The McCarthyite Conundrum

After all the twists and turns of our eternal "war on terrorism," the logic of perpetual war has finally caught up with its most ardent advocates. It seems some conservatives – the kind who can usually be counted on to march to the War Party’s tune — are riled up over Mitt Romney’s support for arming Syria’s rebel army. Here‘s Andrew McCarthy, National Review‘s number one "the-Muslims-are-coming-to-get-us" ideologue:

"Congratulations to Mitt Romney. In calling for ‘opposition groups’ to be armed and trained for their ongoing jihad against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, the GOP’s presidential contender has managed to align himself with al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri and Muslim Brotherhood icon Yusuf al-Qaradawi."

Now I don’t want to accuse anyone of stealing my ideas without giving me credit, but this sounds awfully similar to what I wrote in my Friday the 13th column, which was entitled: "Al-Qaeda’s Alliance With Washington." In that piece, I recount the history of the WOT, from the neoconservative vision of a regional "transformation" brought on by the Iraq war to the Bush administration’s turn toward the Sunnis as allies against the rising Shi’ite "menace" (i.e. Iran). Right-wing ideologues like McCarthy supported the invasion of Iraq and McCarthy is himself a leading advocate of setting up a veritable police state in order to deal with the alleged threat of Muslim subversion from within. Yet now the McCarthyites – to re-coin a phrase —  find themselves in a conundrum, as the Obama administration plays the Sunni card to the hilt, and allies with the Muslim Brotherhood and its more radical offshoots in Libya and Syria in an effort to hijack the "Arab Spring." This has culminated in the latest project undertaken by the US and its Gulf allies: the creation of a "Free Syrian Army" in order to carry out regime change in Damascus.

How do the McCarthyites reconcile their historic support for the War on Terror with the alignment of US and Al-Qaeda on the same side in Syria? The answer is: they can’t.

In Libya, we utilized the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, which supposedly had disavowed bin Laden, to get rid of Gadhafi, and the same scenario is being played out in Syria, albeit to the nth degree. The latest evidence of Al-Qaeda’s key role among Syria’s "opposition activists" is a suicide bomb attack on the central headquarters of Bashar al-Assad’s national security apparatus, killing the defense minister, as well as an inlaw  of the Syrian dictator and a number of other top officials.

Does anyone doubt this is the work of Al-Qaeda, and not mere "opposition activists," as our news media dubs them? No less than two groups have taken responsibility for the blast, which has supposedly wiped out the inner core of Assad’s support: the Free Syrian Army and "Liwa al-Islam," or the Brigade of Islam, according to Al Jazeera.

The two versions of this story are designed for two different audiences: Al Jazeera’s for the Muslim world, where news of a terrorist attack carried out by Sunni fanatics who immolated themselves in the process is likely to raise cheers, while the Free Syrian Army’s claim is aimed at a Western audience, which might have trouble seeing the heroic elements of a suicide attack launched against the national security headquarters of a modern state.

The latter version requires deleting the suicide bomber element of the narrative, and this US News blog item does just that: according to the Twitterings of a BBC reporter, there was no massive explosion at the national security headquarters in Damascus, no sign of damage, and therefore there is "confusion" about what killed all those people. Perhaps it was the Hand of God. To add more obscuring smoke to an already murky incident: CBS reports the attack was carried out by the Defense Minister’s bodyguard, citing Al Jazeera. The US News blog asserts (without providing any evidence) that the Sana news agency – which has been offline all day – has stopped referring to the blast as the work of a suicide bombers.

With Al  Jazeera floating their "the-bodyguard-did-it" theory, and the Free Syrian Army openly claiming "credit" for the blast, the sanitization of one of the worst terrorist attacks since Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 strike at the Pentagon proceeds apace. In the official narrative, the rebels are still heroes. However, some conservatives of the "McCarthyite" variety aren’t buying it:

"Yes, Assad’s minority Alawite Muslim regime is a key ally of Iran’s revolutionary Shiite-supremacist government. That does not alter the stubborn fact that the anti-Assad ‘opposition groups’ are dominated by Sunni supremacists. Stubborn facts cannot be evaded by clever labeling — ‘opposition groups’ in Syria having become the euphemism du jour that ‘rebels’ was in Libya, ‘peaceful protesters’ in Egypt, ‘uprisings’ in Tunisia, and so on. Nor can we confidently assert any longer that what is bad for Iran must be good for us. Threats are dynamic, and much has changed in the last decade. The Iranian regime is not the only virulently anti-American revolutionary movement realistically threatening to enslave the Middle East in its version of totalitarian sharia and implacable anti-Semitism."

McCarthy is smart enough to realize this turn toward the Sunnis was started under the Bush administration, but not honest enough to admit that this wasn’t about "political correctness" and fear of "Islamophobia," but a strategic decision that has plenty of precedent in the annals of American foreign policy and covert operations abroad. We don’t see the words "Anbar Awakening" in McCarthy’s screed, nor do we see any recognition that this developing alliance with Islamists in the Middle East was the logical outcome of our longstanding campaign for regime change in Iran. Funny, but we didn’t hear any criticisms from National Review or McCarthy of the Iraqi "surge," which came packaged with the "awakening" of Sunni Iraq tribesmen who were put on the US payroll and bribed to fight Al-Qaeda. Now these same bought-and-paid-for mercenaries are crossing the border into Syria, and fighting alongside the "Free Syrian Army" to overthrow Assad and install and Islamist regime.

Al-Qaeda provides the heavy artillery – the suicide bombers who wreak terror in the streets of Damascus and towns throughout Syria – while the "Syrian National Council" and the "activists" who populate the Twitterverse are the public relations wing of a movement that is neither democratic nor supported by Syrian Christians, Alawites, and other religious minorities who live in fear of an Islamist takeover.

There is plenty of precedent for the kind of strategic maneuvering at the heart of the Obama administration’s support for Islamist groups: during the cold war, the CIA’s Big Idea was to support "moderate" socialists and leftists in the hopes that the hardcore commies would be co-opted and effectively neutralized. The CIA’s penetration of the "anti-Stalinist left" is, after all, a big part of the neoconservative narrative: in their journey from the far left to the far right, the neocons met up with the CIA at several points, the most famous being the Agency’s links to Encounter magazine and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The career of Jay Lovestone, former top Communist official and leader of the "Right Opposition" (Bukharinite) in America, is a testament to that strategy.

Given the premise that we were locked in a world-wide life-and-death struggle with the Evil Forces of International Communism, it made sense to cultivate ties with the anti-Soviet left  — just as, these days, when the Evil Forces aren’t Reds but Jihadists, it makes sense to forge links with the "moderates." There’s just one problem, however: in both case the original premise is plain wrong.

The communists imploded, not due to anything we did, but because their system couldn’t produce the goods and couldn’t retain the loyalties of its subjects. The Islamists, for their part, pose even less of a threat: the Soviets, after all, were armed with nuclear weapons, and commanded a worldwide movement with mass parties in several Western countries and throughout the world. Communism even claimed the loyalty of a number of American college professors, and other intellectuals, and for a while – during the "Red Decade" of the 1930s – the Communist Party in the United States played something of a role in American politics.

The Islamists can boast nothing of the firepower the Soviets commanded, and – in spite of alarmist nonsense about the coming imposition of sharia law in America – they enjoy close to zero ideological support in this country.

But of course this is common sense, something our latter-day "McCarthyites" suffer from a dearth of to an even greater extent than the original McCarthyites, who at least caught a few real reds in high places. Today’s anti-Muslim McCarthyites are reduced to accusing Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s aide, of being a covert agent of the Muslim Brotherhood via family ties. John McCain rose to defend Ms. Abedin, the wife of former Rep. Anthony Weiner – yes, that Weiner – a charge that seems outrageous on its face. But on second thought …

The family ties underscored by Abedin’s critics seem to be all too real, and it would be wrong to completely discount them. If indeed Abedin’s mother is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s female auxiliary, then that is a link worth pursuing. Surely Abedin’s defenders aren’t telling us family ties of that sort are totally without significance: no doubt Abedin’s views are influenced by these ties, if they exist, and asking to what extent this is true is hardly unreasonable. Many factors drive policy-making at the highest levels, and personal ties undoubtedly play an important role. It’s easy to laugh at Michele Bachmann, but she makes a valid point, which just goes to prove that old adage about a stopped clock …

The Damascus blast has been utilized by the regime-changers to aver that Assad has "lost control" of Syria and chaos is on the way – a perfect rationalization for invoking the "failed state" scenario and bringing in the "peacekeeping" troops. Watch for it….

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].