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Rightwing Doves?

by Robert Johnson

There is a significant amount of dissenting noise regarding Bush’s mad rush to war coming from portions of the American right-wing. Brent Scowcroft, George Sr.’s former National Security Advisor, has recently come out and said that an attack on Iraq could lead to “armageddon.” This judgment is based on a scenario where Saddam, not being able to attack the U.S. directly, launches attacks against Tel Aviv like he did in the first Gulf War. Last time, Poppa Bush was able to restrain the Israelis from retaliating. However, Bush Jr. has repeatedly given the green light for Israel to do whatever it wants and Sharon (Bush’s “man of peace” (sic! and sick!)) may very well respond with nuclear weapons, thinks Scowcroft. Shortly before Scowcroft aired his concerns, we had Dick Armey, no longer worrying about reelection because of his retirement, saying, “I don’t believe America will justifiably make an unprovoked attack on another nation,” thus theoretically reverting to a stance o! f conservative isolationism. Does anyone remember the conservative isolationists? The vast majority of them seem to have disappeared now that it is no longer a Democrat bombing innocents.

It is certainly encouraging that some of these folks are speaking out. Any hopes to stop this war before it begins should be cheered. However, it shouldn’t be thought that any of these characters have a problem with military adventurism or a deep concern for the rights of innocents. Scowcroft was intimately involved with both the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War, which by conservative estimates resulted in the deaths of one hundred thousand, and Armey recently called for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. What they do seem to be concerned about is the possibility that Bush is being driven by obsession over Saddam and isn’t paying sufficient attention to the promotion of “American interests,” which, of course, we know to understand as corporate interests. W! hile the individual interests of a number of American corporations are quite likely to be furthered by the coming war (Boeing, Raytheon, Dyncorp, and Halliburton immediately come to mind), the general interests of American corporations is perceived to be at some risk by Scowcroft and others. The extreme instability that an attack on Iraq is likely to engender in the Middle East and the consequent risks to “American interests” should be seen as the driving force behind elite and mass media “dissent,” certainly not any worries about a few tens of thousands of murdered innocents or the continuing devolution of the economic and political interests of the vast majority of the American people; worries which we could be forgiven for thinking might be sufficient for opposing Bush’s aggressiveness. But these latter reasons for opposing this war, moral reasons voiced by many Americans, have been silenced by our “free and independent” fourth estate.

Before we cheer Scowcro! ft, Armey, and the others, we should recognize their motivations and understand that they are untrustworthy allies. We should also recognize that we have two major impediments to having even their right-wing criticisms heeded in the Oval Office or at the Crawford photo-op ranch. As Richard Perle (a man who was nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” by his colleagues during his tenure in the Reagan Pentagon and who has been one of the most vocal individuals calling for attacking Iraq) has observed recently, Bush has painted himself into a corner with his bellicose rhetoric. Now, of course Perle didn’t put it in those terms. Instead he invoked one of the major concepts that U.S. foreign policy is based upon: the doctrine of “credibility.” This basically holds that other countries (including allies) should be made to believe that the U.S. is always capable of acting like a mad dog and destroying, with no concessions to rationality or morality, anyone that gets in its way.! This was transformed from unofficial to official U.S. policy by President Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger (who, not incidentally, is another war criminal who has recently come out criticizing W’s Iraq plans) and has remained in place through all the following Democratic and Republican administrations. Bush’s handlers are very concerned that Bush’s credibility will be damaged by backing down on Iraq and are determined not to let this happen. Their worry about Bush’s credibility gains urgency with every day that he fails to capture Osama Bin Laden or Mullah Omar “dead or alive.”

A second hurdle exists that should have all the members of Congress, with the sole exception of Barbara Lee, hanging their heads in shame. The September 14th Joint Resolution Authorizing the Use of Force empowered Bush to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or! aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” The key words here are “he determines.” In the context of this Congressional gift, Bush’s recent comments that “America needs to know I’ll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies,” should make clear that he feels that he has all the legal power necessary to attack Iraq, with no checks from Congress, the international community or, for that matter, the American people standing in his way. Barbara Lee, in explaining her brave and lonely vote against the Sept. 14th resolution, warned that “we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target.” This warning is now appearing more and more prophetic. It should be noted that White House officials were, until recently, attempting to link Al Qaeda and the Colombian leftist guerillas, the! FARC. This would be farcical (no pun intended) if it weren’t so dangerous. It should also give us pause in accepting any of the Bush administration’s efforts to link Saddam Hussein with the 9-11 attacks. Although retracted, the White House attempts to tie the FARC into 9-11 demonstrates the facile cynicism of this criminal gang. If Bush were to “determine” that the FARC and Al Qaeda were linked, he now has the legal power to fully engage militarily in Colombia’s 35-year-old civil war, a power that differs from earlier cynical attempts to link the so-called drug war to Colombian counterinsurgency efforts substantially in its limiting of even a modicum of public debate. Various factions within the White House and the civilian Pentagon leadership (including the aforementioned “Prince of Darkness,” Richard Perle) have also been rhetorically linking Al Qaeda to separatist movements in the Phillipines, Indonesia, Georgia and Russia and to the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.! This should have all of us deeply, deeply worried.

Nor should it be considered a coincidence that Bush, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld have been invoking language of expediency and security similar to their justifications for bombing whomever they feel like in their arguments that Bush has the right to lock up forever, with no judicial or congressional oversight, any individual (American citizen or not) that the President “determines to be an enemy combatant.” Reagan’s dirty wars in Central America and elsewhere were opposed by domestic dissidents in organizations such as the Committee In Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES). How likely is it that such activists will now be “determined” to be “enemy combatants” by the White House? The fact that Reagan’s FBI repeatedly smeared CISPES, Earth First!, and others as “terrorist” organizations should not give us much comfort. The spineless Congress members that suggest that they are troubled by Bush’s warmongering and attacks on civil l! iberties, but gave him unlimited warmongering power last year and pilloried Lee as a traitor, should all resign in shame for their role in having meekly handed over some of the last tatters of democracy that remain in our deeply corrupted polity. Additionally, all the media lapdogs that effusively praised the manufactured “spirit of bipartisanship” that is increasingly leading to a very real spirit of dictatorship should never have the gall to grace the American airwaves with their plasticene faces, spray-sculpted hair, or misologistic voices ever again.

One last thing should be understood in any and every discussion of Bush launching a war that is guaranteed to result in thousands of dead. For all the comparisons of Saddam Hussein with Hitler, the chattering minions of the corporate media have failed to note that at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leadership, one of the central counts in the war crimes indictment was “Conspiracy to Commit Agress! ive War.” The Nuremberg prosecutors were right to consider this a primary charge. For it is from this crime that the war crimes on both sides originate. Now, if “conspiracy to commit aggressive war” does not characterize the current machinations of Richard Perle, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Otto Reich, and the rest of that “compassionate conservative” cabal, I don’t know what does. Which leads us quite logically to the question: who is currently more deserving of being compared to Hitler? (I should note here that a number of commentators in the independent media have pointed this out before me.)

To return to the topic that opened this discussion, how should we view the increasing calls on the right to slow down the march to war? We should welcome it, but with our eyes open. It is evidence that there are major divisions within the elites over Bush’s course. Elites make their decisions based on a cost/benefit analysis. Scowcroft, Kissinger, Armey and others are worried that the costs to the general interests of American capitalism of this adventure may be too high. It is up to us to make those worries ever greater, with civil disobedience, strikes, tax protests, and any other form of useful noncompliance and nonviolent sabotage, while we remain cognizant of both the cost of the Iraqi lives that hang in the balance and the benefits that accrue everytime we demonstrate that the elites are vulnerable.

Robert Johnson lives in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at:


Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015). Robert Jensen can be reached at and his articles can be found online at To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to Twitter: @jensenrobertw. Notes. [1] Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106. [2] Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). [3] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, edited and with a revised translation by Susan McReynolds Oddo (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2011), p. 55.

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