CPAC Swings Anti-War, Sort Of.

Reason contributor Jon Basil Utley writes up the growing anti-war presence at CPAC, which represents a real shift over the years.

Most notable was a panel, "Why Real Conservatives Are Against the War on Terror." The panel was composed of Bruce Fein, former Reagan Justice Department Deputy Secretary, Phil Giraldi, a former CIA station chief in Turkey and a columnist at, Jacob Hornberger, President of the Future of Freedom Foundation and Karen Kwiatkowski, retired Colonel and noted antiwar writer. It was chaired by the American Conservative literary Editor Kelly Jane Torrance. Over 300 people attended and the speakers were constantly interrupted with applause.

Hornberger described the war on terror as "the greatest terrorist producing engine in history" and argued that "dismantling the welfare state meant also dismantling the warfare state." Bruce Fein detailed the illegalities of our losses of liberty because of the war on Iraq and urged "millions for defense, not a cent for empire and preemptive wars." He said that the thrill of empire has made America less safe and less rich and argued that "due process" is vital for keeping our liberties. Karen Kwiatkowski decried the waste in the military budget and detailed how Washington violates Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz theories of warfare. Giraldi described how the war has made America "hated, feared and less safe" in the world.

Another significant panel with top conservative leaders was about the expanding police-prison state in America. Titled How Many Crimes Have You Committed Today,it included Grover Norquist and David Keene, two of the biggest names in conservative leadership as well at attorney Paul Rosenzweig. It was chaired by Pat Nolan of Justice Fellowship , a part of Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship organization. The speakers decried how many American were in prison with long sentences, the largest number of any nation in the world.

They explained how the civil code was being interlaced with new criminal penalties, how long sentences allowed prosecutors to intimidate innocent suspects into pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit, the unnecessary use of SWAT teams to attack homes even of those growing orchids who had fallen afoul of some new regulation. They urged a major reform of criminal law. The title of the panel referred to the constant moving of the goal posts as government makes more and more civil crimes into criminal ones. Then in California prison guard unions raise donations for politicians who urge longer and more prison sentences. The speakers urged major reforms of criminal law because prisons are filled with persons who are not a threat to society.

More here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    No wonder David Brooks and Frum hate Ron Paul.

  • Edwin||

    the "thrill of empire" ?

    Maybe I'm mistaken, but I don't remember receiving my share of tribute from the conquered heathens.

  • LibertyBill||

    Yea, where was our cheap gas? Hell I wouldve settle for a belly dancer

  • Spartacus||

  • ||

    Yeah, we don't do empire very well, from a profit and loss standpoint.

    Maybe it makes us "purer".

  • Abdul||

    Is there any chance that they're anti-war now that the other guy is running it?

  • ||

    Hornberger and Kwiatkowski have been anti-war for several years, at least. They've criticized the Iraq war from day 1 and are not just Obama-bashers. Others on the panel, I couldn't say.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Yay, conservatives! Now if we can only lock up Ann Coulter, everything will be copacetic.*

    *I'm kidding, of course, but she is totally gay. Totally.

  • ||

    Alan finished typing, clicked "submit" and switched over from Firefox to IE. Starting the browser, he typed, and glanced around, making sure no one was present.

    He clicked on the "gallery" section, and began rubbing himself through his leather pants. "Oh Ann", he moaned, "your skinny body...that almost Adam's Apple...the discernible hatred in your eyes..."

    He climaxed too soon. Damn it! He was always doing that, and now he had to clean his chaps or they'd get crusty and hard. Why did Ann do this to him? WHY?

    He'd punish her in his dreams that night, he would.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Thanks, Episiarch. I knew you'd write something dumb. But this gives me a chance to plug my online Nero Wolfe pastiche, Politics Is Murder, in which Anne is like totally hetero.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Hmmmm. Dunno if I can get the goddamn link to work. Here it is both ways: Politics Is Murder and

  • Thomas||

    that almost Adam's Apple


  • Citizen Nothing||

    Reading that left me vaguely...hopeful.

    Damn you, Jacket!

  • LibertyBill||

    Maybe there is hope out there.....maybe

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Bumper for World Emperor.

  • Corduroy Rocks||

    I'll give Norquist more credit if he would move this to the front of his agenda. Until then, I perceive him to be a shill for the republican party and not much else.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    the unnecessary use of SWAT teams to attack homes even of those growing orchids who had fallen afoul of some new regulation.

    How did Balko get on that panel? Wig and a voice changing device?

  • Jerry||

    The 1960s called, they want their draft card burning conservative movement splitting YAF conference back.

  • creech||

    Yeah, how did the audience react to these panels? Were they chanting "lazy fairies" or putting their index finger in the air???

  • ||

    Real conservatives voted no on the P.A.T.R.I.O.T Act.

  • dave b.||

    Nice to see others are picking up on our absurd incarceration rates. Saw this series, and thought Radley or one of the libertarian blogs would have picked it up by now. Even the bail bondsmen have a lobby now to keep people in jail.

  • ||

    It really is time to give isolationism a second look. Especially now that we can deploy troops quickly, if need be, and rain down hell on our adversaries from the air and sea.

    There's no need to be ideologically consistent, of course. And there's really no reason why we can't work our magic through various other nations... That may take a little getting used to, squeamishness will have to be overcome, but that's been overcome before.

    And if there's a vicious dictator somewhere who's busy clobbering our enemies in his country, why not use that to our advantage? ...if the alternative is going about toppling some regime and engaging in some untenable occupation, why not use the enemies of our enemies? That used to be a no-brainer!

    It's probably still too controversial to point out, at least without people getting all bent out of shape, but the fact is that there was no real operational Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before we invaded, and there's a reason for that. Vicious dictators don't like competition within their borders. You can pretty much count on that.

    I think Bush the Greater understood that. Aren't he and Jim Baker looking a lot smarter now? You see, you weigh the costs, and then you weigh the advantages, and somehow we got our circuits crossed, and we stopped taking the advantages of having a vicious dictator in charge into consideration. But for the United States, there were some advantages!

    Of course we should disengage whenever we can. ...but in places like Afghanistan, where that may not really be an option for a while, we may just have to go with what's worked in the past. And if that means supporting people financially, people who probably couldn't win a humanitarian award, and it lets us the hell out of being front and center?

    I say it's time to put out the welcome mat. Being a friend of the United States can bring all sorts of rewards. And we need to make friends of some of the people who might think of us as enemies right now.

    It's like going to jail. When the tough guys are the only game in town, you may have to make friends with people maybe you wouldn't have thought about making friends with otherwise.

  • Tman||

    Not to get bent out of shape or anything, but-

    the fact is that there was no real operational Al Qaeda presence in Iraq before we invaded

    Untrue. And not just Al-Qaeda either. Iraq was an Islamic terrorist paradise. Ask yourself why Zarqawi fled straight to Mosul after getting booted out of Afghanistan, and arriving prior to our invasion of Iraq.

    Or just read some of this.

    The failure of the media and the Bush administration to highlight and detail the clear and undeniable evidence behind Saddam's support for Islamic terrorists of all stripes is one of the biggest failures of the last several years.

    Oh and um, by the way- we won in Iraq, we will be leaving soon, and we didn't get any oil.

  • ||

    Just for the record, we all but handed Iraq over the Mullahs...

    We didn't win Iraq. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) won Iraq.

    SCIRI was formed in Iran, by the Iranian government and was armed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard. SCIRI now controls pretty much everything in Iraq outside of Kurdish areas, and while they're not exactly the same thing as the Iranian government, it wouldn't be out of line to call them highly sympathetic!

    You appear to be a victim of propaganda.

    And I didn't say there weren't any terrorists in Iraq, I said Al Qaeda didn't have any operational capability there. Sure, Iran was financing SCIRI against Saddam Hussein, much like it financed Hezbollah, but the United States had very little to fear from them in terms of terrorism...and isn't that what we're talking about?

    We had little to fear from them before, but sitting on top of a powder keg they can control... Has it occurred to you that us sitting there on top of their powder keg might have emboldened Iran in terms of its WMD programs? ...and why wouldn't it?

    Again, the United States was better off from a terrorism standpoint with the enemy of terrorism in power--especially if we didn't want to occupy it ourselves. That's the way it was in the past, and that's the way it will be in the future...
    We'll be better off making friends with our enemy's opposition. ...same as it ever was.

  • Tman||

    Thank you President Carter.

    we all but handed Iraq over the Mullahs.

    No, we've actually fought for this not to happen. The amount of political infighting between SCIRI and the Iraqi Parliament is quite substantial, and yes they are a long way from settling their differences, but it took the US 150 years and a civil war before we got our act together so I'm not ready to say we "handed it over to the Mullahs".

    We didn't win Iraq.

    Yes we did. We got rid of Saddam and the Baath party, and gave Iraqis a chance to run their own country free from under the bootheel of a psychopathic dictator. You can say that Iraq isn't Vermont yet, but I think your expectations cloud your judgement of just how successful we've been with the original goal: get rid of Saddam and bust up terrorist networks in Iraq.

    SCIRI now controls pretty much everything in Iraq outside of Kurdish areas

    Citation needed. They sure as hell don't run the Sunni districts.

    I said Al Qaeda didn't have any operational capability there

    Incorrect. Two names to begin with debunk this assertion - Abdul Yasin and Abu Zarqawi, both closely affiliated with Al-Qaeda and both in Iraq under protection from the Fedayeen Saddam and both there PRIOR TO THE US INVASION OF IRAQ.

    the United States had very little to fear from them in terms of terrorism

    Categorically untrue. See above.

    Has it occurred to you that us sitting there on top of their powder keg might have emboldened Iran in terms of its WMD programs?

    Iran has been "emboldened" regardless of our actions in Iraq. I think if anything, having a good chunk of our Armed forces nearby is if anything a direct improvement in terms of impeding their rush to become nuclear. Everything else has failed so far to achieve this so I can't see how you make the case that this could make it any worse than it already is.

    the United States was better off from a terrorism standpoint with the enemy of terrorism in power

    This "same as it ever was" argument brought us the first WTC bombing, the Khobar towers, the USS Cole, and finally 9/11.

    "Same as it ever was" was no longer an option. That would be the equivalent of surrender.

  • ||

    Over 300 people attended and the speakers were constantly interrupted with applause.

    Weren't thee something like 10,000 attendees at CPAC? 300 is not exactly great percentage.

  • Alexandra||

    I was there. You couldn't fit too many people in the rooms that they held these in. We're talkin' full house at 300 people.

  • T||

    Yeah, a local political newsletter had a bit in it about libertarians, since they're apparently trying to take over the GOP or something. My wife, former GOP campaign manager and precinct chair, laughed. Basically the small government conservatives are staging a revolt within the party, and the current establishment is at a loss for how to counter them. So they're claiming all the small government types are libertarians.


Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.