Making Cannon Fodder: A Straussian Neocon Exposes the Big Lincoln Lie Strategy

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In his book, Making Patriots, Walter Berns of the American Enterprise Institute argues that traditional American individualism, with its emphasis on natural rights to life, liberty, and property, creates a serious dilemma for the state (and hence for neocons): Not enough young people will be willing to sacrifice their lives in the state’s wars. Too concerned with leading independent lives within their own families and communities, America’s youth are not sufficiently keen on dying for "abstract ideas" that are fed to them by propagandists for the state (i.e., Straussians like Berns and his AEI colleagues).

For example, Berns says "we cannot be indifferent to the welfare of others," no matter where these others may reside in the world. America’s youth must be prepared to sacrifice their lives for these anonymous "others," all over the globe if necessary. This of course is a complete repudiation of the foreign policy ideas of the American founding fathers, which was commercial relations with all nations but entangling alliances with none. The founders would think the neocon agenda of America as the world’s policeman is insane.

The "dilemma" that is addressed in Making Patriots is how to go about motivating America’s youth to make such sacrifices and become cannon fodder in the neocons’ perpetual wars for perpetual peace. The answer to this dilemma, says Berns, is to devise a new "civil religion" so that young people will think of themselves as more or less "religious" crusaders as they march off to slaughter or to be slaughtered. This "civil religion" is patriotism — at least as it is defined by Berns. In other words, America’s youth must be indoctrinated into thinking of themselves as the Western equivalents of mad Muslim fanatics on a mission to compel the rest of the world to adopt their "civil religion" — or else.

Ominous Parallels

Berns incredibly insists that this brand of patriotism — sacrificing one’s life for the state — is quintessentially American, based on the beliefs of the founding fathers. But in reality its roots lie more in European fascism. As Mussolini wrote in Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions (1935), fascism "stresses the importance and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the state." And, "[C]lassical liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism regards the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual."

In his "noblest form" the Aryan "willingly submits his own ego to the community and, if the hour demands, even sacrifices it," wrote Hitler in Mein Kampf. "The child is the mother’s contribution to the state" was the slogan of the Hitler Youth, the policy of which was to compel German youth to perform "service rendered to the nation to lift men out of economic interest, out of acquisitiveness, to free them from materialism, from egoism…." (Robert A. Brady, The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism, p. 180).

The Role of the Big Lincoln Lie

This of course is patently un-American. The American founders believed that the people should be the masters of their government, not servants to it. To the founders, the purpose of government was to protect man’s natural rights to life, liberty, and property, not to conscript the nation’s youth into an endless series of wars for…what?

Berns’s solution to the dilemma of how to persuade American youth to become servants of the militarized state is that they must by mesmerized by some kind of "national poet" whose rhetoric can convince them to abandon their individualism and their selfish desires for peaceful and prosperous lives. Luckily, says Berns, a "national poet" is at hand and is personified by Abraham Lincoln, who Berns describes as "statesman, poet, and . . . the martyred Christ of democracy’s passion play" (p. 100). If they are to be goaded into making the supreme sacrifice for the state, Americans must be brainwashed in "his greatness," which consists not in his actions but "in the power and beauty of his words" (p. 88).

Berns devotes a chapter of Making Patriots to a recitation of many of the myths and delusions about Lincoln that his fellow Straussian neocons are so well known for advancing. Lincoln responded to Fort Sumter, where no one was killed or injured, with a full-scale invasion of the Southern states because "his purpose was peace" (p. 87). Napoleon III offered to broker a peace before the war broke out but Lincoln refused to even talk with him because "his purpose was peace." After Fort Sumter, Lincoln thanked naval officer Gustavus Fox for his assistance in manipulating the Confederates into firing the first shot because — you guessed it — "his purpose was peace."

Lincoln illegally suspended habeas corpus and had his army arrest tens of thousands of Northern political opponents; he censored telegraph communication, shut down opposition newspapers and imprisoned their editors, jailed some two dozen duly elected officials of the state of Maryland, rigged elections, waged war without the consent of Congress, orchestrated the illegal creation of a new state, West Virginia, and deported an outspoken member of the Democratic Party, Congressman Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio. All of this rampant illegality took place, says Berns, because of Lincoln’s supposedly deep concern that "the laws be faithfully executed"!

Lincoln wrote a book as a young man that challenged the veracity of the Bible but it was destroyed by friends so that it wouldn’t damage his political career. He was never known to have become a believer and never joined a church. He was famous for his dirty jokes, and nearly every minister in Springfield, Illinois, opposed his nomination in 1860. Yet to Berns, Lincoln "of course . . . read the Bible" and used Biblical language to "save the American Republic . . . with his words" (p. 89).

In keeping with the standard Jaffa/Claremont/Straussian lies about Lincoln, he supposedly had nothing at all to do with the war, but became a "great statesmen" once he realized that the war "was coming" (p. 94). It just came, out of nowhere, unannounced and unanticipated. What bad luck for the Illinois "railsplitter."

Lincoln famously micromanaged the waging of war on civilians as well as combatants for four years, including the bombing of cities, the killing of civilians, the pillaging and plundering of farms, homes, and businesses, and the burning out of entire regions such as the Shenandoah Valley. He also compulsively experimented with the development of more and more devastating weapons of mass destruction to be turned loose on the Southern population. But to Berns, Lincoln "never looked upon the Confederates as enemies" (p. 96). His armies killed Southerners by the hundreds of thousands because he loved them, and he "purged his heart and mind from hatred or even anger towards his fellow-countrymen of the South" (p. 96).

This is a prerequisite for being a card-carrying member of the Lincoln-worshipping Straussian neocon cabal: One must put on the pretense of being able to read the mind of a man who died almost 140 years ago and to also supposedly know what was "in his heart." Why bother with historical facts when one can read minds (and hearts)?

Lincoln’s war, which resulted in the death of 620,000 Americans — roughly the equivalent of more than 5 million Americans standardizing for today’s population — was all worth it, says Berns, because Lincoln’s political rhetoric taught Americans "to love the Union" and "helped make us patriots" (p. 98). To Berns, "us" obviously does not include the citizens of the conquered Southern provinces.

The "greatest importance" of the Lincoln myth, says Berns, is that it was used for generations "in the public schools" where "we" were supposedly taught to "love our country." Berns seems to conflate "country" with "government," as in "love and obey our government."

It appears that Berns exaggerates the power of Lincoln’s words just a tiny bit. In his own time, Lincoln was despised by millions of Northerners despite — or perhaps because of — his political rhetoric. He only won 39 percent of the popular vote in 1860, and in 1864 he won a mere 55 percent despite the fact that the Southern states were out of the union and the military had rigged the election by intimidating Democratic voters. Tens of thousands of Northern men deserted the army or evaded conscription in Canada and elsewhere.

In addition to introducing the slavery of conscription, Lincoln recruited tens of thousands of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, and elsewhere to fight in his war by offering them free land under the Homestead Act. Entire regiments of non-English speaking immigrants were sent South to teach — at gunpoint — the grandsons of Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry what it really meant to be an American. Many of these men soon perished in Ulysses S. Grant’s suicidal assaults on well-entrenched Confederate army positions in the Virginia countryside.

At least it is refreshing for a Straussian neocon to come clean and admit the real reason for the neocon infatuation with the Lincoln myth: making cannon fodder out of America’s youth.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is the author of the LRC #1 bestseller, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, which was just re-released in paperback with a new chapter by Three Rivers Press/Random House.

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

Really Learn About the Real Lincoln
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