it is, the IMF/World Bank meetings were canceled, but the
protests more relevant than ever were not. What is interesting
here is the new kind of political correctness that Beinart
and his fellow warriors of the word want to impose on a nation
in shock a nation just emotionally exhausted enough and
fearful enough to fall for it. Dissent is immoral? Oh, there's
that qualifier, of course it's okay if you preface your
dissent with a "statement of national solidarity."
But what, precisely, does this mean? No doubt the editors
of The New Republic will issue their "Guidelines
for Dissenters," just as every magazine has a set of
guidelines for its writers, a kind of style sheet or template
that we must all bend our views to fit.
WE LOOK FOR TRAITORS
New Republic is quite used to this sort of thing: prior
to World War I, they agitated ceaselessly for American entry
into the conflict, with editor Herbert Croly averring that
the US needed "the tonic of a great moral adventure."
In the prelude to World War II they played the same role,
only more so: opponents of intervention were regularly denounced
as traitors. Back then, New Republic essayist (and
New York Post columnist) Samuel Grafton wrote:
we look for traitors, we shall not find the real appeasers.
We must seek, instead, for those men and women who are afraid
of social change and social planning, afraid of the democratic
power of labor, afraid, in a word, of the future…"
New Republic, January 6, 1941]
AGAIN … !
for one, am afraid of the future if it's anything
like the past, that is. We are in for a repeat, it seems,
of the same enforced political and social conformity and rampant
scapegoating that characterized the last world war. Back then,
as today, writers and other opinion-makers who did not toe
the interventionist line soon found themselves out of work
and under investigation by agencies both official and unofficial.
Maher, a pompous fool, slipped up and called the American
military "cowardly" for bombing at 19,000 ft. while
the terrorists were "brave" a much-deserved backlash
nearly has him out of a job. The truth is that, far from being
a peacenik, Maher has always been a warmonger: when I appeared
on his show, in 1996, he praised the war-making powers of
the State and was a faithful cheerleader for Bill Clinton's
extended spate of military adventurism.
That's why David Horowitz, and other pro-war conservatives,
are leaping to defend him. In spite of Maher's real views
on this matter, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer declared
that this should serve as a reminder to all Americans "that
they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and
this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."
The White House has made Beinart's dictum on dissent into
official policy: now, if only Maher had uttered "a prior
statement of solidarity," he wouldn't be frantically
calling his agent looking for his next gig. I must say, lightning
couldn't have struck a more deserving target but it's frightening,
nevertheless, to see it strike so randomly and with such destructive
right, says the presidential spokesman: watch what you
say. Somebody, after all, might be listening and noting
it down. Don't talk about the possibility of bioterrorism
in the checkout line you don't want to spread panic, do
you? How dare you go to an antiwar rally without first signing
a "statement of solidarity"! And how come your house
is flag-less? Get with the program, buddy, and while you're
at it why don't you buy some stocks? It's the patriotic thing
to do, you know….
hysteria is blazing white-hot in the American media, which
is now busily
purging itself of dissenters, and groveling before the
War Party, begging their forgiveness for any "anti-American"
views that may not have been filtered out: Reuters is being
attacked for not identifying bin Ladin & Co. as "terrorists,"
and there is a major controversy about whether or not television
news anchors should all be wearing American flag pins on their
lapels. Neocon Andrew Sullivan weighs in on the issue, giving
it his own peculiarly bitchy spin:
for your suggestions for Reuters to use instead of the dread
and terribly unobjective word "terrorists." 'Compassion-challenged
advocate' has an Oprah-esque quality. 'Aeronautical Fundamentalists'
distinguishes them from the 700 Club, but doesn't quite capture
their aggressive tendencies. They could be evangelicals on
the shuttle. 'Collateral damage coordinators' has its merits.
But I vote for 'casualty facilitators.' Maybe even Peter Jennings
could spit that one out."
about identifying these people by name, or organizational
affiliation, without any adjectives, qualifiers, or propagandistic
jargon? Sullivan has the nerve to call those who resist this
"patriotic" correctness"Orwellian" but what is
this other than an argument for inserting a kind of "Newspeak"
of his own into otherwise purely journalistic accounts? And
what are we to make of newscasters who wear their country's
flag there is more than a touch of the totalitarian style
in this curious fixation of the Fashion Police. If news anchors
are being intimidated into wearing what the professional super-patriots
require, when how long before they are intimidated into saying
what the Andrew Sullivans of this world would love to make
is where the unbearable preachiness of life in wartime comes
into play, and the unbearable Sullivan is an expert at it:
pontification is his specialty. Among his other specialties
is his homosexuality, about which he writes and speaks often:
certainly his niche as the gay voice of the neocons is assured.
One particular hobbyhorse he's been riding for a while is
the absolute necessity of allowing open gays in the military,
and he exults in the recent relaxation
of the rules in the interests of the wartime emergency.
In an article on Gay.com, Sullivan
bloviates at length and ad nauseum:
changes everything. If there are lessons we can learn from
history, this is one of them. And, above everything else,
war changes the home front. It churns us all up, it scrambles
social norms and makes what was once unthinkable possible.
So the First World War was the critical moment for the breakthrough
of the movement for women's equality, especially in Europe.
The Second World War in America was perhaps the most racially
integrating event in this county's history it is no accident
that only three years after it ended, racial segregation was
abolished in the armed forces. And the Vietnam war also clearly
turned this country's social order upside down, before it
cares if millions died, untold wealth was destroyed, and untold
suffering endured what matters is that racial victimology
and feminism were legitimized. Aside from being grotesque,
Sullivan's paean to war as a transformative agent recalls
Grafton's indictment of right-wing dissenters during World
War II: they were, Grafton declared, "afraid of the future."
The same old song is being played today: if you are afraid
of the future as envisioned by Sullivan, you are an enemy
of progress and quite possibly a traitor. Oh, there's a
brave new world a comin', and social conservatives, in Sullivan's
view, are going to be stampeded into all sorts of "unthinkable"
so this war could also do something similar. In fact, it already
has. This is the first major war in which the open visible
presence of gay and lesbian Americans cannot be denied. Already,
the military has suspended its discharges of homosexual servicemembers,
because in a war, we cannot afford the waste of resources
such pointless persecution incurs. Openly gay soldiers will
now fight for our freedom in a way never seen before. Now
is not the time to argue for immediate changes in policy.
We have a war to win."
don't endorse gay rights? Then you're obstructing the war
effort. "We have a war to win" indeed! Oh,
yes, everyone has their little agenda, both political and
personal: while Sullivan gets to be butch, Jerry Falwell takes
the opportunity to blame the attack on American sodomites.
And suddenly everyone is talking and acting as if they are
characters in a grade-B war movie, circa 1943. War, as they
say, is hell.
changes everything," proclaims Sullivan, and he's right.
It is the social engineer's dream-come-true, a condition to
be wished for, and even provoked, so that we can all be "chummed
up" integrated and homogenized by the great coercive
Mixmaster of the State. We are now seeing record out of wedlock
births, the end of marriage, the breakdown of the family and
the social disintegration of the primarily black underclass
aren't social norms "scrambled" enough? Not,
apparently, enough for Sullivan. His exegesis of global mass
murder on the grounds that it advanced the cause of "civil
rights" and got urban gays in the same barracks as 18-year-old
corn-fed farmer boys from Iowa is eerie and perverse.
all have our little wartime agendas, in spite of the façade
of "national unity" that even now shows signs of
peeling away. The Democrats say a tax cut is out of the question
due to the wartime "emergency," while Republicans
counter that the economic warfare waged by the terrorists
requires a break for business. Aside from purely partisan
bickering, the ideological factions and lobbies in Washington
were quick to take advantage of the nation's sorrow and confusion.
Advocates of a police state have come out of the closet, led
by John Ashcroft, and are now calling for draconian surveillance
measures and police powers. And foreign lobbyists certainly
wasted no time in pressing their advantage. As
Pat Buchanan pointed out in USA Today and
pointed out the day before Israel's amen corner
in the US was quick to react with a proposal to invade not
only Afghanistan but also Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
MAP TO HELL
whole brace of "movement" conservatives were quick to sign
a statement, sponsored by Bill Kristol's "Project for a New
American Century," demanding an invasion of Iraq. Neocon Charles
Krauthammer's Washington Post column on "The
War: A Road Map," projected a long-range program
of conquest that would end, poetically, in Baghdad, "on
the very spot where his own father, ten years ago, let victory
slip away." Coincidentally, of course, these nations
are all sworn enemies of Israel, and have been funding and
encouraging a campaign of bloody terrorism against Israel
for years. Krauthammer sees this as not just a war on terrorism,
but on Islam a mindset the President has gone out of
his way to deny and denounce. It must have been a rebuff of
a particularly brutal kind for Krauthammer and the amen corner
when they read the news that the US
and Syria are now allies in the "war on terrorism."
PRAISE OF XENOPHOBIA
then, what's my agenda? It is this: to instill in the
American people a basic distrust, a positive aversion for
overseas meddling one so strong that it will keep American
soldiers at home, instead of treading the alien sands of Arabia.
There is, in this view, a healthy dose of xenophobia, one
that welcomes trade but forbids immigration, one that turns
away from much of the world in confusion and outright revulsion.
Think of what the terrorists did can you imagine any American
fringe group, no matter how loony, even conceiving of such
a monumentally evil act? This madness has infected the entire
Middle East, the Balkans, Central Asia, and part of South
America. It has always reigned supreme in Africa. What do
we gain by involving ourselves in the affairs of peoples who
cannot and will not live in peace? They say our "national
security" is inextricably linked to every continent,
but, post-9/11, it is going to be increasingly hard to convince
the American people that the alleged benefits are worth the
I envision a wall an actual,
physical rampart, with big spikes on top designed to
keep out not only potential hijackers, but the contagion of
a foreign madness that threatens to infect our shores. Let
it be known as the Great Wall of America, one to put China's
to shame: let it be longer, higher, and more impregnable than
the original, lest we share the fate of that Chinese emperor
who lost his kingdom and probably his head to the invading
Mongols. Oh, we'll trade with the rest of the world: but otherwise
we'll keep our distance. No troops stationed abroad, no faithless
"allies," no transnational entanglements, no meddling
in overseas quarrels that are none of our affair.
you say, but that's the dreaded "isolationism" we're
all supposed to abhor. Well, I have news for the elites who
coined the term: the American people are isolationists,
and always have been. Every poll, every indication of popular
sentiment, shows Americans are overwhelmingly against foreign
aid, against increased immigration, and against foreign entanglements.
If such issues were ever put to a popular vote, those terrible
isolationists would come out on top every time.
impossible, you say: not in our "globalized" civilization
where geography has been abolished by the Internet and borders
are evaporating before our eyes. A wall? Such an idea
is not only utopian, but positively reactionary. But it isn't
utopian at all: it is the interventionists who are the true
utopians. They actually believe they can defy history and
even end it by founding an empire that will never decay,
and fall. It's entirely possible for the US to shift course
and pursue a policy of "isolationism" after all,
we're the world's sole superpower, aren't we? We don't need
the rest of the world, they need us: our markets, our technology,
our vitality. As long as we remain militarily strong, such
an exalted status should entitle us to certain prerogatives:
and, if not, then what, exactly, are the benefits of our superpowerdom,
course it's possible, not utopian at all but eminently practical
and necessary. Seal off the US from the world's evils,
deadly as they are if government has a function, then isn't
this it? In the wake of the horror from abroad, I say:
Isolationism today, isolationism tomorrow, isolationism forever.
Let's start putting America first, and attend to our own business,
which can be summed up in two key words: homeland defense.
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