In 1993 I was fired from NATIONAL REVIEW for a 
column I'd written for THE WANDERER criticizing Bill 
Buckley, who'd been my boss and my dear friend for 21 
years. It was painful for both of us, but things had 
reached the breaking point.

     Now comes the awful news that Bill, at 80, has been 
diagnosed with emphysema and recently spent two weeks 
being treated for it at the Mayo Clinic; by a bitter 
coincidence, one of his sisters is dying of the same 
ailment, which is of course both agonizing and incurable.

     I've written, maybe too much, about our political 
differences, but one could never write too much about 
what a lovable man Bill is. It would take a long book to 
detail his quiet acts of charity, if there were any way 
of finding them all out. I've been the beneficiary of my 
share of them, and I've accidentally learned of many 
others, and I don't doubt that all these are only a small 
fraction of the sum.

     His career as a political journalist is almost 
incidental to his life; you don't really know him until 
you know his burning love of Jesus.

     I once learned by chance that Bill had supported the 
great libertarian Frank Chodorov in his last years, when 
the sweet little old man had been all but forgotten by 
the rest of the world. That was typical. Bill wasn't one 
to preach compassion; he lived it. He couldn't bear to 
see a friend suffer.

     One night in London many years ago, an old friend 
since his Yale days told me how Bill had stayed with him 
to console him when his six-year-old daughter was dying 
of brain cancer. Such inexpressible grief is frightening 
to most of us; we feel helpless to relieve it, and we can 
hardly bear to face it. But when Bill couldn't give you 
anything else, he gave you himself.

     He was endearing in countless little ways too. His 
warmth and humor kept the office of NATIONAL REVIEW a 
happy place to work. When he returned from his annual 
winter stay in Switzerland, he brought little gifts for 
the women on the staff. Best of all, he brought the 
delight of his own great presence. The place lit up with 
joy. Bill was home! It was spring!

     Bill loved to laugh, and he loved to make us laugh, 
with special affectionate jokes for each of us. When I 
became a syndicated columnist in 1979, he let me know, in 
a typically witty way, that he was proud of me. He sent 
me a clipping from a newspaper announcing that it was 
dropping his column and picking up mine instead! With the 
clipping he sent a note: "Morituri te salutamus." "We who 
are about to die salute you."

     I wouldn't call Bill guileless, but he could be 
naive. I think his big mistake was to welcome the 
neoconservatives into the house of conservatism. Some of 
them were decent people; but others were blackmailers and 
smear artists, and these in effect had a knife in his 
ribs. They respected nothing, let alone a friendship. One 
of them boasted that he'd gotten Buckley to shut me up. 
Today, alas, the neocons and their allies control 

     But I don't want to dwell on all that. Now Bill and 
I are both old men, looking at the end. It seems fitting 
to close with a joke:

     Morituri te salutamus, Bill.

Let 'Em Crumble

     Peter Beinart of THE NEW REPUBLIC is an astute young 
liberal, worth reading even when you disagree with him. 
I'm pleased to see he has had second thoughts about the 
Iraq war, which he originally favored. Writing in TIME, 
he draws a wise parallel with the Cold War.

     Conservative Cold Warriors used to argue that time 
was running out for the United States and urged 
aggressive action against the Soviet Union before it was 
too late. This was the position of James Burnham, whom I 
knew at NATIONAL REVIEW, and whose memory I'll always 
revere. But liberal Cold Warriors, such as George Kennan, 
argued for a strategy of containment, confident that the 
Soviet Union would eventually collapse. Communism would 
never work in the long run, because it was held together 
by raw force.

     Fortunately, says Beinart, Kennan's view prevailed 
and he was proved right well before he died last year at 
the age of 100. Preventive (or "pre-emptive") war turned 
out to be unnecessary. In the same way, Beinart goes on, 
Saddam Hussein could have been contained without a 
disastrous invasion, and so can the mullahs of Iran.

     "Time is not on our side," President Bush warned 
before attacking Baghdad, summoning visions of mushroom 
clouds. Actually, it was; in a sense it always is. Given 
time, every regime will falter, lose focus, and come to 
confusion, as Bush's own administration has.

     I'd call this a conservative insight, but when it 
comes to war, liberals seem to grasp it better than 
conservatives do. In Beinart's words, "Let your enemies 

     If only liberals took this patient approach to other 
problems! Poverty was naturally drying up until they 
declared war on it.

The Delusion of Control

     "There are many events in the womb of time, which 
will be delivered," says Shakespeare. I think of those 
words whenever I recall Francis Fukuyama's optimistic 
declaration that we had arrived at "the end of history." 
Communism had fallen, and liberal democracy was the 
universal destiny of mankind. History had not only ended, 
but ended happily.

     Only a decade ago this seemed plausible; now it 
sounds mad, the expression of a blind hubris. War, mass 
immigration, global warming -- real and alleged 
emergencies threaten us, and who knows what others lie 

     Hurricane Katrina was only an especially vivid 
reminder that man can never really control events. In 
fact, his very attempts to control them, especially 
through government, only aggravate the chaos.

     Nevertheless, we seem unable to give up those 
attempts. The delusion of man's omnipotence dies very 
hard, no matter how often it is exposed. A generation ago 
the West felt threatened by a "population bomb" that 
would soon have us all starving unless we -- our 
governments, that is -- acted decisively; contraception 
became not a sin but a duty.

     Today, as a result, the white race is dying off 
while others multiply. When will we learn?

                 +          +          +                  

     "A country is in real trouble when even its 
conservatives have forgotten the past." -- SOBRAN'S. If 
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                                        --- Joseph Sobran


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