Liz Cheney and the Many Lives of Neoconservatism

Something truly terrifying is happening at the Capitol this January. Something deeply deadly to what passes for democracy in this stagnant empire. Something far more severe than the QAnon Shamen and Proudboy lunkheads who garnered so much media hysteria last January by lumbering aimlessly through the halls of power barking “Nancy!” like Jack Torrence at the end of The Shining. But somehow, I seem to be the only one who can smell the blood that’s currently pouring from elevator doors. Don’t you see it, dearest motherfuckers? The name Cheney has become presidential again. Something we swore on a stack of four thousand dead GIs that we would never let happen again. That name has haunted the boardrooms and Oval Offices of power for decades, starting fires in faraway places just to justify putting them out with napalm and whispering perverted crap about mythic missile gaps in the ears of demented TV cowboys. We promised we would never let this happen again, that we would never let those baby-eating jackals come within a quarter-mile of the White House without sounding a rape whistle.

But a couple of months into serving as Vice Chairwoman of the House Committee Investigating January 6, and the Democrats are swooning over Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of the devil himself. They just can’t seem to get over how goddamn brave she is by taking on her own party like that. In their twisted imagination, warped by years of Trump-induced hysteria, they’ve made this child of the war industry into some kind of David against a fascist GOP Goliath and in the process invited the Pazuzu of neoconservatism back into the chambers of power with arms wide open.

Let’s get a few things straight here right off the bat. Liz Cheney does not give one solitary fuck about January 6. If you can even call that bombastic clusterfuck a coup de tat, it pales in comparison to the ones her father threw to successfully gain access to the White House back in 2000 and 2004, when the Bush junta really did rig the elections with next to zero resistance from the Democrats whose voters they screwed. The Cheney’s have been undermining democracy going back to the goddamn Mayflower, it’s practically the family business. Liz Cheney isn’t taking on the GOP as some kind of principled crusade for justice. It’s a lateral move that she’s been plotting well before January 6 to put her wing of the party back in power.

In spite of endorsing the motherfucker twice, Cheney has been working overtime to separate herself from the increasingly toxic Trump brand during his last year in power. To the bitter chagrin of MAGA loyalists, she has publicly defended Trump’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Fauci, and sponsored bills to undermine his popular proclaimed intentions to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan and Germany. Like most political insiders, Liz had gambled on the commonly held prediction that the 2020 elections would spell out the death of Trump. It turns out they were only half right. The Donald got shellacked in the presidential race, but he still drew out millions of new voters and picked up seats in the house.

Liz Cheney’s stand against Trump’s resurgent cult of personality in the GOP was her only option left to boost her public image after it became painfully clear that the climate wasn’t ripe for a neocon minority speaker and even though she’s been all but excommunicated by her own party, she has still managed to make herself a household name and raise millions in contributions with the full endorsement of GOP gatekeepers like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. With frequent trips to New Hampshire and the excited chirping of the legacy media, I have little doubt that Liz Cheney’s real goal with the January 6 Committee has more to do with the 2024 Presidential Election than law and order.

Oh, she’s sharp enough to realize that she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning but she can make enough noise to secure a VP bid with a more conventional GOP darling like Ron DeSantis or even a conciliatory reaching-across-the-aisle cabinet position with a Democratic nominee like Kamala Harris. You see, it isn’t about the GOP for Liz Cheney. It isn’t even about personal power. Liz Cheney is a true believer and what she believes in is the war cult known as neoconservatism, a millenarian political religion that has its roots in the Democratic Party and seems to be more than willing to return to those roots in the name of American exceptionalism. And the DNC, for their part, isn’t exactly putting up a fight.

The neoconservative movement was born in the 1970s, founded by a weird collage of rabidly anti-Soviet Wilsonian liberals and hawkish social democrats who had become disillusioned by the Democratic Party’s flirtations with the anti-imperialist New Left and dovish populists like George McGovern. Many were strongly influenced by the ideas of a strange Trotskyite turned Russophobic anti-communist named Max Shachtman who ditched dialectical materialism but continued to advocate Trotsky’s strategy of entryism in which a minority of ideological zealots can gain power through the infiltration of a much larger organization.

After neocon founding fathers like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearle, Doug Feith and Elliot Abrams made a quixotic last stand with the doomed campaigns of Shachtman’s ally, Scoop Jackson, the trigger-happy Democratic senator from Boeing, they quickly made themselves busy scuttling up the drainpipes of the administrations of Rockefeller Republicans like Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagen, where they joined forces with likeminded chickenhawks like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld who helped them push lies about Soviet military superiority in order to create a colossal arms buildup and advocated for a foreign policy built on alliances with bloodthirsty anti-communist dictators. With all their anti-Soviet hysteria, you would think that the collapse of the Kremlin would have crippled the neoconservative movement, but if anything, it only galvanized their hysteria.

The neocons seemed to find a kindred spirit in Vice President and former CIA chief, George HW Bush, who made Dick Cheney his Secretary of State and Paul Wolfowitz his Under Secretary of Defense for Policy once he took the helm from a rapidly deteriorating Ronald Reagan. It was Wolfowitz who would solidify the post-Soviet neocon dogma with a doctrine largely embraced by HW in the run-up to the first Gulf War. The Wolfowitz Doctrine, in no uncertain terms, called for the open embrace of global American imperialism. After the fall of the only other nation capable of checking American primacy on the world stage, it was preached that America must do everything in its power to establish a new world order in which there could only be room for one superpower.

America would achieve this goal by containing the new Russian Federation with the expansion of NATO and dominating the world’s energy resources in the Middle East. Bush Sr. loved it and went about committing the first brutal neocon regime change campaigns against former Cold War allies in Panama and Iraq. But the neocons largely turned on the spindly old spook after he refused to finish the job in Baghdad and occupy Iraq indefinitely. Bush Sr. had failed to give his neocon acolytes their blessed forever war, but his drunken born-again son would more than make up for this mortal sin by giving them two along with unfettered access to the White House.

The neocons led a hostile takeover of American Conservatism in the late nineties with a little help from a billionaire Australian fellow traveler named Rupert Murdoch who published Bill Kristol’s influential Weekly Standard and launched the Fox News Channel with rape-y Nixonian puppet master Roger Ailes. The neocons finally stepped out of the shadows with the Bush regime and after conveniently failing to prevent the terrorist attacks on 9/11, exploited this international tragedy to hijack the Persian Gulf and Central Asia in one fair swoop with their so-called War on Terror. But they bit off more than they could chew and overestimated the public’s appetite for total war on a global scale. After the flaming shithole they stomped into the Muslim world failed to become a sparkling fonte of western-style democracy, the neocon brand fell from grace and its cultists returned to the shadows from which they sprang.

That doesn’t mean these fiendish war junkies went away. Not by a longshot. Neocon creeps continued to play major roles in the war machine under Obama, namely with Victoria Nuland’s neo-fascist coup in Ukraine, and even held prominent positions in the White House of Donald Trump, who largely rose to power trashing the abject failures of neocon foreign policy and punking out their chosen wunderkinds like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the 2016 election. The reality that most mainstream political observers fail to grasp is that Trump never really posed a real threat to neocon foreign policy in and of itself. With the Donald, it was always more of an image problem.

In spite of all his America First bullshit, Trump largely embraced the Wolfowitz way with his unilateral persecutions of Iran and Venezuela. Where Trump failed was in his inability to sell the benevolence of American predation on the world stage. In many ways he inadvertently exposed the empire that people like the Cheney’s worked very hard to give a veneer of invincibility for what it really was by flagrantly using it to shakedown allies and enemies alike to fill his own pockets, and this is precisely what neocons saw on January 6, an immature imperialist willing to tarnish the empire’s pristine image for a totally self-serving hissy fit. Well, that and another opportunity for reincarnation.

There is a lot of talk in the mainstream press these days about the existential threat that Donald Trump poses to democracy and the subsequent rise of white supremacy. But what’s more dangerous, a bunch of knuckle-dragging racist thugs who loudly announce their presence with pointed hoods and jackboots? Or a sly clique of bipartisan serpents who can spread this same tradition of colonialist white power to all four corners of the globe with the woke Fourth Estate nestled neatly in their pocket? Make no mistake, dearest motherfuckers, neoconservatism is a vehicle for the same kind of totalitarianism that empowered Trump in the first place, only it’s a vehicle that doesn’t announce its presence with truck nuts and a Confederate flag in the rear window. With shapeshifting creatures like Liz Cheney back behind that wheel and a compliant press behind Liz Cheney, a lot more than American democracy is at risk. This is the insurrection that should really be keeping us up at night.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.