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READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Neoconservative birds of a feather

By Lance Selfa | October 17, 2003 | Page 9

"TRADITIONAL DEBATES on the left about the value of electoral politics and the lesser evil pale in light of the need to defeat Bush and his congressional accomplices. The essential choice between elementary decency and unprecedented reaction need not be between political parties, but between a powerful movement for peace and justice on one side and Bush and his right-wing zealots on the other."

So reads "A Letter to the Left," signed by 43 prominent left activists and progressives from Noam Chomsky to Manning Marable, released September 23. Its message is clear: Bush's reactionary social policies and imperialist agenda are so threatening that "the left" must defeat him at the polls--in other words, support a Democrat.

The assumption driving this lesser evilism is that the Bush regime is wholly beyond the pale because it's in the thrall of a neoconservative clique--a sinister force that emerged from shadows of Washington think tanks to hijack U.S. foreign policy.

There's no doubt that Bush's foreign policy team is a nest for neoconservative hawks. But many of these people didn't emerge from the shadows. In fact, they emerged from the Democratic Party.

In a day when the Democrat establishment is pushing a retired general to inoculate it against charges that it's "soft on defense," it's easy to forget that the Democrats, from FDR to LBJ, were the main architects of modern U.S. imperialism. The crisis over the Vietnam War shattered this Democratic consensus and underpinned the 1972 candidacy of Sen. George McGovern, who appealed to the antiwar movement.

Cold War liberal politicians, who combined liberal positions on social welfare issues with strong support for Cold War military spending, formed another piece of the Democratic establishment that rebelled against McGovern. The most prominent among these was U.S. Senator Henry (Scoop) Jackson of Washington--nicknamed the "senator from Boeing"--who mounted presidential runs in 1972 and 1976 based on his "strong on defense" positions.

McGovern's landslide defeat in 1972 solidified the image of "soft-on-defense" Democrats. The McGovern campaign and its aftermath is the story of the origins of the "neoconservatives" that most observers today believe to be the intellectual godparents of the Bush Doctrine.

Almost all of the leading figures among today's foreign policy neocons emerged from the "Scoop Jackson" wing of the Democratic Party. Another source of neocon support was the State Department's corruption of the AFL-CIO that funded union crusades against "communism" across the Third World.

They found a home in the Reaganite Republican Party that came to power launching a New Cold War with the USSR. Richard Perle, the "prince of darkness" on today's Defense Policy Board, began his Washington career on Jackson's staff.

Defense Policy Board member R. James Woolsey III, a Washington lawyer who served in the Carter administration and spent two years as Bill Clinton's first CIA director, was one of the most fanatical supporters of the theory that Iraq was behind the September 11 attacks. Former Iran-contra criminal Elliott Abrams, the administration's current director of Middle East policy, is a former staffer for Jackson and a former member of Social Democrats USA, the organization that supplied much of the cadre of the "AFL-CIA" escapades in the Third World.

Another letterhead organization emerging from the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, included among its members major figures in the Clinton-Gore administration: Les Aspin, Clinton's first Defense Secretary; Woolsey; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Clinton's energy secretary and United Nations ambassador; Henry Cisneros, Clinton's housing secretary; and Lloyd Bentsen, Clinton's first treasury secretary.

One adviser to "antiwar candidate" Howard Dean is Danny Sebright, vice president of the consulting group of former Defense Secretary William Cohen (a Republican). Before he signed on with Cohen and Dean, Sebright had a hand in directing the war in Afghanistan from his perch in the Bush Defense Department.

U.S. imperialism is a bipartisan project, with its ideological warriors accepted from both major parties. Getting rid of Bush in favor of a Democrat won't change that.

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