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In 2016, Donald Trump showed that a Republican candidate can run, and win, without swearing fealty to the permanent war party. He ran on a platform of “America First,” and since that moment almost all Republican politicians and commentators have at least paid lip service to the idea.

Yet now, all of that is being thrown aside for the sake of Ukraine.

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In 2019, would-be America First Senator Josh Hawley delivered a speech about “Rethinking America’s Foreign Policy Consensus,” condemning “endless wars” and “metastasizing commitments” to far-off countries, and demanding a new narrower focus on keeping America and Americans safe and prosperous.

And then Ukraine came along, and Hawley suddenly looked like any other Republican from 2006.

It is one thing to see the Democrats eagerly join the CIA, State Department, and Pentagon in demanding the escalation of U.S. involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. That alignment makes perfect sense politically—why wouldn’t the left align with the same national security state that embraces all of its values, and which has repurposed itself to target the left’s domestic political enemies on the right?

Seeing lawmakers on the right take the same stance, though, is both puzzling and pathetic. The relationship between the national security state and most GOP lawmakers and pundits increasingly resembles the relationship between an abusive husband and his battered spouse. Like a wife who believes her husband still loves her even as he sends her to the hospital, the same lawmakers and Fox News figures who claim to have embraced the Trump realignment are yet again letting themselves get played by a Regime that hates them.

Sure, it’s not nice when the Regime drinks too much and suddenly labels us all domestic terrorists, but patriotism requires that we unthinkingly serve this same regime when it wants to endanger American lives for another misadventure thousands of miles from our shores.

After all, freedom isn’t free!

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When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke before the U.S. Congress Wednesday morning, Republicans fêted him with a standing ovation before his remarks and then another ovation afterwards.

In his speech, Zelensky pleaded for a no-fly zone, fighter jet shipments to Ukraine, and even more punitive sanctions on Russia. It was a plea for a dramatic escalation in the conflict towards World War 3. And Republicans gave him two standing ovations in a row. With the world on the edge of nuclear holocaust, Republicans cheered on a leader who says that World War 3 has already started.

After Zelensky’s speech, saccharine Republicans took to the airwaves to demand that President Biden ship fighter jets into Ukraine, despite the dangers of such a provocation:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Zelensky had made a strong case for what Biden should do. ​

“I think there’s a bipartisan movement right here, provide them the ​MiGs, provide them the ​planes where they can create ​no-fly zone, providee the armaments that they need to continue to fight a war that they did not create,” McCarthy said.

Anti-Trump Michael McCaul was particularly hysterical in his rhetoric:

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was moved by video Zelensky showed during his speech that highlighted the atrocities Russia is carrying out in Ukraine against women and children.

“We need to help Ukraine, give them everything they need to fight this war, and the video we saw was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany. … And history will judge us,” he said. “What did you do? What did you do when the bombing started? When the maternity hospitals were bombed and the pregnant women were taken out — blood, children, what did you do?”

“This is not a time for partisan rhetoric; this is a time to unify the nation behind Ukraine against one of the most evil forces we have seen since my father’s war — and that’s World War II, Adolf Hitler​,” he added. [New York Post]

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If this feels familiar to you, it’s because we’ve seen this movie before. It’s a tired old flick about Republicans, especially “America First” pretenders, reverting back to the same old war script. Remember back in 2002? George W. Bush said war with Iraq was a “last resort.” Baloney. Republicans should have learned from that scam, and maybe the base of voters did when they elected Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in 2016. But the Republican establishment, including supposed MAGA and America First stalwarts, are still beating the same old war drums. With their every word and action, conservative “leaders” have embraced the new priority of Ukraine First, no matter the risk of World War 3. And thus far, Sean Hannity has been one of the worst offenders.

Hannity has tied himself into knots trashing President Biden over rising oil prices while also advocating for the drastic escalation of sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

On his radio program, Hannity has concocted wild ideas like assassinating Putin or bombing Russian convoys while saying we didn’t:

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For those confused by what they are witnessing, here is a simple explanation: Fox News, Sean Hannity, and the GOP are reverting back to the leading roles they played in the run-up to the Iraq War.

Of course, we don’t want to just bag on Hannity, who is likeable enough. But the whole history of the Iraq War really leaves us no choice.

Back in 2003, 90 percent of Republicans supported the decision to invade Iraq and violently topple Saddam Hussein’s government. But “supported” undersells the intensity of the Iraq moment. Out of 272 Republicans in Congress, only seven voted against authorizing the invasion. For three years, House Republicans renamed French fries to “freedom fries” and French toast to “freedom toast” in the House cafeteria. Fox News hyped the war relentlessly during the leadup, and its hosts defended nearly every facet of it for long afterward. Pat Buchanan, Scott McConnell, and Taki Theodoracopulos founded The American Conservative in 2002 precisely because every other institution on the right, from the White House to Fox to National Review, was marching towards war in lockstep with the military-industrial complex. Even in 2008, with WMDs still yet to be found and the Iraq insurgency roiling on, 73 percent still stood by the invasion.

American conservatives got bamboozled badly on Iraq, but nobody got bamboozled more than Hannity. In the months leading up to the invasion, Hannity bought every claim, every allegation, and every lie that was used to sell the war. Months before the Iraq invasion, in November 2002, Hannity was already chomping at the bit for Saddam’s destruction. Why? To get rid of those dastardly WMDs, of course:

“He’s had 11 years to play his cat-and-mouse game, and, frankly, one of the people unhappy with Tuesday’s elections, I have no doubt, is Saddam Hussein. He would have, I’m sure, preferred appeasement liberals to have been elected and to be in charge, and it probably would have helped his cause. … Where do we go from here in terms of Iraq in real terms? I don’t believe he’s going to allow unfettered access. I don’t think you believe that. So it’s really just a matter of time. The first indication we have that he is not abiding by this agreement — don’t we have to be ready to act immediately?

On December 9, 2002, Hannity told Fox News viewers that Saddam’s Iraq was full of camps training terrorists plotting new 9/11s:

In northern Iraq today, this very day, al Qaeda is operating camps there, and they are attacking the Kurds in the north, and this has been well-documented and well chronicled. Now, if you’re going to go after al Qaeda in every aspect, and obviously they have the support of Saddam, or we’re not.

Even years afterwards, Hannity couldn’t accept he’d been sold a load of hokum by Beltway warmongers. In 2016, Hannity still clung to his theory that the WMDs were real, and sneakily smuggled off to Syria just before the U.S. invasion.

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Thanks to Republican credulity, the Pied Piper of the Globalist American Empire took all of America off to war, and the result was calamity. The “weapons of mass destruction” that justified invasion did not exist. Perhaps to avoid admitting such a humiliating blunder, the Bush Administration switched to an agenda of “democracy-building.” 140,000 U.S. troops settled in for a long occupation whose final cost exceeded $2 trillion. More than 4,400 of those troops did not return.

America has made plenty of blunders as a global superpower, but the Iraq War was the worst. It was entirely optional, easily avoidable, strategically worthless, hideously wasteful, and far too often, morally compromising.

As bad as a mistake as Iraq was, in the moment it can be understood. The 9/11 attacks were a profound shock to the national psyche, and for years the nation remained paranoid that deadly enemies were everywhere and 9/11 would just be the prelude to future, much deadlier attacks. Not only that, but the national security state had not spent 20 years lying about Afghanistan then, and had not declared war on American conservatives as a class, so the need to distrust them was not quite as obvious.

Falling for the Iraq War the first time may be excused. What cannot be excused is falling for the Deep State’s fanatical war rhetoric againas it tries to drag the nation into World War 3. Yet incredibly, inexcusably, that is exactly what is happening across the board, and it’s not just Hannity, either.

On Fox and Friends just the other day, Dan Crenshaw said that critics of further escalation were doing the work of Vladimir Putin.

Last week, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana appeared on Fox to complain to bellow that bah gawd, America must give the man his planes.

In a baffling display of television rhetoric, Kennedy repeatedly referenced The Godfather, moaned that Biden is not a “wartime consigliere” (a consigliere is an adviser; why would we want the President to be an adviser?), and quipped that Vice President Kamala Harris resembles “Fredo,” the weakling older brother of Michael Corleone.

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Kennedy’s “get the man his planes!” zeal would be welcome if he felt like applying it in advocacy of domestic victims of political aggression, like the January 6 political prisoners. But despite sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which provides oversight of the DOJ, Kennedy has shown no interest in possible provocateurs at the Capitol like Ray Epps, no interest in the months of abuse inflicted on prisoners, and no concern about the vast nationwide manhunt launched by the FBI in retaliation for the Capitol protest. When the one-year anniversary of the incident rolled around, Kennedy’s sounded more like a Democrat than a conservative Republican:

Without order, there can be no justice. The violence at the U.S. Capitol one year ago is as despicable and shameful now as it was then. Those Washington rioters should continue to answer for their crimes without exception, as should everyone who has committed violence as part of mobs or political riots.

Not to mention, the above clip featuring Senator Kennedy provides a disturbing example in how dramatically Fox News personalities have slid back into their Bush-era roles as hyperventilating cheerleaders for war and mayhem. For instance, these are chyrons that appear at the bottom of the screen during Kennedy’s appearance:

  • “Putin’s Forces Unleash Atrocities on Ukrainians”
  • “Sen. Graham Slams Biden Admin on Fighter Jet Fiasco”
  • “Day 15 of Russia’s Brutal Invasion of Ukraine”

Later, after Kennedy’s segment ended, Fox pivoted to hearings in the U.S. Senate. The network fawned over Sen. Tom Cotton’s denunciations of President Biden’s “weak” response with the chyron “Cotton Asks Why Jets To Ukraine Is Escalatory” (the implication, of course, is that it’s not). After Cotton’s testimony ended, host Harris Faulkner, nominally a neutral “news” anchor, nearly lost her composure as she gushed with enthusiasm for more conflict:

“I’m glad we got to hear some of that, because that was some truth-telling right there, and Senator Cotton was really going after it. What is the difference, he said, between giving them weapons that can shoot stuff down and giving them the planes that they’re asking for. What an incredible moment. And when she came back with ‘a challenging place to manage right now.’ Who talks like that? Just say what it is: The President doesn’t know what to do, and he seems to be afraid of Putin.”

Nobody is under any illusions that Fox News is a rigidly neutral news network, but even accounting for that, Faulkner’s uncontrolled gushing pro-war agitation is disturbing. By the way, this same Harris Faulkner, moved to tears on behalf of Ukraine, also once barred Newt Gingrich from mentioning George Soros in relation to his funding the election of far-left DAs in American cities.

(And speaking of Soros, just like Zelensky, the globalist Hungarian billionaire has also taken the position that World War III has already begun, so what’s the harm in sending Ukraine fighter jets, or seeking regime change in Russia?)

Perhaps more disturbingly, Harris’ rhetoric is unexceptional on the Fox News network. Almost all of Fox has taken the same attitude. Non-TV watchers might think based on the calls to arrest Tucker Carlson that Fox News has staked out an anti-intervention position. But in fact, Tucker is a severe outlier on his own network, along with perhaps Jesse Watters.

Over the weekend, the “great one” Mark Levin bizarrely acted like he was in a brave minority for supporting more conflict with Russia, and raved that “American-Firsters” (sic) were the “Putin wing” of the Republican Party.

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On March 4, Fox’s “America Reports” gave the stage to former Mike Pence advisor Gen. Keith Kellogg (also a former VP at Cubic Defense Applications), who laid out a ridiculous strategy claiming that the U.S. could intervene and start shooting down Russian jets, as long as they called it a United Nations no-fly zone instead of a NATO one.

Recently, police recovered the body of Russian model Gretta Vedler, stuffed into a suitcase. Vedler disappeared more than a year ago, and her boyfriend has admitted to the gruesome crime. Yet here is how Fox chose to present the story on Twitter for credulous skimmers:

Other than a handful of holdouts, Fox News’ message has become relentless: Escalate, escalate, escalate! 

Sadly, the message seems to be getting through. A recent Pew poll found that Republicans are even more eager to support Ukraine than Democrats. Perhaps one could say they’ve fallen into the Hannity Trap.

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In a recent vote, just a handful of GOP representatives dared to oppose the national security state on Russia escalation, and they just happened to mostly be the precious few representatives who have spoken up for the aforementioned January 6 defendants that GOP Senator Kennedy excoriated last year.

Perhaps that’s more than just a mere coincidence. To avoid falling into the Hannity Trap, one needs to have both the willingness, courage, intelligence, and financial independence to question security state narratives. Of course, there are other possible explanations for why so many so-called conservatives and Republicans find themselves in the Hannity Trap:

  • Political cynicism: Sundown Joe Biden is an easy punching bag for scoring cheap hits.
  • “Owning the libs”: Conservatives are more easily interested in a short-term attack on the left than they are on finding the best policy for America, regardless of what Democrats are doing.
  • Americans don’t read much history, so even elected Republicans have learned no lessons from history except that Hitler = bad, and mean foreign leaders = Hitler.
  • Right-of-center people just innately like the military and like seeing it used. Hooah.

For Republicans, projecting toughness on Ukraine or any other foreign question is a coping mechanism to demonstrate phony strength and hide (from voters, and perhaps from themselves) how impotent and weak they have been against a genuine existential threat: The non-stop cultural assault on the American people.

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When the stakes are Ukrainian sovereignty, Republicans are firm, united, and even fanatical. When the stakes are the gradual, explicit transformation of their own voters into fifth-class citizens, unity and enthusiasm evaporate.

In 2022 America, it is far easier for Republicans to demand World War 3 than it is for them to demand that their voters not be replaced from abroad, targeted with race hate propaganda in schools, or be herded off to prison for attending the wrong protest.

For the right, war is a permanent crutch, a way to ignore real issues (the issues where they are losing) and live in a comforting fantasy world of easy moral clarity and absolute American dominance. Demanding escalation in Eastern Europe is a way for Republicans to feel tough when they have totally lost control of their own country. In this darkly ironic fashion, Republicans actually do have something in common with the Ukrainians they wish to save: they are both patriotic to a country that they have no control over in the first place.

Until they liberate themselves from The Hannity Trap, the compulsion to snap back in line behind the military-industrial-globalism complex whenever it actually matters, the Republican Party, Fox News, and other bastions of American “conservatism” will never be capable or worthy of Making America Great Again.

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