Kerry, the Hawk

The idea that John Kerry is some kind of peacenik, who will get us out of Iraq and drive the neocons out of the Temple of Democracy, is a myth that will die a hard death, but die it must. I realize that a lot of my readers have invested their hopes and dreams in the man, but, if you want some expert advice, don’t take it from me, take it from one who knows: Bill Safire. The uber-hawkish columnist for the New York Times, always a dependable weathervane to see which way the neocon wind is blowing, was positively gloating after last week’s Kerry-Bush slugfest:

“As the Democratic Whoopee Brigade hailed Senator John Kerry’s edge in debating technique, nobody noticed his foreign policy sea change. On both military tactics and grand strategy, the newest neoconservative announced doctrines more hawkish than President George W. Bush.

“First, on war-fighting in Iraq: Hard-liners criticized the Bush decision this spring not to send U.S. troops in to crush Sunni resistance in the Baathist stronghold in Falluja. American forces wanted to fight to win but soft-liners in Washington worried about the effect of heavier civilian casualties on the hearts and minds of Iraqis, and of U.S. troop losses on Americans.

“Last week in the debate, John Kerry – until recently, the antiwar candidate too eager to galvanize dovish Democrats – suddenly reversed field, and came down on the side of the military hard-liners.

“‘What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground,’ Kerry volunteered. ‘And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Falluja and other places and send the wrong message to terrorists. You’ve got to show you’re serious.’ Right on, John!”

I take no offense at Safire’s contention that “nobody noticed” Kerry’s conversion to the hawkish cause, but, then again, Safire’s answer to my question – “What am I, chopped liver?” – is likely to elicit a resounding yes.

I would only note that, a few days later, U.S. forces launched a massive attack on Fallujah, killing mostly women and children. I wonder if that was “serious” enough for Kerry.

Safire, of course, is absolutely right about the hawkish bona fides of the Democratic nominee, and, if more proof were needed, the Kerry camp promptly provided it in a disgusting series of new ads linking those damn Ay-rabs to President Bush.

As the New York Times reports, the ads not only link the White House to the Saudi royal family, they also characterize an entire nation as being somehow complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Put on the air by the “Media Fund,” a Democratic party front group, to the tune of $6.5 million, one of the ads notes:

“‘Even though 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, top Bush adviser James Baker’s law firm is defending Saudi Arabia against the victims’ families.’ The spot includes images of President Bush holding hands with Crown Prince Abdullah and mug shots of the Sept. 11 hijackers superimposed above a shot of rubble from the attacks.”

The trumped up lawsuit being brought by greedy self-described “victims” is aimed at extorting money from the Saudi government by attempting to characterize Riyadh – and the entire population of Saudi Arabia – as somehow responsible for the act of a small group of madmen. When two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to kill President Harry Truman, did anybody think to visit punishment on the entire Puerto Rican community? How many members of the Mafia were Italian – and did we hold Rome for ransom because of a few Sicilian cafones? The very idea would have been dismissed as batty, and yet the Democrats are thrilled at the success their Arab-bashing has supposedly brought them. As the Times reports:

“The Media Fund decided to put $6.5 million behind the ads because in St. Louis they seemed to have had a huge influence. An internal poll the Media Fund shared showed Mr. Kerry trailing Mr. Bush in St. Louis by one percentage point before the ads ran and jumping to a 7-point lead afterward.”

If warmongering hysteria works, then the Democrats are more than eager to try it: anything to capture the White House. And you’d better believe that behind this display of Saudi-bashing is the implicit threat of war. Another aspect of these ads is typically American whining about “high oil prices,” which are supposedly the fault of the Saudis. What else can this complaint mean, coming from the world’s biggest bully and newest Middle Eastern colonial power, except the implied threat of force?

Safire wasn’t kidding when he called Kerry “America’s newest neocon” – and he certainly ought to know. While Republican spokesman Steve Schmidt described the ads as “the mainstreaming of Michael Moore,” it’s also the mainstreaming of Laurent Murawiec – the ex-LaRouchie policy analyst who formerly worked for the Rand Corporation and was brought in by Richard Perle to deliver an infamous Powerpoint presentation to the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Murawiec recommended bombing Medina and Mecca, and launching an invasion of the Saudi peninsula aimed at securing the oil fields – a favorite neocon theme. As Slate‘s Jack Shafer put it:

The last slide in the deck, titled ‘Grand strategy for the Middle East,’ abandons the outrageous for the incomprehensible. It reads:

“‘ Iraq is the tactical pivot

Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot

Egypt the prize.'”

Yet the idea of invading and occupying the oil-rich portions of Saudi Arabia isn’t quite so incomprehensible in the context of Kerry’s anti-Saudi jihad: “The Saudi royal family gets special favors, while our gas prices skyrocket,” the announcer in the Media Fund ads intones.

Oh yeah? What are these “special favors”? To listen to the tinfoil hat contingent of the Anybody But Bush movement, a “secret” planeload of Saudis was flown out of the country when all other commercial air traffic was grounded in the days and weeks following 9/11, including some of bin Laden’s relatives. Michael Moore made this claim, as well as multitudes of internet theorists. It never happened, but even if it had – so what? Bin Laden’s family consists of over 500 individuals, of which Osama is the black sheep – are they all guilty? Are we now arresting and punishing entire families, as the Israelis do in the West Bank and Gaza, due to the actions of a single individual?

The whining about high gas prices is particularly insufferable coming from a people that preaches the virtues of capitalism worldwide – and guzzles gas like there’s no tomorrow. How many times have we heard that the Middle East, mired as it is in medievalism, needs to modernize, economically as well as socially, stop blaming the West, and Israel, for all the region’s problems, and adopt capitalism and the free market so as to lift themselves up by their bootstraps? Capitalism and the efficiency of the free market are all well and good – but, somehow, when it comes to oil, Americans have the right to name their own price. (Which is, of course, the only “fair” price.)

That’s what happens when the Arabs take this lesson in Economics 101 to heart, and suddenly start charging the highest price they can get for the only commodity they have to sell – they get kicked in the teeth by people like Kerry and implicitly threatened. In Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism, author and currently serving CIA analyst Michael Scheuer makes the important point that this is the economic keystone of bin Laden’s propaganda. Al Qaeda is telling the peoples of the Middle East that the apostate regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, etc., are servants of the infidel West who keep oil prices artificially low. Kerry making this exploitative relationship explicit – in a campaign ad, no less! – feeds the fires of anti-American hatred from Morocco to Malaysia.

“I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation,” the voice-over in the Kerry ads proclaims, “not the Saudi royal family.” Well, then, why not brush those towel-heads aside and just take what we want, like any common looter? War, after all, involves a certain amount of “ingenuity,” especially when it comes to inventing lies to bamboozle the American people. And surely “innovation” is a factor in every successful military effort – which is why our armed forces are currently undergoing a much-ballyhooed “transformation” that will come with a price tag of incalculable trillions of tax dollars.

According to Kerry, we must flatten Fallujah, and any other Iraqi city that dares to defy us. We need to think about how to “win” rather than entertain the possibility of declaring victory and withdrawing. We must grab the Saudis by the throat and don’t let go until they comply with our edicts. And, if Barack Obama, the young rising star of the Democratic party, is the wave of the Democratic future, then we ought not be surprised to see U.S. military action against Iran if they fail to bow to our demands. Pakistan, too, is in Obama’s crosshairs, which he somehow forgot to mention in his keynote speech to the Democratic national convention.

Safire also notes something I neglected to point out in my own piece on last week’s debate – not that I didn’t notice it, but I was working under a very tight deadline – and that is Kerry’s astonishing endorsement of the Bushian policy of preemption. Not only does he agree with Bush that the United States has the right to attack anyone, anywhere, anytime and for any reason – even if we’re only talking about a potential threat – but he also seems to believe that this has always been our “great doctrine” (as Kerry put it) for as long as the cold war lasted.

“Hold on,” says Safire. Massive retaliation and mutual assured destruction – yes. But nuclear pre-emption? “Only kooks portrayed by the likes of Peter Sellers called for a nuclear final solution to the Communist problem.”

That’s why I just love getting letters from those who have drunk too deeply of Kerry’s Kool-Aid, berating me for not jumping on board the Democratic bandwagon: how else, they ask, do you think we’re going to get rid of those evil neocons? Before they cast their vote, however, let them ponder Safire’s words long and hard:

“His abandoned antiwar supporters celebrate the Kerry personality makeover. They shut their eyes to Kerry’s hard-line, right-wing, unilateral, pre-election policy epiphany.”

That’s where the “logic” of the Anybody-But-Bush movement leads – straight into the waiting arms of “the newest neoconservative.” From the frying pan – straight into the fire.


A reminder: I’m speaking at the 2004 Freedom Summit, on Saturday, October 9, in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Best Western Grace Inn at Ahwatukee from 2:45 pm – 3:45 pm, and I warn you: my speech is going to be a barn-burner!

And another big event is coming up: the Mises Institute Supporters Summit: Radical Scholarship: The Guerrilla Movement for Liberty,” October 15–16, 2004, in San Mateo, California, with a tantalizing list of speakers, including Lew Rockwell, Rep. Ron Paul, our own Joe Stromberg, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, and too many of the cream of the scholarly libertarian crop to list here. Suffice to say that you need to go here immediately, and make your reservations today. You won’t want to miss out on this exciting event – especially the very special Day at the Races (I had a ball last time!).

Oh, and happy 60th birthday, Lew! You’re a lion of liberty: may you live long, and prosper!

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, 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].