The Party of Defeat

Party of Defeat by David Horowitz and Ben Johnson, 224 pages, Spence Publishing
David Horowitz has written many books and articles that deal with the topic of American political warfare.  Horowitz has often argued that the left is much more resolute, serious, and focused in its efforts, which has enabled it to win political victories over an often dispirited, and less focused conservative opposition.  Horowitz's new book Party of Defeat, co-written with Front Page Magazine managing editor Ben Johnson, offers chapter and verse in how this fight between an aggressive anti-war left, and the Bush administration and its allies, played out over the Iraq war.

The book has, of course, not been reviewed by the New York Times nor the Washington Post, but surprisingly, has also been ignored by the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal as well.  This is unfortunate, since the message this book delivers is an important one in the current run-up to the Presidential election in November. In essence, the Democratic Party, and its allies on the left have chosen to win a political war at home, at the expense of winning wars in which the country was engaged overseas.

In fact, the political success of the effort by the "Party of Defeat" was tied to creating a story, repeated constantly by members of Congress, former political figures (e.g Al Gore) and cooperative journalists, that the Iraq war was a mistake, that it was sold" to the country with hyped ("bogus") intelligence, and that the war proved a diversion from the "real war on terror" in Afghanistan).  As the initial success in removing Saddam turned into tough fighting with a well-armed Sunni insurgency, and Shiite militias armed and funded by Iran, the left and the Democratic Party called for an admission of defeat and a withdrawal.  To add to the negativism of the message about the Administration, major news organizations, especially CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post, revealed various secret programs implemented by the Bush administration, including tracking the conversations and funding of suspected terrorists overseas, and presented the boorish behavior of a few soldiers at Abu Ghraib as representative of the behavior of  our soldiers overseas ( "a pattern of abuse", also seen supposedly at Guantanamo).

As recently as this past Sunday, Frank Rich, author of one of the many remainder shelf screeds on the horrors of the Bush administration (very favorably reviewed in the New York Times of course), wrote a particularly hysterical column even for him, predicting that there would be war crimes trials (justified of course) for the President, and others in his administration for acts of torture and murder.  

One of the fascinating aspects of the Horowitz and Johnson book is the way the authors document the various charges leveled at the Bush Administration by the Democrats and the media and demonstrate how in each case they were either false or greatly exaggerated, often using as evidence the reports of various independent or Congressional committees appointed to examine the charges. Each time one slander was knocked down, the left was back with more.  But the news stories that got the attention were the charges, not the acquittals.

In large part, the media and political war was so one sided because the Bush Administration was so weak in its response to the assault on its policies, and the leaks coming from the State Department and the intelligence agencies.  A war against the war was being fought within the Administration, and the Bush team ignored the misconduct and crimes committed by those on the inside. The real huckster of the last few years was Joseph Wilson, who on the recommendation of his wife, Valerie Plame, was sent to Africa to determine whether the Iraqi government had been shopping for yellowcake and aluminum tubes in Niger. Wilson's oral report to the government upon his return did nothing to quell any suspicions, and if anything, confirmed them. But once the war began, he became a key player in feeding false stories to the New York Times, especially to the ever gullible Bush hater Nicholas Kristof, that Wilson had conclusively determined that the Iraq shopping in Africa story (that the British intelligence services are still defending today) was mythology. Wilson, an obscure retired State Department official, was suddenly the glamour boy, and part of the new glamour couple on the left.  When his wife's non-covert job was revealed by Robert Novak, an anti-war critic from the right, it created a several year firestorm. Novak allowed Scooter Libby and Karl Rove to be accused and attacked for a leak of Plame's identity, which Novak knew came from Richard Armitage. Novak is not called the prince of darkness for nothing. One gets the sense reading this book that the administration expected the other side to play fair, or that all good Americans would support the war once we were engaged, and given the high stakes involved.

As Victor Davis Hanson has often written, war is ugly and uneven, in the best of circumstances. There is certainly room for debating the wisdom of the war in Iraq, and there have certainly been missteps in the conduct of the war. The authors readily admit this, though they believe the war was justified, and that Saddam's failure to abide by 17 UN resolutions after the Gulf War, his history of development of  WMD programs and  use of such weapons on his own people and Iran, and his links to and support for terror groups made removing Saddam the risk-averse strategy.  The invasion came but 18 months after 9/11 and continued the effort by the Administration to take the offensive overseas, rather than allow terror groups and terror supporting nations (all part of the same global jihad) to take the battle to us, as Al Qaeda had repeatedly done during the Clinton years, with virtually no response by that Administration..

In any case, despite many early missteps, the surge strategy, initiated by the Bush administration, and backed by Senator John McCain, and opposed by virtually all Democrats including Barack Obama, has been skillfully carried forward under the leadership of General David Petraeus, and has substantially changed the course of the war in our favor. Horowitz and Johnson lay out the reluctance of the Democrats and their media allies to admit they were wrong, and that the war is now being won. That of course, is because the left and the Democrats have too much invested in our failure in Iraq, since that failure is directly related to their perception of their own party's recipe for electoral success. The Democrats never accepted the Bush Presidency as legitimate after the virtual tie in the 2000 President contest in Florida, and Gore's thin popular vote plurality.

The attacks of 9/11 created a rare bipartisan unity. Democrats really had no choice since the country was so angered and unified behind the President and his response in Afghanistan. But Iraq offered an opening to undermine Bush. More than half of the Senate Democrats and 40% of House Democrats supported the President's Congressional resolution on Iraq in the fall of 2002  (the war had high support in America, when it was launched in March 2003), and even more had backed the occasional few days of bombing runs by President Clinton during his administration (the fiery anti-Saddam rhetoric by Democrats in 1998 is of course all on the record).

But the anti-war left was fiercely opposed to the Iraq war (quieter on Afghanistan), and many Democrats in Congress were now on their side and became bitter opponents of the war. As the war dragged on, many more Democrats in Congress came to regret their initial support, and bought into the "I was duped by misleading intelligence" line. And soon it became apparent that the war could be used as a cudgel to undermine the Bush administration and weaken it politically on all fronts.

Hence we have the Party that bought into defeat in Iraq as a strategy for victory in the elections.

In 2006, unhappiness with the Bush Administration over the response to Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, spending, and corruption, led to major defeats for the GOP in the mid-term elections.  This year, we are selecting a commander in chief, not just 435 members of the House and 35 Senators.  It remains to be seen whether Americans will elect as their commander in chief, a man who has been so heavily invested in his party's strategy of defeat from the beginning of the Iraq war.

Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.
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