THE LIE MACHINE

by , October 01, 2002

The lovely and personable Peggy Noonan wants us to have an "epochal" debate over going to war with Iraq, and disdains the personal attacks that have characterized the discussion so far:

"In the past 48 hours we have witnessed Bush vs. Daschle, Hitchens vs. Cockburn, Democrats vs. Republicans, The American Conservative vs. The Weekly Standard and National Review, paleocons vs. neocons, compassionate conservatives vs. the left. In New York we debate whether strong criticism of Israeli policy is prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism. In Washington it’s two questions: Who owns conservatism, and is the modern left more than a collection of depressives, America-lasters and anti-Semites?"

Something is "missing" from all this, she writes but never identifies what it is, beyond telling us that the good people of New York debate all foreign policy questions in terms of whether or not this or that argument is "anti-Semitic." But the real question is this: Will we remain a republic, or will we take the long, bone-strewn road to Empire?

That is the issue dividing advocates of this war from their opponents, yet it won’t be discussed in congressional committees, or by the pro-war pundits, and certainly it won’t come up on the evening news. We aren’t going to have the "epochal" debate she yearns for, since war propaganda – and the timetable of the War Party – won’t permit it. For the answer of the American people to such a question, if history is any indication, would be an emphatic rejection of neo-imperialism.

Haven’t all the wars of modernity been framed in terms of universal principles and self-defense? That’s true for a good reason. We don’t like to think of ourselves as conquerors, and the War Party – ever since the debate over the Spanish American war – has draped its rationale for slaughter in the pristine garments of "democracy," "freedom," and just retaliation against an unprovoked attack. We don’t intend to conquer our enemies, but yearn to "liberate" them. Now, however, we are claiming the "right" of "preemption," and this is clearly a war of conquest, not self-defense, no matter how loudly our war birds squawk about phony "weapons of mass destruction."

The only "epochal" aspect of this debate is the number – and sheer scale – of the monstrous lies being told by the War Party. A stream of falsehoods is being emitted on a daily – an hourly – basis to justify the invasion and military occupation of a country that has never attacked the U.S. And they aren’t being too careful about the quality of the lies they tell. Just yesterday [September 27], Drudge was trumpeting a Reuters story proclaiming that the Turks caught a convoy containing 33 pounds (15 kg) of "weapons-grade" uranium, less than 200 miles from the Iraqi border: Aha! The Smoking Gun! But not quite….

Less than twenty-four hours later, Ha’aretz informs us that, uh, no, "Refined uranium found in Turkey weighs grams, not kilograms" – Drudge trumpeted this, too, but if you think this neutralizes the advantage gained by the War Party, then you don’t understand the nature of war propaganda. A lie, no matter how many times it is debunked, is hard to kill. The all-important first impression – the nightmare vision of the "madman" Saddam waving a nuclear sword – is easy to create but almost impossible to erase. Besides that, the number of people who hear about this "clarification" will not come anywhere close to the millions who heard the "news" of this fortuitous interception.

Lies, lies, and more lies – that is the methodology of the War Party, and they just keeping flinging them at us, hoping that at least some of it will stick. They’re in a very great hurry, you see, and can’t afford to be too noble and "epochal" in their approach. The clock is ticking, people are beginning to wake up to their game, and the antiwar opposition is mounting a surprisingly strong counteroffensive. Thousands of phone calls are flooding the offices of our congressional representatives, and it’s overwhelmingly those expressing their opposition to this frightening and fateful rush to war.

As prominent Democrats voice major doubts, and many Republicans do the same less publicly, you can bet it isn’t their inherent thoughtfulness that’s woken them out of their previous passivity. Your phone calls are having an effect – so keep it up! If the sorry collection of a**-kissing hacks who make up this Congress are going to help stop this war, then it’s gong to be out of fear – not fear that our sons and daughters will die for an unworthy cause, but mortal fear of going down to defeat at the polls. Let them hear from you – today.

Contrary to any impression I might have created, I like Ms. Noonan, or, at least, I like her public persona: she’s the kind of gal you just want to sit down with somewhere and have a nice long chat. She thinks Alex Cockburn calling Christopher Hitchens "another middle-aged porker of the right" is a bit over the top, and regrets that the debate has gotten vicious: after all, where does Bill Kristol (whom she doesn’t name) get off calling Taki Theodoracopulos, (whom she also doesn’t name), a charming bon vivant who has invested a considerable amount of his large fortune in TAC, "a repulsive character"? Listen, Peggy, I know this is going to shock you, but guys fight dirty when the stakes are this high…..

Kristol hissed to the Washington Times that the co-editor and financial angel of The American Conservative (TAC) is "a pretty loathsome character," switching to "repulsive" in talking to the Washington Post. Kristol’s personal ire is indicative of the new phase of the War Party’s propaganda campaign, which is designed to smear and effectively put out of commission anyone and everyone who rises to oppose this war: every pundit, every politician, every grassroots activist who allows their name to be made public – as antiwar activists traveling through San Francisco airport recently discovered to their dismay.

(Hey, I have to fly in a week or so, to speak at Washington University, in St. Louis, and I have to admit that the prospect of getting into an airplane fills me with dread.)

So Taki "walk[ed] through British customs with 23 grams of cocaine in a bag that was dangling out of his back pocket," as the Post puts it. Big effin deal. Taki paid for his "crime," and wrote quite an amusing book about it: Nothing to Declare: A Memoir. Habitues of this space have long known what a puffed-up prig that Kristol kid is, besides being a pencil-necked chicken-hawk, and everyone else knows it, too.

The first issue of TAC, by the way, is finally out, and it is obvious, from the content and the cover, why this magazine was viciously attacked by the neocons and their amen corner amongst the liberals, before it came off the presses. Never, I believe, in all the long history of magazine publishing has there been such a controversy as the one that accompanied the debut of The American Conservative. Now that I’m holding a copy in my hands I can see why the War Party has been so stirred up about the Buchanan-Taki publishing coup.

On the cover, Uncle Sam wields an outsized fly-swatter as our allies cringe behind him, pointing in horror at Saddam – a fly sunning himself on the other side of the globe. IRAQ FOLLY in big bold caps, with the promise of Eric S. Margolis explaining "How Victory Could Spell American Defeat." It is not just a powerful essay: it is the best on the subject to date. Margolis marshals mountains of evidence against the idea that a war of conquest in the Middle East is in American interests – and also makes the moral case against the war. His is a morally-informed realism, buttressed by solid information and good old-fashioned common sense. The Bush Doctrine of preemption, Margolis writes, "recalls the old Brezhnev Doctrine of Soviet days" – and we know what happened to Brezhnev and his successors not long after. Margolis is such a good writer that, in the context of the array of facts he has gathered, it is not even necessary for him to point this out. No honest reader can come away from this piece without at least wondering if, in the wake of "victory," we’ll be wearing our Mideast empire like an albatross hung ’round our necks.

Pat Buchanan has a typically powerful piece, "After the War," that warns of what comes "after the celebratory gunfire when wicked Saddam is dead." Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin: "We have started up the road to empire and over the next hill we will meet those who went before." The smart and snappy Stuart Reid, of the [UK] Spectator, explains the stance of those Englishmen who tire of seeing their Prime Minister in the role of Bush’s poodle. Kevin Phillips on "Why I Am No Longer A Conservative" is a challenge to the Right to reject corporatism, which he calls "Wall Street Socialism." In a tour de force, he ties this directly into the war hysteria:

"’Military socialism’ – in its pure form, plus the new homeland security entrepreneurialism – is one of the fastest-growing jewels in the crown of unfree-market economics."

Go, Kevin, go! And there’s more:

"But even the joys of Pentagon contracts negotiated by marketing vice-presidents who used to be Air Force generals pale next to the achievements of the newest form of unfree enterprise: bailouts, the collectivization of private risk, and the emergence of a financial sector better protected by government rescues, preferences and guarantees than manufacturing ever was by tariff protection."

The Old Right is back! For, whether the author knows it or not, here is an echo of John T. Flynn‘s trenchant and prophetic analysis of the rise of the Welfare-Warfare State, in his seminal work, As We Go Marching, written as the U.S. entered World War II. Speaking of the Old Right, my own article in this inaugural issue, "Now Entering Imperium," gives me the chance to quote Garet Garrett, my favorite author – and that’s all I’m going to tell you about it in the hope that you’ll rush out and buy a copy! (Borders has it.) Or maybe even subscribe….

Peggy Noonan wants an "epochal" debate, one that resembles a high-school debating society in which the opposing teams articulate their best arguments, and the discussion is conducted in a civil and even a scholarly manner. Fat chance! The War Party is hungry for blood, and they aren’t employing the Marquess of Queensbury rules to get their meal. Lies, innuendo, smears, legal measures, hate campaigns, cyber-warfare (do you want to know how many times we and other antiwar site have been attacked by would-be hackers?). Before this is over, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if our war-birds tried to pull off a provocation – a staged act of "terrorism" that can be attributed to the Iraqis. That’s how badly they want this war.

An all-important aspect of the War Party’s tactics is the launching of a smear campaign, designed to attribute "anti-Semitism" to any and all manifestations of antiwar sentiment. It then becomes the intellectual equivalent of Kristallnacht to say aloud what geography and common sense tell us: that this war, if not in America’s best interests, is certainly of great benefit to Israel. Alex Cockburn has recently been slimed in this manner; Buchanan and Taki have been smeared with the same brush – and even I have been attacked as "anti-Semitic" by some pretty nasty characters in the "blogosphere." If you have the stomach for it, check out this nasty little thread – which, I might add, was advertised and orchestrated by Glenn Reynolds, the War Party’s water-boy. These pathetic geeks, who call themselves "warbloggers," thought the J.C. Penney war atrocity action figures featured on our front page the other day were waaaay cool. Yet more anecdotal evidence underscoring my contention that the advocates of this war are just the sort of overweight pasty-faced pimple-pocked losers who would never go anywhere near the field of battle themselves.

So the War Party plays nasty – we already knew that, didn’t we? But what they don’t seem to realize that two can play at that game. Not that our side will resort to lies, character assassination, and brass knuckles to make our point – we won’t have to. Because when it comes to our chicken-hawks, the truth will suffice.

Read more by Justin Raimondo