The Present Danger

by , July 24, 2004

The newly reconstituted Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), the War Party’s latest high-profile front group, is off to a rocky start. In the face of incoming fire from independent journalist Laura Rozen, what the CPD’s founders characterize as "an army of citizens" was forced into an ignominious retreat on the first day of its official reincarnation, as its managing director, Peter Hannaford, was forced to step down.

In 1996, Hannaford’s public relations firm, the Carmen Group, signed a $40,000-a-year contract to represent Austria’s Freedom Party. The party’s leader Joerg Haider, you’ll remember, became a hate object for the Euro-left because of his views on the EU and immigration – he’s against both – and a thoughtless remark expressing nostalgia for the "good old days" when a "relatively efficient" Nazi regime ruled in Vienna. Poor Hannaford, like Haider, never knew what hit him: "Haider said many silly things and he was trying to live them down," he told the New York Sun. "But Mr. Hannaford also said the party’s agenda was quite reasonable. ‘Three or four of their Parliament members were quite level-headed,’ he said. ‘The kinds of programs they supported in the Austrian context were quite sensible.’ He said the Freedom Party’s primary agenda was to reform the income tax, end immigration, and break what he called the ‘patronage stranglehold on government largess of the two major Austrian parties at the time.’"

True, but irrelevant. After all, wasn’t that Haider who paid a "solidarity visit" to Saddam Hussein just before the bombs began to fall? Rozen had only to point the Haider connection out, and Hannaford was history. But the CPD has some more housecleaning to do, as I’ll get to shortly. However, first a word or two about the storied history of the CPD in its various incarnations, and what makes its revival such an auspicious occasion.

The original CPD was organized in 1950 to scare the hell out of Americans, or at least frighten them enough so that they wouldn’t balk when the bill came in for a massive military build-up. Paul Nitze’s seminal NSC-68 memorandum was the theory, and CPD-1 was the practice. In 1951, the Committee took to the airwaves, utilizing the Mutual Broadcasting Network to propagandize on the utter scariness of "the present danger."

As the face-off pitting Alger Hiss against Whittaker Chambers revealed the inner workings of a pro-Soviet cabal of spies in the highest reaches of government, and Senator Joseph McCarthy roamed the land, it was in the interests of the Truman administration to divert attention away from the Commie Threat on the home front, and direct American anger and paranoia overseas. The Commies were about to take over the world, and were we going to just sit there watching I Love Lucy?

Having recently returned from fighting World War II, the Greatest Generation was certainly inclined to do just that, and, in any case, was hardly in a frame of mind to start fighting World War III so soon. Perhaps the difficulty inherent in this situation is what gave rise to the suggestion, made in March 1950 by assistant secretary of state for public affairs Edward R. Barrett, that it would be necessary to initiate a "psychological scare campaign." Dean Acheson, one of the Committee’s founders, wrote in his memoirs:

"The task of a public officer seeking to explain or gain support for a major policy is not that of the writer of a doctoral thesis. Qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality, in carrying home the point."

The Committee was restarted in 1976, and, although officially bipartisan, was heavily weighted with Democratic party bigwigs, such as Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (D-Boeing), and, like the original, was linked to the efforts of then currently serving government officials to build popular support for increased arms spending. The infamous "Team B," headed by Nitze, Richard Pipes, a bunch of RAND Corp. types, and Paul Wolfowitz, having wildly overestimated Soviet military capabilities, was trying to build support for what it considered to be a proportionate response. Team B was housed in the same offices as Jackson’s "Coalition for a Democratic Majority," the pro-war factional base and lobbying group of Democratic party activists who later became known as the neoconservatives.

The third incarnation of the CPD – shall we call it CPD-3? – resurrects all the familiar rhetoric, and even many of CPD-2′s original personnel, although no survivors from CPD-1 have been unearthed. Under the nominal leadership of Senators John Kyl and Joe Lieberman, this latest effort to revive the flagging spirits of the War Party claims to be bipartisan, but is heavily weighted toward the Republicans, reflecting the radical role reversal effected in the last fifty years. The neocons may have long since moved their base of operations into the GOP, but that doesn’t mean they feel any partisan loyalty, or even allegiance to George W. Bush: both Kyl and Lieberman have declared their intent to build a "bipartisan" "citizens’ army" to "win the war on terrorism" – and keep the pressure on the president, whomever that might be, to "stay the course" and not try to sneak out of Iraq by the back door.

At a mid-June symposium co-sponsored and paid for by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), Lieberman set the tone for the occasion in his keynote address:

"The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become disappointed and disengaged, because they don’t appreciate and support the overriding principles that require us to take military action. The same, of course, is true for our allies in Europe, Asia and throughout the Muslim world. They need to better understand and embrace our purpose and what it means for them.

"What we are fighting for in Iraq and around the world is freedom. What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated were in the last century.

"What we are fighting for is an expanding worldwide community of democracies. What we are fighting against is the prospect of a new evil empire, a radical Islamic caliphate which would suppress the freedom of its people and threaten the security of every other nation’s citizens."

If you oppose the Iraq war, according to the Lieberman Principle, then the terrorists will have won, because we will have allowed them to "divide us and defeat us politically." Anti-war means pro-terror: it’s as simple as that. I think this satisfies Acheson’s requirement that "qualification must give way to simplicity of statement, nicety and nuance to bluntness, almost brutality."

Rope in the left with appeals to anti-fascism, and the rightists by invoking the specter of Communism: all very bipartisan and broadminded, a Popular Front pushing for what the group’s director, James Woolsey, calls "World War IV." The ideological window-dressing for this "new consensus" is the neocons’ favorite word: Democracy. But some of the members of this new crusade for the worldwide export of the American Way have a rather, uh, exotic view of just what this entails.

I happen to agree with Midge Decter, who told the New York Sun "I cannot imagine Pete Hannaford is anything but a firm and solid lover of democracy," but I wonder if she would say the same about the affiliations of another CPD-3 founding member, Hedieh Mirahmadi, who has this to say on the CPD website:

"Ultimately, our long-term success in the war against terror will be determined by how effectively free people everywhere wage the ideological battle, which cannot be fought with military might or law enforcement. As Americans, we cherish the universal human rights of freedom and we need to help others who struggle every day to enjoy those same rights."

Although her affiliations are not mentioned on the website –most of the other founding members are given short biographies – Ms. Mirahmadi is General Secretary of the Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA), a small Sufi cult devoted to the teachings of one Shaykh Hisham Kabbani. Apart from ISCA’s religious activities, the group has long been an American cheering section for the brutally repressive regime of Uzbekistan dictator Islam Karimov. About a government that bans all dissent, represses religion (including Christianity and even the poor old Hare Krishnas), and boils dissidents alive, Ms. Mirahmadi had this to say:

"We were all grateful to experience for ourselves the spectacular growth of this new republic. We sincerely believe Uzbekistan will be a formidable contributor to Islamic tradition and culture for centuries to come. Their great history and scholarship will preserve the traditional Islamic teachings of our ancestors and deserves the support and acknowledgement of the American Muslim community."

These words of praise for a viciously repressive and manifestly undemocratic government, uttered at the conclusion of her trip to Uzbekistan, where Mirahmadi was feted by a dictator so ruthless that not even the U.S. government can stomach him – is this what Lieberman and Decter mean by "fighting for … an expanding worldwide community of democracies"?

On their website, ISCA exults that "the Uzbek authorities are not simply not opposing the spread of the Naqshbandi order but, on the contrary, are doing all they can to support it" – even as the Uzbek secret police disappears virtually all political opposition, and the weird personality cult of President Karimov has the entire country frozen in an alternate time-warp. As bit players in this production of The Twilight Zone, Ms. Mirahmadi and ISCA leaders were invited to monitor, in January, 2000, what she described as "Uzbekistan’s second democratic elections since its emancipation from communism." Those "elections," denounced by every watchdog group as a sham, are described by Ms. Mirahmadi as follows:

"On January 10, 2000 at a Press Conference hosted by the Central Electoral Commission and the Foreign Ministry, it was announced that 95% of those eligible had voted. Of that over 91% had voted for President Karimov, including the opposing candidate! From an objective standard, that is a staggering percentage of the population to partake in the voting and represents an unprecedented victory. It is apparent that the criticism of the Uzbek electoral process by the Western nations is not a sentiment that is shared by the Uzbek people themselves, as demonstrated by their commitment to voting for him. Therefore, if the overwhelming majority of the Uzbek people (88% of whom are Muslims) are pleased with the leadership of President Karimov, should not the American Muslim community endorse his Presidency?"

Uzbekistan’s "elections" are widely thought to have about as much legitimacy as, say, Cuba’s, i.e., none. Abdulhafiz Djalalov, the "opposition" candidate Karimov allowed to run against him, is cited as saying, upon dropping his ballot into the ballot-box, that he himself had voted for Islam Karimov. It was, I would say, a wise move on his part – given the fate of Uzbek oppositionists in the past. The regime has lately become such an embarrassment that U.S. aid was pulled (at the insistence of the State Department).

The co-sponsoring organization behind the CPD-3 conference, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, cares about one and only one democracy on Earth, and, from what we hear, it isn’t the United States. The "democracy" palaver is just window-dressing, the neocons’ exoteric doctrine, which is strictly for gulling new recruits. Their real goal is to put America on a permanent war footing, and build an empire on a global scale – and if that means supporting Uzbekistan, then so be it.

As long as they’re resurrecting the old CPD name, perhaps the neocons can get one of their number, Jeane Kirkpatrick, to revive her infamous rationale for "authoritarianism" as a possible antidote for "totalitarianism," a thesis that won the attention of Ronald Reagan and made her one of the foreign policy stars of his administration. That will save them the trouble of losing two of their top members in as many days, and shield them from any other embarrassing disclosures, of which I’m sure there are plenty.

The reincarnated CPD was set up to stem the rising tide of antiwar sentiment in this country, which is finally taking on dimensions previously reached in Europe and throughout the Middle East. In their op-ed piece announcing the formation of CPD-3, Senators Kyl and Lieberman sound the alarm:

"The leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have so far stood firm in their commitment to finish the job in Iraq and to fight to victory the war on terrorism. But that bipartisan consensus is coming under growing public pressure and could fray in the months ahead.

"Although the tide is turning in the war on terrorism, a political undertow in this country could wash out our recent gains. We must not let this happen."

That "undertow" is the growing realization that the real war – not the one George W. Bush declared was "over," but the guerrilla war now raging in Iraq against the Anglo-American occupation – is just as unwinnable as Israel’s longstanding struggle to subdue the Palestinians – and for the same reasons. The war, instead of blocking bin Laden’s plan for a Middle Eastern "caliphate," is bringing that mad dream closer to reality, as is being pointed out by a growing number of military and intelligence figures, as well as academic experts. The majority of Americans now believe that invading Iraq wasn’t worth it, and we are fast approaching the day when that majority reaches the logical conclusion that we ought to get out of the occupation business entirely.

It isn’t enough that the neocons control both parties, and that both "major" candidates for president parrot the neocon line. Bush and Kerry agree that we have to "stay the course," and sink deeper into the Iraqi quagmire, even as the "cakewalk" turns into a protracted agony and the number of killed Americans approaches the 1,000 mark. The neocons don’t want to hear any dissent, or debate, which is why the pro-war Democrats – who recently crushed any attempt to get antiwar clauses into the party platform – are on a jihad to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot. Nothing must be allowed to disturb the "bipartisan" serenity of the neoconservative pro-war "consensus." Massive antiwar sentiment must be allowed no "legitimate" outlet or expression – that’s what "fighting for is an expanding worldwide community of democracies" is all about.

For all their hypocritical cant uttered in support of capital-’D’ Democracy, the neocons’ paradise on Earth is truly a police state such as Uzbekistan, where a fake "opposition" is allowed to exist as a kind of Potemkin village, and all are "united" – one of CPD-3′s favorite catchphrases – not "divided" by those evil terrorists. As an apologist for one of the most repressive regimes on Earth, Ms. Mirahmadi is the Present Danger. She embodies the real program of the neocons. Perhaps they can get her to fill Mr. Hannaford’s shoes.

Read more by Justin Raimondo