1/10/2003 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg
V.I. Lenin, the founding dictator of the Soviet Union, had a pithy phrase for the Western liberals who took the side of the Soviets in political debates. He called them "useful idiots."
Today we have a new and improved version of useful idiots; we call them "human shields." These are the citizens of the United States and Europe who deliberately put themselves between the U.S. military and Saddam Hussein -or Slobodan Milosevic -in order to stop America from its "war of aggression."
I recently debated a leader of the useful idiots, Ken Nichols O'Keefe, on CNN International's "Q&A" program. O'Keefe represents something called the Universal Kinship Society (www.uksociety.org) and will be leading its volunteer brigade of human shields to Iraq, where he hopes to make it as difficult as possible for the United States to drop bombs on Iraq.
"If war starts, I will be in the most vulnerable areas. I want to be out where the bombs drop," O'Keefe told Reuters. "If there is a risk of large Western casualties, that is quite a political liability."
A former U.S. Marine and veteran of the first Gulf War, O'Keefe renounced his U.S. citizenship in "shame and disgust" in 1999 because, as he wrote in the British newspaper The Observer, "Paying for roads and schools is one thing, paying for `Weapons of Mass Destruction' to the point of insanity and nurturing global oppression is another thing all together." O'Keefe believes the United States was probably complicit in the 9/11 attacks and that the United States has been orchestrating its war for Iraq's oil for a long time.
Now, what makes O'Keefe interesting is his foolish and embarrassingly naïve left-wing anti-Americanism. You can find people on every college campus in the world who agree with O'Keefe. What makes him noteworthy is his willingness to put his body where his bunk is. And, on that narrow basis alone, he deserves some praise.
But not much.
When I accused O'Keefe of grandstanding for propaganda purposes, he grew upset. In between calling me a coward, he continuously insisted that he couldn't be grandstanding for propaganda purposes because he was putting his life on the line.
It was clear to me that O'Keefe believes that risking his life somehow makes him more right.
This is a typical misfire of the intellect on the left: the belief that intensity of passion somehow reflects greater reasoning. According to this logic, I would be morally and intellectually right by putting my body between the police and the Mafia. The fact that O'Keefe is willing to follow through on his useful idiocy to the bitter end may make him consistent and, in an odd sense, brave, but it doesn't make him any less of an idiot.
This illustrates the problem of the anti-war left more broadly. Every day, various regimes around the globe carry out horrible acts of aggression. But, with a very few exceptions, the international peace movement seems uniquely concerned about what it perceives to be unwarranted aggression by the United States, Israel and Europe -in that order.
When Saddam Hussein mobilized to invade Kuwait, there were no human shields heading to thwart him. When Saddam gassed the Kurds, the ranks of international peacnickery didn't hop aboard planes for Northern Iraq. Every day in Africa, evil and barbarous state-sponsored thugs mutilate and murder innocent men, women and children with machetes, but the peace brigades do not march in their open-toed shoes to step in front of the blades.
The useful idiots were strangers to downtown Kabul when the Taliban or the Soviets ruled Afghanistan, but they hurried there when the United States set about to liberate that country and punish the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
No, it's not, as O'Keefe and his useful idiots claim, "oppression" or the killing of innocent men, women and children that rankles the anti-war movement; it's that the United States gets under their skin.
Moreover, they know that the United States (and Israel and the West generally) has a conscience, and they take advantage of that fact. Saddam Hussein, China and the Red Armies of the former Soviet Union would gladly roll their tanks over the screaming bodies of peace activists to achieve their goals.
"Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist," George Orwell wrote in 1942. "This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other."
O'Keefe and his friends are objectively in favor of Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime because they believe he is uniquely worth defending with their bodies. They may be brave, I guess, but they're still idiots, and I'm sure Saddam is grateful for them.