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The Self-Imposed Blindness of Conservatives

Andrew C. McCarthy

I find conservatives to be fascinating creatures, in large part because of their ability to deceive themselves and then convince themselves that they’re not deceiving themselves.

Consider an article by Andrew C. McCarthy entitled “Islam—Facts or Dreams?” which appears in the February 2016 issue of Imprimis, the publication of the Hillsdale College, a renowned conservative institution. McCarthy was the assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York for 18 years and led the federal prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 other people for the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

In his article, McCarthy focuses on Islam and has concluded that the Muslim religion is at the heart of the terrorism problem that the United States and the rest of the world face. He has convinced himself that the problem isn’t with radical Muslims who have misinterpreted Islam. The problem, he says, is Islam itself, which, if correctly interpreted, means terrorism.

What I find absolutely fascinating is that nowhere in the piece does McCarthy even raise U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, especially against Muslims.

No mention of the Persian Gulf intervention in 1991, which killed untold numbers of Iraqis.

No mention of the Pentagon’s intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage facilities, with the aim of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi populace.

No mention of the 11 years of brutal U.S. sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of (innocent) Iraqi children, without any remorse whatsoever.

No mention of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright’s infamous pronouncement that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.”

No mention of the illegal “no-fly zones” that the Pentagon enforced over Iraq, which killed more people, including children.

No mention of Pentagon’s stationing of troops near Islamic holy lands, knowing full well how that would provoke people of Muslim faith.

No mention of the U.S. government’s partnerships with dictatorial regimes in the Middle East.

No mention of the unconditional financial and military support that the U.S. government provides the Israeli government.

In other words, no mention or discussion of U.S. imperialism and interventionism in the Middle East, especially against Muslims.

How can a person write an entire article about Muslims, Islam, and terrorism and not mention or discuss the role that U.S. foreign policy — including decades of intentional killing, destruction, and humiliation — has or has not played in the rise of anti-American terrorism?

I find that absolutely amazing. How is that possible?

The answer might well be found in how conservatives view the U.S. national-security state, the totalitarian apparatus that was grafted onto our federal governmental system at the end of World War II to wage a “cold war” against America’s WWII partner and ally, the Soviet Union. Conservatives view the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which are the principle components of this totalitarian apparatus, as a god — as an idol, one that can do no wrong , one that should never be questioned, challenged, or criticized. The national-security state is their everything.

Consider this fascinating tidbit from McCarthy’s piece:

[I]t is not as if Western civilization had no experience dealing with Islamic supremacism — what today we call “Islamist” ideology, the belief that sharia must govern society. Winston Churchill, for one, had encountered it as a young man serving in the British army, both in the border region between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the Sudan — places that are still cauldrons of Islamist terror.

He then quotes what Churchill said about Muslims:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy…. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Do you see anything odd about McCarthy’s point about Churchill? Here’s the critical excerpt over which McCarthy doesn’t bat an eyelash:

Churchill … had encountered it as a young man serving in the British army, both in the border region between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the Sudan.

For the conservative, there is nothing unusual about that sentence. It doesn’t even occur to them to ask the critical question: What in the heck was the British army doing over there — that is, outside the confines of Great Britain?

I’ll tell you what it was doing. It was killing people. It was imprisoning people. It was torturing people. It was humiliating people. And many of the victims were Muslims.

In other words, what the British Empire was doing to people over there, including Muslims, was precisely what the U.S. Empire has been doing to people in the Middle East, including Muslims, for the past 25 years — that is, ever since the end of the Cold War, when the national-security state lost its official justification for existence.

Of course, the British imperialists were doing the same thing that McCarthy does today. They were scratching their noodles trying to figure out why those Muslim savages just didn’t appreciate their imperialist overlords dictating to them and killing, jailing, torturing, and humiliating them. After all, it was all being done for their own good. Why didn’t they understand that? Why didn’t they appreciate it?

It doesn’t even occur to McCarthy to ask critically important questions: Why didn’t the British army simply stay at home and limit itself to defending Great Britain, as the Swiss army does for Switzerland? Why doesn’t the U.S. army just stay at home and defend America? What is it that causes empires to go abroad and kill, torture, imprison, and humiliate people? Why are imperialists and interventionists surprised when people who are being killed by empires fight back, including through terrorism?

But McCarthy, like most other conservatives, is unable to ask himself those questions. It’s too scary because to do so gets too close to questioning or challenging their god. That’s heresy to a conservative.

Consider this: Among the people that McCarthy prosecuted in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was a man named Ramzi Yousef. As the lead prosecutor in the case, McCarthy surely is familiar with what Yousef angrily stated to the federal judge at his sentencing hearing. This is what he said:

You keep talking also about collective punishment and killing innocent people to force governments to change their policies; you call this terrorism when someone would kill innocent people or civilians in order to force the government to change its policies. Well, when you were the first one who invented this terrorism…. And now you have invented new ways to kill innocent people. You have so-called economic embargo which kills nobody other than children and elderly people…. You are the ones who invented terrorism and using it every day. You are butchers, liars, and hypocrites.”

Do you see anything about Islam in that statement? Do you see anything about Sharia law? Do you see anything about the Koran?

I don’t. I see nothing but deep rage over the U.S. national-security state’s death machine, including the brutal sanctions or embargo against Iraq, which were, year after year, killing tens of thousands of Iraqi children.

Remember: this was 1993.

Remember: The sanctions/embargo to which Yousef referred were still in existence in 1996, when U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright declared that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.”

Remember: They were still in existence in 1998, when Denis Haliday, UN Humanitarian Coordination in Iraq, resigned in protest against what he called genocide brought about by the sanctions.

Remember: They were still in existence in 2000, when Haliday’s UN replacement, along with Jutta Burghardt, head of the UN World Food Programme in Iraq, resigned for the same reason that Haliday had resigned — sanctions genocide.

Remember: The sanctions/embargo were still in effect when George W. Bush’s army invaded Iraq in 2003.

Why wouldn’t McCarthy at least mention this any of this? Why wouldn’t he confront it head on? Why totally ignore it? Indeed, in his mention of the Fort Hood terrorist, why not point out his angry condemnations of the U.S. national-security state’s longtime, post-Cold War killing spree in the Middle East?

Why? Perhaps because to even acknowledge it would get too close to questioning the great conservative god — the national-security state. No conservative wants to engage in heresy.

McCarthy is about 53 years of age. Therefore, he’s old enough to have had personal experience with the Cold War. That was the period in which the official national-security bugaboo was communism, not Islam.

In fact, it’s revealing that in McCarthy’s article, he acknowledges that he knew virtually nothing about Islam before his 1995 prosecution of the World Trade Center terrorists.

Isn’t that somewhat odd given McCarthy’s thesis? Islam has been around for centuries. If that religion is such a grave threat to the world, wouldn’t you think that McCarthy would have been aware of that before 1995?

Indeed, one would search in vain for any conservative pronouncements against Islam and Muslims during the entire Cold War, when communism was the official U.S. bugaboo. On the contrary, conservatives cheered when U.S. national-security state officials supported extremist Muslims in Afghanistan when it was the communists, rather than the U.S. government, doing the occupying of that country.

There’s another interesting aspect to McCarthy’s thesis. One might even call it McCarthy’s Achilles’ heel with respect to his feelings about Islam:

Recall the U.S. attack, invasion, occupation, and regime-change operation against Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States. Conservatives cheered, praised the troops, and thanked them for their service during that entire time.

Recall the U.S. attack, invasion, occupation, and regime change operation against Afghanistan, simply because the government of that nation refused to comply with George W. Bush’s unconditional extradition demand on Osama bin Laden, notwithstanding the fact that there wasn’t’ an extradition treaty between the two nations. Conservatives cheered, praised the troops, and thanked them for their service during that entire time.

Now, check out these two websites, which are the constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan, which were adopted as part of the U.S. government’s regime-change operations in both countries:

Here’s the critical language:

Iraq: First: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation:

Afghanistan: The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

Yes, that’s right, the U.S. government succeeded in installing two official Islamic regimes in both countries, both of which based their political systems on a religion that conservative Andrew McCarthy maintains is a grave threat to the United States and the west of the world?

Not surprisingly, McCarthy doesn’t mention that in his article either. I wonder why. Maybe because for McCarthy and conservatives, that would, again, constitute heresy.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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