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Paul Craig Roberts and the Certifiable Right By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 17, 2006

Quick – what columnist alleged in an article Thursday that President “Bush intends to attack Iran and that he will use every means to bring war about?” That Bush has used “bribery and coercion” to block “every effort to bring the dispute to a peaceful end”? That “in order to gain a pretext for attacking Iran,” he and a “’black opts’ [sic.] group will orchestrate [an] attack” on U.S. soil?

One would never expect to hear the author is “chairman of the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury” under Ronald Reagan. That progressively unhinged man is nationally syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts.


In a delusional column entitled “Iranophobia,” posted yesterday’s on LewRockwell.com, Roberts related “[o]ne of the more extraordinary suggestions” he had heard of how President Bush will develop this “pretext” to nuke Tehran:


a low yield, perhaps tactical, nuclear weapon will be exploded some distance out from a U.S. port. Death and destruction will be minimized, but fear and hysteria will be maximized. Americans will be told that the ship bearing the weapon was discovered and intercepted just in time, thanks to Bush’s illegal spying program, and that Iran is to blame. A more powerful wave of fear and outrage will again bind the American people to Bush, and the U.S. media will not report the rest of the world’s doubts of the explanation.


He concluded:


Reads like a Michael Crichton plot, doesn’t it?


Fantasy? Let’s hope so.


Even on the far-Left, such theories would be unwelcome. Although Kurt Nimmo (a critic of DiscoverTheNetworks.org) and others have claimed for years that Bush secretly plans to pre-emptively decimate Iran, none have publicly claimed he would kill Americans as a pretext. The only detail Roberts omitted was whether Bush was doing the bidding of the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the British royal family, or the Vatican.


Not only is this irresponsible slander, it’s not even a new conspiracy theory. Last August, an internet rumor campaign claimed the Bush administration would set off a nuclear device in the port of Charleston, SC, during a military exercise, and use the backlash as to attack Iran. One of its promulgators was Webster Griffin Tarpley, who wrote an “unauthorized biography” of George H.W. Bush with Lyndon LaRouche’s house historian, Anton Chaitkin. Tarpley – who also claims 9/11 was an inside job – wrote last August:


The synthetic terror event required by the Bush-Cheney clique and its masters is likely to be conducted through the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus under the cover of a terror drill or a war exercise.


Antiwar.com’s Dennis “Justin” Raimondo also hinted:


The other weird aspect of this “nuke Iran” story is the triggering mechanism: a terrorist attack in the U.S. on the scale of 9/11…why develop this plan at this particular moment? What aren't they telling us? I shudder to think about it.


Greg Szymanski, a reporter for the UFO website ArcticBeacon.com and the American Free Press – which the ADL Anti-Defamation League has classified as “the most widely read publication on the fringe Right” played a pivotal role in formulating this nonsensical theory. In his recounting, the Bush administration fired Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes for threatening to expose the nuclear plot, using his affair with a military woman as a cover. The theory of a U.S. nuclear strike on Charleston was soon circulated by such crazies as Information Clearing House, PrisonPlanet.com, and various “patriot” groups. (LaRouche’s own speculation predated others by weeks, writing last July: “With Congress out of Washington, the Cheney-led White House would almost certainly unleash a ‘Guns of August’ attack on Iran.”)


Conspiracists so pestered Charleston media about an impending Dixie doomsday that the local newspaper, The Post and Courier, called military brass to get the full story: a military exercise had been planned, in Virginia, to simulate a terrorist nuclear attack; no actual nuclear devices would be set off. No mushroom cloud appeared, and the conspiracy died out.


Until Roberts’ column on LewRockwell.com.


Roberts’ credulous recounting of this slander recalls Howard Dean’s allusion to the “most interesting theory” he had heard about 9/11, specifically that Bush had advance knowledge of the plot.


The Roberts-Raimondo-Rockwell wing of conservatism has become the nexus where extremist fantasies of Left and Right converge into a toxic mixture of venomous lunacy. The “Old Right-New Left Alliance” dates back to Murray Rothbard’s protests in the Vietnam era but revived during the rise of Pat Buchanan-style protectionism and isolationism; 9/11 has given it a new vibrancy altogether.


Like his late collaborator, Lew Rockwell has addressed leftist antiwar demonstrations. His website and the Buchanan journal The American Conservative featured the writings of Karen Kwiatkowski, who began her career with LaRouche and later graduated to Salon and MoveOn.org. Since the advent of the War on Terror, the Rockwellites have birthed a rhetoric that is at once indistinguishable from the far-Left and the White-Wing.


The strange career of Paul Craig Roberts has been a microcosm of this trend. In recent years, the former Reaganite has begun writing for Alexander Cockburn’s ultra-leftist website Counterpunch. Roberts’ writings, however, best illustrate his sad intellectual decline.


Roberts has written that killing Americans is not the full extent of Bush’s perfidious hope: the “Bush administration is moving toward initiating two more wars, one with Iran and one with North Korea.” Bush-the-liar is provoking World War III in Iran with his prevarications. “The Bush administration is leveling false charges against Iran, just as it did against Iraq, of conspiring to make nuclear weapons. These charges are known to be false by the Bush administration and by the entire world.” That would come as news, given the recent recordings in which Iranian officials acknowledge the obvious: their nuclear program was not intended to fulfill energy needs. The 444-day terrorist ordeal of Terry Anderson? That was our fault, too:


It is past time for the U.S. to give up its quarter century feud with Iran. U.S. interference in Iranian internal affairs was the source of the feud. We need to acknowledge it and get over it.


His conclusion could hardly have been stated with less fervor or illogic by any fist-pumping leftist at an International ANSWER rally:


There would be no terrorism if the U.S. would stop interfering in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern countries and if Israel stopped stealing the West Bank from the Palestinians. The Bush administration knows this, and that is why the administration spreads the propagandistic lie that “they” (Muslims) hate us and our way of life. This lie is the excuse for American aggression.


Roberts has seen Bush’s malfeasance before. In July 2004, he pronounced, “everyone interested in the truth…knows that Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, with the permission of Secretary Don Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, created an unofficial ‘Iraqi intelligence cell’ within the Pentagon to produce propaganda to justify an invasion of Iraq.” Somehow, this eluded the 9/11 Commission and every other body ever to investigate the worldwide intelligence failure over Iraqi WMDs.


Roberts has declared the war in Iraq lost, not to mention criminal. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are “torture centers,” and Bush would be “prosecuted.” (This although Gitmo’s well-fed detainees are regularly provided with religious materials and motherly affection by female agents in flowing dresses.) His pessimism about winning the War on Terror dates literally to its inception. Two days after 9/11, Roberts wrote, “a guilt-ridden people are no match for fanatical opponents who believe in their cause.”


His writings also seemingly justify terrorist attacks against innocent Americans, because, like Ward Churchill, he believes there are no innocent Americans. “Americans are complicit in the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi women and children as ‘collateral damage,’” he writes. So what is difference between a military target and a “complicit” family of four in Des Moines?


However, his concerns are not confined to foreign affairs; he believes the United States and Great Britain are becoming “police states at home.” Indeed, he writes, “The Bush regime is asserting the Führer Principle, and Americans are buying it.”By April 2004, he had already deemed America “locked on a course toward conscription and a wider war.” This he wrote six months before House Republicans defeated a bill, opposed by the White House and introduced by a leftist Democrat, that would reinstate the draft.


Bush, he claims, has run roughshod over civil liberties, torturing American citizens. “The prohibition against torture,” he informed, “has been breached by the practice of plea bargaining.”


He continued that the Bush/Ashcroft police state had destroyed the fundamentals of American jurisprudence by prosecuting pro-terror lawyer Lynne Stewart, for illegally passing messages on to terrorists overseas:


The attorney-client privilege, another great achievement, has been breached by the Lynne Stewart case. As the attorney for a terrorist, Stewart represented her client in ways disapproved by prosecutors. Stewart was indicted, tried, and convicted of providing material support to terrorists.


Nor was she the only victim of heavy-handed executive prosecutors in Roberts’ view: “The federal charges against [American Taliban John Walker] Lindh are trumped up charges.” After all, “The Taliban did not attack the U.S. The U.S. attacked the Taliban.”


He lauded Al Gore’s speech at Constitution Hall in January, dubbing it “the first sign of leadership from the Democratic Party in six years.” He blamed its allegedly slight coverage on the “fact” that “U.S. media now highly concentrated in a few corporate hands.” Of course, Gore’s address was filled with blatant falsehoods. The sour ex-president-elect claimed President Bush had violated federal law by wiretapping terrorists. (Roberts also blasted the NSA anti-terrorist spying program and lambasted the New York Times for not exposing it earlier.) Gore similarly fibbed that Bush’s interrogation policies “plainly constitute torture” and “over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured.” Gore shortly headed overseas to spread the same deception.


Roberts, who shares many of the moral concerns of religious conservatives, saluted Jimmy Carter’s newest book, Our Endangered Values, a rambling collection of bile alleging the Bush administration is fascistic, torturous, and racist, and that Southern Baptists and the late Pope John Paul II are responsible for Islamic female circumcision. Roberts jumps on Carter’s bandwagon, claiming, “children as young as 8 years old are being held in indefinite detention and tortured.” To understand Gitmo, Roberts also recommends the book Hitler’s Prisons.


Paul Craig Roberts has outstripped both Gore and Carter in his claims of the Bush police state. This Reagan appointee claims Bush is preparing concentration camps. Three weeks ago, he declaimed, “We now read of Halliburton awarded a $350 million contract to build detention camps in the United States.” (In the same column, he asserted Nikita Kruschev recognized the evil of Stalinism and “brought it to an end.” Pity no one notified Solzenitsyn or Sakharov.)


An equal opportunity irrationalist, Roberts has also suggested the Clinton-era Oklahoma City bombing may have been the consequence of an FBI “sting operation that went awry.”


Although he has compared President Bush unfavorably with Clinton and smeared the Swift Boat Vets, he would not find himself at home in the Democratic Party, either; he referred to that organization as “a Nazi Party” in 2000. Instead, while favorably reviewing Where the Right Went Wrong, he asked, “Having experienced the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, do Americans wish they had elected Patrick J. Buchanan president?” Based upon previous election results, apparently Roberts is among the less-than-one-percent of the electorate that does.


Roberts shares several common concerns with modern Buchananites: the omnipresent influence of neocons, Zionist power generally, and the society’s lack of reverence for white Christian civilization. Roberts’ columns teem with hand-wringing references to “neocons.” The Committee on the Present Danger, he warns, “consists of neoconservatives who are, in effect, an unregistered lobby group for Israel’s Likud Party.” The 9/11 reference above to “a guilt-ridden people” indicated the lack of white cohesion in dealing with the dusky Arab menace, a concern he raised more than once.


Although the white middle class did not turn out for Pat in 2000, Roberts forecast, “Sooner or later whites will wake up to the realization that they are being marginalized in their own country, and they will cease to support the two political parties that have marginalized them.”


Roberts has defended Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Dixiecrat run for the presidency, and warned of the constant “marginalization of native-born white citizens.” Not surprisingly, he has belittled the Supreme Court’s Brown v. the Board of Education decision, which he states, “strikes at the heart of democracy.” Indeed, he claims America was well on its way to desegregation without the decision, as proven by…federal documents of the Truman administration. Presumably the federalized National Guard troops stationed in Little Rock and Birmingham were part of Eisenhower and Kennedy’s police state designs.


Roberts also shows antipathy for the first Republican president. Roberts declares there is much evidence that Abraham Lincoln “invaded” the South “in order to hold on to the tariff revenues with which to subsidize Northern industry and build an American Empire.” Seemingly, for Roberts as so many other paleocons, our nation’s greatest president is a villain, just like the present one.


Bush and Lincoln; not bad company to share.


Whatever his party leanings, one thing is clear: Roberts considers modern conservatives the enemy. Last month, he wrote, “Last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism.” Why? Because attendees jeered Bush administration critic Bob Barr. (Roberts would have made a better case by mentioning the Muslim fundamentalists and leftists who attended CPAC this year.) In fact, Roberts has denounced the conservative movement as brownshirted fascism for some time. Already by October 2004, he had likened conservatives to “brownshirts.” Last June, he referred to “Bush and his neocon brownshirts” before branding Bush a “war criminal.” Last February 15, he insisted the conservative media had “joined the New Brownshirts.” On May Day 2004, he wrote his former publication, National Review, was possessed of the “spirit” of “Hitler and Stalin.”


He has repudiated the conservative movement. It is past time for us to reciprocate.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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