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 Battle Cries 

March 14, 2006 
Quagmire? Did someone say quagmire? Not President Bush. He sees “real progress” in Iraq. This is no time to throw in the towel! Today's column is "Battle Cries" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Look at all those millions of purple fingers! Who says the Arabians aren’t ready for democracy?

The real problem now is Iran, but they’re not really Arabians. As Condoleezza will tell you, they’re the ones making all the trouble in Iraq. So onward, multicultural soldiers! Our duty is clear!

But these are the times that try men’s souls, especially if they read the opinion polls. Despite the “real progress” in Iraq, the summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are now trying to get out of the weather.

Even some old hawks are chickening out — the “to-hell-with-them hawks,” as the grizzled veteran Richard Lowry nicely calls them. As a triple amputee who regrets that he has but four limbs to give for his country, Lowry, editor of National Review and author of the prophetic 2005 article “We Are Winning!” sees all too clearly that the war on Islamofascism can be lost only at home. And now our warriors face a new domestic problem: the neo-chickenhawks who have lost their stomach for paying the price for freedom.

Guys like Lowry’s (and my) former boss, Bill Buckley, are really showing the yellow streak. Talk about pusillanimity. Buckley and his ilk can’t even go on pecking out columns urging our brave men and women to fight to the death. How cowardly is that?

Happily, some of the true hawks are showing their mettle. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican renowned for his straight talk, still supports the war all the way. He wants to succeed President Bush in 2008, they say, and staying the course in Iraq — or Iran, if it comes to that — is just the ticket. The whole world is watching, and that includes big Republican donors for whom no war in the Middle East can ever be quite big enough.

Paul Krugman, the liberal columnist of the New York Times, sees McCain as a phony who has sold out to “the hard right.” As is usual with liberals, Krugman never explains what he means by right-wing, though you gather it’s something pretty icky. Everything liberals disapprove of is “right-wing,” even things that are mutually exclusive.

[Breaker quote for Battle Cries: What should we be fighting for?]Fascist totalitarianism is “right-wing,” but so is its exact opposite, libertarianism. And so are monarchism, theocracy, strict constitutionalism, military dictatorship, neoconservatism, and so on — even, at times, Soviet Communism, though anti-Communism was “right-wing” too. By right-wing, liberals seem to mean everything but us. No wonder people don’t listen to them anymore. They define their enemies as broadly as our president defines terrorism.

Conservatives are finally realizing, with varying degrees of clarity, that you have to define conservatism very broadly indeed to make it cover President Bush, who is rapidly mowing down just about everything they once hoped to conserve. Never mind the Iraq war; look at domestic spending since 2001.

Contrary to a popular impression, conservatism isn’t passive. It can actually be a frantic activity, like rescuing possessions from a burning house. In this world of flux, most things are always perishing, and you have to decide what’s worth saving.

The question now is what can still be saved from President Bush, the political pyromaniac who decided to set the Middle East on fire. The idea was that when everything else burned down, only democracy would remain.

And now, better late than never, the “to-hell-with-them hawks” are dimly sensing that there is something just a wee bit goofy about their fearless leader. Conservatives used to understand that democracy isn’t a synonym for liberty. We owe our freedom much less to occasional elections than to effective checks on power, such as habeas corpus, which can come in handy against George W. Bush as well as Saddam Hussein.

Actually I’d feel at least a little less uneasy about the Iraq war if it were being waged for the purpose of giving the Arabians habeas corpus. But habeas corpus, like the privilege against self-incrimination, is hard to fit on a bumper sticker, and it’s pretty useless as a battle cry.

Well, it’s still my battle cry! Shove your “democracy”! Give me habeas corpus and a fast-talking lawyer, or give me death!

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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