Riding the Antiwar Backlash

Bush knew! says Capitol Hill Blue, a Washington-based website, a rumor which, if true, is perhaps why POTUS is getting himself a lawyer:

“Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative’s name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband, a critic of administration policy in Iraq.”

That’s why I’m proud to be an American: because here, not even the President is exempt from the rule of law. He can’t run around covering up his misdeeds, and committing perjury, or stand idly by while his subordinates commit a felony by outing an undercover CIA agent.

Meanwhile, down the street from the White House, investigators are strapping high-level civilian officials up to polygraph machines and asking them how Ahmed “Hero-in-Error” Chalabi got his hands on top-secret information subsequently leaked to the Iranians. And they’d have every reason to treat them as “enemy combatants,” although somehow I doubt Pentagon officials will be subjected to the same Gitmo-ized interrogation methods they apparently mandated in Iraq.

As the roof caves in on this administration, with multiple scandals threatening the Bush White House from every side, the unfolding disaster illustrates everything about this great country of ours that’s worth fighting – and, yes, even dying – for. The system – the mighty accomplishment of the Founding Fathers: rusted, neglected, and abused, lo these many years – is still working, albeit creakily and inconsistently.

Praise the Lord, and pass the popcorn – this is going to be quite a show.

George the Conqueror is not a king, as much as he wants us to treat him like one. We may have conquered a major chunk of the Middle East, and could well be on our way to invading the rest, but America isn’t an empire – at least not yet. Not as long as George W. Bush can be hauled before a jury of his peers and compelled to testify about the crimes of his underlings – and, quite possibly, his own. Of course, he can always take the Fifth – another archaic remnant of life before Ashcroft, the “PATRIOT” Act, and Abu Ghraib-style interrogations – but then that wouldn’t look very good, now would it?

They probably won’t show it on Court TV, but they ought to. I’d love to see this clueless fratboy squirm in his seat as Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald looks him straight in the eye and asks what he knew and when he knew it.

The Imperial City is in a worse turmoil than Fallujah, besieged as it is by the guardians of our republican (small-‘r’) form of government, who are determined to re-take it – and may yet succeed. Because, you see, the system reacts like any healthy organism when subjected to an attack: it creates antibodies, which target the intruders and seek to expel them from the body politic. That is what we are witnessing: a general reaction to the attempted hijacking of the American government by a cabal of neo-Jacobins (also known as neoconservatives). From the strength of the system’s immune response, it looks like the patient, however ailing, is in a lot better shape than I, for one, imagined.

If America is the New Rome, then this particular Nero won’t be allowed to fiddle while the place burns. If the Boy Emperor is taken down, it won’t be by his own Praetorians, but by a phalanx of special prosecutors.

God, I love this friggin’ country!

In his 1952 essay predicting the Rise of Empire, the Old Right proto-libertarian Garet Garrett lamented:

“There was no painted sign to say: ‘You are now entering Imperium.’ Yet it was a very old road, and the voice of history was saying: ‘Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.’ And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: ‘No U-turns.'”

But are we making a U-turn – can we make one? – in spite of the post-9/11 momentum in the other direction? For the first time, I believe it’s possible. So many prominent voices are now being raised against taking the road to empire, warning of the inherent dangers to our character and way of life, that the imperial project seems stalled, if not yet entirely stopped.

But where did the original plans for this project come from? As I have pointed out in many previous columns, the ideology known as neoconservatism is the root of the sickness, a kind of political AIDS that attached itself to the American conservative movement during the Cold War and grew to its present monstrous proportions in the fetid atmosphere of the post-9/11 world. When Corey Robin, assistant professor of political science at Brooklyn College at the City University of New York, interviewed William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review and longtime unofficial Pope of the conservative movement, and neocon “godfather” Irving Kristol, he made an astonishing discovery: they were bored with the free market and the prosperity it brought:

“The end of communism and the triumph of capitalism, they suggested, were mixed blessings. Americans now possessed the most powerful empire in history. At the same time, they were possessed by one of the most anti-political ideologies in history: belief in the free market as a harmonious international order of voluntary exchange requiring little more from the state than the enforcement of laws and contracts. This ideology promoted self-interest over the national interest – too bloodless a notion, Buckley and Kristol argued, upon which to found a national order, much less a global empire.”

Forget all this freedom and prosperity crap, they told him. It’s a bore! In those halcyon days before 9/11, back when George W. Bush was proclaiming the virtues of a “humble” foreign policy, Buckley and Kristol were already chafing under the strain of all that endless peace. They were sick and tired of it, and pined for some real action:

“‘The trouble with the emphasis in conservatism on the market,’ Buckley told me, ‘is that it becomes rather boring. You hear it once, you master the idea. The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.'”

Peace, prosperity, free markets, and limited government – the jaded Buckley greeted the validation of these longstanding conservative principles with disdainful ennui. Only the prospect of a new conflict revived his interest, and his restlessness was shared by Kristol, who, says Corey, “confessed to a yearning for an American empire.” The neocon theoretician-in-chief had a ready remedy for Buckley’s boredom:

“‘What’s the point of being the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role?’ But because of its devotion to prosperity, he added, the United States lacked the fortitude and vision to wield imperial power. ‘It’s too bad,’ Kristol lamented. ‘I think it would be natural for the United States . . . to play a far more dominant role in world affairs…to command and to give orders as to what is to be done. People need that.'”

He then went on to piously invoke the example of Africa as one place that would benefit from the American imperial project: altruism is ever the warmonger’s favorite alibi. But he clearly slipped up and gave too much away with this business of the will “to command and give orders.” Yes, some “people need that,” but they rarely admit it.

This Kristolian will to power, in any case, lay dormant until 9/11, when it burst forth in all its submerged aggressiveness and relentlessly drove us to war. As Corey puts it:

“Sept. 11 has given the neocons an opportunity to articulate, without embarrassment, the vision of imperial American power that they have been harboring for years. Unlike empires past, this one will be guided by a benevolent goal – worldwide improvement – and therefore will not generate the backlash previous empires have generated.”

“Benevolent” my a**. And I’ve got news for Messrs. Buckley and Kristol: the backlash is here, and it hasn’t even begun to crest. In Baghdad, Bremer and his bureaucrats are hunkered down in their bunker, confined to the “Green Zone” outside of which there is chaos. But they’re in somewhat better shape than their counterparts in Washington, D.C., where the enemy has already penetrated the fortress of the Pentagon and is even now setting its sights on the White House.

By the time they get through interrogating the various neocons who lied us into war – and betrayed their country in the process – the country is going to be in the mood for a proper accounting. If George W. Bush doesn’t want to be dragged down along with his advisors and hangers-on, he’ll clean house before it’s too late. This administration cannot bear the combined weight of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, and Feith: the President can either throw them overboard, or follow them into political oblivion.


May was a busy month for Antiwar.com. With over a million and a half unique visitors, we broke all records, and this is reflected in our Alexa rating – the Nielsens of the Internet – which puts us at number 36 (up from 41) on the list of the 50 most popular news websites (including weather and financial news sites). Pretty amazing for a relatively small operation financed entirely by reader contributions. We’re forging ahead with ongoing improvements, offering more new material while continuing to present the timeliest news and most comprehensive analysis of international affairs on the Internet.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was 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].