The Self-Castration of the Libertarian Hawks

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There were
no weapons of mass destruction. There were no operational connections
between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. There was no threat to
the United States. But there was oil. Lots and lots of oil.
And there are closed-bidding contracts with the large American
construction firms that have supplied Vice Presidents and Secretaries
of Defense.

the war, I watched in amazement at libertarians and fellow travelers
who got on board Bush’s war wagon. They were adamant: Iraq constituted
a military threat to the United States. They would not consider
the possibility that the CIA was wrong, that the President had
resorted to deception, that the Administration’s use of data
out of a decade-old term paper and faked data from Africa to
bolster its case for war were all signs of the same old same
old: big government gobbling up other people’s wealth wherever
it can. The traditional suspicion of libertarians regarding
the official pronouncements of the state simply disappeared
from the hawks’ thinking.

Bush handed them a knife, and said, “You guys know what to do!”
They did, too. The soprano section of the Establishment’s choir
is louder than ever before.

If you
are waiting for the recent defectors to rejoin the fold, handing
in their confessions, you are terminally nave. There will be
no mea culpas from the libertarian hawks. Nobody wants to admit
that George Bush had invited them to the Emperor’s Clothing
Emporium, where they all donned the latest fashions in camouflage
evening wear.

They will
not be back. I suspect that they will no longer carry libertarian
placards. They have joined the ranks of the military interventionists,
and, for better or worse, they will not return. To return would
be a public announcement: “We always said that government surrounds
the truth with a bodyguard of lies, especially in wartime, but
we forgot. George Bush was just too eloquent. He has a mind
like a steel trap.”

We should
not expect them to display their former systematic hostility
to the state in areas other than war, either. Once someone has
put his trust in the lying state to the degree that he violates
the principle of non-aggression that he once held dear, he will
no longer hold that principle equally dear. This will affect
his thinking in other areas. Like the bite of the vampire in
the Dracula movies, the state’s deception in wartime creates
mirror-avoiding drones out of libertarian war hawks.

I watched
in amazement as a former revisionist historian, who once wrote
a book exposing the lies of the Roosevelt Administration’s foreign
policy, abandoned his position. Why? Because of Saddam Hussein’s
weapons of mass destruction. He accepted the lies of George
Bush and then publicly recanted his position that had demonstrated
the lies of Franklin Roosevelt.

There were
no new footnotes. There was no new evidence that Roosevelt had
not deceived the public. What, then? Saddam Hussein’s weapons
of mass destruction.

The public
fantasy that was spun by the latest foreign policy interventionist
regime retroactively transformed the fantasy of Roosevelt’s
amazement at Pearl Harbor into the truth — textbook trust.
The visibly tattered tapestry of lies of the latest President
made a truth-teller retroactively out of America’s all-time
master of deceit.

How does
this happen? How can Presidents lie us into war, generation
after generation, and subsequently avoid condemnation, either
at the polls or in the textbooks, when their lies are documented
by historians who dig up the evidence? How is it that every
American war is justified at the time by means of noble reasons
that are found later to be contrived?

These wars
are always found to be in the self-interest of the military
complex and its domestic allies, but not in the interest of
the public. Yet the public forgets, or chooses not to remember,
when these lies are exposed after the war. The next war is greeted
with the same enthusiasm as the previous war, and once the troops
are mobilized, no criticism is allowed — not even after the
troops come home, if they come home, which is not often. (There
are 50,000 American troops in Korea, 1,000 for every year since
the cease-fire.)

Rankin, America’s first Congresswoman, voted against World War
I and World War II. In the second case, she was the only person
in Congress who did. Yet the truth is that Roosevelt lured the
Japanese into the attack, and he
knew it was coming before the bombs fell
. But who remembers
Janette Rankin? And among those few who do, who say in print
that she was right? To admit that she was right would mean admitting
that Presidents can lie this nation into war nearly risk-free.
They can, of course, and do.

The only
exception has been Lyndon Johnson. The war’s protestors —
the sons of the ruling class who took to the streets —
finally overcame the pro-war sympathies of the best and the
brightest in 1964—66. So, Johnson is today fair game. Volume
by volume, Robert Caro has documented Johnson’s career, a career
built on lies and criminal behavior. Johnson was a thief in
every sense.

But no
one in the historical guild, in published praise of Caro’s books,
ever mentions a very inconvenient fact: the whole story had
been told in succinct form by one of the greatest historians
of the American West, J. Evetts Haley, in his 1964 paperback,
Texan Looks at Lyndon
, a book panned at the time by
professional historians when it was reviewed at all. Yet Haley’s
critics at the time rarely matched the professional career that
Haley possessed when he wrote that little book. The reviewers
showed little awareness of Haley’s distinguished career. He
paid a heavy price, though this was not the first time in his
academic career that his conservative politics had cost him.
All of this has been dumped down the academic memory hole. No
one today gives credit where credit is obviously due. The revisionists
get no thanks for a job well done.

do anti-war critics whose warnings turn out to be correct —
sometimes within weeks of the cease-fire.

But there
is one benefit, nonetheless. The castrati won’t come back.

6, 2003

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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