I’m Sick and Tired of Neocons

A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 340 with Justin Raimondo.

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ROCKWELL:  Well, good morning.  This is the Lew Rockwell Show.  And how great to have as our guest, Mr. Justin Raimondo.  I first met Justin in the early 1980s when he was a passionate fighter against war within the Libertarian Party and the Libertarian movement.  He’s, of course, still a passionate fighter against war and the warfare state and everything that goes along with it, now in a much higher platform and broader platform as editorial director of Antiwar.com.  He’s the author of two important books, An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

Justin, you’re also an expert on the Neo-Conservatives, one of my least favorite ideological groupings.  Tell us about the Neo-Conservatives and the lost legacy of the conservative movement.

RAIMONDO:  Well, what happened is that during the Cold War — conservatives used to be like Bob Taft, anti-interventionists for [amazon asin=1573928097&template=*lrc ad (right)]small government at home because they realized that you couldn’t have an empire and a republic, limited government at the same time.  But that died out after McCarthyism.  And the fervent anti-Communism of so many people on the right logically led — as Murray pointed out in his great book The Betrayal of the American Right, logically led to warmongering.  Because if we’re out to root out the Commies on the home front, then what’s to stop us from doing it abroad?  So naturally — perhaps not so naturally — what happened was that a lot of ex-Communists, ex-Trotskyites and right-wing Social Democrats jumped on the conservative bandwagon early on, like James Burnham, for example, who was one of the founding editors of National Review.  And Bill Buckley gathered these people around him.  They soon took over the conservative movement and so the conservative movement became the militaristic bunch of nut jobs that we see today.  Their big dream, as Murray pointed out, was to nuke the Soviet Union.  And they made speeches to their followers saying, yes, we’re going to nuke the Soviet Union; it’s going to be great.  Of course, the Soviet Union failed, like Mises predicted that it would, without any nuking being necessary.

So all these right-wing Social Democrats originally started in the Democratic Party and they were grouped around “Scoop” Jackson, the Democrat from Boeing, as we used to call him —




RAIMONDO:  — who was a senator from Washington State.  And he was a Democrat.  But such fervent Neo-Cons as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Cohen, people like that, who we’re all familiar with today — all too familiar with — started out in the Democratic Party.  And then after Vietnam — Vietnam was sort of the fulcrum of the Neo-Conservative movement as an organized tendency.  And they stomped out of the Democratic Party after McGovern took over and the peaceniks supposedly took over the Democratic Party, and they joined the Republican Party, joined the Reagan Revolution, so-called.  And ever since then, they’ve been a boil on the body politic, growing bigger and more infected by the year.

ROCKWELL:  Justin, how closely connected are they to the national security state?  If we look back at the beginning of this — as you say, Buckley and Burnham, Willmoore Kendall — a lot of the people connected with National Review in the early days were CIA types, so-called ex-CIA.  But, of course, as we know, you’re never ex-CIA anymore than you’re ever ex any other big intelligence agency.

RAIMONDO:  Right.  Yes, I mean, that’s something I don’t know much about.  And actually, the CIA was not that interested in the conservative movement.  You know, I’m sure that they looked into it.  And of course, Buckley said that he worked for the CIA, so it wasn’t just the people around Buckley; it was Buckley himself.  But their main thrust was the anti-Stalinist left because these people had intellectual heft and sort of respectability.  Like, there was the whole CIA project based around Encounter magazine.  Of course, Irving Kristol and the Congress for Cultural Freedom.


RAIMONDO:  So that group.  But they were not conservatives at the time.  They were right-wing Social Democrats, sort of Obamaites on domestic policy but very pro war.  Because a lot of these people were ex-Trotskyists, so they had retained this hatred of the Soviet government even as they gradually gave up their Socialist ideas.  So that’s what the Neo-Cons are really, is this sort of ex left-wing sect that has now achieved enormous power and influence, especially in Washington, D.C.

ROCKWELL:  And, Justin, they’re the War Party, aren’t they, as you put it?

RAIMONDO:  Absolutely.  Well, they aren’t the entire War Party but they are the central headquarters and high command of the War Party, absolutely.

ROCKWELL:  Because there’s the merchants of death and obviously other people –[amazon asin=1933859601&template=*lrc ad (right)]

RAIMONDO:  Right.  Yeah.

ROCKWELL: — who profit from war.

RAIMONDO:  Right.  And there are people who are not part of the Neo-Conservative movement but who are fellow travelers.  And a lot of people are influenced by money.  You may have noticed that.


And that’s what the Neo-Cons have an awful lot of.  Like, you’ll notice that they had no trouble raising money to attack Chuck Hagel, for example.  That’s the most recent hate campaign.  And for the first time in American history, we had TV ads attacking a nominee before he was even nominated!  And of course, they were pricey ads.  They played all over the Washington, D.C., area.  These guys have money.  So lots of people take advantage of that.

ROCKWELL:  And didn’t the Neo-Conservatives pretty much run the Romney foreign policy operation?

RAIMONDO:  Well, they did.  I mean, even though there was a so-called realist who was in charge of the foreign policy shop overall, the Neo-Cons had effective control.  Dan Senor was his campaign manager.  And of course, Dan Senor is the campaign manager of the anti-Hagel effort right now.  Here is a candidate who attacked the president of the United States because he went to the Middle East and didn’t go pay fealty like a vassal to Netanyahu — Oh, he didn’t visit Israel!  This is something that was actually brought up in a presidential debate on foreign policy.  Amazing.


ROCKWELL:  So, Justin, what do you think the status of — I mean, how influential and how powerful are the Neo-Conservatives right now?  Are they at a height?  Have they diminished a little bit?  What’s your view?

RAIMONDO:  Well, this is it because the nation is sick and tired of the Neo-Cons.  They’re sick and tired of listening to Bill Kristol on FOX News every Sunday pontificating with his record.  I mean, people are noticing that — guess what — their record is not that great.  They were wrong about everything.  All those rose petals that were supposed to be flowing on American soldiers as we invaded Iraq, oh, they turned into bullets, didn’t they?  These guys have been so spectacularly wrong that even dead-heads in Washington, D.C., are beginning to notice.  What they’ve basically done is they’ve overreached.  And in politics, that’s not a good strategy — (laughing).  So with this Hagel thing, this is going to be their downfall.  This is the big, bad — this is Armageddon — (laughing) — and they’re going to lose.  The forces of the Devil are going to be vanquished.  As to whether we’re going to descend into the Heavenly Kingdom after that, I tend to doubt that.  But this is going to be quite a show.

ROCKWELL:  Justin, if I could talk about our own movement before we go back to broader questions, in the early days of the Libertarian movement that I was involved in, the pro-war people were a huge faction.   Sometimes they were even the majority.  Is this because of Ayn Rand?  I guess, probably.  It seems to me that they’ve pretty much been vanquished within the Libertarian movement.  Yes, there are still a few Chirping Sectaries — (laughing) — as Russell Kirk wouldn’t have put it.  But anyway, don’t you think because of Ron Paul, because of our sites, and maybe just the facts of reality that the pro-war people have lost out within the freedom movement?

RAIMONDO:  Well, I’ll tell you why that is.  Two words:  Ron Paul.

ROCKWELL:  Yeah.[amazon asin=1479229512&template=*lrc ad (right)]

RAIMONDO:  I mean, Ron Paul saved the Libertarian movement back when it was in disarray after the split with the Cato people and all kinds of weird little formations began to erupt, like the Libertopians and all the — the Reason magazine crowd, who only care about legalizing drugs.  Ron Paul arose at the right moment.  And plus, he educated his fans.  He didn’t just say give me your money, blah, blah, blah.  He wanted to educate.  That’s why he ran.  And so two campaigns, he’s really established a firm ideological basis for the Libertarian movement.  And, yes, the War Party has been vanquished — (laughing).


ROCKWELL:  I remember when one Cato guy wrote an article in the Economist saying that the trouble with the Ron Paul movement was that it was fundamentally Rothbardian and —


— really they ought to be Milton Friedmanian.  But that brings up the subject of Murray.  I mean, Murray has a much bigger presence today, now, than he ever did in his own lifetime.  Our great mentor and our great friend, beginning to have the kind of status that he always deserved.

RAIMONDO:  Yeah.  I mean, that seems to be an unfortunate aspect of greatness is that these great figures only become influential after they’re gone.


RAIMONDO:  And I can’t tell you how many times I have sat here and thought, if only Murray were here to see this.  And thousands of college students yelling “End the Fed.  Stop the wars.”  I mean —


— who would have thought back in our tiny little movement that this would ever happen?  I’ve always been an optimist, like Murray, but a long-range optimist.  I never thought this would happen.  It’s totally amazing to me.  And everyday I’m astonished — (laughter) — and grateful.

ROCKWELL:  And of course, Murray, starting in the ’50s, was writing about the centrality of war to any concern about human freedom.

RAIMONDO:  Oh, absolutely.  He fought the good fight when it was just him and maybe Leonard Liggio against everybody else.  Because, back then, the Libertarian movement was just a subset of Conservatism.  And Libertarian?  I remember early debates back when the Libertarian movement was just all these mimeographed newsletters and Reason magazine was stapled together, and all these debates about the word “Libertarian.”   They were saying, well, you know, it’s kind of a weird word.  I mean, when I told people that I was a Libertarian at the tender age of, say, 16, people would go —


— I didn’t know the Librarians had their own party.


People actually said that to me.  And so we’ve come a long way, baby — (laughing).

ROCKWELL:  Yeah, it’s true.  And of course, Rothbard and Paul –[amazon asin=1610162641&template=*lrc ad (right)]


ROCKWELL:  — are the two people who made it happen.

RAIMONDO:  Absolutely.

ROCKWELL:  And I think we have a bright future.  Don’t you think the young are more and more on our side?  More and more with us?

RAIMONDO:  Oh, absolutely.  Yeah, there’s no question about that.  We have to protect the brand, the brand name “Libertarian.”  And we can’t ever let it be sullied by opportunists.

ROCKWELL:  No.  And of course, we had people in the Beltway doing that.  And I’m sure we’ll have others in the future as well.  But I think it is possible to protect the brand.  And you’re exactly right; we do have to work at it.

RAIMONDO:  Yeah.  We have to watch these people.

ROCKWELL:  I can remember when The New York Times defined Libertarian as being about gay rights — period.


Nothing to do with war, nothing to do with the economy —


— and nothing to do with civil liberties or anything else.


RAIMONDO:  Boy, how times have changed.


It’s amazing.

Oh, did you hear that they drove out the pastor — I know that this is off topic but just as an interesting aside, the pastor, a Pastor Giglio, who is a Protestant Evangelical, was supposed to give one of the benedictions at the inauguration.  And last night, on Twitter, Joan Walsh, one of the most obnoxious San Francisco-liberal types imaginable — you may have seen her on MSNBC —


RAIMONDO:  — tweeting, well, there’s some questions about him and blah, blah, blah.  And she had a wink in her tweet to this Think Progress piece about the “questionable” views of Pastor Giglio.  And so I had tweeted back, “Oh, here comes the Gay Inquisition.”  And she wrote backing saying — she tweeted back saying, “Inquisition?  Oh!  That’s overwrought!”  So of course, I wake up this morning to the news that Pastor Giglio is not speaking, is not going to give the benediction because, of course, the Inquisition has claimed another victim — (laughing).  It’s just amazing.  If you’re not pro gay, if you don’t love gays, if you’re a Christian or whatever you are — guess what — you’re not welcome.  You can’t participate in public life.  You can’t say anything.  And soon, they’re going to outlaw it as hate speech.  How quickly the bullied become the bullies.  That really is the lesson in all this that people who are stomped on for, like, decades, suddenly, when they’re on top, they’re even meaner than their old tormentors.  It’s sad to watch, but what can we do about it?[amazon asin=0945466234&template=*lrc ad (right)]  Just sort of speak out against it.

ROCKWELL:  Well, Justin, tell us about your future plans.  You have another book in mind?

RAIMONDO:  Well, yeah, but talking about a book is probably not a good idea.


It tends to jinx it.  But, yes, I am trying to work on a book called Fear Itself:  Roosevelt’s Wartime Dictatorship.

ROCKWELL:  Oh, wow.

RAIMONDO:  It talks about the smear campaign against the so-called isolationists in the Old Right.  And it also talks about how — and this is even, like, a bigger topic, which probably better scholars than I — I’m not even a scholar; I’m just a journalist — have actually written about.  But I’m going to try and popularize their insights and talk about how war really is the health of the state, as Randolph Bourne put it, and that during that time, I mean, FDR was a real dictator for a while.

ROCKWELL:  It seems we’re replicating that era now and into the future.  This is a very important topic so that’s great news.  I want to urge everybody to read you at antiwar.com.

You can look at Justin’s archive at lewrockwell.com and, of course, we’ll link to his two books.

And, Justin, you’re a very important figure in the cause of the right and of — and I mean lower-case “R” right — and of peace and justice.  Just keep it up.  And you’re such a fun writer, too.

If anybody listening to this has never read Justin Raimondo, he’s just as fun in writing as he is verbally.  And you obviously learn a lot from him, too, so read Justin.

And, Justin, keep writing, keep speaking and keep defending the cause of peace.

RAIMONDO:  Well, thank you, Lew.  It’s great to talk to you and it’s great to hear your voice — (laughing) — up to this time.

ROCKWELL:  Bye-bye.

RAIMONDO:  Bye-bye.

ROCKWELL:  Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, January 14, 2013