Mark Dankof’s Night Thoughts on Good Friday:
A Note to the Real American Right on War, Empire, Draft, Iraq,
and A Proposed Brief Manifesto of Principles
“Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans who have been working to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at crushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our nation’s greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination, all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers, with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society.”
John T. Flynn in As We Go Marching (1944)
April 9, 2004
As a Lutheran Christian and pastor, my mind always gravitates to the solemn and the contemplative on Good Friday, which commemorates the suffering and death of the innocent Lamb of God on behalf of His people. As usual, I will be present tonight at a German Lutheran parish in Philadelphia to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin in the central and blessed mystery of the Confessing Church–the Lord’s Supper. The experience and acknowledgment of his Real Presence in the Supper will be especially comforting on this night, when there is so much darkness in the world at large.
I have had more interesting thoughts and remembrances on this Good Friday than on any other in recent memory. At noon, I turned on the television to discover an old re-run of my favorite series from the 1960s, “Combat.” The episode in question from 1965 was entitled, “Odyssey.” The late Vic Morrow, playing Sergeant Saunders, is wounded in a late-night firefight at close quarters with the Germans. Left behind in the wake of a hurried withdrawal by the 361st of King Company from an untenable position, Saunders is preserved from overt capture by the Germans or death by a denizen of a nearby French village. While the American sergeant is unconscious, the quick-thinking elderly Frenchman dresses him in a German uniform for subsequent pickup by a German medical field unit. The American sergeant subsequently awakens, finding himself in the field unit under German medical treatment and in the enemy uniform, with a card on his chest containing the diagnosis of shock and combat fatigue.
Saunders is later transported in a truck filled with active-duty German Wehrmacht troops. There are several soldiers who treat him to a campaign of taunting and derision, suspecting him of feigning illness in the avoidance of combat. He is subsequently befriended and protected by a senior German enlisted man who is obviously a devout Christian of either Lutheran or Catholic heritage. Saunders is given a better place to sit in the truck and is offered food, prayer, and encouragement from the devout German foot soldier and Christian who does not suspect the real identity and allegiance of the “shock” victim. At the end of the truck ride, the Wehrmacht unit is ambushed by an American platoon lying in camouflaged wait in a bushy, wooded area. The firefight that ensues is horrific and intense. It culminates in Saunders being forced to shoot his German benefactor dead at close range to assist his American comrades in overwhelming the German position. At firefight’s end, the viewer is treated to a glimpse of the show’s star going through the deceased German Good Samaritan’s pockets with almost unbearable poignancy, and out of concern that the American corpse inspectors will not treat this Wehrmacht foot-soldier with due understanding and respect. The show concludes in paradox, tragedy, and a sense of mystery. I saw this episode at age 10 when it first aired. But now on this Good Friday and approaching the age of 49, it comes back to me with even greater teaching emphasis than it did then when I was in a German Lutheran parochial school in Hawaii where most of us who were students there had fathers in the American Air Force and Army slugging it out in the early stages of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia.
I began changing channels again on this Good Friday afternoon, to be treated to another image of love and remembrance. This time it was 74 year old Arnold Palmer trudging down the 18th fairway at Augusta National in his 50th and final appearance at the Masters. Light years ago in 1963, my Dad took my older brother, Steve, to the Pensacola Open for the specific purpose of seeing Palmer. Steve was 12 years old then, and had the audacity to approach Palmer four, yes, four times with his small green, leather-bound autograph book. The legendary King from Latrobe, PA graciously signed each time with a smile and a completely legible signature. The last time was the most etched in memory. Palmer was pulling up, alone, in a golf cart headed for a storage warehouse after a grueling afternoon of practice balls, crowds, and competition. And there was my 12 year old brother waiting for him at the end of the cart path with the green leather autograph book once more. Palmer not only smiled and beckoned my brother over for one last signature. He spotted my Dad, then a 43 year old Air Force colonel, standing in the distant shadows and background with great reticence–and a German camera hung around his neck by a brown strap. The King of the Golfing Cosmos called out to my Dad and invited him to snap several shots of Palmer with my brother in the golf cart. The sun was setting in the background at Pensacola as the camera shutter kept clicking. I can still see the photographic imprint of a 34 year old Palmer with my 12 year old brother etched and emblazoned in minute detail in my mind. Later, it would seem important to watch the King on TV with my Dad and brother at our Montgomery, Alabama home outside of Maxwell Air Force Base. Palmer was coming up the 18th green at Augusta during the last round of the 1964 Masters with victory clearly at hand. He made a tricky final putt with the usual Palmerian flourish and swashbuckling choreography in acquiring a 4th Green Jacket, to the clear delight of the masses of humanity in circular formation around the perimeter of the putting surface. None of us knew then that it would be his last victory in the Masters, or in any of the other major championships in professional golf.
But on this Good Friday, 2004, time stood still when a silver-haired man almost 75 years old stood over a birdie putt on the 18th green for the final time at Augusta. My Dad is now 84; my brother a 52 year old trial attorney; I am now an increasingly middle aged 48 year old pastor, chaplain, and writer. In the millisecond before Arnold Palmer drew his putter back in one last attempt at recreating yesteryear, it seemed as important to me as it did as an 8 year old kid watching the final round of the Masters in 1964 that the King come through one more magical time. He didn’t. And the strange thing is that as he tapped his ball into the cup after the birdie miss, it became apparent in some mysterious way that the magic was still there in ways as powerful and timeless as ever. He is still the Fountain of Youth and Hope in what remains of our tomorrows. He is the same Soul and Spirit as the 34 year old magician with rippling muscles, dark hair, and international stage presence who invited my brother to sit with him in his cart in the early evening of a Pensacola day turning fast into night over 40 years ago. My Dad’s camera captured that moment frozen in time. It remains as such in my mind in all the days that remain for me in this present body and on this earth.
On this Good Friday afternoon, my mind continued to swirl in various subsequent thoughts linked to historical significance in the swift flight of a linearly directed time moving in the context of physical space. I switched mental channels to an earlier April 9th, 139 years ago, when Robert E. Lee met Ulysses S. Grant to sign the instrument of surrender of South to North at Appomattox Court House in Virginia in 1865. It signaled the official end of the War Between the States. But the matrix of issues and emotions which caused that conflict, and which continued in its immediate aftermath, continue to resonate today.
There are several in particular from the 19th century conflict in the United States between Blue and Gray that come to the forefront of my mind on this pivotal Good Friday night: Is America a Republic or an Empire? What do we owe God? What do we owe the Central State? When is war in the interest of the average American and when is it not? When and why is it acceptable policy to attack a country and its people that have not attacked us first? And do American foreign policy advisors have their integrity compromised when they appear as extensions of a foreign lobby and government (Israel) in urging a course of war on their own people? What are the implications for honest, Constitutional government when the Minions of Central Government and specific War Industries begin to look like different sides of the same profitable, but counterfeit coin (Halliburton, Bechtel, and other consortiums of oil, weapons, and central banking)? And does not offensive, preemptive war against a foreign power require a Constitutional Declaration of War by the Congress, not the President, according to Article I, Section 8?
Surely these questions are swirling in the minds of at least a few Americans on this increasingly dark night. Last May 1st, a supposedly triumphant George Bush landed his aircraft on the deck of the U.S.S. Lincoln and pronounced righteous victory for his American-British (and Israeli) military and political coalition in Iraq. Now, less than a year later, the American death toll has climbed well over 600 and counting; Iraqi deaths are in the range of 20,000 and counting; the violence and turmoil in Baghdad, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Najaf, and elsewhere is boiling over; and average American citizens are learning certain troubling facts about their own government.
Mr. Hussein, allegedly the Prince of Darkness, has now been shown to have been an American intelligence and political asset in the region since 1958; the claims of the American government to have initiated preemptive military hostilities against the Hussein regime and the people of Iraq due to the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in that country have since been shown to be fraudulent; Mr. Cheney’s absurd insistence that the Iraqi people would welcome the 130,000 American military troops as liberators has subsequently gone up in the smoke of the fighting–and the anger–of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites; the American public has learned that our Pentagon’s chief hand-picked ally in Iraq, one Ahmad Chalabi, is an international felon guilty of multi-million dollar embezzlement of the Bank Petra in Jordan (among other things); and last, but not least, it emerges that the proposal of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) for the United States to engage in war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq was formally articulated well before the events in New York of September 11, 2001. The PNAC’s public and printed agenda is not rooted in legitimate defense of the American homeland and retaliation against attacks within our nation’s borders. It centers in the acquisition of Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea oil and natural gas reserves and pipelines–along with helping our chief ally in the region in the War on Terrorism, the infamous mass murderer and terrorist par excellence, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. And speaking of Mr. Sharon and his Likudnik government, why does the United States Government absolve him of responsibility for premeditated killings of innocents in Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere around the world, while constantly trying Milosevic, Arafat, the IRI regime in Iran, the FARC in Colombia, and others in the Courts of International Law and World Opinion for their own respective litanies of sins and crimes?
These questions do not dissipate into the mist of the Good Friday night darkness, but intensify as the ominous first Tuesday in November continues its merciless approach. Between now and then, additional American sons and daughters will perish; scores of Iraqi civilians will die in counterstrikes; the bill to the American taxpayers for Mr. Bush’s irresponsible incursion will approach $200 billion dollars and counting; the value of the dollar will continue its descent at the hands of war costs, budget and trade deficits, and international uncertainty; and Mr. Bush’s Israeli-oriented neo-con carnival hustlers, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, will quite possibly have sounded the expansive war trumpets in Syria and Iran. The American Republic is dying for a vision of American Empire, with the corpses of the individual dead littering a dark political and military landscape approaching the apocalyptic. Among the dead lies the lifeless body of the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States.
As American Conservatives who love the Republic and the Constitution of our Founding Fathers, we have been down this blood-stained road of Pretext-For- War-In-The-Interest-Of-Empire before. The great America First paleo-conservative, John T. Flynn, recognized this in his now out-of-print classic As We Go Marching. Flynn saw the ominous development of a partnership between the Centralized State and Corporate financial interests and conglomerates, including the latter’s ownership of a subservient news media. He correctly saw Franklin Roosevelt as the archetype of an American Chief Executive executing the will of the Central State and Corporate America at the expense of the Constitutional prerogatives of the Congress, the individual states, and the will of the people. Flynn’s sage analysis at the time prefigured the present-day work of Robert Stinnett in Day of Deceit, whose Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) research proves with quantifiable data from previously classified documents what Flynn had surmised several generations before: that Franklin Roosevelt not only knew in advance of Japanese military intentions at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, but had been in the business of deliberately provoking a war with Japan since the McCollum Memorandum of October of 1940. The then chief of the Far Eastern desk of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Arthur McCollum, provided Roosevelt with what the latter had requested of him–the specific steps which could be taken by the United States to provoke a Japanese attack in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor. It was not only a backdoor approach to entering the War in Europe on behalf of Britain, but a deliberate attempt by FDR to save his Soviet allies from a pincer attack at the hands of both Germany and Japan. No politically correct, Eastern establishment publication in the United States would air this information now, but for those who care to look, the Soviet intelligence apparatus had been commissioned by Stalin to activate Soviet communist assets in the Roosevelt government, including Harry Dexter White, to steer FDR toward an armed conflict between the United States and Japan in the Pacific for the express purpose of assisting Stalin’s strategic position between late 1940 and late 1941. It was termed “Operation Snow.”
Lyndon Johnson’s own version of “Operation Snow” would lie in crafting the acceptance of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in a compliant American Congress during the 1960s. It was Johnson who began in earnest the tragic experience of the United States in losing 58,000 lives plus myriad casualties in a repeat of the French tragedy a generation earlier which culminated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. It was duplicitous, tragic, and totally without redeeming value or justification, drenched in gallons of American blood and seared souls. The Vietnam Wall on the Washington Mall now stands as a marble monument of indictment against Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and scores of others who committed young American men and women to the course of war where our Founders would have dissented. The American national interest was not involved. It never was. And the lives lost in its name could not be salvaged or redeemed. The Barefoot Boy from the Texas Hill Country would add his name to a long line of prevaricators in the Oval Office who deliberately pursued war in the interests of the unstated agenda of an invisible elite, cloaked in the Flag and wrapped in the divine sanction of yet another version of Manifest Destiny and Empire–Lincoln, McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson. The American Establishment assures us that these men exist in a pantheon of the Greatest Presidents. History and present quandaries beckon us to take a closer and better look–and now.
Which brings us as American Conservatives back to Mr. Bush and his unilateral adventures in Iraq being pursued with American lives and national treasure. What should be our foundational strategy for opposing the Empire and the Welfare-Warfare State in the fall of 2004 and beyond?
I propose the following brief manifesto of principles for the reemerging Real American Right:
1) American Conservatives must reclaim their pre-FDR, pre-World War II, pre-Cold War moorings. Their positions must be re-framed in the original intent of the Constitution; the enumerated powers clause of Article I, Section 8; and the clear separation of powers between Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government.
2) American Conservatives who affirm a Constitutional perspective on government and the theistic world view that undergirds it, must reject the canard that George Bush and the Republican Party are a superior choice to John Kerry and the Democrats in this counterfeit coin election in which Bush and Kerry represent Heads and Tails. Both men–and both parties–support a Leviathan Federal government; confiscatory taxation; ongoing foreign interventionism and war in the interest of Empire; and all the institutions of World Government including the UN, the World Bank, the Import-Export Bank, FTAA, NAFTA, GATT, the WTO and PMFN status for Communist China.
3) An American Conservative movement which affirms points 1) and 2) must purge itself of the malignant and conspiratorial influence and infiltration of its movement by the Neo-Conservatives and their agents of influence in American media organs and government. Let it be spoken truthfully here–the Neo-Conservatives are largely represented by crossover refugees and fellow-travelers from the heavily Jewish, neo-Marxist and social democratic wing of Roosevelt’s New Deal and Democratic Party. Gaining increasing numbers and prominence in the Republican Party since the 1960s and 1970s, the Neo-Cons bring FDR’s basic assumptions about Leviathan government, the New World Order, and the Welfare-Warfare State to the GOP and its Pachyderms. As a part of that package, the Neo-Cons have formed an alliance within the GOP with the Dispensational Prophecy Wing of the American Christian Right, making allegiance to Israel and its Likud party an absolute dictum in the conduct of the foreign policy of the United States under Republican rule. This has achieved the acquisition of an Israel First foreign policy under the banner of both of America’s major political parties, to the detriment of the political independence and national security of the American people. Candor compels admission of clear linkage between this dangerous, emerging phenomenon and the catastrophe of Bush’s preemptive war in Iraq, crafted by Wolfowitz, Perle, Wurmser, and other Israeli-assets in the American National Security Establishment. Their concurrent influence on Capitol Hill and in the mainstream American electronic and print media must be exposed and disenfranchised. Washington’s Farewell Address foreign policy of “. . .friendship with all, entangling alliances with none. . .” must be reclaimed and reaffirmed.
4) The Real American Right must put teeth into its opposition to Wars of Empire by engaging in a militant, but lawful and principled opposition to the re-institution of a compulsory military draft for the purpose of expanding the Wolfowitz/Perle catastrophe in Iraq and Afghanistan into Syria, Iran, and several of the Caspian Sea “Stan” nations. Dreams of Empire cannot be enacted without the life and limb of thousands of our young men and women. The Real, historic American Right can and must regain its contemporary relevance and political muscle by keeping this tragedy from happening. It must do so in an anti-conscription alliance with the non-Communist left in the United States. Both honest Left and Right must hold the feet of the Neo-Cons and their front men, Bush and Kerry, to the fire. The Real American Republic can reemerge only in the context of the rejection of Empire and its ruthless employment of unsuspecting young janissaries for its purposes. The Real American Right must give its unequivocal “No!” to the Johnsons and the McNamaras, the Bushes and Perles of the Realm. Dying for Republic and dying for Empire are distinctively different entities. Dying for Republic does not require a draft conscription in a healthy society. Who among us must be compelled to fight and die when our own homes, hearths, spouses, children, and friends are truly threatened by a predator? It is the War for Empire which depends upon conscription and coercion, where the rationale for killing and death is neither honest, rational, moral, or truly the method of last resort only.
5) The Real American Right can begin the implementation of points 1) through 4) by deciding not to waste an honest vote at the polls for George W. Bush. Renowned author, historian, and economist Dr. Thomas Di Lorenzo (“The Real Lincoln”), tells paleo-conservatives, Constitutionalists, and libertarians to simply stay home in the fall of 2004. His argumentation links non-participation to a desired de-legitimization of the Regime and Realm.
I appreciate and respect his rationale, at the same time that I advocate another approach. Go to the polls. Vote for virtually no Republicans or Democrats (except for the great exceptions like Ron Paul and Robert Byrd) at any level of the ticket. And then cast your Presidential ballot for Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party as the only viable candidate for the Real American Right in this present campaign (see http://www.Peroutka2004.com ). In conjunction with a principled stand against Wars and Drafts for Empire, the Peroutka campaign represents the beginning of a revolt against Neo-Cons and their fellow devotees to the deification of the Central State and the New World Order.
These are my final night thoughts on an especially dark and grim Good Friday four years into the 21st century. The clock is ticking. And the time for all good men and women of the American Republic to come to the aid of their country is now.
(Mark Dankof is a Lutheran pastor and free-lance journalist, occasionally contributing to Iran Dokht, Al Bawaba, Nile Media, CASCFEN, and other Internet news sites. Once a 3rd party candidate for the United States Senate in Delaware , he maintains the web-site Mark Dankofs America while pursuing post-graduate theological education at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.)