For nearly two decades Robert Scheer has been a "national correspondent" and then regular columnist for the Los Angeles Times, where he has specialized in national security issues.
From one of the most powerful press platforms in the country, Scheer articulates, on a weekly basis, the left's corrosive assertions about the moral deficiencies of our nation, our president, and our efforts in the war on terrorism. It is but a continuation of what he did before he ever got to the Times. While posturing as someone who cares about the welfare of our nation, Scheer has spent his entire adult life as a passionate America-hating Leftist. He first signaled his political inclinations long ago when he co-authored a 1961 book defending Fidel Castro's Communist revolution in Cuba. In 1965 he ran for liberal Democrat Jeffrey Cohelan's congressional seat, attacking Cohelan from the radical left. He was the political editor of the largest magazine of the radical left, Ramparts, and was given the diaries of Che Guevara to publish by the Cuban dictatorship itself. Later in the decade, Scheer and Tom Hayden co-founded Berkeley's Red Family - a commune of urban guerrillas, which trained its members in the use of explosives and firearms and called for the creation of "liberated zones" in the United States - a liberation to be accomplished by force of arms. Dedicated to Maoist principles, Red Family leaders adorned the walls of their headquarters with portraits of such Communist heroes as Ho Chi Minh and North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung, and Black Panther thug, Huey Newton.
Scheer strongly supported the violent Black Panther Party in the Sixties, and devoted a great deal of time and energy to helping Eldridge Cleaver, the Panther whose volcanic hatred for whites and police officers was legendary. Scheer not only got Cleaver out of the prison where he was serving an indeterminate sentence for rape, but also edited Cleaver's writings for publication in book form. Distinguishing himself from the mass of what he deemed "racist whites," Scheer felt great solidarity with the Panthers' cause. In his introduction to an article in which Cleaver declared his intention to kill whites - an article that Scheer himself titled "The Courage to Kill" - Scheer expressed his approval for Cleaver's sentiments with the exclamation, "Right on, Eldridge!" After Cleaver fled the U.S. following his ambush of two San Francisco policemen in 1968, Scheer joined a Red Family overseas delegation to visit the fugitive.
In the early 1970s, Scheer joined the Red Sun Rising commune which was devoted to "armed struggle" and the teachings of Kim Il-Sung. In the three decades that followed, he rose to influence at the L.A. Times (in part through his marriage to Narda Zacchino, one of the Times' top editors), became a friend of Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and Warren Beatty; and in his columns vigorously opposed America's Cold War efforts against the Soviet bloc. In his L.A. Times columns, Scheer regaled the same unfounded, hate-driven denunciations of American policies and motives that now dominate the speeches heard at anti-war rallies around the country.
"What the heck, let's bomb Baghdad," is how he recently depicted the supposed lack of gravity that "our accidental president" attached to his decision to forcibly disarm Saddam Hussein. "Sure," Scheer wrote sardonically, ". . . many of its more than 3 million inhabitants will probably end up as 'collateral damage,' but if George the Younger is determined to avenge his father and keep his standings in the polls, that's the price to be paid."
Beyond accusing President Bush of going to war simply to boost his own popularity and to settle an old score in his father's name, Scheer joins his chorus of fellow leftists in asserting that Bush is animated by an unspoken lust to create a globe-spanning American empire. "The world's current unprecedented hostility toward the United States," he writes, is "a profound alarm over the imperial endpoint of Bush's design for the world." "Imperialist greed," he says, "is what 'regime change' in Iraq and 'anticipatory self-defense' are all about, and all of the rest of the Bush administration's talk about security and democracy is a bunch of malarkey." Echoing the sentiments of Muslim fundamentalists who accuse Bush of waging a cruel "war against Islam," Scheer deems it "fitting" that, just prior to the current war, Bush met to strategize with his British and Spanish counterparts in the Azores, "an island chain originally settled by a Portuguese Crusader whose goal was to encircle the Muslim world with Christian armies."
Scheer sees lust for oil as yet another of Bush's motivations for war, explaining that "oil is black gold, and Iraq has a whole heck of a lot of it." Despite Bush's innumerable public proclamations that Iraq's oil wells are to be preserved solely for the benefit of the Iraqi people, Scheer lectures Bush about the wisdom of the "peace" crowd's "No Blood for Oil" mantra. Moreover, he deems it suspicious that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice once "served as a Chevron director and had an oil tanker named after her."
And of course, no litany of ascriptions for Bush's war motives would be complete without the ever-popular charge of "diversion." True to form, Scheer calls the current war "the modern equivalent of the Roman Circus, drawing the people's attention away from the failures of those who rule them"; "a smoke screen to obscure our floundering economy"; and a "convenient distraction" from President Bush's "close personal and financial ties to the company - Enron - whose demise is the most glaring symbol of the broad moral disarray of the nation's corporate culture."
While these reckless assertions betray Scheer's deep contempt for Bush, they are utterly barren of intellectual integrity. Any fair-minded person understands that, given war's many uncertainties, Bush's military initiative in no way assures his continued popularity, but rather places it in peril; that America is not in any way an imperialistic nation; that Bush has repeatedly gone on record before the entire listening world, proclaiming that Iraq's oil wells belong to its people; and that the threat of weapons transfers from rogue states to terrorists is no mere concocted "distraction," but a deadly serious concern.
Scheer, however, is not the fair-minded person he pretends to be. Indeed, who but an America-hating leftist could, as Scheer does, draw moral equivalence between Osama bin Laden and Enron CEO Kenneth Lay? Asserting that America's military efforts in the war on terror are founded on the "simplistic" notion of a struggle between good and evil, Scheer smugly contends that the most destructive practitioners of evil reside not in some far-off land, but rather in the Bush administration
and corporate America. "Is there any doubt," he asks rhetorically, "that the chicanery of Enron executives and [other] top CEOs has done more long-term damage to the U.S. economy than the efforts of anti-American terrorists?" It takes remarkable chutzpah to write such words.
Scheer's assertions about Bush's motives for going to war reveal an immense double standard, given that Scheer routinely criticized those who, during the previous administration, in any way questioned the motives behind the actions of Bill Clinton - whom he deems "a great president," "supremely capable," and "one of the hardest working, most competent, fundamentally decent and smartest men to ever serve in the office." This assessment of Clinton is surely based in part on their shared background as counter-culture leftists who, in their younger days, never shrank from an opportunity to publicly denounce their country But more than this, it is rooted in Scheer's well-known appetite for access to the high and mighty, in short his opportunism.
Scheer enjoyed his friendships with Clinton White House operatives like James Carville and Sidney Blumenthal as much as he savored the salons of the Hollywood left. Such associations inflate his uncomely sense of superiority over those who figuratively stand on the outside, looking in. In a revealing moment, Scheer once cruelly mocked an unemployed journalist thusly: "Look at you. You support the System, and you're struggling, while I attack it and have a six-figure salary and a yacht, and am surrounded by Hollywood stars." (Reported in David Horowitz's Radical Son.)
Scheer's opportunism is evident in the double standards that governed his reporting on the Clinton Administration. Now Scheer is writing columns which assert that even one Iraqi killed by American arms constitutes a war crime. But in December 1998, when Clinton ordered the firing of 450 missiles into Iraq (more than in the entire Gulf War) and did so on the eve of the impeachment vote in the House, Scheer saw nothing suspicious about the timing. When Clinton ordered the bombing of Kosovo in 1999, Scheer flatly rejected the notion that Clinton may have been using military action as a means of diverting attention away from the stubborn Lewinsky scandal or the recently discovered Chinese espionage at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Scheer was the biggest press defender of Wen Ho Lee). Such accusations were merely the senseless rantings of partisan "jackals" intent on making Clinton feel "the lash of the self-righteous," said Scheer. Only Bush, it seems, can be accused of hidden agendas and ignoble motives.
Consider also Scheer's reaction after Clinton ordered the infamous 1998 missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. The attack in the Sudan was in response to terrorist attacks on two American embassies and destroyed the country's only medicine factory which Clinton claimed was a chemical weapons plant. Clinton got no UN approval, did not demand an inspection of the plant, and got no congressional authorization. Scheer, who has viciously attacked Bush for dereliction on these grounds, not only found nothing wrong with Clinton's actions, he defend them. Denouncing those who wondered whether Clinton was "wagging the dog" in an effort to tone down the Lewinsky headlines, Scheer saw nothing objectionable or even suspicious that Clinton launched this strike into a foreign "Third World" country on the very day that Lewinsky was scheduled to testify before a grand jury. Even when the Sudanese site proved to be an aspirin factory that produced half of that war- and famine-ravaged country's legitimate drugs, Scheer called Clinton's missile attack "an appropriate response to the carnage" at the American embassies. "If our modern and very expensive weapons cannot be used against terrorists," he wrote, "what good are they in this post-Cold War world?" In essence, Scheer was endorsing the very policy for which he now condemns President Bush.
Despite Bush's dogged attempts to disarm Saddam via UN Resolutions and meaningful inspections - all on the heels of twelve years of Iraq's refusal to abide by its disarmament obligations - Scheer depicts Bush as a warmonger less deserving of trust than the Iraqi dictator. In recent months, this has become a fashionable tactic of the "pro-peace" left. As Scheer bluntly puts it, "Hussein is not the aggressor - we are." "[T]o anyone not rabid for war," he pontificated shortly before the war commenced, "the United Nations inspections would seem to be going well. As regards the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship is now arguably the most open society in the world. Certainly no other nation has been willing to allow deeply suspicious foreign experts access to every nook and cranny . . . to ensure that bad things are not being done." These comments illustrate Scheer's penchant for extravagant hyperbole in the service of misrepresentation of the facts. Scheer's extolling of Iraq's "willingness" to allow inspections, failed to recognize the role played in this change of approach (if not change of heart) by hundreds of thousands of American troops dispatched to Iraq's borders.
The real war criminals, according to Scheer, are Americans. "How could one blame George W.," writes Scheer, "if he is among the vast majority of Americans who blissfully and conveniently forget that we are the only ones to ever actually use a nuclear weapon? [This] may explain why even those who love freedom and democracy as much as we do are frightened not only of Saddam Hussein, but increasingly of us." Japanese imperialism, war atrocities, voracious military aggression and determination to kill hundreds of thousands of American soldiers in making their last stand of course had nothing to do with the dropping of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. This was just American terror.
According to Scheer, "the most outrageous Big Lie of the Bush administration [is] that delaying an invasion to wait for the UN to complete inspections would endanger the U.S. The fact is that for more than a decade the military containment of Iraq has effectively neutered Hussein, and there is no reason to believe that can't continue." Yet Scheer argued for years in the Times to end the containment of Saddam's weapons program, repeatedly condemning it as a cruel means of "punish[ing] the Iraqis for failing to overthrow Hussein." "In Iraq," he recently wrote, " . . . more than one million children [who] suffer from malnutrition . . . are the true victims of our embargo, not Hussein, who continues to live the high life." On another occasion he wrote, "It is in the interests of innocent civilians that we begin the process of normalization [lifting the sanctions], as was called for in an editorial. . . in the state-run Baghdad Observer." The only consistency in Scheer's columns on Iraq's weapons program is his service to the propaganda line of Saddam's regime.
Like so many leftists who consider George Bush an illegitimate President, Scheer is clearly more prepared to place his faith in the words and pledges of ruthless dictators than in those of Bush. Indeed in June 2000, Scheer crowed jubilantly about Kim Jong Il's declaration that he would work toward the peaceful reunification of North and South Korea. "If the two Koreas . . . can come to terms," wrote Scheer, "what warring parties can't?" "The threat from . . . 'rogue nations,'" he said, "can be met far more cheaply with talk, trade, and aid than with . . . warrior fantasies." Rejecting the very concept of "evil" as a simplistic, culturally biased judgment rooted in "differing values," Scheer prefers to attach that label to America rather than to a regime that has tortured hundreds of thousands of its citizens in political prisons and starved millions of its people to death. Though in recent months Kim has defiantly terminated his nation's nuclear nonproliferation pledges and ominously threatened to invalidate the 1953 Korean War cease-fire agreement, Scheer maintains that "people of all stripes want to make love, not war."
Consistent with his efforts to help Saddam circumvent the UN restrictions on his weapons of mass destruction program, Scheer praises the misguided efforts of Jimmy Carter - the very man whose benign assessment of North Korean leadership in 1994 led him to broker, for the Clinton administration, the disastrous deal that supplied Pyongyang with fuel, food, and light water nuclear reactors in exchange for a hollow, unverifiable pledge not to develop nuclear weapons. Now that the pledge has been broken, we face a potential international crisis - thanks in large measure to the man who Scheer says "won the Nobel Peace Prize for a career of successfully waging peace." "While Carter has exhibited the patience of the peacemaker," writes Scheer, "a sweet Jesus for our time, willing to rebuke contemptible leaders while offering them a path for redemption, Bush has become a self-fulfilling prophet of war, delighting in the discovery of what he defines as immutable evil, thereby justifying an endless crusade against the infidels." Of course, there is no instance on record where Bush has even remotely intimated that he was conducting such a "crusade," though there are myriad examples of Islamic terrorists candidly pronouncing their desire to murder every last "infidel" loyal to the "Great Satan." Unfortunately, Scheer and the left prefer to attribute such hateful bigotry only to Americans, particularly if they happen to be Republicans.
Just prior to the start of the current war, Scheer asserted that because "Iraq at this time poses no direct threat to the well-being of the American people," it logically followed that "the maiming or killing of a single Iraqi civilian in an attack by the United States would constitute a war crime." He complained that the US, by aggressively enforcing Resolution 1441 over the objections of some other nations, had "gutted" the UN. But when the UN backed an American-led coalition to drive Iraq's invading army out of Kuwait twelve years ago, he wasn't nearly such a stickler for following that organization's decrees. In March 1991, Scheer decried Americans' "patriotic orgy" over the coalition's campaign of "terrorism" that was not unlike the "hijacking [of] a commercial aircraft - treating civilians as combatants." Thus we are presumably to understand that twelve years ago America practiced terrorism by following the UN mandate, and that today America practices terrorism by failing to push harder for additional UN mandates. The fact is that for Scheer, America is the villain - unless his friends are in the White House - no matter what it does.