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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Simmering Neocon Rebellion against Bush

There is an emerging conflict between the political interests of George Bush and the Republican Party, on the one hand, and the pro-war neoconservatives on the other. Bush and the Republicans need to find a way out of Iraq and to effectuate a military pull-back before public opinion turns against them irreversibly (and in time for the November, 2006 elections), while the neocons still harbor dreams of a U.S.-led Greater Middle Eastern conflict, for which Iraq is but a beginning step. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and a whole host of other targets remain for us to squash. For them, this is no time to be thinking about how to reduce our Middle Eastern militarism. Really, for them, there is never a good time for that.

Bush keeps delivering some hawk-ish sounding speeches which are keeping the neocon rebellion simmering at a low heat. But as it becomes more and more apparent that the Administration cannot sustain -- either politically or militarily -- prolonged military conflict in Iraq, and certainly not beyond Iraq, this conflict will explode.

The National Review's volatile Michael Leeden is always a little bit out in front of the neocon curve, so it’s always useful to check in and see which weak-willed, war-averse Neville Chamberlain he is railing against for the week. For Ledeen, war can never come fast enough and there is no such thing as excessive aggression in our foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Thus, one would expect him to be sitting on a pile of ready-to-explode rage as a result of all of this pansy talk of troop withdraw and Iraqi conferences that we've been hearing so much about.

And, indeed, Ledeen -- foreshadowing an imminent neocon rebellion -- is just besides himself. The greatest thing a man can aspire to in the eyes of our war-waging neocon friends is to exhibit the courage and internal fortitude of Winston Churchill, the Neocon Patron Saint of War-Waging Resolve. Conversely, the greatest insult a man can suffer in the Neocon universe is to be accused of lacking Churchillian fortitude. Every political figure is either the grand, great Churchill or the meek, fearful Neville Chamberlain, and every political question can be reduced to whether one would give up Czechoslovakia to the Nazis or wage vicious war.

Writing in National Review today, Michael Ledeen spends an entire column excoriating Bush for his irresolute weakness in dealing with the Iraqi Sunnis and Iranian Shiites. For Ledeen, these are our enemies and nothing less than waging full-scale war on them will fulfill the Churchillian ideal. Ledeen’s column is revealingly entitled “Preemptive Surrender," and he’s not talking about Michael Moore or even Jack Murtha. The surrender monkey here is George Bush. It seems that the Bush Administration is reprehensibly considering non-war strategies for dealing with these problems, and Ledeen will have none of it. The numerous (really, countless) Middle Eastern enemies of Israel America must be put in their place or destroyed, not negotiated with.

Ledeen means business in this column, and to leave no doubt about just how serious he is, he lets Bush know that, as much as he doesn't want to do it, Ledeen may have to unleash the Ultimate Insult if Bush fails to wage more and more war on everyone this side of Tel Aviv:

Remember Churchill's great judgment on Chamberlain at Munich: He had a choice between war and dishonor; he chose dishonor, and got war.

Bush should not want those terrible words to define his second term, but he is certainly moving in that direction right now.


So, unless Bush stops with all of this negotiation and diplomacy nonsense, we will have to conclude that he was Neville Chamberlain all along, and not the Second Coming of Churchill. For one of the shining missiles of neoconservatism to even be suggesting that George Bush is choosing dishonor over war -- the greatest neocon sin -- why, those are fighting words.

In a completely unrelated and totally coincidental development, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) yesterday issued a statement which was also highly critical of the Bush Administration for negotiating too much with Iran instead of pushing for Iran to be punished with sanctions:

“Last week’s decision allowed Iran to win a critical round in its game of cat and mouse with the international community,” AIPAC said Wednesday in a rare public disagreement with the White House. The statement released by AIPAC added: “We disagree with these decisions and are concerned that these efforts will facilitate Iran´s quest for nuclear weapons, hampering the diplomatic effort to stop Iran before it is too late. This poses a severe danger to the United States and our allies, and puts America and our interests at risk.”

Forget all of this annoying chatter about anti-war public opinion and limitations on our military resources and the civil war and regional instability we seem to be spawning more intensely every day with our occupation of Iraq. The neocons have war to wage and anyone who stands in the way of that war will become the enemy, including George Bush. They turned on their prior hero, Donald Rumsfeld, when he refused to commit even more troops to Iraq and spoke blasphemously of the possibility that we may not be in Iraq forever, and nobody who stands in the way of their Great War is immune, including Bush.

After all: “Remember Churchill's great judgment on Chamberlain at Munich: He had a choice between war and dishonor; he chose dishonor, and got war.” When it comes to the choice between continuing with their war or supporting Bush, the neocons will always choose war. It’s their credo.

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