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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.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Taking the neocon pulse

Mark Steyn's columns are always useful for checking the collective neocon pulse. This week, Steyn can't figure out why it is that decorated Marine Jack Murtha's conversion from pro-war-hawk to anti-war crusader got so much attention, while everyone ignored the earth-shattering Op-Ed written by Joe Lieberman, in which Lieberman announced that he used to be for the war . . . . and still is:

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, came out with a big statement on Iraq last week. Did you hear about it? Probably not. Everyone was still raving about his Democrat colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, whose carefully nuanced position on Iraq is: We're all doomed unless we pull out by next Tuesday! (I quote from memory.) . . .

And, while the media were eager to promote Murtha as the most incisively insightful military expert on the planet, this guy Lieberman's evidently some nobody no one need pay any attention to.

Here's why. His big piece on Iraq was headlined "Our Troops Must Stay."


On the list of unattractive neocon attributes, the need to perpetually cry about the chronic unfairness to which they are subjected ("the media is ignoring us!!") is near the top (right behind their desire to have the U.S. wage eternal war in futile and self-destructive pursuit of conquest of the entire Middle East).

Whatever else one thinks of Jack Murtha's announcement, it was news. Murtha voted for the war, supported it, has long been one of the closest Congressional allies of the Pentagon, and has been a leading defense hawk on Capitol Hill for many years. The fact that someone like him changed his mind and confessed what he believes is his error about the war is not only news in and of itself, but also reflects growing public unrest about the war among precisely the crucial demographic represented by Murtha -- namely, those people who originally supported the war and gave Bush such a solid pro-war majority, but who have now come to believe it was a mistake.

By contrast, Lieberman's announcement that he still favors the war was reflective of nothing. Lieberman has long been a vigorous supporter of the war, and has never been particularly influential in defense policy. That fact that he is still in favor of the war induced what it ought to have induced -- a big yawn.

Steyn would have a reasonable complaint if the media ignored a press conference called by, say, Barbara Boxer in order to announce that she woke up yesterday and realized that her opposition to the war was a big mistake and that she now favors sending more troops along with the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq. But Joe Lieberman saying that he hasn't changed his mind about anything is hardly news.

Steyn again:

Also, the United States Army is "broken," "worn out" and "living hand to mouth." If the reaction to Murtha's remarks by my military readers is anything to go by, he ought to be grateful they're still bogged down in Iraq and not in the congressional parking lot.

Mark Steyn is so angry at Jack Murtha for no longer supporting his little war that he is actually suggesting that members of the military would want to physically attack the 74-year-old, double Purple Heart winner if they could -- all because Murtha had the temerity to say that this war, entailing its third and fourth rotations, is putting a severe strain on the military.

Murtha was called a "coward" on the House floor; Ann Coulter recently insinuated based on nothing that he is hiding facts about how he won his war medals; and now Mark Steyn is claiming that U.S. soldiers want to do physical harm to him. Can we hear again about how much the pro-war Right loves and respects our military veterans? I get all teary-eyed when I listen to that.

More Steyn:

It's just about acceptable in polite society to disagree with Murtha, but only if you do it after a big 20-minute tongue bath about what "a fine man" he is (as Rumsfeld said) or what "a good man" he is (as Cheney called him) or what "a fine man, a good man" he is (as Bush phrased it). Nobody says that about Lieberman, especially on his own side.


There's another heaping of that nice, petulant unfairness whine ("People say nice things about them but not about us!!!").

Joe Lieberman is really great and all, but the reason that so many war defenders felt compelled to praise Jack Murtha is because they first tried attacking him as a surrender-happy subversive coward, thereby repulsing pretty much everyone. Other than Steyn and maybe Michel Ledeen, nobody has been offended by any of the criticism of Lieberman, so there is no corresponding need to heap praise on him.

The remainder of Steyn's article consists of the standard conclusory declarations of victory in Iraq due to how great things are going there - hey, have you heard that the Kurds are having a great tourist season and home heating oil futures are doing well in Basra? Steyn also tells us that getting rid of Saddam by itself would have somehow made the whole war worthwhile even if we achieved no other benefits, as seems to be the case. But we've been hearing that line for awhile now -- ever since it turned out that none of the pre-war justifications for the war worked out.

The only other comment worthy of notice is this one:

The stability fetishists in the State Department and the European Union fail to understand that there is no status quo: things are always moving in some direction...

So, those who think it might be a bad thing to invade and occupy a country and thereby provoke a violent sectarian civil war, intense regional instability, and so much anarchy and chaos that Al Qaeda can freely operate in that country, are now "stability fetishists." That's my favorite new phrase since I learned that those who think the U.S. Government should not be torturing people are really just "torture hysterics."

In addition to much more freedom and enhanced safety, this war is also giving us a great and colorful new lexicon. It's really a war that just never stops giving.

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