October 2, 2002

– and Tom Lantos is a scheming hypocrite

There was Colette Avital, a Labor Party member of the Israeli Knesset, on a trip to Capitol Hill, worried about the prospect of war in the Middle East. Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on International Affairs, took her by the hand, and, according to Ha'aretz, tried to reassure her with these soothing words:

"My dear Colette, don't worry. You won't have any problem with Saddam. We'll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you."

Good for us, and for Israel – but not so good for Iraq. Oh well, c'est la vie!

I can't really say I'm shocked – shocked! – at such a display of brazen cynicism: and neither, I trust, are you. But I fear Ms. Avital was a bit taken aback by this confidence, and seemed hardly assuaged as Lantos explained that this "interim period" of pro-Western autocracy "should last between five to six years." Yes, but….

"Avital says she asked how one can talk about a dictator in Iraq and at the same time demand 'democratic reforms' in the territories as a precondition for renewing the peace process."

Easy, my dear: Lantos has learned how to speak using an orifice other than his mouth. That way, he can bray – a word invented to describe the Lantosian oratorical style – about bringing democracy to the Middle East at one end, and call for a "pro-Western dictator" at the other end. The problem, with Lantos, is telling which end is which.

He's a old fraud with all the morals of an iguana, and among the loudest of those Joe Conason calls "the windbags of war," but Lantos was being truthful, for once. The goal of democratizing the region is "just a general 'road map,'" he continued. After all, the "the U.S. didn't turn into a democracy overnight." One wonders exactly when it began to measure up to his standards, but, "in any case, he promised her that after America gets rid of all the regimes of evil, it will go straight to Syria, 'and tell young Assad that's what will happen to him if he doesn't stop supporting terrorism.'"

Even as worried members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, work to craft a resolution that will limit the ambitions of King George the Conqueror, the "on to Baghdad!" crowd is howling "On to Damascus!" and "On to Tehran!" and, most of all, "On to Riyadh!" Having got its foot in the door, the War Party is intent on prying it all the way open – and won't be stopped by any congressional resolution.

Who will leash the dogs of war once the conflict has got going? Will Congress pass another resolution? Will they cut off war funding? No, and certainly not. The other day on "The McLaughlin Group," Tony Blankley smiled knowingly as he described how everyone would "get behind the President" when the shooting starts, and I'm afraid he's right. The war hysteria is already building. Look at the crazed brouhaha over the visit of congressmen David Bonior, Jim McDermott and Mike Thompson to Iraq. They went on a humanitarian mission to Iraq at the request of U.S. church groups, and McDermott said in a live interview on ABC's "This Week" what everyone knows to be true:

"I think the president would mislead the American people. It would not surprise me if they came with some information that is not provable."

McDermott has become a lightning rod in the political storm over Iraq. The War Party wants to turn him into another Cynthia McKinney – but it won't work. Donald Rumsfeld convicted this administration out of his own mouth when, on September 25, 2001, he had the following exchange with a reporter:

Questioner: "Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up, will there be any circumstances, as you prosecute this campaign, in which anyone in the Department of Defense will be authorized to lie to the news media in order to increase the chances of success of a military operation or gain some other advantage over your adversaries?"

Rumsfeld: "Of course, this conjures up Winston Churchill's famous phrase when he said – don't quote me on this, okay? I don't want to be quoted on this, so don't quote me. He said sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies – talking about the invasion date and the invasion location. And indeed, they engaged not just in not talking about the date of the Normandy invasion or the location, whether it was to be Normandy Beach or just north off of Belgium, they actually engaged in a plan to confuse the Germans as to where it would happen. And they had a fake army under General Patton and one thing and another thing. That is a piece of history, and I bring it up just for the sake of background."

Of course, Rummy knew they would quote him, and this underscores the eerie atmosphere created by this administration, where brazen lies are joyfully told, and no pretenses to truth are even attempted. This, after all, is the same gang that proposed an "Office of Strategic Information" whose primary function – aside from the care and feeding of numerous Washington bureaucrats – was to lie to the media so as to confuse "the enemy" (and, incidentally, the American people – or do I repeat myself?).

Prevarication is the settled policy of this administration. One of the President's top advisors has not only admitted to being a liar, he boasted about it to reporters. So where is McDermott wrong?

Ah, but the fact that he said it in Baghdad, you see, makes him a "traitor," the post-9/11 equivalent of "Lord Haw-Haw," as George Will pontificated. The war hysteria of the pundit class has unhinged them, and made them forget even the most elementary history. Lord Haw Haw was broadcasting his treason as Hitler had conquered the whole of Europe with an army of millions, threatening to overrun Russia and swallow up the Western isles in a single gulp.

On the other hand, Saddam Hussein commands a ramshackle army and lords it over a nation in ruins, hemmed in on every side by the Great Powers, who are now debating and bargaining over his fate. And, of course, Lord Haw Haw was a committed fascist ideologue, and McDermott is a liberal Democrat, but such niceties are lost in the general emoting – or so George Will and his fellow war-hawks hope. Even staunch opponents of this war, such as Pat Buchanan, attacked McDermott and the others as the contemporary equivalent, not of Lord Haw Haw, but of Jane Fonda, who famously went to Hanoi during the Vietnam mess.

But Fonda made her trip after the shooting had already been going on for years: what's more, her goal was to give the Vietnamese Communists political support. McDermott, Bonior, and Thompson, on the other hand, made their journey to give political support to the peace process: their goal, quite different from Fonda's, is to stop this war before it starts.

Bypassing this war-maddened administration, these three congressmen are reasserting congressional control over the foreign policy of the United States – which has been usurped by the imperial presidency. If the Bushies want to bring "democracy" to Iraq, let them start in the U.S., where an elite corps of policy wonks without military experience or common sense is pushing us into a fateful and bloody regional conflict.

Don't worry, says the leading Democrat on the House International Affairs Committee to his Israeli visitor, it'll be "good for us and good for you." Israel will benefit from this war once it really begins to get out of hand, and we'll march right up to the gates of Damascus and smite Israel's enemies in Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile Ariel Sharon can drive the Palestinians into what is fated to be the Hashemite Kingdom of the Fertile Crescent – and the chief object of this war will be accomplished.

The Left says this is a war for oil, and that is true, as far as it goes. The big oil companies are openly competing for favor with the various Iraqi exile factions, trying to buy and beg their way into what promises to be a hot opportunity. But that is just the gravy, while this frank admission by one of Israel's most outspoken partisans in the U.S. Congress is, I believe, the main course.

Seen in the context of this administration's evolution on the Middle East question, the President's drive to war is but an extension of his radical tilt toward Israel. Bush's first inclination was to rein in his troublesome ally, but he didn't meet with much success. In response, the Israeli Prime Minister compared Bush to Neville Chamberlain and angrily declared that his nation would not meet the fate of Czechoslovakia.

In the face of this open defiance, the Bushies did not merely back down. They reversed course and began to appease Sharon and his very vocal and active American supporters – to the point of dragging America into an unnecessary and costly conflict. Let's drop the pretenses, as Lantos did, at least for a moment, and acknowledge the geographic and political reality: this is a war to make the world safe for a Greater Israel.

Thousands of Americans, at the very least, may die for this cause, without ever being told about it. They'll be told that we're fighting "terrorism," building "democracy," and saving "the children" by our war-birds, such as Tom Lantos, who know it's all a lie. Jim McDermott may be too brave for his own good, and may lack strategic sense, but next to Lantos the liar he's a paragon of congressional virtue – and a patriot to boot. For while Lantos is scheming to divide up the Middle Eastern spoils, confiding to a member of a foreign government the presumably secret plan to take Damascus as well as Baghdad, McDermott is concerned enough about what is in America's interest to put his own person on the line. Rep. McDermott is an American patriot, and so is Scott Ritter. Without heroes like them, World War IV is a virtual certainty.

George Will has always been among the most useful of Israel's idiots, if not the most idiotic. For him, of all people, to employ Lenin's well-known phrase to attack patriots like McDermott underscores the moral inversion of the post-9/11 era.


Chronicles, the monthly magazine of the Rockford Institute, always a great read, has published an article by me: "Larry Ellison’s Golden Age: Profiteers of the Warfare State," in the October issue, now at your local newsstand. (To subscribe, call: 1-800-877-5459.) This just arrived in my mailbox, and I can’t wait to dig in: it’s their special terrorism issue, titled "Dial 911 and Scream – America’s Experiment in Terror," featuring such promising titles as "George W. Bush, Wilsonian Liberal," and a review of Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About America? that starts out: "Dinesh D’Souza is a classic example of the immigrant imperialist." Okay, I’m outta here: this I have got to read ….

– Justin Raimondo

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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 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.