Saturday, March 27, 2010

One of the most curious features of the neoconservative...

How to Disappear Completely by Eric Martin

One of the most curious features of the neoconservative political/philosophical movement is the near reflexive, compulsive tendency on the part of its adherents to conceal the full breadth of their positions, beliefs and ideological moorings. It's like they fear truth as a matter of course.  The first most extreme example of this pattern probably came when David Brooks tried to claim that there was, actually, no such thing as a neoconservative in the first place (just a crude form of anti-Semitic classification). Though ultimately unsuccessful, Brooks' Copperfield-esque attempt to make the entire neoconservative movement disappear from sight would have made a lot of subsequent small-bore efforts at subterfuge unnecessary.

Speaking of those lesser sleights of hand, Michael Ledeen is probably the most prolific in terms of comical self contradiction. As I've documented over the past years, Ledeen has a peculiar tic whereby he pens impassioned calls for military confrontation with Iran, but then claims- with a straight face - that he opposes any such use of force. Perhaps emboldened by his own perceived success in terms of Iran-related duplicity, Ledeen took it one step further and actually claimed, against the weight of the evidence, that back in 2002 he opposed the invasion of Iraq!  The audacity of that attempt alone secures his status as my favorite hawk in dove's feathers. few 

The attempts to conceal their policy proposals - and identities - are understandable on some level. The total war agenda outlined in prominent neoconservative texts such as Norman Podhoretz's dream of World War IV, and Richard Perle and David Frum's An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, is shocking in its unrestrained bellicosity - each advocating for a series of wars with Iraq being just the first, brief pit stop.  Further, when their ideology has been put in practice under the stewardship of its practitioners, as in Iraq, the results have been so utterly disastrous that one can appreciate the desire to create distance. If I were a neocon, I'd sure want to pretend I wasn't.

If Richard Perle's recent statements are any indicator, the desperation in the neoconservatives camp is palpable.  Perle, it seems, is returning to the David Brooks playbook: trying to, again, convince the world that there's no such thing as a neoconservative.  Dana Millbank (via Steve Benen):

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a "moral" basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? "I don't have the letters in front of me," Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? "I don't know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements," Perle maintained. "My guess is he didn't."

Benen adds:

It was apparently quite a performance, which literally drew laughter when Perle insisted, "I've never advocated attacking Iran." He added that he doesn't "accept" the notion that there's even a "neoconservative school of thought," and said his book, "An End to Evil," is actually a text devoted to realism.

Not even a "neoconservative school of thought"?  Maybe Perle should consult with Irving Kristol, whose 1995 book is entitled, Neo-Conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea.  Or maybe The Neoconservative Imagination: Essays in Honor of Irving Kristol, a compilation edited by William Kristol, another non-neo-con.  Or NeoConservatism: Why We Need It and The Neocon ReaderOr Joshua Muravchik who wrote an essay a few years back on how to save a school of thought that is...apparently a figment of our collective imaginations? 

Oh, and give Muravchik credit for openness:

Make no mistake, President Bush will need to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before leaving office.

But don't be surprised when at some point in the future he confidently assures the reader of his longstanding - and well known - opposition to bombing Iran.

~ Source: Obsidian Wings ~

Three cheers for the reconstruction of Iraq!


Impoverished Iraqis recycle and sell remains of election paraphernalia.

By Daud Salman in Baghdad

The hours after Iraq's parliamentary election were a tense time for Baghdad resident Hasan Obaid, but his anxiety had little to do with politics.

The 49-year-old father waited out the election curfew in silence before slipping out of the bare mud-brick home, where his wife and eight children were sleeping, to go hunting for a roof.

"I could barely sleep on the night of election day. I dreamed of how much scrap metal I would be able to get from the leftovers of the big election billboards. I wanted to make a ceiling for the mud room I share with my family. I will sell the rest of it," said Obaid as he tugged a large metal frame across railroad tracks near his home.

In the weeks ahead of the vote earlier this month, Baghdad streets were cluttered with thousands of billboards each adorned with the image and campaign slogan of one of the hundreds of politicians vying for the capital's 70 seats in parliament.

For Obaid and other impoverished residents of Baghdad's makeshift slums, Iraq's election campaign provided a bonanza of building materials.

The ten-metre-long metal billboard frames are large enough to shield families from the summer heat, while other pieces of wood and scrap metal are used to reinforce walls or sold to buy food.

Many Baghdad residents were stunned by the massive scale of campaigning and the enormous amount of money spent on the billboards and banners that dominated intersections, main streets and even shop fronts and homes in the capital.

While campaign spending figures have not been made public, some have speculated that the major parties forked out as much as hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign paraphernalia.

Tariq Mamouri, an analyst with al-Mada Cultural Organisation in Baghdad, said political parties and candidates were reluctant to release details about their financing because “it would greatly impact [their] popularity” if the public knew how much was spent.

Because no law bars politicians from accepting financial help from abroad, some experts, including Mamouri, believe money was pumped into campaign coffers by interested international governments and companies.

Izzat al-Shahbandar, an independent candidate from the State of Law coalition, said big political blocs paid for some of their candidates' campaigns while independent contenders paid for their own.

"The average of cost spent on campaigning ranged between 10,000 and 30,000 US dollars. If the candidate used satellite channels, the cost might hit the millions of dollars," said Shahbandar, who estimated his own campaign spending, including ads, posters and billboards at roughly 10,000 dollars.

Munthir Ahmad, a billboard maker at the Baghdad Printing House, put the price higher. By his estimate, candidates from the big coalitions spent roughly 50,000 dollars each on billboards at his shop.

Baghdad residents said the billboards disappeared rapidly in the days following the election.

"Since dawn after the election day (March 8), I have seen a large number of people grabbing and carrying the metal billboards of the candidates. It is election gift to the poor and disadvantaged people," said bus driver Muhammad Ali Muhsin, 58, with a shrug.

Obaid came to Baghdad from Maysan six years ago and has been unable to find work. He lives with thousands of other families in ramshackle dwellings in the Abu Disheer district near the railways in south Baghdad.

Along with his children, Obaid sifts through rubbish mounds and landfills each day, living on what they are able to scavenge. He voted in the election - although he declined to specify for which party - but said he was disappointed in the campaign spending.

“It would have been better for the politicians to spend their huge campaign funds on us and rescue us from the shantytowns,” he said. “In return we would vote for them. This is best way to campaign: help the poor.”

Daud Salman is an IWPR-trained journalist in Baghdad. Ali Kareem, an IWPR-trained journalist, contributed to this report from Baghdad.

~ Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting ~


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