William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley

William Frank Buckley was born on 24th November, 1925. The son of William Buckley Sr., a Texas oil millionaire, he began studying at the University of Mexico in 1943. The following year he joined the United States Army and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

After the war Buckley enrolled at Yale University. He joined the Skull and Bones Society. Other members included George H. W. Bush and Henry Luce. He also edited Yale Daily News.

A member of the Republican Party, in the 1948 presidential elections Buckley supported Thomas E. Dewey and took part in distrupting a meeting being held by Henry Wallace.

In 1951 he joined the Central Intelligence Agency and worked with E. Howard Hunt in Mexico City. While with the CIA he published God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom. He also worked with Eudocio Ravines on The Road to Yenan, a book about the communist conspiracy to obtain world domination.

Buckley left the CIA and became editor of The American Mercury. He continued to be active in right-wing politics and in 1953 Buckley established the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists (ISI). This was modeled on the Intercollegiate Socialist Society (ISS) that had been founded by Jack London in 1905. The ISI distributed free copies of right-wing books such as Road to Serfdom (Friedrich A. Hayek) and The Income Tax: Root of all Evil (Frank Chodorov).

Buckley's next book was a defence of Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism entitled McCarthy and Its Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning (1954). During this period Buckley described himself as a "revolutionary against the present liberal order".

Buckley also joined forces with Willi Schlamm to start up a new right-wing journal entitled the National Review. Schlamm, who had previously been literary editor of The Freeman, a conservative magazine published by Henry Luce. The magazine was funded by right-wing figures including Adolphe Menjou, Spruille Braden, Roger Milliken, Clarence Manion and Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society.

In September, 1960, Buckley, Douglas Caddy and Marvin Liebman established the far right group, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The first meeting was held at Buckley's home in Sharon, Connecticut. Caddy became YAF's first president. Its first national council included eleven members of the John Birch Society. The main mission of the YAF was to “prepare young people for the struggle ahead with Liberalism, Socialism and Communism”. Tom Hayden and other leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society compared the YAF to the Hitler Youth.

The main objective of Buckley and the YAF was to support the efforts of Barry Goldwater to become the Republican Party candidate to take on John F. Kennedy in the forthcoming presidential election. Buckley and Goldwater both believed that the link to Robert Welch and the John Birch Society posed a threat to this objective. As a result Buckley used the National Review to attack the neo-fascist views of Welch.

In 1965 Buckley helped establish the Conservative Party and ran for mayor of New York City. He finished third with 13 per cent of the vote.

As well as editing the National Review, Buckley became a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. At his peak, Buckley's work appeared in more than 300 newspapers. In 1973 he served as a delegate to the United Nations.

On 18th September, 1976, Orlando Letelier, who served as foreign minister under Salvador Allende, was traveling to work at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington when a bomb was ignited under his car. Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, a 25 year old woman who was campaigning for democracy in Chile, both died of their injuries.

The director of the CIA, George H. W. Bush, was quickly told that DINA and several of his contract agents were involved in the assassination. However, he leaked a story to members of Operation Mockingbird that attempted to cover-up the role that the CIA and DINA had played in the killings. Jeremiah O'Leary in the Washington Star (8th October, 1976) wrote: "The right-wing Chilean junta had nothing to gain and everything to lose by the assassination of a peaceful and popular socialist leader." Newsweek added: "The CIA has concluded that the Chilean secret police was not involved." (11th October).

Buckley also took part in this disinformation campaign and on 25th October wrote: "U.S. investigators think it unlikely that Chile would risk with an action of this kind the respect it has won with great difficulty during the past year in many Western countries, which before were hostile to its policies." According to Donald Freed Buckley had been providing disinformation for the General Augusto Pinochet government since October 1974. He also unearthed information that William Buckley's brother, James Buckley, met with Michael Townley and Guillermo Novo in New York City just a week before Orlando Letelier was assassinated. Townley later confessed to carrying out the killing of Letelier.

Buckley has published a large number of books including United Nations Journal: a Delegate's Odyssey (1974), Unmaking of a Mayor (1977), Up From Liberalism (1984), Racing Through Paradise (1987), On The Firing Line: The Public Life of Our Public Figures (1989), Gratitude: Reflections on What We Owe to Our County (1990), Happy Days Were Here Again (1993), Nearer My God: An Autobiography of Faith (1997), The Redhunter (1999), Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton (2001). His autobiography, Miles Gone By, was published in 2004.

William Buckley died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut on 27th February, 2008, aged 82. At the time of his death, he had been suffering from emphysema and diabetes.

Primary Sources

(1) Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm (2001)

The Young conservatives tried to talk like him (William F. Buckley), dress like him, write like him - and, of course, think like him... God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of Academic Freedom, was published after Buckley completed a short stint with the CIA in Mexico. Yale's attempt to suppress publication only whetted the public's curiosity; Yale's attempts to discredit it (alum McGeorge Bundy's Atlantic Monthly review called Buckley a "twisted and ignorant young man"; Yale distributed two thousand reprints) made it a bestseller. His next book, coauthored with Bozell, was an unabashed attempt to defend a family friend: Joe McCarthy. By evaluating the senator's early cases in narrowly legalistic terms, they managed to acquit McCarthy to their own satisfaction as someone around which "men of good will and stern morality may close ranks." But what was most remarkable about McCarthy and Its Enemies, what makes it in retrospect a signal document of a new conservatism struggling to be born, was the number of critical references to McCarthy it included. Just as for Goldwater, the hunt for subversives appeared inadequate to the greater task at hand. "We are interested in talking, not about 'who is loyal?,' " Buckley and Bozell emphasized, "but about who favors those politicians that are not in the national interest as we see it.' "

Buckley's next project would make criticizing those politicians into a merry art-a mighty engine for massing right-wing fellow travelers into a community, a force, a band of brothers and sisters ready to take on the (liberal) world. Buckley founded National Review after a spell of barnstorming colleges on behalf of a new conservative organization, the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists.

(2) William F. Buckley, letter to W. Thomas Smith (2001)

I did training in Washington as a secret agent and was sent to Mexico City. There I served under the direct supervision of Howard Hunt, about whom of course a great deal is known.

(3) Vyacheslav Nikitin, The Ultras in the USA (1971)

The National Review, with a circulation of nearly 112,000, has assumed the mantle of intellectual leadership in the far right. It was created by William F. Buckley, son of an oilman, who was a loyal supporter of McCarthy. At various times its staff has included Brent Bozell (comrade-in-arms of Joseph McCarthy and of Barry Goldwater), James Burnhatn (an extremist professor), Frank Meyer, William F. Rickenbacker and Clarence Manion (well-known rightist leaders), Godfrey Schmidt (a legal expert with extreme rightist views), Morrie Ryskind (a playwright), and General A. C. Wedemeyer. No less reactionary are the journal's contributors, who include theologian Will Herberg, Henry Hazlitt, philosopher Russell Kirk, historian John Chamberlain, and professor of political science Willmoore Kendall. Articles by members of America's academic community have made the National Review the intellectual standard-bearer of the right. Buckley himself is considered a most accomplished journalist; he writes for dozens of newspapers with a circulation of millions. He styles himself a "radical conservative." Buckley's journal acclaimed the birth of the John Birch Society, which "stirred the slumbering spirit of patriotism in thousands of Americans, roused them from lethargy." Its editors are sober enough to reject the ultra-rightist myth that the "reds" are already in control of Washington, but they are convinced that liberalism is leading the USA down the primrose path. Thus the journal wages constant ideological war against the liberal aspects of the policies of the American ruling class, which the right terms the "liberal establishment."

The most influential ultra-rightist youth group in the USA at present is the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, who in the early 60s emerged into the limelight of American politics, figures largely in the story of its origin. After the 1960 Republican convention in Chicago he thanked young conservatives for their support, and suggested that they form an organization. About a hundred representatives from forty-four campuses met in Sharon, Connecticut (home of William F. Buckley), on September 9 through 11 of that year to found the YAF. Eloquent witness to the orientation of the new group is the fact that its national council included eleven members of the John Birch Society.

The ideology and politics of the YAF are based on the theories of well-known rightist economists such as Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, and Milton Friedman, who have been trying since the Second World War to rewrite the past fifty years in the economic and political history of the USA. These authors hold that the right to private property should be absolutely unlimited. Their demagoguery is directed against the very modest social and economic concessions the ruling class has been forced to make to the working people; they condemn the progressive income tax, minimum wage laws, various forms of social security, price controls, etc.-everything that runs counter to the immediate interests of property owners-as fatal to capitalism and the American way of life.

The Sharon Statement, adopted at the YAF's founding conference, repeats the basic tenets of the ultra-conservative credo. It maintains that the free market is the only economic system compatible with personal freedom and constitutional government, and also the best way to supply human needs, and that government interference with it tends to break down the moral and physical fiber of the nation.

Practically speaking, these demands for laissez-faire free enterprise are an anachronism, wholly unrealizable under the conditions of state-monopoly capitalism. Politically, however, they remain attractive to many among the middle and especially the petty bourgeoisie, who are forced to shoulder the tax burden of the USA's immense government bureaucracy. With the help of such demagoguery rightists seek to gain the support of America's numerous petty bourgeoisie for their struggle against the working class-the main force within the country fighting for social and economic change.

As to foreign policy the Sharon Statement urges that the USA concentrate its efforts not on peaceful coexistence but on victory over communism all around the world.

The Sharon Statement is the fullest exposition of the ideology of America's ultra-rightist youth as a whole. But its significance goes beyond that. Its basic theses were adopted unchanged by the American Conservative Union, a rightist organization that was formed in 1964 and carried considerable political weight in later years. The Sharon Statement became the manifesto of America's most reactionary forces, the battle standard of conservatism. Its authors see as their mission the preparation of young people "for the struggle ahead with Liberalism, Socialism and Communism" - which are the same in the eyes of the YAF.

(4) Donald Freed, Gemstone - the Bottom Line (1974)

As of 1970, there were basically three covert operations. One was under the aegis of Haldeman's "November Group" and could be called political propaganda/espionage. This group's field controls were former New York City policemen John Caulfield and Anthony J Ulasewicz on the East Coast acid "prankster" Donald Segretti on the West. A second team of amateur political agents worked out of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). These young, middle-level bureaucrats began to panic as Nixon slipped behind Edmund Muskie and George Wallace in some of the 1970 polls.

The third operation was Charles Colson's "Attack Group" or "black advance." This was the Hunt-Liddy network, the Gemstone axis of the conspiracy. By February 1972 this group had taken over the Segretti "dirty tricks" network, the CREEP "political propaganda" operation, the White House Special Intelligence Unit (the "Plumbers"), and the intelligence fronts using narcotics control as a cover (DALE, Operation Intercept). The paramilitary, unofficial Gemstone net not only controlled all of the other political efforts of the presidential campaign, but had penetrated and was beginning to use and compromise the FBI, CIA, Treasury, Office of Economic Opportunity, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and perhaps a dozen other federal agencies, plus local intelligence or "Red Squads" across the country. This was the magnitude of Operation Gemstone.

Colson was the key figure. Publicly, as Special Counsel, he was liaison between the White House and various political groupings-the Reverend Carl McIntire, the Liberty Lobby, and similar right-wing extremists; the Eastern European ethnics, many of them neo-fascists; the American Security Council and the National Rifle Association; Teamster officials and organized crime; ITT, the multinationals, and the CIA. Covertly, he was liaison to the White House from the secret government, with primary responsibility for Operation Gemstone. Charles Colson was the double agent, and his plan was simplicity itself:

1. Prepare to re-elect the president. Eliminate Wallace. Isolate the left.

2. Seize the government. Disrupt the GOP convention. Blame the left and the center. Declare a state of national emergency. Rule with Nixon, or without him. More a coup de main than a coup d'etat.

3. Cover up. Eliminate anyone who could "talk."

4. Build new mass base. Use four-year American Bicentennial Celebration to drown all remaining dissent...

Later Colson would arrange anti-Nixon incidents at the AFLCIO convention in Miami and hard-hat attacks against antiwar demonstrators in New York. It seems likely that he was also involved in an early rehearsal of Gemstone at a Nixon appearance in San Jose, California, in late October. According to Congressman Paul McCloskey and the local police chief, the ultraconservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) sent its members to pose as anti-Nixon demonstrators. Both Hunt and Colson were founders of YAF.

(5) Tad Szulc, Compulsive Spy: The Strange Career of E. Howard Hunt (1974)

For nineteen months in 1951 and 1952, Hunt had under his orders William F. Buckley, Jr., who later became the well-known syndicated conservative columnist. Buckley was in Mexico for the CIA on what he recently described as a "tangential special project." They quickly befriended each other, and Buckley is the godfather of three Hunt children. He remains to this day Hunt's best friend and was named the executor of Dorothy Hunt's estate after she was killed in a plane crash in 1972.

(6) John Dinges & Saul Landau, Assassination on Embassy Row (1980)

Townley added the final touches to the bomb as Paz held the parts in place for him. Suarez read and talked. Townley planned to place the bomb under the driver's seat; he molded the plastique to blow the full explosive force directly upward.

At about midnight he felt satisfied with his handiwork. The three left the motel in Paz's Volvo and stopped by the train station; Townley went to the ticket window to find out if there were any trains leaving for the New York area in the early morning hours. There were none.

"During the ride to Letelier's house," he wrote, "I was informed by Paz and Suarez that they expected me to place the device on the car as they wished to have a DINA agent, namely myself, directly tied to the placing of the device."

Townley kept quiet. He carried the bomb under his dark blue sweatshirt and wore corduroy pants. He hadn't planned on getting his pants dirty, but he had weighed the alternatives and decided he would have to tape the bomb himself.

Paz drove into the street parallel to Ogden Court. Townley walked from behind two houses into the turn-around area of the cul-de-sac and surveyed the block. People were entering a neighboring house, "so I turned around, returning to the parallel street, and walked up the hill on this parallel street, until I met Paz and Suarez, at which time we drove around to take up some time and then returned to the entrance of Letelier's street, where I was dropped off at the top of the hill."

On one side of the Leteliers lived an FBI agent; on the other, a Foreign Service officer. As Townley walked down the hill, some dogs barked, then stopped. Television screens glowed greyly through windows.

Letelier's car was parked in the driveway, nose in. Townley walked directly to the car, lay down on his back on the driver's side, pulled up his blue sweatshirt to expose the bomb, put his tools in accessible positions, and slid under the car. The space was small, Townley large. Moving as little as possible, he attached the bomb to the crossbeam with black electrical tape, occasionally flicking on a pencil flashlight to check its position.

Footsteps. Townley froze, trying to control his breathing. Not more than two inches separated him from the car chassis. The footsteps faded. He began to run tape from the speedometer cable to the explosive. What had seemed like an ample supply of tape now appeared scanty. He didn't want the bomb to slip or fall off.

He heard the sound of an engine: a car was approaching with its radio on. He stopped again, perspiration now pouring down his face and soaking his hands and body. The radio became louder; it was a police band. Townley fought to stay calm. The radio got still louder; now he could see the tires from the corner of his eye. But the car moved on, turned around in the cul-de-sac, and picking up speed, left the block. Townley flicked the flashlight on. The bomb was firmly attached, even though he would have preferred to run more tape around the crossbeam. He began to slide out. But had he taped the slide switch into the "on" position? He might have covered it in the "off" or "safety" position. He slid back under and felt, trying to remember which side was on and which off. He found the nub; it was off. He pushed it until it clicked, then pressed the tape into the groove with his finger to prevent the switch from falling back. But electrical tape is pliant and may not hold the switch, he thought.

Lack of time could lead to mistakes. Paz and Suarez had insisted that he place the bomb personally and that he do it that night. Townley felt a chill enter his sweat-laden body as he walked up the hill out of Ogden Court.

The Cubans picked him up on the deserted corner and headed slowly onto River Road. Townley told them of his uncertainty about the switch being in the correct position.

(7) The Rothbard-Rockwell Report (1997)

Buckley’s decision to launch the National Review was a watershed event on the right by any measure. As Buckley’s admiring social-democratic biographer John Judis notes, "Except for Chodorov, who was a Buckley family friend, none of the right-wing isolationists were included on National Review’s masthead. While this point of view had been welcome in the Freeman, it would not be welcome, even as a dissenting view, in National Review."

As Judis notes, Schlamm, who envisioned himself as the guiding light behind NR, was not even a conservative. He "had more in common with Dwight MacDonald or Daniel Bell than with Robert McCormick; Buckley was turning his back on much of the isolationist...Old Right that had applauded his earlier books and that his father had been politically close to."

Buckley, by 1955, had already been in deep cover for the CIA. While there is some confusion as to the actual duration of Buckley’s service as an agent, Judis notes that he served under E. Howard Hunt of Watergate fame in Mexico City in 1951. Buckley was directed to the CIA by Yale Professor Wilmoore Kendall, who passed Buckley along to James Burnham, then a consultant to the Office Of Policy Coordination, the CIA’s covert-action wing.

Buckley apparently had a knack for spying: before his stint with the Agency, he had served as an on-campus informant for the FBI, feeding God only knows what to Hoover’s political police. In any case, it is known that Buckley continued to participate at least indirectly in CIA covert activities through the 60s.

The founding circle of National Review was composed largely of former agents or men otherwise in the pay of the CIA, including Buckley, Kendall, and Burnham. Wall Street lawyer William Casey, rooted in OSS activities and later to be named director of the CIA, drew up the legal documents for the new magazine. (He also helped transfer Human Events from isolationist to interventionist hands.)

NR required nearly half a million to get off the ground; the only substantial contribution known was from Will Buckley, Senior: $100,000. It’s long been rumored that CIA black funds were used to start the magazine, but no hard evidence exists to establish it. It may also be relevant that the National Review was organized as a nonprofit venture, as covert funding was typically channeled through foundations.

By the 70s, it was known that Buckley had been an agent. More imaginative right-wingers accused Buckley of complicity in everything from the assassination of JFK to the Watergate break-in, undoubtedly owing to his relationship with the mysterious Hunt.

But sober minds also believed that something was suspicious about the National Review. In a syndicated column, Gary Wills wondered, "Was National Review, with four ex-agents of the CIA on its staff, a CIA operation? If so, the CIA was stingy, and I doubt it – but even some on the editorial board raised the question. And the magazine supported Buckley’s old CIA boss, Howard Hunt, and publicized a fund drive for him." In reply, Buckley denounced Wills for being a classicist. But others close to the founding circle of National Review nurtured similar suspicions. Libertarian "fusionist" Frank Meyer, for example, confided privately that he believed that the National Review was a CIA front.

If it was, then it was the federal government that finally broke the back of the populist and isolationist right, the mass-based movement with its roots in the America First anti-war movement. What FDR tried and failed to do when he sought to shut down the Chicago Tribune, when his attorney general held mass sedition trials of his critics on the right, and when he orchestrated one of the worst smear campaigns in US history against his conservative opponents, the CIA accomplished. That in itself ought to lead conservatives to oppose the existence of executive agencies engaged in covert operations.

Today, the war-mongering right is self-sustaining. Money flows like milk and honey to neoconservative activists from the major conservative foundations. Irving’s son Bill Kristol has his sugar daddy in the form of media tycoon and alien Rupert Murdoch. National Review is boring, but in no danger of going under financially.

But the cozy relationship with the federal government is the same. Neocons Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan now insist on massive extensions of the warfare state. The Weekly Standard demands a ground war to topple the head of a foreign government unfriendly to Israel, while denouncing right-wing isolationism, libertarianism, and Murray Rothbard.

This time, the right-wing War Hawks face a potentially insurmountable challenge. The pro-war propaganda directed at the domestic population is failing badly. It is ineffective for two principle reasons: mounting intellectual opposition to the warfare state and the return of grassroots isolationism. Both trends have come to the fore. And not only with the collapse of communism. Widespread public disillusionment exists over the Gulf War of 1991. Sold to the public as a high-tech "virtual" war, the consequences have been harder to hide than the execution of the attack. With over a million Iraqis dead, Hussein still in power, US soldiers apparently poisoned by their own government and a not so far-fetched feeling that the public was duped into supporting an unjust slaughter, people are starting to regard the Gulf War as an outrage. And they are right.

(8) William F. Buckley, The National Review (4th January, 2005)

A C-SPAN look-in on President Bush’s challenge on tax reform featured two bright and experienced young scholars, libertarian in outlook. Mark Henrie, from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and Doug Bandow, appearing under the auspices of the Cato Institute, acknowledged that Mr. Bush’s reforms would not be shaped by fundamentalist models. Thoughtful reformers in the recent past have focused on alternative approaches to tax reform radical in character. The first would eliminate the progressive feature of the income tax - Rockefeller and his chauffeur would both pay 15 percent of their income. The second goes further, eliminating not only the progressive feature of the income tax, but the income tax itself, substituting a sales tax. Congressman Dick Armey wrote a book advocating a reform that drastic, and Milton Friedman many years ago made recommendations that deep.

It ain’t going to happen, was the consensus on C-SPAN, so one lowers one’s sights. What is it that could entice the Bush administration and those Congressmen who seek a substantial change in the laws?

In a recent conversation with Professor Friedman, he stressed the point that substantial reform cannot be expected for one simple reason: Congressmen are in Washington to craft tax laws that enhance the interests of their own constituents.

I wrote in a book 30 years ago that “tax reforms seek to improve on previous tax reforms by arching their provisions, like jungle leaves writhing for the sunlight, towards such rays of justice and equity as are discernible at any given moment of relative composure in American politics, when the pandemonium freezes, as for a photographer, for just long enough to permit one set of claimants to overshadow another. Thus a tax reform is born.”

Never mind the verbal frosting, the analysis is undeniable. A tax reform is a new code enacted after massive wrestling and eye-gouging and threats and excoriations, presented as a civilized enhancement of social policy. It is an assertion of justice, justice understood as a blend of considerations: the necessities of the state; the toleration of the body politic; the relationships of power among the affected interests; and rough justice. All of the above decocted from the minds and hearts of 535 legislators.

But the call for intelligibility is more than merely a cry for understanding. The incomprehensibility of modern IRS language challenges the dignity of self-rule. “For purposes of paragraph 3, an organization described in paragraph 2 shall be deemed to include an organization described in section 501 c, sub-paragraphs 4, 5, or 6; which would be described in paragraph 2 if it were an organization described in section 501c 3.” That paragraph is taken from the 1969 Tax Reform Law, and sheer physical cowardice discourages investigation into how subsequent tax reform laws absorbed that paragraph. What we do know is that the current law consumes over 54,000 pages.

Complexity of tax law language informs us of attempted refinements of fiscal thought. Yet these refinements, piled one on another, can end in vitiating the purpose of the law and even in contradicting it. A desire to shelter the poor can’t get around the regressive impact of state sales taxes on goods the poor need to have, whether telephone service necessary to employment, or cigarettes for which there is psychic dependency. You can’t frame sales tax schedules on proportionality: because rich and poor have common necessities.

The political clamor during the election season had to do with the relief given to the rich by the tax law of June 2001, which reduced the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. This meant that the highest bracket taxpayers pay $60 to $80 billion less in taxes than they would otherwise pay. These are the same 1 percent of taxpayers who come up with 34 percent of all the income taxes that flow in to the federal register. There will be a first-class row over the question whether the richest Americans should be permitted to be that rich.

That much we can count upon. But also, we can hope that even if radical legislation has to be postponed yet again, the criteria will affect the legislative mood, and illuminate the way to sounder tax laws.

(9) William F. Buckley, The National Review (6th May, 2005)

It is time to ponder the strategic impact of the casualty figures. Those that are relevant to this analysis are widely familiar. The U.S. has lost approximately 1,500 dead in military action and 10,000 wounded, and we continue to lose, dead, about 50 soldiers every month. The Iraqis (using loose counts) die and are wounded at about ten times the U.S. rate. Moreover, the Iraqi deaths have increased substantially since the national election in January.

We know philosophically that all deaths should be counted equally, since we are all God’s children. But it isn’t surprising that U.S. concern should focus on deaths of our own troops, with concern for Iraqi casualties mostly as a building block of strategic reckoning. It may sound inhuman, but it is very human to care about our own on the battlefield. And doing so sharpens the strategic picture for us. We are entitled to say to ourselves: If the bloodletting is to go on, it can do so without our involvement in it.

The indecisive course of affairs keeps us from saying with any confidence that Iraqi security forces are now capable of maintaining a peace. Some will reason that the impulse to kill will wither the day the last American embarks for home. But it is by no means safe to conclude that if U.S. troops withdrew tomorrow, killings in Iraq would end. The U.S. troops are the most tempting targets of the insurgents, but every day bombs go off, and suicide killers set out, even when there is no prospect of killing a U.S. soldier.

We have, by our agitation for free elections and human rights, enlivened Iraqis who had never experienced freedom, and we can safely assume that their enthusiasm for a freer society affects the public mood. But it is manifest that also affected are those whose determination is to advance their cruel agenda. The hatred of the Shiites for the Sunnis is not seriously affected by the existence of U.S. troops in the area. The resentment expressed by Kurdish spokesmen for parliamentary approaches to human problems is felt like the bite of steel wire across the palm of the hand.

It is easy and imperative to tally the deaths of Iraqis caused by Saddam Hussein. What does not follow, from this exercise, is any confident conclusion on how Iraqis would have fared in the absence of Saddam. Algeria and Libya and Vietnam tell us what can happen when you chase away foreign authorities. “It is difficult but you get used to it,” Naba S. Hamid, a biology professor at Baghdad University, is quoted as saying. “It has become part of our daily lives. Just like eating, sleeping, there is bombing.”

There are two burdens in America, one of them ascribable to our conscience. We can’t “desert” those who enlisted in our proclaimed cause. We did exactly that when we deserted Vietnam, but we are unlikely to do it again in the Near East, because too many people are looking directly on and would understandably react against U.S. nonchalance with rage and contempt.

But the burden we took on as the military agent of regime change is legitimately moderated by the passage of time and the achievement of proximate goals. We said we’d remove Saddam Hussein, and we did. We said we’d train non-Baathist security personnel, and we have not only done so, we’ve left in place reserves that can maintain institutional batteries of reform. We said we would introduce popular rule, and we did so: parliamentary government at least exists.

The day has to come, and the advent of that day has to be heralded, when we say that our part of the job is done as well as it can be done, given limitations on our will and our strength. It is an Iraqi responsibility to move on to wherever Iraq intends to go. Our job depends heavily on being done when we declare it to have been done, not by the legerdemain proposed thirty years to get us out of Vietnam, but by reasonable talk about reasonable but limited commitments to Iraqi reform.

(10) William F. Buckley, The National Review (26th August, 2005)

The blurt by Pat Robertson on the matter of Hugo Chavez received the kind of spastic disavowal it deserved, and also warranted. It would not be sensible to undertake the assassination of Hugo Chavez. Diplomatically it was a mistake even to use the language of assassination. And the greatest damage was to increase the odds against any assassination of Chavez. If he was going to be shot, or yanked from office, this could be done, and would best be done, by Venezuelans. They very nearly did it last April. U.S. intervention to limit Chavez’s term was alleged back then, but we could plausibly deny having had anything to do with the movement to recall him. Now, even though Pat Robertson cannot be conceived by a jury of halfwits as representing U.S. policy, what he said will be quoted by generations of communicants in the religion of anti-yanquiism to throw doubt on U.S. bona fides.

The principal reason to disavow the assassination of foreign leaders is self-interest. People who are elected or who otherwise achieve political primacy are vested with sacramental immunity. Many kings, presidents, and dictators depend for their survival on domestic arrangements. The Emperor Julian required that anyone who entered into his chamber should be stark naked. Mao Tse-tung did not go that far, but might as well have done so given the elaborate measures he adopted to remove himself from the common man he spent his lifetime glorifying, and avoiding the company of.

Now here is a key point. Sometimes rules are broken. But - it is always wrong, when they are broken, to admit that they have been broken. Not even Congress, let alone the Associated Press, serves the role of confessor.

It was this rule that was most flagrantly violated by the Church Committee in 1975. Here was a "Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities." I am staring at Senate Report No. 94-465, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders. "We have found concrete evidence of at least eight plots involving the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro from 1960 to 1965." That document bears the signatures of Frank Church, chairman, John Tower, vice chairman, and then Democratic Senators Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, Walter Huddleston, Robert Morgan, and Philip Hart, and Republican Senators Howard Baker, Barry Goldwater, Bob Mathias, and Richard Schweiker.

Critics, among them Arthur Schlesinger, dismissed the attempted assassinations as acts of a rogue executive agency, acting roguishly. It can be held that the CIA acted ineptly, but not that it acted on its own steam.

Senator Howard Baker years ago brought to my own attention the recorded questioning of Richard Helms, then CIA chief, on whether Attorney General Robert Kennedy was aware of the attempts on the life of Castro. The answer was that Kennedy was aware (confirmed by Baker, by telephone, today). Based on the Church hearings, I wrote a novel in 1987 (Mongoose R.I.P.) describing the attempts on the charmed life of the dictator.

The Venezuelan vice president has asked for a more direct repudiation of Mr. Robertson by President Bush. In fact, lesser voices than the president's have done all the disavowing that needs to be done. To add his own voice would be psychologically ill-advised. The critics in Venezuela and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere will harp on the Reverend Robertson's placing the desires of the flesh above those of the spirit. For President Bush to come on the scene to throw yet another spear into the infidel suggests that another spear is needed, even though those who have eyes to see, and minds to use, know that Mr. Robertson is quite dead, needing no supplementary toxin.

Meanwhile, the memory of U.S. presidential complicity in assassination plots is very nearly dead. There have been no references, post the Robertson initiative, to the old "Special Group" that began to meet every Tuesday morning in 1962 in the White House Situation Room to discuss the end of Castro. McGeorge Bundy was the group's chairman. Bundy reported to the president "on the desirability of not spreading knowledge of covert operations any wider than absolutely necessary, if we are to preserve the principal of deniability."

Arthur Schlesinger captured priorities precisely, in a memorandum written in April 1961. "When lies must be told, they should be told by subordinate officials. At no point should the president be asked to lend himself to the cover operation. There seems to me merit in Secretary Rusk's suggestion that someone other than the president make the final decision and do so in his absence - someone whose head can later be placed on the block if things go terribly wrong."

One of Schlesinger’s "failure options" was to put the blame on the CIA as "errant idealists and soldiers-of-fortune working on their own." We can safely assume that the CIA never even saw the Robertson broadcast.

(11) William F. Buckley Jr., Los Angeles Times (4th March, 2007)

I met E. Howard Hunt soon after arriving in Mexico City in 1951. I was a deep-cover agent for the CIA — deep-cover describing, I was given to understand, a category whose members were told to take extreme care not to permit any grounds for suspicion that one was in service to the CIA.

The rule was (perhaps it is different now) that on arriving at one's targeted post, one was informed which single human being in the city knew that you were in the CIA. That person would tell you what to do for the duration of your service in that city; he would answer such questions as you wished to put to him and would concern himself with all aspects of your duty life.

The man I was told to report to (by someone whose real name I did not know) was E. Howard Hunt. He ostensibly was working in the U.S. Embassy as a cultural affairs advisor, if I remember correctly. In any event, I met him in his office and found him greatly agreeable but also sternly concerned with duty. He would here and there give me special minor assignments, but I soon learned that my principal job was to translate from Spanish a huge and important book by defector Eudocio Ravines.

Ravines had been an important member of the Peruvian Communist Party in the '40s. He had brought forth a book called "The Road From Yenan," an autobiographical account of his exciting life in the service of the communist revolution and an extended account of the reasons for his defection.

It was a lazy assignment, in that we were not given a deadline, so the work slogged on during and after visits, averaging one every week, by Ravines to the house that I and my wife had occupied that used to be called San Angel Inn - post-revolution, Villa Obregon. (We lived and worked at Calero No. 91.) It is a part of Mexico City on the southern slopes, leading now to the university (which back then was in central Mexico City).

It was only a couple of weeks after our meeting that Howard introduced me to his wife, Dorothy, and their first-born child, Lisa. I learned that Howard had graduated from Brown University and was exercised by left-wing activity there, by the faculty, the administration and students. This made him especially interested in what I had to say about my alma mater. My book, "God and Man at Yale," was published in mid-October 1951, and I shook free for one week's leave to travel to New York to figure in the promotion.

I persevered in my friendship with the Hunt family. But in early spring of 1952, when the project with Ravines was pretty well completed, I called on Howard to tell him I had decided to quit the agency. I had yielded to the temptation to go into journalism.

Our friendship was firm, and Howard came several times to Stamford, Conn., where my wife and I camped down, and visited. I never knew — he was very discreet — what he was up to, but assumed, correctly, that he was continuing his work for the CIA. I was greatly moved by Dorothy's message to me that she and Howard were joining the Catholic communion, and they asked me to serve as godfather for their children.

Years passed without my seeing Howard. But then came the Watergate scandal — in which Howard was accused of masterminding the break-in at Democratic Party headquarters, among other things, and was ultimately convicted of burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping — and the dreadful accident over Midway Airport in Chicago that killed Dorothy in December 1972. I learned of this while watching television with my wife, and it was through television that I also learned that she had named me as personal representative of her estate in the event of her demise.

That terrible event came at a high point in the Watergate affair. Then I had a phone call from Howard, with whom I hadn't been in touch for several years. He asked to see me.

He startled me by telling me that he intended to disclose to me everything he knew about the Watergate affair, including much that (he said) had not yet been revealed to congressional investigators.

What especially arrested me was his saying that his dedication to the project had included a hypothetical agreement to contrive the assassination of syndicated muckraker Jack Anderson, if the high command at the Nixon White House thought this necessary. I also remember his keen surprise that the White House hadn't exercised itself to protect and free him and his collaborators arrested in connection with the Watergate enterprise. He simply could not understand this moral default.

It was left that I would take an interest, however remote, in his household of children, now that he was headed for jail. (Neither he nor Dorothy had any brothers or sisters.)

Howard served 33 months. I visited him once. I thought back on the sad contrast between Hunt, E.H., federal prisoner, and Hunt, E.H., special assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Mexico, and his going on to a number of glittering assignments but ultimately making that fateful wrong turn in the service of President Nixon, for which his suffering was prolonged and wretchedly protracted.

I prefer to remember him back in his days as a happy warrior, a productive novelist, an efficient administrator and a wonderful companion.

(12) Godfrey Hodgson, The Guardian (28th February, 2008)

In his television show Firing Line (1966-99), he became the most feared controversialist in America. Kind and generous in private, Buckley could be sarcastic and cruel in defence of his beliefs. His gladiatorial contests on air reached a climax in an infamous row with Gore Vidal in 1968. When Vidal persisted in suggesting that Buckley's views made him something close to a fascist, Buckley burst out: "Now, listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi, or I'll sock you in the face!" Buckley was ashamed of himself for losing control, and developed a gentler style.

He loved to shock those he regarded as wimpish liberals, but it was important to him to present himself as a gentleman. He was a man of culture, a gifted writer and brilliant debater, and a sincere Catholic. He was also an accomplished pianist, and from 1976 onwards wrote a series of popular novels about CIA agent Blackford Oakes. In all, he produced more than 40 books and 5,600 of his biweekly newspaper columns, On the Right. A keen sailor, Buckley made a number of voyages, across the Atlantic and the Pacific, in large yachts loaded with friends, vintage wine, hundreds of hours of taped Mozart and Motown, word processors (for captain and crew to write their books on) and a piano for the captain's Bach.

At the same time, he freely expressed views most people would regard as oafish. For a long time he approved of racial segregation, though later he seems to have come to understand that this would conflict with his stylish image. He continued to write with gross insensitivity about Africans. He was openly homophobic, and when Aids first appeared, he suggested that gay men should be tattooed on the buttocks. As a young man, when asked about his beliefs, he replied: "I have God and my father, and that's all I need."

Born in Manhattan, he was the sixth child of Will Buckley, a Texas Irishman who made and lost a fortune in Mexican oil and then made it back in Venezuela. Buckley Snr rescued priests during the Mexican revolution and brought up his children to think of themselves as counter-revolutionaries. After taking the children to live in Mexico, France and England, he settled on an estate in rural Connecticut.

Buckley Snr resembled his contemporary Joseph Kennedy in that he was a self-made Irish millionaire, anti-communist and isolationist who had a fierce determination that his children must succeed in competition with the Protestant elite. Young William's older sister recalled that they were given professional instruction in "apologetics, art, ballroom dancing, banjo, bird-watching" and so on alphabetically for a long paragraph to "tennis, typing and tap-dancing".

(13) Ann Coulter, William F. Buckley (28th February, 2008)

Buckley's first book, "God and Man at Yale," was met with the usual thoughtful critiques of anyone who challenges the liberal establishment. Frank Ashburn wrote in the Saturday Review: "The book is one which has the glow and appeal of a fiery cross on a hillside at night. There will undoubtedly be robed figures who gather to it, but the hoods will not be academic. They will cover the face."

The president of Yale sent alumni thousands of copies of McGeorge Bundy's review of the book from the Atlantic Monthly calling Buckley a "twisted and ignorant young man." Other reviews bordered on the hyperbolic. One critic simply burst into tears, then transcribed his entire crying jag word for word.

Buckley's next book, "McCarthy and His Enemies," written with L. Brent Bozell, proved that normal people didn't have to wait for the Venona Papers to be declassified to see that the Democratic Party was collaborating with fascists. The book -- and the left's reaction thereto -- demonstrated that liberals could tolerate a communist sympathizer, but never a Joe McCarthy sympathizer.

Relevant to Republicans' predicament today, National Review did not endorse a candidate for president in 1956, correctly concluding that Dwight Eisenhower was not a conservative, however great a military leader he had been. In his defense, Ike never demanded that camps housing enemy detainees be closed down.

Nor would National Review endorse liberal Republican Richard Nixon, waiting until 1964 to enthusiastically support a candidate for president who had no hope of winning. Barry Goldwater, though given the right things to say - often by Buckley or Bozell, who wrote Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" - was not particularly bright.

But the Goldwater candidacy, Buckley believed, would provide "the well-planted seeds of hope," eventually fulfilled by Ronald Reagan. Goldwater was sort of the army ant on whose body Reagan walked to greatness. Thanks, Barry. When later challenged on Reagan's intellectual stature, Buckley said: "Of course, he will always tend to reach first for an anecdote. But then, so does the New Testament."

With liberal Republicans still bothering everyone even after Reagan, Buckley went all out against liberal Republican Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. When Democrat Joe Lieberman challenged Weicker for the Senate in 1988, National Review ran an article subtly titled: "Does Lowell Weicker Make You Sick?"...

In a famous exchange with Gore Vidal in 1968, Vidal said to Buckley: "As far as I am concerned, the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself."

Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

Years later, in 1985, Buckley said of the incident: "We both acted irresponsibly. I'm not a Nazi, but he is, I suppose, a fag."

Writing in defense of the rich in 1967, Buckley said: "My guess is, that the last man to corner the soybean market, whoever he was, put at least as much time and creative energy into the cornering of it as, say, Norman Mailer put into his latest novel and produced something far more bearable -- better a rise in the price of soybeans than 'Why Are We in Vietnam?'" (For you kids out there, Norman Mailer was an America-hating drunkard who wrote books.)

Some of Buckley's best lines were uttered in court during a lengthy libel trial in the '80s against National Review brought by the Liberty Lobby, which was then countersued by National Review. (The Liberty Lobby lost and NR won.)

Irritated by attorney Mark Lane's questions, Buckley asked the judge: "Your Honor, when he asks a ludicrous question, how am I supposed to behave?"

In response to another of Lane's questions, Buckley said: "I decline to answer that question; it's too stupid."

When asked if he had "referred to Jesse Jackson as an ignoramus," Buckley said, "If I didn't, I should have."