarily in the region, it was to liberate one Muslim country from another. Or does Roberts think the Jews were somehow responsible for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait?"

Yes, we intervened, and look what it got us: Khobar Towers, the assaults on our African embassies, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the worst terrorist atrocity in our history. Was it worth it? I don't think so. Who cares if the Emir of Kuwait gets to sit on his golden throne? As Pat Buchanan said in 1990, that isn't worth the life of a single American soldier – and the same goes for the entire Middle East today. Paul Craig Roberts is right: let the Israelis come home to America, let the Muslims stew in their own stagnant juices – and, for once, let's concentrate on ensuring the safety of our own citizens. Minding our own business, and avoiding foreign quarrels, would be a good place to start.

– Justin Raimondo

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Politicize the War!

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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.