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William Francis Buckley was born in Medford, Massachusetts, on 30th May, 1928. He joined the United States Army in 1947. He later attended Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Buckley also attended Intelligence School at Oberammergau, Germany.
Buckley served as a company commander with the 1st Cavalry Division during the Korean War. In 1955 Buckley joined the Central Intelligence Agency. He left two years later and after graduating from Boston University he was employed as a librarian in Lexington.
In 1960 Buckley joined the 320th Special Forces Detachment. Promoted to the rank of colonel he served in Vietnam as a Senior Advisor to the ARVN.
Buckley rejoined the CIA and served in Mexico in 1963. According to one source, Buckley was recruited by Ted Shackley and joined his Secret Team that had been involved with Edwin Wilson, Thomas Clines, Carl E. Jenkins, Raphael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada, in the CIA “assassination” program. Leslie Cockburn pointed out in her book, Out of Control (1987), that Buckley had had to approve CIA assassinations undertaken by the Shackley organizations. In his book, Prelude to Terror (2005) Joseph Trento claims that Buckley was "one of Shackley's oldest and dearest friends."
Buckley served with the CIA in Vietnam (1965-1970), Zaire (1970-1972), Cambodia (1972), Egypt (1972-1978), and Pakistan (1978-1979). It is believed he worked with William Casey in the secret negotiations that had taken place with the Iranians on behalf of Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential elections.
In 1983 Buckley became CIA station chief in Beirut. On 16th March, 1984, Buckley was kidnapped by the Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Shiite group with strong links to the Khomeini regime. Buckley was tortured and it was soon discovered that he was a senior CIA officer. Buckley eventually signed a 400 page statement detailing his activities in the CIA. He was also videotaped making this confession. William Casey asked Ted Shackley for help in obtaining Buckley’s freedom.
Three weeks after Buckley’s disappearance, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive 138. This directive was drafted by Oliver North and outlined plans on how to get the American hostages released from Iran and to “neutralize” terrorist threats from countries such as Nicaragua. This new secret counterterrorist task force was to be headed by Shackley’s old friend, General Richard Secord. This was the beginning of the Iran-Contra deal.
Talks had already started about exchanging American hostages for arms. On 30th August, 1985, Israel shipped 100 TOW missiles to Iran. On 14th September they received another 408 missiles from Israel. The Israelis made a profit of $3 million on the deal.
In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
The following month, Ted Shackley traveled to Hamburg where he met General Manucher Hashemi, the former head of SAVAK’s counterintelligence division at the Atlantic Hotel. Also at the meeting on 22nd November was Manucher Ghorbanifar. According to the report of this meeting that Shackley sent to the CIA, Ghorbanifar had “fantastic” contacts with Iran.
At the meeting Shackley told Hashemi and Ghorbanifar that the United States was willing to discuss arms shipments in exchange for the four Americans kidnapped in Lebanon. The problem with the proposed deal was that Buckley was already dead (he had died of a heart-attack while being tortured).
His body was returned to the United States on December 28, 1991 and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
North's first plan was to ransom Buckley before he could be tortured into revealing CIA secrets. He made contact with some DEA informants, heroin traffickers in the Middle East, who claimed to be in touch with Buckley's captors. But the Agency would not put up any money unless it got proof that North's sources were telling the truth. The Bureau meanwhile worried that use of its funds to pay drug dealers might violate U.S. law. North therefore went around both agencies, appealing to Texas super patriot and billionaire gadfly Ross Perot, who in ig8o had financed a successful private rescue attempt of U.S. citizens from Iran. With $100,000 down and the promise of $2 million to follow, North proposed to bankroll a joint CIA-FBI operation, which would ideally culminate on a yacht off Cyprus, where Buckley would be swapped for cash. Clarridge was in favor of using the Perot money, but Revell initially expressed his disapproval; the plan seemed like a violation of American policy, which was not to deal with hostage takers. Revell discussed the idea with Webster, who similarly disliked it. Because the operation was going to take place outside the U.S, and under the auspices of a private donor, the FBI, after expressing disapproval, did not try to stop it. But before the project could get under way, good coordination between CIA and FBI proved that North was being snookered. After North's informant visited Beirut and returned with a newspaper on which Buckley's initials were allegedly scrawled, CIA submitted the handwriting to FBI lab for analysis. Their conclusion: the handwriting was not the station chief's.
On March 16, 1984, William Buckley, officially described at the time as a diplomat attached to the U.S. embassy, was kidnapped off a Beirut street by elements of Hezbollah, a fundamentalist Shiite group with strong links to the Khomeini regime.
Buckley was no ordinary diplomat. He was the CIA station chief in Beirut, and an official with some specialized responsibilities and connections. As Oliver North later testified, Buckley was "an expert on terrorism" involved in a very "sensitive" job before he left Washington for Beirut. North stated that in the course of his antiterrorist work he had developed a "personal" relationship with CIA Director William Casey. Other sources report that Buckley was an old associate of Theodore Shackley, who, it may be recalled, had reportedly had a hand with Edwin Wilson in running a program for eliminating hostile terrorists. Indeed, Buckley had had to approve CIA assassinations undertaken by the Shackley organizations.
Losing Buckley to Hezbollah was bad enough, but anguish in Washington turned to consternation when it was learned that Buckley was being tortured to reveal his copious fund of secrets. It did not take long before familiar figures from the Shackley-Clines secret network began to get involved in this new crisis. On April 2, 1984, less than three weeks after Buckley's disappearance, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 138. This authorized the creation of a new counterterrorism task force charged with planning the rescue of hostages held by Iran (as well as "neutralizing" terrorist threats from Iran, Libya, and Nicaragua). The new group was reportedly to be headed by retired Gen. Richard Secord. Though Secord denies any association with the task force, Pentagon sources confirm it, adding that the directive was drafted by Oliver North.
By November 1985, Theodore Shackley had entered the fray on behalf of his old associate Buckley. On November 22 the Blond Ghost reported to the CIA that he had just met in Hamburg with Gen. Manucher Hashemi, the former head of SAVAK's counterintelligence division. Hashemi had introduced him to Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, who, as Shackley speedily informed the CIA, was another SAVAK alumnus with "fantastic" contacts in Iran.
The basic topic of this meeting-following some high-minded sentiments about "moderates," the desirability of a "meaningful dialogue with Washington," and "destiny" was to discuss arms shipments, specifically American TOW antitank missiles. Shackley, in his cabled report on the meeting to the CIA, said that Ghorbanifar "further suggested the possibility of a cash ransom paid to Iran for the four Americans kidnapped in Lebanon, including Buckley, who, he said after making telephone calls, was still alive. The transaction could be disguised by using Ghorbanifar as a middleman." Shackley reported that Ghorbanifar needed a response by December 8, 1984. As Shackley told the Tower Commission, the State Department replied later that month, in effect, "Thank you but we will work this problem out via other channels."
On November 19, 1984, Shackley met Hashemi at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hamburg, and Hashemi introduced him to Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former SAVAK agent and arms dealer. Ghorbanifar opened the three days of negotiations with Shackley by suggesting that the United States trade some TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) anti-tank missiles for some Soviet military equipment captured by Iran from Iraq. He then suggested that four hostages captured by terrorists in Lebanon could be traded through Iran in exchange for cash. Because one of these hostages was Shackley's old friend and colleague William Buckley,6 the Station Chief of the Beirut CIA office, Ghorbanifar got Shackley's serious attention. Shackley would later deny that he told Hashemi or Ghorbanifar that he was in Hamburg in any official capacity. But Shackley did not deny that he wrote an urgent memo about his multiple meetings with Ghorbanifar, which he distributed to the State Department and the vice president's office.
Before he left Germany, Shackley met with CIA officials at Frankfurt Base, who informed him that Ghorbanifar had a history of failing Agency polygraph tests and fabricating information. According to William Corson, "None of it mattered to Shackley. He proceeded to recommend he be used as a conduit to the Iranian regime. He did it because Israeli Intelligence had suggested it."
Shackley's reputation and influence with Bush overcame Agency objections to Ghorbanifar. Shackley's memo was delivered to Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters at the State Department. Michael Ledeen later said that, in May 1985, he asked for and received a copy of the memo and gave it to Oliver North, without, he claimed, ever reading it himself. The result, despite the CIA's reluctance to deal with Ghorbanifar, was that Israel, acting as an intermediary, actually provided TOW missiles to Iran. However, William Buckley's life was not spared in exchange. Buckley died after being tortured by SAVAMA, the new Islamic Iranian government's intelligence service. Before he died, Buckley gave up the names of hundreds of CIA agents around the world.
When differences arise between a columnist and a newspaper, the smart columnist would rather lose the argument than lose the paper. Such a case involved the kidnapping of CIA Beirut Station Chief William Buckley by the pro-Iranian extremist group Islamic khad. Buckley was the first American taken hostage in a string of terrorist acts by Lebanese disciples of the Ayatollah Khomeini. My partner Dale Van Atta's intelligence sources told him in late 1985 that Buckley had been tortured to death that spring after surviving a year of savage interrogation in Lebanon. He had been disguised as a wounded soldier of the Iranian revolutionary guard, Pasdaran, and flown to Damascus in a Syrian helicopter. Intelligence reports indicated he had been loaded on an Iran Air 727 and flown to Tehran. The brutal torture continued in the basement of the Iranian foreign ministry; several times Buckley was hospitalized. The last time, lie suffered three heart attacks and died.
Islamic Jihad bragged about having "executed" Buckley in retaliation for an Israeli air raid on the headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Tunis. They even circulated a grisly Polaroid photo of Buckley in a coffin. But the official story coming out of the White House and the CIA then was that Buckley was still alive and that the negotiations for his release were ongoing.
We wrote a column announcing Buckley's death and sent it out for publication on December 12, 1985. When the column was printed in the Washington Post, their reporter covering the Buckley story, the capable Watergate veteran Bob Woodward, told his editors it wasn't true. Clearly Woodward had excellent sources, but if they were telling him that Buckley was still alive, then they were either dreaming, or they were lying while they scrambled to do damage control for the secrets that Buckley had divulged under torture. We later learned that Buckley's revelations filled four hundred pages recorded by his captors. The transcript became hot property for the Iranians. Palestinian terrorist George Habash tried several times to buy it or trade weapons for it.
The Post at first refused to run our follow-up columns on Buckley. Each time, when we would call the editors and argue the veracity of our sources, the editors would side with Woodward. Finally, we cut a deal with the Post that whenever we mentioned Buckley in a column, it would be written in such a way that they could take out that reference and the rest of the information would still stand up. That worked until we wrote a column summarizing the number of American hostages killed by Iranian agents, with details on each case. When the Post took out the reference to Buckley, the numbers didn't add up, and readers called to complain about my math.
The Post finally capitulated, in a roundabout way. On November 25, 1986, as the Iran-Contra scandal was unfolding nearly a year after we had reported Buckley's fate, Woodward wrote a front-page story announcing Buckley's death by torture. The story made no mention of the fact that we had been reporting that information for a year.
Profile: William Francis Buckley
Lt. Col. William Buckley. [Source: Arlington Cemetery (.net)] William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, is kidnapped by militants who claim to be part of a mysterious organization they call Islamic Jihad. Buckley will die in June 1985, after 15 months of captivity, neglect, and torture. The CIA will not acknowledge his death until 1987. His body will not be returned to the US until December 1991. Buckley’s captivity, and that of at least five other American hostages, will be cited as one of the precipitating factors in the Iran-Contra arms deals. [PBS, 2000 Arlington Cemetery (.net), 4/23/2006] (Note: Some sources cite the date of his capture as March 16, not March 3.) [New York Times, 11/19/1987] It remains unclear exactly who Buckley’s captors are. This “Islamic Jihad” organization is not the same group as is later led by Sunni militant Ayman al-Zawahiri, nor is it the Palestinian organization of the same name. In the 2001 book Sacred Rage, author Robin B. Wright notes that a group spokesman claims, “We are neither Iranians, Syrians nor Palestinians, but Muslims who follow the precepts of the Koran.” Wright calls the organization “a mysterious group about which nothing was known” except for its “pro-Iranian” ideology, probably “more of an information network for a variety of cells or movements rather than a cohesive or structured independent group of extremists.” [Wright, 2001, pp. 73, 85] New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg later writes that he believes the organization is either a precursor to the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah or a more violent adjunct to that organization. [New Yorker, 10/14/2002]
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William F. Buckley: Cowardly, Dishonest, Unjust, Racist, and Loved by Conservatives
Because today marks the 10th anniversary of William F. Buckley’s death, conservatives will spend the week pretending that he was a man of principle, civility, dignity.
William F. Buckley was cowardly, dishonest, unjust, and racist.
Set aside the trivia that he occasionally challenged communists. So do fascists, theocrats, and anarchists. Saying “down with communism” is not what matters in the moral-political sphere. What matters is being able and willing to defend freedom and capitalism on solid moral and philosophic ground.
Who showed the world how to do that? Ayn Rand did.
How did Buckley treat Rand—the one philosopher in all of history who identified the objective moral foundation for individual rights? He treated her horribly. He misrepresented her ideas, mocked the straw men he fabricated, and made this the MO of his magazine, National Review. 1
Why? Because Rand required evidence in support of the ideas she accepted as true consequently, she was an atheist. And Buckley couldn’t countenance an atheist—no matter her virtues—because his parents, priests, and fraternity brothers would disapprove. 2
Among other acts of injustice against Rand, in National Review, which he edited from 1955 to 1990, Buckley published a patently dishonest “review” of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. As I wrote in “How Conservatives Begat Trump,” this “review” was penned by ex-communist Whittaker Chambers.
The reason for the scare quotes around the word review in the previous sentence is that it was not a review but a lie. A big lie. Indeed, it was and remains an unsurpassed (although often aspired to) model of intellectual dishonesty, injustice, malice.
The screed claimed, among myriad additional lies, that “From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber—go!’”
To those who have read Atlas, that one claim is sufficient to convey the jaw-dropping depths of dishonesty involved in the so-called review. For those who haven’t read Atlas, I’ll indicate briefly, without spoiling the plot of the novel, how obscenely dishonest this claim and the entire review it represents are.
Atlas is a story about the role of reason in human life—about the fact that the individual’s reasoning mind is his only means of knowledge and his basic means of living—about the principle that each individual is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others—and about the principle that being moral consists in using one’s mind to pursue one’s life-serving values while respecting the rights of others to do the same.
Among the countless ways in which these ideas are vividly depicted and illustrated in Rand’s thousand-page novel, the heroes of Atlas take an oath, which they all uphold unwaveringly: “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
As part of their commitment to living by this oath, the heroes call for a government that does one thing and one thing only: protects the rights of all individuals by banning physical force and fraud from social relationships so that everyone can act on his own judgment, produce goods and services, trade them with others by mutual consent to mutual advantage, and flourish in a land of liberty.
Also as part of their commitment to living by the principle that no one should ever sacrifice or be sacrificed for anyone, the heroes in Atlas, time and again, refuse to cooperate with government officials or unscrupulous businessmen who seek to violate anyone’s rights for any reason in any way whatsoever.
From this book, the reviewer for National Review heard a voice commanding: “To a gas chamber—go”?
He did not. He lied.
He lied to discredit Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. He lied to stop people from reading her work or taking her ideas seriously. And William F. Buckley and the editorial staff at National Review not only published this big lie and stood by it in 1957 they also have republished it repeatedly since then, most recently just a few years ago.
Following this initial conservative big lie about Rand’s ideas, similarly malicious treatments of Rand and her philosophy became the modus operandi of the leaders of the conservative movement. To this day, with few exceptions (Ted Cruz being one), if conservative leaders don’t ignore Rand’s ideas (as Dennis Prager, Jay Cost, and Matt Walsh do), they misrepresent her ideas (as Daniel Flynn, Roger Scruton, Anthony Daniels, Andrew Klavan, Bill Whittle, and countless others do).
With their commitment to ignoring or maligning Rand and her philosophy of rational egoism, individual rights, and laissez-faire capitalism, leaders of the conservative movement have decisively severed themselves and their movement from any affiliation with the one philosophy that could support freedom, capitalism, and the American republic. 3
Unfortunately, that was not the only manifestation of Buckley’s dishonesty and injustice. Among other consequences of these vices, Buckley was a racist.
In his editorial “Why the South Must Prevail” (National Review, August 24, 1957), Buckley argued for coercive, governmental segregation of blacks and whites in the South. As he put it:
The central question that emerges—and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born Equal—is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? [sic] The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. . . .
National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence. 4
So, in the same year that Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged—a hymn to individualism and individual rights—William F. Buckley published a collectivist screed claiming that whites are “the advanced race” and contemplating when it is “worth” using violence to keep blacks in their place.
Remembering William F. Buckley, Jr.
Two years after the death of the man whom one of his biographers, John Judis, dubbed the patron saint of modern conservatism, Encounter Books brought out a splendidly packaged omnibus volume of his columns and essays, entitled Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations (2010). On the cover, William Francis Buckley stands at the helm of a sailing vessel, an American flag flying high behind him, his hair tousled in a stiff wind, and a pair of sunglasses perched jauntily on his prominent nose. His smile can only be described as ebullient, not unlike the smile that we have seen in dozens of photographs of Buckley.
The photograph brilliantly captures the sheer magnetism of the man who stood at the helm of the National Review for 35 years&mdashthe magazine which he founded and which was the flagship publication of the American conservative movement. In the photograph, Buckley appears to be well into his 40s, so the vessel is very likely the Cyrano, a 40&rsquo ketch upon which he made more than one transatlantic crossing. The name is suggestive. It alludes to Edmond Rostand&rsquos 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, a title taken eponymously from its hero, a multitalented nobleman and soldier who is celebrated for his charm, his wit, and his proboscis.
The choice says a lot about Buckley it is at once a piece of braggadocio and yet a self-deprecating wink. This combination of qualities had long been a part of Buckley&rsquos charm, dating at least from his college days at Yale, where he was legendary for his arrogance, but well-liked because he was always ready to laugh at himself.
Buckley&rsquos personal charisma had a great deal to do with his ability to unify a majority of American conservatives of varying stripes around the principles of his movement. Moreover, he had been possessed since childhood of an iron will to succeed at everything he tried and he had the intelligence and good sense to do so at a very high level. Much of this drive was the legacy of his father and namesake, Will Buckley, a self-made man who made a fortune in the Mexican oil business in the first two decades of the 20th century, and whose influence over his 10 children was enormous.
Buckley pater, born in Texas, was of Irish-Catholic descent, deeply religious yet an extreme individualist in the American grain. Politically, he was an isolationist, a vocal opponent of the New Deal, a virulent anti-communist, and an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism. Yet he thought of himself not as a conservative but as a &ldquocounter-revolutionary.&rdquo The Buckley children largely adopted their father&rsquos views, though none so ardently as his favorite son, Bill, whose legendary debating skills were first honed in the Buckley household and were brought to perfection at Yale. There his campus-wide acclaim was achieved in part because of his brilliant verbal acuity, but also because of his controversial pen, which he wielded as editor of the Yale Daily News. Even then, when one might have expected him to escape the shadow of his father, his politics remained in most respects identical.
This identification with his father was evident not only in his student productions but in his early books and articles. In McCarthy and His Enemies (1954), he and his co-author, L. Brent Bozell, adopted a position defending McCarthy that departed very little from what his father might have argued. However, Buckley, Jr. brought to the subject a sensitivity to McCarthy&rsquos excesses and the vulgarity of the senator&rsquos personal style that reflects a more polished sensibility.
For the most part, during the late &rsquo40s and early &rsquo50s, Buckley&rsquos work remained sympathetic toward the Old Right, and vociferously libertarian regarding the intervention of the central state in the economy, as well as decentralist on states&rsquo rights. Indeed, Albert J. Nock&rsquos Our Enemy, the State (1935) had been a staple in the Buckley household, and young William remained an admirer, if not always a disciple, of Nock&rsquos anti-statism all his life.
The founding of National Review in 1955 was, of course, Buckley&rsquos central achievement. From the outset the magazine&rsquos agenda signaled, at least implicitly, a break with the Old Right, at least on the issue of the Cold War communist threat. One indication of this break was Buckley&rsquos association with Willi Schlamm, an ex-communist immigrant from Austria who, after fleeing the Nazis, worked for Henry Luce at Time, Inc., rising to the level of chief foreign policy advisor.
An admirer of McCarthy and His Enemies, Schlamm was eager to start a new magazine. Both men believed that an uncompromising anti-communism should be at the forefront of the brand of conservatism they hoped to promote. Domestic politics held no interest for Schlamm, and he was openly hostile toward the Old Right&rsquos opposition to an expansionist foreign policy.
The Old Right, represented by figures such as Sen. Robert A. Taft, H. L. Mencken, and Albert Nock, as well as writers associated with the Southern Agrarians and a handful of right-leaning libertarians, had been the dominant conservative force in America since the 1920s. However, it was never a well-organized, nationwide movement with a unified agenda. While Buckley in his early years certainly aligned himself with the Old Right&rsquos opposition to the New Deal, he had little interest in what he called their &ldquoisolationism,&rdquo or their regionalist concerns. According to Judis, &ldquo[Buckley] didn&rsquot see himself defending the verities of small-town America, but rather arresting the assault of Soviet communism.&rdquo
What is indisputable is that Buckley was adept at surrounding himself with brilliant writers and editors. Many of them had the kind of intellectual pedigrees that would demand the attention of the Northeastern intelligentsia, who tended to associate conservatism with Chamber of Commerce business ethics and small-minded bigotry. In part to counter this perception, Buckley brought on board Catholics (like his brother-in-law and Yale debating partner, Bozell), Jews, and ex-communists. Among these were Will Herberg, Whittaker Chambers, and James Burnham.
Herberg, a Russian Jewish immigrant, had joined the Communist Party in 1920, then gravitated toward a &ldquodemocratic socialist&rdquo position. By the early 1950s, he found himself increasingly aligned with conservative positions: anti-communism, anti-liberalism, and anti-secularism. Chambers, who became a senior editor for Buckley, was not only an ex-communist, but a part of the Soviet espionage &ldquounderground&rdquo in the 1930s. His bestselling book Witness (1952) was published in the aftermath of his widely publicized testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which identified a number of highly placed American officials as Soviet agents, including Alger Hiss at the State Department. Chambers&rsquo skills as a writer and his unyielding courage against the domestic threat of communism made him a valuable asset in Buckley&rsquos inner circle. Burnham, an ex-Trotskyite and OSS operative, would become, by Buckley&rsquos own assessment at the time of Burnham&rsquos retirement in 1978, the preeminent intellectual and ideological influence at National Review.
If I have given special emphasis to the communist backgrounds of Buckley&rsquos inner circle, it is because their almost single-minded devotion to the anti-communist cause during the Cold War drove them, and Buckley himself, to a position in tension with their avowed antipathy toward the growth of centralized government. Buckley had hoped from the beginning to build his new conservatism around a &ldquofusionist&rdquo balancing, as enunciated by political philosopher Frank Meyer, of various strands of American conservative thought. These included the Old Right&rsquos opposition to the expansion of the central state that had begun with the New Deal the libertarian support for laissez-faire capitalism and anti-communism.
Of course, all of those strands were in some sense anti-communist, but the Old Right and the libertarians, like Murray Rothbard, were adamantly opposed to an international crusade against the Soviets which would inevitably require an enormous enlargement of what Eisenhower would later call the &ldquomilitary-industrial complex.&rdquo Early on, Rothbard attacked National Review for its support of &ldquooverseas adventurism and empire building,&rdquo echoing the criticism of the Old Right novelist Louis Bromfield, who in 1954 accused anti-communist interventionists of seeking to extend the old &ldquocolonial system.&rdquo
There is no evidence that Buckley himself dreamed of a new imperialist system, even if it is true that the anti-communist ideology he promoted helped to justify the construction of an American empire, one founded upon the evangelical conviction that the Soviet menace was an unadulterated evil that had to be defeated at all costs.
In fact, Buckley&rsquos willingness to abandon his commitment to the Old Right ideals of his father proved even more disturbing than Rothbard imagined. In a 1952 essay published in the magazine Commonweal, &ldquoThe Party and the Deep Blue Sea,&rdquo Buckley was strikingly candid about the nature of the compromise he was prepared to make. He asserted that the critical issue was survival, a reality which many conservatives were unprepared to face. The &ldquoinvincible aggressiveness&rdquo of the Soviet Union, he argued, would require a rearrangement of American &ldquobattle plans.&rdquo In short, &ldquowe have got to accept Big Government for the duration&mdashfor neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged&hellipexcept through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.&rdquo
Buckley provided no indication of what the &ldquoduration&rdquo of this totalitarian response to a totalitarian threat might be. But he added that once the Cold War was won, conservatives would have to take up the task of securing a second victory against an &ldquoindigenous bureaucracy,&rdquo though the chances of winning such a victory would be &ldquofar greater than they could ever be against one controlled from abroad, one that would be nourished and protected by a world-wide Communist monolith.&rdquo
He repeated much the same argument late in 1954 in The Freeman, and his position throughout the Cold War tended toward a policy of aggressive &ldquoliberation&rdquo of Soviet satellite states rather than the more cautious policy of containment. In Buckley&rsquos view, either strategy would require much the same bureaucratic expansion, &ldquofor to beat the Soviet Union we must, to an extent, imitate the Soviet Union.&rdquo That vague qualification (&ldquoto an extent&rdquo) begs a host of troubling questions.
While there was no shortage of Old Right criticism of this willingness to sup with the Devil, the most troubling warning came from across the Atlantic. George Orwell, in one of his last published articles before his death in 1950, restated an argument that had already been effectively spelled out in his novel 1984. The gravest danger posed by the rise of the modern super-states was that, whatever their outward ideological differences, they tended increasingly to resemble one another. Their bellicose propaganda was largely a manufactured attempt to consolidate power, while robbing their citizens of civil liberties.
Much of 1984, as Orwell never attempted to disguise, is based on the arguments of James Burnham&rsquos The Managerial Revolution (1941). In this highly controversial work, and the book which followed, The Machiavellians (1943), Burnham revealed a theory of political power founded upon the idea of the inevitable rule of elites. While still a Trotskyite, Burnham, according to J.P. Diggins, had begun to view the modern state as neither solely a &ldquoreflection&rdquo of capitalist class interests nor as a &ldquorepresentation&rdquo of democratic majorities, but rather &ldquoan increasingly autonomous structural entity without exact precedent or analogy in the past.&rdquo
In the modern era. Burnham saw emerging a &ldquonew class&rdquo of bureaucratic experts, economic managers, scientists, commissars, and so on&mdasha &ldquomanagerial&rdquo class which was, in its essence, totalitarian. Orwell agreed with Burnham that managerialism was indeed the main trend of 20th-century politics, not only in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but in New Deal America, as well. Yet he objected to Burnham&rsquos technological determinism and was disturbed by his barely concealed admiration, especially in The Machiavellians, for the vigor and ruthless use of power by these new technocrats.
Orwell&rsquos perspective raises pertinent questions. To what extent was Buckley swayed by Burnham&rsquos power politics? Did he view the struggle against the Soviets within the same Machiavellian framework? That Burnham became, with Buckley&rsquos blessing, the mouthpiece for foreign policy at the National Review suggests that to some extent their views were yoked.
In his Struggle for the World (1947), Burnham had argued for the establishment of an &ldquoAmerican empire&rdquo intended to secure &ldquodecisive world control.&rdquo Under the flag of &ldquodemocratic world order,&rdquo America would become a global hegemon, a &ldquounifying power.&rdquo For more than two decades, Burnham pushed the same ideas in his National Review column, though not always so explicitly.
Aside from his earlier articles on the need for a temporary totalitarian regime to meet the Soviet threat, Buckley himself was usually more restrained than Burnham. Yet he was constantly at odds with the State Department and a succession of presidents over their lukewarm prosecution of the Cold War. There was too much appeasement and not enough aggression toward the Soviet menace, Buckley thought. Nor did Buckley, as far as I am aware, ever express serious concern over the growing power of what has been termed the National Security State, or even more colloquially, the Deep State.
Burnham and Buckley backed the war in Vietnam but complained when it was not prosecuted forcefully enough. Burnham went as far as to call for chemical weapons strikes against North Vietnam. Yet he also lamented during the same period, as in his 1959 book Congress and the American Tradition, the growth of Caesarism, or what today we might call the &ldquoimperial presidency.&rdquo
Not the first to notice the seeming contradiction, Burnham&rsquos biographer Daniel Kelly asks, &ldquoHow did he think the need to wage the Cold War&hellipcould be reconciled with the need to stem the growth of Caesarism, a phenomenon he attributed partly to twentieth-century wars, both hot and cold?&rdquo The same question could be asked about Buckley.
With the passage of time, National Review became firmly established as the voice of the conservative movement, though the movement remained largely outside the Beltway corridors of power. The defeat of Goldwater, whom Buckley had supported, was a blow, but the movement remained unified in the years leading up to the election of Ronald Reagan.
Unified, but not without a series of purges of those groups and individuals whom Buckley regarded as outside the pale. The John Birch Society was labeled anathema early on for the alleged anti-Semitism and conspiracy-ridden views of its leadership. Also proscribed were Ayn Rand and her ephebes, not because they were libertarians but because of their Nietzschean atheism.
Both of these purges were, in my view, justified. However, the early purging of &ldquoisolationist&rdquo libertarians must be considered lamentable. In addition, in the &rsquo70s and &rsquo80s fewer and fewer writers that were identifiably traditionalist or libertarian appeared in the magazine. As a number of observers have noted, Buckley drifted gradually into the neoconservative ambit, both politically and socially.
A few solidly paleoconservative writers remained on the editorial staff, including Chilton Williamson, Jr., who left in 1989 to join Chronicles. Also Joe Sobran served as a National Review senior editor for more than 20 years. Sobran was fired in 1992 after charges were leveled at him by Midge Decter and her husband Norman Podhoretz, editor at Commentary. The crux of the matter was that Sobran&rsquos columns criticizing the &ldquoIsraeli lobby&rdquo were deemed by Podhoretz and Decter&mdashhypersensitive to perceived anti-Semetism as they were&mdashto be scurrilous. In Decter&rsquos words, Sobran himself was &ldquolittle more than a crude and naked anti-Semite.&rdquo
Certainly Sobran had been quite critical of the Israelis, but anti-Semitic? Buckley thought not, and, to his credit, defended Sobran both publicly and privately, while at the same time writing in a private letter to Decter, &ldquoWhat Joe needs to know is that certain immunities properly attach to pro-Israeli sentiment for historical reasons.&rdquo In short, you are allowed to criticize Israel only if and when your pro-Israeli sentiments have been satisfactorily rubber-stamped by certain self-appointed gatekeepers. This had been, in fact, Podhoretz&rsquos argument some years earlier in his much-debated polemic &ldquoJ&rsquoAccuse&rdquo (1982) published in Commentary. But Sobran refused to accept such admonitions, hence his departure from National Review.
The culmination of Buckley&rsquos success was to orchestrate the movement that led to the election of Reagan in 1980. The great irony is that in the process, he had to leave behind the &ldquocounter-revolutionary&rdquo that he had imagined himself to be in 1955, to become a pillar of the establishment. His relationship with Reagan thrived for some 30 years, and he was a major factor in the Great Communicator&rsquos ascendancy. A gratified Reagan offered him a post as ambassador to Afghanistan (still at that time under Soviet occupation). Presumably, this was an instance of presidential humor, but is also an indication of the esteem in which he held Buckley, who remained an unofficial advisor throughout the Reagan era.
It is not my intention to besmirch Reagan&rsquos ascendancy as a marker of Buckley&rsquos accomplishment. America did move significantly toward conservatism in those years, and for the first time in decades liberalism was driven into a defensive mode.
There is no doubt that Buckley enjoyed being at the center of power, which is not in itself a crime. Yet, to place things in perspective, the Reagan years also marked the rising tide of the neoconservative occupation of Washington, and, as noted, it seems that Buckley had chosen to cast his anchor on the neocon side of the good ship conservatism. To be fair, he continued at times to criticize the liberal tendencies of the neoconservatives on social issues, on the welfare state, and more.
But perhaps the best indication of how far he had traveled from the traditionalist Old Right was his involvement in the move to block the appointment of Mel Bradford to head the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1981. The story is complex, but as Mark Gerson tells it in his The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to the Culture Wars (1996), prominent neoconservatives Irving Kristol and Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation felt that Bradford&rsquos earlier support of the presidential campaigns of George Wallace and, more importantly, his repeated attacks on Abraham Lincoln&rsquos contribution to the &ldquodecline of the West,&rdquo would embarrass Reagan.
Kristol and Feulner pushed William Bennett&mdashat that time a registered Democrat but a neocon ally&mdashas an alternative candidate. Buckley, having had a long association with Bradford, was torn at first, but in the end he joined the neocons to convince Reagan to appoint Bennett. As Feulner wrote later, &ldquoIt was a coalescing of the different parts of the movement&hellipthat showed that we could in fact work together, that we had common views.&rdquo
Further evidence of Buckley&rsquos drift from the traditionalist right is evident in a collection of essays entitled American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century (1970), which he is credited with editing. While the essays selected for the volume are respectable enough, and do include a piece by Russell Kirk, Southern writers are conspicuous by their absence. It includes nothing by any of the Agrarians nothing by Richard Weaver or Mel Bradford. What lay behind these omissions?
Perhaps it had something to do with the kind of Lockean individualism Buckley had always promoted, in contrast to the Southern advocacy of what Richard Weaver called &ldquosocial bond&rdquo individualism, which places the individual firmly within the context of his ties to local and historical communities which, in the Southern view, were the only real bulwark against the power of the state. Perhaps it was this philosophical commitment to an essentialist, abstract individualism that led Buckley, in the end, to accept the notion that America is, in essence, a &ldquoproposition nation&rdquo in the Lincolnian sense.
Thus, just months before his death, Buckley wrote in a short piece for The Atlantic:
I would doubt any claim that the American idea is finally validated by historical and human experience. It is, for men and women of my perspective, judged to be secure in warranting perpetual loyalties. But ours are loyalties to an ideal, not to a revelation, and this must have been the reason, even if he was not conscious of it, why Lincoln referred to the American &lsquoproposition.&rsquo
It seems that Buckley&rsquos counter-revolution ended, not with a bang but with an egalitarian whimper.
The Inside Story of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Crusade against the John Birch Society
National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.
Editor’s Note: The following is Part Two of an excerpt from Alvin S. Felzenberg’s new book, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr. It is reprinted here with permission. Part One can be found here.
O f all the crusades William F. Buckley took on in his half century on the national political stage, none did more to cement his reputation as a gatekeeper of the conservative movement — or consumed more of his time — than that which he launched against the John Birch Society, an organization Robert Welch founded in 1958 and used as his personal vehicle to influence public policy. In 1961, Buckley complained to a supporter of both National Review and the JBS, “I have had more discussions about the John Birch Society in the past year than I have about the existence of God or the financial difficulties of National Review.”
Born in 1899 in North Carolina, Welch was admitted to the University of North Carolina at the age of twelve, graduated at sixteen, and attended both the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard Law School, but graduated from neither. He became a chocolate salesman and introduced such items as Sugar Daddies (caramel lollipops), Junior Mints, and Pom Poms. Later, he served as vice president of his brother’s candy manufacturing company. He ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1950 and, like Buckley, supported Robert Taft’s campaign for president and Joseph McCarthy’s investigation of Communist infiltration of the government. In the mid-1950s, Welch served as a Director and regional Vice President of the National Association of Manufacturers until he retired in 1956 to concentrate exclusively on politics.
Buckley and Welch met in 1952. Their mutual publisher, Henry Regnery, introduced them and they maintained cordial relations throughout the 1950s. Despite their difference in age, they appeared, at first, to have much in common. Both were men of means. Each demonstrated strong organizational and communication skills. Each edited a political journal. Welch titled his One Man’s Opinion when he launched it in 1956. He changed its name to American Opinion after he founded the John Birch Society two years later. Buckley and Welch made it a point to support each other’s enterprises. In a note accompanying his second $1,000 contribution to National Review, Welch made a passing reference to President Eisenhower not being on the “same side” of the ideological divide as were he and Buckley. Buckley let the comment pass. Welch voiced doubts about Eisenhower’s loyalties again a year later. In a letter to Buckley, he spoke of “conscious treason in propelling our ship of state down its present dangerous course.” Welch informed Buckley of a new organization he had started. This was the John Birch Society. Buckley offered to provide a “little publicity” for it, presumably in National Review.
While both Buckley and Welch lamented the military and diplomatic setbacks that befell the United States in the early years of the Cold War, they disagreed as to the causes. Buckley attributed policy outcomes such as the stalemate in Korea, Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons, the Communists’ victory in China’s civil war, and the success of Fidel Castro’s Communist revolution in Cuba to misguided policies and lack of resolve among Western leaders. Welch considered them the result of Soviet penetration into the highest echelons of the U.S. government. In 1961, he estimated that 50 to 70 percent of the United States was “communist controlled.” Increasingly, Welch advised Buckley that he neither liked nor appreciated Buckley occasionally disagreeing with him on certain matters.
They had different takes on the impact Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago would have. Buckley thought it would set back the Communist cause. Welch thought it to be a piece of Soviet propaganda. Welch took it upon himself to advise Buckley that Henry Kissinger, a young Harvard academician whom Buckley had proposed be named to the board that would assess the effectiveness of Radio Free Europe, was a Communist. He also passed along what he said was the opinion of “a growing number of people on the right” that National Review had succumbed to “modulation.” For emphasis, Welch added that such criticism had not emanated exclusively from the “lunatic fringe.”
L ate in 1958, Welch called a two-day meeting of prominent business leaders in Indianapolis during which he outlined the extent of Communist penetration in the United States. Three former heads of the National Association of Manufacturers attended. This was the first meeting of what became the John Birch Society. Welch named the group in honor of a young missionary who was killed by Chinese Communist forces in the waning days of World War II. He set as its mission countering Communist influence throughout the United States. In November 1958, Welch sent Buckley and several others a typed copy of “The Politician,” a manuscript he had written. He had numbered each copy and asked that recipients return it to him after they had read it. The work’s most startling conclusion was that Soviet penetration of the United States extended deep into the White House and that one of the USSR’s principal agents was none other than the president of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower, he concluded, was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”
He also identified as Communists who took their orders from Moscow Eisenhower’s brother Milton, then president of Johns Hopkins University his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles Dulles’s brother, Allen, then director of Central Intelligence and former secretary of state George Marshall, among others. In a note Buckley sent Welch along with the returned manuscript, he said that he found the charges against Eisenhower “curiously — almost pathetically optimistic.” If Communist infiltration of the American government was as extensive as Welch claimed, Buckley argued, changing presidents would not relieve the situation. Nor would political organizing. “Reaching for rifles” might be a better approach, Buckley argued.
In time, Buckley would say that Welch inferred “subjective intention from objective consequences” — because things went badly for the United States, policy makers must have intended those results and worked to achieve them because China fell to the Communists, by Welch’s lights, those heading the U.S. government must have planned that outcome. Buckley’s comments about the manuscript upset Welch. The JBS founder protested he had sent the manuscript to many people and that only Buckley “completely disagreed” with its hypotheses. However, Goldwater voiced identical objections. “If you were smart,” he wrote Welch, “you would burn every copy you have.” Years later, Buckley wrote that the “mischievous unreality” of Welch’s charges “placed a great weight on the back of responsible conservatives.”
Welch decreed that the John Birch Society would be autocratic in its governance. Any other organizational method, he insisted, would leave the society open to “infiltration, distortion and disruption.” He proclaimed the very word democracy a “deceptive phrase, a weapon of demagoguery, and a perennial fraud.” The JBS would consist of clusters of chapters, each with about 20 carefully screened members. He set a goal of building a million-member force. Estimates of how many people actually became Birchers range from 20,000 to 100,000.
Of the various projects the JBS took on, its campaign to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren drew the most attention from the mainstream media.
Welch had JBS run “stealth” campaigns to win seats on local government bodies, where it would work to counter “communist domination.” Its members paid close attention to book acquisitions by local libraries and pressed for the banning of certain titles. They organized boycotts of stores that carried goods imported from Communist countries. A merchant who stocked such items could find that Birchers had placed cards on counters and shelves bearing the words “Always buy your communist goods at ——,” with the name of the store written in the blank space. Birchers pressed local governments to impose heavy taxes, fees, or regulations on such merchants.
Of the various projects the JBS took on, its campaign to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren drew the most attention from the mainstream media. Welch pointed to a litany of actions the Supreme Court had taken under Warren’s leadership that facilitated a Communist takeover of the United States: its striking down loyalty oaths its extension of First Amendment protections to Communists its ban of school prayer in public schools its imposition of the “one man, one vote” principle in legislative apportionment and, above all, its overturning of the “separate but equal” doctrine, which put the nation on a path to desegregation. Welch turned his disagreement with the Warren Court and its decisions into a national crusade.
National Review had editorialized against all the Supreme Court decisions to which Welch objected. It favored reversing them through congressional action, appointment of rightward-leaning Justices, and, where necessary, constitutional amendment. As a result of Buckley’s opposition to the “impeach Earl Warren” campaign, National Review received numerous complaints by mail, many of them Birch generated. His sister Jane Buckley Smith, who had joined National Review’s staff, patiently explained to those writing in that a jurist’s written opinions, however inflammatory, did not constitute “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional standard for impeachment. Buckley argued in print that Warren rose in public esteem in direct relation to the intensity of Welch’s efforts against the Chief Justice. In a tongue-in-cheek parody of Welch’s logic, Buckley suggested that the effort to remove Warren had failed because a Communist plot to discredit those opposed to Warren had succeeded.
A s the John Birch Society increased its influence, especially within conservative circles, Buckley tried to remain in Welch’s good graces. His reasons were simple: National Review and JBS had many common subscribers, donors, and writers. At first, Buckley tried to differentiate between Welch and those who had joined his organization, attempting to make common cause with the latter while ignoring their leader. That strategy worked for a time, until Welch’s characterizations of Eisenhower became widely known. Once they began to appear regularly in the mainstream media, Buckley and others found it difficult to draw distinctions in the public mind between the JBS founder and his organization. In the fall of 1960, Buckley wrote Welch to inform him of a telephone conversation Buckley had had with Cap Breezley, a donor to National Review and a member of the JBS. Breezley had complained that Buckley was speaking ill of the JBS. Buckley related to Welch that he had informed Breezley that he had not spoken ill of the JBS, but he had criticized Welch. He had also taken that occasion to let Breezley know that he approved of actor Adolphe Menjou’s decision to resign from the JBS once Menjou learned that Welch had proclaimed Eisenhower a Communist.
When Breezley made mention of the financial support he had given National Review, Buckley replied that National Review was “not for sale.” He refused Breezley’s demand that he forge a “common front” with the JBS and refrain from criticizing people in the conservative movement he considered irresponsible. In response to Buckley’s summary of the exchange he had had with Breezley, Welch wrote Buckley that he considered the differences between them minuscule. By now, Buckley had learned to be wary of such reassurances.
Increasingly, it was becoming apparent to Buckley and his intimates that he could neither publicly maintain that he and Welch were comrades in arms nor successfully distinguish between Welch and the JBS in the public mind. In a memorandum to Buckley, a National Review staffer suggested that Eisenhower and several of his friends were determined to make Welch pay a price for slandering the former president. The employee told Buckley that Eisenhower was contacting friends of his in the media (people like William S. Paley, president of CBS News and Henry Luce, publisher of Time) and voiced concern that National Review might become a casualty in the upcoming crossfire. As the staffer had anticipated, once Welch’s assertions about Eisenhower began to circulate, reporters began to take an interest in the JBS’s more prominent supporters and members. It would only be a matter of time, Buckley’s associate warned him, until they learned that several persons associated and affiliated with National Review also maintained ties to the JBS.
Among those who did were E. Merrill Root, J. B. Matthews, and Medford Evans (all of whom were on the magazine’s masthead), Clarence Manion, Spruille Braden, and Mrs. Seth Milliken. Buckley’s aide urged him to speak out against the JBS, lest he and National Review be harmed in an “atmosphere of smear.” In a heated meeting, Buckley and his editors debated how they might handle what promised to be a major problem. Neil McCaffrey and Bill Rusher urged that the magazine stay silent, fearful that a strong stand against Welch and his organization would put National Review in jeopardy. McCaffrey recanted but remained anxious. “Permit me to retreat on Birch — lest the magazine perish. . . . We can’t afford to jeopardize the grudging status we’ve earned in the Liberal community, nor renounce our role of tablet-keeper, but the Liberals aren’t going to bail us out of debtor’s prison.” Rusher, worried about losses in readers and revenues, recommended founding a grassroots conservative organization that would act as a counterweight to what Welch was attempting through the JBS.
As rumors began to spread that National Review might issue a statement about Welch or the JBS, donors began to remind Buckley of their past contributions to his enterprise. Mail poured into his office — again, much of it Bircher induced — advising Buckley to refrain from criticizing Welch. Fellow columnist James J. Kilpatrick, who had criticized the organization, warned Buckley of what lay in store for him: “As you know, these idiots set off on a harebrained campaign to impeach Earl Warren. The word got back to Welch that I thought the idea preposterous, whereupon he commanded all his faithful members to write Mr. Kilpatrick a letter. By God, they all did. The first 20 or 30 I answered with individual letters. The next 100 we answered with a mimeographed reply. The next 400, we filed. I am not even sure my Girl Friday is opening the damned things now. This has been the most incredibly disciplined pressure group ever to come my way, and we are frankly a little stunned by it.”
A sequence of unraveling events persuaded Buckley that he needed to act. The Kennedy administration was upping its attacks upon right-wing “extremism” in general and the JBS in particular. California governor Pat Brown instructed his attorney general to investigate John Birch Society activities in the state. The Los Angeles Times published a two-page letter from Richard Nixon decrying Welch’s opinions and tactics. The California state Senate scheduled hearings. Senator Jacob Javits (R., N.Y.) and Representative Henry Reuss (D., Wis.) pressed for congressional investigations. Senators Tom Kuchel (R., Calif.) and Thomas Dodd (D., Conn.), the latter a friend of Buckley’s, denounced the JBS on the Senate floor. Attorney General Robert Kennedy called the JBS’s activities a “matter of concern” to the Justice Department.
While he disapproved of Welch and his antics, Goldwater was hesitant to denounce the JBS. He did his presidential prospects no favors when he called its members the “type of people we need in politics” and proclaimed the Birchers were some of the “finest people” in his community. Sensing a liberal campaign to present all conservatives as indistinguishable from Birchers, Buckley swung into action. He wrote Goldwater in March 1961 that “Bob Welch” was “nuts on the Eisenhower-Dulles business” and said that Welch would do their common cause “much damage.”
Sensing a liberal campaign to present all conservatives as indistinguishable from Birchers, Buckley swung into action.
A month later, Buckley ran the first of what would be several editorials on this subject. Entitled “The Uproar,” it appeared at a time when Buckley still thought it possible to differentiate between Welch’s observations and those issued in the name of the JBS. With the intention of unifying most conservatives behind the stand he was about to take, Buckley began with a strong attack upon the Left. The John Birch Society was in the news, he said, because “liberals” and “the Communists” felt “threatened by revived [conservative] opposition” to their agenda. Given the widespread publicity the JBS was receiving, he noted with sarcasm that it could hardly operate in “secret,” as was commonly reported.
He then speculated on the intentions of the organization’s critics: “Certain elements of the press are opportunizing on the mistaken conclusions of Robert Welch to anathematize the entire American right wing. In professing themselves to be scandalized at the false imputation of pro-Communism to a few people, the critics do not hesitate to impute pro-fascism to a lot of people. In point of fact, the only thing many of these critics would like more than a conservative organization with vulnerabilities is a conservative organization without vulnerabilities.”
Having set the stage, Buckley repeated in public what he had privately said about the main failing in Welch’s logic: that he inferred “subjective intention” from “objective consequences.” He closed with the hope that the JBS would reject Welch’s trajectory and thrive. Buckley was aware that once he had criticized Welch in this way, his target might suggest that Buckley had gone over to the Left or that he, like Eisenhower, had secretly been a Communist all along. He also knew that some would take advantage of the split within conservative ranks to discredit the entire conservative movement. “I wish the hell I could attack them [the JBS] without pleasing people I cannot stand to please,” he mused in private.
Reaction to Buckley’s editorial was immediate and heated. To a Texan who wrote to cancel his subscription, Buckley answered: “Your letter deploring the stand of NR on the John Birch Society was written four days before NR took a stand on the John Birch Society, raising the question of whether you are a psychic, or merely credulous. Or maybe there is a Communist in our office who gives you bad information. We don’t want any communist dupes as readers of NR, thank you very much.” To another he wrote, “You are a very unreliable reporter. I did not call the John Birch Society ‘a bunch of fanatics,’ though from the tone of your letter I rather gather that you yourself are one.” He would make more broadsides against Welch in the months to come and, four years later, would drop the pretense that Welch and the JBS membership could truly be differentiated either in the public mind or in reality.
A s these internecine battles ensued within the conservative camp, Goldwater’s much-anticipated presidential campaign began to take shape. On October 18, 1961, 21 men, including National Review’s leading benefactor, Roger Milliken, and its publisher, William Rusher, convened in Chicago to lay plans. They became the nucleus of what became the Draft Goldwater movement. Goldwater, though he encouraged their efforts, had not yet committed to run. More than a year later, Rusher reported to Buckley that Goldwater believed Kennedy would defeat any Republican in 1964 and that the senator was worried that if he was nominated and defeated, his failed candidacy would set the conservative cause back. Nevertheless, he inched closer to running, fueled by a sense of loyalty to his supporters. Goldwater also relished the idea of debating Kennedy. He recalled in his memoirs that he had discussed with Kennedy the possibility of their touring the country together and exchanging views in a Lincoln-Douglas–style format.
F. Clifton White, Rusher’s former comrade in arms in the New York Young Republicans, began implementing the strategy Shadegg had devised the previous year. One of the challenges he faced was keeping John Birchers from infiltrating Goldwater’s campaign. “We’ve got super-patriots running through the woods like a collection of firebugs, and I keep running after them, like Smokey Bear, putting out fires. We just don’t need any more enemies,” one Goldwater campaign official complained. The candidate proved an unreliable ally to his managers who sought to keep the Birchers at bay. “Every other person in Phoenix” belonged to the John Birch Society, Goldwater wrote Buckley. They were hardly “cactus drunks,” he said, “but highly respected people.” Goldwater singled out as a case in point Phoenix businessman Frank Brophy, who helped finance The Conscience of a Conservative. Goldwater’s campaign manager, Denison Kitchel, like Menjou, had resigned from the JBS, but only after Welch’s comments about Eisenhower began to generate headlines.
Early in 1962, Goldwater convened a “summit” of key conservatives at the Breakers Hotel in Miami Beach to discuss how his campaign might handle the John Birch Society. In attendance were Buckley, Goldwater friend and General Motors publicist Jay Gordon Hall, Shadegg, William Baroody Sr. of the American Enterprise Institute, and author Russell Kirk. Buckley and Kirk suggested that conservatives simply “excommunicate” Welch from their movement. Buckley never tired of quoting Kirk’s response when the subject turned to Welch’s attack upon Eisenhower: “Eisenhower is not a communist he is a golfer.” Buckley offered to write an even tougher editorial about Welch, advising conservatives to shun the JBS until Welch came to his senses. After Kirk joked that Welch might be “put away,” Buckley suggested that Alaska was an appropriate venue, given that Welch had offered to send there anyone who doubted that the Communists were behind ongoing efforts to add fluoride to drinking water.
As Buckley prepared to take on Welch for the second time in print, Burnham and Buckley’s sister Priscilla were the only editors at National Review who favored such a move. “It is essential that we effect a clean break this time,” Buckley wrote Goldwater in a not-too-subtle note. He added that the John Birch Bulletin reported that Goldwater’s friend Frank Brophy had joined the JBS Council. “How’s that for a sense of timing!” Buckley also informed Welch of what he intended to do. “You will no doubt be hearing from around the country that I have been criticizing you and the John Birch Society. I want you to know that that is incorrect: I have been criticizing you, but not the Society. I am forced to criticize you because of your continued line (which as you know I believe defies reason) on the reaches of the Communist conspiracy within our own government. . . . We shall continue, then, to do much disagreeing about this and no doubt in vigorous language but I hope we can maintain a pleasant personal relationship. I am prepared to, if you are.”
‘It is essential that we effect a clean break this time,’ Buckley wrote Goldwater in a not-too-subtle note.
In a February 13, 1962, editorial headlined “The Question of Robert Welch,” Buckley noted that many prominent conservatives had begun to doubt Welch’s utility in the struggle against Communist domination. He questioned how the JBS could be effective when its leader held views so disparate from those of its members and “so far removed from common sense.” Buckley reported that Goldwater thought Welch should resign as leader of the JBS and that if he refused, the organization should dissolve and regroup under different leadership. Again, Buckley criticized Welch for failing to distinguish between an “active pro-Communist” and an “ineffectual anti-Communist Liberal.” Of Welch’s refusal to allow dissent within his organization, Buckley wrote, “He anathematizes all who disagree with him.” Buckley urged all who shared those goals to “reject, out of a love of truth and country,” Welch’s “false counsels.”
Before the issue went to press, Buckley tried to line up support from key conservatives, including a relatively new acquaintance he had made. “Dear Mr. Reagan,” Buckley began, “Well, we have battened down our hatches and it’s going to be hell. But as somebody said, the right thing remains the right thing to do. Would you let us have a short comment for publication in [National Review’s] next issue? I’d greatly appreciate it.” Reagan complied in the form of a letter to the editor in a subsequent issue.
Buckley’s second broadside against Welch had major consequences, both for him and for his magazine. James Lewis Kirby declined to seek reelection to the National Review’s board of directors and stopped his contributions. Buckley described a “wrenching conversation” with longtime benefactor and Birch member Roger Milliken, who nonetheless continued to support the magazine. Rusher reported that a “substantial fraction” of the magazine’s readership “bled away” over the rest of 1962 and into 1963. He attributed the disappointing results of National Review’s direct mail campaign to the preponderance of Welch loyalists on its mailing lists. Mail protesting the editorial was so voluminous that Buckley responded by form letter. “I have letters from some . . . which are the quintessence of intolerance, of a crudeness of spirit, of misanthropy,” he wrote in his column. To Burnham, he complained that there was “no stopping these bastards.”
On the upside, as he had anticipated, mainstream and liberal commentators praised Buckley for taking on Welch. James Reston termed Buckley’s editorial “brilliant.” The Washington Post, in its editorial praise of his stand, referred to Buckley as “a conservative Catholic who recently scolded the Pope for showing socialistic tendencies.” Time pronounced National Review a “surprising” new recruit to the ranks of the JBS’s critics and proclaimed it an “increasingly lively, literate journal.” Clearly, Buckley was having an impact beyond the confines of the conservative movement.
Still, Buckley tried to retain a façade of cordial relations with the man he had denounced. One can only imagine Welch’s reaction when he received this note from Buckley ten months later: “Three months have gone by since I read your bulletin. . . . I am very anxious to keep current on your thinking and the society’s activities, and would be grateful if you would look into this. If our subscription has expired, I should be only too happy to look to renew it.”
Picking up where he had left off in 1961 and 1962, and before the campaign was in full swing, in August 1965 Buckley extended his criticisms of Welch to include the John Birch Society as a whole. He wrote three columns denouncing the organization, which he republished in National Review prior to the election with supportive comments by other prominent conservatives, including Goldwater, Texas Senator John Tower, and retired Admiral William Radford. In the first of these columns, Buckley listed the society’s take on ten policy matters, all culled from a single issue of American Opinion. Each of the magazine’s positions took as its premise Communist control of a federal agency or branch of government. He inquired how the society’s membership could tolerate “such paranoid and unpatriotic drivel.”
Until the organization’s members rose up and demanded a leadership that did not attribute all to which it objected to the work of Communist agents, he insisted, they ought not go about the country complaining that their views were being misrepresented. An avalanche of protest followed. One writer advised him to “comply or else” with Birch demands lest his magazine not be distributed by “accepted” vendors. Another urged him to ask Congress to take testimony from one Colonel Goliewski, who would prove that Eisenhower was a Communist. One of his favorites of the mail he received was a piece of paper with a single word written on it in magic marker: “Judas.” Life magazine ran a photograph of Buckley delightedly holding it up.
Buckley reported that of the 200 letters he received about the JBS, only two agreed that assertions Welch had made in the JBS’s house organ, American Opinion, were excessive. His friend James Kilpatrick, who had warned Buckley what to expect when he first criticized Welch, grew concerned enough this time to request in his own column that readers rally behind Buckley and National Review. “The skipper of ‘Suzie Wong’ [the name of Buckley’s yacht] is catching a terrible lot of flak these days,” Kirkpatrick noted. “It would be ironical if, indeed, Skipper Buckley’s brash and audacious vessel [National Review] were sunk by those humorless torpedo men who steam from Belmont, Mass. If only a small fraction of the wealth that flows into JBS headquarters could be diverted instead to the support of the thoughtful and high-spirited conservatism of National Review, perhaps more men of independent mind might be wooed to the genial cause.”
Late in the campaign, John Birch Society member Kent Courtney, based in New Orleans, sent a mailer to one thousand New Yorkers accusing Lindsay of being “pro-Communist” and urging his defeat. Lindsay proclaimed the letter part of an effort by Barry Goldwater to extract revenge on him for not having supported Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. Buckley’s by now famous denunciations of the John Birch Society worked to his benefit. After dismissing Courtney as a “kook,” Buckley suggested that by advancing such conspiracy theories about Goldwater and others, Lindsay sounded more like Robert Welch than a candidate of the New York Liberal Party.
William Francis Buckley - History
William Francis Buckley was a United States Army Special Forces officer and a Central Intelligence Agency employee. His last assignment with the CIA was as the station chief in Beirut from 1984 to 1985. His cover was a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy. He was captured by terrorists (Hezbollah) and tortured to death.
Bill Buckley was born in Medford, Massachusetts on May 30, 1928. He graduated from High School in 1947 and joined the U.S. Army. Following two years service as an enlisted Military Policeman (MP) he attended Officers Candidate School (OCS) and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Armor Branch. He later attended the Engineer Officer's Course at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the Advanced Armor Officer's Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the Intelligence School at Oberammergau, Germany.
During the Korean War he served as a company commander with the 1st Cavalry Division. After the war he completed his college studies and graduated from Boston University with a degree in Political Science. He was employed as a librarian in the Concord, Winchester, and Lexington public libraries.
In 1960 Buckley attended the Basic Airborne Course and Special Forces Qualification Course. He was assigned to the 320th Special Forces Detachment (Reserve) which later became the 11th Special Forces Group (Reserve). He served as an A-team Detachment Commander and later as a B-team Detachment Commander.
Buckley served in the Vietnam War with MACV as a Senior Advisor to the ARVN. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in May 1969. LTC Buckley's military decorations include the Silver Star, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device, two Purple Hearts, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, and the Parachustist Badge.
Bill was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency from 1955 to 1957 and again from 1965 until his death. His service with the CIA within the Special Activities Division took him to Vietnam, Zaire, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, and other countries around the world. His last assignment was as the CIA Station Chief at the US Embassy in Lebanon.
Bill was kidnapped in Beirut in 198 by the Hezbollah (a terrorist group supported by Iran). He was held captive by the Hezbollah for 15 months before he died from illness and torture. His body was recovered and returned to the United States on December 28, 1991. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery. He was awarded the CIA's Intelligence Star, Exceptional Service Medallion, and Distinguished Intelligence Cross.
Among his civilian awards are the Freedom Foundation Award for Lexington Green Diorama and Collegium and Academy of Distinguished Alumni - Boston University. The William F. Buckley Memorial Park in Stoneham, Massachusetts is dedicated to his memory. LTC Buckley was single and left two sisters - Maureen Moroney and Joyce Wing - and a longtime close friend, Beverly Surette.
Additional Information about William Buckley:
LTC William F. Buckley
Serving Green Berets
How William F. Buckley, Jr., Changed His Mind on Civil Rights
The man who boasted he purged the conservative movement of ‘kooks’ and bigots was once a strong defender of racial discrimination—even violence. What changed?
Alvin Felzenberg is a presidential historian and the author of The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't) and, most recently, A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley, Jr., from which this story was adapted.
When the conservative editor and intellectual William F. Buckley, Jr., ran for mayor of New York in 1965, he may have been the first conservative to endorse affirmative action, or, as he called it, “the kind of special treatment [of African Americans] that might make up for centuries of oppression.” He also promised to crack down on labor unions that discriminated against minorities, a cause even his liberal opponents were unwilling to embrace. Buckley pointed out the inherent unfairness in the administration of drug laws and in judicial sentencing. He also advanced a welfare “reform” plan whose major components were job training, education and daycare.
In 1969, in his capacity as founding editor of National Review, launched a decade and a half earlier as a “conservative weekly journal of opinion” that stood in opposition to the dominant liberal ethos of the time, Buckley toured African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Atlanta organized by the Urban League and afterward singled out for special praise “community organizers” who were working “in straightforward social work in the ghettos.” In an article in Look magazine months later, Buckley anticipated that the United States could well elect an African-American president within a decade, and that this milestone would confer the same reassurance and social distinction upon African Americans that Roman Catholics had felt upon the election of John F. Kennedy. That, he said, would be “welcome tonic” for the American soul.
This Buckley, who emerged in the years after 1965, bore little resemblance to the one who, eight years earlier in 1957, had penned an editorial he titled “Why the South Must Prevail”—in which he declared the white race the more “advanced” race and, as such, the most fit to govern. What happened in those eight years that sparked this change in attitude and policy advocacy on Buckley’s part? How did a man who later proclaimed his greatest legacy was keeping the conservative movement free of bigots, kooks and anti-Semites move past a nakedly racist editorial like that?
It was the convergence of political shifts—particularly in the South, where the more genteel, states’ rights-focused politicians were giving way to more overtly racist, populist demagogues—and his own personal introspection, rooted particularly in his religious faith and his own intellectual concerns about the integrity of conservatism. Buckley’s evolution makes for important context today, particularly in the wake of the 2016 election. As Republican standard-bearers struggle with how to discourage the alt-righters and white nationalists and new wave of populists that Donald Trump’s campaign apparently surfaced, they might do well to pay attention to how exactly Buckley began his search and how he charted out a new course for conservatism at a time when polarization over civil rights threatened to tear the GOP apart.
“Why the South Must Prevail” is shocking to the 21 st century reader. The piece put National Review on record in favor of both legal segregation where it existed (in accordance with the “states’ rights” principle) and the right of southern whites to discriminate against southern blacks, on the basis of their “Negro backwardness.” The editorial defended the right of whites to govern exclusively, even in jurisdictions where they did not constitute a majority of the population.
In the same op-ed, Buckley concluded that as long as African Americans remained “backward” in education and in economic progress, Southern whites had a right to “impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to affect a genuine cultural equality between the races.” In defense of his position that whites, for the time being, remained the “more advanced race,” Buckley pointed to the name a major civil rights organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had adopted for itself as evidence that its founders considered its constituents “less advanced.” He offered no guidance as to how blacks might attain what he called “cultural equality,” save for by the sufferance of the white population.
It’s important to understand how Buckley rationalized such thinking because it’s at the root of his later transformation. National Review justified its position on the grounds that whites were “the more advanced race,” and as such were “entitled to rule.” Buckley, the author of the editorial, made no mention of the role Southern whites had played, through the social and legal systems they had put into place, in keeping Southern blacks from rising to the point where he—or their white neighbors—would consider them “advanced” and therefore eligible to participate in the region’s governance. He went so far as to condone the violence whites committed to perpetuate segregation.
National Review’s opposition to federal civil rights legislation put it at odds not only with self-proclaimed “modern Republicans” such as Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. (In 1957, years before he adopted the southern strategy, Nixon was one of the highest-profile defenders of civil rights in the Republican Party). But it also put him at odds with conservative Republicans, whom the magazine supported editorially, such as Senate Minority Leader William Knowland, the 1957 Civil Rights bill’s primary sponsor.
Buckley’s 1957 opposition to legislative and other attempts to enforce Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated schools unconstitutional, betrayed more than a defense of the rights of states to impose segregation and unequal treatment of citizens, but also his reservations about democracy’s capacity to enhance freedom. In a subsequent editorial of “clarification,” Buckley proposed in the name of racial equality an alternative to disenfranchising all African Americans on account of their race: All states should disenfranchise the uneducated of all races. He saw no reason to confine such practices to the South. In Buckley’s view, too many ignorant people were being allowed to vote elsewhere.
As he contemplated the merits of the franchise and to whom to extend it, Buckley had restated views he had advanced while a student at Millbrook, his preparatory school. In a term paper he had written for his headmaster, Buckley maintained that uneducated voters might be manipulated by demagogues into surrendering some of their freedom in exchange for benefits raised through taxation of the citizenry. In staking out this position, Buckley was taking his place in a long line of conservative theorists beginning as far back as Aristotle, who saw in such democratic practices the roots of tyranny.
It was these intellectual currents that turned Buckley away from the Southern politicians of the time—and toward his reversal on civil rights.
At this time, a political transformation was taking place in the South, as the “old Bourbons,” with which he and his southern-rooted family identified, were being displaced in governors’ and congressional offices by a “new breed” of politicians that Buckley termed “welfare populists.” Whereas the Bourbons shunned harsher racial rhetoric and sought to break up the Ku Klux Klan, their successors practiced a more guttural and violent form of politics, especially crafted to crush, by whatever means, the aspirations of African-Americans in the region.
The Buckleys had ample experience with such politicians before and had come to treat them with contempt. Buckley’s uncle vividly recalled Buckley’s grandfather, John Buckley, the sheriff of Duval County, Texas, going into tirades against the “white trash of the town.” The uncle held them directly responsible for the voter fraud and intimidation of Mexican-Americans that resulted in the sheriff’s defeat at the polls.
By 1963, Buckley was voicing outrage at Southern populists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace on two grounds: their agitation for greater federal intervention in the economy (a no-no among movement conservatives) and their refusal to extend the benefits of such largesse to African-Americans. It may have been his disdain for these kind of ideologically impure politicians that hastened Buckley’s eventual 180 on federal intervention. Looking back on the period in 2004, Buckley told Time magazine, “I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong. Federal intervention was necessary.”
Buckley’s religious concerns rose up to meet his political ones. Privately, he was beginning to harbor doubts about legal segregation, a practice he had accepted without question his entire life. Early in 1963, he wrote his mother, the most religious person he knew, inquiring how she could “reconcile Christian fraternity” with “the separation of the races.” Aloise Buckley responded that she had gone to church and prayed for humility and wisdom from the Holy Spirit and that she would answer his question as the inspiration came to her.
That May, racial tensions mounted in Birmingham, Alabama, when Commission of Public Safety Bull Connor ordered hoses, nightsticks and dogs turned on young demonstrators. During these months, Buckley remained on an intellectual and emotional seesaw that still tilted southward. He wrote that the police had no alternative but to impose order and that the South could do without “massive infusions of northern moralism.” Yet he juxtaposed these statements with calls on Southerners to respect the right of people to demonstrate, lest they ease over into the “hands of the federal government … a greater and greater role in the revolution of Southern affairs.”
Then came the apparent turning point. Buckley was outraged when white supremacists set off a bomb in a Birmingham church on Sept. 15, 1963, killing four young African American girls. An early biographer reported that Buckley privately wept when he heard about the incident. He blamed Wallace for the tragedy. The Alabama governor’s “noisy opposition” to integration, Buckley wrote, had “galvanized the demon” who committed the murders in the name of “racial integrity.” Wallace, he said, sought to perpetuate himself in power by appealing to the racial resentments of those who had elected him.
As Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency unfolded, Buckley’s writings became increasingly sympathetic toward the cause of civil rights. African-Americans were upping their efforts to secure the right to vote in the South and Southern whites were showing increasing hostility, with the Ku Klux Klan and other white vigilantes resorting to violence and terrorism. Gradually, but steadily, Buckley shifted his emphasis, directing his criticisms less against those who sought federal intervention and more toward those whose recalcitrance made that outcome inevitable. In his columns and elsewhere, Buckley ridiculed practices designed to keep African Americans off the voter registration rolls, such as demanding that those seeking to register to vote state the number of bubbles in a bar of soap.
In columns, he condemned proprietors of commercial establishments who declined service to African Americans in violation of the recently enacted 1964 Civil Rights Act. When future Georgia governor Lester Maddox, a known critic of the open public accommodation section of that law, chased African Americans out of his restaurant, wielding an axe handle, Buckley declared it “theoretically and morally inexplicable” that anyone would voice opposition to a law by retaliating against its “innocent beneficiaries.”
Increasingly, Buckley’s columns sounded less like apologias for segregation and more like lectures to Southern conservatives to obey laws and court orders. Gone too were references to the Southern “cause.” No longer was Buckley describing African Americans as less “advanced” than their white counterparts in the South. He showed little patience for whites he considered “primitives” (Southern politicians who incited racial violence and race-baited in their campaigns) and evidenced increased sympathy for their victims. And he demonstrated nothing but contempt for southern officials who evoked what he considered sound constitutional principles (such as federalism and states’ rights) solely to perpetuate a system that oppressed African Americans. Mississippi, he concluded, could not “have it both ways”: it could not preserve its right to set voting requirements while using race as the single criterion of voter eligibility.
Still, Buckley worried that once enfranchised, African-Americans in the South would prove just as easily manipulated by demagogues as other voters: “Too many countries in the democratic world have gone down into totalitarianism because some demagogue or other has persuaded everyone who can stagger to the polls to go there, and vote: usually to give power to himself.” The challenge, he wrote in a 1964 column, “is to lure to the polls those who will cast responsible votes.” He recounted how urban machines had sustained themselves in power by manipulating turnout and committing voter fraud, and wrote that he had seen how “welfare populists” had wrested control of southern state governments from the more genteel Bourbons by stirring up racial resentments among poor Southern whites.
In August 1965, after the Voting Rights Act became law, National Review praised the “seriousness and hope and quiet pride” it detected on the faces of African Americans lining up to vote in the South. It made reference to the religious roots of the civil rights movement and foresaw a major transformation of the region. Five years later, Buckley rejoiced in his column that so much had changed.
Buckley went on to cultivate a reputation for chasing out the anti-Semites and “kooks” out of conservatism. He disowned the fanaticism of Ayn Rand and the John Birch Society and barred any National Review writer from also writing for the American Mercury, a conservative magazine that had descended into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He urged readers not to vote for race-baiting politicians like Wallace and cheered when one remaining holdout of overt racism, conservative columnist James J. Kilpatrick, gave up his opposition to federal desegregation.
Today, the Republican Party lacks a Buckley figure to purge these “kooks.” During Barack Obama’s first term, for instance, only a few brave souls like Sen. John McCain stood up to criticize birthers—and McCain was seen as a “maverick.” The sitting speaker, John Boehner, wouldn’t repudiate the birthers, telling reporters that it wasn’t up to him “to tell them what to think.”
We’ve seen the result of that, as “alt-rightists,” “economic nationalists” and ethnic supremacists enter the tent of the movement Buckley boasted he had rid of bigots. The moment may be at hand for another Buckley to step up to the plate and, as his transformation demonstrates, it may come from the most unexpected source.
William F. Buckley, Jr.
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William F. Buckley, Jr., in full William Frank Buckley, Jr., (born November 24, 1925, New York, New York, U.S.—died February 27, 2008, Stamford, Connecticut), versatile American editor, author, and conservative gadfly who became an important intellectual influence in conservative politics.
The oil fortune amassed by Buckley’s father enabled the boy to be reared in comfortable circumstances in France, England, and Connecticut, U.S. His early education was by private tutors and at two English boys’ schools, and he attended a preparatory school in New York state. He spent a year at the University of Mexico, then served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II before entering Yale University. There he taught Spanish, distinguished himself in debate, and was chairman of the Yale Daily News, among other things. He later joined the staff of The American Mercury. A former chairman of the Starr Broadcasting Group, he served on the United States Information Agency (USIA) Advisory Commission from 1969 to 1972. In 1973 he was U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.
Buckley founded the conservative journal National Review in 1955, and as editor in chief he used the journal as a forum for conservative views and ideas. His column of political commentary, “On the Right,” was syndicated in 1962 and appeared regularly in more than 200 newspapers. From 1966 to 1999 Buckley served as host of Firing Line, a weekly television interview program dealing with politics and public affairs.
A contributor to many magazines, Buckley wrote a number of books, among them God and Man at Yale (1951), Up from Liberalism (1959), and Rumbles Left and Right (1963). He coauthored McCarthy and His Enemies (1954), and in the late 1970s he turned his hand to writing spy novels among them were Saving the Queen (1976), Marco Polo, If You Can (1982), A Very Private Plot (1994), and the final entry in the series, Last Call for Blackford Oakes (2005).
William Francis Buckley - History
Following two years of service as an enlisted MP he attended Officers Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Armor. He later attended the Engineer Officer's Course at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the Advanced Armor Officer's Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the Intelligence School at Oberammergau, Germany.
Colonel Buckley served with the 1st Cavalry Division as a company commander during the Korean War. After the war he completed his studies and graduated from Boston University with a degree in Political Science. He was employed as a librarian in the Concord, Winchester and Lexington public libraries. In 1960, Bill joined the 320th Special Forces Detachment which became the 11th Special Forces Group and attended both Basic Airborne and the Special Forces Officers Course. He was assigned as an A- Detachment Commander and later as a B-Detachment Commander.
Colonel Buckley served in Vietnam with MACV as a Senior Advisor to the ARVN. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in May 1969.
Buckley was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1955 to 1957 and again from 1965 until his untimely death. He served in many varied assignments all over the world. He was taken hostage from his last assignment in Beirut Lebanon where he was the Political Officer/ Station Chief at the U.S. Embassy. Colonel Buckley died after 15 months in captivity of illness and torture. His body was returned to the United States on December 28, 1991 and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Among Colonel Buckley's Army awards are the Silver Star, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star with "V", two Purple Hearts, Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Parachutist Badge. He also received the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/ Bronze Star from ARVN. Among his CIA awards are the Intelligence Star, Exceptional Service Medallion and Distinguished Intelligence Cross.
Among his civilian awards are the Freedom Foundation Award for Lexington Green Diorama, Collegium and Academy of Distinguished Alumni - Boston University. A memorial park - The William F. Buckley Memorial Park in Stoneham, Massachusetts, is dedicated to his memory.
Colonel Buckley was single and left two sisters, Maureen Moroney, Joyce Wing and a longtime close friend, Beverly Surette.
Washington, DC, December 27, 1991:
Human remains identified as those of William F. Buckley, chief officer for CIA in Lebanon when was taken hostage in March 1984, were flown to the US this evening for funeral services. He died in captivity, apparently after torture, the next year.
A spokesman for the CIA, which seldom acknowledges identity of clandestine operatives, dead or alive, said he "was the senior agency representative in Beirut" when was kidnapped by organization calling itself Islamic Holy War. The agency also issued a brief biographical profile of him, again an unusual step for CIA in dealing with members of its clandestine service, but also reflecting the agony felt in the highest ranks of the intelligence service over the loss of one of its own.
The CIA acknowledged his death in an agency memorial service, August 1987, nearly 2 years after Islamic Holy War boasted of having killed him. The spokesman also noted that agency honored him with a star carved in the marble memorial wall of the CIA's main building in Langley, Virginia, where officers killed on duty are commemorated. "It is star 51 of 54 stars," he said. "We are waiting for final positive identification by US authorities" at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday, a spokesman said, noting preliminary identification was made early today by Lebanon's chief pathologist, Dr. Ahmed Harati, who issued his finding after examining a skull and some bones that were found wrapped in blankets early today on a roadside near Beirut airport. It is routine practice for US military forensic specialists at Dover to conduct their own examinations of remains of US officials killed in foreign lands, spokesman said. The same was done for Lieuenant Colonel William R. Higgins, USMC, another Beirut hostage slain by Islamic militants, whose body was returned to this country this week. Unlike Buckley, who arrived in Beirut in 1983 under cover of State Department posting as political officer of US Embassy, Higgins was serving openly as chief of UN observation team in Lebanon when seized.
CIA official and a Pentagon spokesman said plans were underway for joint funeral service for them at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside the capital, on Monday. Remains of Higgins will then be buried at Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. There is already gravesite and stone for Buckley at Arlington National Cemetery where many of nation's heroes are buried. Buckley, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve, won the Silver Star for gallantry while serving in Vietnam. A public memorial service was held with full military honors at Arlington on May 13, 1988, just short of 3 years after his presumed death. At the service, attended by more than 100 colleagues and friends, the Director of the CIA, William H. Webster, eulogized Buckley saying, "Bill's success in collecting information in situations of incredible danger was exceptional, even remarkable." Among the mourners was Buckley's longtime companion, Candace Hammond of Farmer, North Carolina, whom he left behind when he moved to Beirut. By the time of that service, some details of his previous life had become public: he had served in clandestine CIA assignments in Syria and Pakistan and that fate had become intertwined with President Reagan's impassioned efforts to gain release of other Americans held hostage in Lebanon. Well before US policy makers were certain that he was dead at age 57, the Director of CIA, William J. Casey, began efforts aimed at finding and possibly rescuing Buckley. At one point, an FBI team specializing in kidnapping cases was brought in. When the Reagan Administration accepted the fact of Buckley's death, hostage takers in Lebanon were believed to be holding 5 other Americans. In late 1985, Reagan made the release of these Americans a principal policy objective of his Administration, leading him and a handful of aides into a series of covert operations involving sale of sophisticated weapons to Iran by way of Israel and other incentives intended to ransom the captives. These operations culminated in what became known as Iran-Contra Affair in 1986.
According to the biographical information distributed by fax today by CIA, Buckley was "an avid reader of politics and history" and "a collector and builder of miniature soldiers." Latter hobby enabled him to become principal artisan in the creation of a panorama at the Lexington Battlefield Tourist Center near his native Bedford, Massachusetts. The press release also said he owned an antique shop and was an amateur artist and a collector of fine art. It called him "a very private and discreet individual." The CIA awarded him an Intelligence Star, an Exceptional Service Medallion and a Distinguished Intelligence Cross, but did not say whether any of these were issued posthumously. He was a bachelor, and is survived by 2 sisters. May 30, 1928-June 3, 1985.
William Francis Buckley Jr. (1925 - 2008)
William Frank Buckley Jr. (born William Francis Buckley November 24, 1925 – February 27, 2008) was an American conservative author and commentator. He founded National Review magazine in 1955, which had a major impact in stimulating the conservative movement hosted 1,429 episodes of the television show Firing Line (1966–1999), where he became known for his transatlantic accent and wide vocabulary and wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column along with numerous spy novels.
George H. Nash, a historian of the modern American conservative movement, said Buckley was "arguably the most important public intellectual in the United States in the past half century. For an entire generation, he was the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure." Buckley's primary contribution to politics was a fusion of traditional American political conservatism with laissez-faire economic theory and anti-communism, laying the groundwork for the new American conservatism of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and President Ronald Reagan, both Republicans. Former Senate Republican leader Bob Dole said "Buckley lighted the fire".
Buckley wrote God and Man at Yale (1951) and more than fifty other books on writing, speaking, history, politics, and sailing, including a series of novels featuring CIA agent Blackford Oakes. Buckley referred to himself as either a libertarian or conservative.He resided in New York City and Stamford, Connecticut. He was a practicing Catholic and regularly attended the Latin Mass. 
Born the sixth of ten children in 1925, William Buckley was the son of Aloise Josephine Antonia (Steiner) and William Frank Buckley Sr., a Texas-born lawyer and oil developer.