About the writer
Michael Lind, the Whitehead Fellow at the
New America Foundation in Washington, is the author of “Made in Texas:
George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics.”
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Here’s the first article. It deals mainly with French politics, but it also address the entire range of the current situation, including our neo-conservative leadership, anti-Semitism, and other things.
Lest We Forget
By MICHAEL GONZALEZ
BRUSSELS — "How did we get here?" asked a former French minister in a newspaper column recently. "Here" is a situation in which French Jews are being beaten up in the streets of Paris and in which President Jacques Chirac has to write to Queen Elizabeth II to apologize for the desecration of British tombs in France, and in which one-third of the French have been pulling for Saddam Hussein to win.
An even better question is who brought us here. The former environment minister, Corinne Lepage, lays the blame on the government and an obeisant media for "having wanted to stigmatize American policy in excessive fashion." But it’s time to name names.
* * *
Mr. Chirac brought us here, as did his foreign minister Dominique de Villepin. In Belgium the foreign and defense and prime ministers — Louis Michel, André Flahaut and Guy Verhofstadt — have brought their country to shame too. And that’s just the start.
Mr. de Villepin, the pin-up boy of diplomacy in "progressive" circles, was not just content to travel the world in an attempt to derail U.S. policy. Reportedly, he also has made instructive comments that make clear "how we got here." Mr. de Villepin, sources say, last week told members of the National Assembly that "hawks" in the U.S. administration are "in the hands of [Ariel] Sharon." According to the satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaine, he went so far as to attack a "pro-Zionist" lobby made up of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, White House staffer Elliot Abrams, and former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, all Jews.
But it’s not just a juif thing. Mr. de Villepin — who claims in his book "The Cry of the Gargoyle" to be a fan of both Machiavelli and Napoleon — never shies from messianic statements. He told legislators that the fight over Iraq was actually one against "Anglo-Saxon liberalism," an Assembly member told me.
But indignant reactions are now being heard. An editorial on Radio France Internationale noticed that the phrase "the Anglo-American forces," constantly used instead of "coalition forces," is borrowed straight from Vichy propaganda. In her own j’accuse for Le Figaro, Ms. Lepage said that to the errors of the media and the leaders, "one can add the pacifist demonstrations, which have nothing peaceful about them." She could "bear witness to the fact that these demonstrations are far from gatherings of real defenders of the rights of man or of peace. These are hordes orchestrated by the security services of Islamicist groups which…shout extremely violent slogans in which racial and anti-Semitic hatred is expressed without the least taboo."
Small wonder that the Interior Ministry itself says a mere spark could "turn anti-Americanism in the suburbs into uncontrolled violence." That observation comes too late for Noam Levy, a Jew beaten with an iron bar while at an anti-war demonstration. He said he was shocked by "the anti-Zionist slogans." (He should check with the Quai d’Orsay about the provenance of these feelings.) And it’s too late for the families of Britons who died defending France in World War I, and whose tombs near Calais were vandalized. Among the graffiti on a cenotaph: "Dig up your rubbish, it’s contaminating our soil."
"France," wrote Mr. Chirac to Queen Elizabeth II with all the pomp — not to mention pomposity — at his command, "knows what it owes to the sacrifice and courage of British soldiers who came to help her recover her liberty in the fight against barbarity…From the French people and from me personally, I offer you my deepest regrets." Too late. Mr. Chirac has himself refused to say which side he backs in the war. No wonder a third of the French tell pollsters that they want Saddam to win. Mr. Chirac is basking in 60% approval ratings, but he’s paid for them dearly. Demonstrators in the street shout "Long
live Chirac, stop the Jews!"
In Belgium, I’ve witnessed the defense and foreign ministers feed the beast of anti-Americanism, only to protest later that they want to defang it. At a debate last month at the University Libre de Bruxelles, I saw Messrs. Michel and Flahaut inflame a crowd with their comments. Belgians, said the former, are beginning to look on the U.S. as they once did the Soviet Union. "I am beginning to fear the U.S.," he added, his voice rising, to much applause from a 2,000-strong crowd. Not to be outdone, Mr. Flahaut promised to do all he could to kick Tony Blair out of the Socialist International.
By "debate," incidentally, I mean a representative of Republicans Abroad and me on one side, and on the other the two ministers, two pro-government university professors, a journalist who was supposed to act as moderator, and Iraq’s ambassador to Belgium. The Iraqi was twice interrupted by the crowd with applause; I was accused of being a CIA agent. When one student stood up to complain that a representative of Saddam’s regime was applauded while I was booed, the crowd shouted her down.
Can anyone wonder at the crowd’s response, given such leadership? Mr. Flahaut called for bigger anti-U.S. demonstrations that weekend. The government needed them, he said. His government was doing more than just standing by. Just as in places like Castro’s Cuba, parents at some Belgian schools received requests for their children to attend the demonstration. As for Mr. Michel, he personally quashed a revolt in his Mouvement Reformateur at a party meeting last month. One politician who was there told me the majority wanted the Belgian government to have a more nuanced policy and not to be in such opposition to the U.S. But Mr. Michel threatened, cajoled, and got his way. This is why there hasn’t been a backbench revolt in Belgium and France, though yesterday a Belgian politician tried to redress the balance by delivering letters of support to the British and U.S. embassies.
A senior Belgian official told me last week that Mr. Michel "now realizes he’s gone too far, that he’s made comments he ought not to have made, and is trying to calm things down." Too late. His government situated itself against the war and the U.S. out of a long tradition of subservience to the French and out of fear that otherwise its large Muslim population would riot. "The people then may react by voting for the far right," a Belgian official told me.
Explicable, perhaps. But how immoral to act in such a manner, and how dangerous.
The increasingly visible joy of liberated Iraqis is making clear the moral bankruptcy of those who purported to take the high ground by prolonging Saddam’s rule. The diplomatic blunders of Brussels and Paris are coming home to roost. This is how we got here.
Mr. Gonzalez is the deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe.
URL for this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB104993340997739000,00.html
Updated April 10, 2003
Copyright 2003 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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I’m about to send you two articles (if Outlook would stop crashing) that raise a lot of accusations of Zionism and Anti-Semitism.
As one who was raised in the Christian faith, I find much of this confusing. Much of the time, I really have to struggle to understand these accusations…where they come from, what relevance they have to the discussion at hand. I’m grateful for the vigorous input I receive from the Jews on this list. Gradually, it’s starting to make sense, much as living in a fun-house of mirrors for a few years can start to make sense. It’s a deep, complex, highly interwoven set of relationships that Jews live with.
How all that maps to American policy, I still don’t claim to understand. But these articles shed a little light.
Happy reading…keep those cards ‘n letters coming…
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OK, so this isn’t really the kind of story I normally forward…but it was too funny to pass up.
Praise the Lord…and pass the bathwater
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I’m not quite sure how I came to this article, I found it while poking around on the .ru sites somewhere. But having read it, all I could say was “Wow.” Harsh, bare-toothed, yet pithy prose, tight reasoning, good use of metaphor, a firm and very current grip on reality, and, I daresay, the ring of truth. All in under 1000 words. (And that list of links at the end should keep you busy for a while.) Read it!
Global Eye — Damascus Road
By Chris Floyd
The Moscow Times.com – Metropolis
Comments Off on The \"Damascus Road\" to American Empire
I just saw a ticker headline go by on CNN, something to the effect of ‘Chevron-Texaco settles out of court on illegal trading with Iraq’. I went looking for a source…and I haven’t found it yet (anybody?). But I did find this, and it’s just the kind of thing I’ve been looking for. A nice, graphical timeline, showing the history of US-Iraq relations. Brilliant. And ya gotta love the subtitle: “Or Why We Shouldn’t Think That The People That Got Us Into This Mess Will Get Us Out”
US-Iraq Relations Timeline
(Sorry, it’s another horrid PDF file)
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Speaking of the
open conspiracy that is our military-industrial government, this outfit should be at the very top of everyone’s
watch list. This is the gang of Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle, et. al. who is
responsible for our current grab at Empire and a Pax Americana, the
Project for the New American Century (http://www.newamericancentury.org). Good article,
definitely recommend it:
Interesting thing about that Web
site…apparently it’s a depository of information gathered by the GRU, the
espionage arm of the Russian military. Basically the equivalent of the CIA. But
with a rather different mission, and with a lot less domestic spin. See
more about them…and some other interesting facts about war casualties in major
battles of history, as contrasted with the war on Iraq.
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a long weekend of “getting away from it all” in a nice cozy cabin in
Mendocino, CA with no water and no power, a woodburning stove, my trusty
axe, lots of drums, and the company of good friends, I’m refreshed and…facing
a huge backlog of stuff to send you.
it was nice to clear my head anyway. I hope you find a similar chance soon.
meantime…read on. This is a good summary of some of the key players In Control
right now, as well as some of their special interest groups. If you’re one of
those with a tendency toward believing in shadowy government conspiracies, you
might want to pay special attention to this one. Like the Project for the New
American Century, the ‘conspiracy’ is actually right out in the open, you just
probably haven’t heard of it. Ever heard of the Defense Policy Group? Nah, me
neither. Here are some of the players.
Spoils of War April 10, 2003
By BOB HERBERT
Follow the money.
Former Secretary of State George
Shultz is on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group, the largest contractor
in the U.S. and one of the finalists in the competition to land a fat contract
to help in the rebuilding of Iraq.
He is also the chairman of the
advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war
group with close ties to the White House. The committee, formed last year, made
it clear from the beginning that it sought more than the ouster of Saddam’s
regime. It was committed, among other things, “to work beyond the liberation of
Iraq to the reconstruction of its economy.”
War is a tragedy for some and a boon
for others. I asked Mr. Shultz if the fact that he was an advocate of the war
while sitting on the board of a company that would benefit from it left him
concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“I don’t know that Bechtel would
particularly benefit from it,” he said. “But if there’s work that’s needed to be
done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as
something you benefit from.”
Jack Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps
general, is a senior vice president at Bechtel. He’s also a member of the
Defense Policy Board, a government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon on
major defense issues. Its members are selected by the under secretary of defense
for policy, currently Douglas Feith, and approved by the secretary of defense,
Most Americans have never heard of
the Defense Policy Group. Its meetings are classified. The members disclose
their business interests to the Pentagon, but that information is not available
to the public.
The Center for Public Integrity, a
private watchdog group in Washington, recently disclosed that of the 30 members
of the board, at least 9 are linked to companies that have won more than $76
billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002.
Richard Perle was the chairman of the
board until just a few weeks ago, when he resigned the chairmanship amid
allegations of a conflict of interest. He is still on the board.
Another member is the former C.I.A.
director, James Woolsey. He’s also a principal in the Paladin Capital Group, a
venture capital firm that, as the Center for Public Integrity noted, is
soliciting investments for companies that specialize in domestic security. Mr.
Woolsey is also a member of the Committee to Liberate Iraq and is reported to be
in line to play a role in the postwar occupation.
The war against Iraq has become one
of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial
complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his
farewell address in 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful
individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public
scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest.
Their goals may or may not coincide
with the best interests of the American people. Think of the divergence of
interests, for example, between the grunts who are actually fighting this war,
who have been eating sand and spilling their blood in the desert, and the power
brokers who fought like crazy to make the war happen and are profiting from it
every step of the way.
There aren’t a lot of rich kids in
that desert. The U.S. military is largely working-class. The power brokers
homing in on $100 billion worth of postwar reconstruction contracts are
The Pentagon and its allies are close
to achieving what they wanted all along, control of the nation of Iraq and its
bounty, which is the wealth and myriad forms of power that flow from control of
the world’s second-largest oil reserves.
The transitional government of Iraq
is to be headed by a retired Army lieutenant general, Jay Garner. His career
path was typical. He moved effortlessly from his military career to the
presidency of SYColeman, a defense contractor that helped Israel develop its
Arrow missile-defense system. The iron web.
Those who dreamt of a flowering of
democracy in Iraq are advised to consider the skepticism of Brent Scowcroft, the
national security adviser to the first President Bush. He asked: “What’s going
to happen the first time we hold an election in Iraq and it turns out the
radicals win? What do you do? We’re surely not going to let them take
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Krugman is still far and away the act to beat in political journalism. Here he addresses the new McCarthyism as it plays in election politics, and particularly the skirmish between Sen. John Kerry and Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The Last Refuge – Paul Krugman
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Do we have something to
Or new wars to fight?
Both, from the sounds of what the
Administration is doing…
article that appeared today in the NY Times.
Dances With Wolfowitz
There is an unforgettable scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” when an agonized
Lawrence resists as a British commander in Cairo presses him to return to the
desert to lead the Arabs revolting against the Ottoman Turks.
Lawrence: “I killed two people. One was yesterday. He was just a boy, and I
led him into quicksand. The other was . . . well . . . before Aqaba. I had to
execute him with my pistol, and there was something about it that I didn’t
General Allenby: “That’s to be expected.”
Lawrence: “No, something else.”
General Allenby: “Well, then let it be a lesson.”
Lawrence: “No . . . something else.”
General Allenby: “What then?”
Lawrence: “I enjoyed it.”
We were always going to win the war with Iraq. We were always going to get to
some triumphant moment, like the great one on Fox at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time on
Monday morning, when two G.I.’s from Georgia held up a University of Georgia
bulldog flag in front of Saddam’s presidential palace in Baghdad, and others
mischievously headed upstairs to try out Saddam’s gold fixtures in the master
The big question about the war was, How much blood could Americans bear?
Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were determined to lead America out of its
post-Vietnam, post-Mogadishu queasiness with force and casualties, to change the
culture to accept war as a more natural part of a superpower’s role in the
Their strategy might be described as Black Hawk Up.
Mr. Cheney’s war guru, Victor Davis Hanson, writes in his book “An Autumn of
War” that war can be good, and that sometimes nations are better off using
devastation than suasion. Mr. Hanson cites Sherman’s march through Georgia, the
19th century’s great instance of shock and awe, as a positive role model.
Polls and interviews show that in their goal of making Americans less rattled
by battle, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney have succeeded: most Americans are
showing a stoic attitude about the dead and the wounded so far.
(Perhaps the American tolerance for pain is owed to the fact that much of the
pain is not shown on television, embeddedness notwithstanding.)
Wolfowitz of Arabia and the other administration hawks are thrilled with U.S.
hawkishness. When Mr. Wolfowitz was on “Meet the Press” on Sunday his aides sat
in the green room watching the monitor and high-fiving their boss’s
As American forces made their first armored thrusts into Baghdad, visions of
a JDAM strike on Damascus danced in the hawks’ heads.
The former C.I.A. director James Woolsey, a Wolfie pal and a prospective
administrator in occupied Iraq, bluntly told U.C.L.A. students last week that to
reshape the Middle East, the U.S. would have to spend years and maybe decades
waging World War IV. (He counted the cold war as World War III.)
He identified America’s enemies as the Islamist Shia who run Iran, the
Iranian-supported Hezbollah, the fascist Baathists in Iraq and Syria, and the
Islamist Sunnis who run Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.
Mr. Wolfowitz, however, played the diplomat on Sunday, gliding past Tim
Russert’s probing on whether the neo-cons’ dreams of other campaigns in Syria,
Iran and North Korea would come true. Pressed, he said, “There’s got to be
change in Syria as well.”
And the Times’s David Sanger reported that when a Bush aide stepped into the
Oval Office recently to tell the president that the hard-boiled Rummy had also
been shaking a fist at Syria, Mr. Bush smiled and said one word: “Good.”
The administration already sounds as triumphalist as Lawrence at his
giddiest. Today’s satirical Onion headline reads: “Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up
Spain for Invasion.”
The success of this war should not leave us infatuated with war. Americans’
tolerance for these casualties should not be mistaken for a willingness to
absorb endless American sacrifice on endless battlefields.
Victory in Iraq will be a truly historic event, but it will be exceedingly
weird and dangerous if this administration turns America into Sparta.
There remains the unfinished business of Osama bin Laden. But the end of
Operation Iraqi Freedom should not mark the beginning of Operation Eternal War.
Comments Off on Dances With Wolfowitz
collected a fair number of interesting quotes from hither and yon lately, I
thought I’d send some around.
suggest that you start with these first, from the March issue of The Sun, my
longtime favorite magazine. Sure, I’ll give them a plug, I’ve been a loyal
subscriber for about 15 years now.
“You know the world is going crazy when
the best rapper is a white
the best golfer is a black guy,
the tallest guy in the NBA is
the Swiss hold the America’s Cup,
France is accusing the U.S. of
Germany doesn’t want to go to war,
and the three most powerful
men in America
are named ‘Bush’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Colon'”
“To announce that there must be
no criticism of the president, or that we
are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the
— Teddy Roosevelt
“I know two types of law because I know
two types of men, those who are with us
and those who are against us.” – Hermann Goering, 1936
“You are either with us or against us.”
– George W. Bush, November 2001
“Either you are with us, or you are
with the terrorists.” – George W. Bush,
“If our nation is ever taken over, it
will be taken over from within.” -President James Madison
a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don’t shut it
out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it’s asking a lot to
expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but
wasn’t that the original idea?”
“An evil exists that threatens every
man, woman and child of this great nation, We must take steps to ensure our
domestic security and protect our homeland.” –Adoph Hitler, writing
about creation of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany.
“The world is a dangerous place to
live; not because of the people who are
evil, but because of the people who don’t
do anything about it. —Albert
“PATRIOTISM IS THE LAST REFUGE OF THE
SCOUNDREL” —Samuel Johnson
“Just a 2.7-mpg gain in the fuel
economy of this country’s light-vehicle fleet could displace Persian Gulf
imports entirely” —Amory B.
Reasonable people adapt themselves to
the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All
progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.–George Bernard Shaw
“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor
who die.” —Jean-Paul Sartre
A hundred times every day I remind
myself that my inner and outer life
depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give
in the same measure as I have received and
am still receiving. —Albert
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up
in the field of truth and
shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.”
“Think for yourselves and do not
uncritically accept what you are told, and
do what you can to make the world a better place, particularly for those
who suffer and are oppressed.”—Noam Chomsky
A very famous quote, often attributed to Jefferson is:
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Indeed, this is a sentiment that is consonant with Jefferson’s
writings, and there are several genuine quotes that are similar to it. But
Jefferson did not write it. Bartlett’s “Familiar Quotations” credits it to John
Philpot Curran, a contemporary of Jefferson. Bartlett’s says it is “commonly
quoted” as stated above. However, the original version is, in my opinion, much
“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become
a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man
is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the
consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
Jefferson wrote the following, expressing approximately the same sentiments:
“Lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” –Thomas
Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787.
“We, I hope, shall adhere to our republican government and keep it to its
original principles by narrowly watching it.” –Thomas Jefferson to ——,
March 18, 1793. ME 9:45
“I do most anxiously wish to see the highest degrees of education given to
the higher degrees of genius and to all degrees of it, so much as may enable
them to read and understand what is going on in the world and to keep their
part of it going on right; for nothing can keep it right but their own
vigilant and distrustful superintendence.” –Thomas Jefferson to Mann Page,
1795. ME 9:306
Thus, it is easy to see how the quote in question might be attributed to
Jefferson. (From http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/7970/jefpco13.htm)
Comments Off on Timely quotes
Here’s an interesting development. Have the Democrats finally grown a spine?
“Democratic members [in] Congress have complained since before the war
started not only about questionable contracts, but about the fact that that
companies in the running to rebuild Iraq had more information on the
administration’s plans than they did.”
Comments Off on Dems call Halliburton probe re: defense contracts – Apr. 9, 2003
In case you happened to miss this report outside of the Bay Area, here are a couple of updates on protests that happened at the docks in Oakland yesterday. It also has a brief mention of yesterday’s protest in New York against the Carlyle Group.
“I have been to many protests over the years, and I have never seen police resort to shooting people because they didn’t like where they were standing,” said Scott Fleming, 29, a lawyer hit several times in the back.
Anybody laying bets on the next Kent State incident, or a replay of the Chicago riots? Doesn’t seem far behind.
Comments Off on Rubber Bullets, Wooden Dowels Fired on War Protesters in Oakland
One may well expect the CIA to lead the
charge when it comes to fear-mongering, and they’ve been trotting out
a whole host of “ex”-CIA guys on TV to make sure we’re all afraid of
the right things.
It will be America’s backing of democratic movements throughout the Middle
East that will bring about this sense of unease, he said.
“Our response should be, ‘good!'” Woolsey said.
Uh-huh! Good to see Bill Bennett’s hat back in the
ring. This whole outfit never really went away after Reagan, did they?
Ex-CIA director: U.S. faces ‘World War IV’
From Charles Feldman and Stan Wilson
Thursday, April 3, 2003 Posted: 2202 GMT ( 6:02 AM
Former CIA Director James
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — Former CIA Director James Woolsey said Wednesday the
United States is engaged in World War IV, and that it could continue for
In the address to a group of college students, Woolsey described the Cold War
as the third world war and said “This fourth world war, I think, will last
considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us. Hopefully not the
full four-plus decades of the Cold War.”
Woolsey has been named in news reports as a possible candidate for a key
position in the reconstruction of a postwar Iraq.
He said the new war is actually against three enemies: the religious rulers
of Iran, the “fascists” of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic extremists like al Qaeda.
Woolsey told the audience of about 300, most of whom are students at the
University of California at Los Angeles, that all three enemies have waged war
against the United States for several years but the United States has just
“As we move toward a new Middle East,” Woolsey said, “over the years and, I
think, over the decades to come … we will make a lot of people very nervous.”
It will be America’s backing of democratic movements throughout the Middle
East that will bring about this sense of unease, he said.
“Our response should be, ‘good!'” Woolsey said.
Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi
Arabia, he said, “We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the
fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and
that we are on the side of those whom you — the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal
family — most fear: We’re on the side of your own people.”
Woolsey, who served as CIA director under President Bill Clinton, was taking
part in a “teach-in” at UCLA, a series of such forums at universities across the
A group calling itself “Americans for Victory Over Terrorism” sponsors the
teach-ins, and the Bruin Republicans, UCLA’s campus Republicans organization,
co-sponsored Wednesday night’s event.
The group was founded by former Education Secretary William Bennett, who took
part in Wednesday’s event along with Paul Bremer, a U.S. ambassador during the
Reagan administration and the former chairman of the National Commission on
Comments Off on Ex-CIA director Woolsey: U.S. faces \’World War IV\’
More interesting words from Hunter S.
Thompson and fear-mongering by the Bush administration. Interesting
– – – – – – – – – – – –
The godfather of gonzo says 9/11 caused a “nationwide nervous breakdown”
— and let the Bush crowd loot the country and savage American
– – – – – –
– – – – – –
Feb. 3, 2003
| He calls himself “an elderly dope
fiend living out in the wilderness,” but Hunter S.
Thompson will also be found this week on the New York Times bestseller list
with a new memoir, “Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child
in the Final Days of the American Century.”
Listening to his ragged voice, there is some sense that Thompson, now 65, has
reined in his outlaw ways, gotten a little softer, perhaps a little more
gracious now that he’s reached retirement age. “I’ve found you can deal with the
system a lot easier if you use their rules,” he says. “I talk to a lot of
But do not be deceived. In “Kingdom of Fear” and in a telephone interview
with Salon from his compound in Aspen, Colo., Thompson did what he’s always
done: speak the truth about American society as he sees it, without worrying
much about decorum. “Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads?” he
writes, referring to the people currently occupying the White House. “They are
the racists and hate mongers among us — they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down
the throats of these Nazis.”
That’s his enduring attitude in this new age of darkness: a lot more loathing
The godfather of gonzo believes America has suffered a “nationwide nervous
breakdown” since 9/11, and as a result is compromising civil liberties for what
he calls “the illusion of security.” The compromise, he says, is “a disaster of
unthinkable proportions” and “part of the downward spiral of dumbness” he
believes is plaguing the country.
While the country’s spinning out of control, Thompson says his own lifestyle
has been a model of consistency. He still does whatever the hell he wants. In
fact, his new book was supposed to be a “definitive memoir of his life,”
a long look back by the man who rode with the Hell’s Angels, who experienced the
riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, and who has smoked more cigarettes,
driven more fast cars, fired more weapons and done more drugs than most living
people, let alone most living authors. But the book is much more than memoir.
Thompson has long been an outspoken and vigorous champion of civil liberties,
at least since a well-publicized 1990 case in which he was charged with sexual
and physical assault and possession of illegal drugs — charges that were
ultimately dropped due to an illegal search and seizure.
Of course, the writer has distrusted power all his life, and it may come as
no surprise that he now believes the administration is “manufacturing” the Iraqi
threat for its own political gain and the economic gain of the “oligarchy”
(read: the military-industrial complex).
Perhaps Thompson’s most disturbing charge is aimed at the American people —
only half of whom exercise their right to vote. “The oligarchy doesn’t need an
educated public. And maybe the nation does prefer tyranny,” he says. “I think
that’s what worries me.”
In the end, however, Thompson is not and has never been that easy to
pigeonhole. He’s friends with Pat Buchanan and has a lifetime membership in the
National Rifle Association. In his own mind, if not in others’, he is “one of
the most patriotic people I’ve ever encountered in America.”
Your new book, “Kingdom of Fear,” is being called a definitive memoir —
although almost all of your books seem to be autobiographical in one way or
another. What’s the difference between the written accounts — of drug use,
run-ins with the law, sex, fast cars, guns and explosives — and real-life
I don’t really see any difference. Telling the truth is the easiest way; it
saves a lot of time. I’ve found that the truth is weirder than any fiction I’ve
seen. There was a girl that worked for me a long time ago, who graduated third
in her class from Georgetown Law School, and was from some kind of uptown family
in Chicago, and instead of going to work for some big-time firm, she came to
Aspen and ends up working for me out here in the wilderness. A year or so later
her mother or father were coming out to visit. I’ve had some understandable
issues with parents — really all my life. And I’d be worried about my daughter,
too, if she’d run off with some widely known infamous monster. And so I asked
her — just so I could get braced for this situation, meeting the parents and
having them come to the house: “Given what you know about me and what you hear
about me, which is worse?” She finally came out and said there was no question
in her mind that the reality was heavier and crazier and more dangerous. Having
to deal with the reality is no doubt a little more traumatic.
Indeed, your author blurb says you live in “a fortified compound near
Aspen, Colorado.” In what sense is it fortified and why does it need to be?
Actually, I live in an extremely pastoral setting in an old log house. It’s a
farm really. I moved here 30 years ago. I think the only fortification might be
my reputation. If people believe they’re going to be shot, they might stay away.
Yes, I understand you’re a gun enthusiast, to put it euphemistically. But
do you support more restrictive gun laws? Do you support a ban on assault
I have one or two of those, but I got them before they were illegal. In that
case, if I were sure that any tragedies and mass murders would be prevented, I’d
give up my assault rifle. But I don’t really believe that. Do I have any illegal
weapons? No. I have a .454 magnum revolver, which is huge, and it’s absolutely
legal. One day I was wild-eyed out here with Johnny Depp, and we both ordered
these guns from Freedom, Wyo., and got them the next day through FedEx. Mainly,
I have rifles, pistols, shotguns; I have a lot of those. But everything I have
is top quality; I don’t have any junk weapons. I wouldn’t have any military
weapon around here, except as an artifact of some kind. Given Ashcroft and the
clear blueprint of this administration to make everything illegal and everything
suspicious — how about suspicion of being a terrorist sympathizer? Goddamn,
talk about filling up your concentration camps. But, yeah, my police record is
clean. This is not a fortified compound.
So, just to clarify, how do your views stack up with the NRA’s?
I think I’m still a life member of the NRA. I formed a gun club out here, an
official sporting club, and I got charter from the NRA. That made it legal to
have guns here, to bring guns here, to have ammunition sent here, that sort of
thing. I’ve found you can deal with the system a lot easier if you use their
rules — by understanding their rules, by using their rules against them. I talk
to a lot of lawyers. You know, I consider Pat Buchanan a friend. I don’t agree
with him on many things. Personally, I enjoy him. I just like him. And I learn
from Pat. One of the things I’m most proud of is that I never had anybody
busted, arrested, jailed for my writing about them. I never had any — what’s
that? — collateral damage.
But speaking of rules, you’ve been arrested dozens of times in your life.
Specific incidents aside, what’s common to these run-ins? Where do you stand
vis-à-vis the law?
Goddammit. Yeah, I have. First, there’s a huge difference between being
arrested and being guilty. Second, see, the law changes and I don’t. How I stand
vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change
from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. I guess I have to
go by a higher law. How’s that? Yeah, I consider myself a road man for the lords
In 1990, you were put on trial for what you call “sex, drugs, dynamite and
violence.” Charges were eventually dropped. Since then, you’ve been outspoken on
Fourth Amendment issues: search and seizure, the right to privacy. I assume
you’ve taken a side in the civil liberties debate that’s come up in the
aftermath of 9/11?
It’s a disaster of unthinkable proportions — part of the downward spiral of
dumbness. Civil liberties are black and white issues. I don’t think people think
far enough to see the ramifications. The PATRIOT Act was a dagger in the heart,
really, of even the concept of a democratic government that is free, equal and
just. There are a lot more concentration camps right now than Guantanamo Bay.
But they’re not marked. Now, every jail, every bush-league cop can run a
concentration camp. It amounts to a military and police takeover, I think.
Well, as some have pointed out, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the
Civil War. Is some suspension of civil liberties ever appropriate or justified
in a time of war?
If there’s a visible, obvious threat like Hitler, but in my mind the
administration is using these bogeymen for their own purposes. This military law
is nothing like the Constitution. They’re exploiting the formula here: The
people are afraid of something and you offer a solution, however drastic, and
they go along with it. For a while, yeah. My suspicions are more justified every
day with this manufacturing of dangerous killer villains. The rest of the world
does not perceive, I don’t think, that some tin-horn dictator in the Middle East
is more of a danger to the world than the U.S. is. This country depends on war
as a primary industry. The White House has pumped up the danger factor because
it’s to their advantage. It’s to John Ashcroft’s advantage. There have always
been pros and cons about the righteousness of life in America but this just
seems planned, it seems consistent, and it seems traditional.
What do they get out of it?
They get control of the U.S. economy, their friends get rich. These are not
philosopher-kings we’re talking about. These are politicians. It’s a very sleazy
way of using the system. One of the problems today is that what’s going on today
is not as complex as it seems. The Pentagon just asked for another $14 billion
more in the budget, and it’s already $28 billion. [Defense spending in the 2003
budget rose $19.4 billion, to $364.6 billion]. That’s one sector of the economy
that’s not down the tubes. So, some people are getting rich off of this. It’s
the oligarchy. I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was
anything but a tribal myth. The GOP is the party of capital. It’s pretty basic.
And it may have something to do with the deterioration of educational system in
this country. I don’t think Bush has the slightest intention or concern about
educating the public.
Many people would say you’re un-American and unpatriotic.
I think I’m one of the most patriotic people that I’ve ever encountered in
America. I consider myself a bedrock patriot. I participate very actively in
local politics, because my voice might be worthwhile. I participate in a
meaningful way — not by donations, I work at it.
Well, what do you prescribe? What do you advocate?
All the blood is drained out of democracy — it dies — when only half the
population votes. I would use the vote. It would seem to me that people who have
been made afraid, if you don’t like what’s happening, if you don’t want to go to
war, if you don’t want to be broke, well for God’s sake don’t go out and vote
for the very bastards who are putting you there. That’s a pillar of any
democratic future in this country. The party of capital is not interested in
having every black person in Louisiana having access to the Ivy League. They
don’t need an educated public.
So what took place during this past election?
I believe the Republicans have seen what they’ve believed all along, which is
that this democracy stuff is bull, and that people don’t want to be burdened by
political affairs. That people would rather just be taken care of. The oligarchy
doesn’t need an educated public. And maybe the nation does prefer tyranny. I
think that’s what worries me. It goes back to Fourth Amendment issues. How much
do you value your freedom? Would you trade your freedom for some illusion of
security? Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.
This is coming from someone who’s described himself as “an elderly dope
fiend who lives out in the wilderness” and also as a “drunken screwball.”
A dangerous drunken screwball.
Right. Sorry. So why would anybody listen to you?
I don’t have to apologize for any political judgments I’ve made. The stuff I
wrote in the ’60s and ’70s was astonishingly accurate. I may have been a little
rough on Nixon, but he was rough. You had to do it with him. What you believe
has to be worth something. I’ve never given it a lot of thought: I’ve never
hired people to figure out what I should do about my image. I always work the
same way, and talk the same way, and I’ve been right enough that I stand by my
But is there a sense in which your views are, by definition, going to be
seen as fringe views — views that can just be discarded?
That is a problem and I guess “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” might have
colored the way people perceive me. But I haven’t worried that people see me as
“dope fiend,” I’d rather get rid of the “elderly” rather than the “dope fiend.”
What’s the best example of something you were right about?
Christ, the Hell’s Angels certainly. Police agencies regarded that book as a
major primary resource on motorcycle gangs. I started covering presidential
politics after I realized how easy it was to manipulate the political machinery
in this county — or almost officially doing it — by running for sheriff. I saw
that there might be some serious fun in politics. I covered Goldwater’s
convention in 1964. And I went from Nixon to Kennedy to Nixon. I wanted to have
some say in events, just for my own safety.
You have famously attached yourself to the word “fear” since you wrote
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Now you’ve written “Kingdom of Fear.” Will you
This country has been having a nationwide nervous breakdown since 9/11. A
nation of people suddenly broke, the market economy goes to shit, and they’re
threatened on every side by an unknown, sinister enemy. But I don’t think fear
is a very effective way of dealing with things — of responding to reality. Fear
is just another word for ignorance.
You write in “Kingdom of Fear” about the passing of the American century
That’s official, by the way. The American century was the 20th, so sayeth
Henry Luce. And when it ends, Christ, you can’t avoid thinking: “Ye Gods!”
To whom or what is the 21st century going to belong?
That’s something I have not divined yet. Goddammit, I couldn’t have told you
in 1960 what 1980 was going to be like.
You’ve also referred to your beat as the “Death of the American Dream.”
That was the ostensible “subject” of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Has it
just sort of been on its deathbed since 1968?
I think that’s right.
A lot of people would argue with you about that anyway, and believe that
the American Dream is alive and well.
They need to take a better look around.
But in a way, haven’t you lived the American Dream?
Goddammit! [pause] I haven’t thought about it that way. I suppose you could
say that in a certain way I have.
You said back in 1991 that you were “as astounded as anybody” that you
were still alive. Still drinking, smoking and doing drugs?
I guess I’d have to say I haven’t changed. Why should I, really? I’m the most
stable neighbor on the road here. I’m an honest person. I don’t regret being
honest. I did give up petty crime when I turned 18, after I got a look at jail
— I went in there for shoplifting — because I just saw that this stuff doesn’t
work. There’s a line: “I do not advocate the use of dangerous drugs, wild
amounts of alcohol and violence and weirdness — but they’ve always worked for
me.” I think I said that at a speech at Stanford. I’ve always been a little
worried about advocating my way of life, or gauging my success by having other
people take up my way of life, like Tim Leary did. I always quarreled with Leary
about that. I could have started a religion a long time ago. It would not have a
majority of people in it, but there would be a lot of them. But I don’t know how
wise I am. I don’t know what kind of a role model I am. And not everybody is
made for this life.
In fact, you’ve experienced more than your share of dangerous situations.
You’ve been beaten by the Hell’s Angels. You were in the middle of the 1968
Democratic Convention riots. You’ve been shot at. What’s going on with that?
By any widely accepted standard, I have had more than nine lives. I counted
them up once and there were 13 times that I almost and maybe should have died —
from emergencies with fires to violence, drowning, bombs. I guess I am an action
junkie, yeah. There may be some genetic imperative that caused me to get into
certain situations. It’s curiosity, I guess. As long as I’m learning something I
figure I’m OK — it’s a decent day.
Is there anything you regret?
That goes to the question of would you do it again. If you can’t say you’d do
it again, it means that time was wasted — useless. The regrets I have are so
minor. You know, would I leave my Keith Richards hat, with the silver skull on
it, on the stool at the coffee shop at LaGuardia? I wouldn’t do that again. But
overall, no, I don’t have any regrets.
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