David Frum: Still a Bum
Nothing has changed as a sh*thead remains a sh*thead and is proud of it
“'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, public buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” - Noah Cross in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown
I knew that the fix was in only hours after the finger was pointed at Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaida for conducting the terrorist attacks on 9/11. One of the big network TV news programs (I forget which) brought out some neo-conservative to explain to us that Saddam Hussein had a role in these attacks too, and that he should be forcefully removed from power. Was it Krauthammer? Perle? Kagan? I can’t remember, and it’s not important either, as they were all interchangeable anyway, all speaking from the exact same script that they themselves drafted. It was precisely this moment that the scales fell from my eyes and I realized that the USA was hell-bent on global domination.
Many of us did not like the Clinton regime for plenty of valid reasons, foremost among them their amputation of rump Yugoslavia by way of the occupation of Kosovo1, an integral part of the Republic of Serbia, one of two remaining republics alongside Montenegro (which would secede a few years later). Unlike the other republics of the ex-YU that had a right to secede, Kosovo did not. The fact that the Americans could do this in Europe meant that they could do it to anyone, anywhere. This act upended international law, even if a fig leaf of legitimacy would be affixed to it. It was this theft that led to Russian Premier Yevgeny Primakov famously turning his plane around over the Atlantic Ocean and heading back to Moscow, as the Russians then realized that their country was now fair game too for partitioning.
Some of us had hopes that a new GOP House White would reject liberal interventionism and would return to a more sensible, realist foreign policy. These hopes were high, blinding us to the wolves already inside of the barn in the form of the neo-conservatives who dominated Dubya’s foreign policy making.
Someone had to be punished for 9/11, and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers were the lowest hanging fruit for hosting al-Qaida and OBL. This was a fait accompli, with few, if any, protests loud enough to break through the high decibel calls for revenge. “Americans are gonna take out the Taliban. It makes sense. I’d do the same”, was a common and accepted rationalization. The Americans moved in, OBL got out, and the Taliban fled back to the countryside from which they originally came. Victory.
Not so fast: this was a golden opportunity for the USA and its Military-Industrial Complex to exploit so as to create a raison d’etre post-Cold War. The “War on Terror” became the new rallying cry, the new purpose of the USA on the global stage. Afghanistan was only to be an appetizer, with three main courses on the menu: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (aka “The Axis of Evil”), and other side courses like Syria and Libya as well. Iraq was to be the first main course, a country outside of the USA’s orbit and a perceived threat to the security of Israel, the darling of the neo-conservative set.
As the USA began to bomb Afghanistan and invade it, the propaganda surrounding Iraq and Saddam Hussein went into overdrive. How could an attack against Hussein and his Ba’athist regime, a sworn enemy of al-Qaida and Salafists, be justified? As you all know, the WMD Myth was cobbled together and put on full blast by western media. This was the excuse that was crafted to bomb, invade, and occupy a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
In tandem with the alarmism hyping up a fake existential threat to Israel and the West, the neo-conservative policymakers in Dubya’s White House touted the idea that Iraqis would welcome Hussein’s ouster (partially true) and that it would usher in a new age of liberal democracy in that country. “Bomb them to bring them freedom”, argued the democracy-exporters. A combination of lies, half-truths, and empty promises saw the US war machine do what it does best: annihilate an entire country while plunging it into destruction, poverty, and civil conflict.
Iraq did not turn into a liberal democracy that would be ‘a beacon for the Arab world’. Instead, it collapsed into sectarian warfare that gave rise to ISIS and destabilized the entire region. Oops! No one saw that coming, except for those who did. And those that did were both vilified at first and forgotten later.
Opposition to the invasion of Iraq appeared both on the left and on the right. The loud cacophony for war almost entirely drowned out their voices, but they still could be heard here and there. These voices that were critical of the arguments being made in favour of war began to disturb the consciences of the warmongers, so much so that they felt the need to address them.
David Frum, neo-conservative par excellence and Dubya’s former speechwriter (who coined the term ‘Axis of Evil’,), was most notable in his attacks on anti-war conservatives. Having been turfed from the White House in February of 2002 (supposedly because his wife bragged to others about him coining the now-infamous term), David found a soft landing at The National Review, a magazine that had expelled its paleo-conservatives and had taken a strong neo-conservative turn in orientation, being a vocal cheerleader for the War on Teror. From his new perch at National Review, Frum wrote a polemic targeting conservatives opposed to the war entitled “Unpatriotic Conservatives”.
You may know the names of these antiwar conservatives. Some are famous: Patrick Buchanan and Robert Novak. Others are not: Llewellyn Rockwell, Samuel Francis, Thomas Fleming, Scott McConnell, Justin Raimondo, Joe Sobran, Charley Reese, Jude Wanniski, Eric Margolis, and Taki Theodoracopulos.
The antiwar conservatives aren’t satisfied merely to question the wisdom of an Iraq war. Questions are perfectly reasonable, indeed valuable. There is more than one way to wage the war on terror, and thoughtful people will naturally disagree about how best to do it, whether to focus on terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hezbollah or on states like Iraq and Iran; and if states, then which state first?
But the antiwar conservatives have gone far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies.
Common cause: The websites of the antiwar conservatives approvingly cite and link to the writings of John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, Gore Vidal, Alexander Cockburn, and other anti-Americans of the far Left.
Frum first names these ‘unpatriotic conservatives’, then places the Overton Window tightly within the parameters that “we have to fight these countries and organizations anyway, so all we can do is choose which to fight first”, meaning that any dissent from this course of action is not just ‘unpatriotic’, but potentially seditious as well when he states: “…..some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies”.