An Open Letter to Sean Hannity

William R. Tonso
Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dear Sean:

It really ticks me off royally when you and your allegedly conservative talk-radio colleagues dismiss all critics of the Iraq War as liberals who are interested in nothing more than winning back the presidency and/or who hate America. There may be liberal war critics out there who are primarily concerned about putting Hillary or Obama or Edwards or any Democrat in the White House, or who hate America, but you know full well that there are many Americans with impressive conservative/libertarian credentials who consider the war to be not only a blunder but downright criminal.

For several months, I’ve considered calling you to take you to task for misleading the listeners who consider you to be such a great American. But I used to listen to you regularly and still listen to you occasionally, and I know how you treat callers or guests with whom you disagree. My intention was to put you on the spot by simply naming a number of prominent conservative opponents of the war and to ask you to explain to your listeners why you don’t acknowledge these folks and their arguments. But I knew that you’d simply talk over me and accuse me of being a liberal, an accusation that to you and your "great American" listeners is enough to discredit anything the person so labeled says. So I considered presenting my anything-but-liberal pedigree first, but I’ve heard you talk over many callers and guests who have tried to resist your dismissal of them as liberals. So I decided to cope with my frustration through an open letter to you, as I once did with one to your pompous colleague, Rush Limbaugh.

You’ll probably never see this letter, but that’s all right, because though I’m writing it to you, it’s really aimed at your listeners, and some of them will have it brought to their attention by friends who aren’t as impressed by your rants as your listeners are. Even if I had called you, I was going to try to avoid arguing with you, as tempted as I’m sure I would have been to do so. No, I’m not afraid to argue with you, because I don’t think you’re that sharp. It’s just that I know your position on the war, I consider it to be simplistic, and I also know that I’m not going to change your constipated mind, so why should I argue with you on your court playing by your rules?

Sean, you’ve had George Will on your show a number of times, and you apparently consider him to be conservative. Yet the following comments he made to the libertarian Cato Institute don’t seem in sync with the prevailing Bush-bunch assumption going into the war that the Iraqis were just chafing for liberty and that a western-style democracy would be established in Iraq in a matter of months.

Tony Blair – a good American – gave a speech about values to a joint session of Congress three months after Baghdad fell. He said that our values are not Western values, they are values shared by ordinary people everywhere. False. The world is full of ordinary people who do not define freedom as we do, who do not value it as we do, who prefer piety, ethnic purity, religious solidarity, military glory, or the security of despotism. There are still all kinds of competing values in the world, and liberty has to be fought for and argued for and defined. It is a learned and acquired taste.

Isn’t George skating on thin ice here? Doesn’t he seem to be questioning the administration and talk-radio-conservative mantra about all those purple-fingered Iraqi voters with their new constitution being good to go if it weren’t for those foreign terrorists causing problems? Is George a closet liberal, Sean?

And then there’s your buddy Pat Buchanan, who you have on your show rather often. I subscribe to his The American Conservative magazine and regularly read his columns on the Internet. Pat seems to think that he’s conservative, yet he’s adamantly opposed to the Iraq war and so are all of those who write about it in his magazine. According to Pat, the war in Iraq "was not thought through. It was not only mismanaged, it was an historical strategic blunder to begin with." And in a recent issue of The American Conservative, he noted that if we buy Bush’s claim that we’re "fighting for the right of Islamic peoples ‘to speak, and worship, and live in liberty,’" we’re caught in a dilemma. "Devout Muslims in Islamic lands do not believe people should be free to blaspheme or insult the Prophet. They do not believe all religions are equal or should be treated equally. They do not believe Christians should be free to preach in their lands. The punishment for those who do, and for those who convert from Islam in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, is death." He goes on to note that wherever free elections have been held in the Middle East Islamists have won over Western secularism and asks: "Should U.S. soldiers die for democracy in the Islamic world, when democracy may produce victory for the political progeny of the Muslim Brotherhood? Is that worth the lives of America’s young?"

One of my favorite contributors to The American Conservative, Andrew J. Bacevich, would have answered Pat’s question with a resounding NO! even before he recently lost his Army lieutenant son in Iraq. Bacevich, himself a retired Army colonel who now is a professor of international relations and director of Boston University’s Center of International Relations is the author of The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War. You probably haven’t heard of this book, Sean, because I suspect that it’s not on the neocon/warmonger reading list. But the blurb on the inside of the dustcover pretty well sums up Bacevich’s argument, and it’s short enough to not tax your attention span.

In this provocative book, Andrew Bacevich warns of a new and dangerous obsession that has taken hold of so many Americans, conservatives and liberals alike. It is the marriage of militarism to utopian ideology – of unprecedented military power wed to a blind faith in the universality of American values.

This perilous union, Bacevich argues, commits Americans to a futile enterprise, turning the United States into a crusader state with a self-proclaimed mission of driving history to its final destination: the world-wide embrace of the American way of life. This mindset invites endless war and the ever-deepening militarization of U.S. policy. It promises not to perfect but to pervert American ideals and to accelerate the hollowing out of American democracy. As it alienates others, it will leave the United States increasingly isolated. It will end in bankruptcy, moral as well as economic, and in abject failure.

And Sean, even your late friend the outspoken Colonel David Hackworth (USA retired) believed that going to war with Iraq had nothing to do with combating terrorism and was a blunder. In one of his columns, he wrote:

So, fighting Iraq bears not the slightest resemblance to our triumphant World War II march across Europe. Almost the entire Arab world views us not as liberators occupying that bludgeoned country solely to pull Iraqis up by their sandal straps, but as Crusaders who’ve returned to finish the dirty work the Christian world started a thousand years ago. Deep in the hearts of most Arabs, we’re just the latest wave of infidels who are into violating their sacred land.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here, Sean? Are George Will, Pat Buchanan, Andrew Bacevich, and the late David Hackworth liberals and/or America haters because they’ve pointed out that other peoples aren’t like us and don’t appreciate the attempts by our government to make them like us? And is former Republican strategist Kevin Phillips a liberal for writing in his American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21 Century that while the attack on Iraq was "at bottom about access to oil and U.S. global supremacy," it also had other intentions. "One was to fold oil objectives into the global war against terror. A second was to cement the U.S. dollar’s hegemonic role in global oil sales – and thus in the world economy. A third was to keep the invasion’s purpose broad enough to allow the biblically minded Christian right to see it, at least partially, as a destruction of the new Babylon, on the road to Armageddon and redemption."

I can just hear you – "Phillips is just an establishment Republican, not a real conservative." Okay, then how about columnist Paul Craig Roberts, the assistant secretary of the treasury under your idol Ronald Reagan, and a strong constitutionalist?

The evil that America has brought to Iraq transcends the tens [more likely hundreds] of thousands of Iraqi civilians who have been killed and maimed in the conflict. The evil goes beyond the destruction of ancient historical artifacts and the civilian infrastructure of a secular state and the decimation of lives, careers, and families of millions of Iraqis. The violence and killing that Bush brought to Iraq has spread antagonism between Sunni and Shiite throughout the Middle East with potentially draconian consequences. Bush’s war has turned Muslim hearts and minds against America and made terrorism an acceptable means to resist American hegemony. With his mindless war, Bush has created more terrorism than the world has ever seen.

Funny, Sean, how someone like you who is always talking about evil fails to see the evil done by our own government in our name in Iraq and elsewhere.

Here’s another interesting comment from Roberts for you to mull over:

American public opinion is being manipulated. In the name of protecting ‘American freedom and democracy,’ the Bush regime rides roughshod over both as it ignores both the public and Congress and proceeds with a catastrophic policy supported by no one but the Bush Regime and a cabal of power-mad neoconservatives.

Nothing can stop the Regime except the immediate impeachment of Bush and Cheney. This is America’s last chance.

RIGHT ON!

I doubt if you ever read Charley Reese’s column, Sean, but he’s another strong constitutionalist and he made an interesting observation about a speech Bush made at West Point. "He didn’t talk about world terrorism. He talked about reshaping the Middle East, a fool’s errand if there ever was one. Our precious people are not dying for peace and freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are dying for corporate profits and to make the Middle East a safer place for Israel. The only people who are dying for freedom are the Iraqis and the Afghans who want to free their countries of our presence." Yeah, I know, to you and your simpleminded ilk anyone who comes close to criticizing Israel is an anti-Semite, another label like "liberal" that allows you to stigmatize your opponents and avoid rationally examining their arguments.

Funny how you guys get so understandably rankled when you’re accused of being racists for justifiably criticizing the NAACP, or Jesse Jackson, or affirmative action, but are so ready to label anyone anti-Semitic who justifiably criticizes Israel, our political establishment’s relationship with that country, or even neoconservatives. So here’s another such comment from another strong constitutionalist, columnist and former National Review editor Joe Sobran:

No matter how much you love the Zionist state, it’s absurd to say it represents ‘our vital interests’ [as did Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia]. The opposite is more nearly true. We are embroiled in endless futile wars in the Middle East because our government supports Israel – a state based entirely on what in this country would be flagrantly illegal racial and religious discrimination – no matter what it does. It’s hard to say which is the worst feature of American policy in the Middle East, its shameless venality and hypocrisy or its sheer irrationality. It would make sense only if huge oil reserves were discovered under Tel Aviv.

Not being in his head, I don’t know if Sobran is an anti-Semite or not – but I doubt that he is. I DO KNOW THAT I’M NOT AN ANTI-SEMITE, however, and I agree with his comments. I thought that I’d better capitalize and bold type my disclaimer, because I know that you and your faithful are as good at selective reading as are the liberals you always criticize. Probably still won’t do any good, though. There was a time when I was a great admirer of Israel. I saw it as a spunky little country whose people had learned from the Holocaust that it doesn’t pay to be meek or weak. But then a few years back, I was listening to Benjamin Netanyahu explain why a certain policy in the Middle East would benefit the United States, when it dawned on me that the policy he was pushing might well benefit Israel but it wouldn’t do anything good for the United States. I’ve become ever more distrustful of Israel and its American neocon and theocon supporters since then.

Sean, I could go on giving examples of people you ignore on the political right who never approved of the war or who have changed their minds about approving of it. I’ve never heard you dwell on Bill Buckley’s defection. A number of the original war opponents on the right have been listed by neocon David Frum in his National Review article "Unpatriotic Conservatives." Those on Frum’s list that I’ve already mentioned include Buchanan, Reese, and Sobran, and, with the exception of columnist Robert Novak, most of the rest have links to the paleoconservative Rockford Institute and its magazine, Chronicles, or to Lew Rockwell and his libertarian blog.

Incidentally, I recently heard your fire-breathing, chicken-hawk, and I might add, obnoxious, buddy, Mark Levin interview Novak about his recently released autobiography. Though Novak was one of the conservatives Frum accused of being an unpatriotic America hater for opposing the Iraq War, and he acknowledges his opposition to that war in his autobiography, that fearless interviewer Levin, who regularly accuses opponents of the war of being liberal America haters, didn’t say a thing about the war and had nothing but praise for Novak. This, even though Novak, whose heritage is Jewish, has lamented in writing that "the hatred toward the United States today by the terrorists is an extension of hatred of Israel," and that "the United States and Israel are brought ever closer in a way that cannot improve long-term U.S. policy objectives."

Sean, our former representative from southwestern Indiana, Republican John Hostettler, was one of six members of the House to vote against war with Iraq. If people hereabouts heard you call him a liberal, you’d be inundated with lawsuits brought by folks you caused to hurt themselves laughing. And then there’s Ron Paul, another of that six who, as you know and much to your chagrin, is now running for president on the Republican side. You try to ignore him as much as possible, but he’s the only person in the race on either side who has integrity, principles, and is a strict constructionist and original intenter concerning the Constitution. He also takes seriously the philosophies of the Founders that, as I pointed out in my open letter to Rush, you so-called conservatives ignore. George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible" (emphasis added). Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none" (emphasis added). John Quincy Adams: "America . . . goes not abroad seeking monsters to destroy." I know, you don’t think that Paul has a chance, and you may be right – but you don’t know why. He has the whole establishment against him.

As far as the war and its disastrous impact on our Bill of Rights go, you and your talk-radio so-called conservatives are nothing but useful idiots for the establishment. You all uncritically support wars anyplace the neocons tell the bumbler in the White House to start them, and any police-state method implemented in the name of security, but then you all get upset with that same bumbler when he and many on the Hill, including liberals, refuse to clamp down on illegal immigration and to protect our national sovereignty. Do you ever stop to wonder how the guy you think is so right when it comes to war and measures impacting the rights of ordinary Americans can be so wrong when it comes to protecting our own borders and sovereignty? Might there be some connection between his foreign and domestic policies? The following comments by LewRockwell.com blogger Steven LaTulippe, like Paul a physician and former Air Force officer, might give you something to think about. That should be a new experience for you.

When evaluating his [Paul’s] chances, it’s important to accept one fact about contemporary America. This is not a democracy, and certainly not a constitutional republic. America is actually a carefully concealed oligarchy. A few thousand people, mostly in government, finance, and the military-industrial complex, run this country for their own purposes. By manipulating the two-party system, influencing the mainstream media, and controlling the flow of campaign finance money, this oligarchy works to secure the nomination of its preferred candidates (Democratic and Republican alike), thus giving a ‘choice’ between Puppet A and Marionette B.

Unlike the establishment’s candidates, Ron Paul is a freelancer running on three specific ideas:


The federal government must function within the strict guidelines of the Constitution.

America should deconstruct its empire, withdraw our troops from around the world and reestablish a foreign policy based on nonintervention.

America should abolish the Federal Reserve Bank, eliminate fiat currency and return to hard money.
This is not a political agenda. This is not a party platform. It is a revolution. The entire ruling oligarchy would be swept away if these ideas were ever implemented. Every sentence, every word, every jot and tittle of this agenda is unacceptable, repellent and hateful to America’s ruling elite.

Did you understand any of that, Sean? Who benefits from both open borders and the war? Not the American people. The various factions of our establishment aren’t concerned about us or our country; they’re interested in cheap labor (Indian, Chinese, Mexican, or any other), oil and other natural resources, manipulating our currency, selling expensive weapons systems, or implementing Utopian domestic or international agendas, etc., and maintaining social control through police-state methods and/or social engineering, primarily in order to acquire money/power for themselves and, in some cases, secondarily, for selected allies, associates, or clients.

As you may have guessed, I’m a supporter of Ron Paul, the non-establishment candidate, whether he has a chance or not. He’s the only politician to come down the pike in my nearly 74 years who I can truthfully say I support without qualification. I’m tired of choosing between Puppet A and Marionette B. I’m ashamed (with qualification) to admit that I voted for Bush II twice. The qualification is that my votes actually were against Al Gore and John Kerry from the liberal side of the establishment who I still think would have been worse than W, both domestically and internationally – though in my mind, the gap between them and him has narrowed considerably. I hoped – silly me – that W and his side of the establishment meant it when they promised not to engage in the nation building so dear to the hearts of the Clinton bunch. And, though I had no faith that he would appoint Supreme Court justices to my liking, I knew that neither Gore nor Kerry would do so. Even after he and his neocons had launched their criminal war with Iraq, I pinched my nose real tight and voted for Bush again. I didn’t see the Kerry side being any better on the Middle East, was still concerned about the Supreme Court, and knew that if Kerry won he’d push to extend or make permanent the idiotic and unconstitutional Clinton "assault weapon" ban. I’m a no-compromise supporter of the Second Amendment-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms as the teeth of the Bill of Rights. It’s not a guarantee of sportsmen’s rights. And since I’ve written many critiques of the gun-prohibitionist movement, a number of which can be found on the Internet, you can check my claims yourself if you think that I’m just some liberal not willing to admit it.

I despised the Clinton Administration, with its meddling in the Balkans and elsewhere, coziness with the UN, massacre of American citizens at Waco, and attack on the right to keep and bear arms and general trashing of the Constitution even without the excuse of 9-11. And I never thought that the day would come that the Republican side of the establishment wouldn’t provide me with a viable lesser evil to Hillary Clinton if she became the Democratic candidate for president. It has come. I won’t vote for any of the collection of establishment fools, fascists, and socialists that the major parties are offering up this time. I can no longer find any lesser evils among the establishment candidates, and I won’t make the mistake of voting for a warmonger again.

I suspect that you’ve never heard of Smedley Darlington Butler, even though you’re a worshipper of military heroes and Butler was certainly a military hero. So I’ll tell you a little about him drawing on a guest column I wrote for our local newspaper, the Evansville Courier & Press. In 1898 at 16, Butler lied about his age so that he could join the Marines, get a commission as a second lieutenant, and fight in the Spanish-American War. He was brevetted captain during the Boxer Rebellion before he turned nineteen, and became the Corps’ youngest major general when he was 48, retiring at that rank in 1931. He was one of only 19 people to win two Medals of Honor, and one of only 20 to receive the Marine Corps Brevet Medal that was awarded to Marine officers before they were eligible to receive the Medal of Honor. Pretty impressive, huh?

But when Butler looked back on his career, he not only didn’t like what he saw, he wrote and spoke about what he didn’t like, which I suspect is why you haven’t heard about him. In War is a Racket, his 1935 book, Butler wrote: "For a great many years as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket. Not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it." He defined a racket as "something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

In a 1935 magazine article, Butler wrote:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service, and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

And Butler made it clear that it was the guys who were propagandized into fighting them, particularly those who don’t come back or who come back maimed or psychologically damaged, who foot the bill for wars. He wrote about them eloquently. You regularly help propagandize guys into fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sean.

Butler was a Republican candidate for the Senate in 1932 and a popular speaker through the 1930s. He spoke to veterans and pacifists, communists and church groups. He believed "in the adequate defense of the coastline, and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight." He believed that our army shouldn’t leave the country, that our navy shouldn’t go more than 200 miles beyond our shores, and that our military planes shouldn’t go beyond 500 miles for patrol purposes. I suspect that he might extend those limits, if he were still around, to compensate for today’s advanced air and sea technology, but I doubt that he would change his overall position. He wrote: "I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights" (emphasis added). BRAVO!!!! An admirer wrote that Butler "demonstrated that true patriotism does not mean blind allegiance to government policies with which one does not agree." I would add that while he was often a hero when he was in the military, he became a patriot after he left it, but you and your useful idiot colleagues might find it difficult to understand that, Sean. For you guys, criticizing Bush and his neocons is the same as hating America.

Back in the days when I was of military age, all able-bodied males were eligible to be called up for military service. Having grown up during the flag-waving days of WWII, and since service was expected, though I never considered making a career of the military, I wanted to serve and eagerly jumped at the chance to get a commission through Southern Illinois University’s Air Force ROTC program. I did nothing heroic, but I’m quite proud of my service, because I spent most of my active-duty years at radar stations of the North American Air Defense Command. Those were the days, the mid-to-late ’50s, when the big concern was that the Soviets would send their bombers over the polar route to nuke us. If they had come, it would have been up to crews like those of which I was in charge to detect them, and to ground control interceptor (GCI) directors like me to guide our interceptors to their targets via radio and ground radar and set them up on their attack vectors so that the bombers could be shot down. Purely defensive – Butler would have approved. I was never called upon to harm people in other parts of the world who happened to be bugging our establishment at the time. Though I never thought about that in those days, I often think about it since the neocons got us stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I should have thought about it back in Vietnam days or even before then.

Sean, you’re always saying that our troops in Iraq are fighting for our freedom. Bull! A case could be made that American troops haven’t fought for OUR freedom since the Revolution, or with some qualification, the War of 1812, since the British were back on our turf then. Since then only the USSR could have done us great harm and we managed to avoid fighting them. The Confederate States were trying to leave the Union (as they had a right to do), not to conquer it, and the Union fought to keep them from leaving, not to free the slaves. Various American Indian tribes, Mexico, Spain, the Kaiser’s Germany, North Korea, North Vietnam, and Iraq weren’t interested in conquering the United States, and couldn’t have done so if they had been interested, and Islamic militants can’t conquer us now. Washington, D.C. is far more of a threat to our remaining freedoms than are Islamic militants. And as nasty as the Nazis and Japanese imperialists were, many folks including John Toland in Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, Thomas J. Fleming in The New Dealers’ War: FDR and the War Within World War II, and even his supporters like Robert Stinnett in Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor and most recently, George Victor in The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable, have convincingly shown that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the darling of the neocons, provoked them into fighting us when they were doing their best to avoid doing so. Butler was right – war is a racket.

Well, I’ve had my say, Sean – and got across much more than I would have if I’d called you. If, on the basis of their rejection of the neocon stand on Iraq you think that people like George Will, Pat Buchanan, Andrew Bacevitch, the late David Hackworth, Kevin Phillips, Paul Craig Roberts, Charley Reese, Joe Sobran, Robert Novak, and Ron Paul are, or were, liberal America haters who want nothing more than to have Democrats run the country, you’re an idiot. If you don’t think that these guys and others on the right who agree with them on Iraq are so motivated, you’re misleading the listeners you claim to be faithfully informing. If you aren’t aware that such prominent Founders as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams strongly warned against our country messing around in the internal affairs of other nations, you’re ignorant. If you are aware that they opposed such interference in the affairs of other nations and reject their position, you’ve neglected to inform your listeners of the Founder’s views and explained why it’s conservative to reject them. If you’ve never heard of General Butler, that’s understandable, since the militarists you worship aren’t inclined to publicize the war-is-a-racket philosophy he acquired through hard-earned experience. If you are aware of what he wrote years back and you can still cheerlead for what’s going on in Iraq today, you’re disgusting. Many of us are on to you, Sean. You’re far from being a Great American. RON PAUL IS A GREAT AMERICAN! As far as the war goes, you and your so-called conservative colleagues are nothing but useful idiots to our own establishment – no faction of which, left or right, could care less about protecting our national sovereignty or the original intent of our Constitution – and that establishment is a far greater threat to us and our remaining freedoms than any Middle Eastern religious/political movement.

Cheers!
William R. Tonso

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