I remember when friends would excitedly telephone
to report that Rush Limbaugh or G. Gordon Liddy had just read one of my syndicated
columns over the air. That was before I became a critic of the U.S. invasion
of Iraq, the Bush administration, and the neoconservative ideologues who have
seized control of the U.S. government.
America has blundered into a needless and dangerous war, and fully half of
the country's population is enthusiastic. Many Christians think that war
in the Middle East signals "end times" and that they are about to
be wafted up to heaven. Many patriots think that, finally, America is standing
up for itself and demonstrating its righteous might. Conservatives are taking
out their Vietnam frustrations on Iraqis. Karl Rove is wrapping Bush in the
protective cloak of war leader. The military-industrial complex is drooling
over the profits of war. And neoconservatives are laying the groundwork for
Israeli territorial expansion.
The evening before Thanksgiving, Rush Limbaugh was on C-Span TV explaining
that these glorious developments would have been impossible if talk radio and
the conservative movement had not combined to break the power of the liberal
In the Thanksgiving issue of National
Review, editor Richard Lowry and former editor John O'Sullivan celebrate
Bush's reelection triumph over "a hostile press corps." "Try
as they might," crowed O'Sullivan, "they couldn't put Kerry over the
There was a time when I could rant about the "liberal media" with
the best of them. But in recent years I have puzzled over the precise location
of the "liberal media."
Not so long ago, I would have identified the liberal media as the New York
Times and Washington Post, CNN and the three TV networks, and National
Public Radio. But both the Times and the Post fell for the Bush
administration's lies about WMD and supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq. On
balance, CNN, the networks, and NPR have not made an issue of the Bush administration's
changing explanations for the invasion.
Apparently, Rush Limbaugh and National Review think there is a liberal
media because the prison torture scandal could not be suppressed and a cameraman
filmed the execution of a wounded Iraqi prisoner by a U.S. Marine.
Do the Village Voice and The Nation comprise the "liberal
media"? The Village Voice is known for Nat Hentoff and his columns
on civil liberties. Every good conservative believes that civil liberties are
liberal because they interfere with the police and let criminals go free. The
Nation favors spending on the poor and disfavors gun rights, but I don't
see the "liberal hate" in The Nation's feeble pages that Rush
Limbaugh was denouncing on C-Span.
In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate.
It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant, and irrational e-mails from self-professed
conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen
into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared
to kill anyone for George Bush.
The Iraqi War is serving as a great catharsis for multiple conservative frustrations:
job loss, drugs, crime, homosexuals, pornography, female promiscuity, abortion,
restrictions on prayer in public places, Darwinism, and attacks on religion.
Liberals are the cause. Liberals are against America. Anyone against the war
is against America and is a liberal. "You are with us or against us."
This is the mindset of delusion, and delusion permits of no facts or analysis.
Blind emotion rules. Americans are right and everyone else is wrong. End of
That, gentle reader, is the full extent of talk radio, Fox News, the Wall
Street Journal editorial page, National Review, the Weekly Standard,
and, indeed, of the entire concentrated corporate media, where non-controversy
in the interest of advertising revenue rules.
Once upon a time there was a liberal media. It developed out of the Great Depression
and the New Deal. Liberals believed that the private sector was the source of
greed that must be restrained by government acting in the public interest. The
liberals' mistake was to identify morality with government. Liberals had great
suspicion of private power and insufficient suspicion of the power and inclination
of government to do good.
Liberals became Benthamites (after Jeremy
Bentham). They believed that as the people controlled government through
democracy, there was no reason to fear government power, which should be increased
in order to accomplish more good.
The conservative movement that I grew up in did not share the liberals'
abiding faith in government. "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts
Today it is liberals, not conservatives, who endeavor to defend civil liberties
from the state. Conservatives have been won around to the old liberal view that
as long as government power is in their hands, there is no reason to fear it
or to limit it. Thus, the PATRIOT Act, which permits government to suspend a
person's civil liberties by calling him a terrorist with or without proof. Thus,
preemptive war, which permits the president to invade other countries based
on unverified assertions.
There is nothing conservative about these positions. To label them conservative
is to make the same error as labeling the 1930s German Brownshirts conservative.
American liberals called the Brownshirts "conservative," because
the Brownshirts were obviously not liberal. They were ignorant, violent, delusional,
and they worshipped a man of no known distinction. Brownshirts' delusions were
protected by an emotional force field. Adulation of power and force prevented
Brownshirts from recognizing the implications for their country of their reckless
Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their
leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight
from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote
that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder."
It is amazing that only a short time ago the Bush administration and its supporters
believed that all the U.S. had to do was to appear in Iraq and we would be greeted
with flowers. Has there ever been a greater example of delusion? Isn't this
on a par with the Children's
Crusade against the Saracens in the Middle Ages?
Delusion is still the defining characteristic of the Bush administration. We
have smashed Fallujah, a city of 300,000, only to discover that the 10,000 U.S.
Marines are bogged down in the ruins of the city. If the Marines leave, the
"defeated" insurgents will return. Meanwhile, the insurgents have
moved on to destabilize Mosul, a city five times as large. Thus, the call for
more U.S. troops.
There are no more troops. Our former allies are not going to send troops. The
only way the Bush administration can continue with its Iraq policy is to reinstate
When the draft is reinstated, conservatives will loudly proclaim their pride
that their sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers are going to die for "our
freedom." Not a single one of them will be able to explain why destroying
Iraqi cities and occupying the ruins are necessary for "our freedom."
But this inability will not lessen the enthusiasm for the project. To protect
their delusions from "reality-based" critics, they will demand that
the critics be arrested for treason and silenced. Many encouraged by talk radio
already speak this way.
Because of the triumph of delusional "new conservatives" and the
demise of the liberal media, this war is different from the Vietnam war. As
more Americans are killed and maimed in the pointless carnage, more Americans
have a powerful emotional stake that the war not be lost and not be in vain.
Trapped in violence and unable to admit mistakes, a reckless administration
The rapidly collapsing U.S. dollar is hard evidence that the world sees the
U.S. as bankrupt. Flight from the dollar as the reserve currency will adversely
impact American living standards, which are already falling. The U.S. cannot
afford a costly and interminable war.
Falling living standards and an inability to impose our will on the Middle
East will result in great frustrations that will diminish our country.