"The struggle against tyranny is our national mission, and it requires revolutionary leaders who fearlessly and tenaciously fight freedom’s enemies wherever and whenever they challenge us and our ideals. It would be one of history’s most bitter ironies if we were to succumb to the counterrevolution."
Michael Ledeen, December 2000
I get a lot of emails from the lunatic fringe. White supremacists write in to excoriate me for writing about hip hop as if I love it. Gay activists email me and compare me to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh for opposing Civil Unions. Howard Dean’s followers type letters of despair and disgust; how dare I, after all, oppose the Internet-driven grassroots campaign of the fiery Vermont governor?
All of the above is part of my job as a columnist. I don’t mind taking extreme positions on issues of war and peace, life and death, salvation and damnation. And I don’t mind emails I get telling me that I’m dead wrong; at least those mailers are engaging the questions I try to make central. Even if those emails are written by the "lunatic fringe", like one I got the other day appeared to be.
What else was I to think? My correspondent’s reply-to address began with the word "Benito12," which seemed like a more likely reference to the Italian strongman of the last century than to the San Francisco Giants’ ageless, deeply underrated backstop.
Another fascist sympathizer yearning for the trains to run on time, I thought to myself for just a second, until I realized that my correspondent was no random acolyte of the original Axis of Evil. Rather, it was the intellectually formidable author of 1972’s Universal Fascism, Michael Ledeen.
I’ve written about Ledeen with a reasonable degree of frequency for the last year or so. How could I not? Mr. Ledeen is a serious player in the business of Exporting Democracy. In column after column, Mr. Ledeen takes liberties with rhetoric and logic in the service of that agenda. September 4, 2001, for example, saw him describing the Durban conference as a "Nuremberg Rally" in a piece entitled "The New Nazis." In the same spirit, Ledeen advocates that the US devote itself to destroying tyrannies: "It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically, and that is precisely why the tyrants hate us, and are driven to attack us."
Luckily, however, not all tyrannies require destruction. As Ledeen stated on October 23, 2001, we can "turn to friendly tyrannies as a last resort" as part of conducting the Terror War. Friendly tyrannies? I thought all tyrants hated us because we were such creatively destructive liberators. Deeper within the same column, Ledeen issued the following policy prescription as if it were nothing more controversial than a Hint from Heloise: "The use of Israeli interrogators would have immense psychological advantages, since the terrorists take it for granted that the United States and Israel are simply two parts of a vast Satanic continuum, and as soon as they see an Israeli asking questions they will immediately assume that they have been sent to a hotter level of Hell."
Now that’s what I call liberation theology! If the terrorists confuse America and Israel with Satan, and if our hired interrogators take liberties to ensure their "immense psychological advantages", can it really be said that the US has the moral high ground? Do issues of morality even occur to Mr. Ledeen when he makes such statements?
I can’t answer those questions for sure either way, but I can tell you that Mr. Ledeen has a deep aversion to misrepresentation of his views. Such alleged misrepresentation occasioned his recent email in reaction to last week’s "Ledeen on the Run", and this week’s "History Repeating" column will deal primarily with the letter from Ledeen.
Ledeen’s dispatch oozes with exasperation. "I guess nobody checks anything anymore. I have never ‘scored’ any money, nor did David Frum ever say I did. He only suggested that I SHOULD be rewarded, since I wrote that Osama bin Laden and some of his colleagues were in Iran, long before al Qaeda leaders were uncovered there."
The simplest way to address this point is to point Ledeen and any other interested reader to the relevant Frum quote. From the March 4 edition of his National Review Online diary:
"Michael Ledeen has earned his $25 million after all. TIME reports that members of bin Laden’s family found refuge in Iran after 9/11, though it insists (despite Michael) that the Evil One himself continues to hide in unpoliced areas of Pakistan."
The implication is damned clear from where I sit Benito12 has been compensated amply for his words. Why would it be "his $25 million" unless he "earned" it?
More from Ledeen: "And that’s pretty much the accuracy level of the Gancarski slime, culminating with a really obnoxious lie, namely that I advocate military action against Iran. I Never said it, indeed I have written against it both in my book The War Against the Terror Masters and in dozens of articles. To put this as gently as I can, it is not possible to read my essays on Iran and then say I am in favor of military action. Either Gancarski hasn’t read any of that material, or he chose to lie about it nonetheless."
Could I be mistaken? Is Mr. Ledeen really a dove when it comes to confronting the "murderous mullahcracy" in Tehran? Let’s consider some of his relevant quotes from his NRO column on the matter:
"No major publication deigned to cover the very tough speech delivered by the National Security Council’s Zalmay Khalilzhad to a banquet organized by pro-regime Iranian-Americans? Khalilzhad carefully and forcefully itemized the evils of the Iranian regime to an audience that had hoped to hear calls for resumption of dialogue, as they had in the past from the likes of the shameful appeaser Madeleine Albright." March 15, 2002
"Iran is the mother of Islamic terrorism, and it has worked hand-in-glove with Yasser Arafat and the PLO for 30 years. Therefore the only coherent strategy for the United States is one that defeats the Islamic Republic and the PLO, along with the other terror masters in Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad. The talk about peace, and the endless "plans" that emerge from one capital or another, are no more and no less than stalling tactics by those who oppose the president’s vision. Peace in this world only follows victory in war." April 1, 2002
"Iranians. We want the fall of the regime. That is what the war on terrorism is all about. To remain silent is to be complicit in the repression of Iran. There is no diplomatic ‘solution.’ We want a free Iran." April 29, 2002
"Iran hurtles toward chaos, and we are still dithering". July 3, 2002
"The Axis of Evil is not a rhetorical device. It is in fact the enemy we face, and must defeat, if we are to avoid attacks far more deadly than those we endured on September 11." January 23, 2003
"God willing, Judgment Day is coming to the Middle East." March 4, 2003
"But even if Iraq were peaceful and flourishing and headed towards democracy in the near future, indeed even if there had been no September 11 and thus no war against the terror masters, our refusal to call for regime change in Tehran would still be a disgrace." July 1, 2003
How could I possibly interpret those statements as anything other than incitements toward war fever? More to the point, where are these "dozens" of quotes from Ledeen counseling against military action? There are a lot of Ledeen quotes advocating American support of the Democratic revolutionaries in Iran, but none that I can see as constituting an argument against using US forces to combat this "pillar of the Axis of Evil."
Elsewhere in his email, Ledeen addresses my criticisms of his back-channel diplomacy by doing what he does best: attacking Richard Armitage and Colin Powell. Ledeen claims that it’s just "common sense" that Iran will never cooperate with the US vis-à-vis handing over Al Qaeda members it has in custody; this writer reckons that Iran isn’t one of those "friendly tyrannies" he’s been hearing so much about. In the same vein, Ledeen softpedals his criticisms of the current Secretary of State, writing that "Powell may indeed be right to refuse any form of support to the Iranian people." I await proof of a direct, unambiguous quote from Powell indicating his "refusal" of such support.
In closing his email, Ledeen claims that I owe the readers of Antiwar.com an apology for misrepresenting his views and representing him as a war pimp. This from the man who once said that "I don’t know of a case in history where peace has been accomplished in any way other than one side winning a war [and] imposing terms on the other side." Would that his email in response to my "Ledeen on the Run" had that kind of clarity. There’s something to be said for saying exactly what you mean, Michael, even if what you mean to say is a heap of warmongering claptrap, and even if such warmongering is proving to be the swift and sure undoing of the American experiment.