Backtalk, November 20, 2007

Why Are They So Afraid of Ron Paul?

Justin Raimondo describes Glenn Greenwald as having to choose between “liberal hawks and outright neocons.”

It is the clarity of Ron Paul’s positions that is allowing people to finally realize that there is no difference between the liberal hawks and the neocons and that together they form America’s only party, the war party.

It is my opinion that what is happening in America is a new political center is being formed; Ron Paul is pulling opposite sides of the political spectrum together and ripping those sides away from the existing center where the war party sits. Dr. Paul is uniting all people that value real freedom, peace, and prosperity. Once he is triumphant, this new center will look to its left and its right and see on the far fringes the desiccated corpses of what was once the war party and its partners in crime, the mainstream media.

Thank you very much for what is bringing to the table.

~ Luis Almeida

I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s declaration: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win!”

~ Alex Caragonne, San Antonio, TX

Turning Around the Antiwar Movement

Kevin Zeese: Nice write-up. I hope it gets a discussion going so we can improve our effectiveness as a movement.

A couple of brief responses: First, your article focuses on demonstrations – is this the most effective way to use our resources and focus our efforts? In particular, I wonder about whether weekend demonstrations make much sense as the legislators are not there to be affected by it. Doesn’t it make more sense to organize demonstrations when the legislators are working (generally Tuesday through Thursday, in Washington, D.C.) so that they feel the demonstration and have their day disrupted by it?

Second, the neocons’ philosophy has been in power much longer than the Bush administration – we just didn’t call them neocons. The National Security Strategy was put in place by Bush I and remained in place during the Clinton presidency. The Carter administration put forward a doctrine of the use of military force to ensure Western access to Middle Eastern oil. The Truman presidency approved a coup d’├ętat in Iran because the elected prime minister wanted to keep oil profits for Iran rather than having it go to Western oil companies. So, we are fighting against a much more entrenched policy that spans both parties over several decades. The challenge that we face now that will make our task even more difficult is the world oil supply has peaked just at a time when two major populations – China and India – are growing by gigantic leaps and needing more oil. Thus, military and economic domination of the Middle East has become an even greater security priority for those in power in the United States .

Marc Joffe: Thanks for your two points – both of which are well taken.

With respect to weekday actions, I think the reduced numbers we get for those is a serious concern. In the final analysis, I don’t think small numbers of protesters can generally shift a congressperson’s position. I think we need to show that failing to end the war carries with it a legitimate risk of electoral defeat. A well attended protest can show politicians that a large enough number of people care about a given issue to potentially swing an election. It’s also easier to get media coverage on a weekend, when one is competing with fewer alternative stories. I do hope, however, that our large protests can become more like the actions Voters for Peace supports, by putting on speakers who will focus the crowd’s attention on specific political figures.

Second, I agree that aggressive U.S. policies in the Middle East date back to the post-World War II era. Some of these policies – such as support for the shah’s regime – have now come back to haunt us. That said, I think the neocon policies embodied in the PNAC document of 1998 and then implemented after 9/11 have taken us to a whole new level of aggression. Our leaders are now perfectly comfortable with indefinite occupations of Middle Eastern countries. They have also placed us on a permanent war footing. Unlike the Soviet Union, terrorism will probably never go away, so our War on Terror – unlike the Cold War – is unwinnable.

What do VFP and your other groups have planned over the next few months?

Kevin Zeese: The lower turnouts at demonstrations is probably due in large part to a growing feeling that demonstrations are ineffective.

Weekend coverage is a mix – there are less reporters working and less readers reading! (At least on Saturdays.) I’m not sure that a protest demonstrates to those in power that they will lose votes based on the war. I’m sure the Democrats have made the calculation that all they need to do is show some difference from Bush and the Republicans and that will be sufficient to keep most peace voters in line. And, if the Repubs pick anyone but Ron Paul the Dems will be able to play their lesser-evil games and keep most peace advocates voting Dem. They may lose some peace voters to a third party or independent candidate, but they will keep most and get the center. At least that is the balance they have struck.

I agree that expressing electoral power is key, which is why the Voters for Peace approach makes sense to me. People signing a pledge to only vote for peace candidates (see We will be joining in with other organizations to survey candidates – not just incumbents but challengers – on peace and other issues. And we will be letting voters know where the candidates stand. We are also working with peace groups on a voter education project where we contact our members (all the groups together will have well over a million people) and educate them, urge them to get out and vote, and also get involved in canvassing efforts. It is nuts-and-bolts work, but that is what is needed.

Beyond that I see the year as one of building the grass roots. It is evident that we are most likely to have two candidates from the major parties who will not pledge to end the war and will not take the bombing of Iran off the table. So this election is not likely to result in peace. We have a long road ahead of us to build the peace majority that is needed – the people are out there, they are just not organized.

I agree the PNAC letter was an outline of the plan put in place by Bush II, but its roots are in Bush I’s Defense Planning Guidance, which continued in force during the Clinton years. See “The Corporate-U.S. Takeover of the Iraq Economy.” There are long roots to the problems we are confronting, and they will not be cut off by one election. We need to be planning for a marathon, not a sprint.


I read your piece at, and I appreciate the time, thought, and effort you devoted to it.

It is strange – the size of antiwar demonstrations has decreased even as the opposition to the war has increased. I agree with much of what you say about the reasons – e.g., the failure to concentrate on a single message, the lack of better outreach to less radically left groups. But I’m afraid I’m not optimistic that even the best of efforts will reverse the trend, at least not to the extent necessary to achieve the goal we seek. (Frankly, I think that would require a draft. Bush ain’t too smart, but he’s been smart enough not to do that. His National Guard experience taught him something.)

I still go to demonstrations whenever I can, but only because I find them personally uplifting. I think most people have decided that they just don’t do any good. We did, after all, have good turnouts before the war, and both the government and the media brushed us off like so many gnats.

I think we have to speak the only language these people understand – money. That’s what this war is all about. That’s why you never catch a whiff of neocon remorse. If our Army is wrecked, so much the better. Think of what it will cost to rebuild it. I’m sure Dick Cheney doesn’t particularly like his poll numbers where they are, but if he’s crying, let’s face it, it’s all the way to the bank.

I think an economic boycott would be our best strategy. On the last day of every month – to commemorate another month’s worth of wasted lives and wasted dollars in a wasteful war – people would show their opposition by spending absolutely NOTHING – no gas, no groceries, no restaurants, no movies, nothing.

It wouldn’t really disrupt the economy. Retailers wouldn’t like paying clerks to stand around, and just-in-time inventory systems would suffer a slight disruption, but for the most part, people would just buy what they needed the day before or the day after. But it would send a message. If you could get a significant slice of the 70 percent who oppose the war to participate, I guarantee phones would be ringing in the White House and on Capitol Hill the next day. The very thought that people might learn they could go 24 hours without shopping would terrify them.

This need not preclude more demonstrations. Groups could, should, and many no doubt would organize more visible events to coincide with the boycott for the benefit of the media.

I would call it “One Day to End the War.” It would require some publicity, but so do demonstrations. I have no idea what a reasonable national publicity campaign would cost, but MoveOn, True Majority, and People for the American Way would all be good places to start. And it would require far less effort than a demonstration for people to participate, and to far greater effect. All they have to do is plan ahead a little and then NOT do something. If we can’t do that, we probably deserve this friggin’ war.

~ GG

Marc Joffe replies:

Thanks for your kind comments and well-considered feedback.

Are you aware of the Iraq Moratorium? They have a protest day on the third Friday of each month that includes refraining from buying gas. It’s not quite what you propose, but along the same line.

I’m less optimistic that the strategy of not buying stuff on one day will work. Even if you could get 3 million people to participate in such an action – and that’s a lot – retail sales would only drop 1 percent on the boycott day. Retailers would hardly notice. Mainstream media would be very unlikely to announce such a boycott, so you’d have to spread the word via word of mouth.

On the other hand, if we could get 300,000 people to show up at protests (one-tenth as many), that would make a difference. Also, unlike previous demonstrations, we need to focus our criticism on individual members of the House. Since a House member rarely gets more than 200,000 votes, demonstrations with five-figure turnouts can be a serious concern if they specifically focus on a particular representative.

Dynasties and Democracy

I wish to point out that there have been other American observers who noted the rise of dynastic politics in the United States. To be specific: Kevin Phillips, in his book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, published in 2004. The key point the book makes is that four generations of the Bush family have been involved with the rise of the national-security state. There have been other prominent political families throughout America history, but stronger parties and strong public sentiment kept it under control. The Republican Party in the 14 elections between 1952 and 2004 has nominated either Richard Nixon or a Bush family member on the presidential/vice presidential ticket in 11. This streak is unprecedented in American history. Here are the details:

Richard Nixon – 1952 VP, 1956 VP, 1960 Pres., 1968 Pres., 1972 Pres.

George Herbert Walker Bush – 1980 VP, 1984 VP, 1988 Pres., 1992 Pres.

George Walker Bush – 2000 Pres., 2004 Pres.

The three exceptions during the period: 1964, 1976, 1996

The Democratic Party only has one streak that even approaches this in length:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt – 1920 VP, 1932 Pres., 1936 Pres., 1940 Pres., 1944 Pres.

~ Eric Lund

The Tunnel at the End of the Light

A few points:

(1) Lebanon and Iraq are not, as Leon Hadar calls them, “failed states.” They are destroyed states. The former destroyed by Israel, the latter by the United States.

(2) A watershed event has just occurred changing the dynamics of the whole region, and marking the death knell of U.S. intervention. That is Putin’s very clear declaration of the Caspian area as off limits to the intervention or influence of any country not on the shores of the Caspian Sea. In effect, as it may take many decades for historians and political scientists to grasp, this declares the Caspian Russia’s Caribbean and subject to a Russian “Monroe Doctrine,” if you will.

(3) Olmert’s trip to the Russian Federation immediately after Putin’s trip to Iran, which was sudden and unexpected, marks the sea change.

The story goes that when Napoleon invaded Russia, watching Moscow burn in the distance, set afire by the Russians themselves, he exclaimed, “Scythians!” recalling the tactics of the ancient inhabitants of the area in their wars with Persia.

From that point onward, so the same story goes, he knew he had lost, though never defeated in battle, and immediately began his retreat after a short stay in deserted and burning Moscow.

One will also note how Putin praised Iran as a great and ancient nation, a kind of reference the Americans, and especially the incompetents in the White House now, are incapable of understanding in all its full force.

The same incompetents, one fears, are also incapable of anything like Napoleon’s belated recognition, “Scythians!”

~ Eugene Costa

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