Ron Paul vs. the Neocons

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As libertarianism becomes more visible, politically, and gains ground in the GOP, the enemies of freedom are poised — on both the right and the left — for the attack. Libertarians have never had to deal with this problem before, in the main because their movement was considered marginal, if it was considered at all. Today, however, the situation is quite different: a wave of “anti-government” (i.e. pro-freedom) sentiment is sweeping the country, and the realization that libertarians were the original tea-partiers — coupled with the electoral success of that populist upsurge — has the Establishment in a panic. What we’re seeing is a two-pronged, left-right attack on libertarians, with the initial forays in the foreign policy realm.

The main thrust of the attack is naturally directed at the leader of the libertarian movement, the man who has done the most to make libertarianism a significant political force in the modern world, and that man is Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Ron has single-handedly raised the profile of the movement way beyond what anyone imagined only a few years ago. A lot of this has to do with Ron’s prescient warnings about the state of the economy, and the bursting of the real estate bubble, which have given him the kind of authority he never enjoyed in all the years spent crying in the wilderness.

However, Ron’s prescience isn’t limited to economics: unlike most conservatives, Ron was clear from the very beginning that our foreign policy of global intervention would blow back in our faces some day, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks confirmed his view in a way that was not, at first, readily apparent. Yet Ron kept making this point, even in the wake of the war hysteria that followed the attacks, and ten years anon — as a war-weary and dead broke America staggers and seems about to fall — his views are seen as prophetic rather than marginal.

This is precisely what terrifies the Republican party Establishment, and positively enrages the neoconservatives, whose entire philosophy is predicated on the glorification of war. As might be expected, they are sharpening their knives and hoping to go in for the kill, but they can’t do what Rudy Giuliani tried to do the last time around when he got up on his high horse and demanded Ron “take back” his statement that the 9/11 attacks were “blowback,” in CIA parlance, an unintended consequence of our foreign policy adventurism in the Middle East. Rudy, for his trouble, got a grand total of one delegate in the 2008 Republican primaries, and this time around — he’s made noises about entering the fray again — I wouldn’t be surprised if he got less than that. Ron, on the other hand, went on to become the grand old man of the populist Tea Party movement, a candidate whose million-dollar “money-bombs” are a fundraiser’s dream and whose political prospects brighten by the day.

No, this time around the neocons have to be a bit more subtle, while cashing in on the last dregs of the post-9/11 war hysteria. And the only way to do that is to completely misconstrue his words, and twist them to mean something other than what was intended — and then spread the “Ron-said-this” meme far and wide. The latest such attempt was an interview with Simon Conway, a British import with a radio show in Iowa, in which Ron was asked if, given his opposition to violating the sovereignty of other countries, he would have ordered the raid that assassinated Osama bin Laden. Ron answered that, if he were President, “Things would be done somewhat differently.” You’ll note he didn’t say there would have been no raid: instead, he cited the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the actual mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who was found and arrested by the Pakistanis, as an example of US-Pakistani cooperation.

Conway follows up by saying “I don’t want to put words in your mouth” and then proceeds to put words in Ron’s mouth by stating that “you would not have ordered the raid.” Ron then says: “No. No, it was absolutely not necessary” — in this locution, “it” refers, not to the option of a joint US-Pakistani raid, but to a unilateral raid kept secret from the Pakistani government. Once again, Conway goes into his “I don’t want to put words in your mouth” routine, and reiterates that Ron is saying he wouldn’t have ordered any raid whatsoever. Ron answers: “Not the way it took place.”

Naturally, the neocons jumped all over this, with a short piece in National Review claiming in a headline “Ron Paul Wouldn’t Have Ordered Bin Laden Raid,” and quoting only a single sentence — “It was absolutely not necessary” — torn out of context. NR followed this up with an extended riff on the same theme, by one Marion Smith, who starts out his polemic with a lie — “Last month, Ron Paul said he would not have ordered the military action that ended in the death of Osama Bin Laden. In his view, ‘It was absolutely not necessary'” — and then goes into a lengthy historical disquisition about the Barbary pirates and other irrelevant topics. Before careening off on that tangent, however, Smith briefly touches on the real issue:

“In the case of the bin Laden raid, Paul argues that the United States had no more right to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty than to violate England’s, had Bin Laden hypothetically been lodged in London instead of Abbottabad. But bin Laden was not in London, and for an obvious reason: The United Kingdom is an ally, in the true sense of the word. Pakistan, it seems, is not. Nevertheless, the strict non-interventionist argues that the U.S. should have respected Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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