Those "moral values" Republicans – you know, the ones who supposedly tipped the election in favor of the War Party – really are a hoot. Forget the Iraq war – killing tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians for no clear reason isn’t a moral question as far as these folks are concerned. What they’re really up in arms about is gay marriage and Hollywood’s moral depravity (or do I repeat myself?). But what about this kind of depravity?:
"The Iraq war, [Norman Podhoretz] declares, has gone ‘triumphantly.’ The crowd applauds vigorously at this.
"Later in the day – perhaps for those wondering if the Iraqis themselves agree with Podhoretz’s assessment – the conference organizers screen a trailer for "Voices in Iraq," a forthcoming feature-length documentary for which two movie producers had handed out digital video cameras to ordinary Iraqis and asked them to film their daily lives. Evidently, the Iraqis in question see things the way CPD [Committee on the Present Danger] does. Men on the streets of Baghdad discuss how nice it is to have Saddam gone and to be better paid now. One child asks his mother what she thinks of democracy. ‘Hassan,’ she replies to her son, ‘democracy means having individual freedom.’ A torture victim of Saddam says he wouldn’t mind being tortured at Abu Ghraib. ‘You have a nice American woman undress you and play with your penis,’ he smirks. The audience laughs."
No, it isn’t a Beverly Hills bash or a night on the town with Paris Hilton: it’s a conference sponsored by the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), a group that may not be noticeably Christian, but which sports such professional moralizers as Betting Bill Bennett and Pope Poddy himself, whose latest encyclical to the neocon true believers is certainly longer than the original call for the Crusades issued by Pope Urban II.
Although the kind of "moral equivalence" exhibited by "Voices in Iraq" would normally have the CPD’ers in a lather – after all, are we to be judged according to standards set by Saddam Hussein? – this is what passes for humor in neoconservative circles, along with tittering gloat-fests about how Yasser Arafat supposedly contracted AIDS. Mostly secular blue state intellectuals who, nonetheless, believe that religion is good for other people, the neocons are happy to applaud their Christian cohorts, egging them on to more militant acts of defiance against an increasingly pagan culture, while privately despising Christianity in all its manifestations and publicly celebrating the "pagan virtues."
But the Christian fundamentalists don’t mind being patronized and treated with ill-disguised contempt by their secular neocon allies, just as long as certain theological and political goals are met: a theocracy on the home front and Armageddon in the Holy Land. According to the End Times theology of dispensationalist Protestants, the ingathering of Jews to Israel prefigures the Second Coming, which they can hasten if they give unconditional support to the government of Israel – even above and beyond their own. Such are the vaunted "moral values" of the American "heartland," that alleged bastion of super-patriotism. Too bad it’s patriotism in support of a foreign power.
This is Bizarro-patriotism, i.e., the sort one might encounter on Bizarro World, where water flows uphill, and moral and political as well as physical laws are weirdly inverted. Ever since the 9/11 attacks ripped a hole in the space-time continuum – due, perhaps, to the extreme heat of the exploding planes, that literally melted down reality, which then hardened into a distorted and misshapen new form – we’ve been seeing a lot of this sort of thing, and it’s due, as I’ve theorized before, to what I call the Bizarro Effect.
In ordinary Earth-logic, it makes no sense to go after a secular fourth-rate power like Iraq to retaliate against an atrocity committed by an Islamic militant of Osama bin Laden’s ilk. In Bizarro logic, however, it makes perfect non-sense.
In Iraq, we are being beaten on the battlefield by a rag-tag underground resistance, and to our Bizarro-president, this represents great progress. Operating under the constraints of the old, pre-9/11 Earth-logic, an American president, faced with a disaster such as our looming defeat in Iraq, would declare victory and get out. This is what Bob Novak and Pat Buchanan hoped for and predicted, but these two distinguished gentlemen are both living in the past. They don’t understand the subtleties of Bizarro-logic, which is almost dialectical in its sinister simplicity.
Nor are they alone in their naïveté: I, too, fell for this "the neocons are finished" meme, although with caveats. The idea being that, after the elections, the administration would take a U-turn in policy, Iraq could have its elections in January, and we could begin withdrawing from the country, albeit cautiously at first. The neocons would be dumped overboard, and the "realists," with Brent Scowcroft and Robert Blackwill leading the charge, would take the foreign policy helm.
Yet the dark cloud of the election is still hanging over the streets of blue state cities like a pall of autumn smoke, and already news of the neocons’ rebirth is on everyone’s lips. Blackwill, who was brought in to the National Security Council to clean up the neocons’ mess in Iraq – and who was behind the ditching of Ahmed Chalabi – is out. Paul Wolfowitz, on the other hand, whose fate will be a bellwether of neocon influence in Bush’s second term, could be brought in as head of the NSC, or so it is rumored.
Not only that, but Rumsfeld is staying on indefinitely, while neocon ideologue John Bolton and neocon ally Stephen Hadley (Condi Rice’s chief assistant) are up for promotions. Colin Powell is also out, along with neocon opponent Richard Armitage, the two top "realists" in the administration. In retrospect, the pre-election U.S. News piece that somewhat hysterically compared the supposedly imminent purge of the neocons to the Night of the Long Knives seems like Bizarro-logic at its best (or is that worst?). The knives are out, all right, but it isn’t for the neocons: instead, it is the "realists" who are falling on their own swords.
While there are some encouraging signs that many conservatives are beginning to question the globalist hyper-interventionism and "democratic" universalism at the heart of this administration’s foreign policy, a recent article in the New York Times makes their predicament all too clear:
"Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a gloomy mood was settling over the dozen conservative stalwarts gathered with martinis and glasses of red wine in an office in Arlington, Va., to watch the returns. Early exit polls showed President Bush trailing, and Richard Viguerie, dean of conservative direct mail, thought he knew who was to blame: the neoconservatives, the group associated with making the case for the invasion of Iraq.
"’If he loses, they are going to have a bull’s-eye on their back,’ Mr. Viguerie said. Ronald Godwin, a top aide to Dr. Jerry Falwell, agreed. ‘I see a real battle for the Republican Party starting about Nov. 3,’ he said."
Yes, but Bush didn’t lose, and now the realists and their paleoconservative allies have a target on their backs.
Like Novak and Buchanan, these guys are still living in a world where conservatism is a cautious temperament, not a revolutionary ideology intent on overthrowing governments worldwide. Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation and now at the Free Congress Foundation, is calling for a reevaluation of the neoconservative case for democratic imperialism, and Grover Norquist, a top conservative strategist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, convincingly argues that the Iraq war is a drag on the Republicans, who would have won an even more resounding victory without the albatross of an unpopular war.
But the question is: what does Bush need any of these people for? He’s already got what he wants: four more years, and a solid Republican majority in both houses of Congress. Just as those Old Rightists who spoke up against the war well before the elections – including myself – were demonized by neocon enforcer David "Axis of Evil" Frum in his infamous National Review interdiction, so they will be cast out, too, and shortly. Donald Devine, of the American Conservative Union – a sometime critic of the new imperialism – has already been forced to make a public apology and self-criticism straight out of the Stalin era for failing to properly stand up and loudly applaud a speech by President Bush before his group. It should hardly come as a shock that both Norquist and Weyrich have already been set up for bogus charges of "anti-Semitism" and "pro-terrorist" activities (with a little of the heavy lifting done by establishment liberals like Kevin Drum and the insufferable Eric Alterman).
The views of Norquist’s nemesis and chief accuser, professional militarist Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, are far more likely to dominate this administration. Gaffney, a longtime star in the military-industrial firmament, has issued a laundry list that reflects the neoconservative agenda for a second term in all its unvarnished red-state messianism: "liberate" Iran (which is really behind the Iraq insurgency), and also overthrow the government of nuclear-armed North Korea, by force if necessary, while taking on Russia, China, and even much of Latin America (where, mysteriously, "Islamofascism" seems to be making significant inroads!). After listening to a post-election speech given by Gaffney at the Westchester Country Club, in upstate New York, Maurice Freedman, the director of the Westchester Library System, "was not rushing forward to shake Gaffney’s hand," according to one news account:
"’I’m just as scared as I was before I walked in,’ he said. ‘The big difference is that I saw, up close and personal, the face of those advocating for those things that scare the hell out of me.’"
He has good reason to be scared to death: we all do.
It would be a grave error to underestimate the ruthless venality of the neocon gang that now controls the foreign policy of this country, and the President of the United States is clearly in their camp. This isn’t about the evil neocons whispering in the ear of the ruler and somehow manipulating him behind his back: if the neocons are pulling the strings, then Bush II is their all-too-willing puppet. With the Powell-Armitage-Blackwill faction out the door, or on the way, the neocons are unleashed in all their viciousness and vainglory.
That’s why we need Antiwar.com more than ever – if only to keep track of the new wars this administration is planning.
Yes, I’m getting around to mentioning that it’s pledge week – our quarterly fundraising campaign, during which we block out the front page of Antiwar.com, or some portion of it, in order to pitch our readers as to why we deserve to exist. But this time around the case for our continuity is even more urgent. Because the basis of our opposition to the interventionism and outright militarism of this administration has to be not just moral outrage, but also superior knowledge. The biggest weapon in the War Party’s arsenal is information, and the control of that essential resource is what they lust after. But in the age of the internet, that is becoming increasingly impossible. They are always ready with their "spin": and yet, within minutes if its dissemination, we can have our counter-spin posted and circulating, with the extra added advantage of being an argument based on fact.
With anywhere from 50,000 to 60,000 unique visitors a day, it’s no wonder we’re rated by Alexa/Google as the 37th most popular news site in the English-speaking world. We made the word "neocon" into a term of opprobrium, and spread that meme far and wide. Back when both Democrats and Republicans in Congress were practically unanimous in justifying their vote for war in terms of the "threat" posed by Iraq’s "weapons of mass destruction," we were saying what Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California, her birthplace: that there’s "no there there." The lies of the War Party – Saddam’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda, the Niger-uranium forgeries, the bogus Iraqi "nuclear program" peddled by Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress – all were debunked by Antiwar.com many months – and in some cases years – before they became the focus of a national debate.
These days, you’ve got to stay ahead of the news, especially those rumors of war that are, as of today, becoming louder and ever more insistent.
Yes, be afraid. Be very afraid. But also be defiant – and supportive of those institutions that support that defiance. Political candidates come and go: some deliver, and some don’t. But the campaign for peace continues, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, here at Antiwar.com – and it never did stop, not even for a national election.
Now is the time to stand up and be counted: to defend yourself and your values against the dark forces gathering on the other side of the barricades. We don’t have the enormous resources available to the War Party: the millions in foundation grants, the big contributors, the corporate sponsorships. The war chest of the Military-Industrial Complex is practically unlimited: they are directly subsidized by the U.S. government, and their ancillary organizations – such as Gaffney’s Center for National Security Policy, the American Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, to name just a few – constitute a propaganda apparatus that is vast, efficient, and ruthless in the relentless pursuit of war as an instrument of policy. And they have billions at their disposal.
What do we have? Well, we have to raise $50,000 just to survive for another three months, give or take a week or so. That’s what the War Party spends annually on paper clips.
Look, if I have to point out just why Antiwar.com is absolutely essential this year of all years, then I guess you haven’t looked at a newspaper lately. We’re bogged down in an unwinnable and increasingly bloody war in Iraq, with the promise of several more wars breaking out all across the globe, especially in the Middle East. American foreign policy has been hijacked by a gang of warmongering crazies, while their allied "Christian" preachers exhort us to hasten Armageddon, and George W. Bush declares he’s determined to spend the political "capital" he’s earned by dint of his reelection. The price, in Iraqi and American lives, doesn’t matter to them: what matters is Bush II’s legacy. Will he go down in history as the founder of an empire, or the overseer of its decline? He is determined on the former, it seems, but is ignorant of the possibility that, like Napoleon, he could be both.
In any case, this fundraising drive is crucially important, and I can’t emphasize it enough – and will continue to do so all week. Give today, give until it hurts: because now we’re facing the final battle. This is our Armageddon, and how we face it is all-important.
Now is the time to cast your real vote: to vote with your dollars for your moral values. Go ahead: do it. Because it’s one vote you won’t regret.