Neocon Convergences

Salim Muwakkil

A funny thing happened while following the money trail of the neoconservatives who have hijacked U.S. foreign policy. The path led to a network of financial and intellectual resources that also is dedicated to neoracism. 

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been the economic fount for the neoconservative notions of global affairs now ascendant in the Bush administration. According to a report by Media Transparency, from 1995 to 2001 the Milwaukee-based foundation provided about $14.5 million to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the think tank most responsible for incubating and nourishing the ideas of the neocon movement.

The Bradley Foundation also made grants totaling nearly $1.8 million to help fund the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the influential group that had urged an invasion of Iraq since its 1997 founding. PNAC, headed by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, boasts a membership that includes many players in the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

The Bradley foundation also helped fund Samuel P. Huntington’s neocon classic The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, a book that brought the domestic culture wars to the global stage. Hitting a familiar, Eurocentric note, Huntington’s book argued that the Judeo-Christian West” is the protagonist in an epic struggle of civilizations against the other” (this time the Islamic East). For a group that supposedly has left Marxist thinking behind, these neoconservatives are rigidly dialectic.

All of this wouldn’t much alarm me; after all, the battlefield of ideas is as good a place to fight as any. But then I began to notice other beneficiaries of Bradley’s largess since 1995, and I found some troubling patterns. The foundation has provided nearly $2 million to the National Association of Scholars, which played a key role in the anti-affirmative action campaign known as the Californian Civil Rights Initiative and regularly questions black-oriented scholarship. It has also given $1.8 million to help fund the Madison Center for Educational Affairs, a group that provides guidance and support for 70 right-wing campus papers across the country. 

The Bradley Foundation seems to have a soft spot in its heart for the kind of neoracist ideas that have gained currency in recent years. It has heavily subsidized authors like Charles Murray and Dinesh D’Souza, whose work on welfare and race has reinforced ancient stereotypes. Murray’s book Losing Ground argued that poverty is the result of personal failings and thus most government anti-poverty programs should be eliminated. And his book The Bell Curve (written with Harvard psychologist Richard Herrnstein) argued that poverty is the result of genetic traits of a subclass of human beings. These arguments were deployed to help convince conservative legislators of the futility of affirmative action and other compensatory social programs. After all, if African-Americans are genetically incapable of achieving racial equality, we must rethink the goals of the civil rights movement.

David Horowitz, one of neoconservatism’s most incendiary racial provocateurs, has raked in nearly $4.5 million in grants from the Bradley Foundation for his think tank, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Horowitz’s combative tactics seem designed to ratchet up tensions between blacks and Jews, a theme that seems to be a Bradley favorite. 

It’s clear to me that the Bradley Foundation has forged a link between a neo-imperialist foreign policy and a neoracist domestic policy, and that it provides generous funding to push these views in both realms. And Bradley is just one of other like-minded foundations such as the Koch Family Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Adolph Coors Foundation, groups examined in the report Buying a Movement: Right Wing Foundations and American Politics,” by People for the American Way.

The link that connects these views is the notion that Western civilization is both the global ideal and the world’s official arbiter. It’s an old notion: white supremacy unhinged — the same notion that justified the original imperialism and slavery. What’s particularly troubling to me is the lack of domestic concern about this connection. Did the world not reach a consensus on the dangers of racist reasoning and military aggression following World War II?

That neocons are galvanized by race is no surprise. One of the founding documents of neoconservatism is Norman Podhoretz’s 1963 essay My Negro Problem — and Ours.” In that famous Commentary essay, Podhoretz’s comments helped create a gap between blacks and Jews that has yet to be bridged. Among other things, he suggested that the solution to America’s racial problem would be for blacks to accept miscegenation as an unobtrusive form of genocide.

Victims of these evils see the link between neo-imperialism and neoracism much more easily than the victimizers. And they fear this axis of evil much more than the one concocted by Bush’s speech writers. That’s likely one reason black Americans resisted overwhelming media propaganda and opposed the Iraq invasion. The funding priorities of the Bradley Foundation show those fears are not misplaced. 

The Bradley Foundation is the right’s economic fount for ideas promoting neoracist empire.
Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983. He is the host of The Salim Muwakkil show on WVON, Chicago’s historic black radio station, and he wrote the text for the book HAROLD: Photographs from the Harold Washington Years.
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