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Monday, October 11, 2004

A Decisive Turn to Paganism

Has the nation finally abandoned its Judeo-Christian heritage, or is there still hope?

Recent events have left Christians wondering how they stand in American society. In the last year, we at Christianity Today have received several manuscripts by prominent Christian intellectuals suggesting that the United States has become definitively and irreversibly anti-God.

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord.
—G. K. Chesterton

Our nation has lived for three decades with what must be the greatest lie "of tongue and pen" of the 20th century, handed solemnly down by seven unelected justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: "We do not know when human life begins." The conclusion that the justices drew in Roe v. Wade was unwarranted, namely, because if we say that we do not know whether human life has begun, we may allow its termination at any time up to the undeniable birth of a live baby. Now, three decades later, we have perhaps 42 million fewer Americans, of which perhaps 15 or 16 million would be between the ages of 18 and 30 today. The lie must comfort the cruel men-and the women too, now-who give us leave to terminate life prior to birth, at will.

While our nation plans great things for the world-democracies in the Middle East, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, no more weapons of mass destruction (other than in our own hands or in the hands of those too powerful for us to oppose), prescription drugs for older people, no child left behind (of those who succeed in being born)-the number of us who will enjoy those great things is declining, thanks in large part to abortion, as European and American births drop below the replacement rate.

What is going on here? In his 1978 Harvard Commencement address, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn uttered words that have made him forever politically incorrect: "Men have forgotten God." In the United States, a large majority of the population is associated with Christianity, and a substantial minority calls itself practicing, observant, "evangelical," "born again," or otherwise conservatively Christian. God is not forgotten on Sunday, not in the churches, great and small, that dot the landscape. But otherwise?

What happened immediately after Roe v. Wade? Christians seemed to have fled to the catacombs, caves, or foxholes, for they were hardly in evidence. The anti-abortion efforts of the Roman Catholic laity put its episcopate to shame; Protestants, used to thinking of their nation as mildly Christian, did little, until the late Francis Schaeffer stirred evangelicals with his film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

To be sure, the number of Christians now stirred up includes more than one in the high halls of power, and occasionally pious bleats are heard. But still at least one-quarter of those awaiting birth are destroyed, "safely and legally," during the nine months of pregnancy.

The fact that Roe, a clear repudiation of the biblical Judeo-Christian teaching that each human is made in the image of God, did not lead to a massive rejection of the Court and its allies has shown our judges and justices that they may not only forget God, they may install idols in his place.

Roe is now history. It is part of the furniture, as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would put it. Now something far more important for the future of Christianity in the United States, and by implication for the future of the entire country and its people, has taken place.

A Ruling for Paganism

On July 8, 2003, the United States Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3 (in Lawrence v. Texas) did not merely forget God: It turned the nation into a pagan state-not the people, of course, not all the lesser structures and institutions such as churches, schools, and businesses great and small, but the nation. The Supreme Court, in declaring all sodomy laws unconstitutional, has in effect declared the nation pagan-not in so many words, of course, but in terms that explicitly repudiate historic Christianity, the Bible, the Torah, and the principles of natural law that guided us so long.

The Court did not, of course, declare the legislature (i.e. Congress, the administration, the President, and his cabinet) pagan. It could not do so. Congress has Christian members, Catholics and Protestants, and Jewish members, some even observant and orthodox. The President and some members of his administration are Christians, some outspokenly so. But the nation, which has been slowly losing its Christianity, has now been in essence declared pagan, and all its institutions, agencies, and departments will follow, gradually or speedily.

Lawrence passed by a two-thirds majority. What were those justices thinking? The man who wrote the majority opinion is a Roman Catholic. Does he not know that his church, his spiritual leader the pope, the Bible, and all of the church fathers up to the present, consider the behavior that he now protects an abominable sin, an act against nature? Was it a trivial matter to award the highest court's protection to activities against nature and the laws of God and the church? Do the two Jewish justices not know that their Torah rejects sodomy as an abomination? And the two women on the Court: By what perverted logic do they mock the role that God and nature have given to their sex in conjunction with the male-to bring children into the world in a matrimonial union-to support this perverse caricature of the purpose of sex and with it the negation of the irreplaceable role of their sex in the survival of our human race? The logic of Lawrence implicitly steers towards the dying off of the human race, or at least of such parts of it as are guided by our high court.

By this tortured reasoning, if we can call it that, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has been banned from the scene in the nation whose endeavors he has so often blessed. In his place we have, if anything, the gods of Sodom and Gomorrah. The justices, in their sovereign bliss, with the exception of the dissenters, do not seem to know what they have done. Or do they know and not care? Or know and want to do exactly what they have done?

Those of us who do see and know what has been done must not wait until all of the organs of government are brought under the gods of Sodom: We must look, see, and speak. We cannot change the Court's decision, not now and perhaps not ever, but we can and must say with the Israelites of the past, regarding a crime they had not committed, "Our hands have not done this thing [orig. "shed this blood"], nor did our eyes see it . . . and do not place the guilt . . . in the midst of thy people Israel" (Deut. 21:7-8).

Disaster in the Making

These two Court decisions-Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas-are catastrophic symbols of what has been happening to the country at large. Much of the nation outside the government, and especially all that pertains to the elite or the establishment, has been or has recently become in essence anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-natural law, and implicitly or explicitly pagan. All of the nation's great secular universities, private and public, have turned pagan, with the exception of occasional faculty members, department heads, and other officials who have remained true to Christianity or observant Judaism. Even some confessionally bound universities, such as Baylor in Texas, are struggling to resist the trend. A few religiously affiliated colleges have remained loyal to their religious foundations. An even smaller number, such as Hillsdale College in Michigan, although not religiously affiliated, have managed to ignore the pressure to impose a totally naturalistic worldview on their students.

Many churches have fallen far away from the faith of their founders, as most recently and spectacularly the Episcopal Church has done by appointing an actively homosexual bishop. Indeed, we shall see that several churches have slowly accepted beliefs and patterns of conduct that radically deny their heritage, although seldom do they do so explicitly.

All this in itself is not yet a disaster, because as many rightly point out, there are many vestiges of authentic Christianity still to be found in our nation. But it would be a disaster for Christians and other God-fearers not to recognize that we've reached a turning point in our cultural history, and to go on dreaming that we can gradually change this formerly more or less Christian country for the better.

Those of us who are Christians and take our commitment seriously are slow to recognize it, but ultimately it will be easier for Christians to live in a country that we know is pagan than to live in one that we think is still sufficiently Christian to listen to us and to change in accordance with Christian values.

Harold O. J. Brown has led a distinguished academic career, and now serves as a professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the author of many books, most recently The Sensate Culture (Word, 1996), and as the editor of The Religion and Society Report, Professor Brown has relentlessly exposed the folly of Western society's anti-life drift.

Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today

The Lingering Cloud of 9/11

September 11 was a tragedy that has changed the course of history and the way we live. It was also an environmental disaster of epic proportions. Hundreds of tons of asbestos were pulverized and dispersed around Lower Manhattan and beyond. The tens of thousands of fluorescent lightbulbs each contained enough mercury to contaminate a quarter of a city block. The Trade Center's 50,000 computers were each made with four to twelve pounds of lead. The smoke detectors contained radioactive americium 241. The alkalinity of the air was equivalent to that of Draino. A month after the disaster, Dr. Thomas Cahill of the University of California at Davis found levels of very-fine and ultra-fine particulates that were the highest he'd ever recorded in the course of taking 7000 samples around the world, including at the burning Kuwaiti oil fields.1 In addition there were record levels of dioxin, PCBs, and all the other contaminants one might expect to find when a modern city - which is what the World Trade Center was - burns for several months. In the words of Dr. Marjorie Clarke, 9/11 was "equivalent to dozens of asbestos factories, incinerators and crematoria - as well as a volcano." 2

Nevertheless, beginning on September 13, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued reassurances about the air quality downtown.

A report by the EPA Inspector General released in August, 2004, found that these pronouncements came about because of interference from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ.) "[B]ased on CEQ's influence reassuring information was added to at least one press release and cautionary information was deleted;" Why was the CEQ interfering in this way? The report states: "[T]he desire to reopen Wall Street [was] considered when preparing EPA's early press releases." 3

As a result of EPA's reassuring lies, Lower Manhattan reopened with much fanfare about 'showing the terrorists.' Often, Ground Zero workers were told not to wear respirators for fear of frightening the public. Residents removed tons of toxic debris from their homes (some of which looked like Pompeii) in accord with instructions provided by the New York City Department of Health: "Use a wet mop or wet rag."4 On October 9, Stuyvesant High School, where this writer's son was a student, reopened. Flanked by Ground Zero four blocks to the south, Stuyvesant also had on its north doorstep the main transfer station for the toxic debris to be carted off to Fresh Kills, Staten Island.

As a result of this placement, Particulate Matter 2.5 - dust that is small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and not come out again - was often higher at Stuyvesant than at Ground Zero. Because it is so small, P.M. 2.5 has a relatively large surface area to volume ratio which means that the toxic chemicals in the debris would adsorb (i.e., be absorbed onto its surface) onto the particles, compounding their toxicity. High levels of asbestos, lead, tetrachloroethane and isocyanates were found at the school which had been used as a triage center but whose ventilation system had not been cleaned prior to the school's reopening.

Did Bush himself know about the air quality downtown? If he didn't, it was because he operated on a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy so that the buck would stop short of him. The fact is: Scientists and other experts testified early and often on the dangers of the air downtown and the toxic dust in people's homes. Yet to date all the federal government has provided is testing with outdated equipment and sometimes untried protocols; a dangerously flawed and limited cleanup and little or no health care for the affected community.

The Commission Report deals with the envirodisaster of 9/11 in a footnote in which they refer to an interview with Sam Thernstrom, coordinator for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He denies changing press releases in order to reopen Wall Street, explaining that the reasons for the changes were procedural. His story is corroborated by Christy Todd Whitman who told the initial lies.

John Gotti and Lucky Luciano have got their stories straight. But as Uncle Remus said, "You can hide the fire but how you gonna hide the smoke?"

Three years later we are beginning to see the results of the disastrous policies of the White House which put economic concerns ahead of public health. Over half of the heroes who toiled at Ground Zero now have debilitating respiratory symptoms. Among residents, workers, and the Stuyvesant community are many illnesses such as new-onset asthma, Reactive Airways Disease, and chronic bronchitis. Lawyer Robert Gulack, for instance, has suffered permanent lung damage from his exposure to contamination in the Woolworth building. And as a dreadful portent of what may be in store for the community of Ground Zero, fourteen rescue dogs have died.

The White House's actions in response to the environmental aftermath of 9/11 reveal that Osama Bin Laden could not have stumbled on a more felicitous collaborator than George W. Bush.

Jenna Orkin,
World Trade Center Environmental Organization

The Paleoconservatives

Once Again, America First

ON May 4, American conservatism took an unexpected turn. That morning, George Will -- the movement's most influential columnist, one of its icons -- slapped George W. Bush with a tart reprimand. For a year, Will had obliquely hinted of his grave misgivings about the Iraq war and the push to democratize the Middle East. But with the insurgency escalating, he now felt obliged to state his frustration bluntly. ''This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts,'' he wrote.

From the war's start, a few stray conservatives have criticized it. The columnist Patrick J. Buchanan vociferously opposed Bush's campaign against Saddam Hussein, just as he had opposed the one waged by Bush's father. Other opponents resided in heterodox corners of the movement like the libertarian Cato Institute and the traditionalist Chronicles magazine. But Will's migration toward the antiwar camp represented a significant shift: full-fledged members of the conservative establishment were now expressing doubts about the prospects for American success in Iraq. Indeed, Will has been joined by a small legion, from the powerful Representative Henry Hyde to the influential lobbyist Stephen Moore. ''I supported the war and now I feel foolish,'' the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson confessed to The New York Times.

While this backlash against the war may seem unexpected -- the Bush presidency has inspired fierce loyalty from conservatives -- it is hardly surprising if one looks at the movement's past. The right's skepticism of the state has long reverberated within its foreign policy. Conservatives have raised questions about the ability of the American government to spread democracy abroad, just as they have doubted its ability to deliver social welfare at home. They have long feared that wartime is like a strong fertilizer heaped on government, causing it to sprout new departments and programs that never manage to disappear once peace resumes. For most of the cold war, conservatism sublimated these doubts to pursue its overriding objective of eliminating global Communism. But with the Iraq war hitting a rough patch, this anti-interventionist tradition is suddenly poised for revival.

The conservative movement has its own creation myth, told in books like William A. Rusher's ''Rise of the Right.'' Before the early 1950's, these histories usually begin, there was no such thing as a conservative. Sure, you could find scattered libertarians and traditionalists camped in obscure little magazines. But they hardly constituted a movement, and they certainly didn't have a coherent ideology. In the early 50's, however, the tide began to turn. Whittaker Chambers unleashed his masterwork, ''Witness,'' in 1952, and Russell Kirk published ''The Conservative Mind'' a year later. Two years after that, National Review was founded to bottle this new energy and serve as a vanguard for a coalescing movement.

This version of events almost makes it seem as if the right mystically appeared from nowhere. It's easy to understand why conservatives would want their movement's biography to exclude its earlier history. Before World War II, isolationism had been a major tendency, perhaps the major tendency, on the right. And by the 50's, isolationism had been badly (often unfairly) stigmatized.

One of conservatism's early and now largely forgotten folk heroes was Albert Jay Nock, the flamboyant author of ''Memoirs of a Superfluous Man,'' who wore a cape and celebrated Belgium as his ideal society. In 1933, Nock wrote about ''the Remnant,'' borrowing the term from Matthew Arnold and the Book of Isaiah. By the Remnant he meant an enlightened elite that rejected the phoniness of mass society. A few historians have used Remnant as a synonym for the pre-National Review right -- a group that included the economic journalists Garet Garrett and Frank Chodorov, Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane (Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter) and, to an extent, H. L. Mencken. Nock's allusion to Isaiah works nicely for these polemicists, who issued thunderous, Old Testament-like warnings about American decline. Finding themselves at the forefront of opposition to World War II, they turned to the America First movement. Their hatred for war followed from their radical individualism. As the essayist Randolph Bourne (not a conservative) famously put it about World War I, ''War is the health of the state.'' Since these writers disliked the state, they came to dislike war, too.

While the greatest generation has become deeply etched into the national mythology, only a smattering of scholarly monographs, like Wayne S. Cole's ''Roosevelt and the Isolationists, 1932-1945,'' have dwelt on the opposition to World War II. But the America First Committee achieved a significant following in the late 30's. At its pre-Pearl Harbor peak, it claimed approximately 800,000 members -- and not just angry farmers and protofascists. Its Yale Law School chapter included Gerald Ford and Potter Stewart, the future Supreme Court justice; John F. Kennedy sent the organization a $100 check.

Even though the antiwar movement drew support from across the political spectrum, it included many of the intellectuals and activists who would help revitalize the conservative movement in the 50's. Russell Kirk supported the Socialist Norman Thomas because of his antiwar stand. Henry Regnery, the seminal conservative publisher (whose house, now run by his son, Alfred, has had a recent success with ''Unfit for Command''), broke into the business with pro-German tracts critical of the Nuremberg trials. Willmoore Kendall, William F. Buckley's intellectual mentor at Yale and the inspiration for Saul Bellow's short story ''Mosby's Memoirs,'' began on the far left. But when his comrades renounced their neutrality to side with the Allies, a disillusioned Kendall took a major leap in his journey rightward. As a precocious child, Buckley followed his father's anti-interventionist politics and named his first sailboat Sweet Isolation. At times, these conservatives foreshadowed the arguments made by 60's radicals opposing American intervention in Vietnam. In a wartime speech, the Ohio senator Robert A. Taft intoned, ''Political power over other nations, however benevolent its purposes, leads inevitably to imperialism.''

So how did these isolationists turn into the cold war's most fervent hawks? The most persuasive explanation is also the most obvious: Communism. National Review -- filled with Catholics and former leftists -- viewed the Soviet Union as such an overwhelming threat that it willingly set aside its fear that the cold war would create a Leviathan federal government. In fact, anti-Communism's primary importance to the movement came to be enshrined in a doctrine called fusionism, formulated by the National Review writer Frank Meyer, an ex-Communist. The doctrine, which Meyer hashed out in his 1962 book, ''In Defense of Freedom,'' held that conservatism's competing wings, traditionalist and libertarian, should make ideological peace. Above all, they faced a common Red enemy.

Even if they hadn't been so eager to combat Communism, conservatives would have had good political reasons to distance themselves from their earlier isolationism. After Pearl Harbor, public opinion swung heavily in support of the war. In the process, isolationism emerged as a synonym for disloyalty and anti-Semitism. At the height of the so-called Brown Scare, Walter Winchell read the names of isolationists on the radio and pronounced them ''Americans we can do without.''

Given the abuse suffered by isolationists during World War II, it may seem surprising that they often became the most fervent boosters of the fierce cold warrior Joseph McCarthy. But in fact, McCarthy helped ease the isolationists into their new hawkish identity. In his history of the postwar era, ''Troubled Journey,'' Fred Siegel argues that McCarthy served as the isolationists' ''tribune of revenge.'' He enabled them to retaliate against the internationalist liberals who had sent our boys to war, and to strike back at the very men who had tarred them as traitors during the struggle against fascism. As George H. Nash put it in his classic book, ''The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945,'' Joseph McCarthy's crusade had drawn many of the embattled conservatives together in ''a bruising common struggle.''

But it hadn't drawn all of them together. Conservatism emerged out of the McCarthyite moment with a new enemy: that small band of conservatives who continued clinging to isolationism. National Review, for one, didn't have any place for them in its pages. According to Buckley's biographer John B. Judis, with the founding of the magazine, and its masthead brimming with stalwart interventionists like James Burnham, Buckley ''was turning his back on much of the isolationist and anti-Semitic Old Right that had applauded his earlier books and that his father had been politically close to.'' And he did more than turn his back. He waged war against them. After the John Birch Society announced its opposition to the Vietnam War in 1965, National Review spent 14 pages denouncing the group and its conspiracy theories. (The Birchers considered Communist infiltration of the American government the threat that required attention.) Upon the death of the libertarian isolationist Murray Rothbard in 1995, Buckley quipped, ''We extend condolences to his family, but not to the movement he inspired.'' The historian Jonathan M. Schoenwald has documented many of these struggles between National Review and its fellow conservatives in his book, ''A Time for Choosing.''

Without a home in the conservative movement, the isolationists had no choice but to search for allies in unlikely quarters. During the late 60's, they often teamed up with the New Left, becoming stalwarts of the antiwar movement. Karl Hess, a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign and the author of the memoir-cum-political tract ''Dear America,'' argued, ''Vietnam should remind conservatives that whenever you put your faith in big government for any reason, sooner or later you wind up an apologist for mass murder.'' In 1969, Hess joined with a libertarian antiwar faction that quit the Young Americans for Freedom (Y.A.F.), the campus conservative group. And a few on the New Left returned the favor, heartily embracing the apostates. In 1975, the historian Ronald Radosh (then a man of the left) published ''Prophets on the Right,'' a book championing the prescience of Robert A. Taft and other ''conservative critics of American globalism.''

This long history of residing on the fringe ended suddenly with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In 1992, Buchanan ran a surprisingly strong campaign in the Republican presidential primaries on an explicitly ''anti-imperialist'' platform -- a platform that he further developed in his revisionist history, ''A Republic, Not an Empire.'' ''When we hear phrases like 'New World Order,' we release the safety catches on our revolvers,'' he wrote in one of his newspaper columns. Even if his party ultimately rejected him, it co-opted much of his program, and in 1995, a year after Republicans ascended to the majority in the House of Representatives, 190 of them voted to deny funds for American troops stationed in Bosnia. By the end of the decade, condemnations of ''foreign policy as social work'' and ''nation building'' had become standard in conservative boilerplate.

Buchananite foreign policy has an intellectual wing, paleoconservatism. Long before French protesters and liberal bloggers had even heard of the neoconservatives, the paleoconservatives were locked in mortal combat with them. Paleocons fought neocons over whom Ronald Reagan should appoint to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, angrily denouncing them as closet liberals -- or worse, crypto-Trotskyists. Even their self-selected name, paleocon, suggests disdain for the neocons and their muscular interventionism.

Clustered around journals like Chronicles and Southern Partisan, the paleocon ranks included the syndicated columnist Sam Francis and the political theorist Paul Gottfried. Their writings have been anthologized in ''The Paleoconservatives: New Voices of the Old Right,'' edited by Joseph Scotchie. The paleocons explicitly hark back to Garrett, Nock and the Remnant, what they lovingly call the ''Old Right.'' Like their mentor, Russell Kirk, the paleocons venerate traditional society, celebrating hierarchy, patriarchy and even the virtues of the antebellum South. They bemoan feminism, immigration and multiculturalism. A foreign policy naturally follows from these domestic views. The dismal state of American civilization so depresses them that they see no point in exporting its values abroad. Kirk announced in a 1990 lecture to the Heritage Foundation that America's contribution to the world will be ''cheapness -- the cheapest music, the cheapest comic books and the cheapest morality that can be provided.''

Counterattacking, the neocons often accused the paleocons of anti-Semitism. David Frum, for instance, built this case in his 1994 book, ''Dead Right.'' Indeed, this is a charge that has dogged isolationists -- from Nock to Charles Lindbergh (who is elected president in Philip Roth's new counterfactual novel, ''The Plot Against America'') to Buchanan. With their pleas for ''America first'' and their rejection of cosmopolitan foreign policy, they have occasionally vilified the oldest symbol of cosmopolitanism -- the Jew. During the gulf war debate, Buchanan spoke of the Israel defense ministry's ''American amen corner.'' Even the best thinkers in this tradition haven't been immune from repeating canards about Jewish dual loyalties. In 1988, Kirk accused the neocons of mistaking ''Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.''

George W. Bush entered office implicitly promising agnosticism in the long-running debate between neocons and paleocons. On the 2000 campaign trail, he promised a ''distinctly American internationalism'' that would provide ''idealism, without illusions; confidence, without conceit; realism, in the service of American ideals.'' Of course, after 9/11, Bush dispensed with this doctrinal neutrality. And in adopting a neocon foreign policy, he rallied most conservatives behind his ambitious agenda, a dramatic turnabout in opinion from the 90's.

Will this consensus hold? Already, many conservative writers seem primed to abandon it. Even when they haven't gone as far as Will or Carlson in their criticisms of the war, they have flashed their discomfort with Bush's goal of planting democracy in Iraq. National Review has called this policy ''largely, if not entirely, a Wilsonian mistake.'' With these signs of restlessness, it's easy to imagine that a Bush loss in November, coupled with further failures in Iraq, could trigger a large-scale revolt against neoconservative foreign policy within the Republican Party. A Bush victory, on the other hand, will be interpreted by many Republicans as a vindication of the current course, and that could spur a revolt too. If the party tilts farther toward an activist foreign policy, antiwar conservatives might begin searching for a new political home. In the meantime, the publishing industry may be providing a test of the Bush consensus: Pat Buchanan's new book, ''Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency,'' has already climbed onto the New York Times best-seller list.

Perhaps the movement's current state of mind is best reflected in its godfather, William F. Buckley. In June, he relinquished control of National Review. When asked about Iraq by The New York Times, he confessed: ''With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extraterritorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.'' It is noteworthy that Buckley's departure from the right's flagship journal should be accompanied by such ambivalence and profound questions about the movement's first principles. Conservatives could soon find themselves retracing Buckley's steps, wrestling all over again with their isolationist instincts.

Franklin Foer, a senior editor at The New Republic and a contributing editor for New York magazine, is the author of ''How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.''

The Making of a Hero

Moqtada al-Sadr is a dangerous theocrat - but his appeal for Iraqis is that he calls for free elections

My first run-in with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army came on March 31 in Baghdad. The US occupation chief Paul Bremer had just sent armed men to shut down the young cleric's newspaper, al-Hawza, on the grounds that articles comparing Bremer to Saddam Hussein incited violence against Americans. Sadr responded by calling for his supporters to protest outside the gates of the Green Zone, demanding al-Hawza's reopening.
I wanted to go, but there was a problem; I had been visiting state factories all day and I wasn't dressed for a crowd of devout Shias. Then again, I reasoned, this was a demonstration in defence of journalistic freedom - could they really object to a journalist in loose trousers? I put on a headscarf and headed over.

Demonstrators had printed up English-language banners that said "Let Journalists Work With No Terror". That sounded good, I thought, and started doing my work. I was soon interrupted, however, by a black-clad member of the Mahdi army: he wanted to talk to my translator about my fashion choices. The situation quickly got serious - another Mahdi soldier grabbed my translator and shoved him against a wall, injuring his back. Meanwhile, an Iraqi friend called to say she was trapped inside the Green Zone and couldn't leave: she had forgotten a headscarf and was afraid of running into a Mahdi patrol.

It was an instructive lesson about who Sadr actually is: not an anti-imperialist liberator, as some have cast him, but someone who wants foreigners out so that he can control large portions of Iraq's population himself. But neither is Sadr the one-dimensional villain painted by the media, a portrayal that has allowed many liberals to stay silent as he is barred from participating in elections and to look the other way as US forces firebomb Sadr City.

The situation requires a more principled position. For instance, Sadr deserves his right to publish a political newspaper - not because he believes in freedom but because we supposedly do. Similarly, Sadr's calls for fair elections and an end to occupation demand our unequivocal support - not because we are blind to the threat Sadr poses but because a belief in self-determination means admitting that the outcome of democracy is not ours to control.
These distinctions are commonly made in Iraq: many people I met in Baghdad condemned the attacks on Sadr as evidence that Washington never intended to bring democracy. They backed Sadr's calls for an end to occupation and immediate elections. But when asked if they would vote for him, most laughed.

Yet in North America and Europe the idea that you can support Sadr's call for fair elections and an end to occupation without endorsing him as Iraq's next prime minister has proved harder to grasp. For arguing this position, I was accused of making "excuses for the theocrats and misogynists" by Nick Cohen, in the Observer, and of being a "socialist-feminist offering swooning support to theocratic fascists" by Christopher Hitchens, in Slate.

All this manly defence of women's rights is enough to make a girl swoon. Yet it's worth remembering how Hitchens rationalised his reputation-destroying support for the war: even if US forces were really after the oil and military bases, he reasoned, the liberation of the Iraqi people would be such a joyous side-effect that progressives everywhere should cheer. With the prospect of liberation still a cruel joke, Hitchens now claims that this anti-woman, anti-gay White House is the Iraqi people's best hope against Sadr's anti-woman, anti-gay fundamentalism. Once again we are supposed to hold our noses and cheer the Bradleys for the greater good, or the lesser evil. There is no question that Iraqis face a mounting threat from religious fanaticism, but US forces won't protect Iraqi women and minorities any more than they have protected Iraqis from torture in Abu Ghraib or bombs in Falluja. Liberation will never be a trickle-down effect of this invasion because domination, not liberation, was always its goal.

The choice in Iraq is not between Sadr's dangerous fundamentalism - echoed by some Sunni groups - and a secular, democratic government made up of trade unionists and feminists. It's between open elections - which risk handing power to fundamentalists but would also allow secular and more progressive religious forces to organise - and rigged elections designed to leave Iraq in the hands of Ayad Allawi and his CIA/Mukhabarat-trained thugs, dependent on Washington for both money and might.

This is why Sadr is being hunted - not because he is a threat to women's rights but because his political demands represent the greatest threat to US control. Even after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani backed down from his opposition to the handover plans, Sadr continued to oppose the US-drafted constitution, continued to call for the withdrawal of foreign troops and continued to oppose US plans to appoint an interim government rather than hold elections. If Sadr's demands are met and the country left in the hands of the majority, US military bases will be in jeopardy, as will Bremer's privatisation-friendly laws.

Progressives should oppose the attack on Sadr because it is an attack on the possibility of a democratic future. There is another reason to defend his democratic rights: paradoxically, it will help to stem religious fundamentalism's rise.

Sadr has deftly positioned himself not as the narrow voice of strict Shias but as an Iraqi nationalist defending the entire country against foreign invaders. Thus, when he was attacked with the full force of the US military and dared to resist, he earned the respect of millions of Iraqis living under the brutality of occupation.

This shift in attitude is evident in all the polling. A coalition provisional authority poll conducted in May, after the first US siege of Najaf, found that 81% of Iraqi respondents now thought more highly of Sadr. An Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies poll ranked Sadr - a marginal figure six months before - as Iraq's second most influential political player after Sistani.

Most alarming, the attacks appear to be boosting support not only for Sadr personally, but for theocracy generally. In February, the month before Bremer closed down Sadr's newspaper, an Oxford Research International survey found that a majority of Iraqis wanted a secular government; only 21% of respondents said that their favoured political system was "an Islamic state". Fast-forward to August, with Najaf under siege by US forces: the International Republican Institute reported that a staggering 70% of Iraqis wanted Islam and sharia as the basis of the state. The poll didn't differentiate between Sadr's unyielding interpretation of sharia and moderate versions. Yet it's clear that some of the people who told me in March that they supported Sadr but would never vote for him are beginning to change their minds.

I recently received a letter from Major Glen Butler, a US marine helicopter pilot stationed in Najaf. Major Butler defended the siege on the holy city by saying that he and his fellow marines were trying to prevent the "evil" of "radical Muslims" from spreading. Well, it's not working. Helicopter gunships are good at killing people. Beliefs, when under fire, tend to spread.

Naomi Klein
Thursday October 7, 2004
The Guardian

The War Party's Worst Week

It can't get any better than this.

It was a disastrous week for the War Party, as the lies that lassoed us into Iraq were definitively debunked, and Bush, in a vain effort to defend the indefensible, was once again humiliated on national television by his Democratic opponent. The Duelfer report showed that not only did Saddam not have WMD, but he didn't even have the capacity to develop them. In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations, none other than Donald Rumsfeld was forced to look reality full in the face:

"It turns out that we have not found weapons of mass destruction. Why the intelligence proved wrong I'm not in a position to say."

As is true of so much of what comes out of the mouths of our leaders, this statement could have at least two possible meanings, both of which exonerate the speaker of any blame for the current disaster. Either he really doesn't know why they were so wrong – in which case he ought to resign, or be fired, on grounds of sheer incompetence – or he does know, but would rather not say.

For a number of reasons – all having to do with his own key role and culpability in the Grand Deception – I am inclined to go with the latter. But leaving that aside for the moment, let us note that Rumsfeld, who likes to give at least the appearance of forthrightness, also admitted in that same address that the Iraqi dictator's much-ballyhooed "links" to al-Qaeda lacked "strong evidence." In typical Washingtonian style, however, he immediately began to back away from his original statement, issuing a statement that essentially placed the blame for this particular failure of perception elsewhere:

"I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq. This assessment was based upon points provided to me by then CIA Director George Tenet to describe the CIA's understanding of the al-Qaeda-Iraq relationship."

In a picture perfect display of the War Party's Orwellian mindset, the response to every criticism of their policies is to blame their critics. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon, populated with neoconservative ideologues centered in Douglas Feith's policy shop, engaged in a protracted bureaucratic guerrilla war against the CIA, the DIA, and the State Department, cherrypicking dubious "raw intelligence" to buttress the case for an invasion. The U.S. intelligence community was so opposed to the rush to war, so skeptical of information proffered by Iraqi exiles with a clear political agenda, that the neocons were forced to do an end run around the Agency and its allies in government, setting up a rogue operation that cooked up phony "evidence" of Iraqi WMD and fed the White House (and a gullible media) a steady diet of lies.

As the Telegraph has pointed out, the attempt to paint al-Zarqawi as the new Osama bin Laden, even while the original edition continues to mock us from the comfortable depths of his cave, is nothing but an attempt to characterize the Iraq war as a war against al-Qaeda as opposed to the reality of an indigenous Iraqi resistance. This ploy also diverts attention away from this administration's devastating failure to do anything but aid and abet the real bin Laden, starting with their "outsourcing" of the job of getting OBL and al-Qaeda's top leadership in the mountains of Tora Bora. A failure, as repeatedly underscored by Kerry in both debates, resulting in the escape of the Vanishing Imam and the dispersal of al-Qaeda throughout the region – a strategic disaster for the U.S., the consequences of which will continue to reverberate with increasing deadliness for a long time to come.

The catastrophic capstone of the War Party's worst week yet was the news that each and every one of the opposition candidates running in the Afghan elections had decided to pull out at the last minute. Abdul Satar Sirat, a former aide to Afghanistan's last king and a leading monarchist politician, echoed the sentiments of the opposition united front when he told the international media:

"Today's election is not a legitimate election. It should be stopped and we don't recognize the results."

Afghanistan's Gucci-clad metrosexual "president" swept aside such petty complaints with an imperious wave of his bejeweled hand, asking:

"Who is more important, these 15 candidates, or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?"

Hey, Afghanistan is Bizarro "democracy" – so who needs opposition candidates?

This is a precursor of what to expect in January, when Iraq is scheduled to endure a similarly unconvincing exercise in war propaganda. One can easily imagine the Iraqi Karzai – a rehabilitated Ba'athist and accused murderer – making a similar pronouncement.

As the British Telegraph put it:

"The [Afghan election] row followed farcical scenes at polling stations where it emerged that the indelible ink used to mark voters' thumbs could be rubbed off."

Amid widespread reports of numerous double-registrations, farce doesn't even begin to describe the pathetic failure of Afghanistan's experiment in "democracy." Parody, or pastiche, is more like it. Is this American foreign policy, or an episode of The Simpsons?

The American co-chair of the "Joint Electoral Management Body" (JEMB) added a note of slapstick when he characterized the opposition as sore losers and praised the high turnout. But Masooda Jalal, the only female candidate in the race, probably wasn't laughing when she pointed out that some voters could have voted ten times, thanks to that "indelible" ink (made in India, by the way).

The no doubt imminent report of "President" Karzai's overwhelming "victory" promises to be every bit as convincing as the White House's explanation for that mysterious square object visibly outlined against the Fratboy's jacket in this past weekend's gladiatorial festivities.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

That is the American response to the outrage of "liberated" Afghans who foolishly took this administration's commitment to "democracy" seriously enough to risk their lives by entering the race – and conferring legitimacy on the American occupation.

When U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad showed up at the opposition camp to declare the elections "a profound success," Afghans gathered outside were heard to mutter "the big man has arrived." Khalilzad, AP reports, "has been widely criticized for perceived favoritism for Karzai and is seen by many Afghans as a puppet-master."

Khalilzad, the Karl Rove of Afghanistan, whispers the right lines in his candidate's ear, as our own presidential puppet dances on the debate stage, his strings are visible to all – but who is pulling them?

The neoconservatives who wanted and wished for this war, who fought for it from within the administration and from without, led the President of the United States down the primrose path, and if George W. Bush loses this election it will be on account of their unwise counsel. The mainstream conservatives who listened to them, and blindly supported a war that has now become a living nightmare, are turning on them, and the knives are already out, as even Franklin Foer noted in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

Curiously, it was this same author who disdained the influence of anti-interventionist conservatives when Pat Buchanan and Taki Theodoracopoulos announced their new magazine, The American Conservative, as the voice of the anti-imperialist Old Right, determined to take back the Right from the neocons. Before the first issue of TAC had appeared on the newsstands, however, Foer declared it a failure. Now, he says that the Old Right of Garet Garrett, John T. Flynn, and the America First Committee is back with a vengeance, all thanks, in large part, to the influence of Buchanan and his magazine.

So which is it, Mr. Foer?

In typical fashion, Foer lends more weight to the alleged conversion of George Will and the editors of National Review to a newly cautious foreign policy stance on Iraq and the Middle East in general, but the import of his piece is unmistakable. So, what happened to Foer's confident prediction that TAC would be a "surefire flop"?

I might also note, in passing, that Foer has cribbed a great deal of the material for his piece from my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, without acknowledgement, although his earlier piece, which describes me as a "historian of the Old Right," makes it perfectly clear that he is well aware of my work. In any case, the whole point of the Times piece is to reiterate the shopworn neoconservative canard that their critics are "anti-Semites," which Foer faithfully repeats:

"With their pleas for 'America first' and their rejection of cosmopolitan foreign policy, they have occasionally vilified the oldest symbol of cosmopolitanism – the Jew. During the gulf war debate, Buchanan spoke of the Israel defense ministry's 'American amen corner.' Even the best thinkers in this tradition haven't been immune from repeating canards about Jewish dual loyalties. In 1988, [Russell] Kirk accused the neocons of mistaking 'Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States.'"

And what, exactly, is a "cosmopolitan foreign policy" – one that propels our Afghan sock puppet to the top of the best-dressed list and confers on the U.S. the title of Most Hated?

Backed into a corner, faced with the righteous rage of a country that has been conned into making the worst foreign policy mistake in its 200-plus-year-old history, the neocons are determined to characterize the mounting opposition to their influence as a racial-religious pogrom. But all their endless excuses, their twisting and turning, their convoluted and constantly shifting rationales and "spin," are going to get them exactly nowhere. Smearing is the only option left open to them, but, in the end, it isn't very convincing. The revolt against the neocons, on the right as well as the left, inside the CIA as much as in the conservative movement, has nothing to do with Jews and Judaism, and everything to do with our foreign policy of global interventionism, and its Israel-centric Middle Eastern manifestation.

Justin Raimondo

Kerry Caught in the Big Lie

The presidential debates are going nowhere. Why? Because both President George Bush and Senator John Kerry are encapsulated in a big lie.

The lie is too big to be acknowledged. Both candidates repeat the mantra that Saddam Hussein was dangerous to America and had to be removed. Both reaffirm that Saddam's removal remains a good thing despite a plethora of official reports concluding that false reasons were given for his removal.

Kerry gets nowhere because he says he would do the same thing Bush did, only differently.

Bush reminds Kerry over and over that "you saw the same intelligence that I did" and voted for the war. Kerry's criticism after the event, Bush says, just shows what a flip-flopper Kerry is.

For many Americans Bush's answer is easier to follow than Kerry's nuanced argument. For the second time in his life, Kerry is in the position of turning against a war after he had joined up.

Kerry has missed opportunity after opportunity to be candid with the American people. By speaking frankly, Kerry can deliver a knockout blow that would tear the debate wide open.

When Bush chides Kerry that "you saw the same intelligence that I did," why doesn't Kerry reply:

"Yes, Mr. President, the same people who misled you, misled me, the House and the Senate and sent Colin Powell to New York to mislead the UN. So, Mr. President, why haven't you fired them? Is there no accountability in your administration? How can you lead when you don't hold people responsible for grievous errors that have led to the death and maiming of thousands of our troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis, shattered our alliances, and recruited thousands to the banners of terrorism?"

Bush would have no answer.

Saddam Hussein was no danger to the U.S. However, he was a potential check, with Syria, on Israel's right-wing Likud Party's desire to expel the Palestinians to Jordan and to seize Lebanon. The expulsion and the Lebanon grab may yet come to fruition, because it is supported by the neoconservatives who control the Bush administration.

Installing a puppet regime in Iraq and constructing a dozen or more permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, as the U.S. is doing, opens a field of conquest to Israel.

The neoconservative goal of conquest is no secret. Neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz, and others of his persuasion, have called in print on more than one occasion for the U.S. to launch World War IV against the Muslim Middle East.

The cause of Muslim terrorism is not opposition to U.S. democracy. The cause is opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East, especially U.S. support for Israel's ghettoization of Palestine. Lacking military forces with which to oppose American might, Muslims resort to terror attacks. How can Americans be so naive as to think that Muslims will just sit there and take it?

The U.S. cannot put down terrorism with force alone – unless it intends genocide for Muslims. Saddam Hussein was not a popular ruler, but occupying Iraq has tied down 80% of our troops and is not succeeding.

Expanding this war, as neocons intend, requires resources that the U.S. does not have and would likely result in countries uniting against us.

It is a self-defeating policy that Bush is pursuing in the Middle East. Bush is not building democracy, but he is creating legions of insurgents and terrorists.

The U.S. can defeat insurgents in battles, but cannot successfully occupy the conquered territory. In his essays on Fourth Generation Warfare, William Lind has clarified the advantages insurgents have over conventional forces.

At this point, "staying the course" in Iraq is not an option. America's only choices are to escalate or to withdraw.

According to the October 9 International Herald Tribune, the U.S. has plans to escalate by attacking 20 to 30 Iraqi towns and cities in hopes of regaining control:

"Pentagon planners and military commanders have identified roughly 20 to 30 towns and cities in Iraq that must be brought under control before elections can be held there in January."

Think about that. Twenty to thirty more Najafs and Fallujahs?! The U.S. doesn't even control Baghdad 400 yards beyond the heavily fortified "Green Zone" where the "Iraqi government" and its U.S. overlords are forced to take refuge.

Imagine the numbers of women and children who will be blown to bits by U.S. "precision attacks" on 20 to 30 Iraqi towns and cities.

It is a war crime to attack civilians. The already low ratio of killed insurgents to killed Iraqi civilians means that it is the insurgents, not the civilians, who are the "collateral damage."

If Bush goes through with this madness, the U.S. military will become known as the reincarnation of the SS.

No American politician can talk sense when ensnared by the big lie that the war with Iraq was necessary. It was not necessary. It was a strategic blunder. It has started something that may already be out of anyone's control.

In military matters, pretense and delusion lead to disaster. A deluded superpower is most dangerous to itself.

Please candidate Kerry, in the final debate, do come to the point, speak the truth, and show the leadership required if America is to recover from the strategic blunder of invading Iraq.

Paul Craig Roberts

Act Now!

Coming Actions Against
War, Racism, and Exploitation

December 5, 2004
Indoor Solidarity Rally with Haiti in NYC
initiated by the Emergency Campaign to Support the Haitian People,
the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and the Haiti Support Network

January 20, 2005
Counter-Inaugural Demonstration in Washington DC
initiated by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

March 19/20, 2005
Global Day of Coordinated Actions
on the 2nd Anniversary of the "Shock and Awe" Invasion of Iraq
initiated by antiwar organizations worldwide
including the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in the United States

October 16, 2004
Immigrant Rights March in Los Angeles
call supported by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition

October 17, 2004
Million Worker March in Washington DC
call supported by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition

We will demand:
1) US Out of Iraq Now, End the Occupation - Bring the Troops Home Now!
2) End Colonial Domination from Palestine to Haiti, and Everywhere!
3) Health Care, Education, Housing, and a Job at a Living Wage Must be a Right!

The people of this country, in cooperation with the people of the world, have built a mass worldwide movement since October 2002, when the first massive antiwar demonstrations took place. In that movement lies the hope that the imperialist war drive can be challenged. Do not count on the politicians who contest with each other, not about principle, but about who would be more effective in winning the war of aggression against Iraq. The antiwar movement must be in the streets in the coming weeks and months - building a politically independent movement. It is this movement of global solidarity that poses the only real obstacle to the forces of militarism and corporate domination, and that prioritizes meeting human needs and embraces self-determination.

Bush's monstrous invasion and occupation of Iraq is now entering the appalling next stage. A reign of terror has been inflicted on Najaf, Sammarah, Sadr City in Baghdad, Fallujah and other areas outside of the political control of the occupying forces.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and others are guilty of war crimes. The world is disgusted as the carnage is unleashed from AC-130 gunships and by missile attacks on densely populated city streets. Wedding parties destroyed by air attack, the grim pictures of the bodies of children and other civilians being removed from the rubble of buildings destroyed by what the Pentagon press office always calls "precision bombings against known terrorist hideouts," torture and brutality. This is the essence of Bush's plan to proceed with "democratic elections."

And what is Kerry's response on Iraq? "We are talking about winning, not leaving," Kerry told us in the first presidential debate. We, along with a growing number of military families and soldiers, are insisting that the troops be brought home now. More than 1,050 GI's are dead and thousands wounded - many with horrendous life-altering injuries - in this criminal war.

In Palestine, more than 100 Palestinians have been massacred in a matter of days by Ariel Sharon's offensive in refugee camps in Gaza. You'd hardly know about it from the U.S. mass media. Do Bush and Kerry have a different view about this U.S.-financed slaughter? They only try to compete with each other by their grandiloquent declarations in support of Israel's actions - including the construction of the hideous apartheid wall. We must stand with the people of Palestine including support for their right of return.

In Haiti the death toll has risen to more than 3,000 from the aftermath of Hurricane Jeanne. The Bush administration's stooge government did nothing to help the people. They did not prepare for, order or assist in an evacuation of people at risk. Instead they have focused their energy on arresting hundreds of supporters of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The disaster caused by the Hurricane is "man-made." It is the consequence of decades of neo-liberal policies imposed on the country by the U.S. and the IMF that have resulted in, among other problems, massive de-forestation, leaving the country vulnerable to catastrophic flooding. What has Kerry done to provide an alternative to Bush on Haiti? Absolutely nothing.

The massive outpouring of the renewed antiwar movement needs your continued help to support these upcoming activities. Organizing buses, printing hundreds of thousands of leaflets and posters, phonebanking, mass mailings - these vital tasks take funds. The generosity and self-sacrifice of those who believe in the importance of building this movement has made all the difference in the past years. We are creating the only real, viable force that can challenge the political stranglehold exercised by the warmakers.

The Breakup

The Iraq war is isolating the U.S. and killing the American-British 'special relationship'

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On numerous occasions, Sen. John F. Kerry has claimed that, if elected, he could persuade unspecified allies to assist the United States in Iraq. These allies play a crucial role in Kerry's plan for the country. They allow him to say he can reduce U.S. commitments without leaving Iraq to self-destruct.

But who are these white knights waiting to ride to the rescue of a more internationally minded president?

The answer is: er, pass.

If Kerry seriously thinks he could induce any of the world's major military powers (or indeed any of its minor ones) to bail the U.S. out in Iraq, he is deluding himself. There is absolutely zero chance of (to name the obvious candidates) either France or Germany changing its stance of unqualified opposition to last year's invasion and thinly veiled indifference to this year's insurgency.

The leaders of the countries that stood aside when Saddam Hussein was overthrown have one obvious reason for staying on the sidelines. They have no desire to pay the domestic political price currently being paid by the leaders of the countries that gave President Bush their support.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are not popular politicians. But they are still in power. If they had backed the invasion of Iraq, they would surely not be. A backlash against Spanish support for the war contributed to the downfall of Jose Maria Aznar in March. Leszek Miller, who took Poland into the war, resigned in May. And John Howard is in a tight contest in Australia.

If Italy were a properly functioning democracy, rather than a docile subsidiary of its prime minister's media empire, Silvio Berlusconi too would be under pressure. Most striking of all, Iraq has permanently tarnished the reputation of Prime Minister Tony Blair in the eyes of British voters. The erstwhile golden boy of European politics came close to quitting this summer. With every passing day, it becomes harder to imagine him serving another full term as prime minister.

The irony is that if Kerry were to be elected, he might quickly find himself even more isolated than Bush has been because the most important of Washington's traditional alliances — the "special relationship" with Britain — has been brought to the point of collapse by Blair's backing of Bush's policy toward Iraq.

As dramatized by the British playwright David Hare in "Stuff Happens," Bush and Blair are players in a Shakespearean tragedy. Somewhat unexpectedly, Bush turns out to be the devious Iago to Blair's naive Othello. The victim is not a woman, however. The victim is Britain — lured into a war that a large majority of British voters now regard as unjust and unnecessary.

The question is worth pondering: What exactly has Britain gained — besides applause in Washington and opprobrium everywhere else — from Blair's uncritical support of the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policy?

Whenever I pose this question in Britain, the positive answers have one thing in common: They come from members of professional elites. Military men believe in the special relationship, especially those who have some experience in intelligence operations. Bankers believe in it, especially those who work for bulge-bracket Wall Street firms. And some academics still believe in it, especially those (here I have firsthand experience) recently lured away from Oxford or Cambridge by their more generously endowed Ivy League competitors.

These institutional links across the Atlantic are not wholly asymmetrical; the brighter sort of Brit generally finds himself treated with a measure of respect, rather than as a member of a helot race. In short: Show me the people flying first-class across the Atlantic and I will show you the special relationship.

Yet the national interests of the United States and the United Kingdom have been divergent for many decades. After 1945, the U.S. was slow to appreciate the hazards of premature decolonization — in particular, that the Soviets might have more to offer Third World nationalists than it did. The British, for their part, were almost equally slow to grasp that reliance on the U.S. for military technology would swiftly lead to dependence.

It was precisely the unreliability of the U.S. — not only as an ally but also as an export market — that gradually convinced Britain's political elite that it must abandon the Churchillian dream of a bilateral Atlantic partnership in favor of a new special relationship (in the first instance, economic) with the signatories of the Treaty of Rome. From 1973, Britain ceased to have an independent trade policy, removing the entire field of commerce from the realm of bilateral Anglo-American relations.

Finally, as the slow grind of detente gave way to the breakneck disarmament of the Mikhail Gorbachev years, the last compelling incentive for Anglo-American solidarity — the Soviet menace — fell away. With the benefit of hindsight, the political romance between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was nothing more than a flicker of a dying flame.

By 1990, nothing geopolitically meaningful remained of the special relationship. As a result, there was a compelling logic to the European orientation of British foreign policy under John Major's government. With light hearts, he and his ministers accepted Britain's post-imperial destiny to be "at the heart of Europe."

In this context, Blair's fervid Atlanticism marks a discontinuity. It makes sense partly as a backlash against the dismal failures of Major's European strategy, especially its hopelessly miscalculated responses to the breakup of Yugoslavia. It was Blair's conversion to the U.S. view of the Balkan problem — Slobodan Milosevic — that led him to support war against Serbia in 1999. And it was the success of that war, opposed as it was by so many of Blair's critics on both the left and the right, that led him to favor wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The road to Baghdad led from Pristina via Kabul.

Religion is the other bond between Bush and Blair. The born-again Christian and the High Church Anglican share a strong belief that war is not just an instrument of policy but also of morality — a weapon to be used by the forces of righteousness against wicked dictators like Hussein. The trouble is, although a majority of Americans are receptive to what might be called a faith-based foreign policy, few Britons are. Americans are still a deeply Christian people. The British ceased to be some time ago.

This is just one aspect of a fundamental divergence in popular culture that increasingly makes the special relationship. Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly how European the British are becoming than their attitudes to U.S. politics. Asked in a recent poll to choose between the two candidates for the presidency, 47% favored Kerry, compared with 16% for Bush — at a time when the president was between 5 and 10 percentage points ahead in U.S. polls. On the legitimacy of the Iraq war, too, the British public is now closer to Continental opinion than to American.

All this suggests that Blair's Atlanticism may represent the special relationship's last gasp. For a strategic partnership needs more to sustain itself than an affinity between the principals and the self-interest of a few professional elites. It requires a congruence of national interests. It also needs some convergence of popular attitudes.

If the special relationship were a transatlantic flight, the Americans would be in the cockpit. The British would be the sleeping passengers. Sooner or later — even if Kerry makes it to the White House — British foreign policy is going to wake up.

Niall Ferguson, Niall Ferguson is professor of history at Harvard University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford. His latest book is "Colossus: The Price of America's Empire."