THE WANDERER, FEBRUARY 8, 2007

JOSEPH SOBRAN'S
WASHINGTON WATCH

Irony Overload

     Senate Democrats can't muster the will to do what 
they would really like to do: pass a resolution calling 
for a full withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. And 
most Republicans who would like such a withdrawal are 
inhibited by party loyalty from openly opposing their 
president.

     President Bush and his dwindling band of allies are 
relying on the argument that a call for withdrawal would 
"hurt the morale of our troops" and simultaneously 
"encourage the enemy." But this is putting the cart 
before the horse. The chief question is whether the war 
is warranted by American national interests and morally 
right; if not, the morale of our troops is a secondary 
question. The war isn't being waged for the sake of the 
men fighting it, after all. The problem is not that their 
morale is low, but that too many of them are being 
sacrificed for no clear purpose.

     The war has become a hot potato that Bush can't let 
go of. The "war on terrorism" has morphed madly into a 
war between rival groups of terrorists, "liberated" from 
Saddam Hussein but indisposed to enjoy the blessings of 
democracy we have tried to bestow on them.

     Nor has democracy swept the Middle East as Bush 
assured us it would after "regime change." Instead, Sunni 
and Shi'ite Iraqis, who appear to hate each other even 
worse than they hate Americans, are murdering each other 
by taking electric drills to each other's skulls. Who is 
profiting most from this war -- Halliburton or Home 
Depot?

     As for encouraging the enemy, the enemy presumably 
knows from the polls and election results that the 
American public has decided that the whole war has been a 
disaster. It's a little late for a rousing chorus of 
"Over There." We have waged too many wars "over there." 
The excuse is always that we might otherwise have to 
fight them "over here," as if hordes of camel-riding 
terrorists were poised to invade if we display weakness.

     But common sense is finally setting in, and 
Americans are starting to realize how dearly we have paid 
for the delusion that we are always facing foreign 
threats.

     Even the once-hawkish weekly THE NEW REPUBLIC has 
run an editorial lamenting our "overreaction" to the 9/11 
attacks. That's something even Democratic politicians are 
still afraid to admit, but it's overdue. In the 
still-hawkish WALL STREET JOURNAL, my old friend Peggy 
Noonan, a loyal Republican but a sensitive observer, has 
expressed her dismay at Bush's insensate stubbornness and 
praised Sen. Chuck Hagel for his blunt skepticism about 
this war. (I wonder how long the JOURNAL will keep 
putting up with Peggy's Irish Catholic wisdom.)

     In public controversies of this sort, I like to 
apply a simple test: After time has passed and both sides 
have had their say, which way are the conversions and 
defections going? Countless people who once supported the 
Iraq war have changed their minds about it; even many 
neoconservatives have repudiated it. But it would be hard 
to find a single person who originally opposed it but has 
come to believe either that it is justified or that it is 
winnable. The evidence is in.

     Bush and Vice President Cheney are responsible for 
many of the conversions. Their incessant dire warnings, 
optimistic predictions, and appeals to patriotism worked 
for a while to rally public opinion, but the facts have 
contradicted them too many times. The country is 
suffering from severe irony overload. Cheney's 
intransigence and surliness would have made him a severe 
liability even without such grimly comic mishaps as his 
hunting accident and his lesbian daughter's pregnancy.

     The marvel is that these two men still expect to be 
taken seriously. And they continue to hope for a wider 
war with Iran. Somewhere, Colin Powell must be mopping 
his brow. It must be a huge relief that the duty of 
trying to defend this administration has fallen to 
Condoleezza Rice instead of him.

     Bush has lost the allegiance of conservatives and 
even many of his former neocon defenders. One of the most 
startling and devastating attacks on him was written by 
Bruce Fein of THE WASHINGTON TIMES, which all but 
questioned his sanity for pushing "a utopian agenda to 
free the planet of tyranny and violence." The whole 
planet!


Don't Ask Me!

     Speaking of Dick Cheney, it is with great regret 
that I must confess that I have given up trying to 
understand, let alone explain, what the perjury trial of 
his former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is all 
about. It would be easier to sum up the Watergate case in 
a single paragraph.

     Washington is full of people who have followed every 
turn of the story and feel quite passionately about it. 
I, alas, am not among them, nor is anyone I have talked 
to, though I dimly recognize the names of the cast of 
characters: Libby himself, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, 
former ambassador Joseph Wilson, his wife Valerie Plame 
(illegally outed as a minor CIA agent), Richard Armitage, 
and of course columnist Robert Novak. And Ari Fleischer 
has now testified. Something about a leak, I believe.

     Scooter feels he has been set up to take the rap, 
whatever it is. Apparently it's peripherally related to 
the Iraq war. Cheney seems to have had it in for Wilson, 
who had written a piece embarrassing to the Bush 
administration in THE NEW YORK TIMES: He said he had been 
unable to find the desired proof that Iraq had gotten 
uranium from Niger for the nuclear weapons it was 
supposedly trying to make.

     Cheney isn't being charged with any crime, but the 
key to this story, buried under the confusing details, is 
evidently his desire to punish Wilson for casting doubt 
on the administration's rationale for war. Maybe it 
hardly matters at this point, except as an additional 
revelation of character, of the constantly conspiratorial 
nature of Washington, and of Cheney's heavy-handed 
scheming.


A Quieter Sort of Holocaust

     Hardly a day passes without denunciations of 
"Holocaust denial," especially now that the government of 
Iran is sponsoring it. In the secular West, it remains 
the supreme thought-crime.

     As long as the Holocaust meant simply the Nazi 
persecution of Jews, there wasn't much controversy about 
it.

     But unfortunately, it has come to mean much more 
than that; it has become inseparable from Middle Eastern 
politics, as a justification for the state of Israel, for 
its oppression of Palestinian Arabs, and so forth; and it 
is also used to defame Christianity and particularly the 
Catholic Church. Such Jewish writers as Hyam Maccoby and 
Daniel Goldhagen have blamed the Holocaust and indeed all 
anti-Semitism on the Church. We are witnessing what might 
be called "Holocaust inflation."

     Meanwhile, we are also witnessing -- though without 
noticing -- a quieter sort of holocaust: the gradual 
depopulation of the West and Japan though contraception 
and abortion. This has been promoted by both governments 
and the media, which also promote the sexual immorality 
and perversion that make it possible. We are being subtly 
taught to exterminate ourselves.

     The whole process is more insidious than war, but in 
the end, even more destructive.

                 +          +          +                  

     "What James Burnham called 'the suicide of the West' 
is now far advanced in a way Burnham couldn't have 
imagined." Regime Change Begins at Home -- a new 
selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian -- 
will brighten your odd moments, and it comes with all new 
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                                        --- Joseph Sobran

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