As the cool undercurrents of Indian summer hint at winter frosts to come, the rhetoric of the Democrats at their most recent presidential debate foreshadows their capitulation to the War Party on the two vital issues of the day: Iraq and Iran. The first fifteen minutes of the debate were devoted entirely to these issues, and, to anyone who wants to find hope in the prospect of a Democrat in the White House, watching the performance of the Seven Dwarves & Gravel (I'll resist the temptation to dub him the Troll) was a depressing experience.
"Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term more than five years from now, there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq?" – moderator Tim Russert's question was posed to one and all, and the Clinton-Obama-Edwards axis of frontrunners all refused to take the pledge, albeit each in their own way.
Obama: "I think it's hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don't know what contingency will be out there.
Hillary: "I agree with Barack. It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting."
Edwards: "I cannot make that commitment."
If your illusions in the Democrats as the "peace party" aren't shattered, then your capacity for self-delusion is limitless.
We're going to be in Iraq for at least through the first term of the next President, and likely far beyond that – and it doesn't matter what the voters voted for, or think they voted for. That's American "democracy" for you, a system that George W. Bush wants to export at gunpoint to the rest of the world. No wonder the rest of the world is saying "No thanks."
It was Gravel who raised the real issue coming to the fore in this campaign, and that is the looming confrontation with Iran:
"There was a vote in the Senate today – Joe Lieberman, who authored the Iraq resolution, has offered another resolution, and it's essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran. And I want to congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for voting against, and I'm ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it. You're not going to get another shot at this, because what's happened if this war ensues – we invade and they're looking for an excuse to do it.
"And Obama was not even there to vote."
How that last barb must have stung the self-righteous Obama, whose self-backslapping – "I was against this war [in Iraq] from the beginning" – was an embarrassment. Hillary's sinister laugh, when given the opportunity by Russert to answer Gravel, ought to have curdled the blood of even the hardest of the antiwar movement's hardcore Democratic partisans. What followed was a pretty faithful recitation of the War Party's talking points regarding Iran and the resolution passed by the Senate:
"My understanding of the revolutionary guard in Iran is that it is promoting terrorism. It is manufacturing weapons that are used against our troops in Iraq. It is certainly the main agent of support for Hezbollah, Hamas and others, and in what we voted for today, we will have an opportunity to designate it as a terrorist organization, which gives us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders to try to begin to put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran."
The resolution [.pdf], sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyle, designates the Quds force, as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are known, as an official "terrorist" organization. Besides placing sanctions on individual Iranian officials, as Hillary points out, it would also give the President extraordinary leeway in going after the Quds guards militarily – giving him, in effect, the power to unilaterally go to war with Iran, without coming to Congress for any further authorization. There would doubtless be howls of outrage from some Democrats, and even a few Republicans, but the administration would justify its actions – and quite credibly – on the grounds that the authority to go after "terrorists" had already been granted. Of the Democratic "majors," only Edwards seems to realize the import of this.
That Senator Gravel, alone, had the courage to raise the alarm, and confront Hillary on this issue, speaks volumes about the state of the Democratic party – and the political impotence of the antiwar majority in this country. Those who want us out of Iraq, and, furthermore, are bitterly opposed to the prospect of yet another war in that neck of the woods, are the new silent majority. Silent because we don't hear this view reflected in the media – where pro-war commentary and "centrist" of-course-we-can't-withdraw-until-2012 punditry prevails – and also politically impotent: with the Democratic frontrunners basically taking a Bush-lite approach.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
This account by William Hawkins of the debate on the Iraq war held at the recent meeting of the John Randolph Club, in Washington, D.C., is hilarious, albeit unintentionally. That he somehow managed to write a 1000-word-plus article about that event without once mentioning that Peter Brimelow, the editor of Vdare.com, and a staunch conservative of the paleo persuasion, was one of three debaters on the "out now" side, is really quite an achievement.
The reason he did so, I imagine, is to buttress his thesis that labels me a "left-libertarian," a sinister "anarchist," who, along with co-debater Kirkpatrick Sale (who really is a man of the left), is "shouting about how patriotism is a dirty word because America is the source of all evil in the world." Gee, that's funny, but Frontpage's last smear-job on me insisted I'm a "fascist," i.e. an extremist of the far right. These people are so crazed by their venomous hatred of anyone who disagrees with them that they can't remember from one moment to the next what calumny they've hurled – they just keep slinging slurs in the hope that some of it will stick.
The great problem, for them, is … the internet. They can smear to their heart's content, and misrepresent the facts about a particular incident, but the new technology makes lying about these kinds of things nearly impossible.
Hawkins can drop out Peter Brimelow from his account of the debate, but we can re-insert him by posting the audio of that exciting performance: Go and listen, and hear for yourself if "the audience was about evenly divided" – as Hawkins claims – when it came time to vote on the question (which was, by the way, "America should immediately withdraw her armed forces from Iraq"). The yeas had it by several decibel levels.
Hawkins starts out his patently dishonest account by expressing his impatience with the wording of the question, complaining that nobody but nobody in Washington was even considering such a course: he even cites Hillary Clinton to buttress his case. Which, of course, neatly underscores the theme of my talk at the conference: the great yawning divide between the agenda of the Washington-New York elites and popular opinion in the rest of the country. For the ordinary American, outside the Beltway, this widening gap is cause for concern, if not alarm. For Hawkins, and his fellow neocons, popular opinion doesn't even come into it.
In any case, the real question, as I put it in the debate, is not about "immediate" withdrawal versus gradual redeployment (which was Srdja Trifkovic's position), but between getting out as soon as possible and colonizing Iraq as the first phase of building an American protectorate – an empire – in the Middle East. When I framed the issue in terms of the danger of imminent war with Iran, no one on the other team objected to that prospect – and, if you listen to the debate, they implicitly endorsed it. That's when – and why – they lost, at least in front of that staunchly antiwar audience.
Hawkins is shocked that the "anti-American" Justin Raimondo is allowed to speak at a conservative gathering, but I have been going to the John Randolph Club meetings since the second gathering: the JRC, after all, was founded largely on account of the libertarian-paleoconservative convergence over the question of Gulf War I. Both were naturally opposed to that war, just as they oppose this latest one.
Yet Hawkins stupidly berates his audience, whose "patriotism" he challenges, as well as questioning the JRC's conservative credentials. According to him, there is no conservative tradition of peace and noninterventionism: anyone who doesn't want to colonize Iraq and conquer Iran in the process belongs on "the left, along with Sale and Raimondo." Brimelow got quite a laugh out of the audience when he prefaced his opening remarks by exclaiming (in his understated British way) "that's the first time I've ever been called a leftist."
Hawkins had no real arguments to offer, other than smearing Sale, Brimelow, and myself as "wishing for an American defeat," and accusing us of being agents of Al Qaeda. That didn't go over very well with the audience, either: the shock was audible in their silence. No one applauded. The only time they got a positive reaction was with demagogic calls to set up a religious test for immigration by banning all Muslim immigration to the US. (And they criticized me for proposing a course that isn't even "on the table"!)
Hawkins doesn't know how to argue, and he didn't make any arguments in his peroration: name-calling doesn't qualify. Yet that's the only way he and his fellow neocons can bolster their sagging support, even among their own hardcore followers. As the folly of this war becomes ever more apparent by the day, and the dark prospect of yet another and even bloodier conflict rears its ugly head, the deserters from the ranks of the War Party are beginning to outnumber the remaining stalwarts. Especially in view of the electoral drubbing the GOP faces, the rats will be deserting that sinking ship in droves by the new year.
Finally, I don't know whether Hawkins is stupid, or just plain nutty, but I don't know how else to account for the following:
"Writing from Tehran in May, 2006, he argued, "the prospect of Iran acquiring nukes does not mean the end of the world. It means that the natural tendency of nations to achieve a balance of power will, in this case, be fulfilled, and that the Middle East will muddle along, just as the East bloc and the West did for all those years."
Writing from Tehran? If you follow the link he provides, it takes you to a May 2006 column, "Letter from Tehran," in which I wrote about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's open letter to George W. Bush.
What is this guy smoking?
Whatever it is, it causes him to similarly misperceive or deliberately mischaracterize my views: thus, in correcting the deliberate mistranslation of Ahmadinejad's statement about Israel, which was wrongly reported as expressing a desire to "wipe Israel off the map," I am "spinning statements by Iran's president." Hawkins also cites my booklet, The Terror Enigma, and decries its thesis – that Israeli intelligence had wind of the 9/11 terrorist plot and neglected to warn us in time – without mentioning that much of it was based on a four-part report by one of his very favorite news outlets: Fox News. Was Carl Cameron – who reported that story – engaged in "the most vile and heinous tactics of the Left" when he stated:
"There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9/11 attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are 'tie-ins.' But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, 'evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified information.'"
Hawkins' outrageous smears are directed not only at me, but at Murray Rothbard, including even that old canard about how Rothbard "physically applauded" Nikita Khrushchev on his visit to the US in the 1960s – an act that, I can assure you, never occurred. The very idea of Rothbard rushing down the stairs for anything short of a four-alarm fire is laughable to anyone who knew him.
It's funny that Hawkins describes me and my "ilk" as "cancer cells within the conservative movement," because that is precisely the role that has always been played by the neocons, historically, a faction that came from the extreme Left. Indeed, there is at least one such ideological immigrant who proudly waves the banner of the "Trotsky-cons." If this is the tradition of "authentic" conservatism, as Hawkins claims, then we might as well forget about the entire history of the American right before 1955 – which Hawkins, and his fellow neocons, would certainly like us to do.
The only problem with that is the revival of the Old Right, as exemplified by the candidacy of Ron Paul, the relatively recent founding of the American Conservative magazine, the longtime existence of Chronicles magazine – and, last but hardly least, the founding and 18-year history of the John Randolph Club, which, at its most recent meeting, roundly rejected the belligerent posturing of Hawkins, and, in a foreshadowing of the coming conservative repudiation of neoconservatism, voted that we ought get out of Iraq immediately.
The neocons are getting mighty nervous: even the right is turning against them. That accounts for the desperate tactics: the name-calling, the appeals to authority, and the hiding behind largely outmoded political labels. They're losing – and they know it. A cornered rat is likely to take a final flying leap at its adversary, baring its teeth and hoping for the best. Such desperate tactics, however, are not going to save the neocons from the fate they so richly deserve. Before this is over, they'll be totally discredited, and run right out of the conservative movement – if not run out of Washington on a rail.