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George Kennan vs. Bush, Cheney, Rove, Kristol, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Coulter
Tuesday, 08 May 2007 11:44
by Walter C. Uhler

George Kennan's 15 May 1953 speech at the University of Notre Dame was delivered at a time, when the right-wing anti-communist hysteria, inflamed by Senator Joseph McCarthy, was at its peak. Yet, it courageously exposed the demagogic McCarthyites for the ignorant, self-righteous, fear-mongering extremists they were. Thus, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that John Lukacs appended the speech to his new book about George Kennan, because it has much to teach us about courage during the current campaign of fear orchestrated by today's American equally self-righteous right-wing extremists.

Kennan excoriated McCarthyism's "alarmed and exercized anti-communism," as "an anti-communism of a quite special variety, bearing an air of excited discovery and proprietorship, as though no one had ever known before that there was a communist danger, as though no one had ever thought about it and taken its measure, as though it had all begun about the year 1945 and these people were the first to learn of it."

President Bush behaved the same way, as if "alarmed and exercised" anti-terrorism rhetoric would enable him to hide his failures to prevent 9/11, notwithstanding numerous warnings about impending terrorist attacks. Attempting to gain proprietorship, Bush's numerous asinine assertions about the terrorists demonstrated that he didn't have a clue.

First, he ignorantly claimed: "They hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." Then he foolishly promised to "rout out terror wherever it may exist." [Woodward, p.73] More ominously, he would "make no distinction between those who planned these acts and those who harbor them." [p. 30] Finally, he also promised to "rid the world of evil." [p. 67]

Such words befit an overeager, ignorant, petulant child, not a mature statesman. Yet, can any less be said of all the Americans, who found such nonsense persuasive? No wonder citizens throughout the rest of the world consider the United States to be the greatest menace to world peace.

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Kennan considered President George W. Bush to be a "profoundly shallow" man. And in September 2002, at the age of 98, Kennan not only asserted that alarmed and exercized attempts to link Iraq to al Qaeda was "pathetically unsupported and unreliable," he also castigated Democrats for "timidity out of concern for the [November 2002] elections."

Unfortunately, Kennan already was bedridden when the evil, fear-mongering Darth Cheney - who, I remind you, was the negligent sitting Vice-President when al Qaeda's terrorists successfully attacked the U.S. on 9/11 - asserted: "A November win by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would put the United States at risk of another "devastating" terrorist attack." [CNN.com, Sept. 7, 2004]

A few months after Kennan's death, but long after it became clear that the Bush administration's incompetence had lost Osama bin Laden, and was losing its war in Iraq (perhaps, Afghanistan, as well), Karl Rove still was asserting: "Conservatives saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding."

Beyond this McCarthyite smear, Rove committed others: "Conservatives see the United States as a great nation engaged in a noble cause; liberals see the United States and they see…Nazi concentration camps, Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia." [Joe Conason, It Can Happen Here, pp. 24-25] Thus, as he did from 9/11 forward, Rove was betting that a majority of the electorate could be frightened to vote Republican by Republican hate- and fear-mongering.

Worse still, with the aid of America's warmongering neoconservatives (those brave folks who, somehow, never get around to serving in the military, themselves) such as Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, Bush and Cheney were able "to divert America's wrath away from those who perpetrated that attack and turn it against those [in Iraq] who did not." [Scott McConnell, "The Weekly Standard's War," The American Conservative, September 21, 2005]

As Scott McConnell has written, in 1997 Kristol and Robert Kagan wrote an article, "Saddam Must Go," in which they asserted: "We know it seems unthinkable to propose another ground attack to take Baghdad. But it's time to start thinking the unthinkable." After 9/11, Kristol's Weekly Standard propagandists incessantly beat the war drums for invading Iraq. And they did so by repeating their BIG LIE - Saddam was linked to al Qaeda.

For, as Scott McConnell notes, in the very first issue published after 9/11, the Weekly Standard "laid down a line from which the magazine would not waver over the next 18 months." Their line was "to link Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden in virtually every paragraph, to join them at the hip in the minds of readers, and then lay out a strategy that actually gave attacking Saddam priority over eliminating al Qaeda." [McConnell, The American Conservative]

Moreover, the most zealous neocon, Douglas Feith, used his position within the Department of Defense to fabricate bogus intelligence to present to fellow neocon, Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Darth Cheney, who would then present the BIG LIE to the public. Supplementing the BIG LIE was the superficial nonsense spouted by America's neocons about the ease with which democracy and freedom could be exported to the Middle East - even at the point of a gun.

How serious is the BIG LIE? Consider Robert Parry's observation: "Under principles of international law applied from Nuremberg to Rwanda, propagandists who contribute to war crimes or encourage crimes against humanity can be put in the dock alongside the actual killers." [Consortium News, Posted August 21, 2006]

But what about the water-carriers for Bush, Cheney, Rove and Kristol, such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter? They certainly meet the criteria Kennan observed in 1953, when he said: "[T]hey claim the right to define a certain area of our national life and cultural output as beyond the bounds of righteous approval… One has the impression that if uncountered, these people would eventually narrow the area of political and cultural respectability to a point where it included only themselves, the excited accusers, and excluded everything and everybody not embraced in the profession of denunciation."

Like the McCarthyite and virulent racist, J. Edgar Hoover, who was "so malicious that he would stop at nothing to destroy" Martin Luther King Jr., "a man who believed in justice," [NY Times Jan. 18, 1998] today's McCarthyite and virulent racist, Rush Limbaugh, is leaving few stones unturned in his attempt to destroy Senator Barack Obama. Limbaugh, you'll recall, decades ago told an African-American caller to "take that bone out of your nose." Judging by his recent assaults on Senator Obama, it doesn't sound like Limbaugh has ever learned from the errors of his ways.

Intending to "destroy the burrhead," Hoover's men let King know about the damaging material gathered on him by the F.B.I. and suggested, "he do the honorable thing and take his own life." They didn't know the great character possessed by the man they were dealing with. [Ibid]

And while we can only speculate whether Limbaugh intended to provoke the racist threats that require unusually early Secret Service protection for Senator Obama, who can doubt that Limbaugh is pandering to the low class white racism of his half-witted audience through thinly-veiled racist taunts. He energizes both his and the Republican Party base with his racial references to: "Halfrican American," "Obama Osama," and by playing "Barrack, The Magic Negro."

But Limbaugh's McCarthyism extends far beyond his racist Hooverism. In 2003, for example, Limbaugh called the patriots who protested America's impending invasion of Iraq, "anti-American, anti-capitalist Marxists and communists." On August 15, 2005, he asserted: "Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous. The Supreme Court ought to look into this. Absolutely brilliant idea out there."

On June 27, 2006, he launched a McCarthyite smear of the New York Times: "If you look at The New York Times and the kind of stories they're leaking and running and the information they're getting, it's clear that they're trying to help the terrorists….80 percent of their readers have to be jihadists." And, then, on April 5, 2007, in the great tradition of tail gunner Joe, Limbaugh pimped for Cheney when he asked about Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi: "Is this what they really intend, to lose the war, to make sure we come home defeated?"

(I've written about Limbaugh's McCarthyism before)

Bill O'Reilly is no better. On September 14, 2001, three days after the 9/11 attacks, Mr. O'Reilly added his voice to the BIG LIE: "I believe that you're going to find out that money from Iraq flowed in and helped this happen." And on March 18, 2003, Mr. O'Reilly lent his support to another BIG LIE, the one about Iraq's so-called WMD: "And I said on my program, if — if — the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." (Yet, Mr. O'Reilly continues to serve as a cheerleader of Bush's illegal, immoral war.)

On August 10, 2006, Mr. O'Reilly made a McCarthyite smear against the "far left." "The far left in America is dominated by haters, people who despise their own country and want to injure those with whom they disagree. These smear merchants are now all over the mainstream media and have spread like lice on the Internet." At one point, in July 2005, Bill O'Reilly announced that he would be exposing and naming all the people and organizations he considered to be helping the terrorists.

Thanks, however, to some media researchers at Indiana University, who've sampled O'Reilly's McCarthyite tactics, we now know that he "employed six of the seven [classic] propaganda devices nearly 13 times each minute of his editorials." In this, he "is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than [the anti-Semite and fascist, Father Charles] Coughlin." "Fear was used in more than half (52.4 percent) of the commentaries, and O'Reilly almost never offered a resolution to the threat."

Worst of all, however, is Ann Coulter. After the 9/11 attacks, Ms. Coulter made the following outrageous statement: "We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war." As if Ms. Coulter knew anything about war.

In her book, Treason, Ms. Coulter defended the BIG LIE of warmongers who claimed the existence of ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. And, on December 21, 2005, Ms. Coulter made the outrageous assertion: "I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

Ms. Coulter makes great sport of demoninzing liberals. As she wrote in Treason, "Betraying the manifest national defense objectives of the country is only part of the left's treasonous scheme. They aim to destroy America from the inside with their relentless attacks on morality and truth."

And she's a great fan of McCarthy: "The myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times…Liberals weren't cowering for fear during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name." Now, whom are you going to believe, George Kennan - "the conscience of America" — or someone who's probably certifiably insane?

(I took great delight in the widespread anger that this review — provoked among Ms. Coulter's fans.)

The erudite Middle East scholar, Juan Cole has dismissed such McCarthyites with the following observation: "Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them in their mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable." [Cole, Informed Comment, Feb. 08, 2005]

Kennan took them much more seriously. Noting that "the forces of intolerance…are incompatible with the flowering of the human spirit," Kennan observed: "There is no greater mistake we of this generation can make than to imagine that the tendencies which in other countries have led to the nightmare of totalitarianism will, as they appear in our own midst, politely pause - out of some delicate respect for the American tradition - at a point where they would begin to affect our independence of mind and belief. The forces of intolerance and political demagoguery are greedy forces, and unrestrained. There is no limit to their ambitions or their impudence."

To those, like the writer, who are inclined to fight fire with fire, the following observations seem inescapable: In light of the fact that the Bush/Cheney regime started an illegal, immoral war against Iraq, based upon lies and exaggerations about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction and so-called links to al Qaeda; in light of the fact that the lives of more than 3,300 American soldiers have been wasted for such lies and exaggerations, as well as, perhaps, the lives of some hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and in light of the facts that this illegal, immoral war has increased terrorist attacks seven-fold around the world, elevated Iran to a position of regional dominance, infringed upon domestic liberties in the U.S. and caused a worldwide explosion of hatred of the United States; isn't it plausible to claim that the real traitors to the United States are the members of the Bush administration, the neocons and their McCarthyite water-carriers? ?

Kennan, however, wouldn't approve. Although speaking about the McCarthyites in 1953, his following admonition has universal application: "I tremble when I see this attempt to make a semi-religious cult out of emotional-political currents of the moment, and particularly when I note that these currents are ones exclusively negative in nature, designed to appeal only to man's capacity for hatred and fear, never to their capacity for forgiveness and charity and understanding. I have lived more than ten years of my life in totalitarian countries. I know where this sort of thing leads."

In the name of "forgiveness and charity and understanding," then, let's simply work to assure that the Bush administration, the neocons and their McCarthyite water-carriers receive justice. Which would include impeachment for some and jail time for all!

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
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