Fox News host Tucker Carlson doesn’t want the United States to go to war with Iran -- he has repeatedly made that clear on his nightly show. Since news broke that an American drone killed the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Carlson has been critical of advisors around the president who currently (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) and historically (former National Security Advisor John Bolton) agitated for a full-blown conflict. He claimed that Trump, who ordered the strike, is “wary” of marching toward war but he questioned whether “it’s possible that he might be outmaneuvered” by the people around him.
Carlson’s stance on a potential hot war with Iran distinguishes him from his colleagues at the network who are itching to escalate the violence, and he’s gotten plenty of attention for it in the mainstream media. In particular, the transition from Tucker Carlson Tonight to Sean Hannity’s program has been startling since the president’s actions begat this most recent crisis. After Carlson advocates for deescalation for the greater part of an hour, the 9 p.m. host comes on to beg Trump to “bomb the living hell” out of Iran and use “the full force” of the American military in the conflict.
But getting less attention than the Carlson-Hannity divide is the pernicious ideological foundation upon which Carlson’s anti-war stance rests: racism. He objects not to the human cost of another endless, pointless war in the Middle East or the fact that the government lied to Americans for decades to justify these neo-colonial adventures. Instead, Carlson would rather direct our aggression at migrants, Mexicans, and homeless people than Iranians and Iraqis.
From the January 2 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): In this case, the very people demanding action against Iran tonight, the ones telling you the Persian menace is the greatest threat we face, are the very same ones demanding that you ignore the invasion of America now in progress from the south. The millions, the tens of millions, of foreign nationals living among us illegally; the torrent, more significantly, of Mexican narcotics that has killed and disabled entire generations of Americans -- nobody cares, in case you haven't noticed.
He repeated a similar sentiment the next night, blanketly blaming Mexico and China for “flood[ing] our country with narcotics from which tens of thousands of Americans die every single year,” a phenomenon he describes as bringing about “the decline of our own country.” He’s also connected his anti-war position to his ongoing campaign to punish homeless people for their own homelessness, on Monday saying that “our own country frays and degrades and in some places falls apart completely” as “Washington obsesses over the internal politics of nations thousands of miles from here.” Carlson’s previous coverage of this issue likely helped inspire a draconian promise from President Donald Trump that the federal government would “conduct a sweeping crackdown on homelessness in California,” which may include “razing existing tent camps for the homeless” and institutionalizing people experiencing homelessness.
For Tucker Carlson, the goal of enacting violence on people in and around the United States supersedes all others. That is why he is opposed to war in Iran. And this position is not new to him -- he’s objected to American intervention abroad on racist grounds throughout his career. In the Bush era specifically, before Stephen Miller style-demonization of immigrants became the beating heart of Carlson’s career, he based his opposition to war on a disdain for the people of the Middle East as opposed to directing his anger toward his domestic enemies like immigrants and homeless people.
Comments previously unearthed by Media Matters provide a telling example. In a 2008 appearance on Bubba the Love Sponge, Carlson said, “Iraq is a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys -- that’s why it wasn’t worth invading.” That year he also told Mr. Love Sponge that the war cannot be turned around unless “somehow, the Iraqis decided to behave like human beings.”
Carlson also told the Florida shock jock in 2006 that he “hate[s] the war” but has “zero sympathy for [Iraqis] or their culture -- a culture where people just don’t use toilet paper or forks,” and demanded they “shut the fuck up and obey” because “the second we leave, they’re going to be calling for us to return because they can’t govern themselves.” (He was repeating the bit about toilet paper from a 2004 Esquire profile he wrote on private contractors in Iraq, in which he also noted one American contractor’s question about whether Iraqis were “worth liberating” because “observant Muslims” allegedly don’t like dogs.) Beyond Iraq, in a different appearance on Bubba the Love Sponge, Carlson said Afghanistan is “never going to be a civilized country because the people aren’t civilized.”
He brought this point of view to his MSNBC show in 2006, in this case directing scorn toward Palestinians. After elections in which Hamas won control of the Palestinian parliament, Carlson described the country as “primitive” and “filled with people who are violent and religious extremists,” with a “culture that is backwards and violent” and “condone[s] suicide bombing.” Using this racist characterization of the Palestinian people, he said the vote exemplifies “the problem with holding up democracy as the answer” and said he wished “Bush and the foolish neo-cons who surround him would admit this. Because it’s true.”
It seems like Carlson’s recent claim to The Atlantic that he’s “made a complete break mentally with the world I used to live in” doesn’t apply to his position of opposing wars in part because he thinks Middle Eastern cultures are inferior to those of the United States. In the case of today’s neoconservative push for another endless war, Carlson’s iconoclastic position reflects his most sacred project: the advancement of white supremacy in the United States. This is why Carlson is a completely false prophet on the issue of Iran. We should not oppose war in order to incarcerate migrant families and build a wall along the southern border. We should not oppose war so that the federal government can drop a dragnet on homeless people in urban areas and punish them for their poverty. Instead, we should say loud and clear: War is a moral abomination and Americans should de-escalate this conflict because we value the humanity of Iranian and Iraqi civilians and American service members.