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Anti-War Conservatives Bash Bush

by Rene P. Ciria-Cruz

Bush Team Squabbles With Dad's Crowd Over Iraq War
(PNS) -- "Evil though they may be, Islamic killers are over here because we are over there," booms the essay. "Terror on American soil is the price of American empire."

Another anti-war liberal waxing rhetorical? No, it's former presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan, editor of The American Conservative, bashing President Bush's Mideast military buildup.

There are indeed anti-war conservatives. Moreover, these big-government-hating, tax-loathing right-wingers reserve their sharpest barbs for the "neoconservative" hawks in the Bush administration. Some even predict that war in Iraq will widen fissures within the Right and cost the Republican Party in the voting booth.

"Realists" like Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser to the first President Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger, former secretary of state, and business leaders who ran "A Republican Dissent on Iraq" in the Wall Street Journal this January, drew attention with their warning that a hasty war could set the entire region on fire. Less well known are objections from conservatives driven by a strict reading of the Constitution and distaste for the "welfare-warfare state."

"Opposition to an unjust war is a conservative tradition," insists Jon B. Utley, the Robert A. Taft fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala. "War of conquest encourages the growth of state power and burdensome taxation." With war in Iraq, Utley fears that America is forging a world alliance against itself. "We'll all be soft targets."

Utley wants conservatives to join protests organized by left-liberal coalitions. Although he's "uneasy seeing far-out socialists condemning free markets, theirs is usually the only game in town." Besides, he says, this is not a Left-Right battle.

The site in Sunnyvale, Calif., gets 2 million page views a month, 35 percent from visitors outside the United States, according to webmaster Eric Garris, a Republican and "small 'l'" libertarian.

At peace coalition meetings in San Francisco, staffers "get some static from old-style Stalinists," but otherwise feel welcome, Garris says. He laments that conservative speakers have yet to be invited to the big national protests.

Buchanan and columnists like Robert Novak, Charley Reese, Paul Craig Roberts and Georgie Anne Geyer regularly skewer Bush on Iraq. So do Right mainstays like Lew Rockwell Jr., Alan Reynolds, Joe Sobran and Justin Raimondo, whose opinions appear on,, The American Conservative, the Chronicles, Americans Against World Empire, and in publications by the Cato and von Mises institutes.

"Saddam Hussein is no Hitler; George Bush is no Winston Churchill. And this war will definitely not be our finest hour," Reese wrote. "Bush," wrote Geyer, "has a religiously inspired grandiosity of character which leads him to believe he has been called to a religious duty in the Middle East to rid the world of Saddam Hussein!"

Congress has right-wing doves too. In the House, three GOP conservatives and three centrists voted against giving Bush authorization to use military force against Iraq. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), known for his dislike of the income tax, the Federal Reserve and the United Nations, called the undeclared war unconstitutional, costly and "morally unjustifiable."

Warned John Hostettler (R-Ind.), "Don't fire unless fired upon." He said the notion "is at least as old as St. Augustine's Just War Thesis, and it finds agreement with the Minutemen and framers of the Constitution."

The split on Iraq pits traditional conservatives (paleocons) and libertarians on one side against neoconservatives (neocons) and the Christian Right on the other. Paleocons and libertarians disagree on moral issues such as abortion and drug use, but they both oppose large-scale state social programs and, like the isolationist America First movement of the 1930s, U.S. intervention abroad. When the Right closed ranks during the Cold War, the paleocons muted their isolationism but revived it with the demise of the Soviet bloc.

Neocons are former liberals who moved to the Right after being "mugged by reality," as neocon patriarch Irving Kristol famously quipped. They oppose affirmative action and Great Society-type programs, but not the entire legacy of the New Deal. Former Cold Warriors, they want the United States to boldly wield its clout as the only military superpower in the world.

The neocon-Christian Right alliance rose to power during the Reagan presidency and now claims hegemony over the conservative movement. It wields much influence through the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Commentary, The New Republic and the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Traditional conservatives see the neocons as usurpers and as the brains of the "War Party," pointing to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, Defense Policy Board chief Richard Perle and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol as the center of Iraq hawks.

To Geyer, they're "macho Likudniks with intimate ties to the hardest parts of the Israeli Right" who want to remake the Middle East "for their own and Israel's interests."

"The conservative split over Iraq will deepen," Garris predicts. "Those who are pro-war now want to go in and get out, not extend the U.S. stay as the neocons say now must happen."

Already, prominent evangelicals seem to be vacillating. Few are speaking for or against the war, reported The Washington Post, because they feel an attack on Iraq could lead to the expulsion or death of U.S. missionaries abroad.

"There will be greater fracturing of the Right," Utley says. "Bush could lose in the polls. After big wars, the party in power is always defeated in the first elections. Look at Churchill and the first President Bush."

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Albion Monitor February 12, 2003 (

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