THE WANDERER, June 12, 2003


"Baby" or "Fetus"?

     The grisly murder of Laci Peterson and her unborn 
child has shocked many people into new reflections on 
abortion. It has also put the pro-abortion forces on the 
defensive. Clearly the child, as well as his mother, was 
the victim of an undeniably monstrous crime.

     Seeing the implications, the feminist lawyer Gloria 
Allred, an aggressive harpy if there ever was one, 
objects to the news media's use of the word "child" in 
coverage of the story. She insists that "fetus" is "the 
correct medical term." Of course she is doing what the 
pro-abortion movement always does: insisting on technical 
language in order to dehumanize the unborn.

     But "child" is no more "incorrect" than "mother" is. 
There is no reason to prefer the abstract medical term to 
the normal and natural word, with all its moral 
overtones. No doubt Miss Allred would rather say the 
child was "terminated" than that he was "murdered."

     I never cease to marvel at the semantic perversions 
of abortion advocates. As they trivialize the aborted 
child as a "fetus," they actually try to humanize the 
professional killer of unborn children as an "abortion 
provider," rather than an "abortionist." A strange 
distribution of sympathies, but that's what happens when 
you try to normalize murder.

     Like Milton's Satan, the abortion advocates are 
really saying: "Evil, be thou my good." In the end, as 
C.S. Lewis reminds us, when you choose evil you are also 
choosing nonsense.

A Summons to Conservatives

     Donald Devine, vice chairman of the American 
Conservative Union, has recently offered a sharp, though 
typically civil, challenge to the conservative movement. 
He laments that the movement has lost its way, and is in 
danger of being reduced to "cheerleading for the White 

     As Devine sees it, conservatives have allowed 
themselves to be seduced by distractions of "empire" and 
"national greatness," which are in tension with, if not 
inimical to, their core principles of limited and 
constitutional government. As a result, true conservatism 
-- the kind that brought Barry Goldwater and Ronald 
Reagan to national prominence -- is no longer a real 
force in American politics.

     Devine has always been one to keep his eye on the 
ball, combining philosophy with political savvy. I first 
met him 30 years ago, when he gave a brilliant, stirring 
speech at a meeting of the Philadelphia Society. He drew 
on the thought of one of my intellectual heroes, 
Willmoore Kendall, but without Kendall's rather cavalier 
scorn for the Tenth Amendment, the cornerstone of 
constitutional limitations on the federal government. 
Devine was emphatic about confining the government to the 
(few) powers assigned to it.

     That kind of conservatism is hardly heard from these 
days. It has been upstaged and crowded out of the public 
square by neoconservatism, which is unconcerned with 
constitutional limits or, indeed, with any truly 
conservative principles. The neoconservatives want a 
government oriented to war and empire. True, they prefer 
a warfare state to a welfare state, but this is hardly a 
prescription for reducing the size and role of 

     On the contrary, Devine argues, a global empire 
would make limited government at home practically 
impossible. The militarization necessary for empire would 
change domestic institutions too, as it is already 
beginning to do under the rubric of "national security." 
The slogans of "defense," though attractive to 
conservatives, are just as capable of indefinite 
expansion as liberal slogans of "general welfare."

     Devine's challenge has already gotten a hostile 
reception from NATIONAL REVIEW, once the bellwether of 
American conservatism; one of its writers calls Devine's 
manifesto "cracked." Bill Buckley's magazine has long 
since abandoned its connection to the conservatism of 
Kendall, Frank Meyer, Russell Kirk, James Burnham, 
Richard Weaver, Brent Bozell, and the young Bill Buckley 
himself. It's now a second-string organ of the 
neoconservatives, eagerly echoing THE WEEKLY STANDARD. 
Its sassy independence and defiance of the Republican 
Party -- its original reason for being -- is only a 
faint, fading memory. Today NATIONAL REVIEW, born in 
dissatisfaction with Dwight Eisenhower, might pass for a 
publication of the Republican National Committee.

     Devine wants American conservatism to be a vital 
force again. At the moment, what passes for conservatism 
is only a variant of the liberalism it allegedly opposes. 
As I've often said, the U.S. Constitution poses no 
serious threat to our form of government. And for that we 
can thank many of the people who call themselves 
conservatives. If it were up to Don Devine, I can assure 
you it would be otherwise.

Out of the Bag

     Nobody has ever called Paul Wolfowitz dumb. So it 
came as a surprise when the hawkish deputy secretary of 
defense admitted to a VANITY FAIR interviewer that 
Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" hadn't 
necessarily been the central reason for the recent war. 
They were only one of several "bureaucratic reasons," one 
which "everyone [in the Bush administration] could agree 
on," Wolfowitz said.

     Belief in the very existence of those weapons is 
fading fast. If Saddam Hussein had them, he didn't use 
them when he most needed them. If he hid them, they 
haven't been found since the war ended. It transpires 
that the administration distorted and exaggerated 
intelligence reports concerning them, with the suave 
assistance of Colin Powell, who is now handling damage 
control in the wake of Wolfowitz's letting the cat out of 
the bag. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony 
Blair still insist that the WMDs do exist and will 
eventually be located -- but when?

     Bush is still very popular, but Blair isn't. Unless 
those weapons turn up, Blair may well be forced to 
resign. Unlike Bush, he staked his whole case for war on 
WMDs. He may pay dearly for his lucidity. Both Tories and 
Laborites are demanding to know whether he twisted the 
evidence in order to manipulate public opinion in favor 
of a war that was very unpopular in Britain to begin 
with. An official inquiry could end his political career.

     Bush, of course, gave nebulous and shifting 
justifications for war. Though he was emphatic, even 
obsessive, about WMDs, he also implied that Saddam 
Hussein was, or might be, allied with al-Qaeda and other 
terrorist forces. He also stressed Hussein's human rights 
abuses, though this had nothing to do with defending the 
United States from possible attack.

     Bush also had confusion on his side. Many Americans 
somehow got the impression that Iraq was somehow behind 
the 9/11 attacks; many even thought that Saddam Hussein 
and Osama bin Laden were the same man! Though Bush, of 
course, never said anything so ludicrously false, without 
these absurd and widespread misconceptions, verging on 
superstition, the war might never have won popular 

     Sometimes, in politics, it's unnecessary for a 
leader to lie. He can merely let his followers believe 
what they want to believe, without directly contradicting 
them. The truth is great and will prevail, but by then it 
may be too late to make any difference.


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