The hijacking of America
But now many conservatives are speaking up against U.S. foreign policy
By ERIC MARGOLIS
Contributing Foreign Editor
LOS ANGELES - 13 October: The United States Congress has spoken. Not with a roar, but with a whimper, handing President George W. Bush a blank cheque to go to war against Iraq because of the "imminent threat" it supposedly poses to America. One is reminded of the revolting spectacle of Roman senators groveling at the feet of emperor Tiberius.
The notion of Iraq, a demolished nation of 22.3 million posing an "imminent threat" to the United States, a nation of 281 million, is ludicrous. In fact, anti-Saddam Kurds and southern Shia Muslims comprise 17.7 million, or 79%, of Iraq's population, leaving only 4.6 million Sunnis who more or less support the regime. That's about the population of Hong Kong.
But a steady drumbeat of bellicose propaganda, pressure from powerful special interests thirsting to destroy Iraq, and election year politics have combined to stampede Congress and many Americans into believing this grotesque, Orwellian fiction.
Illustrating war fever in Washington and the growing irrationality of the White House, President Bush last week compared his impending jihad against Iraq to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and himself to John F. Kennedy. I was in Washington during the Cuban crisis and vividly recall its drama and dangers. The Soviets had nuclear-tipped missiles ready to strike the U.S. What the U.S. faces with Iraq - which has no long-range missiles or other delivery systems for bulky chemical munitions or highly complex systems for dispensing germs - is nothing comparable. And George W. Bush is no John F. Kennedy.
Not content with this silly comparison, Bush went on to actually claim Iraq was poised to attack the United States using remotely piloted aircraft guided from Baghdad, a mere 13,000 km away. Bush must have cribbed this preposterous fantasy from Dr. Fu Manchu and His Drones of Death. In the mighty U.S., long-range drones are still in the testing stage. The claim that Iraq has perfected such sophisticated technology - which extensively uses satellite guidance - and can remotely pilot an ancient crop duster from Baghdad to New York is laughable.
Last week, CIA Director George Tenet took the courageous step of publicly refuting Bush's claim that Iraq was an imminent threat. Tenet's unprecedented rebuke was a warning to America, but it also signalled the deep resentment felt in the U.S. intelligence community over the way Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, and its American helpers, have become the White House's primary source of decision-making information on Iraq, Palestine, Iran and Afghanistan.
Attacked and denounced
Tenet was immediately attacked and denounced by pro-Israel commentators, though a number of senior Israeli officers have echoed Tenet's assertions that there was no immediate risk from Iraq unless it is invaded.
Meanwhile, another revolt has erupted, this time in conservative ranks. A new magazine, The American Conservative, was launched in Washington this month. Created by veteran politician Patrick Buchanan, columnist Taki, and former New York Post editor Scott McConnell, the magazine features hard-hitting attacks by noted Republican theorist Kevin Phillips; Justin Raimondo, editor of the excellent Web site, antiwar.com; and pieces by Buchanan, Peter Brimelow and this writer on Bush's promotion of war psychosis and the corruption of the conservative movement.
Phillips sums up the reasons for the rebellion, accusing the Bush administration of representing "the economics of privilege, the foreign policy of war, and the culture of guns and Sun Belt fundamentalism."
Phillips rightly blames the meltdown of the U.S. stock markets on an "Enron-Armageddon fusion." The Bush administration, writes Phillips, "mixes greed, inept economic management, business corruption, crony capitalism, triumphalist Pentagon sabre-rattling and Axis of Evil foreign policy theology on a scale that already boggles foreign commentators."
Many traditional conservatives are now accusing neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists of having hijacked not only the conservative movement, but U.S. foreign policy as well. Neo-conservatives are militant ideologists representing the views of Ariel Sharon's far-right Likud Party in Israel (though by no means the views of all Israelis).
These neo-cons view the world through the lens of what they deem is good for Israel and bad for its enemies and, accordingly, are pressing the U.S. into a war against much of the Muslim world. In many ways, these war-lusting neo-cons are the mirror image of Osama bin Laden and his anti-western al-Qaida movement. Both want an all-out clash of civilizations and religions.
It's harder to say what America's conservative rebels represent: their views vary greatly from Buchanan-like neo-isolationists to European-style conservatives like myself who are strict with public finances but liberal on social issues. But the conservative rebels are united on one point: the burn-Baghdad neo-cons and religious Sun Belt Armageddonites like Jerry Falwell do not speak for America's mainstream conservatives.
True conservatives hark back to two leaders of great moral stature, honesty, and true patriotism, men who bore the American flag inside their hearts, not on their lapels: President Dwight Eisenhower and Sen. Barry Goldwater.
Sadly, the conservative revolt is probably too late. Rather than face a collapsing stock market and enraged voters, President Bush has chosen to distract them with a jolly little war against a nation that cannot effectively fight back.