The Ghost of Nixon Rising

Random Lengths News | September 1, 2006
When I was 24 years old, I had the ebullient impression that my generation, with its political idealism, had stopped an illegal war in South East Asia, brought America into account for its failure to live up to the creed of civil liberties for all and had toppled the most corrupt President in the history of the United States of America. I, like many of the “baby boomer” generation, felt some uneasy sense of accomplishment that our inspiration had truly changed this country, if not the world. I felt then that we could put this era behind us and move forward to a future where America lived up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. I am not sure that we were all wrong, but the intervening years have given me grave doubts.

With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, what began as an upset of the Carter Presidency, only later came to be called by the new rightwing, a “revolution.” What they didn’t explain is that it was a counter-revolution: counter to the progressive ideals of the 1960’s, counter to the successes of the New Deal and Kennedy’s New Frontier and Johnson’s Great Society. Since that time, the revolution of the New Right came to be called the Neo-con agenda (explained by Newt Gingrich in 1994 in the “Contract With America), which has been one of turning back the clock on nearly every social/political advancement made by liberals over the last one hundred years even to the point of threatening the very premise of Social Security, bankrupting the savings and loan industry, deregulating the power utilities and privatizing as much of our government (for the benefit of the corporations) as they possibly can.

The problem is that the term “neo-con” is a misnomer, an oxymoron with a double meaning. These guys and their philosophy are neither new nor very conservative.

Both Cheney and Rumsfeld are holdovers from the Nixon era with a collection of others picked up from Reagan and Bush [I] The First– possibly the worst of all three–-and the extent of their spending on the wars with their no-bid contracts hardly is the definition of conservative. What exactly are they conserving? Not our national treasury, not our national health, not our civil liberties (with their evisceration of federal wiretap laws and First and Fourth Amendments, with the incarcerations of thousands with no charges filed in any court of law).

The other, truer meaning of “neo-con” is –the new con job– only it looks more like the old con job. Tell the people we are fighting for their freedoms, while the very tactics we use gut those liberties of any real protection or meaning for the common man. This was the same ruse that was used during the McCarthy Witch Hunt – one of the many “red scares” that have plagued this country since the Haymarket "Riot" in 1886. With the end of the Cold War we have had to invent ever-increasing reasons to maintain the military industrial might of America. First, was the War on Drugs, then the War on Terrorism and now the War on Immigrants, they call it protecting our boarders. Will these wars never cease? The New Cons keep calling it Pax Americana or American peace–now is that really twisted or what?

The real conservatives among us might want to recall the admonishment of the last true conservative that held the Presidency– Dwight D. Eisenhower who warned us about the growing threat of the “military-industrial complex” in our country– the masters of war, the ones who profit from building the bombs. Don Rumsfeld and my New-Con critics are going to scream at me saying, “So we started the war on terrorism? Weren’t the terrorists the ones who attacked us first?” Rumsfeld accuses people like me, and probably most of you, of “moral or intellectual confusion,” and of “appeasing Muslim fascists.” Nothing could be farther from reality. But it makes for a good sound bite and an excellent propaganda-spin on the truth.

It takes a lot of gall for someone like Rummy to preach to the progressive left of this country about forgetting the lessons of history. The deal is that the New Cons just want to rewrite our history so that the moral of the story ends up justifying their means to political hegemony in the Middle East.

Can I remind him that Osama bin Laden and the Mujahidin were supported with several billions of dollars that Reagan poured into Afghanistan under the CIA to oust the Soviet’s control over that country? (They are probably still using our weapons against us.) Should I remind him of our involvement in overthrowing the democratic leader of Iran in the 1950’s and supplanting that democracy with the terror of the Shah? (Do you suppose this is one of the reasons they still don’t trust us?) The list goes on and on in this part of the world as it does in South East Asia, South and Central America too. We’ve talked about exporting democracy over the last one hundred years but inevitably end up supporting oligarchies, monarchies and dictators because they are easier to bribe to support our economic interests abroad.

None of this should be interpreted as meaning that we should not bring those responsible for the bombings of 911 to justice. Quite the contrary, we should expedite the very arrest of bin Laden and his Al Queda crew, then prosecute them in an international court for murder and more. However, attempting to bring either democracy or peace in Iraq misses several other historical lessons–-primarily “never get involved in other peoples religious civil wars." We’ll never come out a winner.

The strange thing is when I hear Rummy and Cheney defending this war I get this strange feeling like they are channeling the ghost of ol’ Tricky Dick Nixon. Sometimes the dead don’t stay buried.

James Preston Allen is the Pubisher and Executive editor of the leading alternative weekly newspaper in the Los Angeles Harbor Area. His new book "Silence Is Not Democracy" will be published this fall, by Beacon Light Press.

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