October 30, 2002

Limousine liberals and frothy-mouthed rightists team up against the antiwar movement

The resounding success of the recent antiwar demonstrations called by the International A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition has the pro-war forces in a panic, and this has given rise to an unlikely alliance between the limousine liberals over at Salon.com, the born-again wacko "Christian Zionists" of WorldNutDaily, and frothing-at-the-mouth ex-Commie-turned-rightwing-nutball David Horowitz. We might call it the pinko-brown alliance – two colors that, when combined, produce a shade of dirty beige almost exactly the color of cow-dung.

The strange tone of Michelle Goldberg's Salon piece – "A day for peace – and fury" [warning: link for pay] – leaps right out at the reader in the opening sentence:

"Kaffiyehs, the checked Palestinian head scarves, were selling for $15 each at the massive antiwar rally in Washington on Saturday, and they were selling well."

Not that there's anything wrong with that – but clearly Ms. Goldberg found it disturbing, along with those "indie-rock cheerleaders jumping around crying, 'Liberate! Smash the state!'" This is an ideological cue to sober liberals of the "It Takes a Village" variety – who, after all, make up a significant chunk of Salon Premium subscribers – that these are not necessarily the good guys. After all, the Clintonian Left loves the State, and any attempt to smash it – even metaphorically – sounds just Gingrichian enough to cause them some real discomfort.

Goldberg cites counter-examples of "committed, articulate people" who marched on October 26, a Microsoft programmer and his 13-year-old son, and an ex-Marine who supported the Afghanistan campaign – having just fought in it – but who fails to see what attacking Iraq has to do with what he considers a legitimate war against Al Qaeda. Goldberg indignantly cites the under-reporting of the numbers in the New York Times, and, under cover of a scrupulous fairmindedness, and even the appearance of some real sympathy for the cause, proceeds to trash the antiwar movement for having an entirely negative program. "The new peace movement has a demonstrable momentum," she writes, caught somewhere between envy and resentment, but:

"What it doesn't appear to have is a powerful affirmative message to match its scathing critique of American foreign policy. If war isn't the answer, what is? 'No Justice, No Peace, U.S. Out of the Middle East' doesn't cut it, unless we intend to abandon the Kurds to Saddam. 'Israel out of U.S. Congress,' a slogan scrawled on one sign and echoed by many marchers, is similarly insufficient, unless you believe that 'our foreign policy is not made here, it is made in Israel,' as Ali Azam, a protester from Binghamton, N.Y., patiently explained."

Yeah, and I'll bet Mr. Azam was wearing one of those spooky kaffiyehs.

While Goldberg may not have noticed the rapid evolution of our Israel-centric foreign policy, certainly the rest of the world has, including not only the nations of the Middle East but also our European allies. We are supposed to believe the growing disapproval of America's unconditional support for Israel is due to a resurgence of "anti-Semitism," a new synonym for anti-war, and that is the clear implication of Goldberg's otherwise inexplicable analysis. While it inaccurate to say that "our foreign policy is not made here, it is made in Israel," the truth is far worse than that. The policy is made in Washington, not Tel Aviv, by an administration that has sold out America's long-term national interests for short-term political gain.

It is a simple geographical fact of reality that, in singling out Iraq, America is fighting Israel's battles in the Middle East. For the only American lives threatened by Saddam's alleged quest to acquire "weapons of mass destruction" are those who live in Israel and hold dual American-Israeli citizenship. Not that the prospect of a nuclear-armed Ariel Sharon wreaking radioactive vengeance on the Arab world wouldn't be a deterrent.

No, Michelle, war isn't the answer – but what's the question, anyway? To Goldberg it is: how does the United States propose to impose its will on the Middle East? The issue of whether it is any of our business never comes up. Instead, she pulls a Christopher Hitchens on us, and brings up the favored liberal victim group of the moment: a couple of years ago, you'll remember, it was the Kosovar Albanians, whose teary-eyed faces greeted us daily on the evening news, weeping victims of Serbian "aggression." Now that these same gentle souls have ethnically cleansed their war-ravaged country and set up a Mafia-ocracy in Kosovo, where they regularly blow their opponents to bits, Hitchens and other liberal cheerleaders for Clinton's war of "liberation" have moved on – carefully not looking back – to gather the poor oppressed Kurds to their warm embrace.

Elsewhere in Salon, we are subjected to the same sanctimonious drivel, directly from "the Hitch," as his neocon fan club has dubbed this latest recruit to their ranks: "I don't favor an invasion of Iraq," Hitchens bloviates, in an extended interview, "but I favor a confrontation with Saddam Hussein, and I've been an ally and a friend, a good enough friend, I hope, to the Kurdish and Iraqi opposition for many years."

But of course the Kurds are already independent, and have set up their own little fiefdoms in the northern region of an Iraq bisected by the "no fly zone." The U.S. has been unable to garner their support for a war, or even a "confrontation," with Saddam, precisely because the major Kurdish factions don't want to endanger the status quo. Oh, but who cares what the Kurds have to say about the matter, especially when their self-appointed spokesman has such a charming British accent and a column in Vanity Fair?

A war with Iraq would almost certainly bring in Turkey – and all the other nations that have carved up Kurdistan – in a direct "confrontation" with the Kurds. With "friends" like Hitchens, the Kurds – who have at least finally established a certain degree of national autonomy – don't need any enemies. Aside from that, it is important to understand that Kurdistan, at least as conceived by the various Kurdish "liberation" groups, is a large and centrally-located swathe of territory, extending eastward from the Mediterranean shore, where Syria meets Turkey, most of the way inland to the Caspian Sea, including northern Iraq and thrusting deep into Iran.

The "liberation" of Kurdistan, helped along by a U.S. "confrontation" with Iraq, would involve making war on virtually every established government in the region. What a coincidence that this warpath closely parallels the trajectory of a "democratic transformation" of the Middle East championed by neoconservatives from the very beginning of this war crisis. Early on, Bill Kristol and a dozen or so neocon war-bots signed on to a statement calling for the radical extension of the President's announced war aims and "regime change" not only in Iraq but also in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East.

This reunion of right-wing social democrats with their left-wing counterparts, Hitchens and Kristol hand-in-hand, unanimous for war, is meant to define the parameters of the politically permissible in the post-9/11 era. But not so fast….

No normal American has a burning desire to conquer the world under the guise of 'liberating" it. The risk-free moralizing of our professional chickenhawks, of whatever ideological plumage, fails to move the famously "isolationist" American street. Main Street, that is, not Wall Street.

The word "isolationist," usually uttered with great disdain by Washington policy wonks and European politicians, is an epithet that is really a badge of honor: it means Americans are under the mistaken impression that they have the right to enjoy their own bourgeois lives, that human joy is possible and justified, for its own sake, even in the midst of a very sad and unfree world. They are, in short, essentially conservatives in the realm of international affairs – meaning that they seek to conserve the foreign policy views of the Founders, who warned against "passionate attachments" and "violent antipathies" in America's relations with the world, and abhorred foreign entanglements. The idea that that "it takes a global village" – popularized on the Left during the Clinton era – is alien to the conservative temperament, at least in this country.

The exceptions – the real anti-Americans – are a bunch of ex-Trotskyists and right-wing social democrats who seem to be channeling the restless shades of Albert Shanker and Max Shachtman. "My tradition from the extreme left days is different from that of most mainstream leftists," says Hitchens to Salon,"

"I think, in that I was a Trotskyist. The group I was a member of, International Socialists, was a dissident splinter of the Trotskyist movement – you were always fighting a war on about five fronts. But it was worth doing. It taught me how to argue, streetfighting, polemic and so forth."

Yet another renegade Trotskyist joins the War Party. What is it with those guys? Hitchens is only the most recent in a long line of the Red Army chieftain's admirers, who switched allegiances without really changing their goals. Trotsky styled his schismatic Fourth International the "World Party of Socialist Revolution," and, among the competing Marxist sects, the Trotskyists uniquely emphasized internationalism. For lightweights like Hitchens, who change their political coloration with the latest intellectual fashion, it is merely a question of arranging the words of "The Internationale" to the tune of "Star-Spangled Banner."

Keeping track of the rising tide of warmongering on both sides of the political spectrum is getting to be a full-time job. Warmongers to the left of me, and warmongers to the right of me: even some alleged "libertarians" associated with the Cato Institute. In the current online edition of Reason magazine, Cato "senior scholar" Brink Lindsey calls for a "war to the death" with "radical Islamism," and this, somehow, includes first and foremost the region's major secularist regime. This only seems counterintuitive, you see, because it will send a message that "we mean business."

It is hard to take seriously a piece entitled "No More 9/11s" which declares that the author would be for this war anyway, even if 9/11 had never happened. The real reason for this support, aside from the showy exterminationist rhetoric directed at Islam per se, is the same left-Wilsonian project embraced by neo-Trotskyists of the Hitchensonian persuasion:

"Finally, regime change in Iraq offers the opportunity to attack radical Islamism at its roots: the dismal prevalence of political repression and economic stagnation throughout the Muslim world. The establishment of a reasonably liberal and democratic Iraq could serve as a model for positive change throughout the region."

The "World Revolution" marches on.

The Cato Institute used to stand for intellectual integrity, a quality many of its associated scholars retain: it also used to stand for small government at home – and its corollary abroad, a noninterventionist foreign policy. But the most prominent (and certainly the most well-funded) libertarian thinktank has made a remarkable about-face in the post-9/11 era. The new dispensation was recently announced by Cato vice president David Boaz, in a recent issue of National Review (dead-tree edition only) where he exulted in finally "finding a war we can support." Oh boy, what a relief that must've been! Boaz's pro-war comrade, Lindsey, is held up in the NR article by Ramesh Ponnuru as a spokesman for the nascent pro-war faction of the libertarian movement, which numbers in at least the dozens. Now Lindsey pops up in Reason – a magazine of allegedly libertarian inclinations where mass preemptive murder by the State is a highly debatable subject, unlike abortion, open borders, and legal heroin – beating the war drums.

Without evidence or context, Lindsey attributes both the anthrax attacks and potentially "millions" of American deaths to the all-powerful Iraqis. The "'what, me worry?' attitude" of anti-war libertarians "captures perfectly the prevailing opinion about Afghanistan circa September 10, 2001," avers Lindsey,

"The Taliban were more a punch line than a serious foreign-policy issue; only the most fevered imagination could see any threat to us in that miserable, dilapidated country. The next day, three thousand Americans were dead. We can't let that happen again."

9/11, according to Lindsey, means that the ordinary rules of morality and common sense have been indefinitely suspended, if not abolished outright. For the idea that someone, somewhere, may be planning to strike at the U.S. now gives us a blank check to not only invade the whole world. And not only that, but to occupy and undertake to build "free" societies on the ruins of a civilization destroyed.

The Lindseyite proposal that we try to turn the Middle East into a Mid-westernized suburb of the global metropolis is a project that would have to mean the complete negation of the program championed by the Cato Institute – Lindsey's employer – since its founding in the late 1970s. The sheer cost of such hubris, measured only in dollars, would be enough to permanently shelve libertarian opposition to government spending. Tax hikes unto perpetuity would have to be the order of the day, loyally supported by Lindseyite "libertarians" all the way.

Is this what Cato's contributors are shelling their money out for – so that some pipsqueak of a "senior fellow" can proclaim from the rooftops that we ought to embark on a war of conquest?

On to even less pleasant matters, if that's possible: let's deal with the latest nonsense posted on WorldNutDaily.com. Oh, er, sorry, that's WorldNetDaily.com. At any rate, an article by Sherrie Gossett, which accuses the antiwar movement of being "supporters of terrorism," cites me and David Horowitz as the alleged sources of this charge. I have never made any such statement, and Ms. Gossett fails to cite a single word of mine in support of this thesis. What she does is throw all critics of the antiwar movement's current leadership in the same bowl, and then mixes herself up a poisonous brew of lies, distortions, and obfuscation:

"The controversial ties of IAC [sponsors of the October 26 demonstration] remain almost completely unreported by the mainstream media, but increasingly are being exposed by a handful of enterprising Internet journalists, including Michelle Goldberg and Ian Mitchell of salon.com, Michael Tremoglie, Edward Immler and David Horowitz of Frontpagemagazine.com, and Christopher Hitchens, a 20-year veteran of The Nation magazine, now writing independently. The controversy has spread to the commentary pages of Mother Jones and has Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com crying foul while bemoaning his experiences at San Francisco's 'Baghdad-by-the-Bay.'

"A small group of left-wing, right-wing and libertarian activists and writers now accuse the organization's elite of being sellouts to foreign dictators while giving lip service to humanitarian concerns. They say this 'patina of morality' obfuscates a surreptitious political agenda: the armed overthrow of the American republic. Leading critics from both left and right now charge the leaders with supporting the very things they claim to be protesting."

I have never written that anyone has "sold out to foreign dictators," nor do I endorse or agree with any of the above in any way. It is absurd to interpret my critique of the International Action Center and "Not In Our Name" as accusing the Left of advancing "a surreptitious agenda" when my point was just the opposite: that leftists involved in antiwar activities ought to keep their agenda surreptitious, and not impose it on the rest of the movement by broadcasting it from the platform of every peace rally. Indeed, the whole point of my Mother Jones piece is that the antiwar movement must maintain a laser-like focus on the single issue of this war. Too bad Ms. Gossett missed that, but then ideologues are habitually blind to reality in any event, even when it is literally spelled out for them.

The idea that there is some convergence of my views with Horowitz – who seems not to have taken his meds recently as the title of his screed on October 26 event, "100,000 Communists March on Washington to Give Aid and Comfort to Saddam Hussein," makes abundantly clear – is evidence either of dyslexia in Ms. Gossett, or else some other disability that renders her unable to comprehend simple English.

I won't go into the gory details of a recent piece posted on Horowitz's hate site accusing me of being a "Saddamite" except to say that it was written by Stephen Schwartz, another ex-Trotskyoid war-bird – one who went from all the way from Marx to Mohammed, changed his name from "Comrade Sandalio" to "Suleyman Ahmad," and was eventually kicked out of his job at the Voice of America. Besides, Horowitz's readers seem pretty unanimous in their condemnation of Schwartz's unseemly tirade, one of whom pleads: "Please, Steve, don't drink and type."



In my last column, on the October 26 antiwar march, I wrote that I ran into Maad Abu-Ghazalah, the Libertarian Party candidate for Congress in California's Twelfth District, running against rabid warmonger Tom Lantos: "He was trying to get a spot on the speakers' list," I wrote, "to no avail, of course. No Libertarians need apply."

I am happy to report that this is not true, that he did indeed get to speak, and I stand corrected.

– 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.