FGF E-Package
October 14, 2010

Joseph Sobran
Antiwar Prophet, RIP
by Jon Basil Utley
fitzgerald griffin foundation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As America faces unending wars and bankrupting budgets as far as the eye can see, we are saddened by the death of one of our great patriots, Joseph Sobran. He tried to save America way back in 1990, when a newly triumphant Washington establishment, with communism in ruins, started the first of its now unending Middle East wars. Today few doubt that America has passed its apogee. The test of all great nations is when their empires start costing more than they benefit; few would doubt that America has now passed that turning point.

Sobran’s falling out with Buckley was not just because of Israel, as is often argued. Rather, it was Buckley’s joining (after communism’s collapse) with the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal‘s op-ed page in urging American imperialism (“spreading democracy,” as we call it nowadays). Bill then went on to give his magazine to the neoconservatives. Yet all our billions for bombs and bribes have had little success, in large part because America has lost the moral high ground we used to have. The collapse of communism actually weakened America, because now we are judged for our own actions, instead of as the bulwark of those fearing the anti-civilization of communism. Foreign nations’ middle classes no longer see America as their prime protector against being liquidated by Marxists. Hence they now no longer will accept our leadership, particularly in starting wars.

I first worked with Joe when we, together with Phil Nicolaides, founded in 1990 the Committee to Avert a Mideast Holocaust against Father Bush’s war on Iraq. Joe and Phil (former deputy director of the Voice of America and campaign manager for Jim Buckley’s and Phil Gramm’s senate campaigns) held a press conference in the National Press Club announcing the committee’s formation. I was abroad at a meeting of the Mt. Pelerin Society. Our little committee raised a real splash, and if we had had the Internet in those days might really have thwarted conservative support for the war. Pat Buchanan became our greatest spokesman. Other stellar giants of the Right included Henry Regnery, Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, John Chamberlain, Cato’s Bill Niskanen, Paul Gottfried, Sheldon Richman (editor of The Freeman), Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com, and Burt Blumert. Our financial support was minuscule as we fought the mighty War Party. Our largest contributor was Henry Regnery. The dynamic Fran Griffin, our committee director, did yeoman’s work and also contributed her time and office for almost nothing. Fran later became Sobran’s publisher when she helped start his very respected newsletter, Sobran’s: The Real News of the Month.

Joe was always fun, and his jokes made our meetings fun and added to our prestige. Ann Coulter wrote a very nice obituary quoting many of Joe’s aphorisms. One she did not mention was when Joe commented on Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress. Joe compared it to Stalin’s old speeches to the Comintern, which were always followed by endless applause because no one dared to be seen as the first to stop clapping.

If Joe Sobran’s warnings had been heeded, America would not be on the path to bankruptcy and unending, unwinnable wars. On the politics of the first Iraq war, Saddam could have been forced to withdraw from Kuwait without a war and its subsequent disasters for America (remember the lies about “incubator babies” and nonexistent satellite photos showing a supposed threat to Saudi Arabia?).

C-SPAN Video of Committee to Avert a Mideast Holocaust press conference
featuring Joe Sobran, Phil Nicolaides, Phillip Collier, and Sheldon Richman September 4, 1990

The Palestinian situation also could have been defused by America giving maybe 5 percent of what the wars have cost as indemnification for their dispossession; every family could have been given hundreds of thousands of dollars to quitclaim their old homes. Paying money for compensation, even for deaths, is common in Islamic societies.

The accusations of anti-Semitism against Joe are extreme, except that, obviously, after the pro-war smear campaign against him, he no doubt made unpropitious remarks, and he lacked some social graces. The fact is that Jews have been in the forefront of the antiwar, anti-empire movement, e.g., Antiwar.com, The Nation, and supporters of The American Conservative. Most younger Jews do not support militant Zionism. See also former editor of The New Republic Peter Beinart’s great criticisms in the The New York Review of Books. Jews are prominent in criticizing Zionist-Likudnik brutalities and occupation in violation of the Geneva Convention, U.N. resolutions, etc. If conservatives are unaware of this, it is because Jewish voices opposed to Israel’s policies are suppressed in the Big Conservative media and foundations (to make it appear that Jewish support for militant Zionism is universal). The Israeli/Likud lobby today is still dominant mainly because of its fanatical support from tens of millions of Christian Zionist evangelicals and the military-industrial complex.

Joe was a shining light at National Review, a key voice in the battle against communism and for the eventual electoral victories of conservatism. His subsequent writings in his newsletter, Sobran’s, provided a continuous, well thought-out critique of America’s evolution after winning the Cold War against communism.

Fortunately, his writings are available for future generations of students at the Sobran Web site [and at FGFbooks.com].

Memorable is a quite favorable obituary from The New York Times, calling Joe one of Bill Buckley’s “whiz kids” who was “an unapologetic paleoconservative, opposed to military intervention abroad, big government at home, and moral permissiveness everywhere.” Another powerful obit is written by Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute. Others are posted at the FGF Foundation site.

Jon Basil Utley archives

This article originally appeared at The American Conservative magazine website.

Jon Basil Utley is associate publisher of The American Conservative. He was a foreign correspondent for Knight Ridder newspapers and former associate editor of The Times of the Americas. For 17 years, he was a commentator for the Voice of America. In the 1980s, he owned and operated a small oil drilling partnership in Pennsylvania.

© 2010 Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation