What happened to a formerly conservative press
to reduce it to political partisanship and warmongering? Specifically, I have
in mind National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial
When I was associated with National Review, the magazine understood
that the U.S. Constitution and civil liberties had to be protected from government.
It was not considered unpatriotic to take the side of the Constitution and civil
liberties against a sitting government, even if the government were Republican.
Some things were still more important than party loyalty.
No more. Consider, for example, Byron
York writing in the Feb. 13 issue. York doesn't understand why former U.S.
Representative Bob Barr lent his Republican conservative credentials to former
Vice President Al Gore's speech against President Bush's transgressions against
law and civil liberty, or why Barr is associating with liberals opposing the
Barr is the former Republican member of the House of Representatives who led
the impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Barr did so not out of political
partisanship. As a former prosecutor, Barr regards lying under oath to be a
serious offense. A president who commits that offense must be held accountable.
Otherwise, presidents will go on to lie about greater things such as
In opposing Bush's transgressions, Barr is simply being consistent. For Barr,
party loyalty takes a back seat to defense of the Constitution, the rule of
law, and civil liberty. If the U.S. had more leaders of Barr's caliber, Bush
and Cheney would already have been impeached.
York cannot understand this, because he thinks party loyalty and
defense against terrorists are the controlling virtues. York scolds
Barr for letting himself be used by partisan liberal organizations,
but York takes his own partisanship for granted. It is only the
other side that is partisan.
When I was on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, the editorials
were analytical and reformist. Sometimes we broke news stories. The page's attention
to the Soviet Union was based on the rulers' aggressive posture and suppression
of civil liberties. Today, the editorial page is a fount of neoconservative
war propaganda. All intelligence has vanished.
Consider the "Review & Outlook" of Feb. 3, which declares Iran
to be "an
intolerable threat." Iran is portrayed as a threat because the country's
new president has used threatening rhetoric against Israel. But, of course,
Bush and Israel are constantly using threatening rhetoric against Iran. To avoid
being regarded as a wimp by his countrymen and by the Muslim world, the new
Iranian president has to answer back. It doesn't occur to the editorialists
that Iranians might see the nuclear weapons of Israel and the U.S. as intolerable
Unlike Iran, Israel does have nuclear weapons. In view of this overpowering
fact, it is difficult to see why Bush and Wall Street Journal editorialists
think the U.S. needs to protect Israel from Iran.
But what if Iran were to succeed in fooling the International Atomic Energy
Agency's nuclear inspectors and develop a bomb. Might not crazed mullahs drop
it on Israel or give it to an al-Qaeda terrorist, who might use it to blow up
Washington, D.C., or New York?
What would Iran gain aside from its own immediate destruction? If
mutual assured destruction worked for decades against a powerfully
armed communist state every bit as hostile to American "bourgeois
capitalism" as Iran is to the "Great Satan," why would it fail
against a state that is puny compared to Soviet standards?
Iran does not require nuclear weapons in order to do all the things the editorialists
marshal in their case against Iran. Indeed, a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran
is likely to precipitate the dire deeds that the editorialists fear: a Shia
uprising in Iraq, disruption of oil supplies, closing of the Straits of Hormuz,
and terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East.
It is difficult to see the sanity in taking such risks merely on the basis
of the assumption that Iran intends to make a weapon. Before attacking yet another
Muslim country on the basis of mere assertion and creating further anger and
instability that may unseat our puppets in the Middle East, including nuclear-armed
Pakistan, the U.S. would do far better to drop its threatening rhetoric, reestablish
cooperation with Iran, continue the IAEA inspections, and wait until there is
real evidence of a nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. rushed to war in Iraq based on lies. On PBS (Feb. 3), Lawrence Wilkerson,
who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said
that the Iraq speech his boss was forced to give to the UN was "a hoax
on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations
The consequences have been disastrous. The U.S. invasion force is tied down
by a few thousand insurgents drawn from a Sunni population of merely 5 million
people, and Iraq has become, according to the CIA, a recruiting and training
ground for terrorists. The invasion has ruined America's reputation and expanded
the popularity of al-Qaeda, which has assumed the stand-up role against the
hegemonic Great Satan.
It is the untutored belligerence of the neoconservative Jacobins that is likely
to send the Middle East up in smoke. The instability that Bush is creating serves
al-Qaeda's interests, not our own.
The U.S. and Iran have common enemies in al-Qaeda and Middle East instability.
Iran is Shia. Al-Qaeda is a movement drawn from Sunnis. The age-old Shia/Sunni
conflict may yet lead to civil war in Iraq.
When the Wall Street Journal editorialists describe Iran's current leaders
as "possessed of an apocalyptic vision," they could just as well be
describing Bush's evangelical supporters and the neocon Jacobins that are driving
America to impose the neocon will on the Middle East. This is the program of
lunatics. No conservative could possibly support it.