Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Neocon and the Liar

Commentary by Martin Kelly
September 28, 2004

On Saturday September 25th, Michael Novak, the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, posted the following item on ‘The Corner’ of National Review Online:

“Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, spoke at breakfast Friday morning at AEI and predicted three spectacular terrorist events in the near future. First, a major destructive action in the United States before election day on November 2, possibly during the last 72 hours, for massive effect in causing confusion and commotion. Second, a dramatic escalation of action in Iraq leading up to November 2, and again in late December and early January to head off the Iraqi election at the end of January. Third, a spectacular attack in the United Kingdom next May to disrupt the re-election campaign of PM Tony Blair”.

‘The Corner’ is not like The Talkback Forum on The Washington Dispatch. It is where the beautiful people of neoconservatism gather to dazzle us with their insight, erudition and elitism, and there are none more dazzling than Michael Novak, the acceptable face of neoconservatism, a Catholic theologian who received the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the author of 25 books who has been translated into every major language and a former Ambassador of the US Delegation to the UN Human Rights Conference in Geneva.

Novak has not gone entirely without criticism – in a scathing essay published in the Houston Catholic Worker in 1999, Mark and Louise Zwick berated him for using ‘Catholicism as window dressing to promote an economic system based solely on self-interest, a system that has nothing to do with the Gospel or Catholic social teaching, (replacing) the heart of Catholicism with Adam Smith and Max Weber (virtue comes to society only through self-interest: the Gospel is a private affair)’

The American Enterprise Institute is both the heart and brain of neoconservatism. Other AEI Fellows include the Blue Bolshevik luminaries Michael ‘Faster, Please’ Ledeen and the Canadian-born hatchet man David Frum, co-author with Richard Perle of An End to Evil, the neoconservative Das Kapital. However, in this instance it is not the identities of the neoconservatives themselves that is interesting - it is their choice of speaker that is telling.

For me, the final break with neoconservatism came with Abu Ghraib. Before, I had believed that philosophy had been about spreading and protecting democracy and making the world a safer place, not wee Lynndie and her dog leash. However, there had been a growing feeling of discontent with it, and one of the principal causes had been the reaction of neoconservatives to Jose Maria Aznar’s loss of the Spanish general election in the immediate aftermath of the Madrid bombings.

Jose Maria Aznar is a liar. A stalwart neoconservative, his first reaction to the deaths of 191 people was to pronounce that the bombing had been carried out by the Basque separatists ETA, before their bodies were cold. Aznar made his announcement before the duffel bags containing the usual Islamofascist gibberish were discovered. If ETA had carried out the bombing, it would have completely removed any sympathy for them from the people in whose names they would have been acting. For all that they are ruthless terrorists, they are ruthless rational terrorists – it would not have served their purposes to carry out such an attack. ETA would not have perceived it to be in their twisted interest to do something like that. It was ludicrous of Aznar even to suggest it. However, coming as it did so shortly before the election, Aznar, acting with the cold calculation that only a Jacobin or Bolshevik is capable, seized the opportunity to try to spin the disaster to his advantage and away from any criticism from the leftist press in Spain that it may have been the result of Spain’s commitment in Iraq.

The Spanish were absolutely disgusted with Aznar for trying to spin the deaths of 191 people to his advantage, and as a result Zapatero was elected and Spain withdrew from Iraq.

What is doubly shocking about this behaviour is that Aznar was a popular Prime Minister. In all likelihood, he would have won the election. However, like the good Jacobin that he is he just couldn’t resist the chance to try to spin and twist tragedy to his own advantage.

However, immediately after the Spanish election results were announced the neoconservative movement began to use the Bolshevik language with which they’re most comfortable and started to label the Spanish as cowards and appeasers. Notable culprits were David Limbaugh, George Will, Tony Blankley, Bill Murchison, Chuck Colson and Debra Saunders. I was so disgusted by this behaviour in reaction to the exercise of a free franchise by a free people that I wrote a column about it for The Washington Dispatch called Negative Reactions to Spanish Democracy.

It says little for such a distinguished theologian as Novak to spend any time in the company of a man like Aznar. However, from the neocon point of view, it makes perfect sense.

Having been kicked out of office by people they think have been cowardly, Aznar is a perfect guest for AEI. He speaks their sort of language, the language of scaremongering and fear. What basis does a failed politician like Aznar have for predicting an attack in America before the election? He wasn’t so hot at keeping the Spanish safe. What basis does he have for predicting an escalation in Iraq? More to the point, why does he think there will be one before the election in the UK next year? Doesn’t he know that the UK doesn’t operate on a fixed four-year election cycle? Doesn’t he know that, although he might do so earlier, Tony Blair doesn’t have to call an election until 2006? Michael Novak clearly doesn’t.

But the real message of this address was that Aznar, the Great Euro Sacrificial Lamb on the altar of neoconservatism, was spreading the gospel the neocons love to hear. Marx said that religion was the opium of the people. The opium of the neoconservatives is fear. They love fear so much they’ll gather round a liar to get a fix.

And they love to make you afraid. Boy, do they love it.