Surely there has never been a presidential peroration as filled with contradictions – not to mention regrettable rhetoric – as President Donald J. Trump’s speech to the nation explaining why he backtracked on his campaign promise to get us out of Syria. Particularly striking was this bit of doubletalk:
“To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?
“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.”
This was being said even as the Saudis, our close allies, were bombing civilians in Yemen – with our active assistance – and blockading the country into one of the worst famines on record. Ah yes, “the friends they keep” – wasn’t that Trump and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin, the bloodthirsty tyrant who tortured his victims in an “anti-corruption” campaign and is being hailed by our media as a brave “reformer”? Here is the Prince posing with Jeff Bezos, owner of the warmongering Washington Post and Trump’s archenemy. In the swamp, however, there’s only so much room, and the creatures slither around each other out of necessity.
Our “friends” the Saudis, who assisted Mohammed Atta and his fellow hijackers – the majority of them Saudis – when they rammed a plane into the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. Does Trump really want to be judged by the friends he keeps?
Trump’s speechwriter had the nerve to invoke World War I as the point in history where atrocities involving poison gas were outlawed: this is nonsense. As recently as the Iran-Iraq war, our then-ally Saddam Hussein used poison gas, killing thousands, while the United States looked on approvingly. Agent Orange was used by US forces in the Vietnam war, to horrific effect.
Furthermore, the invocation of the Great War brings to mind the shameless British propaganda that lured us into a conflict that we should never have entered: those Belgian babies impaled on bayonets were one of the earliest examples of what Trump likes to call “fake news.” This time around the same sort of crude war propaganda – spread by the British government and its media allies, as well as the Saudis and the Israelis – blanketed the American media landscape in the run up to Trump’s folly. Perfidious Albion strikes again!
The reality is that there’s no credible evidence Bashar al-Assad’s forces dropped poison gas – an improbable “mixture” of chlorine and sarin – by helicopter no less. The “allies” make assertions but they offer no proof. It’s the sloppiest propaganda campaign since the last time Syria’s Islamist rebels used faked videos of alleged Assadist atrocities to lure us into their civil war. A child wouldn’t be fooled by it: however, it’s not surprising that they succeeded with Trump, since he’s operating on a much lower mental-emotional level than your average adolescent. Not that he’s stupid: it’s just that he craves the adulation of the media, which he pretends to hate and yet caters to incessantly – and certainly he was rewarded, at least momentarily, in that regard.
Yet the thrill will be brief. It won’t be long – indeed it’s already happening – before the NeverTrumpers who are hailing him as “presidential” will be demanding more “action” to finally take out Assad and install their favored Islamist head-choppers in power. And then no doubt we’ll see yet another alleged “gas attack” by the Assad forces, complete with videos of choking children and women – no men ever seem to be victims of these phony attacks – and New York Times editorials demanding full-scale “humanitarian” intervention.
It never ends. And that’s a lesson many of Trump’s supporters in the media are beginning to learn. The night before the attack Tucker Carlson spoke for the “deplorables” with a remarkable opening monologue that challenged the War Party on every level. Take a listen:
He was joined by Laura Ingraham, the next day, as missiles flew: her takedown of the comic-opera warmonger Sebastian Gorka, recently kicked out of the White House, is one of those memorable moments that will live on the internet forever.
Trumpist radio host Michael Savage denounced the attack: “He bombed his base,” said Savage.
Savage is quite correct: the Trump base didn’t vote for this. The key states Trump won and that gave him the margin of victory were won due to his anti-interventionist campaign rhetoric. Now they see that this was a fraud and they are bound to desert him in droves as their daughters and sons are sent to Syria to fight for – what? An Islamist state? Good media reviews from the New York Times for a childishly insecure President?
While the left hails the Trumpist turn toward “humanitarian intervention,” the right is increasingly “isolationist,” i.e., committed to a policy of minding our own damned business and solving our many problems right here at home. This is the opening I’ve been talking about for many years, the great switching of polarities that occurs every 40 years or so: and now it is upon us, brought about by an accidental figure – Trump – who nevertheless unleashed forces he neither understands nor controls.
Those forces – a populist movement that has rallied to the banner of “America First” – are a mass movement that rejects the Empire and longs to restore our old republic. They reject neoconservatism and the old leadership of the GOP, which is interventionist to its rotten core, which is why they put Trump in the White House. Now they must learn from his betrayal – and our job, here at Antiwar.com, is to teach them that lesson.
That’s why all the sectarians who flew into a rage when I pointed out Trump’s value to the anti-interventionist movement were dead wrong and are still wrong. As I put it in this space months ago:
“Yes, the Trump administration will take many actions that contradict the promise of their victory: that is already occurring. And we are covering that in these pages, without regard for partisan considerations: and yet it is necessary to step back and see the larger picture, looking past the journalistic details of the day-to-day news cycle. In short, it is necessary to take the long view and try to see what the ideological victory that was won this past November augurs for the future.
“If we look past Trump and his administration and scout out what the road ahead looks like, the view is encouraging: the obstacles that loomed large in the past – the neoconservative hegemony in the GOP, the war hysteria that dominated the country post-9/11, the public’s largely unquestioning acceptance of what the “mainstream” media reported – have been swept away. What’s more, a global rebellion against regnant elites is threatening the status quo. All the elements that make for the restoration of our old republic are in place, including a growing mass movement in this country that rejects the old internationalist dogma.
“Ideas rule the world: not politicians, not parties, not range-of-the-moment fluctuations in public opinion. This isn’t about Trump, the politician, or the journalistic trivia of the moment: we are engaged in a battle of ideas – and, slowly but surely, we are winning.”
The “deplorables” had to go through this betrayal before they could begin to understand the real nature of US foreign policy – and the fact that the War Party is their greatest enemy. The virtue-signaling Beltway “libertarians,” who are even now jumping on the anti-Russian cold war bandwagon – and refusing to challenge the evidence-free claims of the US government and its British allies – are clueless as usual. They don’t care to dirty their pristine hands by joining with the Trump voters of flyover country: they’re concerned exclusively with impressing their Washington cronies with how “woke” they are – not at all like those Ron Paul-loving hillbillies!
The Beltway quasi-libertarians never cared about building a grassroots movement: they just wanted to build a box-like monstrosity of a glass-and-steel headquarters in order to impress their donors and the Washington Post. It’s a monument to their towering self-regard.
I’ll never forget during the first Gulf War, meeting – in secret – with Bill Niskanen, a top official of the Cato Institute. We had to meet in secret since I was – and still am – considered persona non grata by those preening worthies. How, he asked me, can we build a movement to oppose the coming war? When I told him we had to ally with and recruit from a growing “isolationist” movement on the right, mentioning Pat Buchanan as a prominent example, he drew back in horror. “Pat Buchanan?!” he said. “Why we can’t have anything to do with him!”
This history is why I’m not at all surprised that those who invoke Niskanen’s name today have totally rejected libertarianism, and have joined with the War Party in rejecting the traditional libertarian opposition to foreign wars, endorsing globalism, and joining hands with the CIA, the FBI, and the NeverTrumpers. And very often being a renegade invites certain rewards, and that is certainly the case with the Niskanenites. Follow the money.
Non-interventionist foreign policy is the first thing defectors from the liberty movement throw overboard in their journey to join the Washington “mainstream.” As they merge with the political class, they acquire the social as well as the political-ideological orientation of their new allies, in this case contempt for those “deplorable” Trump voters and media figures who are in open rebellion against globalism.
This isn’t just about politics – it’s about culture. It’s Middle America versus the deracinated decadents who inhabit the Beltway.
I know what side I’m on. Do you?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.