Ever since I knew anything, I always thought of myself as a conservative. Back when GW Bush was running for president, I made sure all my friends understood why we needed him to lead us. I had heard him say in his campaign that he was for small government, and also that he did not want to engage in nation building. He also hated abortion and was for gun rights. And he was a born again Christian. I figured he was the change we needed.
I also figured his level headed kind of a guy would never get us embroiled in the affairs of other nations that didn’t concern us. But then after the election, and after the terrorist attack on our country in 2001, the US was bombarded with all this information about how Afghanistan was harboring the arch terrorist Osama bin Laden. So Bush told us that if we didn’t defeat the terrorists on their own turf, we’d have to fight them over here. Bush “protected” us by fighting the Taliban. Not long after we embarked on that sacred mission, we learned that Saddam Hussein was also supporting terror and probably was responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
But shortly after the US “won” the war in Iraq, reports filtered out that the Assyrian Christians, who had lived in relative peace in Mesopotamia for over a millennium, were leaving Iraq in droves. And that the country was in chaos. A famous Iraqi museum with priceless artifacts was looted and many treasures were lost forever. The US never even made a statement about this. Could it be that our leaders had such little regard for the world’s heritage of historical art and archeology?
We also learned that most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudis and that the main funding source of Al-Qaeda, the terror group that had just killed 3000 of us, was Saudi Arabia. I wondered in the secret recesses of my mind why we had not declared war on Saudi Arabia instead of Afghanistan and Iraq. But no one, neither on the right nor on the left, ever mentioned this. I was afraid to utter my secret thoughts at first and waited for someone braver than myself to speak up. But no one did.
I kept thinking long and hard about these things but when I mentioned any of this to my conservative friends, most would give me a blank stare. Some even told me I was no longer a good conservative. I had violated a rule of conservatism: never question the judgment of a conservative leader in time of war. But yet, I wondered: if the American people had been given the opportunity to respond to the 9-11 terror, would it every have occurred to them to invade Afghanistan and Iraq? Wasn’t this really someone else’s war? Why not fight the terror sponsors? It seemed like it was bad manners to criticize the Saudis. People understood that Bush Jr. was a good friend of the Saudi royal family. But should we not work out our own conclusions? Did conservatives really need a leader to tell us what, not how, to think? Wasn’t that kind of group think the hallmark of liberals?
I began to suspect that conservatism was a shape shifter.
I mean there was a check list of items of our faith. To be a good conservative you had to defend gun rights. I checked out on that one. You had to love the Constitution. I got good marks on that. I had even taken a course in the Constitution. You had to believe in God. Check. I was the leader of a neighborhood Bible study. You had to hate abortion. Check. You had to be for secure borders. Check. You had to support your country in time of war. Well, I supported my military. But why were they put in harm’s way? Was it patriotic to send men to fight for something no one understood? Must I also defend the decision makers, who were unable to articulate their motives and goals? And again, the nagging question: what about the Saudis?
I felt guilty that I could no longer support my president as wholeheartedly as before.
I pondered these issues for a long time and finally came to the conclusion that conservatism in America has become an ideology. I had always thought it was just a template, a common sense way of thinking free of ideological baggage.
Now earlier, some astute observer had noted that liberalism was a mental disease. I agreed wholeheartedly.
But now that the age of Trump is upon us, I realize that conservatives are no more exempt from the symptoms of group think than the liberals.
When I remind my conservative friends that America is suffering a relapse of the “Dubbya syndrome,” many of them bristle.
It’s lonely, but should I pretend not to notice things to appease my friends?
Trump promised us to steer clear of interfering in other nations’ business. Just as Bush had promised us never to engage in nation building.
And just as Bush had once famously said he had looked into Putin’s eyes and saw he was a good man, Trump said on the campaign trail that he was sure he could “get along with Putin.”
But after he entered office, Trump turned around and said he was pretty sure the Russians had hacked Hillary’s emails. Yet most Republicans believe Julian Assange’s assertion that no state entity was involved in passing on the emails. So why did Trump suddenly turn around and blame the Russians? Didn’t he know that logic was on the side of the doubters? Yet here he was suggesting that his own path to the White House may have been due to interference from a country that really had no motive to interfere – after all, Putin had said during the campaign that it didn’t matter who was elected because the Washington bureaucracy made all the important foreign policy decisions anyway, regardless of who was president. And now Trump was confirming this keen observation.
Insidiously, many conservatives, including Trump, are now siding with the Hillary camp in its absurd fear and suspicion of Russia. When I pass on information from RT or Russia Insider that rebuts the standard shared warmongering narrative of both Neocons and Neoliberals alike, some of these “conservatives” tell me I am a Kremlin stooge. They refuse to believe that Russia is no longer a communist dictatorship. Many of the readers in the forums at the pro-Trump “conservative” Breitbart site share this absurd thinking. Don’t they realize they are thereby supporting a narrative designed to support Hillary?
I have come to see that the definition of conservatism has changed in America, perhaps permanently. Common sense is out the window and the American Dark Age is upon us.
To be continued
Making Saudi Arabia great again:
Especially relevant to Part 2: