The passions of war in a divided nation can
be not only unpleasant, but dangerous as well. They can tie
our hands, weaken our resolve,
and make us vulnerable to those who are determined to destroy
us. But when lives are at stake and those lives are our own it
is easy to abandon common civilities and to think of our opponents
as an enemy camp vying for the right and the power to determine
our fates. In these circumstances it is easy to forget the
ties that bind us, and that we are, when all is said and done,
a nation indivisible. In these times, the worst in us can spring
to the surface and the worst among us find it easier to advance
to the fore. At the same time, the best are often in retreat.
However, with the election over and the contest for power momentarily
decided, a window of opportunity has opened in which each of
us can strive to check these currents and reaffirm our common
heritage, humanity and faith. This is an opportunity that presents
itself to those on both sides of the debate over the war in Iraq.
this, on the other hand, requires intestinal fortitude
and also a clear head. Thus, in order to form a common
front in the defense of the homeland -- despite differences
over matters that are grave the most important thing
to be clear about is whether these differences are based
in good faith. If they are not, no such common front is
possible. If they are, then a unity despite differences
is an achievable goal.
cannot, for example, speak for the opponents of the war,
but if I were among them I would not find it possible
to embrace people whom I believed had supported the war
in Iraq for
motives that are venal and reasons that are corrupt.
If I believed in my heart that George Bush and Dick Cheney
lied to send young Americans to war to make profits for
Halliburton and to steal Iraq’s
oil, I would consider them my enemies and would not be
able to find a common ground to include them.
the same token, as a supporter of the war, I make a distinction
between those who oppose the war out of love country
and those who don’t. Patriotic dissenters (if I may use
that term) criticize the war because they believe the
conflict in Iraq reflects mainly honest but flawed decisions,
weakens our security and distracts us from the task at
hand. Unpatriotic critics (if I may use that term) are
those who oppose the war because they regard America
as essentially guilty, and share a common dream with
our enemies of a world liberated from America’s oppressive
was a view expressed with refreshing candor at a Columbia University “teach-in” against
the war in Iraq,
held just as the tyranny of Saddam Hussein was being ended
by American troops entering Baghdad.
The teach-in was conducted by thirty Columbia professors,
among them was Nicholas DeGenova who created a stir by
declaring his wish for “a million Mogadishus.” This referred
to the massacre of U.S. troops
by an al-Qaeda warlord in Somalia ten
years before, a massacre the radical professor wanted replicated
a million times. “U.S. patriotism
is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy,” DeGenova
told the 3,000 cheering students and faculty who attended
the teach-in. “U.S. flags
are the emblem of the invading war machine in Iraq today.
They are the emblem of the occupying power. The only true
heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military.” DeGenova
went on to affirm that peace was indeed “subversive” his
word -- “because peace anticipates a very different world
than the one in which we live, a world where the U.S. would
have no place.”
view of the war in Iraq and
of the importance of America’s
defeat is one that is widely shared on the political
left. It is the view that animates the leaders of both
major “peace” organizations, International ANSWER and
the Coalition United for Peace and Justice. It is the
view put into practical detail by New Left radical and
former Democratic State Senator Tom Hayden in an article
on the leftwing website www.alternet.org called “How
to End the War in Iraq.” In
Hayden’s words: “The
anti-war movement can force the Bush administration to
leave Iraq by
denying it the funding, troops, and alliances necessary
to its strategy for dominance.” This is the voice let
us not mince words -- of an enemy of the United
in Hayden’s case, a lifelong enemy at that). It is the
voice of a radical (or “progressive”) movement that at
one time had the honesty to call itself “revolutionary,” because
it rejected not just American policies but the American “system” as
celebrated exponent of this anti-American loyalty is
Michael Moore, who has regularly denied the very existence
of a terrorist threat, which makes American policy look
predatory indeed. Moore’s
repellent agendas, on the other hand, did not prevent
him from being honored with a seat next to former President
Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention, or
the support of many Democratic Party leaders at the opening
of Farenheit 911 -- his screed against America’s
presence in Iraq.
In a statement defending the Zarqawi terrorists Moore has
Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The
Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their
numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?” A
man who thinks that the terrorists are not the enemy,
clearly believes that we are. If
you are convinced, as Michael Moore so obviously is,
that America is the global imperialist power and that
the future progress of mankind depends on America’s defeat,
then you will necessarily think of the terrorist enemy
as a liberator, who is serving the function that leftists
like him are presently too weak or too cowardly to accomplish
on their own: to bring down the Great Satan.
was a refreshing candor to the movement of the Sixties
(to which both Moore and Hayden once belonged), which
has since been abandoned. Out of disgust with the Stalinist
generation that posed as “progressive” and “liberal,” the
New Left openly proclaimed itself revolutionary and proud
of it. It is true that to mobilize large constituencies
leaders of the anti-Vietnam movement claimed that their
only agendas were “peace” and “justice.” They organized
opposition to the war under the banner of “Bring the
Troops Home,” as though their primary concern was the
safe return of American soldier. But there were also
many in the movement’s ranks who remained true to the
code of New Left authenticity by flying the flags of
the Communist enemy and chanting “Victory to the Vietcong.” Tom
Hayden (whom I knew at the time) was one of these worthies,
and even attempted to incite a guerrilla war in American
cities in a radical homage to his Communist heroes in Vietnam.
In fact, victory for the Communists in Vietnam was
an agenda of all New Leftists at the time, though it
is also true that many anti-war liberals who did not
share this hope were seduced into joining the demonstrations
the New Leftists organized.
is this amalgamation of forces on the left both liberal
and radical that makes the present task of distinguishing
patriots who disagree with the policies in Iraq from
anti-American radicals who want to bring down the “empire.” This
latter group rarely expresses its goals candidly, as
Professor DeGenova did at the Columbia teach-in.
That is because it is aware that its revolutionary goals
constitute an outlaw agenda the vast majority of Americans
would be far easier to separate this anti-American left
from patriotic critics, if the patriots would do some
of the separating themselves. It is difficult to establish
such a separation, when leaders of the Democratic Party
are embracing unsavory figures like Michael Moore. It
is difficult when prominent figures in the Democratic
Party embrace MoveOn.org radicals who opposed the war
making common cause with them in an effort to shift the
Party to the left. Further complicating the task of clarity
is the existence of an entire Internet industry, funded
by liberal donors, whose agenda is to smear conservatives
as “rednecks,” “racists” and “witch-hunters” whose intent
is to tar any criticism of the war as unpatriotic.
smear sites include David Brock’s MediaMatters, MediaTransparency,
PublicEye, NameBase, Disinfopedia, SouthernPovertyLawCenter,
and the “Rightwing Watch” section of www.PeoplefortheAmericanWay.org.
I don’t for a moment suggest that conservatives are free
of any guilt when it comes to using a broad brush in dealing
with political opponents. On the other hand, if radicals
pretend to be liberals it’s understandable that their opponents
will often miss the difference.
failure of the patriotic left to dissociate itself from
the Haydens and Moores often
expresses itself in the form of venomous attacks on conservatives
who do make these distinctions. I, myself, have criticized
conservative writers who failed to recognize the patriotism
of leftists, and then been attacked as though I had not. This
technique of lumping opponents for purposes of attack
has a name in the leftwing tradition. Trotsky called
it attack by “amalgam,” as when Stalinists smeared him
for allegedly being “in league with Hitler and the Mikado,” because
they were all opponents of the Stalin regime. Stalinists
coined the term “social fascists” to attack democratic
leftists whom they opposed along with the fascists.
post in Brock’s site, MediaMatters
follows this well-worn pattern. It accuses me of attacking
all Democrats as enemies of America.
In fact, I was attacking only one faction in the Democratic
Party whose criticisms of the war were unprincipled
and reckless. Here is the MediaMatters post: “David
Horowitz [says] Democrats, media are ‘getting Americans
killed in Iraq … because
of their pathological hatred of George Bush.’” The
Media Matters charge has stimulated several emails
of complaint that I have tarred patriotic Democrats
with the unpatriotic brush.
fact, the editorial I wrote, which
says exactly the opposite. My headline makes this clear.
It says: “This is Not a Magazine about Republicans and
Democrats But About a War We Have to Win.” In my editorial,
published the day before the election, I observed that
this was “a season of poisoned politics and fierce divisions,” and
attempted to distinguish between patriotic dissenters from
the war and those who wanted the United
lose it. I referred to conservative critics who were suspicious
of nation building and feared that Iraq was
a distraction from the larger war on terror. Of them I
said, “These are patriots and belong in our camp.” My very
next sentences were:
are worthy Democrats who belong there too. Joe Lieberman
should have been the Democrats’ candidate for President.
Dick Gephardt would have made an equally worthy leader.
Both have been models of principle as potential leaders
of the opposition, but have been silenced by the stampeded
majority of their party from the common purpose and
by the frenzy of hatred against the incumbent George
have made similar distinctions elsewhere, including in
my book Unholy
Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.
But this has not prevented critics of mine, like Alan Colmes,
from accusing me of “McCarthyism” because I allegedly do
not make such distinctions. In fact, I have always made
been mindful that many opponents of the war are patriots.
I have even posted the articles of anti-war critics on
the FrontPage site, including Todd Gitlin who was one of
the professors at the Columbia teach-in.
Nonetheless, the smear campaign against me (and conservatives
like me) is so pervasive in the constituencies of the left
that nothing I write shakes their impression.
other day I received an email from a friend of mine who
is a leftist, a Democrat and an opponent of the war,
but also a man whose eloquent expressions of patriotism
I have posted on FrontPagemag.com. Sherman Alexie is
a Spokane Indian, and one of the most talented and lyrical
writers of our time. I can’t recommend highly enough
his novel Reservation Blues or his most recent
collection of poignant stories, Ten Little Indians.
Yet the email I received from Sherman was
inspired by the false presentation of my position on
the MediaMatters site.
you guys calling each other names. Such entertainment.
Do you think Jack White, in calling you an angry man, reveals
himself as an angry man? And do you think David Brock realizes
he’s the jailhouse stoolie of the Republican Party? Yeah,
I figure he’s telling the truth about his former Republican
dirty trickster friends, but now he seems to have become
a Democratic dirty trickster. What's the difference between
a Republican and Democratic dirty trickster? Only the source
David, where’s your logic? How can you possibly accuse
various leftists of dirty tricks and slander when you have
accused us anti-war folks and Bush-haters of getting troops
killed? There is no larger insult, no greater accusation
of evil than that, David. And wildly inaccurate.
make it sound like only pro-war Republicans have friends
and family in Iraq.
That only pro-war Republicans are worried about the troops.
At every talk I give, I ask all of the people who have
friends and/or family in the military to raise their hands.
Then I ask the Republicans to lower their hands. There
are always dozens of hands still raised. Do you think all
of those anti-war Democrats want their friends and families
about elitist! David, I guarantee you that I have more
friends and family in the military than you do now or have
ever had. I know hundreds of current and ex-soldiers. I’m
an email pen pal to a dozen friends in Iraq.
Republican small town guys who believe in their mission,
who love their country and their families, but who count
on me to be the anti-war guy even as I send them all of
my prayers and support and dirty jokes.
the whole red state-blue state separation illusion. There
are millions of us redstate children who became bluestate
adults and we live and love in both worlds.
was disappointed that Sherman could
be so influenced by Brock’s post and that he could think
I didn’t understand his own deep affection for his country,
after I had posted his writing on my site. I disagree
with him, moreover, that Brock was telling the truth
either before or after his conversion. Brock is so much
a hired gun and so little a reporter that if he does
tell a truth here or there it’s more like an accident
than an intended result. I also don’t think that being “bluestate” is
a sign of maturity. But this kind of disagreement is
what makes life interesting.
my reply to Sherman I
pointed out that in thinking that only conservatives
were making serious charges, he had missed the other
side of the conversation (a rarity for him). When opponents
of the war say that the war is not just wrong-headed
but based on “lies,” that it is a “fraud” concocted for
the President’s friends in Texas and that the President
and those who support him are getting Americans killed
for no reason, that is just as serious an accusation
as mine. Moreover, these charges from the left came first,
and it is these very attacks not general dissent from
the war -- that in my view are “getting Americans killed.”
will always be dissenters in a democracy. It is the air
we breathe. My concern (and that of the article I wrote)
was not about dissenters but about the decision of Democratic
leaders, like Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy and Al Gore to
attack the President in the reckless fashion they did.
In my view, to call the commander-in-chief a liar and
a traitor is to sabotage the war effort and undermine
our troops in Iraq.
Dissent by my friend Sherman Alexie -- and others like
him -- is not. Leaders of the Democratic opposition have
a greater responsibility because of their position. The
reckless charges made by Gore and Kennedy gave license
to people who supported them to open up a war within
the war, and a war on the war within the American establishment.
This is unprecedented in the modern era and in fact since
the Civil War itself.
way I put this view in a speech
I gave at Georgetown was
as follows: “When you are eighteen or nineteen years old
and you are in Fallujah surrounded by terrorists who want
to kill you, and you hear the leader of the Democratic
Party who is within a hair of the presidency say you shouldn’t
be there in the first place -- that does more than simply ‘confuse’ you.
It demoralizes you; it saps your will to fight, and it
gets you killed.”
when the New York Times runs the Abu Ghraib story
for 65 days on its front pages with the intent of humiliating
America’s forces in Iraq, and when Ted Kennedy compares
America’s prisons in Iraq to Saddam Hussein’s torture
chambers, that is as effective as any enemy propaganda
could be in demoralizing Americans and in undermining
their will to resist the forces of an enemy who is as
ruthless as any they have ever faced. If things are going
badly in Iraq, the New York Times and the Democratic
Party leadership have themselves at least partly to blame.
Since Howard Dean and his supporters stampeded the Democratic
Party into the anti-war camp, the Administration has
had to fight the war in Iraq with
one hand tied behind its back. To point this out, to
say that this level of distortion and attack gets Americans
killed is obvious; and an appropriate criticism; and
it is very different from saying that any criticism
of the war is tantamount to treason, or that all “anti-war
folks” are in the enemy camp.
Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Ted Kennedy have done is to
destroy the bi-partisan principle on matters of war and
peace. This was a policy tradition honored by both parties
during the Cold War and up to the moment Al Gore and
Jimmy Carter decided to throw it overboard in the fall
of 2002. When Ronald Reagan was President of the United
liberals hated him with ill-concealed passion. But no
Democratic leader accused Ronald Reagan (or any Republican
President) of betraying the American people on issues
of war and peace, let alone of lying to put American
troops in harms way, as Al Gore and Jimmy Carter and
Ted Kennedy in regard to President Bush.
anti-war left obviously never operated under such
constraints. “Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill
today?” was but one of its characteristic “anti-war” cries.
But even the Democrats like Eugene McCarthy and Bobby
Kennedy, who finally broke with the Vietnam war, never
spoke about a President in office in the ugly accents
employed by the present Democratic opposition. This decorum
symbolized the bonds we shared as Americans and it made
our country strong.
closest any congressional figure came to the kind of
poisonous rhetoric that has become commonplace of late
was when radical congressman Ron Dellums told a “Stop
the Draft” protest in Berkeley,
that “Washington D.C. is
a very evil place.” It was during the Soviet invasion
of Afghanistan, the first time the Red Army had crossed
an international border since 1945, and Jimmy Carter’s
Administration was trying to re-introduce a draft to
meet the crisis. Dellums dismissed the Soviet threat
in these words: “From my vantage point, as your Representative,
I believe we are at a very dangerous moment. Washington,
D.C. is a very evil place. While Mr. Zbigniew Breszinski
(the President’s National Security Advisor) professes
to see the arc of crisis in Southeast Asia as the Balkan
tinderbox of World War III, well Ron Dellums sees the
only arc of crisis being the one that runs between the
basement of the West Wing of the White House and the
war room of the Pentagon.”
Dellums is a charter member of the anti-American left,
a pro-Castro radical who colluded with the Marxist dictatorship
in Grenada to deceive his own government about an airstrip
Cuba was building on the island to accommodate Soviet
nuclear bombers. But while Dellums denounced Jimmy Carter
and his administration as evil and a threat to the peace,
the Democrats themselves appointed him to head the congressional
Subcommittee on Military Installations (worldwide) and
then to head the House Armed Services Committee itself,
the most powerful legislative position overseeing national
defense. When Dellums eventually retired during the Clinton
Administration, he was awarded the highest civilian honor
for “service to his country” that the Pentagon can bestow.
is what makes it difficult to draw the necessary distinctions
on the Democratic side of the debate. It is also a reason
why Democrats have a large credibility problem on issues
of national defense, a key factor in deciding the last
election result, on the other hand, has begun to stimulate
some second thoughts in liberal circles. Peter Beinart
is the editor of The New Republic, which is a liberal
magazine that thanks to its publisher Martin Peretz has
generally taken a strong anti-Communist/anti-totalitarian
position on matters of national defense. The December 13th issue
of The New Republic contained a long and thoughtful
essay by Beinart which was self-described as “An
Argument for a New Liberalism” and
specifically for an “anti-totalitarian liberalism.”
problem, as Beinart posed it, was that while the Democrats
had a “fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment” at
the top of the party, “below this small elite sits a ..
grassroots that views America’s new struggle [the war on
a distraction if not a mirage.” Beinart calls the members
of this grassroots “softs,” and believes that the Democratic
Party has a dim electoral future if it continues to allow
them to shape its policy. He recalls the days of the early
Cold War when the Democratic Party was riddled with Communists
and their sympathizers who thought the struggle against
Stalin and the Soviet empire was also a distraction and
a mirage. The remedy liberals eventually arrived at was
to condemn the Communists and fellow-travelers (who called
themselves “progressives” then as now), and expel them
from their organizations.
precursors of what Beinart calls the “softs” on totalitarian
Islam were the followers of former Vice President Henry
Wallace, who allowed himself to become the presidential
candidate of the Communist-controlled Progressive Party,
which had condemned the Cold War. Beinart identifies as
current symbols of “Wallacism” in the Democratic Party,
Michael Moore and MoveOn.org:
views totalitarian Islam the way Wallace viewed Communism:
As a phantom, a ruse employed by the only enemies that
matter, those on the right. Saudi extremists may have
brought down the twin Towers, but the real menace is
the Carlyle Group. Today, most liberals naively consider
Moore a useful ally, a bomb-thrower against a right-wing
that deserves to be torched. What they do not understand
is that his real casualties are on the decent left.
When Moore opposed
the war against the Taliban, he casts doubt on the
sincerity of liberals who say they opposed the Iraq war
because they wanted to win in Afghanistan first.
When Moore says
terrorism should be no greater a national concern than
car accidents or pneumonia, he makes it harder for
liberals to claim that their believe in civil liberties
does not imply a diminished vigilance against al Qaeda.
is absolutely right about this and it is encouraging to
hear him say that the time has come for liberals the
decent left -- to
take back their movement. He takes as his model the purging
of Communists from the CIO and other organizations by socialists
like Walter Reuther and liberals like Hubert Humphrey and
Harry Truman. “Liberals …must first take back their movement
from the softs. We will know such an effort has begun when
dissension breaks out with America’s key liberal institutions.”
hope this happens, but I am not as sanguine as Beinart
that it will. In the first place I think Beinart underestimates
the opposition that decent leftists like him face in purging
the “Communists” from their ranks. The left the hard,
indecent left is much more powerful today than it was
in the heyday of Communism. In the second place, the Michael
Moores are not merely “softs” as Beinart describes them.
(“The softs … were not necessarily Communists themselves.
But they refused to make anti-Communism their guiding principle.”)
There were, and are, softs like this. But Michael Moore
and the leaders of the “anti-war” movement are more analogous
to the Communists of the Cold War. They are activists who
believe not that there is no enemy, but that we
are the enemy. The fact that people like this are entrenched
in major institutions of the Democratic Party -- for example
MoveOn.org and the constellation of Soros-inspired 527s,
and in the leadership of the government unions, the funding
base of the Democratic Party --
is unprecedented and will make this battle much more difficult.
On the other hand, the grim prospect of another 9/11 could
alter the political dynamics overnight.
most important aspect of Beinart’s article and its support
by The New Republic is that it reminds us that liberals
like Beinart and my friend Sherman Alexie, share a common
agenda with conservatives when it comes to defending this
country and its liberties from the totalitarian enemy.
This is the bond that makes us a nation, and it must come
before all others in matters of war and peace. tOR