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Senator Rick Santorum: Poster Boy for Obnoxious and Desperate Conservatism

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If Pennsylvanians are lucky, after November's elections the Keystone State will be rid of its junior U.S. Senator, Rick Santorum. It will not be a moment too soon. Such a blessing would radiate across the United States and, thus, the world.

Today, Mr. Santorum is the not-so-proud possessor of poor polling percentages, which indicate that even the good citizens of central and rural Pennsylvania (AKA the mostly "Alabamans" who live between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) have tired of his empty, "bogus nostalgia and right-wing extremist ideology" about "the traditional family" (see my article, "Rick Santorum Flunks 'The History of the American Family,'" ).

Thus, political desperation best explains Santorum's recent attempt to reframe the debate by announcing to Pennsylvanians and all Americans - during his speech to the National Press Club on July 20, 2006 - that "today the biggest issue facing our children's future is a war." However, with that speech - which was replete with reckless rhetoric designed to incite the mob and turn out the faithful on election day -- Santorum revalidated the timeless truth spoken by Samuel Johnson: "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrel."

The speech also proved that Santorum knows even less about foreign affairs and national security than he does about the traditional family - thus validating Jose Ortega y Gasset's timeless truth about the "learned ignoramus." ("He is a person who is ignorant, not in the fashion of the ignorant man, but with all the petulance of one who is learned in his own special line." Santorum, after all, is "learned" in duping social conservatives and the citizens of Pennsylvania.)

For example, no serious person talks about "Islamic fascism" without defining the term and specifying to whom -- and why -- that term applies. Yet, Santorum belches out: "Islamic fascism is just as menacing as the threat from Nazism and Soviet Communism," conveniently overlooking the fact that, while Nazis and Communists readily called themselves such, self-admitted "Islamic-fascists" are hard to find.

Moreover, as Middle East expert Juan Cole concludes, "the idea that the Muslim world is full of fascist regimes is just not true." Additionally, Cole doesn't see a "coherent enemy" and suspects that "Washington misses the Cold War." ["Juan's world," Metro Times Detroit, Feb. 22, 2006]

Yet, the primary target of Santorum's speech - beyond his own reelection - was Iran. If one were to believe Santorum's rants about Iran, he or she would conclude that it's an Islamic fascist regime that America cannot negotiate with because, in 1979 and for reasons unknown, it "declared itself our enemy." Thus, the only recourse is regime change. Ah, yes, yet another regime change.

Unfortunately, Santorum's speech contained nothing that would demonstrate that Iran's regime constitutes "Islamic fascism." It contained nothing to suggest that the Bush administration, with Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, might have convinced Iran's leaders that restraint and concessions to America wouldn't work. And it contained nothing to suggest that Iran's domestic reforms under President Khatami might have been shelved in response to American threats of regime change.

Even worse, Santorum was patently dishonest when he failed to explain why many in Iran, in 1979, came to view America as its enemy. In fact, it was an American-backed coup in 1953, followed by twenty-five years of repression by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi that sparked the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and much of the suspicion and hostility toward the United States that remains today.

It's called "blowback." Moreover, Iran's rise in the Middle East today is, in large measure, yet more "blowback" -- resulting from the lies and exaggerations about Iraq (in preparation for America's invasion) which despicable neoconservatives and conservatives, like Santorum, foisted upon an unwitting, if not witless, American public nearly four years ago.

Yet, four years ago, serious people were warning that an invasion of Iraq - the illegality and immorality of it aside - might empower Iraq's Shiites, thus benefiting Iran, might lead to an insurgency and perhaps a civil war, which, in turn, might embroil the entire Middle East.

Now, out of fear that the public might seize upon those prescient warnings and turn out of office the reckless instigators of this Middle East conflagration, obnoxious and desperate conservatives like Rick Santorum speak yet more reckless nonsense in order to save their political skins. Yes, even if it means duping Americans yet again for the sake of another regime change, pouring more fuel on the raging fire and provoking yet more blowback.

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Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San (more...)
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