Who Will Save America?
By Paul Craig Roberts
-- -- A number of readers have asked me when did I undergo my
epiphany, abandon right-wing Reaganism and become an apostle of
truth and justice.
I appreciate the friendly sentiment,
but there is a great deal of misconception in the question.
When I saw that the
response to 9/11 was to turn a war against stateless terrorism into
military attacks on Muslim states, I realized that the Bush
administration was committing a strategic blunder with open-ended
disastrous consequences for the US that, in the end, would destroy
Bush, the Republican Party, and the conservative movement.
My warning was not prompted by an
effort to save Bush's bacon. I have never been any party's political
or ideological servant. I used my positions in the congressional
staff and the Reagan administration to change the economic policy of
the United States. In my efforts, I found more allies among
influential Democrats, such as Senate Finance Committee Chairman
Russell Long, Joint Economic Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen and my
Georgia Tech fraternity brother Sam Nunn, than I did among
traditional Republicans who were only concerned about the budget
My goals were to reverse the
Keynesian policy mix that caused worsening "Phillips curve"
trade-offs between employment and inflation and to cure the
stagflation that destroyed Jimmy Carter's presidency. No one has
seen a "Phillips curve" trade-off or experienced stagflation since
the supply-side policy was implemented. (These gains are now being
eroded by the labor arbitrage that is replacing American workers
with foreign ones. In January 2004 I teamed up with Democratic
Senator Charles Schumer in the New York Times and at a Brookings
Institution conference in a joint effort to call attention to the
erosion of the US economy and Americans' job prospects by
The supply-side policy used
reductions in the marginal rate of taxation on additional income to
create incentives to expand production so that consumer demand would
result in increased real output instead of higher prices. No doubt,
the rich benefitted, but ordinary people were no longer faced
simultaneously with rising inflation and lost jobs. Employment
expanded for the remainder of the century without having to pay for
it with high and rising rates of inflation. Don't ever forget that
Reagan was elected and re-elected by blue collar Democrats.
The left-wing's demonization of
Ronald Reagan owes much to the Republican Establishment. The
Republican Establishment regarded Reagan as a threat to its hegemony
over the party. They saw Jack Kemp the same way. Kemp, a
professional football star quarterback, represented an essentially
Democratic district. Kemp was aggressive in challenging Republican
orthodoxy. Both Reagan and Kemp spoke to ordinary people. As a high
official in the Reagan administration, I was battered by the
Republican Establishment, which wanted enough Reagan success so as
not to jeopardize the party's "lock on the presidency" but enough
failure so as to block the succession to another outsider. Anyone
who reads my book, The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University
Press, 1984) will see what the real issues were.
If I had time to research my writings
over the past 30 years, I could find examples of partisan articles
in behalf of Republicans and against Democrats. However, political
partisanship is not the corpus of my writings. I had a 16-year stint
as Business Week's first outside columnist, despite hostility within
the magazine and from the editor's New York social set, because the
editor regarded me as the most trenchant critic of the George H.W.
Bush administration in the business. The White House felt the same
way and lobbied to have me removed from the William E. Simon Chair
in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International
Earlier when I resigned from the
Reagan administration to accept appointment to the new chair, CSIS
was part of Georgetown University. The University's liberal
president, Timothy Healy, objected to having anyone from the Reagan
administration in a chair affiliated with Georgetown University.
CSIS had to defuse the situation by appointing a distinguished panel
of scholars from outside universities, including Harvard, to ratify
I can truly say that at one time or
the other both sides have tried to shut me down. I have experienced
the same from "free thinking" libertarians, who are free thinking
only inside their own box.
In Reagan's time we did not recognize
that neoconservatives had a Jacobin frame of mind. Perhaps we were
not paying close enough attention. We saw neoconservatives as former
left-wingers who had realized that the Soviet Union might be a
threat after all. We regarded them as allies against Henry
Kissinger's inclination to reach an unfavorable accommodation with
the Soviet Union. Kissinger thought, or was believed to think, that
Americans had no stomach for a drawn-out contest and that he needed
to strike a deal before the Soviets staked the future on a lack of
Reagan was certainly no
neoconservative. He went along with some of their schemes, but when
neoconservatives went too far, he fired them. George W. Bush
promotes them. The left-wing might object that the offending neocons
in the Reagan administration were later pardoned, but there was
sincere objection to criminalizing what was seen, rightly or
wrongly, as stalwartness in standing up to communism.
Neoconservatives were disappointed
with Reagan. Reagan's goal was to END the cold war, not to WIN it.
He made common purpose with Gorbachev and ENDED the cold war. It is
the new Jacobins, the neoconservatives, who have exploited this
victory by taking military bases to Russian borders.
I have always objected to injustice.
My writings about prosecutorial abuse have put me at odds with "law
and order conservatives." I have written extensively about wrongful
convictions, both of the rich and famous and the poor and unknown.
My thirty-odd columns on the frame-up of 26 innocent people in the
Wenatchee, Washington, child sex abuse witch hunt played a role in
the eventual overturning of the wrongful convictions.
My book, with Lawrence Stratton, The
Tyranny of Good Intentions, details the erosion of the legal rights
that make law a shield of the innocent instead of a weapon in the
hands of government. Without the protection of law, rich and poor
alike are at the mercy of government. In their hatred of "the rich,"
the left-wing overlooks that in the 20th century the rich were the
class most persecuted by government. The class genocide of the 20th
century is the greatest genocide in history.
Americans have forgotten what it
takes to remain free. Instead, every ideology, every group is
determined to use government to advance its agenda. As the
government's power grows, the people are eclipsed.
We have reached a point where the
Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people.
neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush
administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves
firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course,
were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition,
the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through
illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the
Before flinching at my assertion of
blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court
is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political
reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of
independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying,
thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers
of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade
the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons
for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.
The United States is undergoing a
coup against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civil liberties,
and democracy itself. The "liberal press" has been co-opted. As
everyone must know by now, the New York Times has totally failed its
First Amendment obligations, allowing Judith Miller to make war
propaganda for the Bush administration, suppressing for an entire
year the news that the Bush administration was illegally spying on
American citizens, and denying coverage to Al Gore's speech that
challenged the criminal deeds of the Bush administration.
The TV networks mimic Fox News' faux
patriotism. Anyone who depends on print, TV, or right-wing talk
radio media is totally misinformed. The Bush administration has
achieved a de facto Ministry of Propaganda.
The years of illegal spying have
given the Bush administration power over the media and the
opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to
have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see
their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local
press with their names attached. Only people willing to risk such
disclosures can stand up for the country.
Homeland Security and the Patriot Act
are not our protectors. They undermine our protection by trashing
the Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees. Those with a
tyrannical turn of mind have always used fear and hysteria to
overcome obstacles to their power and to gain new means of silencing
Consider the no-fly list. This list
has no purpose whatsoever but to harass and disrupt the livelihoods
of Bush's critics. If a known terrorist were to show up at check-in,
he would be arrested and taken into custody, not told that he could
not fly. What sense does it make to tell someone who is not subject
to arrest and who has cleared screening that he or she cannot fly?
How is this person any more dangerous than any other passenger?
If Senator Ted Kennedy, a famous
senator with two martyred brothers, can be put on a no-fly list, as
he was for several weeks, anyone can be put on the list. The list
has no accountability. People on the list cannot even find out why
they are on the list. There is no recourse, no procedure for
I am certain that there are more Bush
critics on the list than there are terrorists. According to reports,
the list now comprises 80,000 names! This number must greatly dwarf
the total number of terrorists in the world and certainly the number
of known terrorists.
How long before members of the
opposition party, should there be one, find that they cannot return
to Washington for important votes, because they have been placed on
the no-fly list? What oversight does Congress or a panel of federal
judges exercise over the list to make sure there are valid reasons
for placing people on the list?
If the government can have a no-fly
list, it can have a no-drive list. The Iraqi resistance has
demonstrated the destructive potential of car bombs. If we are to
believe the government's story about the Murrah Federal Office
Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh showed that a rental
truck bomb could destroy a large office building. Indeed, what is to
prevent the government from having a list of people who are not
allowed to leave their homes? If the Bush administration can
continue its policy of picking up people anywhere in the world and
detaining them indefinitely without having to show any evidence for
their detention, it can do whatever it wishes.
Many readers have told me, some
gleefully, that I will be placed on the no-fly list along with all
other outspoken critics of the growth in unaccountable executive
power and war based on lies and deception. It is just a matter of
time. Unchecked, unaccountable power grows more audacious by the
day. As one reader recently wrote, "when the president of the United
States can openly brag about being a felon, without fear of the
consequences, the game is all but over."
Congress and the media have no fight
in them, and neither, apparently, do the American people.
Considering the feebleness of the opposition, perhaps the best
strategy is for the opposition to shut up, not merely for our own
safety but, more importantly, to remove any impediments to Bush
administration self-destruction. The sooner the Bush administration
realizes its goals of attacking Iran, Syria, and the Shia militias
in Lebanon, the more likely the administration will collapse in the
maelstrom before it achieves a viable police state. Hamas' victory
in the recent Palestinian elections indicates that Muslim outrage
over further US aggression in the Middle East has the potential to
produce uprisings in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Not
even Karl Rove and Fox "News" could spin Bush out of the
Perhaps we should go further and join
the neocon chorus, urging on invasions of Iran and Syria and sending
in the Marines to disarm Hizbullah in Lebanon. Not even plots of the
German High Command could get rid of Hitler, but when Hitler marched
German armies into Russia he destroyed himself. If Iraq hasn't beat
the hubris out of what Gordon Prather aptly terms the "neo-crazies,"
US military adventures against Iran and Hizbullah will teach
humility to the neo-crazies.
Many patriotic readers have written
to me expressing their frustration that fact and common sense cannot
gain a toehold in a debate guided by hysteria and disinformation.
Other readers write that 9/11 shields Bush from accountability, They
challenge me to explain why three World Trade Center buildings on
one day collapsed into their own footprints at free fall speed, an
event outside the laws of physics except under conditions of
controlled demolition. They insist that there is no stopping war and
a police state as long as the government's story on 9/11 remains
They could be right.
There are not many editors eager for writers to explore the glaring
defects of the 9/11 Commission Report. One would think that if the
report could stand analysis, there would not be a taboo against
calling attention to the inadequacy of its explanations. We know the
government lied about Iraqi WMD, but we believe the government told
the truth about 9/11.
Debate is dead in America for two
reasons: One is that the media concentration permitted in the 1990s
has put news and opinion in the hands of a few corporate executives
who do not dare risk their broadcasting licenses by getting on the
wrong side of government, or their advertising revenues by becoming
"controversial." The media follows a safe line and purveys only
politically correct information. The other reason is that Americans
today are no longer enthralled by debate. They just want to hear
what they want to hear. The right-wing, left-wing, and libertarians
alike preach to the faithful. Democracy cannot succeed when there is
Americans need to understand that
many interests are using the "war on terror" to achieve their
agendas. The Federalist Society is using the "war on terror" to
achieve its agenda of concentrating power in the executive and
packing the Supreme Court to this effect. The neocons are using the
war to achieve their agenda of Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Police agencies are using the war to remove constraints on their
powers and to make themselves less accountable. Republicans are
using the war to achieve one-party rule--theirs. The Bush
administration is using the war to avoid accountability and evade
constraints on executive powers. Arms industries, or what President
Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex," are using the
war to fatten profits. Terrorism experts are using the war to gain
visibility. Security firms are using it to gain customers. Readers
can add to this list at will. The lack of debate gives carte blanche
to these agendas.
One certainty prevails. Bush is
committing America to a path of violence and coercion, and he is
getting away with it.
Paul Craig Roberts was
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He
was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and
Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of
Tyranny of Good Intentions.He
can be reached at:
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)