The Neocon Yawp
Column by Emmett Harris.
Exclusive to STR
The neocon hawks are squawking again. But perhaps that's a mischaracterization. The word “again” implies there had been a cessation in their lustful exhortations for ever-increasing levels of death and destruction to be wrought by United States government military power. There hasn't been. Instead, their latest screed cable news battlefield is simply more focused, and it is none other than our Nobel Peace Prize-winning President who finds himself in the crosshairs.
On May 23rd, President Obama dared to posit a diminution of the “war on terror” that has been waged for over a decade. When he did, he stepped timidly off the grain of sand that delimits the bounds of permissible discourse regarding U.S. foreign policy. That kind of independence and “lack of resolve” was too much for the war machine cheerleaders. After all, Obama's milquetoast plan could lead to other, more radical ideas reserved for madmen and others with enough sense to recognize the horrible and nefarious consequences of perpetual war.
Senator Lindsey Graham claimed the President was “sounding retreat,” a move sure to slow the increase in civilian casualties abroad. And where's the fun in that? According to the “pro-life” South Carolinian, insufficient rabidity is dangerous. It encourages “[o]ur enemies . . . all over the planet.” He then laid down his verbal trump card: “Al-Qaeda in Iraq is coming back with a vengeance.” Even assuming Al-Qaeda poses the threat claimed, Graham conveniently ignores that Al-Qaeda wasn't even in Iraq until then-President George W. Bush sent in U.S. troops. The correlation is striking. While it may not be proof, it certainly suggests that Graham and his ilk are more to blame for Al-Qaeda in Iraq than the phony retreat that worries him so much.
Not to be outdone by a guy named Lindsey, Newt Gingrich slithered out from the underbrush to appear on CNN's “State of the Union”, where he called the President's plan “stunningly, breathtakingly naïve,” before he paused to catch his breath from the arduous walk to the studio. Gingrich indicted both the Obama and Bush 2 administrations for not being forthright about the threat of terrorism. He is correct, but not in the way he would have us believe. Estimates put the odds of being murdered by an act of terrorism at one in 20 million. That is four times less likely than being struck by lightning -- hardly the stuff of existential fear.
Michael McCaul, a Republican Representative from Texas, appeared on the same show as Gingrich to add nothing original. Parroting the talking points he worked so hard to memorize, McCaul said “[Obama's] rhetoric sort of defies the reality in terms of threat level that we've all been briefed on.” Presumably the President would receive a bit more in the way of intelligence briefings, but maybe McCaul pays for his own, so we can give him a pass on that. Based on what we know, however, the only thing that “defies the reality” is how a negligible threat can continuously be touted as a legitimate concern.
The hawks paint a picture of a President determined to blindly stop the killing, a President willing to wield a little less power, a President desirous of peace. Well, they can relax their talons. Obama is not that President.
Seldom do his actions follow his rhetoric. Obama is like a commissar who doesn’t want to dance with his deeds in public. He holds legality as a shield to fend off moral criticism, and then he wants congratulations for the angst he supposedly feels about his murderous policies.
In many ways, Graham and the boys differ from President Obama mainly in their exhibitionist zeal. The hawks display their bloodlust openly, while Obama likes to keep his buried beneath a blanket of comforting language. But using speech that hints at an underlying humanity is all it takes to send the Grahams of the world into apoplectic fits of ruffled feathers, for no war is safe from compassion. That is why they shriek and that is why, to paraphrase Whitman, the neocons will continue to sound their barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.