Divert, Distract, and Demonize

by , May 03, 2008

The War Party has a reliable strategy when faced with a rising political figure who threatens their monopoly on American politics, one that is time-tested and invariably successful: when all else fails, they bring out the Smear Bund.

This is a term coined by John T. Flynn, I believe, in the run-up to the outbreak of the Second World War: it gives a name to his thesis that a number of pro-war groups had coordinated a campaign to smear and destroy the anti-interventionist America First Committee. Flynn started out his pamphlet, The Smear Terror, with this admonition: "Would you believe that there are in this country several outfits that specialize in the destruction of reputations?"

Today, of course, such a declaration seems naïve: we all know about "swift-boating," and, much to the dismay of Flynn’s ghost, no doubt, the pattern runs true to form down through the years. Anyone who argues for a fundamental change in American foreign policy, away from interventionism and toward a more rational view of world affairs, is targeted – and destroyed.

This isn’t about partisan politics and loyalties: the Smear Bund attacks Republicans as well as Democrats , as Ron Paul found out when The New Republic – that old war-horse of interventionism – dug up some yellowed newsletters published under his name, which contained articles that didn’t pass the political correctness test. Now, in fact, these infamous newsletters didn’t print anything more toxic than your typical conservative Republican, circa 1980, might have written or believed: but no matter. The purveyors of this tripe didn’t (and don’t) care how many times, or how definitively the charge of "racism" is debunked – that the charge was raised at all, and that the howling accompanying this "discovery" reached a certain noise level, was all that mattered. Forever after, therefore, all Paul’s opponents had to say was: "Isn’t this the same Ron Paul who sanctioned ‘racism’?" And the argument, as far as the punditocracy is concerned, is over.

Now they’re doing the same thing to Barack Obama. While his foreign policy prescriptions are a much less radical departure from the interventionist norm than Paul’s, Obama’s chances of occupying the White House have the War Party seriously alarmed, and the word is going out: Get him!

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is really a piece of work, and one is at a loss of what else to say about him, except that anyone who believes that the US government is responsible for the AIDS epidemic is certifiable, period. It matters not that some of his statements about US foreign policy being the moral equivalent of terrorism are undeniably true: because, in short, he doesn’t matter. After all, he isn’t running for the highest office in the land: Obama is. And if anyone on God’s green earth is the complete antipode of Obama – in his temperament and demeanor, as well as his politics – then surely it is Wright.

This fact underscores the essence of the Smear Bund’s methodology: the politics of distraction. Look over here, not over there! Forget about the war that is killing our soldiers, and threatening to start multiple conflicts with Iran, Syria, and various Lebanese factions – just remember that Rev. Wright once said "Goddamn America."

The really artful aspect of all this is the method of substitution occurring right before our eyes: they can’t run against Obama, so they’re running against Wright. Sure, they aren’t the same person, but, you know, all those black people look – and think – alike. That, at any rate, is the crude racist assumption at the heart of the Smear Bund’s strategy. The anti-Obama cabal is hoping the American people will look at these two wildly disparate individuals and perceive them as melting into each other.

Now Obama’s got the old black leadership trying to tear him down, with Al "the Liar" Sharpton and Earl Ofari Hutchinson biting at his ankles: they’re mortified that Obama’s post-racial politics will render them irrelevant, and they’re right about that.

Hutchinson manages to pull off one of the Smear Bund’s favorite tactics: role reversal. It consists of projecting on to the victim the very characteristics that define the victimizers. So we get Hutchinson denouncing "Obama’s Wright obsession." Obama, you see, has been spending too much time defending himself from these charges: he is the one who is obsessed with Wright, not the Smear Bund and the "mainstream" media (or do I repeat myself?).

What a laugh: every night we hear the same mantra coming out the Fox-MSNBC-network news combine: Wright, Wright, Wright, like the droning of a cicada. And that, you see, is Obama’s fault.

Divert, distract, demonize – that’s the strategic vision of the War Party. As long as we’re talking about the Rev. Wright, we don’t get to talk about the war, including the one to come with Iran. Let there be no doubt: it’s Obama’s foreign policy "deviationism" that has the Establishment running scared, and it’s the neocons who are in the vanguard of the smear campaign. As Ha’aretz pointed out the other day:

"The Republican Party’s neoconservative clique is trawling archives for ‘anti-Israeli’ essays by advisers who had been seen in Obama’s staff. Robert Malley, who was President Bill Clinton’s special assistant during the Camp David talks, joined Obama. The neoconservatives reached Malley’s father, a Jew of Egyptian descent, who, alas, kept childhood ties with Yasser Arafat. Malley junior is accused of publishing a joint article with an Oslo-supporting Palestinian, in which they dared to argue that Ehud Barak played a major role in the Camp David summit’s failure in July 2000."

They want desperately to engage Obama on this issue, because their whole strategy is meant to culminate in raising the specter of black anti-Semitism. That’s what all this Wright-Farrakhan-"black extremist" brouhaha is about: they don’t dare say that Obama is an anti-Semite, at this point. What they do say, however, is that he hangs out with anti-Semites. As Atlantic blogger Matt Yglesias put it:

“First Obama was an anti-Semite because Zbigniew Brzezinski is an anti-Semite. Then Obama was an anti-semite because Robert Malley is an anti-semite. And now according to [Commentary’s Noah] Pollak it’s Samantha Power who’s tainted by Jew-hatred.”

With these folks, it always comes back to charges of "racism" and "extremism." Ron Paul = David Duke, and Obama = Farrakhan. And it always, always, always comes back to Israel. What has Israel’s amen corner in the US up in arms about the prospect of President Obama is that he was capable of saying this:

“There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. One of the things that struck me when I went to Israel was how much more open the debate was around these issues in Israel than they are sometimes here in the United States.”

That he said it in front of a predominantly Jewish audience in Cleveland just makes his transgression all the more aggravating to the Lobby. No wonder they’re scared witless.

This idea that the US must shield Israel from the consequences of its intransigence, its policy of apartheid in the occupied territories, its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal that hangs like a sword of Damocles over the Middle East, really exemplifies how American interests are ill-served by the "special relationship." Israel’s unmitigated aggression and heedlessness act against our interests, in the Middle East and around the world, and yet still we give them our unconditional support. Israeli military supremacy in the region and diplomatic hubris is the purest product of American hegemony, which is why US policy toward Israel is really the touchstone as far as the War Party is concerned. That is why Obama has been relentlessly grilled, and his advisors have been examined under a microscope, in regard to this issue.

Hillary Clinton, as far as the War Party is concerned, is the "safe" candidate: she came through for them with her recent remark that Iran ought to be "obliterated," while we must cover Israel – and unnamed other countries in the region – with our nuclear shield. She doesn’t care what she has to do in order to win, and if that means making Obama unelectable – well then, so be it. Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, Richard Mellon Scaife, Sean Hannity – these are her new allies. Who’s next – Norman Podhoretz? What more confirmation do we need of my contention that both political parties in America are merely the "left" and "right" wings of the War Party?

If all else fails – the smears, the "mainstream" media barrage, the dirty tricks – the anti-Obama crowd can always bring out the really big guns. Those "super-delegates" were put in place in order to make sure that the Democratic presidential candidate toes the War Party’s line, and guarantees that the nominating process never strays very far from their iron grip. As I said of Obama in February: "They’ll never let him become president." Unfortunately, it looks like I was right.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Speaking of the Smear Bund: Those tireless smear-mongers over at the grievously misnamed "Reason" magazine haven’t let up on Ron Paul. On the occasion of Paul’s just-published book rising to the #1 position on Amazon (and debuting at #7 on the New York Times bestseller list), they vomit the same old garbage up – and my response is here.

Speaking of books, and Ron Paul: My first book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, is being reprinted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, with a new introduction by Georgetown political scientist George W. Carey. Ron Paul said of this book:

“When I was deciding whether or not to run for President as a Republican, I re-read Justin Raimondo’s Reclaiming the American Right and it gave me hope – that the anti-interventionist, pro-liberty Old Right, which had once dominated the party, could and would rise again. Here is living history: the story of an intellectual and political tradition that my campaign invoked and reawakened. This prescient book, written in 1993, could not be more relevant today.”

The publication date is May 15, but you can pre-order here.

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