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Last summer a flurry of press reports disclosed the FBI’s investigation of a man named Larry Franklin who works in the Defense Department under neo-conservative policy chief Douglas Feith. The supposed reason for the investigation was espionage for Israel. The neo-con buddies of Mr. Feith and Israel sounded off about the anti-Semitism that was obviously driving the witchhunt, and the reports soon faded from the press.

Now they’re back, at least partly, but the focus of the probe no longer seems to be Mr. Franklin. The focus is AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the principal arm of what is generally (but not too loudly) called the “Israeli lobby.” On Dec. 1, the FBI raided the Washington offices of AIPAC and subpoenaed four of its top officials.

This time almost no one paid any attention except the Jewish Timesand the Forward, which have carried some very good accounts of what’s going on. What is going on is important for several reasons, in addition to the usual interest in spy stories. Not the least of what’s interesting is that Israel and its friends are supposed to be allies of the United States, not spies on it.

Defenders of Israel will say (as they said back when Jonathan Pollard was nabbed for espionage for Israel in the 1980s) that friendly countries spy on their friends all the time. Well, maybe they do, but I’ve never heard of it in recent decades.

I have never heard that the United States spied on Great Britain or France or Germany since the end of World War II or those countries on us, nor has there ever been any espionage case in this or other countries involving Americans spying on them or their spying on us. With the Pollard case, you can’t say that about Israel.

As for AIPAC, the original interest in the case was that Mr. Franklin was supposed to have met with AIPAC officials and an Israeli intelligence agent and handed over classified documents. What that might mean is that Mr. Franklin was not acting for himself but for his boss, Mr. Feith, or Mr. Feith’s boss, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, both of whom are known to be very pro-Israeli. And what that might mean is that the whole neo-conservative cadre in the Pentagon is and has been all along an Israeli espionage operation.

So far nobody has suggested that openly, and AIPAC itself insists it’s innocent. After the Dec. 1 raid, it released a public statement that read in part, “Neither AIPAC nor any member of our staff has broken any law. We are fully cooperating with the governmental authorities. We believe any court of law or grand jury will conclude that AIPAC employees have always acted legally, properly and appropriately.”

That’s swell, but AIPAC can’t possibly say such a thing truthfully. How can its leaders know that no “member of our staff” has broken the law? The very issuance of a statement impossible to substantiate is suspicious.

More recently, the Forward reported that Mr. Franklin may have been acting as a provocateur for the FBI in a sting operation, that the target was never (or is no longer) Mr. Franklin but AIPAC itself—as “an unregistered agent of a foreign power,” namely Israel.

AIPAC, it’s hardly a secret, zealously and faithfully defends Israel, but it does so ostensibly as the representative of American supporters of Israel, not as the agent of Israel itself. If in fact it is taking orders from the Israeli government, it has a problem. To act as an agent of a foreign power without registering as such with the government just happens to be a very serious federal felony in this country. Many foreign agents avoid such legal problems by registering. AIPAC doesn’t.

As the Forward commented last week,

“registering as a foreign agent would require AIPAC to provide significantly more detailed information about its aims and activities to the government—thereby robbing the group of a key weapon, the ability to operate behind the scenes.”

But, also according to the Forward account, Mr. Franklin, as part of the FBI’s sting operation,

“was involved in initiating contact with some neoconservative defense experts, several of them Jewish, who supported Ahmad Chalabi, president of the Iraqi National Congress. Chalabi had deep ties to Bush administration officials.” [See here or here]

There’s a grand jury investigation of AIPAC going on right now, yet despite what has been a long-term investigation by the federal government, President Bush addressed an AIPAC meeting last May, and Condoleeza Rice addressed an AIPAC affiliate in Florida in October. That might suggest there’s no fire behind the FBI’s smoke.

Then again, it might also mean this administration is simply determined to smother the fire before its flames burn up some of its key officials.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel Lobby 
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So who says Islamic fanatics don’t celebrate Christmas? This week our friends in Al Qaeda sent Americans a little present in the form of a massive murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Jidda that, after three hours of vicious gun play, left nine people dead. Happy Holidays.

Readers should excuse my cynicism about the brutal attack, but a certain amount of cynicism is perhaps in order when you consider that after two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and months of not very successful counter-insurgency warfare in the latter country, Al Qaeda remains entirely capable of launching the very kind of onslaught it just did. What does that tell us?

What it told President Bush is that “the terrorists are still on the move,” a sentiment which for once is unexceptionable. “They’re interested in affecting the will of free countries” [Presumably he means Saudi Arabia.] They want us to leave Saudi Arabia [That also is true, and why shouldn't they?] They want us to leave Iraq [right again, though it might be noted that only since the U.S. invasion of Iraq has Al Qaeda played any role in that country.] They want us to grow timid and weary in the face of their willingness to kill randomly and kill innocent people. [Yes, that's more or less the terrorist strategy]. And that’s why these elections in Iraq are very important. [Hello?]”

Well, what the attack in Jidda tells Mr. Bush is one thing, but what it should tell us (and him) is that the great war on terror has been pretty much of a flop. We should have known that from the Madrid bombing last spring, and we should certainly have known that from the protracted unpleasantness in Iraq itself, where the guerrilla insurgency (or, if you prefer, terrorism) continues to flourish, despite months of American casualties and combat. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, fresh from a cheery review of the smashing success of the “war against terrorism” in Iraq, now pronounces that we can probably pull U.S. troops out of Iraq in four years.

That’s after the troop increase the Pentagon has just called for, and it will depend on “the progress that Iraq’s civilian government and security forces made by then,” as the New York Times reports. So there’s no guarantee whatsoever that we will be able to withdraw in four years at all.

Meanwhile, the president of Pakistan informed Mr. Bush last week that his government has not the foggiest idea as to where the fabled Osama bin Laden might be. A few weeks ago, U.S. authorities were claiming they had the terrorist mastermind in their gunsights, but President Musharraf has a different tale. “He is alive,” he affirmed,“but more than that, where he is, no, it’ll be just a guess and it won’t have much basis.”

It’s not all his fault, he also says, because the United States just doesn’t have enough troops in Afghanistan to ferret Osama out of his den and because it’s hard to tell who is and who isn’t really part of Al Qaeda and because of all sorts of other reasons, most of which add up to one nightmarish conclusion: The “war on terror” to which Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have committed this country is not really winnable at all.

It is not winnable because it is not a war in the conventional sense that Western nations have historically fought wars. Western wars, from the Middle Ages on, have consisted of fairly brief periods of conflict between discrete forces. After a bit, one side or the other is exhausted or defeated, and the war is over. That is not how gentlemen like Osama bin Laden and his friends fight “wars.”

War for them is a way of life, which is why you don’t hear much from them for long periods of time, when they suddenly blow up a couple of skyscrapers or hit a consulate or slaughter several dozen civilians. War—”jihad”—is not a deviation from the normal course of affairs for them. It is the normal course of affairs.

And it’s also a process that makes no distinction between civilian and combatant, which is why we call it “terrorist.” Hence, it’s impossible to protect against. If you protect the skyscrapers, they hit the commuter trains. If you cover the commuter trains, they hit the shopping malls.

Finally, it is a war we, the West and the United States, don’t have to fight at all, or at least one we didn’t have to fight before Mr. Bush and his advisers had the brilliant idea of dragging us into it. It ought to be obvious to everyone today that we will not and cannot win it. The question now should be, how do we get out of it?

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Terrorism 
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After 30-something years of mass immigration, legal and illegal, the immigration issue finally tiptoed into the national political discussion in the third and final presidential debate this month, with moderator Bob Schieffer acknowledging that he had received more e-mail about that issue than any other.

Neither candidate, of course, had anything serious, intelligent or even true to say about the subject, but at least it was mentioned. Of course by now it may be too late to talk about it at all.

It may too late to talk about it because the immediate danger immigration presents to our national safety may already have materialized.

If pregnant Mexican women can sneak over the border, there’s every reason to think that terrorists can. But if they do, we may not know about it until they let us know themselves.

Speaking in Nogales, Arizona, last month, Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge proudly informed the state where 40 percent of illegal aliens enter the country that he had seen no sign of terrorist efforts to cross the border.

Mr. Ridge was in Nogales to “announce two high-tech lanes for cutting waiting times for commercial trucks at the port of entry,”according to local television reports. Not to worry about terrorism, you see, when high-tech trade with Mexico is on the platter.[U.S. won't militarize its borders, Ridge says AP, September 28, 2004]

That was just before the Washington Times reported, on Sept. 28, that law enforcement authorities say that “A top al Qaeda lieutenant has met with leaders of a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with roots in Mexico and the United States—including a stronghold in the Washington [DC] area—in an effort by the terrorist network to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border.” [Al Qaeda seeks tie to local gangs, By Jerry Seper]

The distinguished visitor from the terrorist group that brought us the World Trade Center attacks is a gentleman named Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who was observed in Canada last year and is said to have been seeking to obtain materials with which he could construct a “dirty bomb,” a conventional explosive with radioactive materials.

The gentleman is also, the Times reported again on Oct. 5, “believed by authorities to have met with alien smugglers in Mexico and Honduras, seeking help in bringing al Qaeda members illegally into the United States. This is what Mr. Ridge said he has “seen no sign” of.

The smugglers in question are members of the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha, a band of thugs and killers active in this country as well as Central America, thanks to the accomplishments of the Open Borders lobby over the years. Mr. Ridge really ought to read the newspapers some time.

Apparently, Mr. Ridge did, because a couple of weeks later, speaking in Canada, Mr. Ridge told an audience that “There isn’t a day that goes by, literally, where a couple of people aren’t turned away from our borders because they are associated in some manner, shape or form with terrorists or terror-related organizations. That, of course, is a blatant contradiction of what he said in Nogales earlier.

But maybe “turning people away from our borders” refers merely to aliens trying to cross legally. The more serious concern in national security is those who try to cross illegally—like the esteemed El Shukrijumah.

But then, not to worry about him, because the new chief of the federal police force in Mexico says there’s no danger from terrorists anyway.

“Up until now, we have not detected one terrorist in this country,” Adm. Jose Luis Figueroa told a news conference in Mexico City a week after his appointment. Later he added, “I don’t think the border is a place, a target, for fundamentalist Islam movements.”

As is the case with Mr. Ridge, of course, it really doesn’t matter what the new chief thinks about any of it, and we may all be better off not knowing what he thinks.

What matters is whether Al Qaeda or other terrorists really are entering the country and what either the Mexican or the U.S. government are doing to stop that.

As used to be said of spies, it’s not the ones you catch you need to worry about; it’s the ones you don’t that cause problems.

The fact that Mr. Schieffer—not either of the two candidates—finally decided to bring up the subject of illegal immigration in a presidential debate should not disguise the larger truth that this was the first time in this election—and indeed apparently the first time in any election in the last 30 years—that the immigration issue has been mentioned at all.

As what Mr. Ridge and Admiral Figueroa said suggests, there’s no reason to believe it will be mentioned again—until, perhaps, we hear more from Mr. El Shukrijumah and his friends in Mexico and Central America.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Immigration 
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As President Bush’s lead in the polls started to wobble after his first debate with John Kerry last week, White House haggling over certain legislative proposals in Congress could deal the finishing blow to Mr. Bush’s hopes to remain president.

The legislation, known as H.R. 10,” concerns both immigration and national security.

H.R. 10 is the House leadership’s intelligence reform bill, which grew out of the report of the 9/11 Commission, released last summer. Parts of the bill reflect what the commission learned about how foreign terrorists use loopholes in our immigration laws (long supported by the Open Borders lobby) to wage terror against the country.

The legislation tries to close several of those loopholes.

The new restrictions curtail the acceptance of the consular ID cards that foreign countries issue to their nationals who are in this country illegally. The bill also sets federal standards for issuing drivers’ licenses that would make it harder for illegal aliens to get them.

Both measures would be major blows against foreign terrorists trying to sneak into or stay in this country.

And the bill would make deportation of illegal aliens easier, restricting judicial reviews of deportation proceedings and doing away with exempting aliens who claim they face torture if they return to their own countries.

In short, these are tough measures, intended to make the United States safer and controlling illegal immigration easier.

The White House opposed them.

As the Washington Times reported this week,

“The White House has told House Republicans that it wants them to remove provisions in their intelligence-overhaul bill that would crack down on illegal aliens’ obtaining drivers’ licenses, allow easier deportation and limit the use of foreign consular ID cards.” [House told to alter intelligence bill, By Stephen Dinan, October 4, 2004]

The Times quoted a congressional source as saying, ““They [the White House] have expressed desire to kill some of the immigration provisions and gut some others,” and Rosemary Jenks, with the immigration reform group Numbers USA, reports that “White House policy officials met with Republican staffers to urge them to remove the provisions, even though White House officials initially had signed off on those same provisions before the bill was introduced officially.”

The bill’s restrictions are strongly supported by citizens’ groups representing families of the victims of 9/11, and the leader of one such group says bluntly he will drop his support if the White House stripping effort succeeds.

For reasons that should be obvious, the White House doesn’t want its opposition to the bill’s provisions known.

Not only was the president’s amnesty proposal back in January a total bomb even before it was dropped on the House floor, but the White House opposition to reasonable, long needed and widely supported measures intended to protect the nation’s internal security and control illegal immigration would explode in the president’s face if the truth got out just before the election.

But some of the truth has already gotten out, as in the Times’ stories, and the White House may be backing off.

After a meeting this week, the House leadership supporting the measures made it clear they would stick by them. The Senate has already passed a companion bill, but without the provisions of the House bill.

The House leadership wanted to pass the bill before the election (so the Republicans could take credit for it—a political motivation, but a reasonable one), but it can’t take credit for legislation that the White House has stripped of its most important provisions.

Even Mr. Bush’s rival Sen. Kerry, hardly a pillar of iron on immigration himself, could ridicule Mr. “War on Terrorism” Bush gutting anti-terrorist language in his own party’s bill.

White House support for removing the measures aimed at illegal aliens is frightening enough, but what’s even more frightening is that there appeared to be no political reason for what the White House was trying to do.

Because the White House opposition was supposed to be secret, it could not have benefited Mr. Bush or his party with Hispanic voters.

And what is frightening about that is that it means the White House apparently really believes its own propaganda on immigration—or at least the propaganda the Open Borders crowd feeds it.

The measures the House leadership wants to enact are aimed at illegal immigration, but they are not really in the field of immigration law and policy so much as national security.

And in the wake of 9/11 and the report of the 9/11 Commission, there’s every good reason for the administration to support such measures—political reasons as well as their intrinsic merits.

The terrifying truth about this administration is that even when it has on its side both merit and political motivation to control illegal immigration and protect national security, it chooses to help the illegals instead of its own nation and people.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Immigration, Terrorism 
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Having made such a smashing success out of its war with Iraq, the Bush administration now seems to be pondering the glories of yet another one in Iran.

In recent weeks, various administration officials and their amen corner in the neoconservative press have muttered and mumbled about the perils of Iran suddenly developing—guess what?—“weapons of mass destruction.”

Is there nothing that can embarrass these people?

Then there’s the matter of Iranian support for terrorism, which is probably more or less real, or certainly has been in the past. Not long after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and President Bush himself started warning about Iranian nukes in the last month, the Iraqi government began whining that Tehran was actually helping arm the militias that the world’s youngest democracy in the Middle East seems unable to defeat.

Of course Iran may well be helping the militias. Many of the latter, like the Iranians, are Shiite, and because of past unpleasantnesses with Iraq, Tehran has every reason to want a friendly Shiite regime in Baghdad rather than governments like those of either Saddam Hussein or the current one.

But the main reason (or rather rationalization) for a snit with Iran by the United States is the sudden blossoming of its nuclear capacities.

Last week Mr. Bolton, a major proponent of war with Iraq, described Iran’s weapons as “grave threats to international security” and claimed Iranian diplomats told European diplomats they could produce nuclear weapons within a year.

The Europeans don’t quite bear out that version of what the Iranians said, but since when do you expect accuracy from this administration?

Even before Mr. Bolton’s remarks, Dr. Rice unloosed some of her own on CNN. Despite years of American warnings about Iranian nukes, nobody paid attention, but now, the world is “worried and suspicious” as we said they should be all along. “The United States,” Dr. Rice insisted, “was the first to say that Iran was a threat in this way,”[Transcript] and she came very close to saying the United States would take pre-emptive action if Iran didn’t just junk the whole thing.

Since the administration still insists its war with Iraq was justified as preemption, and since the basis for a preemptive strike on Iran is the same as that offered for the one on Iraq, war would seem to be the logical thing to do.

But when top officials like Dr. Rice and Mr. Bolton call another state a “threat,” war becomes more than just logical—it lurches toward the probable.

And war is exactly what the war party in the neoconservative hive wants and has wanted for some time.

Last month, neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer informed us that the imminence of Iran’s acquisition of nukes makes “the question of preemptive attack all the more urgent.” “If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the ‘Great Satan’ will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and the missiles to deliver them.” Wow, just like Iraq, remember?

[Axis of Evil, Part Two? Charles Krauthammer, July 23, 2004]

Then there’s Michael Ledeen, also a charter member of the Let’s-have-a-war-with-everybody-as-long-as-they’re-Muslims persuasion. Mr. Ledeen has been growling for a U.S. war with Iran for years, and especially in the last month on the grounds, among others, that Iran has links with Al Qaeda.

Some observers argue that the administration is ginning up another war with Iran to mask its failures in Iraq, but in fact, as the rumblings from chaps like Mr. Krauthammer and Mr. Ledeen (and others) suggest, war with Iran has long been on the neocon table anyway, regardless of the immediate threats it may or may not pose to anybody.

For its part, Iran has met all this bluster from the administration and its friendlies with predictable threats of its own. Last week the Iranian Defense Minister announced that Iran might just launch its own pre-emptive strikes against U.S. troops in the area if it thought its nuclear facilities were threatened.

Iran’s response is predictable for the simple reason that most of what the administration accuses it of is not only probably true but also probably justifiable from the perspective of its own security, especially given the U.S. war with Iraq.

Having seen what the United States has done and is willing to do in Iraq, neither Tehran nor any other government in the region should delude itself that we and the armchair Napoleons of neoconservatism would not do it to them. It therefore has every good reason to prepare for war.

And what that means, of course, is that the entire Middle East may now be on the eve of yet another generation of war and chaos—which is one reason some people opposed the war with Iraq in the first place.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Neocons 
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It must be difficult for President Bush’s speechwriters to keep coming up with plausible reasons as to why the United States should have gone to war with Iraq, but the White House wordsmiths surely earn their salaries.

This week the president took himself to a rally in Tennessee where he once again explained why “we were right to go into Iraq.”

The reasons his speechwriters gave him were as fanciful as anything the CIA and the Pentagon ever offered.

We were right to go into Iraq, the president insisted, “although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.”

Stockpiles? We haven’t even found a teacup of the weapons Mr. Bush and his advisers swore existed.

But the main reason it was right for us to “go into Iraq,” according to the speechwriters, is that “America and the world are safer.”

Are they really? Tell that to the good folks of Madrid or Bali or Istanbul or Saudi Arabia or Casablanca or various other places around the world that have received the attentions of the global terrorist network Mr. Bush’s war has helped crystallize and unify.

Even as Mr. Bush was telling voters they were safer, his own administration was warning of terrorist attacks in this country before the elections.

We are not safer now than before the war because the war accomplished absolutely nothing to deter or destroy the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and others. Indeed, the war with Iraq did much to solidify the terrorists of Al Qaeda with the discontented masses of the Arabic and Muslim world, so that today we face virtually two continents united in hatred of the United States, in addition to millions of Middle Eastern immigrants the West has foolishly allowed to invade its own territories.

But of course Mr. Bush had to say something, and what else can he say at this point to defend the war, after virtually every reason he and his administration originally offered in justification has been proved false—most recently by the release last week of the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a body controlled by his own party? [Report PDF23 megabytes!]

The report found that the intelligence estimates of October, 2002 claiming that Iraq was rebuilding its nuclear capacities and that it possessed chemical and biological weapons were “overstated or were not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.”

Nor were claims of Iraqi support for Al Qaeda accurate. Estimates of the 1990s pointing to relations between Iraq and the terrorists “did not add up to an established formal relationship,” and “there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an Al Qaeda attack.”

Yet even today the administration and its water-fetchers in the conservative press insist that there was such an alliance.

The last conclusion of the Intelligence Committee is perhaps more questionable. It holds that there is no evidence of “pressure” from the administration on the CIA to come up with the interpretations it wanted.

The conclusion is questionable because the estimates the intelligence community offered always just happened to come out the way the White House and its war party wanted. Incompetence tends to be random, and if the spy agencies were so crippled that they repeatedly missed the intelligence they should have had or misinterpreted what they did have, the estimates they offered would not all have pointed in the same direction.

Moreover, there was clear opportunity for pressure. As TheWashington Post reported, the public White Paper the CIA produced that was based on its classified National Intelligence Estimate originated in a meeting between CIA Deputy Director (now acting Director) John McLaughlin and National Security Council staffers, apparently in May, 2002. The NSC boys requested the White Paper, and Mr. McLauchlin rushed back to Langley and got busy. [Report Says CIA Distorted Iraq Data By Dana Priest, July 12, 2004]

At that meeting alone, not to mention any other communications CIA officials may have had with the administration, “pressure” was virtually unavoidable, if today entirely unprovable. The war party inside the administration wanted and needed justifications for the war that could be offered to the public, and the CIA leadership knew that’s what they wanted.

There can be no reasonable doubt that the tidy and convenient little estimates the agency finally came up with were exactly what they were supposed to produce.

And what that means is that the administration deliberately lied about the justifications for the war.

What this administration has done is not only concoct a tissue of lies to drag us into a war we should not have fought but also help unite the enemies we already had before the war and help solidify them with new enemies the administration has helped create.

In the election campaign that looms before us, it will be fascinating to hear how the president’s speechwriters will explain and justify that accomplishment.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq 
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Well over a year ago, neoconservative David Frum unleashed an unpleasant gob of spit in National Review accusing a number of veteran conservative writers (including me) of being “unpatriotic conservatives [NRO, March 19, 2003] because we opposed President Bush’s war with Iraq.

Today Mr. Frum ought to rewrite his article. The founder and editor of National Review himself, William F. Buckley Jr., has declared that he would not have supported the war either had he known then what he knows now.

Mr. Buckley’s confession came out in the New York Times last week, when he announced his retirement from the magazine that, in its first issue of November 19, 1955, boasted it would “stand athwart history and cry stop.” [National Review Founder to Leave Stage,June 29, 2004, By David D. Kirkpatrick.]

Today, nearly fifty years later, it has conspicuously failed to do so, but Mr. Buckley is to be congratulated on at least having the intellectual honesty to acknowledge he was wrong about supporting history’s unfortunate double time into Iraq.

“With the benefit of minute hindsight,” he told the Times,“Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

That makes Mr. Buckley as much of an “unpatriotic conservative,”by Mr. Frum’s standards, as Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, Chroniclesmagazine, Robert Novak, me or any of the other unusual suspects he lumped into the unpatriotic category.

The only difference is that we didn’t have to wait until more than 800 Americans and an untold number of Iraqis were dead, billions of dollars wasted, and half the planet despising us to know what would happen.

Nevertheless, if Mr. Buckley’s confession is honest, though a bit overdue, it’s not terribly typical. Thanks in no small part to his contributions in recent years, neoconservative hysterics like Mr. Frum and the lightweight kiddy-cons Mr. Buckley has handpicked to run his magazine have virtually destroyed the real right that Mr. Buckley himself helped kick off back in 1955.

Indeed, that’s a large part of the reason the left has come to regard Mr. Buckley so highly.

National Review for decades was the major and sometimes the only voice of serious conservatism in the country, and for a while it did indeed cry stop at the oncoming freight train of the future. Mr. Buckley assembled the leading conservative thinkers and writers of his generation to issue the magazine’s challenge—James Burnham, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, Willmore Kendall, Whittaker Chambers and others.

Most of them today have still not won the recognition they deserve, and one reason they haven’t is that neoconservatives have rejected and ignored them and their works—not infrequently with Mr. Buckley’s help.

Indeed, looking at what Mr. Buckley himself has done in the last couple of decades, it’s hard to resist the view that it was the men he originally brought together at his magazine rather than his own mind and pen that made National Review the intellectual and political success it was.

As his colleagues and editors died off—several of them prematurely—Mr. Buckley failed either to replace them or take up their legacies. After they were gone, he seemed to forget most of what they had tried to impart. His own efforts started wandering—into spy novels and travel memoirs that were strikingly forgettable and today are all but forgotten.

Since at least the 1980s, Mr. Buckley has encouraged the alliance of real conservatives with the neocons and has done little if anything to pull the newcomers in the proper direction.

Instead, he at least acquiesced in and often promoted the dilution and distortion of conservatism the neo-cons were injecting.

The Frum article last year is a case in point. Nowhere in it did Mr. Frum come even close to proving his claim that the anti-war right has “made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe” or that “some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation’s enemies,” and had he been a bit more specific as to who exactly he was talking about here, he might have enjoyed a libel suit.

Nevertheless, Mr. Buckley allowed these charges to be published in the magazine he controlled.

Today he says the people Mr. Frum smeared were right all along.

An apology is more than overdue.

William F. Buckley Jr. brought many gifts to American conservatism, and much of what all conservatives today know and think could never have flourished without his efforts.

It’s his tragedy and that of the movement he helped found that they finished up riding on the caboose of the very train they once vowed to halt.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Neocons 
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Probably nothing has made neoconservative chicken hawks flap and crow quite like the conclusion announced last week by the Sept 11 Commission that it could establish no “collaborative relationship”between Al Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein.

For the next several days the Bush administration (including the president himself) and its water-fetchers in the media insisted the Commission didn’t know what it was talking about. [Commission Staff Statement PDF] I guess if you say it three times, it’s true.

But no matter how many times the armchair warriors claim Saddam and Al Qaeda were in cahoots, there remains no evidence to establish that, let alone that Saddam knew about or was involved in the attacks of 9/11.

There were, as both the administration and the Commission seem to agree, some “links” or “connections” or “contacts” between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but no substantive support of the terrorists by Baghdad and in particular no participation in Al Qaeda’s attacks against U.S. targets.

As for the “links,” “contacts,” etc., of course they existed. The Baghdad government would have been nuts not to stay in touch with the terrorists, not only to see what they were up to as much as it could but also to make sure the mad mullahs in Osama bin Laden’s stable didn’t decide to turn the wrath of Allah against the less than pious Saddam himself.

Governments, good ones or bad ones, often maintain what are called “back channel” contacts with unsavory elements—terrorists, spies, criminals, even neoconservatives.

It’s true the administration never actually claimed that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks, but some spokesmen rather encouraged people to think so.

Even more than the administration itself, its chicken-hawk allies in the neocon media pushed this claim for all it was worth—which turns out to be not very much.

Back before snoopy commissions started poking into what actually happened, neoconservative pundits jabbered constantly about the murky ties between Iraq and 9/11. The pièce de résistance was the supposed meeting between Mohammed Atta, who masterminded the attacks, and an Iraqi diplomat in Prague on April 9, 2001.

Neoconservative columnist William Safire was the first to claim this meeting showed a connection of Iraq with 9/11, and even after published news stories showed it never happened, Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, insisted that the Czech ambassador assured him it did take place. [Mohamed Atta Was Here,Fred Barnes Weekly Standard August 6, 2003]

The evidence for the meeting is a videotape of the Iraqi diplomat in Prague walking and talking with an unidentified man said to be Atta.

There’s no doubt the diplomat did meet with somebody. There are two questions: Was it Atta, and if so, what did they talk about?

Mr. Barnes did not hesitate to leap to the conclusion that the meeting proved that Iraq was in on the 9/11 attacks. “The meeting has political and international importance,” he puffed. “A connection between Iraq and Atta, an al Qaeda operative under Osama bin Laden, bolsters the case for military action by the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.”

Well, yes, that was the whole point, wasn’t it, and it’s the reason the chicken hawks are so infuriated that the Sept. 11 Commission can’t find any “collaborative relationship” at all between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

As for the famous Atta chat with the Iraqi diplomat, the Commission has now shown that it almost certainly did not take place at all. Atta is known to have withdrawn money from his Virginia bank account on April 4, five days before the meeting, and calls are known to have been made from his cell phone on April 6, 9, 10, and 11—from Florida, not Prague. [No Evidence of Meeting With Iraqi By James Risen, NYT June 17, 2004]

Either Atta left his cell phone with someone else (most dubious—no self-respecting terrorist would let his cell phone out of his possession; it’s like letting somebody else use your toothbrush) or was able to bilocate magically from Florida to Prague.

Or—as unthinkable as it may be to some people—Atta never met with the Iraqi at all.

The non-meeting has even more “political and international importance” than a real meeting, because the non-meeting means the whole case for the Al Qaeda-Saddam link collapses, as does the chicken hawk-administration case for “military action by the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime.”

The really fascinating question about the whole Iraq war is one the Commission has not explored and probably won’t: Just exactly how many lies did the Neoconservatives who engineered the war concoct?

We have known for more than a year now that the “weapons of mass destruction” claims were fake.

Now we know the same about Al Qaeda and its “links” with Iraq.

There are several other whoppers they also fabricated.

Somebody really ought to investigate.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iraq, Neocons 
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In the unlikely event you might have considered taking seriously last week’s warnings by the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI that Al Qaeda is planning another terrorist attack on the United States, Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge was able to put you at your ease.

Don’t let a little terrorism spoil the Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Ridge urged .

“America’s job is to enjoy living in this great country and go out and have some fun,” he pronounced on CBS’s Early Show.

Meanwhile the seven Al Qaeda operatives whom he says are planning the attack are nowhere to be found, leading the director and the Attorney General to beg Americans to give them a tip. [FBI Seeks Tips on 7 Linked to Al Qaeda, By Susan Schmidt and John Mintz Washington Post May 27, 2004]

Actually, I have a tip for them.

I don’t know where the terrorists are, but I have an idea as to how they might get into the country if they’re not already here. If pregnant Mexican women can cross what we still merrily call our “borders”illegally and with impunity, I’ll bet trained Al Qaeda terrorists can.

For all anyone (including the FBI and Homeland Security) knows, the terrorists may be serving Big Macs in your neighborhood today.

Largely because of President Bush’s foolish amnesty proposal in January, illegal immigration has increased ever since. Aliens hope they can get inside the country to take advantage of what they hope will soon be law. The Border Patrol reports that detentions of illegals, which it uses to estimate how many aliens have actually entered the country, rose 25 percent in the six months before March 31, to a modest 535,000. That’s 535,000 illegals caught. The number that actually got through is much greater.

How many terrorists were among them? The Un-Magnificent Seven for whom the FBI is looking, or 7,000?

Perhaps we will find out this summer.

Then again, maybe the seven are already here, as some of them have a right to be under the immigration and naturalization laws that allowed them to come. Consider who they are.

Adnan G. Shukrijumah, a native of Saudi Arabia who, as the Washington Post reports Attorney General Ashcroft’s description, “has made repeated attempts to get back into the United States using false passports.” If Mr. Ashcroft knows that, why wasn’t this immigrant arrested for carrying the fake documents?

Aaifa Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who holds a doctorate from M.I.T.,Amer El-Maati, a Canadian citizen born in Kuwait,” and Abderraouf Jdey, “a Canadian citizen born in Tunisia,” are others sought by the FBI who are not exactly home-grown terrorists.

As for the other three, it’s not clear if they have ever been in this country or not, let alone whether they might be here now.

As to why Mr. Ashcroft and Director Mueller think they are planning a terrorist attack, you probably don’t have to be James Bond to figure it out.

As the Attorney General remarked, “al Qaeda’s public statements indicate its intentions. Just after New Year’s Day, al Qaeda announced that plans for an attack on the United States were 70 percent complete.” After Madrid, they said the plans were 90 percent complete.

It was predictable at the time of the Madrid bombing (in fact I predicted it), if not before, that al Qaeda had every reason to plan a similar attack here. If one attack in Madrid could knock Spanish forces out of the war in Iraq, imagine what one in the United States just before the election could do.

Finally, it might be safer for everyone if the FBI didn’t try to locate the suspected terrorists or do much of anything about the threat.

Since they have arrested an innocent man, Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield, for involvement in the Madrid bombing, issued enough sinister insinuations about scientist Steven Hatfill’s supposed role in the 2001 anthrax attacks to lose him his job, harassed Atlanta security guard Richard Jewell for a 1996 Olympic Games bombing he didn’t commit and managed to kill the innocent wife and son of (also innocent) white separatist Randy Weaver in a 1992 sniper attack in Idaho, it might be a good idea if the FBI just went back to doing something harmless like chasing bank robbers.

Having launched two wars and conquered (sort of) two countries in the “war on terrorism,” the Bush administration now solemnly informs us what every schoolboy already knows—the terrorists are still out there (or, worse, maybe even in here), and are planning another attack.

Apparently unable to find much of anyone except innocent people, the FBI and the vast federal “internal security” labyrinth pleads for average citizens to help them out, while the government does nothing about the ever-escalating invasion and colonization of the country by illegal aliens.

And the best Mr. Ridge can tell us is, Go out and have some fun.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Immigration, Terrorism 
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Is there any particular reason why Americans should be surprised at the tales of torture coming out of the world’s youngest democracy in Iraq?

What else exactly did you expect? That we really went to Iraq for the purpose of creating a democracy?

My purpose is not to sound either blasé or cynical about the atrocities and abuses American soldiers have been perpetrating on Iraqi prisoners for the last several months or about what looks increasingly like an attempted but bungled cover-up of the details by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

What took place at the torture palace known as Abu Ghraib is brutal and disgusting and merits severe punishment for those involved in it—including the secretary and his advisers.

But I suspect the story is far from over.

It’s not over because what happened there in many respects is a logical development of the way this country went to war in the first place. Stoked to the eyeballs with perfectly justified anger over the September 11 attacks, Americans allowed themselves to be hornswoggled by the Bush crowd that virtually all Arabs or Moslems were in some vague way implicated in the attacks.

Neoconservative propagandists who beat the war drums loudest welcomed that linkage, if only to crank the country into the proper mood for going after Saddam Hussein.

Self-righteousness wedded to blanket generalizations about the Middle East does not encourage careful distinctions about justice and injustice. That neither Saddam nor any Iraqi had anything to do with 9/11 was lost as the administration slyly allowed that impression to sink in.

Probably far more than the myths of “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” the unstated implication of Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks and support for anti-American terrorism in general helped drag the country toward war.

On top of that little bit of deceit, there is the larger neoconservative rationalization for the war (and all the future wars they expect us to fight), namely, imperialism. The Weekly Standard and other neo-con publications for the last several years have rehearsed the stale arguments for imperialism constantly, well before 9/11.

Interviewed in the Washington Post in August, 2001, Thomas Donnelly, deputy executive director of the neo-con think tank Project for the New American Century, called for nothing less. “In ways similar though not identical to the Roman and British empires, he argues, the United States is an empire of democracy or liberty—it is not conquering land or establishing colonies, but it has a dominating global presence militarily, economically, and culturally.” [Empire or Not? A Quiet Debate Over U.S. Role By Thomas E. Ricks August 21, 2001]

Mr. Donnelly’s neat little ideas merely reflected a global strategy plan crafted by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz a decade ago in the first Bush administration. The war with Iraq is the logical outcome.

And so is torture.

Does anyone really think you can wage war against other countries, conquer them, depose their leaders and overthrow their ruling classes, and then get involved in a protracted guerrilla war without “violating human rights”?

The imperialism peddled by the neo-cons may not be “identical” to the imperialism of the past, but it’s close enough that the more imperial we become, the more identical will be the tactics we deploy.

In a recent essay, paleoconservative political thinker Claes Ryn argues that the “democratic imperialism” the United States has embraced descends ultimately from the crusading fanaticism of the Jacobins of the French Revolution—and with much the same consequences.

“The ideas of the French Jacobins provided a sweeping justification for exercising unlimited power. As followers of Rousseau, the Jacobins were not content with reforming historically evolved ways of life. ‘Freedom, equality and brotherhood’ required the radical remaking of society. Because of the scope and glory of the task, the Jacobins had to gather all power unto themselves and deal ruthlessly with opposition. Good stood against evil, all good on one side—their side. The Jacobins called themselves ‘the virtuous.’ In the twentieth century, their communist descendants offered an even more blanket justification for wielding unlimited power….

“Americans attracted to the Jacobin spirit have therefore sought … to redefine American principles so as to make them more serviceable to the will to power. They have propounded a new myth—the myth of America the Virtuous—according to which America is a unique and noble country called to remake the world in its own image. The myth provides another sweeping justification for dominating others.”[Which American? by Claes G. Ryn,, May 5, 2004]

Professor Ryn’s remarks were uttered well before the horror stories from Abu Ghraib started to emerge, but just as Edmund Burke foresaw the Jacobins’ Reign of Terror enforced with the guillotine, so paleoconservatives foresaw what would happen once the New Jacobins launched their own empire of virtue backed up by torture.

Americans can either pull back from those consequences now—or get used to more horror stories.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Torture 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”