It seems like only yesterday, but it was in fact 19 years ago almost to the day. Nasty little Canadian neocon David Frum scribbled the infamous cover story for the National Review titled “Unpatriotic Conservatives.” It was a catchy title and its purpose was to read all non-“regime” conservatives out of the conservative movement.
If you were skeptical about the Iraq war, about bogus claims of Saddam’s ties to al-Qaeda and his mobile weapons labs that would lob nukes over to New York, you were not really conservative but rather an unpatriotic traitor.
Frum and his neocon buddies had a problem at the time: Conservative opposition to non-defensive wars went back decades – at least to Sen. Robert (“Mr. Conservative”) Taft, who foresaw the nightmare we are now facing in east Europe and eloquently argued against the US joining NATO at all back in 1949. Even in 2003, prominent conservative intellectuals and a broad grassroots of Americans were still steeped in the advice of John Quincy Adams that we must not go abroad seeking monsters to slay.
So in one corner you had actual conservatives, who understood how nations were destroyed by endless wars of aggression and conquest.
In the other corner you had the neocons, who had only recently shuffled over to the “conservative” side after spending decades lurking in the fetid bowels of Trotskyism.
What to do? Smear, baby, smear!
Wrote Frum at the time:
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.
Yes, we do know those names. Some of the greatest writers on the American Right for the past hundred years. And it turned out that each and every one of them was absolutely correct about Iraq, while Frum and his slithering neocon snakes were dirt wrong.
These days, neocons have been replaced by “regime libertarians,” who carry the same water for the warmongers but instead of bludgeoning the Right have chosen to bludgeon actual libertarians who refuse to adopt the CIA talking points about conflicts such as the Russia/Ukraine war.
Thus just a few days ago, Reason Mag’s Steven Greenhut penned a broadside against anyone who refused the pro-war Langley talking points on the conflict, titled, clunkily, “Opposing War With Russia Doesn’t Require Excusing Putin’s Aggression.”
The content is pretty predictable with a title like that, but here’s a synopsis:
Greenhut is dismayed by the lack of “moral clarity” (which itself is a copyrighted neocon phrase – look it up) among some libertarians because they have insufficiently, in his view, adopted the talking points of literally every mainstream media outlet from Fox to CNN about the conflict.
In fact, Greenhut has the gall to demonize some of the same paleocon/libertarian writers who were attacked by Frum – but proven right by history!
Thus Lew Rockwell is derided as “er, libertarian ‘anti-war’” for featuring a piece by Paul Craig Roberts that accurately pointed out that if Russia had adopted US tactics and gone in for full scorched earth in Ukraine the conflict would have been over very quickly thus reducing the possibility for a wider war, as we are seeing today.
As we read in Newsweek, the US dropped as many bombs on Iraq on the first day as the Russians have dropped on Ukraine in 24 days:
As of the past weekend, in 24 days of conflict, Russia has flown some 1,400 strike sorties and delivered almost 1,000 missiles (by contrast, the United States flew more sorties and delivered more weapons in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war).
Surely a quick strike, leveling Ukraine as the US leveled Fallujah and Sirte and much of Baghdad would have rapidly established facts on the ground and we would not be reading about insane Polish proposals to send NATO “peacekeepers” into Ukraine.
Similarly, Pat Buchanan (who founded an entire magazine to push back against Frum and the neocon comrades) is attacked by Greenhut for making the accurate observation that Russian President Putin is, “a Russian nationalist, patriot, traditionalist and a cold and ruthless realist looking out to preserve Russia as the great and respected power it once was and he believes it can be again.”
Surely Greenhut prefers the CIA/MSNBC/Lockheed/Raytheon/Fox/CNN description of Putin as a “maniacal madman hellbent on incinerating us all in nuclear hellfire!”
You can still poke your Putin voodoo doll and understand that, objectively, Buchanan is right and Greenhut has seen too many Marvel movies. Understanding the nature and motivation of an adversary or potential adversary is not per definitionem agreeing with that person. Ask the military about that.
In fact, we can go back to the “Giuliani Moment,” where Ron Paul himself was demonized by the former NYC mayor for suggesting that we have a look at the motives of those behind the 9/11 attack. In every crime the police doggedly search for motive, but for a massive crime like 9/11 that all goes out the window.
They hate us because we are good and free.
As Greenhut demands we conclude about Putin: “he attacks because he is bad and evil.”
Bumpersticker stuff. Low intelligence.
Yes, Dr. Paul was also singled out for attack for his perfectly reasonable assertion that:
(L)obbyists for the military-industrial-complex are already ‘explaining’ to a very receptive Capitol Hill audience why the Ukraine crisis justifies increasing the military budget to ‘counter the threats’ from Russia, China, and whoever else can serve as a convenient boogeyman.
How controversial. Who’s going to tell Greenhut that…it’s true?
At the end of the day, one cannot help but suspect that Greenhut – no dummy when it comes to journalism – drew the short straw at some ghastly Reason Magazine editorial meeting (the horror!) and was forced to do a “Frum 2.0” hit piece on anyone from the libertarian camp who was not signing up to be propaganda mouthpieces for the war lobby.
As progressive antiwar journalist Caitlin Johnstone pointed out in a column and I amplified in a speech to the Mises Institute, if you are repeating the pro-war talking points about any regime Washington wants changed or any war Washington wants to drum up support for, you are not on the side of peace, even if you preface your recital of regime talking points with “I’m not in favor of sending in troops, but…”