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AN !A / MAR viRLING 1812 T TO NOW MURRAY POLNER THOMAS E. WOODS, JR. BOOKS & THE CULTURE Hell No, They Won’t Go BY JOSH ROSENBLATT We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now Edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr. Basic Books 368 pages, $16.95 0 ne of the more disconcerting \(if poorly the last eight years of American foreign policy is that I’m now forced to admit there are things Pat Buchanan and I agree on. It was so much easier during the reign of the first President Bush, when Buchanan was the happy culture warrior, fire-breathing his way across the country attacking gays, feminists, liberals and other degenerate life forms as he went, and I could hate the man and sleep comfortably. Now it seems like every time I turn on MSNBC, there’s Buchanan, condemning the second President Bush’s Iraq War, railing against his blundering efforts in Afghanistan, bemoaning his cowboy posturing toward Iran and Russia. And before I know what’s happening, I’m nodding my head and thinking, “Maybe Pat Buchanan isn’t such a bad guy after all.” Inevitably I end up turning the TV off in self-disgust, imagining my father turning somersaults in his grave. Turns out strange bedfellows are common in the history of American anti-war sentiment, as evidenced in the new anthology We Who Dared to Say No to War. Start with the book’s editors: Murray Polner is a staunch left . ist whose writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Nation, while Thomas E. Woods Jr. writes for considerably more conservative publications like Investor’s Business Daily. Together they’ve assembled almost two centuries’ worth of writing condemning American military actions from the War of 1812 to more recent misadventures in the Middle East, while celebrating the fact that the noble cause of peace in this country has often attracted wildly opposing un-likes. Take, for example, the unionists and industrialists who joined forces in the American Anti-Imperialist League to oppose the PhilippineAmerican War of the late 1890s. Surely labor leader Samuel Gompers and aristocrat Andrew Carnegie shared just about nothing in this world but the belief that by occupying the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, and by brutally putting down the resulting independence movement, the United States had betrayed its birthright as a freedom-loving country sprung from the shackles of colonial rule. With that one act, America sacrificed its reputation for the sake of an imperialist land-grab, “puk[ing] up its ancient soul,” psychologist William James would later write, in five minutes!’ In a speech delivered at the 1900 Democratic National Convention deriding the American occupation of the Philippines, anti-Darwin populist William Jennings Bryan laid out the stakes for America. He articulated in biting prose what many writers in this collection believe: that the country’s colonial tendenciesfirst sensed as early as the War of 1812 \(during which many supporters argued for the annexation by wars in Spain and the Philippines \(after which we would claim Guam and Puerto Rico as our own, and a foothold the run-up to the first World War, and eventually finding its full fruition in the jungles of El Salvador and the deserts of Iraqrun contrary to the spirit of American democracy, that they debase everything we claim to stand for and call into question every action we take beyond our own shores. “We cannot repudiate the principle of self-government in the Philippines,” Bryan writes, “without weakening that principle here. … Better a thousand times that our flag in the Orient give way to a flag representing the idea of self-government than that the flag of this republic should become the flag of empire.” What good is it, in other words, being a beacon of liberty to the world when we’re so quick to make a mockery of liberty everywhere but at home? It’s a question asked time and time 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 28, 2008