Baghdad Bomb Blasted American Hubris

The bomb blast that blew up UN headquarters in Baghdad should have pulverized the smug complacency of the Washington policy wonks who openly hail the rise of an American Empire – but I doubt it made much more than a small dent.

Only in Washington would it be possible to have a “debate” between Niall Ferguson, historian of British imperialism, who claims that America is – and should be – an empire, and neocon Robert Kagan, who avers that no, no, the U.S. is (and should be) a “global hegemon.” As the [Beirut] Daily Star reported:

“In the air-conditioned comfort inside, the lusty strains of ‘Rule Britannia’ welcomed a capacity crowd to AEI’s version of a summertime idyll.”

As our modern-day Tories hail the rise of the American Imperium from the safety of their air-conditioned thinktanks, it’s 120 degrees in the shade in Baghdad, and, as I write this, a huge truck bomb has blown away the United Nations envoy, killing a dozen others and wounding over a hundred.

Would that we could send a few of those Washington wonks to fight for the “hegemony” they blithely assume!

To get some real measure of the arrogance of these folks, here is an exchange that occurred during the question period at the AEI debate:

“QUESTION: Stanley Kober with the Cato Institute. On this question of empire [or] hegemon, two things; one Mr. Ferguson mentioned. What do you do about the financial constraints? You said that. You said it would be a problem, but you never addressed how you get around that in order for the United States to maintain this role, whatever you call it.

“And, second, something very different from when we were in Vietnam now. The opposition to the involvement in Iraq seems to be coming not from the campuses, but from the troops and their families, the soldiers and their families. This is something different. How can you be a hegemon or an empire if the soldiers don’t want to play that role?

Ferguson’s answer to the first question was full of helpful advice on how we could wrench medicines out of the mouths of our oldsters – “radical reform of the Medicare system” – and put those savings into “nation-building” overseas. “It’s not a lot of money compared with $44 trillion,” he said, presumably with a straight face. A trillion here, a trillion there – who cares, as long as we wind up spending ourselves into imperial penury, just like our British cousins? The high and the mighty have a style all their own, but Ferguson was just getting warmed up: “As for the opposition of the troops,” he drawled,

“There’s obviously a problem with discipline in the U.S. Army. You don’t hear this from the squaddies in Basra. Put it that way.”

Thank God for the feistiness and fighting spirit of the American military. It is our best protection against the enemy within, as well as from outside our borders. The American character – what Ferguson calls “a problem with discipline” – puts a check on the dangerous ambitions of would-be American Caesars. Without public support, a series of bloody and expensive wars waged in the name of nothing but sheer hubris would end in a political defeat for the War Party on the home front, regardless of what happened on any foreign battlefield.

How long the American people will put up with the running sore of the Iraqi occupation is a political calculation that seems relatively simple: polls show a dramatic decrease in public support for our policy. If Tuesday’s devastating bomb attack is a portent of the future, then this support can only drop. This is the soft underbelly of the neocon campaign to entrench the U.S. in Iraq. The Democrats are already making a potent campaign issue out of the Bushies’ relative neglect of the fight against Al Qaeda, a struggle that, unlike the well-publicized war in Iraq, is being fought in the shadows. But occasionally the lights go on, as in the Igla sting operation, and all sorts of unappetizing creatures are exposed to the light of day – and do their best to scuttle away.

Thailand is the latest front in the real war on terror, with Indonesian militant leader Hambali arrested there for purportedly financing terrorist operations to the tune of $45,000. Closer to home, however, the reported financier of a terrorist plot, Yehuda Abraham, was granted bail by a judge over prosecutors’ objections: Abraham, a 76-year-old Orthodox Jew who lives in Queens, was arrested on a charge of financing the attempt by arms dealer Hemant Lakhani to sell surface-to-air missiles to a “Somali terrorist group” that turned out to be the FBI. The Thailand connection: Abraham and his family not only traveled to Thailand frequently, but he is listed here as a contact for the Jewish community of Bangkok.

Abraham, whose bail has been set at $10 million, is expected by his defense attorney to meet the terms imposed by the judge – he must wear an electronic tracking device – and “be free this week, as one New Jersey newspaper reported:

“Prosecutors acknowledged they have no proof that Abraham knew he was helping to facilitate a weapons deal for terrorists.”

But that could change. Law enforcement sources say agents are still going over bales of documents and computer equipment seized in the raid on Abraham’s Manhattan office. Given what we know now, however, a question arises: why would someone described as “a wealthy and successful man with more than $1 million equity in his home and shops in Europe, the Middle East and Asia” engage in such a risky transaction for a paltry $1,500 commission, as the New York Times reports?

Federal prosecutors are treating Abraham far differently than, say, an Islamic charity in the U.S. that may have aided and abetted the financing of terrorism directed against Israel. None of those guys got bail: they were just rounded up, closed down, and deported. Why the double-standard?

Sure, Mr. Abraham is an American citizen, but why isn’t he being held, a la John Lindh and Jose Padilla, as an “enemy combatant”? More than a few interesting questions come up if we look a little closer at this case, including what’s up with the lawsuit brought by a BBC journalist against Newsweek, over the latter’s report that the Beeb leaked news of the arrests before the feds could go after their real quarry. There is a lot more here than meets the eye.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Charles Paul Freund writes in Reason that the BBC “has been miring itself in cases of alleged bias in its narratives, and indeed in disputes involving its moral perspective” – this from a magazine that hotly denied the existence of Gulf War Syndrome and never admitted they were dead wrong. I guess this is just a lot of hype, too.

God, how I hate that magazine, which falsely claims to be “libertarian.” There’s hardly a lie spread by the War Party that they aren’t willing to swallow: as far as editor Nick Gillespie and his crew are concerned, as long as they have the right to do the drugs of their choice and live out their "alternative" lifestyles, little else matters. Could anything be more repulsive? But there’s no need to accentuate the negative, not when we have so many good writers putting out the truth. A tip of the hat to prolific journalist Jim Lobe, who has been hot on the trail of the Pentagon’s “Office of Special Plans,” and besides that is really up on the more arcane details of neocon-ology: his byline is a guarantee of an interesting read. Then there’s my good friend Chris Deliso, a regular contributor to Antiwar.com, who has started balkanalysis.com, wherein he and his associates bring you the latest from the far frontiers of the New World Order: don’t miss it!

– Justin Raimondo

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].