The War Party’s Worst Week

It was a disastrous week for the War Party, as the lies that lassoed us into Iraq were definitively debunked, and Bush, in a vain effort to defend the indefensible, was once again humiliated on national television by his Democratic opponent. The Duelfer report showed that not only did Saddam not have WMD, but he didn’t even have the capacity to develop them. In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, none other than Donald Rumsfeld was forced to look reality full in the face:

“It turns out that we have not found weapons of mass destruction. Why the intelligence proved wrong I’m not in a position to say.”

As is true of so much of what comes out of the mouths of our leaders, this statement could have at least two possible meanings, both of which exonerate the speaker of any blame for the current disaster. Either he really doesn’t know why they were so wrong – in which case he ought to resign, or be fired, on grounds of sheer incompetence – or he does know, but would rather not say.

For a number of reasons – all having to do with his own key role and culpability in the Grand Deception – I am inclined to go with the latter. But leaving that aside for the moment, let us note that Rumsfeld, who likes to give at least the appearance of forthrightness, also admitted in that same address that the Iraqi dictator’s much-ballyhooed “links” to al-Qaeda lacked “strong evidence.” In typical Washingtonian style, however, he immediately began to back away from his original statement, issuing a statement that essentially placed the blame for this particular failure of perception elsewhere:

“I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. This assessment was based upon points provided to me by then CIA Director George Tenet to describe the CIA’s understanding of the al-Qaeda-Iraq relationship.”

In a picture perfect display of the War Party’s Orwellian mindset, the response to every criticism of their policies is to blame their critics. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon, populated with neoconservative ideologues centered in Douglas Feith‘s policy shop, engaged in a protracted bureaucratic guerrilla war against the CIA, the DIA, and the State Department, cherrypicking dubious “raw intelligence” to buttress the case for an invasion. The U.S. intelligence community was so opposed to the rush to war, so skeptical of information proffered by Iraqi exiles with a clear political agenda, that the neocons were forced to do an end run around the Agency and its allies in government, setting up a rogue operation that cooked up phony “evidence” of Iraqi WMD and fed the White House (and a gullible media) a steady diet of lies.

As the Telegraph has pointed out, the attempt to paint al-Zarqawi as the new Osama bin Laden, even while the original edition continues to mock us from the comfortable depths of his cave, is nothing but an attempt to characterize the Iraq war as a war against al-Qaeda as opposed to the reality of an indigenous Iraqi resistance. This ploy also diverts attention away from this administration’s devastating failure to do anything but aid and abet the real bin Laden, starting with their “outsourcing” of the job of getting OBL and al-Qaeda’s top leadership in the mountains of Tora Bora. A failure, as repeatedly underscored by Kerry in both debates, resulting in the escape of the Vanishing Imam and the dispersal of al-Qaeda throughout the region – a strategic disaster for the U.S., the consequences of which will continue to reverberate with increasing deadliness for a long time to come.

The catastrophic capstone of the War Party’s worst week yet was the news that each and every one of the opposition candidates running in the Afghan elections had decided to pull out at the last minute. Abdul Satar Sirat, a former aide to Afghanistan’s last king and a leading monarchist politician, echoed the sentiments of the opposition united front when he told the international media:

“Today’s election is not a legitimate election. It should be stopped and we don’t recognize the results.”

Afghanistan’s Gucci-clad metrosexual “president” swept aside such petty complaints with an imperious wave of his bejeweled hand, asking:

“Who is more important, these 15 candidates, or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?”

Hey, Afghanistan is a Bizarro “democracy” – so who needs opposition candidates?

This is a precursor of what to expect in January, when Iraq is scheduled to endure a similarly unconvincing exercise in war propaganda. One can easily imagine the Iraqi Karzai – a rehabilitated Ba’athist and accused murderer – making a similar pronouncement.

As the British Telegraph put it:

“The [Afghan election] row followed farcical scenes at polling stations where it emerged that the indelible ink used to mark voters’ thumbs could be rubbed off.”

Amid widespread reports of numerous double-registrations, farce doesn’t even begin to describe the pathetic failure of Afghanistan’s experiment in “democracy.” Parody, or pastiche, is more like it. Is this American foreign policy, or an episode of The Simpsons?

The American co-chair of the “Joint Electoral Management Body” (JEMB) added a note of slapstick when he characterized the opposition as sore losers and praised the high turnout. But Masooda Jalal, the only female candidate in the race, probably wasn’t laughing when she pointed out that some voters could have voted ten times, thanks to that “indelible” ink (made in India, by the way).

The no doubt imminent report of “President” Karzai’s overwhelming “victory” promises to be every bit as convincing as the White House’s explanation for that mysterious square object visibly outlined against the Fratboy’s jacket in this past weekend’s gladiatorial festivities.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

That is the American response to the outrage of “liberated” Afghans who foolishly took this administration’s commitment to “democracy” seriously enough to risk their lives by entering the race – and conferring legitimacy on the American occupation.

When U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad showed up at the opposition camp to declare the elections “a profound success,” Afghans gathered outside were heard to mutter “the big man has arrived.” Khalilzad, AP reports, “has been widely criticized for perceived favoritism for Karzai and is seen by many Afghans as a puppet-master.”

Khalilzad, the Karl Rove of Afghanistan, whispers the right lines in his candidate’s ear, as our own presidential puppet dances on the debate stage, his strings visible to all – but who is pulling them?

The neoconservatives who wanted and wished for this war, who fought for it from within the administration and from without, led the President of the United States down the primrose path, and if George W. Bush loses this election it will be on account of their unwise counsel. The mainstream conservatives who listened to them, and blindly supported a war that has now become a living nightmare, are turning on them, and the knives are already out, as even Franklin Foer noted in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review.

Curiously, it was this same author who disdained the influence of anti-interventionist conservatives when Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopoulos announced their new magazine, The American Conservative, as the voice of the anti-imperialist Old Right, determined to take back the Right from the neocons. Before the first issue of TAC had appeared on the newsstands, however, Foer declared it a failure. Now, he says that the Old Right of Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, and the America First Committee is back with a vengeance, all thanks, in large part, to the influence of Buchanan and his magazine.

So which is it, Mr. Foer?

In typical fashion, Foer lends more weight to the alleged conversion of George Will and the editors of National Review to a newly cautious foreign policy stance on Iraq and the Middle East in general, but the import of his piece is unmistakable. So, what happened to Foer’s confident prediction that TAC would be a “surefire flop“?

I might also note, in passing, that Foer has cribbed a great deal of the material for his piece from my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, without acknowledgement, although his earlier piece, which describes me as a “historian of the Old Right,” makes it perfectly clear that he is well aware of my work. In any case, the whole point of the Times piece is to reiterate the shopworn neoconservative canard that their critics are “anti-Semites,” which Foer faithfully repeats:

“With their pleas for ‘America first’ and their rejection of cosmopolitan foreign policy, they have occasionally vilified the oldest symbol of cosmopolitanism – the Jew. During the gulf war debate, Buchanan spoke of the Israel defense ministry’s ‘American amen corner.’ Even the best thinkers in this tradition haven’t been immune from repeating canards about Jewish dual loyalties. In 1988, [Russell] Kirk accused the neocons of mistaking ‘Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.'”

And what, exactly, is a “cosmopolitan foreign policy” – one that propels our Afghan sock puppet to the top of the best-dressed list and confers on the U.S. the title of Most Hated?

Backed into a corner, faced with the righteous rage of a country that has been conned into making the worst foreign policy mistake in its 200-plus-year-old history, the neocons are determined to characterize the mounting opposition to their influence as a racial-religious pogrom. But all their endless excuses, their twisting and turning, their convoluted and constantly shifting rationales and “spin,” are going to get them exactly nowhere. Smearing is the only option left open to them, but, in the end, it isn’t very convincing. The revolt against the neocons, on the right as well as the left, inside the CIA as much as in the conservative movement, has nothing to do with Jews and Judaism, and everything to do with our foreign policy of global interventionism, and its Israel-centric Middle Eastern manifestation.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Speaking of The American Conservative, here’s the first paragraph of “U-turn Ahead,” my latest article for them:

“The War Party has suffered heavy losses in the past few months, not the least among them an increasing number of defections, many of them on the Right. Tucker Carlson says he’s sorry he ever supported the Iraq war, retiring Rep. Doug Bereuter of Nebraska characterizes it as ‘a dangerous, costly mess’ that was a mistake from the word go. Norah Vincent, former senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, apologized to the soldiers for supporting the war. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, co-chairman of Bush’s state campaign, wants to know ‘What’s the end game here?’ But the end-game may be closer than the Governor thinks, because, as Bob Novak reports, the most significant defectors of them all may well be in the White House, the State Department, and the Department of Defense.”

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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].