Debate with Frank Gaffney

Neoconservatives are frequently exposed as frightened bullies when confronted, and do not even possess the courage of their convictions.

Published February 16, 2007 7:55PM (EST)

For those who were unable to listen, C&L has now posted the full audio podcast of the debate I had last night on the Alan Colmes Show with Frank Gaffney, one of the most extremist, pernicious and influential neoconservatives in our country. The debate covered many topics, including the (now-removed) vile Op-Ed he wrote on Wednesday, which relied upon a fabricated quote from Abraham Lincoln, equated opposition to the Leader and the war with treason, and called for Senators such as Carl Levin to be hanged as traitors.

Unlike many of these types of debates, I think this one is really worth listening to. Tough-guy warmongers love to run around spewing the language of Treason against political opponents, or beating their chests and issuing calls for vastly escalated slaughter in the form of sloganeering such as "the U.S. needs to start doing what needs to be done in the Middle East." But when challenged about these views or called upon to say explicitly what they mean, they very frequently lack the courage of their convictions, fearfully running away from the clear meaning of what they said. From the start, because he was aggressively challenged (including by Colmes), that is what Gaffney did.

On several occasions, he lost control of himself, even using profanities. Aside from the entertainment value that provides, it illustrates an important point. Gaffney is a professional right-wing extremist. He has been in the Reagan administration, on every television and radio show for years, and is very well-funded by numerous neoconservative funding sources. The fact that he became so shrill and defensive and even frightened reveals that neocons know that America is turning against them and beginning to realize the destruction they have wrought and the culpability they possess for what they have done to our country.

That is why they are so eager to equate criticism of them with treason and to stifle debate. They have not only lost the debate over Iraq and general Middle East militarism, but their continuous extremism and deceit is being exposed, and they fear being held accountable. It is only natural that they want to render criticism of their war and their conduct impermissible.

The desperation was most apparent when Bill Kristol went on Fox News and expressed his rage that Democrats and other war opponents "can't be quiet for six or nine months." The very notion that Americans have some sort of obligation to heed Kristol's demand to be silent while he pushes on with his war is audacious and radical beyond words.

And that was the point of Gaffney's column as well -- that it should be considered not only un-American, but actually criminal, to criticize the war and the people such as Frank Gaffney and Doug Feith who concocted it and sold it to the country. But ultimately, that tactic will get them nowhere. Americans are not going to be persuaded by the idea that they are obligated to refrain from criticizing Doug Feith, Bill Kristol and the wars they have spawned, to say nothing of the new ones they are attempting to foist on the country.

It is insufficient simply to have persuaded Americans that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It was not merely a mistake. It was the by-product of extremely deceitful ideologues who exploited the 9/11 attacks to implement a very destructive agenda that long pre-dated 9/11 and that has nothing to do with combating terrorism other than the fact that terrorism is the pretense used to justify that agenda.

While they wrap themselves in the rhetoric of "emboldening the enemy," nobody has done more to strengthen our actual enemies -- Al Qaeda and its terrorist allies -- than the Frank Gaffneys and other warmongers and neoconservatives, whose obsession with attacking Middle Eastern countries that had nothing to do with 9/11 -- driven by motives having nothing to do with terrorism -- have allowed Al Qaeda to flourish in Afghanistan and Pakistan, enabled Osama bin Laden to remain at large, drained our financial capability to genuinely protect ourselves, and has esclated anti-American resentment in the Middle East to unprecedented heights, thereby providing Islamic radicalism with the fuel for recruitment and support beyond its wildest dreams. And the policies they have pursued and the methods they have used have literally destroyed America's moral credibility in almost every country around the world, thereby weakening us further still.

While neoconservatives have been widely discredited, it is crucial to recognize that they continue to exercise real power in the form of this administration. Iraq is closer to the beginning than the end of what they are pursuing. And several leading presidential candidates -- particularly John McCain and Rudy Giuliani -- share many, if not most, of the defining principles of their militaristic worldview.

Neoconservatism has been exposed as the rotted and bloodthirsty ideology that it is, but as The American Conservative's Scott McConnell recently documented in an excellent article on the adaptive ability of neocons, that movement is far from dead. Doing what one can to expose them and weaken it further is of the highest priority.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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