Skip to comments.Why I Left the Anti-War Right
Posted on 02/09/2004 2:37:49 AM PST by kattracksEdited on 02/09/2004 2:54:25 AM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]
If someone had told me a few months ago that Id be writing a piece for Front Page on this theme, I wouldve dismissed him as a lunatic. After all, then I was supporting the positions expected from those on the so-called antiwar right. I was harshly critical of Israeli defense initiatives, more willing to talk up for Noam Chomsky than the sitting President, and insistent upon baiting neo-conservative Michael Ledeen of National Review into admitting that he sought to see the regime in Tehran overthrown by any means necessary, including US Military involvement.
I was as self-righteous in these positions as I was strident -- and why wouldnt I be? Principled opposition to aggressive, preemptive wars, to me, seemed a position of deepest honor and true conservative principle. I saw valor in it -- the same sort I attributed to Patrick Buchanan when he opposed Desert Storm from what I saw at the time as a conservative perspective. That position seemed eminently principled and legitimate, leading me to work for the Buchanan 1992 Primary campaign when I was nineteen years old.
Despite this political involvement, I saw myself as a creative writer, and did what creative writers do. But on September 11, 2001 that changed. That days events struck me as signaling the end of the American Century. My reaction was: the chickens coming home to roost, and the ubiquitous flag imagery didnt stoke the patriotic fire in my heart. The heavy symbolism of the media culture seemed to me like a usurpation of love of country, independent thought, and other things I couldnt name. I looked around for people who saw things as I did.
It was then that I delved into the work of Chomsky, the folks at CounterPunch, Robert Fisk and scores of others who I saw as having dared to stand against Americas reckless embrace of global hegemony. So, more or less without meaning to, I went hard-left. This happened even though I take a dim view of socialism, even though I think wealth redistribution is a shell game and that legalized abortion is a front for mainstreaming eugenics, and despite finding utterly moronic the question Why couldnt we listen to what our friends in the world are telling us what to do?
I bought into the antiwar position of the neo-Communist left readily enough to write for CounterPunch. After a ridiculous email from Alexander Cockburn a man whom George Will said should be put into the Smithsonian as the last Stalinist -- which claimed the US budget deficit presented no obstacle to socialist wealth redistribution schemes, I moved over to Antiwar.com to write a weekly column for them at $25 per pop. The lesson there: ideologues work cheap. That was a raise from my CounterPunch pay.
When writing for either site, I couldnt help but notice that a lot of the emails I got regarding my work fell into one of two categories: gushing, disjointed missives from one person or another pushing anybody but Bush, and even more disjointed letters from opponents of Israel. Well, not just opponents of Israel -- but also of Jews themselves, and their imperialist lackeys, et cetera. An emailer from Germany forced me to block him from my inbox when he asked me to help him combat the Zionist devil empire. Along those lines, emails from Iran, Thailand, and Australia warned about the Jewish menace -- the same tired conspiracy theories and rationales that surface when people are trying to legitimize their anti-Semitism.
My work was getting linked to by people I wouldnt let into my living room. Raving pan-Arabists and Indymedia hacks from four separate continents used my work to support their positions. US interview requests were scarce, but I was sought after by Muslim radio station hosts in South Africa for my wisdom. Always, it seemed, the worlds problems were traced to the war criminal Ariel Sharon, while solutions turned out to be generalized support for the Palestinian cause.
Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum; I began to have serious doubts about my work that I couldnt even verbalize. I started to wonder -- is my opposition to the US action in the Middle East, however noble and well-intentioned it seemed to me, actually playing into the hands of Americas enemies, strategic adversaries, and economic competitors?
Such realizations gave me pause. But then Id read another article about the Straussian noble lie, or another seeming fabrication of the cabal in Washington who drove us to war just for kicks, and my resolve came back. I played into the can-you-top-this? mentality common among polemicists of the political extremes in the US. But the self-satisfaction among those who opposed the war in Iraq (whether from the right or left) and trumpeted every piece of bad news about the Administration or US soldier movements -- as if missteps validated their position! began to strike me as misguided at best, and treasonous at worse. As those thoughts entered my mind while I filed my columns, my mailbox brimmed with dispatches trumpeting the efforts of the MoveOn.Org posse as the only rational redress for the Administrations historically unprecedented iniquities.
Against the backdrop of charmless mash notes from those who found John Ashcroft a greater menace than Saddam Hussein, I reread histories of the 20th century and noticed how massive the body counts were in the wars for freedom in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and the European theatre. Compared to these, the Bush Administrations crusade to topple Saddam Hussein was a tea party. At the same time, the Presidents post 9/11/01 assertion that there was no middle ground -- youre either with us or with the terrorists -- took root in my heart against my will. For the first time since the atrocities of September 11, I was no longer able to deny what I already knew.
Whatever could be said about what some on the political extremes call the PNAC Axis, named after Bill Kristols Project for the New American Century -- at least they understand the game America had to play for the foreseeable future. Attempting to create democracy in the Middle East cant be airily dismissed as an imperialist policy objective -- not when the security of the United States in an age of terror depends as much as it does on what goes on internally in Islamic countries, or on maintaining stable, reliable allies in the Persian Gulf, central Asia, and other volatile regions. Realizing that led me to an inconvenient conclusion: I had outgrown the position that had gotten me started writing about politics seriously in the first place.
I began to see certain initiatives of the antiwar right -- like the seemingly monthly coronations of Howard Dean as a viable, Presidential figure in such outlets as The American Conservative -- as beyond suspicious. Never mind that I had written articles that argued that Howard Dean wasnt antiwar in any meaningful sense, and that the paleos embrace of New Left liberal was curious at best. What possible affinity did Mr. Culture Warrior Pat Buchanan have with Dean beyond a shared animus against their own government?
I couldnt imagine Pat Buchanan throwing his support to the man who made it a feature of his stump speech pandering to the LGBT community to say I refuse to be divided by sexual orientation. Yet there Dean was, propped up by Buchanans magazine as the Democratic Goldwater. Of course, Buchanan ran on the same ticket in 2000 with the Marxist-racist loon, Lenora Fulani -- equal parts Sister Souljah and Lyndon LaRouche -- so I really shouldnt have been surprised by the Dean gambit.
For the most part, however, I avoided public criticisms of the paleo-conservative courtship of Howard Dean. Though a freelance writer, I like to be a team player. But such constraints only went so far, and didnt stop my shock at a bomb that Antiwar.com Editorial Director Justin Raimondo threw in late November in his Behind the Headlines column. Go #### Yourself, Mr. President, he wrote on November 26, 2003.
This set off a number of alarms. Who was Justin Raimondo? Why was he so lacking in respect for a sitting President? Did Raimondo even think how such a column might strike his own readers? I am still at a loss to understand it. When the column appeared, it was hard for me to read much it without revulsion. Raimondo justified his attack by saying he was sick of George W. Bush: sick of his petulant preppie voice, sick of his studied belligerence, and, most of all, damned sick of his threats. If we don't toe the line and support his crazed foreign policy of preemptive self-defense, he constantly claims, we will reap the whirlwind.
Well, since you put it like that, Justin, one might ask why failure to support preemptive self-defense is a position without attendant risk? But Raimondo understands all too well that hes preaching to his own Amen Corner. Raimondo doesnt hesitate to compare preemption to totalitarian rule, to claim that every rationale for US involvement overseas is rooted in deception. At the same time, he chides the Administration for not going after Osama bin Laden! Unless Raimondo has taken a secret fact-finding trip to Afghanistan on his own, how would he know what the government is or is not doing to capture Osama? By reading Robert Fisk?
This cuts to the heart of the matter of what a "useful idiot" is. One who provides aid and comfort to your enemies even if it is under a misguided notion of being right. "Red dupe" is another term although it is seldom used these days.
So A.F. and M.D. What are you waiting for?
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