Glenn Greenwald’s exposé on Ukraine, Zelensky, liberal media, Democratic Party, neocons eg Bret Stephens, David Frum, Max Boot, Robert Kagan, Victoria Nuland, Bill Kristol, Dick & Liz Cheney…
‘Neocons are notorious for their love of sending other people’s families to war. They love to demand that other people risk their lives in wars while they can find themselves writing articles with pretty language that elevates the cause and, most importantly of all, elevates themselves…
‘Bret Stephens has always been driven by a virtually binding, absolute allegiance to the government of Israel – that translates not only as an endless demand for always greater U.S. financial and military aid to Israel but also as a reflexive defense of virtually everything that that foreign nation does…’
By Glenn Greenwald, video transcript reposted from Locals, March 1, 2023 (boldface added by IAK)
One of the most fanatical neocons in American media, The New York Times Bret Stephens converted his column today into a homage to the greatness of Joe Biden – his moral courage and clarity, his strength of character, his steadfast support for what is right when it comes to the war in Ukraine. Stephens favorably compared Biden not only to French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – he said Biden was far better than even Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Stephens’s hatred for Donald Trump, shared by most neocons, is too well-known for him to have even bothered to argue that Biden is superior to Trump. For neocons, everyone is superior to Trump. And most amazingly of all, Bret Stephens in The New York Times essentially endorsed Joe Biden’s reelection in 2024, directing him on how to ensure that he wins the second term, which this neocon extremist believes this country desperately needs.
If it were just an example of a single neocon kind of losing his mind temporarily and writing a baseline to the greatness of Joe Biden, it would be worth noting more for entertainment purposes but this is something far more significant. All of this illustrates one of the most important yet under-discussed political transformations of the last decade, namely, the full-scale union between the country’s most fanatical neocons on the one hand and the Democratic Party on the other. And while many liberals like to tell themselves the pleasing fairy tale that this happened only due to their common contempt for Trump, the reality is exactly the opposite.
The migration of neocons back to the Democratic Party was well underway long before anyone even imagined such a thing as President Donald Trump. And more importantly, this alliance is based not on shared hatred for any one individual, but on the perception of the neocons, the very well-grounded and accurate perception, that the Democratic Party is now far more hospitable to core neocon values of endless war and sacrificing the lives and well-being of ordinary Americans for an agenda that serves foreign nationals and a sliver, of American elites and nobody else. We will examine in depth this ever-deepening alliance and what it means for American politics.
Plus, the corporate media suffers yet another humiliating debacle, this time by having their melodramatic script about what they called the Havana Syndrome blow up in their faces in the most humiliating possible way. We would love, I promise, to be able to have just one episode where we don’t have to cover the systemic rot at the heart of the U.S. corporate media, but their constant embarrassments, errors, and deceit make that very difficult for us to accomplish.
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One of the surest ways to know that your country’s political discourse is irretrievably broken is when the most important news events, the ones that matter most, are the least discussed. Such is the case for the radical political transformation that I regard as the single most important in the last decade: the re-migration of neoconservatives back to the Democratic Party, where they began decades ago, and the resulting full-scale enduring alliance between the most fanatical neocons and Democrats, the unholy alliance that I would argue, has become the single most dominant political faction in the United States.
Like many commonly used political terms, neocon lacks a very precise and universally accepted definition. But – as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about the long failed attempt by the Supreme Court to define obscenity, “I know it when I see it” – we are able to use that standard to recognize many neocons. And while we will, in just a few minutes, spend some time defining neoconservatives and reviewing their lowly and destructive trajectory in American public life, one of the people who is indisputably a neocon using the Justice Stewart standard, someone who exudes its core values and tactics from every pore of his body, is New York Times columnist Bret Stephens.
Prior to being hired by The New York Times, in 2017, as a columnist, Stephens has spent almost two decades as a foreign policy columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and for a few years as editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post. His writings throughout all those years were of along classic neoconservative ideology: he was an ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq; he was a very vocal cheerleader for the most extreme abuses and civil liberties assaults carried out under the banner of the War on Terror – someone whose only criticisms of Bush-Cheney militarism was that it failed to go far enough by failing to carry out regime change operations in Syria and Iran, for instance; and he has always been driven by a virtually binding, absolute allegiance to the government of Israel – that translates not only as an endless demand for always greater U.S. financial and military aid to Israel but also as a reflexive defense of virtually everything that that foreign nation does.
Among American liberals, it has become one of their favorite pastimes to explode with indignation every time the Times publishes a new column by Bret Stephens, complaining that the paper is giving him a platform, something they regard as proof of the New York Times tolerance for or even the support of far-right-wing fascism and white supremacy or whatever their favorite insult of the week is. Every time there’s a Bret Stephens column, liberals react that way.
When the Times announced its hiring of Stephens in 2017, the rage-driven reaction of liberals surprised even me. While accustomed as I have become to the liberal belief that newspapers should only hire journalists whose views perfectly adhere to liberal pieties. Watching that orgy of outrage over his hiring, I actually wrote an article that very week, the week of Stephens’s hiring, trying to warn liberals that the far more significant hiring that week by the Times was not Bret Stephens, but his Wall Street Journal colleague and protégé, Bari Weiss, whose hiring was announced just two days after his. But few had heard of Bari Weiss at the time and they were far too fixated with collective rage over Stephens and his hiring to hear anything else.
Here, for example, is an Intercept headline accompanying an article by reporter Zaid Jilani that reflected the typical liberal anger over Stephens’ hiring “New York Times Promises Truth and Diversity, Then Hires Climate-Denying Anti-Arab White Guy”. The subheadline: “Readers have flocked to the New York Times after it reasserted its principles in the Trump era. Then it hired the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens”.
The left-wing media watchdog group, FAIR, published an article during that week headlined “Three Reasons Bret Stephens Should Not Be a New York Times Columnist”. Their reasons: 1) he’s a climate denier; 2) he advocates crimes against humanity, meaning the War on Terror abuses such as torture and the due process for the imprisonments of the Bush-Cheney era, and – no left-liberal article would be complete without it – 3) he’s a racist, citing a long line of derogatory statements that Stephens had written over the years about Arabs and their culture as a means of defending Israel, such as, “The Arab world’s problems are a problem of their mind or, to be more specific, the “disease” of their mind”.
As so often happens, the liberal script when it came to the rage over Bret Stephens’s hiring, was nearly identical. Here, for example, is the headline from Vox that reads “The New York Times Should Not Have Hired Climate Change Bullshitter Bret Stephens’ ‘.
Here, from The Huffington Post: “The New York Times Publisher Writes To Those Who Ditched Subscriptions Over Bret Stephens” – because liberals were canceling what the Huffington Post said was a mass exodus, but really just a few hundred or a couple of thousand ditched subscriptions, in protest.
To be very clear, I am the opposite of a Bret Stephens fan. I agree with a lot of the criticisms I just referenced. I regard neoconservatism of the kind that Bret Stephens advocates as the most toxic and destructive ideological force in America. It’s the ideology of Bill Kristol and David Frum and Dick and Liz Cheney, a bloodthirsty and sociopathic mentality that seeks to keep the U.S. in a posture of endless wars, one after the next, for the benefit of everyone and everything except the lives of ordinary American citizens.
That they are just fanatical about ensuring that it is other families and almost never their own that have to fight in those wars and die in those wars that they cheer, makes them even more morally repellent to me than ever. And this disgust for neocons has been central to my worldview since I began writing about politics in 2005, largely motivated by contempt for the war-mongering and regime change fixations and civil liberties assaults that this small but very influential faction of neocons had architected for America and deceived ordinary Americans through propaganda into believing that it was in their interest to support it.
So, my contempt for neocons began very early on and endures to this very day. For decades this intense disgust of neocons was shared by virtually everyone who identified as a Democrat, a liberal or a leftist, or something similar, as reflected by the rage when Bret Stephens was hired by the New York Times.
My contempt for neocons and their ideology has never wavered. But now the opposite is true for most liberal pundits and liberal elites who now regard neocons not only as tolerable but deeply admirable, even heroic. Liz Cheney was named one of America’s heroes for 2022 by Mother Jones. That the leftwing magazine named after a socialist activist famous for civil disobedience in pursuit of far left-wing causes. Their hero is now Dick Cheney’s daughter, the Wicked Neocon Witch of the West.
The factor that caused liberals and so many leftists to so radically change their views of neocons from unbridled hatred to respect, affection and admiration is the same fact that dictates all of their views, namely whether someone likes or hates Donald Trump. And since neocons viewed Donald Trump almost immediately as a grave threat to their agenda, they converted themselves into Trump’s sworn enemy, devoting themselves with a single-minded fixation to doing everything possible to sabotaging, maligning and destroying Trump. That obviously wasn’t true of all neocons. People like John Bolton ended up being hired by the Trump administration and working within it, although he eventually got fired, it was certainly true of most.
And that was all it took for Liberals to immediately abandon their long standing view of neocons as monstrous war criminals with an insatiable thirst for wars that are totally unrelated to the welfare of the American people and almost overnight view them as the opposite, as valued allies and wise thought leaders. That’s why David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter, who penned so many of Bush’s most harmful lies, doesn’t write for National Review or Fox News. He writes for The Atlantic. It’s why Bill Kristol’s social media exploded due almost entirely to new liberal followers and why he regularly has the red carpet rolled out for him as though he’s some honored, wise statesman by MSNBC. It’s why Liz Cheney lost her GOP primary by a humiliating and record setting 35 points while liberal columnists write pieces to her greatness and moral character.
While it is the neocons’ hatred for Trump that made liberals revere neocons, that is not why neocons have migrated back to the original petri dish from which they first emerged. What explains that is that neocons tend to be much more shrewd and clever than the liberals whom they have deceived into reversing them. They understood well before Trump’s emergence on the scene that the Republican Party was becoming increasingly hostile to their unlimited militarism and their thirst for wars. Wars come at the expense of ordinary working-class Americans who pay for those wars and die in them, that receive no benefits from them.
Starting in the second term of the Obama administration, neocons could see through things like the success that Ron Paul had with an anti-interventionist message deep in the primaries of Iowa and South Carolina, and who believed that Hillary Clinton would likely succeed Obama and could barely contain their excitement over the prospect of a Hillary Clinton administration.
Neocons, before Trump, began signaling their intention to abandon the Republican Party, which had served as their host body for the entire War on Terror and reinfect the Democratic Party, which they had decided to make their home for the near future at least.
Despite this union, many liberals who have been trained to love those neocons still do harbor animus toward Bret Stevens. And that’s partly due to his heresies on culture war issues, other kinds of religion, liberal religious beliefs, a church that touches his opposition to some planks of gender ideology, and his long-standing skepticism of climate change – though neocons, if nothing else, always know where their bread is buttered, and Bret Stephens recently announced after taking a trip to Greenland that he’s now largely on board with the liberal view of climate change, acknowledging that it really is the crisis that liberals have long been insisting it is. So, there are very few reasons left for liberals to hate Bret Stephens other than his occasional opposition to the most extremist planks of gender ideology. At this point, their dislike of Stephens is basically just reflexive, a kind of learned behavior they never unlearned. But all of that is highly likely to change.
Stephens may very well now lose his status as one of the very few neocons liberals have not yet ineffectually passionately embraced as a result of his decision today to write what is not so much a political column in the New York Times as it is a homage, a passion to the moral courage and general greatness of Joe Biden.
To those paying little attention to U.S. politics over the last decade, or for those who have little capacity for thinking critically, it may seem surprising, shocking even, that a lifelong neocon would not only revere Joe Biden as our modern-day Winston Churchill, but basically endorse his reelection as president in 2024, something not even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has yet willing to do when asked. Writing under the headline “On Ukraine, Biden Outshines Macron, Scholz – and DeSantis,” Stephens gushed about Biden with such adolescent fanboy fervor that it would even embarrass Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert or the Washington Post team of fact-checkers.
We offer you just a few of the most illustrative paragraphs of the reverence Bret Stephens penned today for Joe Biden. He began by condemning French President Macron and German chancellor Scholz for the crime of trying to find a diplomatic resolution to the war in Ukraine, which Stephens finds so glorious and exciting. About those diplomatic efforts, Stephens writes, “These are preposterous suggestions.” And then he unleashes his love and respect and homage to Joe Biden:
That’s the point. Those who now argue that President Zelenskyy of Ukraine needs to be “realist” or “pragmatic” – that is, that he should stop short of pursuing a complete Russian withdrawal from all occupied Ukrainian territories – are proposing a solution they would never countenance for their own countries under ordinary circumstances, let alone during a struggle for national survival. That’s why, as the war in Ukraine entered the second year, I feel grateful for Joe Biden. Fault him all you want on many issues, particularly his gradualist approach to arming Ukraine, but on the most consequential question of our time, he has the big thing right (The New York Times. Feb. 28, 2023).
In other words, the one criticism Bret Stephens recognizes as valid of Joe Biden is that he has not armed the Ukrainians enough – not quickly enough or aggressively enough. But, he says, he got what, in Bret Stephens’s mind, is the most consequential question of our time, whether Russia or Ukraine will rule various provinces in Eastern Ukraine or whether they will be independent. That’s a real privilege talking. Being a New York Times columnist and believing that the most important issue is who rules various provinces in Eastern Ukraine. For Bret Stephens, the fact that Joe Biden has gotten this right more than any other world leader means that he deserves a second term. He goes on:
As for prudence, musing openly about the need for eventual negotiation harms Ukraine’s solidarity and morale, both key factors for survival and success. An overwhelming majority of Ukrainians want to retake all the territories seized by Russia, including Crimea. That political fact should weigh in the mind of Biden’s foreign policy team. Public support for Ukraine is eroding, particularly among Republicans and conservatives who know better, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who are shamefully hedging their bets. President Biden likes to say that the United States will support Ukraine for as long as it takes, but that promise can expire on January 20, 2025, if he doesn’t win a second term, he owes it to his own legacy, not to hazard what is potentially the most historic accomplishment of his presidency on next year’s race. (The New York Times. Feb. 28, 2023).
There’s a lot packed in there, into those claims, beginning with the fact that he says a majority of Ukrainians, an overwhelming majority, want not only to have the war end but instead want to expel Russia from all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea. The idea that NATO is going to support Ukraine for it to successfully expel every last Russian troop, including from the areas of Eastern Ukraine where overwhelmingly people identify far more with Moscow than with Kyiv, where far more would rather either be independent or under the rule of Putin than under the rule of Zelenskyy is utter madness.
But even more unhinged is the idea that Russia would just stand by and allow Ukraine and NATO to take back Crimea. And Bret Stephens’ assertion – and that’s all it is, is an assertion – that the vast majority of people support Biden’s vision, that they want to fight until the very end, until every last bit of territory is recovered, including in Crimea, you’ll note, has no citation. He doesn’t say the poll. He doesn’t link to a study. That’s just something that he wants to believe. It’s a nice fairy tale to believe. And so, he just asserted it. All Ukrainians are behind me and Joe Biden: they want to fight this war until the very end.
It’s very hard in a war zone to take accurate polls. It’s very hard in a country under martial law, which is what Ukraine is, to get people to speak openly.
Even before the war began, when Russia invaded Ukraine, President Zelenskyy had already proven himself very willing to engage in anti-democratic and authoritarian tactics, not in 2022, but in 2021. He had shut down three opposition television stations. He had begun attacking opposition parties and even questioning whether or not they had a right to exist.
But one of the pieces of evidence that we can use in assessing whether or not Bret Stephens’s assertion has any remote validity to it, namely, that the vast majority of Ukrainians want to fight this war until the very end, or whether that’s something only Bret Stephens wants because he gets to say that while he and his family are far removed from the battlefield, is the fact that President Zelenskyy is not using a volunteer army. He’s not using a huge group of Ukrainian men who step forward to say, we want to fight the Russian army until the very end, even if it means risking our own lives to do so.
The exact opposite is true. Over the last several months, there has been increasingly compelling evidence of the fact that more and more and more Ukrainian men are unwilling to fight this war. They’re unwilling to die in this war.
That’s why Zelenskyy has to rely on a draft army and a conscription army the way the United States had to do when it wanted to fight a war in Vietnam, that most Americans had a great deal of difficulty understanding what relevance it had to their lives, who ruled the southern part of Vietnam, whether it was going to be right-wing U.S. allies or communist or anyone else. You didn’t have Americans lining up around the block to volunteer to fight in Vietnam the way you had Americans lining up to fight after 9/11 when they realized that, in fact, their own country had been attacked, because people are willing to fight for a cause they believe in, in the end, to die for a cause they believe in.
But if they don’t think the war is worth it, that’s when conscription is needed. And not only has Zelenskyy had to rely on conscription, on the draft, on forcing people who don’t want to fight to actually fight, it’s become increasingly difficult to prevent people from deserting, to prevent people from exploiting the grave corruption that has always governed Ukraine by paying people to get them out of Ukraine.
Here, for example, is one of the most recent articles on the problems Zelenskyy is facing, from The Economist, on February 26 – so, just a few days ago – and, remember, this is in the context of a New York Times columnist today asserting that vast, vast majority of Ukrainians not only want to fight to get Russia out of the parts they invaded, but to fight to get them out of all parts, including Crimea, which would be a years’ long war, that Russia would do everything in its power to prevent. Why is it that The New York Times columnist is able to make an assertion so dubious without any evidence presented when in fact the evidence strongly suggests that what he said was false?
Here, for example, The Economist’s headline reads “Ukraine Finds Stepping Up Mobilization is Not so Easy. Military recruiters are accused of rough tactics as they try to boost the headcount”.
Here’s an anecdote that illustrates how aggressive and even violent Zelensky’s kind of forces have to be to get people willing to go fight against the Russians on the front line:
Ruslan Kubay was surprised to receive a draft notice in late January. Registered as seriously disabled since childhood – Mr. Kubay is missing both hands – he falls under a list of automatic exemptions from service. Even more surprising, however, was the reaction of officials at the local registration office in Drohobich, near Lyiv. Far from admitting their error, they doubled down and declared him fit for service. Someone who didn’t want to fight and someone who had no hands, Mr. Kubay’s case was an extreme, but far from an isolated incident.
Ukraine has visibly stepped up mobilization activities in the first two months of this year. For unclear reasons, officials in western Ukraine have been the most aggressive, but the trend is clear across the country. There have been reports of draft notices issued and sometimes violently enforced at military funerals, checkpoints in Kharkyiv, shopping centers in Kyiv and on street corners In Odessa. Popular ski resorts lie deserted despite the first proper snows in the winter – footage of military officials snooping around at the slopes were enough to keep the crowds away. In every town and city across the country, social media channels share information about where recruitment officers might be lurking. Previously, only members of Ukraine’s draft commission were allowed to issue notices and only at home addresses. Now a wider group of officials can issue the two-part document, and there is no geographical limitation. Another difference is who is being called up. In the first wave most of the recruits were voluntary; queues outside draft offices where a frequent sight. Now officials are recruiting from a much less enthusiastic crowd.
In a country like Ukraine, there are inevitably less-than-legal ways to escape the call-up too. “It’s a dialectic of nature”, said Colonel Kevlyuk, who worked in the general staff until 2021. “Whenever there is demand, you’ll always find someone to supply it”. Some arrange fictitious marriages with mothers of three or four or more children. Others get corrupt military doctors to issue a medical exemption. For a few thousand dollars, one can pay to be smuggled across the border.
Government officials say excesses are being addressed as they come to light. But with the Army set on achieving a military breakthrough before the summer, recruitment of less-motivated Ukrainians [by “less motivated”, they mean people who don’t want to fight] will surely be stepped up and scandals will probably continue.
The armed forces may respond to legal challenges by improving their bureaucracy, but there are other ways to deal with them too. Informed sources say that at least two lawyers disputing draft orders have abruptly been called up themselves. As the Army well knows, mobilized lawyers are automatically barred from practicing (The Economist. Feb 26, 2023).
Again, this is not the first time we have heard that Ukraine and Zelenskyy are having a great deal of difficulty in getting their own citizens to fight in a war that people like Bret Stephens keep telling us is of the utmost importance – a very easy thing to say when it’s not you or your family who have to go and fight in that war.
Back in early February, we had another Politico article entitled “Ukraine Army Discipline Crackdown Sparks Fear and Fury on the Front. Critics say new legislation that punishes deserters and rule-breakers more harshly contravenes human rights and demotivates military personnel”. The article states:
President Zelenskyy refused to veto a new law that strengthens punishments for wayward military personnel on Thursday, rejecting a petition signed by over 25,000 Ukrainians who argue it’s too harsh. “The key to the combat capability of military units and ultimately of Ukraine’s victory is compliance with military discipline”, Zelensky said in his written response to the petition. Ukrainian soldiers have stunned the world with their resilience and battlefield successes withstanding a year-long onslaught from Russian troops.
But among Kyiv’s forces, made up largely of fresh recruits lacking previous military experience or training, some are struggling to cope. There are those who have rebelled against commanders’ orders, gotten drunk, or misbehaved; others, running low on ammunition and morale, have fled for their lives, abandoning their positions.
Seeking to bring his forces into line, Zelenskyy in January signed into force a punitive law that introduces harsher punishments for deserters and wayward soldiers and strips them of their right to appeal (Politico. Feb 5, 2023).
For me, this is classic neocon behavior. They feel so powerful and purposeful and compensate for their feelings of lifelong internal weakness, typically as men, by getting to write columns that glorify war and all of the courage that’s required, the way in which we all get to be Winston Churchill, not by actually going to the frontlines and fighting, but by publishing columns condemning people whose backbone isn’t quite as solid as people like Bret Stevens.
But that’s what neocons have always done. That’s what they’re notorious for, is they love to send other people’s families to war. They love to demand that other people risk their lives in wars while they can find themselves writing articles with pretty language that elevates the cause and, most importantly of all, elevates themselves.
And so, Bret Stephens can sit in the New York Times office and claim that a war over who controls the Eastern provinces of Ukraine is the single most consequential question of our time; that Joe Biden deserves reelection for getting this utmost question so correct when the people who actually have to go and fight in that war are seeking increasingly desperate ways to avoid doing so. But that is what neocons have been doing for the last 20 years. Almost none of them or their family members, their children, their siblings, or their relatives volunteered to fight in the wars that they were such fervent supporters of.
To me, that is a classic attribute of neoconservatism, and few people illustrate that and embody it more than Bret Stephens. So, not only is his claim false, apparently, that the vast majority of Ukrainians are eager to fight to the very end, even to take back Crimea from Russia, but it reflects such a grotesque moral failing that year after year, decade after decade, someone like him uses nothing more than his pen and the safety of his life as a journalist to send people – millions, thousands and thousands and hundreds of thousands after the next – to wars, that they go die. And so that he gets to feel strong and purposeful.
But note that this is what the Democratic Party, in his view, has welcomed. He realizes that if you look at where resistance to the war in Ukraine is growing, where there’s anger over the fact that we’re sacrificing the lives of our own citizens, not yet by sending them into the war zone, but by sacrificing their economic future – when people in East Palestine cannot get anyone to pay attention to their crisis when people are without healthcare coverage and the ability to send their kids to college or treat Fentanyl addiction, that we’re sending hundreds of billions of dollars to this foreign war that not even the people of that country seem willing to fight in so that the neocons of the world can feel good about themselves.
And they recognize that there’s growing opposition to that mentality over the years in the Republican Party and that is why they’ve decided, quite wisely, that if you want support for endless warfare, you have to basically go to the Democratic Party. The vote back in May, just three months into the war over whether to send $40 billion to Ukraine, reflected that reality, reflected the correct perception by neocons that the Democratic Party is the place to go if you believe what they believe.
Every single member of the Democratic Caucus and the House and the Senate voted yes. Not a single one had the courage to vote no, whereas at least seven or eight dozen Republican members of the House and Senate voted no. And there’s clearly now growing reluctance, growing resistance among Republicans who now control the House in order to place strong limits on how much more aid we’re willing to give to fuel this proxy war.
Whereas I don’t see any evidence of any resistance, let alone significant resistance on the part of the Democratic Party. And when you go down the list of neoconservative priorities, one after the next, you find exactly the same thing – the desire to change the regime of Bashar Assad, to bomb Libya and remove Muammar Gadhafi all found great support within the Democratic Party.
There are a lot of Republicans who supported it, too, but at least there was a lot of opposition in the Republican Party because – going all the way back to Ron Paul, and the success he had, and then this new MAGA movement that emphasizes the need to avoid unnecessary wars – the fact that Trump boasts, as he should, of being the first president in decades not to involve the U.S. in a new war shows how hostile the Republican Party, long the host for neocons, has now become to neocons. And that is the reason that neocons are aligning with the Democratic Party.
As I said, this is not a new development. This became very obvious from the early moments of the Trump presidency. Back in July of 2017, just six months into the Trump presidency, there was a creation of a new foreign policy group that was designed to essentially promote hawkish policies toward Russia and beyond. And the people who formed this group and the people who were financing it were essentially the who’s who of the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party and neocons led by people like Bill Kristol. They were in a complete alliance.
And that’s why in July 2017, I wrote an article about this new group. It turned out this group was the group that sponsored and created the Hamilton 68 database that purported to be able to identify which themes were being pushed by Russian accounts on the Internet, a device that the Twitter Files just proved was completely fraudulent. But the evidence for me was very clear early on that what we were seeing was this brand new alliance between the Democratic Party and neocons that had to do with things far beyond their shared dislike of Trump.
The headline under which I wrote was, “With New D.C. Policy Group Dems Continue To Rehabilitate And Unify With Bush-Era Neocons”. And the reason that was so amazing to me was that when I began writing about politics, there was nobody more hated by Democrats, leftists, or liberals. Then these Bush-era neocons. And so, to watch them form groups with these very same people and to cheer them and to buy their books and to applaud them on social media and to formalize this union was amazing to me as somebody who, again, had never watered down my contempt for neocons the way seemingly every Democratic liberal has.
The subheadline here is “This union is far more than a marriage of convenience to stop Trump; it reflects a broad-based agreement on U.S. hawkishness toward Russia and beyond”. The name of the group was the Alliance for Securing Democracy. And here you can see the first paragraph of my article where I draw the conclusion that I was seeing,
One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country’s most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom the neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president.
You know, I was constantly being asked by liberals and leftists of this time “What happened to you?”, constantly being accused of having changed my core views. And I was being asked that and accused of that while I was watching those very same people obviously enter into an enduring and ideologically based alliance with the neocons, who they had long claimed were the most malicious force in American life. So, for sure they were right that someone had changed but it would seem clear to me that it wasn’t me since my view of neocons had remained steady and unchanged.
It was a very hard thing for liberals to start to justify and explain how is it the people that you most hated are people that you’re now embracing and their excuse, the only one they could really offer, was “Look, we’re not in agreement with neocons. We don’t have any more in common with them than we ever did before. It’s just an alliance of pragmatism. It’s just an alliance of convenience. So, it’s very temporary and that will disappear the minute Trump is gone”.
The reason I knew that was a lie – and you can see that it ends up being a lie now that it is as strong as ever even without Trump anywhere near Washington – is that the movement toward creating this alliance between neocons and Democrats began well before Trump was even on anyone’s mind as a major political actor.
Here, for example, is an article in the New York Times, in 2014 – so, a year before Trump even announced his candidacy. The headline of it is “The Next Act Of Neocons”. It’s by Jacob Heilbrunn, who’s one of the most attentive and scholarly students of neocon behavior. And you can see here on the screen two figures: on the left is Hillary Clinton and on the right is Robert Kagan.
Robert Kagan is a classic neoconservative. His entire family, the Kagan’s, are all neocons, very influential neocons. And Robert Kagan also so happens to be married to Victoria Nuland, another neocon who is also highly influential and who ended up working both in Hillary Clinton’s State Department as well as in John Kerry’s State Department, after serving as Dick Cheney’s primary advisor on the War on Terror.
Here is what the article is describing:
After nearly a decade in the political wilderness, the neoconservative movement is back, using the turmoil in Iraq and Ukraine to claim that it is President Obama, not the movement’s interventionist foreign policy that dominated early George W. Bush-era Washington, that bears responsibility for the current round of global crises. Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of America’s foreign policy. Other neocons have followed Mr. Kagan’s careful centrism and respect for Mrs. Clinton. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in The New Republic this year that “It is clear that in administration councils she was a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues, whether supporting the Afghan surge or the intervention in Libya. And the thing is these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels. likened Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy (The New York Times. July 5, 2014).
In other words, Hillary Clinton is and long has been a full-fledged supporter of virtually every key plank of neoconservative ideology.
So, the article concludes, “It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton’s making room for the neocons in her administration. No one can charge her with being weak on national security with the likes of Robert Kagan on board”.
This is exactly what happened. There were all sorts of policies that the Obama administration supported what neocons also supported, including things like allowing the CIA to try and unseat Bashar Assad in a regime change operation, the bombing of Libya in order to remove Muammar Gadhafi and all sorts of other aggressive actions that Obama took in terms of bombing multiple Middle Eastern countries with drones. But one of the most aggressive critics of Obama for failing to do enough inside the administration was Hillary Clinton. And she was particularly scathing when it came to criticizing Obama for failing to confront Russia aggressively enough in Syria and in Ukraine.
And the neocons saw that Hillary Clinton and her allies were not just hospitable to their agenda, but in many ways had become the most vocal and effective and devoted, and passionate advocates of the neoconservative worldview. That is when neocons began realizing that their future lay not with the Republican Party with it, but with the Democratic Party. And, again, while the emergence of Trump may have accelerated that – surely it did – it was a much broader and more fundamental shift in the dynamics of what these parties were that led neocons to believe, correctly, that they ought to align most with the Democratic Party.
Just to give you an idea of how these neocons had been discussed by liberal media outlets, including people like Robert Kagan, who was on board with Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, here’s an article in The Guardian, from April 2008, so, during the Bush years, entitled “A neocon by any other name.” It’s basically an article explaining that Robert Kagan, though trying to deny that that neocon title belongs to him, is in fact a classic neocon. The article says,
Robert Kagan, author, essayist, former diplomat, pre-eminent thinker of what is called ‘neoconservatism’ – and now foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential nominee John McCain – would like it to be known that there are many things that he is not. A hate figure for large sections of the left, Kagan has been blamed for many things, prominent among them being one of the intellectual authors and cheerleaders for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. So, when it comes to Kagan, the gloves are off. He has been denigrated for being a writer on Middle Eastern issues who knows no Arabic; an expert on military affairs who has not served in the military. Others have been stronger still, accusing him of ‘spewing out one falsehood after another’ about the progress of the war in Iraq.
But these days, Kagan is to be found in Brussels in the house provided by the U.S. State Department to his wife, Victoria Nuland, America’s permanent representative to NATO, a pretty place with cherry trees blossoming in the extensive garden. It was these years that would shape Kagan’s political thinking, which he would define in a seminal essay, written with William Kristol and published in the influential journal Foreign Affairs, in 1996, calling for a neo-Reaganite foreign policy. Writing in the middle of the Clinton presidency, they argued that U.S. conservatives were adrift.
“Today’s lukewarm consensus about America’s reduced role in a post-Cold War world,” they wrote, “is wrong.” Conservatives should not accede to it; it is bad for the country and, incidentally, bad for conservatism. Conservatives will not be able to govern America over the long term if they fail to offer a more elevated vision of America’s international role. What role would that be? Their answer was this: “Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the” evil empire” the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America’s security, supporting its friends, advancing its interest, and standing up for its principles around the world (The Guardian. April 27, 2008).
That’s a really important reminder of how far back this history goes. Remember, as we’ve shown you before when George Bush ran against Al Gore in 2000. His critique of the Clinton foreign policy was not that it wasn’t hawkish enough, but that it was too hawkish, that the U.S. was involved in too many wars, including in places like the Balkans, and that, in the words of George Bush, “a more humble foreign policy was needed’. Obviously, 9/11 changed that radically.
But this was already a fight going on in Republican Party politics. And people like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan and his wife, Victoria Nuland, were already deeply concerned back then that Republicans were abandoning this posture of endless war. And we’re starting to see in the likes of Madeleine Albright and Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton that, in many ways, Democrats were more hospitable to the neocon agenda. This has been an alliance long in the making. It now clearly culminated in what is very sturdy, and I would suggest a very enduring alliance. And it is based on something very real, which is that if you want to find anti war or anti-interventionist sentiment in Washington among elected officials, you need to go to the right-wing, populist wing of the Republican Party.
But if you want to find a party that is a guaranteed vehicle for neoconservative aggression, that place is the Democratic Party. That’s the reason why neocons are so closely aligned with Democrats now. It’s the reason why people like Bret Stephens write in The New York Times that Joe Biden is one of the greatest moral leaders of our time and that a second term for Joe Biden is so urgent – something unthinkable a decade ago, or even a little longer, has become our reality: that neocons are not just part of the Democratic Party coalition, but when it comes to foreign policy, are its most influential thought leaders.
These are the implications of today’s New York Times op-ed. The reason why I wanted to spend so much time on it is that it sheds light on that history.
We do want to turn to another story, which, as I mentioned at the top, is something we almost have to do because it’s yet another instance of a very embarrassing media debacle. We just devoted the show last night to the way in which they essentially proclaimed that the lab leak theory of how COVID began was something that was “debunked” to the point where only crazy conspiracy theorists advocate for it. And it got to the point where people who believe in the lab leak theory were banned from even advocating that online only for it to turn out that at least major parts of the U.S. government, their most elite scientific teams believe. Although nobody knows for sure, in their view that the lab leak theory is not just viable, the more likely explanation for how COVID began.
We have today another similar media debacle where the corporate media spent three years hyping this thing that they called the Havana Syndrome, which began with diplomats in Cuba claiming that their brains were being targeted and harmed by some kind of new sonic weapon that nobody had ever heard of. The media ultimately claimed that it was almost certainly Russia that was behind it in the attempt to pent up American anger and hostility toward Russia only for the parts of the government that actually want to gin up hostility toward Russia, admitting what we’ve seen evidence of for quite a long time now, which is that the whole thing, all along, was essentially a scam.
Here we have from The Washington Post a new article today headlined, “Havana Syndrome Not Caused By Energy Weapon Or Foreign Adversary. Intelligence Review Finds”. The Post explains,
The mysterious ailment known as a “Havana Syndrome” did not result from the actions of a foreign adversary, according to an intelligence report that shatters a long-disputed theory that hundreds of U.S. personnel were targeted and sickened by a clandestine enemy, wielding energy waves as a weapon. The new intelligence assessment caps a years-long effort by the CIA and several other U.S. intelligence agencies to explain why career diplomats, intelligence officials and others serving in U.S. missions around the world experience what they describe as strange and painful acoustic sensations. The effects of this mysterious trauma shortened careers racked up large medical bills and in some cases caused severe physical and emotional suffering.
Seven intelligence agencies participated in the review of approximately 1000 cases of “anomalous health incidents”, the term the government uses to describe a constellation of physical symptoms, including ringing in the ears, followed by pressure in the head and nausea, headaches and acute discomfort. Five of those agencies determined it was “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary was responsible for the symptoms, either as a result of purposeful actions – such as a directed energy weapon – or as the byproduct of some other activity, including electronic surveillance that unintentionally could have made people sick, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the findings of the assessment, which had not yet been made public (The Washington Post. March 1, 2023).
Like everybody knows, who watches my show or has followed my journalism, I’m somebody who strongly believes that skepticism is warranted when the U.S. intelligence community makes claims. And this is a case where the Washington Post is reporting the findings of the intelligence community that essentially none of this happened. So, the question could be reasonably posed to me: Why am I willing to place faith in this conclusion of an intelligence community assessment given my long-standing skepticism toward reports by the intelligence community?
Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, former constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times bestselling books on politics and law. His most recent book, “No Place to Hide,” is about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world.
Foreign Policy magazine named Greenwald one of the top 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. He was the debut winner, along with “Democracy Now’s” Amy Goodman, of the Park Center I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism in 2008, and also received the 2010 Online Journalism Award for his investigative work breaking the story of the abusive detention conditions of Chelsea Manning.
For his 2013 NSA reporting, working with his source Edward Snowden, he received the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting; the Gannett Foundation Award for investigative journalism and the Gannett Foundation Watchdog Journalism Award; the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting in Brazil (he was the first non-Brazilian to win); and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award. The NSA reporting he led for The Guardian was also awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. A film about the work Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras did with Snowden to report the NSA archive, “CitizenFour,” directed by Poitras, was awarded the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
In 2019, he received the Special Prize from the Vladimir Herzog Institute for his reporting on the Bolsonaro government and pervasive corruption inside the prosecutorial task force that led to the imprisonment of former Brazilian President Lula da Silva. The award is named after the Jewish immigrant journalist who was murdered during an interrogation by the Brazilian military dictatorship in 1977. Several months after the reporting began, Lula was ordered released by the Brazilian Supreme Court, and the former President credited the exposés for his liberty. In early 2020, Brazilian prosecutors sought to prosecute Greenwald in connection with the reporting, but the charges were dismissed due to a Supreme Court ruling, based on the Constitutional right of a free press, that barred the Bolsonaro government from making good on its threats to retaliate against Greenwald.
After working as a journalist at Salon and The Guardian, Greenwald co-founded The Intercept in 2013 along with Poitras and journalist Jeremy Scahill, and co-founded The Intercept Brasil in 2016. He resigned from The Intercept in October, 2020, to return to independent journalism.
Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with his husband, Congressman David Miranda, their two children, and 26 rescue dogs. In 2017, Greenwald and Miranda created an animal shelter in Brazil — supported in part through public donations — designed to employ and help exit the streets homeless people who live on the streets with their pets.