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
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
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, [facebook] 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
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
Jon Basil Utley archives
article originally appeared at The American Conservative magazine
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.