YOU DON'T KNOW JACK: Far-right fixture Jack Wheeler is circulating a screed against "the anti-American right," by which he means conservatives who oppose either the war in Iraq or the Ashcroft approach to homeland security. By Wheeler's account, Howard Phillips is now indistinguishable from Howard Dean, Grover Norquist has "long-standing connections to a network of financiers of Moslem terrorists," and Bob Barr is "a paid whore for the ACLU." Such men, he writes, are "left-wing conservatives"; they hate Bush and Ashcroft "because Bush and Ashcroft are actively protecting American national security."
I'll concede half a point to Wheeler: the many legitimate criticisms of John Ashcroft have sometimes been undermined by critiques with far fewer roots in reality. For a parallel, go back to the '90s, when those of us who were disturbed at Janet Reno's war on civil liberties had to distinguish ourselves from her more paranoid critics. More bluntly, we had to distinguish ourselves from folks like ... Jack Wheeler.
In 1995, Wheeler wrote this in the newsletter Strategic Investment:
The slaughter of dozens of women and children in Waco by government stormtroopers under the command of Field Marshall Reno may pale in comparison to what has been planned for late March: a nationwide BATF/FBI assault on private militias as the prelude to a possible declaration of martial law throughout the United States.
All leaves and vacations have been canceled for BATF/FBI personnel, and for various State Police and National Guards such as California's. The Army's infamous Joint Task Force Six (which did the training for Waco) has been training BATF jackbooters with Bradley Assault Vehicles at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Government agent provocateurs are set to plant fully automatic and heavy weapons, like rocket launchers, on the property of militia leaders. Every militia in the country -- and there are dozens, many of which are well-armed and well-lead by former or even active-duty officers -- is on a state of Red Alert. Should Reno be stupid enough to actually attack them militarily, there is going to be a lot of blood.
The establishment media is programmed to immediately thereafter thunderously bellow for nationwide gun confiscation and even martial law. The Senate Armed Forces Committee has been alerted and is questioning key Defense and Justice people behind closed doors. Hopefully, Reno's Waco 2 can be stopped in time.
When the appointed date came and went with no "Waco 2," Wheeler was unapologetic. I do not remember whether it was him or one of his defenders who declared that the assault never took place merely because Wheeler had bravely exposed it. The following month brought the Oklahoma City bombing, and some conspiracy theorists tried to link it to the crackdown that never was, but that's a pretty hard case to make.
I don't fault Wheeler for blasting Reno -- Reno deserved criticism, and it sure beat his other infamous '90s crusade. (Wheeler was obsessed with the notion that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.) But it shows a lot of chutzpah for a man who credulously spouted some of the weirdest tales about the last attorney general to turn around and denounce even the most moderate conservative critics of John Ashcroft.
Especially when so many of the laws that Ashcroft's pushing are just warmed over proposals from the Reno era.
(Side note: Back in the '80s, Wheeler was a big booster for the Afghan mujahedin. He might want to tread carefully when attacking Norquist for his alleged ties to Islamic terrorists.)