Depleted Uranium Shells Used by U.S. Military Worse Than Nuclear Weapons
by David Gutierrez posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008
(NaturalNews) The use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the U.S. military may lead to a death toll far higher than that from the nuclear bombs dropped at the end of World War II.
DU is a waste product of uranium enrichment, containing approximately one-third the radioactive isotopes of naturally occurring uranium. Because of its high density, it is used in armor- or tank-piercing ammunition. It has been fired by the U.S. and British militaries in the two Iraq wars and in Afghanistan, as well as by NATO forces in Kosovo and the Israeli military in Lebanon and Palestine.
Inhaled or ingested DU particles are highly toxic, and DU has been classified as an illegal weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority has estimated that 50 tons of DU dust from the first Gulf War could lead to 500,000 cancer deaths by the year 2000. To date, a total of 2,000 tons have been generated in the Middle East.
In contrast, approximately 250,000 lives were claimed by the explosions and radiation released by the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“More than ten times the amount of radiation released during atmospheric testing [of nuclear bombs] has been released from DU weaponry since 1991,” said Leuren Moret, a U.S. nuclear scientist. “The genetic future of the Iraqi people, for the most part, is destroyed. The environment now is completely radioactive.”
Because DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the Middle East will, for all practical purposes, be radioactive forever.
The two U.S. wars in Iraq “have been nuclear wars because they have scattered nuclear material across the land, and people, particularly children, are condemned to die of malignancy and congenital disease essentially for eternity,” said anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott.
Since the first Gulf War, the rate of birth defects and childhood cancer in Iraq has increased by seven times. More than 35 percent (251,000) of U.S. Gulf War veterans are dead or on permanent medical disability, compared with only 400 who were killed during the conflict.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Revised and expanded from last year’s “Memorial Day” post.
Since, as Paddy Chayefsky has his main character say in his movie The Americanization of Emily,
” We…perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices” (see this and this), I’ve long thought that what is called Memorial Day would be better recast as Revisionist History Day. The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of “our freedoms.” This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government’s policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has “kept us free,” and disrespectful of “our troops,” in a word, un-American.
But in fact the forces aren’t “serving their country” or “keeping us free.” They are doing the bidding of hack politicians, well-connected economic interests, and court intellectuals who are striving to achieve personal ambition, wealth, and historical legacies.
The secular religion we call nationalism, which keeps the wool over most people’s eyes, can be seen clearly in the criticism of Barack Obama for not wearing a flag lapel pin and his wife for saying she’s not been proud of her country until now. What is this thing, “country,” that we’re expected to love and be proud of? It’s never defined. But a big part of it is obviously the state and its war record. This is supposedly something to be proud of — and if you’re not, something is wrong with you.
To counter this common outlook, which people are indoctrinated in from birth, we should do what we can to teach others that the government’s version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency. A good way to spend part of the day would be to pick a war and read a high-quality revisionist account of it. Here are some books (in no particular order) you might use as a guide:
Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin
The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
A good place to start is this article by Robert Higgs: “How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor” (The Freeman, May 2006).
Many other books and articles could be added to the list. The point is this: if we are to prevent wars in the future, we must self-educate and then, when opportune, teach others.
This article, which first appeared in The Standard for April 1963, is collected in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays.
The libertarian movement has been chided by William F. Buckley, Jr., for failing to use its “strategic intelligence” in facing the major problems of our time. We have, indeed, been too often prone to “pursue our busy little seminars on whether or not to demunicipalize the garbage collectors” (as Buckley has contemptuously written), while ignoring and failing to apply libertarian theory to the most vital problem of our time: war and peace. There is a sense in which libertarians have been utopian rather than strategic in their thinking, with a tendency to divorce the ideal system which we envisage from the realities of the world in which we live. In short, too many of us have divorced theory from practice, and have then been content to hold the pure libertarian society as an abstract ideal for some remotely future time, while in the concrete world of today we follow unthinkingly the orthodox “conservative” line. To live liberty, to begin the hard but essential strategic struggle of changing the unsatisfactory world of today in the direction of our ideals, we must realize and demonstrate to the world that libertarian theory can be brought sharply to bear upon all of the world’s crucial problems. By coming to grips with these problems, we can demonstrate that libertarianism is not just a beautiful ideal somewhere on Cloud Nine, but a tough-minded body of truths that enables us to take our stand and to cope with the whole host of issues of our day.
Let us then, by all means, use our strategic intelligence. Although, when he sees the result, Mr. Buckley might well wish that we had stayed in the realm of garbage collection. Let us construct a libertarian theory of war and peace.
The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence (“aggress”) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another.1 In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.2
Let us set aside the more complex problem of the State for a while and consider simply relations between “private” individuals. Jones finds that he or his property is being invaded, aggressed against, by Smith. It is legitimate for Jones, as we have seen, to repel this invasion by defensive violence of his own. But now we come to a more knotty question: is it within the right of Jones to commit violence against innocent third parties as a corollary to his legitimate defense against Smith? To the libertarian, the answer must be clearly, no. Remember that the rule prohibiting violence against the persons or property of innocent men is absolute: it holds regardless of the subjective motives for the aggression. It is wrong and criminal to violate the property or person of another, even if one is a Robin Hood, or starving, or is doing it to save one’s relatives, or is defending oneself against a third man’s attack. We may understand and sympathize with the motives in many of these cases and extreme situations. We may later mitigate the guilt if the criminal comes to trial for punishment, but we cannot evade the judgment that this aggression is still a criminal act, and one which the victim has every right to repel, by violence if necessary. In short, A aggresses against B because C is threatening, or aggressing against, A. We may understand C’s “higher” culpability in this whole procedure; but we must still label this aggression as a criminal act which B has the right to repel by violence.
To be more concrete, if Jones finds that his property is being stolen by Smith, he has the right to repel him and try to catch him; but he has no right to repel him by bombing a building and murdering innocent people or to catch him by spraying machine gun fire into an innocent crowd. If he does this, he is as much (or more of) a criminal aggressor as Smith is.
The application to problems of war and peace is already becoming evident. For while war in the narrower sense is a conflict between States, in the broader sense we may define it as the outbreak of open violence between people or groups of people. If Smith and a group of his henchmen aggress against Jones and Jones and his bodyguards pursue the Smith gang to their lair, we may cheer Jones on in his endeavor; and we, and others in society interested in repelling aggression, may contribute financially or personally to Jones’s cause. But Jones has no right, any more than does Smith, to aggress against anyone else in the course of his “just war”: to steal others’ property in order to finance his pursuit, to conscript others into his posse by use of violence, or to kill others in the course of his struggle to capture the Smith forces. If Jones should do any of these things, he becomes a criminal as fully as Smith, and he too becomes subject to whatever sanctions are meted out against criminality. In fact, if Smith’s crime was theft, and Jones should use conscription to catch him, or should kill others in the pursuit, Jones becomes more of a criminal than Smith, for such crimes against another person as enslavement and murder are surely far worse than theft. (For while theft injures the extension of another’s personality, enslavement injures, and murder obliterates, that personality itself.)
Suppose that Jones, in the course of his “just war” against the ravages of Smith, should kill a few innocent people, and suppose that he should declaim, in defense of this murder, that he was simply acting on the slogan, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The absurdity of this “defense” should be evident at once, for the issue is not whether Jones was willing to risk death personally in his defensive struggle against Smith; the issue is whether he was willing to kill other people in pursuit of his legitimate end. For Jones was in truth acting on the completely indefensible slogan: “Give me liberty or give them death” surely a far less noble battle cry.3
The libertarian’s basic attitude toward war must then be: it is legitimate to use violence against criminals in defense of one’s rights of person and property; it is completely impermissible to violate the rights of other innocent people. War, then, is only proper when the exercise of violence is rigorously limited to the individual criminals. We may judge for ourselves how many wars or conflicts in history have met this criterion.
It has often been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that the development of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder (nuclear weapons, rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather than kind from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the difference is a very big one.4 But another answer that the libertarian is particularly equipped to give is that while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes, but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear weapons, even “conventional” aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (The only exception would be the extremely rare case where a mass of people who were all criminals inhabited a vast geographical area.) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a sin and a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.
This is why the old cliché no longer holds that it is not the arms but the will to use them that is significant in judging matters of war and peace. For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake. And if we will indeed use our strategic intelligence, we will see that such disarmament is not only a good, but the highest political good that we can pursue in the modem world. For just as murder is a more heinous crime against another man than larceny, so mass murder – indeed murder so widespread as to threaten human civilization and human survival itself – is the worst crime that any man could possibly commit. And that crime is now imminent. And the forestalling of massive annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?
If nuclear warfare is totally illegitimate even for individuals defending themselves against criminal assault, how much more so is nuclear or even “conventional” warfare between States!
It is time now to bring the State into our discussion. The State is a group of people who have managed to acquire a virtual monopoly of the use of violence throughout a given territorial area. In particular, it has acquired a monopoly of aggressive violence, for States generally recognize the right of individuals to use violence (though not against States, of course) in self-defense.5 The State then uses this monopoly to wield power over the inhabitants of the area and to enjoy the material fruits of that power. The State, then, is the only organization in society that regularly and openly obtains its monetary revenues by the use of aggressive violence; all other individuals and organizations (except if delegated that right by the State) can obtain wealth only by peaceful production and by voluntary exchange of their respective products. This use of violence to obtain its revenue (called “taxation”) is the keystone of State power. Upon this base the State erects a further structure of power over the individuals in its territory, regulating them, penalizing critics, subsidizing favorites, etc. The State also takes care to arrogate to itself the compulsory monopoly of various critical services needed by society, thus keeping the people in dependence upon the State for key services, keeping control of the vital command posts in society and also fostering among the public the myth that only the State can supply these goods and services. Thus the State is careful to monopolize police and judicial service, the ownership of roads and streets, the supply of money, and the postal service, and effectively to monopolize or control education, public utilities, transportation, and radio and television.
Now, since the State arrogates to itself the monopoly of violence over a territorial area, so long as its depredations and extortions go unresisted, there is said to be “peace” in the area, since the only violence is one-way, directed by the State downward against the people. Open conflict within the area only breaks out in the case of “revolutions” in which people resist the use of State power against them. Both the quiet case of the State unresisted and the case of open revolution may be termed “vertical violence”: violence of the State against its public or vice versa.
In the modern world, each land area is ruled over by a State organization, but there are a number of States scattered over the earth, each with a monopoly of violence over its own territory. No super-State exists with a monopoly of violence over the entire world; and so a state of “anarchy” exists between the several States. (It has always been a source of wonder, incidentally, to this writer how the same conservatives who denounce as lunatic any proposal for eliminating a monopoly of violence over a given territory and thus leaving private individuals without an overlord, should be equally insistent upon leaving States without an overlord to settle disputes between them. The former is always denounced as “crackpot anarchism”; the latter is hailed as preserving independence and “national sovereignty” from “world government.”) And so, except for revolutions, which occur only sporadically, the open violence and two-sided conflict in the world takes place between two or more States, that is, in what is called “international war” (or “horizontal violence”).
Now there are crucial and vital differences between inter-State warfare on the one hand and revolutions against the State or conflicts between private individuals on the other. One vital difference is the shift in geography. In a revolution, the conflict takes place within the same geographical area: both the minions of the State and the revolutionaries inhabit the same territory. Inter-State warfare, on the other hand, takes place between two groups, each having a monopoly over its own geographical area; that is, it takes place between inhabitants of different territories. From this difference flow several important consequences: (1) in inter-State war the scope for the use of modem weapons of destruction is far greater. For if the “escalation” of weaponry in an intra-territorial conflict becomes too great, each side will blow itself up with the weapons directed against the other. Neither a revolutionary group nor a State combating revolution, for example, can use nuclear weapons against the other. But, on the other hand, when the warring parties inhabit different territorial areas, the scope for modern weaponry becomes enormous, and the entire arsenal of mass devastation can come into play. A second consequence (2) is that while it is possible for revolutionaries to pinpoint their targets and confine them to their State enemies, and thus avoid aggressing against innocent people, pinpointing is far less possible in an inter-State war.6 This is true even with older weapons; and, of course, with modern weapons there can be no pinpointing whatever. Furthermore, (3) since each State can mobilize all the people and resources in its territory, the other State comes to regard all the citizens of the opposing country as at least temporarily its enemies and to treat them accordingly by extending the war to them. Thus, all of the consequences of inter-territorial war make it almost inevitable that inter-State war will involve aggression by each side against the innocent civilians – the private individuals – of the other. This inevitability becomes absolute with modem weapons of mass destruction.
If one distinct attribute of inter-State war is inter-territoriality, another unique attribute stems from the fact that each State lives by taxation over its subjects. Any war against another State, therefore, involves the increase and extension of taxation-aggression over its own people.7 Conflicts between private individuals can be, and usually are, voluntarily waged and financed by the parties concerned. Revolutions can be, and often are, financed and fought by voluntary contributions of the public. But State wars can only be waged through aggression against the taxpayer.
All State wars, therefore, involve increased aggression against the State’s own taxpayers, and almost all State wars (all, in modern warfare) involve the maximum aggression (murder) against the innocent civilians ruled by the enemy State. On the other hand, revolutions are generally financed voluntarily and may pinpoint their violence to the State rulers, and private conflicts may confine their violence to the actual criminals. The libertarian must, therefore, conclude that, while some revolutions and some private conflicts may be legitimate, State wars are always to be condemned.
Many libertarians object as follows: “While we too deplore the use of taxation for warfare, and the State’s monopoly of defense service, we have to recognize that these conditions exist, and while they do, we must support the State in just wars of defense.” The reply to this would go as follows: “Yes, as you say, unfortunately States exist, each having a monopoly of violence over its territorial area.” What then should be the attitude of the libertarian toward conflicts between these States? The libertarian should say, in effect, to the State: “All right, you exist, but as long as you exist at least confine your activities to the area which you monopolize.” In short, the libertarian is interested in reducing as much as possible the area of State aggression against all private individuals. The only way to do this, in international affairs, is for the people of each country to pressure their own State to confine its activities to the area which it monopolizes and not to aggress against other State-monopolists. In short, the objective of the libertarian is to confine any existing State to as small a degree of invasion of person and property as possible. And this means the total avoidance of war. The people under each State should pressure “their” respective States not to attack one another, and, if a conflict should break out, to negotiate a peace or declare a cease-fire as quickly as physically possible.
Suppose further that we have that rarity – an unusually clear-cut case in which the State is actually trying to defend the property of one of its citizens. A citizen of country A travels or invests in country B, and then State B aggresses against his person or confiscates his property. Surely, our libertarian critic would argue, here is a clear-cut case where State A should threaten or commit war against State B in order to defend the property of “its” citizen. Since, the argument runs, the State has taken upon itself the monopoly of defense of its citizens, it then has the obligation to go to war on behalf of any citizen, and libertarians have an obligation to support this war as a just one.
But the point again is that each State has a monopoly of violence and, therefore, of defense only over its territorial area. It has no such monopoly; in fact, it has no power at all, over any other geographical area. Therefore, if an inhabitant of country A should move to or invest in country B, the libertarian must argue that he thereby takes his chances with the State-monopolist of country B, and it would be immoral and criminal for State A to tax people in country A and kill numerous innocents in country B in order to defend the property of the traveler or investor.8
It should also be pointed out that there is no defense against nuclear weapons (the only current “defense” is the threat of mutual annihilation) and, therefore, that the State cannot fulfill any sort of defense function so long as these weapons exist.
The libertarian objective, then, should be, regardless of the specific causes of any conflict, to pressure States not to launch wars against other States and, should a war break out, to pressure them to sue for peace and negotiate a cease-fire and peace treaty as quickly as physically possible. This objective, incidentally, is enshrined in the international law of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, that is, the ideal that no State could aggress against the territory of another – in short, the “peaceful coexistence” of States.9
Suppose, however, that despite libertarian opposition, war has begun and the warring States are not negotiating a peace. What, then, should be the libertarian position? Clearly, to reduce the scope of assault of innocent civilians as much as possible. Old-fashioned international law had two excellent devices for this: the “laws of war,” and the “laws of neutrality” or “neutrals’ rights.” The laws of neutrality are designed to keep any war that breaks out confined to the warring States themselves, without aggression against the States or particularly the peoples of the other nations. Hence the importance of such ancient and now forgotten American principles as “freedom of the seas” or severe limitations upon the rights of warring States to blockade neutral trade with the enemy country. In short, the libertarian tries to induce neutral States to remain neutral in any inter-State conflict and to induce the warring States to observe fully the rights of neutral citizens. The “laws of war” were designed to limit as much as possible the invasion by warring States of the rights of the civilians of the respective warring countries. As the British jurist F.J.P. Veale put it:
The fundamental principle of this code was that hostilities between civilized peoples must be limited to the armed forces actually engaged…. It drew a distinction between combatants and noncombatants by laying down that the sole business of the combatants is to fight each other and, consequently, that noncombatants must be excluded from the scope of military operations.10
In the modified form of prohibiting the bombardment of all cities not in the front line, this rule held in Western European wars in recent centuries until Britain launched the strategic bombing of civilians in World War II. Now, of course, the entire concept is scarcely remembered, the very nature of nuclear war resting on the annihilation of civilians.
In condemning all wars, regardless of motive, the libertarian knows that there may well be varying degrees of guilt among States for any specific war. But the overriding consideration for the libertarian is the condemnation of any State participation in war. Hence his policy is that of exerting pressure on all States not to start a war, to stop one that has begun and to reduce the scope of any persisting war in injuring civilians of either side or no side.
A neglected corollary to the libertarian policy of peaceful coexistence of States is the rigorous abstention from any foreign aid; that is, a policy of nonintervention between States (= “isolationism” = “neutralism”). For any aid given by State A to State B (1) increases tax aggression against the people of country A and (2) aggravates the suppression by State B of its own people. If there are any revolutionary groups in country B, then foreign aid intensifies this suppression all the more. Even foreign aid to a revolutionary group in B – more defensible because directed to a voluntary group opposing a State rather than a State oppressing the people – must be condemned as (at the very least) aggravating tax aggression at home.
Let us see how libertarian theory applies to the problem of imperialism, which may be defined as the aggression by State A over the people of country B, and the subsequent maintenance of this foreign rule. Revolution by the B people against the imperial rule of A is certainly legitimate, provided again that revolutionary fire be directed only against the rulers. It has often been maintained – even by libertarians – that Western imperialism over undeveloped countries should be supported as more watchful of property rights than any successor native government would be. The first reply is that judging what might follow the status quo is purely speculative, whereas existing imperialist rule is all too real and culpable. Moreover, the libertarian here begins his focus at the wrong end – at the alleged benefit of imperialism to the native. He should, on the contrary, concentrate first on the Western taxpayer, who is mulcted and burdened to pay for the wars of conquest, and then for the maintenance of the imperial bureaucracy. On this ground alone, the libertarian must condemn imperialism.11
Does opposition to all war mean that the libertarian can never countenance change – that he is consigning the world to a permanent freezing of unjust regimes? Certainly not. Suppose, for example, that the hypothetical state of “Waldavia” has attacked “Ruritania” and annexed the western part of the country. The Western Ruritanians now long to be reunited with their Ruritanian brethren. How is this to be achieved? There is, of course, the route of peaceful negotiation between the two powers, but suppose that the Waldavian imperialists prove adamant. Or, libertarian Waldavians can put pressure on their government to abandon its conquest in the name of justice. But suppose that this, too, does not work. What then? We must still maintain the illegitimacy of Ruritania’s mounting a war against Waldavia. The legitimate routes are (1) revolutionary uprisings by the oppressed Western Ruritanian people, and (2) aid by private Ruritanian groups (or, for that matter, by friends of the Ruritanian cause in other countries) to the Western rebels – either in the form of equipment or of volunteer personnel.12
We have seen throughout our discussion the crucial importance, in any present-day libertarian peace program, of the elimination of modern methods of mass annihilation. These weapons, against which there can be no defense, assure maximum aggression against civilians in any conflict with the clear prospect of the destruction of civilization and even of the human race itself. Highest priority on any libertarian agenda, therefore, must be pressure on all States to agree to general and complete disarmament down to police levels, with particular stress on nuclear disarmament. In short, if we are to use our strategic intelligence, we must conclude that the dismantling of the greatest menace that has ever confronted the life and liberty of the human race is indeed far more important than demunicipalizing the garbage service.
We cannot leave our topic without saying at least a word about the domestic tyranny that is the inevitable accompaniment of war. The great Randolph Bourne realized that “war is the health of the State.”13 It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values and the morale – as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it – of an “army on the march.”
The root myth that enables the State to wax fat off war is the canard that war is a defense by the State of its subjects. The facts, of course, are precisely the reverse. For if war is the health of the State, it is also its greatest danger. A State can only “die” by defeat in war or by revolution. In war, therefore, the State frantically mobilizes the people to fight for it against another State, under the pretext that it is fighting for them. But all this should occasion no surprise; we see it in other walks of life. For which categories of crime does the State pursue and punish most intensely – those against private citizens or those against itself? The gravest crimes in the State’s lexicon are almost invariably not invasions of person and property, but dangers to its own contentment: for example, treason, desertion of a soldier to the enemy, failure to register for the draft, conspiracy to overthrow the government. Murder is pursued haphazardly unless the victim be a policeman, or Gott soll hüten, an assassinated Chief of State; failure to pay a private debt is, if anything, almost encouraged, but income tax evasion is punished with utmost severity; counterfeiting the State’s money is pursued far more relentlessly than forging private checks, etc. All this evidence demonstrates that the State is far more interested in preserving its own power than in defending the rights of private citizens.
A final word about conscription: of all the ways in which war aggrandizes the State, this is perhaps the most flagrant and most despotic. But the most striking fact about conscription is the absurdity of the arguments put forward on its behalf. A man must be conscripted to defend his (or someone else’s?) liberty against an evil State beyond the borders. Defend his liberty? How? By being coerced into an army whose very raison d’être is the expunging of liberty, the trampling on all the liberties of the person, the calculated and brutal dehumanization of the soldier and his transformation into an efficient engine of murder at the whim of his “commanding officer”?14 Can any conceivable foreign State do anything worse to him than what “his” army is now doing for his alleged benefit? Who is there, O Lord, to defend him against his “defenders”?
1 There are some libertarians who would go even further and say that no one should employ violence even in defending himself against violence. However, even such Tolstoyans, or “absolute pacifists,” would concede the defender’s right to employ defensive violence and would merely urge him not to exercise that right. They, therefore, do not disagree with our proposition. In the same way, a libertarian temperance advocate would not challenge a man’s right to drink liquor, only his wisdom in exercising that right.
2 We shall not attempt to justify this axiom here. Most libertarians and even conservatives are familiar with the rule and even defend it; the problem is not so much in arriving at the rule as in fearlessly and consistently pursuing its numerous and often astounding implications.
3 Or, to bring up another famous antipacifist slogan, the question is not whether “we would be willing to use force to prevent the rape of our sister,” but whether, to prevent that rape, we are willing to kill innocent people and perhaps even the sister herself.
4 William Buckley and other conservatives have propounded the curious moral doctrine that it is no worse to kill millions than it is to kill one man. The man who does either is, to be sure, a murderer; but surely it makes a huge difference how many people he kills. We may see this by phrasing the problem thus: after a man has already killed one person, does it make any difference whether he stops killing now or goes on a further rampage and kills many dozen more people? Obviously, it does.
5 Professor Robert L. Cunningham has defined the State as the institution with “a monopoly on initiating open physical coercion.” Or, as Albert Jay Nock put it similarly if more caustically, “The State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime…. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants.”
6 An outstanding example of pinpointing by revolutionaries was the invariable practice of the Irish Republican Army, in its later years, of making sure that only British troops and British government property were attacked and that no innocent Irish civilians were injured. A guerrilla revolution not supported by the bulk of the people, of course, is far more likely to aggress against civilians.
7 If it be objected that a war could theoretically be financed solely by a State’s lowering of nonwar expenditures, then the reply still holds that taxation remains greater than it could be without the war effect. Moreover, the purport of this article is that libertarians should be opposed to government expenditures whatever the field, war or nonwar.
8 There is another consideration which applies rather to “domestic” defense within a State’s territory: the less the State can successfully defend the inhabitants of its area against attack by criminals, the more these inhabitants may come to learn the inefficiency of state operations, and the more they will turn to non-State methods of defense. Failure by the State to defend, therefore, has educative value for the public.
9 The international law mentioned in this paper is the old-fashioned libertarian law as had voluntarily emerged in previous centuries and has nothing to do with the modem statist accretion of “collective security.” Collective security forces a maximum escalation of every local war into a worldwide war – the precise reversal of the libertarian objective of reducing the scope of any war as much as possible.
10 F.J.P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (Appleton, Wis.: C.C. Nelson, 1953), p. 58.
11 Two other points about Western imperialism: first, its rule is not nearly so liberal or benevolent as many libertarians like to believe. The only property rights respected are those of the Europeans; the natives find their best lands stolen from them by the imperialists and their labor coerced by violence into working the vast landed estates acquired by this theft.
Second, another myth holds that the “gunboat diplomacy” of the turn of the century was a heroic libertarian action in defense of the property rights of Western investors in backward countries. Aside from our above strictures against going beyond any State’s monopolized land area, it is overlooked that the bulk of gunboat moves were in defense, not of private investments, but of Western holders of government bonds. The Western powers coerced the smaller governments into increasing tax aggression on their own people, in order to pay off foreign bondholders. By no stretch of the imagination was this an action on behalf of private property – quite the contrary.
12 The Tolstoyan wing of the libertarian movement could urge the Western Ruritaniansto engage in nonviolent revolution, for example, tax strikes, boycotts, mass refusal to obey government orders or a general strike – especially in arms factories. Cf. the work of the revolutionary Tolstoyan, Bartelemy De Ligt, The Conquest of Violence: An Essay On War and Revolution (New York: Dutton, 1938).
13 See Randolph Bourne, “Unfinished Fragment on the State,” in Untimely Papers (New York: B.W: Huebsch, 1919).
14 To the old militarist taunt hurled against the pacifist: “Would you use force to prevent the rape of your sister?” the proper retort is: “Would you rape your sister if ordered to do so by your commanding officer?”
Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995), the founder of modern libertarianism and the dean of the Austrian School of economics, was the author of The Ethics of Liberty and For a New Liberty and many other books and articles. He was also academic vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the Center for Libertarian Studies, and the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report.
Copyright © 1963 by Murray N. Rothbard.
Copyright © 2003 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
All rights reserved.
The effort to renew the Founding Fathers’ vision is good for America.
By John Dillin
from the May 16, 2008 edition
Washington – Ron Paul and his 1 million supporters aren’t going away. And that’s probably a good thing for America’s future.
Remember Dr. Paul? He – not John McCain – was the real maverick in this year’s fight for the Republican presidential nomination.
While Senator McCain often sneered at Paul during their debates, many voters cheered Paul and poured $35 million into his campaign.
Paul, a Texas congressman and longtime gynecologist, remains in the hunt for delegates to September’s Republican National Convention. But his focus has now broadened – widening to what The Idaho Observer calls a “national civics lesson.”
To that end, Paul’s legions – often young, educated, and tech-savvy – are expanding their influence into grass-roots GOP politics. They hope to recruit Paul-like candidates for local, state, and federal offices, particularly for Congress. That’s already sparked clashes at local GOP meetings.
Following in the footsteps of Barry Goldwater, Paul has also just published a 167-page book, “The Revolution: A Manifesto.” He spells out his positions on everything from abortion to Iraq to the collapsing dollar. Forty-eight years ago, Goldwater’s classic “Conscience of a Conservative” launched a public groundswell that helped propel Ronald Reagan into the White House.
Paul’s own politics hark back to classical conservatives, such as Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio (1939-53), and to the nation’s Founding Fathers. He favors smaller government with limited powers. To rescue a falling dollar, he’d dissolve the Federal Reserve and urge a reconsideration of the old gold standard. He would close hundreds of foreign bases and would force deep cuts in the Washington bureaucracy by abolishing the income tax.
Opponents denounce his blunt views, calling him unrealistic in an era of global terrorism.
Nor did major media welcome Paul’s ideas. They mostly ignored him or treated him as an 18th-century anachronism.
Nothing separates Paul so clearly from most Republicans as his views on the Iraq war. His reasoning goes straight back to the Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 8, which reserves the power to declare war exclusively to Congress.
No such declaration happened with Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush, or in Iraq in 1991 with President George H.W. Bush, or in Vietnam in the 1960s with President Lyndon Johnson, or in Korea in 1950 with President Harry Truman. Instead of demanding declarations, we’ve settled for congressional “resolutions.”
Truman started this defiance of the Constitution. In the Korean conflict, which official Washington called a “police action,” 36,407 US service men and women were killed. That’s more than all those killed (22,424) in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War.
In his book, Paul writes: “The Framers [of the Constitution] did not want the American president to resemble the British king….” He quotes Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers:
“The President is to be commander-in-chief…. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same as that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces … while that of the British king extends to declaring war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies – all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature [Congress].”
Do these kinglike actions by recent US presidents really matter?
Absolutely. Just look at Iraq. The war is being fought by a shrunken volunteer military – made up of less than 1 percent of the American population. This is convenient for politicians. With no congressional declaration and no draft, most American families don’t feel the real pain of war.
But White House failure to get a declaration handcuffs the president when things go wrong – as now. The American military is clearly too small for simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet even McCain, who says winning in Iraq is vital, shies away from imposing an unpopular draft.
Paul sees this and other problems – runaway taxes, mounting US debt, an “American Empire” mentality that has put US military bases in 130 countries – as symptoms of Washington’s failure to follow the Constitution.
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says of Paul: “I was very distressed, frankly, with the way he [Paul] was sort of dismissed [by other GOP candidates]…. He was speaking to values that they should respect.” He says: “Ron Paul is talking to people who are thirsting for the real thing. And he’s hitting the same chords that Goldwater hit and that Reagan hit in the early days…. He’s a very healthy phenomenon.”
So far, Paul has about 42 delegates. There is hope that with enough delegates, he will win the right to address the convention.
Big media still ignores him. But his followers are determined to push the government closer to the Founding Fathers’ vision.
It’s a long shot. But so was the American Revolution.
• John Dillin is a former managing editor and Washington correspondent for the Monitor.
Wednesday, May 14th, 2008
The following is an excerpt from “Dying to Get High” by Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb (NYU Press, 2008). (c) 2008 NYU Press. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
For many modern critics, the concept of “medical marijuana” is a contradiction in terms. Medicine is standardized, synthetic, and pure; marijuana involves the unrefined and promiscuous coupling of more than four hundred components rooted in the dirt. Medicine — in its most powerful and privileged forms — rests in the hands of men, while the most potent form of marijuana is found in the female flowering plant. Medicine engages in heroic battles against death. Marijuana claims only to enhance the quality of life.
Medicine presents itself as an objective science safeguarded by the ritual of the double-blind, randomized clinical trial. The therapeutic value of marijuana relies largely on the “soft science” of subjective experience and anecdotal evidence. From the perspective of its critics, then, cannabis is an effeminate interloper in the masculine world of real medicine, a dangerous drug pushed on a credulous public by illegitimate quacks.
But this story is too simple. The line separating regular doctors from snake oil salesmen, good drugs from bad, is as much the product of politics as it is of science. The dominance of politics in determining the value of marijuana as a medicine was first demonstrated in the 1930s when the federal government began to restrict the medical use of marijuana, against the recommendations of the American Medical Association (AMA).
The struggle between politics and science over the use of cannabis as a medicine continues. In the final decade of the twentieth century, the federal government threatened physicians with the loss of their license for recommending marijuana to patients, made criminals of patients who followed their doctor’s advice, and actively blocked scientific research into the therapeutic value of cannabis, while insisting that it was an established scientific fact that marijuana is not a medicine.
During the opening of a 2004 congressional hearing on medical marijuana, this ongoing battle over cannabis was described by committee chair Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) as a critical front in the War on Drugs and consistent with the modernization of medicine:
This hearing will address a controversial topic, the use of marijuana for so-called medicinal purposes. In recent years, a large and well-funded pro-drug movement has succeeded in convincing many Americans that marijuana is a true medicine to be used in treating a wide variety of illnesses …. Marijuana was once used as a folk remedy in many primitive cultures, and even in the 19th century was frequently used by some American doctors, much as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin were once used by doctors. By the 20th century, however, its use by legitimate medical practitioners has dwindled, while its illegitimate use as a recreational drug has risen.
Souder thus sets the stage for a morality tale populated by primitive practitioners and legitimate doctors, dangerous drug fiends and decent drug warriors.
Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly invoked a similar cast of characters in his 2004 discussion of medical marijuana with U.S. Deputy “Drug Czar” Dr. Andrea Barthwell. That year, voters in Oregon were to be presented with a ballot measure to amend their state’s already-existing medical marijuana law. The proposed amendment (which ultimately failed) was intended both to increase the amount of marijuana a patient could have over the course of a year and to redefine which health professionals could legally recommend marijuana for medical use.
O’Reilly scoffed at the idea that licensed health practitioners other than physicians might be authorized to recommend the use of cannabis to their patients: “Even a shaman could grant permission for you to toke in Oregon. I mean, this is, you know, any health practitioner. So you’re a shaman from the Amazon and you set up shop. Come on, I mean, everybody knows this is a ruse. Am I wrong?” Andrea Barthwell confirmed for viewers that O’Reilly’s concerns were quite legitimate: “No, you’re absolutely right, Bill. This is what we’ve been trying to make clear to people when they have these proposals presented to them. This is not about getting medicine to people who are sick and dying. This is about making marijuana legal.”
While both host and guest shared the belief that the Oregon proposal was no more than a thinly disguised attempt to legalize marijuana, O’Reilly asked whether cannabis itself might not be a legitimate medicine if prescribed by a legitimate physician to a patient with a legitimate need: “But there is a legitimate issue here, Doctor. We had Montel Williams [another popular TV talk show host] on a few weeks back. He has MS [multiple sclerosis]. And I believe Montel Williams when he says, ‘Look, medical marijuana helps me, helps me cope with this disease, cope with my suffering. There’s no reason why I should be denied it.’ And I agree with Montel Williams that if this is the case, if a doctor — a doctor — says that he needs it for his MS, he should have it. You don’t disagree with that, do you?” Barthwell’s response was uncompromising: “Well, I do, actually. There is nothing that tells us from the science now that smoked, crude botanical should be a medication. We have a process that has been in place for 100 years in this country that protects the sick and dying from snake oil salesmen. And just because something makes you feel better doesn’t make it medicine.”
In this short exchange, the terms of the debate for dismissing cannabis therapeutics are neatly laid out: medical marijuana is a ruse; cannabis is the modern day equivalent of “snake oil”; “crude botanicals” are not real medicine; licensed alternative health practitioners are not legitimate healers; marijuana is reduced to and synonymous with smoking as a delivery system; and “feeling better” isn’t always therapeutic. Taken together, these claims create a neat division between marijuana and “real medicine,” with medicine narrowly defined as that which is practiced by physicians prescribing pharmaceuticals to patients who will not necessarily feel better as a result.
The rise of “regular” medicine and the battle against botanicals
According to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli research chemist who performed much of the original work in the early 1960s isolating the active ingredients in marijuana: From ancient times to the early 20th Century, cannabis was used for a wide variety of medical purposes including the treatment of pain and swelling, depression, arthritis, impotence, kidney stones, hemorrhaging in childbirth, irregular bowel movements, cold sores, distending stomach, dropsy, headaches, diseases of the respiratory organs, hysteria, neuralgia, sciatica, tetanus, dysentery, fatigue, disorders of the female reproductive system, convulsions, cholera, delirium tremens, vomiting, spasmodic asthma, and a host of other ailments. Most of these therapeutic claims were either based on folklore or were anecdotal, but the use of cannabis as a therapeutic agent in the past provides an insight for future drug development. More recently, some of the historical therapeutic properties of cannabis have been verified with pure natural or synthetic cannabinoids; however, in several fields no modern scientific work exists.
In order to understand why marijuana, a promising medicinal botanical, should now be excluded not only from the modern pharmacopeia but also from much formal scientific study, it is necessary to ask why some drugs, but not all, get labeled “medicine”; why some healers, and not others, are “regular doctors”; why some effects, but only some, are understood as “therapeutic”; and why some risks are acceptable while others are prohibited under penalty of law. The answers cannot be found in a simple appeal to scientific standards. Instead, in order to understand what counts as “legitimate” medicine, it is useful to ask who, beyond the patient, might benefit from such distinctions. In our exploration of the role of organized medicine, state regulatory agencies, the courts, and the pharmaceutical industry in the demonization of marijuana, the intent is not to perform the reverse process, demonizing modern medicine. Over the past century, during which organized medicine consolidated its authority and cannabis was first marginalized and then removed from the pharmacopeia, astonishing medical advances have been made. Unquestionably, the public would be ill served by a return to a time of unregulated medicine practiced by poorly trained doctors with recourse to few effective drugs.
Nonetheless, it is also the case that the healing arts remain an impure science. The most striking difference between marijuana and “real medicine” is not the physical but the social effects the plant has on users and healers alike. Association with marijuana marks those it touches as illegitimate — a distinction with deep historical roots. Prior to the professionalization of medicine, lay healers — often women — made extensive use of medicinal plants. But as modern medicine moved into the ranks of the professions, and into hands of men, botanicals were discredited along with the women who had used them. In their pathbreaking study of the rise of the male medical expert, For Her Own Good, Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English note that, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, anxiety over women’s knowledge of medicinal botanicals contributed to the European witch hunts: charges against the accused often included the provision of herbs.
In Colonial America and the early republic, health and healing practices also rested largely in the hands of lay women practicing herbal medicine. Historian Carol Smith-Rosenberg observes that “women as midwives and as family nurses, women wise in the ancient herbal pharmacopoeia, had always cared for their own and neighboring families. A survey of cookbooks and women’s diaries for the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries shows that women collected and exchanged recipes for medicines as routinely as they did for pies and cookies.”
By the nineteenth century, however, as medicine entered the marketplace, male physicians with little formal training claimed for themselves the designation “Regular doctor” while moving all others to the margins of the healing arts. In North America, midwives, bonesetters, and “root and herb” doctors were thus gradually displaced by the self-proclaimed “Regulars,” not through the violence of witch burnings, as happened in Europe, but rather through professionalization. This challenge was, according to Ehrenreich and English, “at bottom, economic. Medicine in the 19th century … [became] a thing to be bought and sold.”
Professionalization required that the Regulars distinguish themselves from midwives and herbalists; they did so through “heroic medicine,” a practice involving dramatic (though not necessarily beneficial) techniques such as bloodletting, blistering, purging, and the use of toxic mercury-based medicines. These interventions were intended to produce “the strongest possible effect on the patient.” Though such therapies were not only dangerous and often ineffective, Ehrenreich and English observe that they gave “regular doctors something activist, masculine, and imminently more salable than the herbal teas and sympathy served up by rural female healers.” In fact, despite the very serious risks of heroic medicine, Smith-Rosenberg notes that the Regulars insisted that it was they who were protecting “the lives of innocent citizens from ill-trained, irresponsible ‘irregulars,’ and hysterical midwives.”
The Regulars prospered during the first two decades of the nineteenth century and succeeded in securing licensing laws in many states restricting the practice of medicine to those in their ranks and limiting membership to men. But growing dissatisfaction with the results of “heroic medicine,” and populist misgivings about monopolies and elites, led to the temporary repeal of such laws during the 1830s. The “Popular Health Movement” of the period challenged the position of Regulars by emphasizing “self-help” (through better hygiene and healthy living) and by embracing the therapeutic approaches of alternative medical sects, including those advocating botanical treatments.
As sociologist Carol Weisman notes, under the banner of science, Sectarians or Irregulars “were attacked by mainstream physicians as ‘quacks,’ although the therapeutics of the regular physicians were not generally more effective than those of the irregulars.” The Regulars reinforced their claim that they, and they alone, were legitimate physicians by founding a national professional organization in 1847 — the American Medical Association — explicitly excluding both women and sectarian practitioners.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, economic competition intensified as both Regulars and their rivals — now known as the “Eclectics” — opened medical schools to train practitioners. The Eclectics, who advocated the use of botanical therapies, also represented a more populist and egalitarian politics — for example, they admitted women to their medical schools. During this same period, in 1854, cannabis joined other herbal remedies in the national pharmacopeias and was freely prescribed for a large number of medical conditions ranging from insomnia to neuropathic pain. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dozens of research papers were published on the various medicinal uses of marijuana.
This corresponds to a period in which Regulars began to consolidate the power of the newly organized medical profession, in part by absorbing Eclectics into their ranks. As Paul Starr observes in his landmark study, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Eclectics “succumbed to quiet cooptation; they were only too glad to be welcomed into the fold.” By co-opting much of the opposition, physicians were able to secure new licensing laws restricting the practice of medicine. But Eclectics paid a significant price; with the consolidation of control by conventional medicine, botanical therapies were increasingly marginalized by mainstream medicine.
The allopathic approach of the Regulars was not only dominant but also institutionalized in the early twentieth century when organized medicine completed its process of professionalization by gaining control over medical education, access to hospitals, and the right to prescribe drugs. The dominance of this paradigm was reflected in the growing strength of the American Medical Association. In 1900 the AMA had no more than eight thousand members, but by 1910 membership reached seventy thousand, and by 1920 the majority of physicians in the United States had become members. In fact, by 1931 only about 5 percent of all cases of illness were handled by non-MD practitioners.
This exponential increase in the power and professional authority of regular doctors surprisingly did not rest primarily on the provision of more effective medicines; these were slow to be developed. Instead, doctors were forced to find other ways to assert their newly established social and cultural legitimacy. One strategy was to position themselves as experts in not only the physical but also the moral health of the nation. In the nineteenth century, condemnation of birth control and abortion, for instance, provided physicians with a clear moral platform that allowed them to denounce practices still largely in the hands of “irregulars.” According to Carol Smith-Rosenberg, these efforts to limit women’s reproductive choices became a key arena “in the war between the allopaths and the ‘irregulars’ for patients and for power …. The ‘irregular’ physician and the ‘irregular’ wife, the ‘regulars’ insisted, conspired together against public order and national well-being.” As Carol Weisman observes, this claim of medical and moral expertise “provided regular physicians with an element of social respectability and moral authority, which was enhanced by publicly criticizing the abortion practices of other practitioners and the crass commercialism of purveyors of contraceptives and abortifacients.”
At the end of the nineteenth century, flush with its legislative success against abortion, the AMA turned its attention to another arena that neatly linked morality and public health: the provision of drugs. Physicians enhanced their professional authority by speaking out against the dangers of addictive drugs frequently found in “patent medicines” and available directly to the public. Because the formulae of proprietary medicines were secret, it was impossible for patients to judge the safety of those drugs. The practitioners of organized medicine thus joined forces with muckraking journalists to bring to the public’s attention the possible risks of patent medicines. This important public service had a significant payoff for the profession as well, reinforcing a growing distinction in the public mind between good drugs (dispensed by doctors) and bad drugs (available directly to the public by unlicensed practitioners).
See More:Drugs World News
May 11, 2008
A young man who works in the oil field in the Texas Panhandle and that I personally know, got the following notice with his paycheck this last Friday, 05-09-08. THIS IS NOT A RUMOR! I have held the actual notice in my own hands, seen the actual notice with my own eyes and have retyped it verbatim as follows:
‘FROM JUNE 3, 2008, ABOUT 10,000 TRAINED AND CERTIFIED OFFICERS WILL BLANKET THE ROADWAYS OF NORTH AMERICA TO PREVENT TRUCK AND BUS ACCIDENTS AND SAVE LIVES. KNOWN AS ROAD CHECK 2008, FEDERAL, STATE, PROVINCIAL, AND LOCAL OFFICERS WILL BE CONDUCTING NORTH AMERICAN STANDARD INSPECTION AROUND THE CLOCK FOR 72 HOURS FROM JUNE 3-5. THE INSPECTIONS INVOLVE A COMPREHENSIVE 37-STEP PROCEDURE WHICH INCLUDES ITEMS RELATED TO VEHICLE, DRIVER, AND CARGO SAFETY.’
Our peace-loving organ of the state, a.k.a. the New York Times has come through once again. On the fifth anniversary of our glorious act of generosity towards the Iraqi people, “all the news that’s fit to print” carefully features the finer thoughts of a remarkably sorry set of warmongers and war aficionados.
From the beginning, Iraq seemed in 2002 and early 2003 from inside the Pentagon to be little more than a boutique war. By the third anniversary, it appeared to be deliciously tart entertainment for the Washington elites, subject of oohs and ahhs for the cocktail class. Has it become, just this week, a case for serious intellectual retrospection, and even debate, among the imperialistas?
Astoundingly, the moral magicians who justify our foreign policy are quite pleased with themselves. George W. Bush recently shared his perception the war in Iraq has been “good for the economy.” For the elite policy makers, the finely manicured, smooth browed, and well-nourished political class, what we have here is the greatest action flick in the world, with endless sequels.
We might call it “American Chainsaw Massacre,” or “Hostel: The Country.” Deranged yet powerful psychopath runs amok, killing innocents and not-so-innocents alike, incorporating lots of meaningless destruction and plot twists, with an ambiguous moral lesson that dawns only faintly, and only at the end, after everyone is dead.
This motion picture, this designer occupation, this expensive excursion into the lives of others, is what the war-supporting chattering class debates. Iraq is an artificial war, expending other people’s lives, other countries’ livelihoods, other mother’s children, and blood that doesn’t seem quite real to those in the velveteen theater.
The imperialistas discuss the merits of what they have watched from afar, with an eye to medium, believability, artistic direction and creative misdirection.
This artifice of war, this deception of others and themselves, is certainly useful in evaluating any possible neoconservative legacy. But to understand America and Iraq today, we need look no further than that ancient warrior whose advice has stood the test of time.
In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, we find that “all warfare is based on deception.” Given that the Iraqis, and Afghans for that matter, understand completely what is happening, how and why – to the extent that no American politician may visit either country alone, without advance warning, flak jacket, armored vehicle, military escort and air cover. Strangely enough, the only deception going on relating to the “war in Iraq” is the domestic deception of Americans themselves, by their government and its media.
Under Sun Tzu’s tutelage, we would hide our capabilities and proclivities from the enemy. Instead, the government has banned soldier blogs and cut soldier Youtube access, all to protect innocent Americans back home. Where we would remain mysterious in our interrogation techniques vis-à-vis the world, instead Americans remain the only nationality still confused about what goes on in Guantanamo.
Sun Tzu would have us feign weakness in the face of an enemy that impresses us, in order to confuse and mislead him. Instead, we boast – as recently relieved CENTCOM commander Fallon suggested – that we will crush our insignificant enemy like ants. One wonders towards whom such language is directed. I suspect our logistic, financial, tactical, strategic and moral weakness is apparent to the most casual observer throughout the Middle East and the world. Only the American heartland waits anxiously for the latest pump-me-up story from Washington.
Sun Tzu may not have known everything, or even much at all. But he noticed this:
Raising a host of a hundred thousand men and marching them great distances entails heavy loss on the people and a drain on the resources of the State…. There will be commotion at home and abroad, and men will drop down exhausted on the highways. … One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory.
Our own leader and sovereign has declared victory in Iraq, several times, in fact. His chosen successor has called for a century of occupation, and hopes to lead the nation into many more such glorious wars. Bush as a poor performer in the Air National Guard, and McCain as a challenged pilot in Vietnam really isn’t the problem. The problem is that they imagine they are playing the top general – or chief psychopath – in the movie of the week.
This artifice of war, cherished by neoconservatives and the other moral dimwits in Washington and New York, must be turned upside down. Remember – it’s not war! To understand what it is, and it is indeed complex, one must avoid the New York Times and check out Winter Soldier, held in DC this past weekend. Listen to IVAW member and Winter Soldier participant Geoff Millard, interviewed here by Scott Horton before the event, and by me just afterwards.
Sun Tzu wrote of war as an art – but Iraq today isn’t war in a Sun Tzu sense. Sun Tzu understood war as extremely expensive, extremely deadly, and an existential threat for the initiating emperor. Truly, our fun and games in Iraq meet these criteria. But wise strategists view war as a serious national decision – not a weekend blockbuster, measured by tickets sold, budgets exceeded and stars showcased.
Bad reviews and flat ticket sales kill movies, and they can also kill artificial wars like the one now playing in Iraq. There is a bit of resignation in the voices of the war cheerleaders, a small sign of self-awareness. This portends the end of the movie. With a little help from the latest recession, impending imperial collapse, and networks like IVAW, antiwar.com and this website, we may already have everything we need to close the show in Iraq, and bring all the troops home.
March 20, 2008
LRC columnist Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for MilitaryWeek.com, hosted the call-in radio show American Forum, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com and Liberty and Power. To receive automatic announcements of new articles, click here.
Copyright © 2008 Karen Kwiatkowski
Americans love their war heroes. It doesn’t matter where the war was fought, why it was fought, how it was fought, or what the war cost. Every battlefield is holy; every cause is just; every soldier is a potential hero. But what is it that turns an ordinary soldier into a war hero? Since it obviously depends on the criteria employed, is it possible that American war heroes are not heroes at all? Could it be that, rather than being heroes, they are instead dupes?
Democrats who loathe John McCain because he is a Republican and Republicans who consider him to be a lukewarm conservative are united in their belief that, whatever his politics, McCain is a genuine war hero because he spent five years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. But one does not have to be a prisoner of war to be considered a war hero. The Department of Defense maintains a website that highlights “the military men and women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the Global War on Terror.” Every soldier who died fighting in the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, otherwise known as Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, is also considered to be a war hero.
After McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, he became a naval aviator. During the Vietnam War he rained down death and destruction on the people of Vietnam during twenty-three bombing missions. After being shot down, he was imprisoned instead of receiving the death sentence his bombs delivered to the Vietnamese. So why is he considered a war hero? If he got what he deserved, there would be 58,257 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. instead of 58,256. Pilots like McCain who drop napalm from the safety of their cockpit are lauded as heroes by the government, the media, and Americans ignorant enough or gullible enough to swallow the myth that there can be heroism in the performance of evil. McCain was even well received by the Vietnamese government in 2000 when he traveled to Vietnam in pursuit of a bilateral trade agreement.
Begun in September of 2006, the DOD “Heroes’ Archive” contains the names of 116 U.S. soldiers who performed some heroic deed fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the four soldiers currently featured, two were awarded the Bronze Star, one was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, and the fourth was awarded the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal, and the Outstanding Service Medal. Now, unlike General Petraeus, at least these soldiers earned their metals during real combat. Yet, the fact remains, as Catholic Eastern Rite priest Charles McCarthy has recently stated, “Murder decorated with a ribbon is still murder.”
Both IraqWarHeroes.org and AfghanistanWarheroes.org are “dedicated to our deceased Heroes that have served in Iraq & Afghanistan.” The list of “deceased Heroes” contains the names of 4,591 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t know where these sites are getting their information from. The “Casualties in Iraq” page at Antiwar.com shows a total of 4,528 deaths. But regardless of the exact number, the point is that every soldier who died fighting in the war on terror is said to be a hero. It doesn’t matter if they were killed by enemy fire, roadside bombs, friendly fire, disease, accident, or carelessness – they are all heroes. But since the war in Iraq is senseless, immoral, and criminal does it really matter how these soldiers died? Again, I refer the reader to Father McCarthy:
Authentic heroism is freely taking a grave risk in order to try to do good.
Evil does not become a scintilla less evil because a person put his or her life in jeopardy to do it and is subsequently designated a hero.
This means that whatever we call U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq, we should not call them heroes.
Some of these “heroes” are mercenaries. The “large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny” that our Founding Fathers protested against in the Declaration of Independence are now fighting for the United States in Iraq. Since 9/11, the United States has granted citizenship to over 32,000 foreign soldiers. All it takes now is one year of service in the military to be granted citizenship.
Many of these “heroes” are killers for hire. For them, the enlistment bonuses, the tuition assistance, the student loan repayment plans, the assignment incentive pay, the career training, the thirty days of vacation each year, the free medical and dental care, and the generous retirement benefits are enough to erase any concerns about the morality of traveling thousands of miles away from U.S. soil to kill people they have never met or seen, and that posed no threat to America or Americans.
Most of these “heroes,” however, are dupes. They think they are fighting for our freedoms when instead they are helping to destroy our freedoms. They think they are retaliating for 9/11 when instead they are paving the way for another terrorist attack. They think they are preventing terrorism when instead they are making terrorists. They think they went to Iraq to fight al-Qaeda when instead al-Qaeda came to Iraq because of them. They think they are protecting Israel when instead they are contributing to increased hatred of Israel. They think that our cause is just when instead it violates every just war principle ever formulated. They think they are fighting injustice when instead they are committing a crime against the Iraqi people. They think they are defending the United States when instead they are helping to destroy it.
One of the saddest cases of a duped hero is that of Marine Staff Sergeant Marcus Golczynski. He died fighting in Iraq on March 27 of last year while assigned to the Marine Forces Reserve’s Third Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Fourth Marine Division, in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been in the Marine Reserves for twelve years, and was thirty years old when he died.
About a week before he died, Golczynski sent home this e-mail:
I want all of you to be safe. And please don’t feel bad for us. We are warriors. And as warriors have done before us, we joined this organization and are following orders because we believe that what we are doing is right. Many of us have volunteered to do this a second time due to our deep desire to finish the job we started. We fight and sometimes die so that our families don’t have to. Stand beside us. Because we would do it for you. Because it is our unity that has enabled us to prosper as a nation.
At his funeral in Lewisburg, Tennessee, the eight-year-old son he left behind was presented with the flag from his father’s casket. This was captured in a heart-rending photograph that has circulated around the Internet. But Golczynski was not the only one who was duped. Instead of being outraged about his son’s death, his father said that “we owe a debt of gratitude that we will never be able to pay.” And instead of resenting the government that sent the father of her son to fight and die in a senseless foreign war, his wife said that her husband “made the sacrifice for my freedom.”
The terrible truth, of course, is that Sergeant Golczynski, like all of the other soldiers who died in Iraq, died for a lie. He was duped by his commander in chief who said our cause was just. He was duped by the secretary of defense who said the war would be over quickly. He was duped by his commanding officers who said he should obey orders. He was duped by veterans who said he was fighting for our freedoms. He was duped by Republicans who said he needed to follow the president’s leadership. He was duped by politicians who said we should trust them. He was duped by pundits who said we had to fight them “over there” lest we have to fight them “over here.” He was duped by preachers who said we should obey the powers that be. He was duped by Christians who said we must fight against Islamo-fascism. He was duped by Americans who said he was a hero. He was duped by the lying and killing machine known as his own government.
Marcus Golczynski was not alone. Millions of Americans were duped as well. Millions of Americans remain duped. The fact that McCain can talk about being in Iraq for a hundred years and still be greeted by cheering crowds and receive millions of votes says a lot about just how much Americans are duped.
The love affair that Americans have with all things military must be ended. The United States has become a rogue state, a pariah nation, an evil empire – all made possible by the dupes in the U.S. military we call heroes.
April 18, 2008
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. His latest book is a new and greatly expanded edition of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
by Sheldon Richman, Posted May 9, 2008
What’s more obnoxious than a person who constantly whines about the real and imagined injustices committed against him while ignoring his own injustices against others?
A country that does the same thing.
One of the great myths accepted by the American people is that historically, the United States — more precisely, the U.S. government — has been a gentle giant, powerful and rich but entirely peaceful and well-meaning, and slow to anger when wronged. The truth is nearly the diametric opposite.
We often hear American politicians and commentators reciting a list of “terrorist” acts committed against the “United States.” It typically includes the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 bombing of U.S. Air Force housing in Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen. Reciting this string of attacks supposedly demonstrates, without further argument, that the United States has been the major victim of violence on the world stage — unprovoked violence perpetrated by “Islamofascists” because we are free and represent democracy. Indeed, it is widely believed that the attacks on September 11, 2001, were in part the result of “our” failure to retaliate for those unprovoked earlier attacks.
But this is sheer balderdash. The attacks, while often criminally misdirected, were hardly unprovoked. They were not bolts out of the blue. On the contrary, they were seen by the perpetrators as retaliation against the world’s dominant imperial power.
The last century-plus of U.S. foreign policy has largely been a story of aggression and empire-building. American presidents have intervened and interfered in every region of the world, not in self-defense, but in the name of U.S. “national interest,” which in reality means the interest of well-connected corporations and their ambitious political agents who felt appointed by history to bring order to the world. In the view of the policy advocates, the best interests of America, as they conceived them, and the best interests of the people of the world coincided. Of course the people of the world were given no say in the matter. What was in their interest was decided for them by American policymakers and their foreign agents.
Most Americans haven’t gained by this approach to foreign affairs — in fact, they have paid dearly in money and lives. But not as dearly as those on the receiving end of that policy. For all the pious moralizing about democracy and human rights, American foreign policy has treated foreign populations like garbage, beginning with the brutal repression of the Filipino uprising against American colonial rule from 1899 to 1902. That war and its related hardships killed 250,000 to a million Filipino civilians and 20,000 Filipino rebels. In other words, foreigners have been regarded as highly as the Indians were.
How many Americans know that?
Intervention and blowback
Since that time American presidents have intervened, directly or by proxy, in countless places, including Cuba, Haiti, Colombia (Panama), Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. On many occasions American administrations have engineered regime changes (sometimes with assassinations) to install leaders friendly to “American interests.” Rarely has intervention occurred without the murder of innocent civilians, degrading hardship for survivors, and arms and (taxpayer) money for repressive “leaders.” The paradigm is the 1953 intervention in Iran, when the CIA helped drive an elected, secular prime minister from office so the autocratic shah could be restored to power. His brutal U.S.-sponsored repression of the Iranian people finally provoked an Islamic revolution in 1979, creating an anti-American theocracy that has been a thorn in the side of U.S. presidents ever since.
Coincidence? Of course not. Americans may be ignorant or forgetful; the victims seldom are.
To this day we routinely hear references to the Iranian takeover of the U.S. embassy and the 444 days the American hostages were held. Rarely do those references mention that the flare-up of violence followed a quarter century of cruel dictatorship, in which torture was a state policy — all sponsored by U.S. administrations. One can criticize the embassy seizure and the holding of hostages. But it is wrong to think that America was an aggrieved party. But that’s how it works in big-power politics. An imperial force can wreak all kinds of havoc in a weaker foreign country, but there is no outrage in the domestic population until the victims strike back, usually with pathetically meager force compared with what the aggressive power employed.
Iran was neither the first nor the last case of “blowback,” the CIA’s term for what happens when a foreign operation explodes in one’s own face. Indeed, American foreign policy from the end of the 19th century onward can be viewed as a series of blowbacks.
None of this means that innocent American civilians deserve to be killed or injured in retaliation for the government’s conduct. The American people did not “invite” the 9/11 attacks. Not even the U.S. government did that, if by “invite” we mean “sought” or “welcomed.” Arguing that issue is a distraction from what really matters.
The point is that U.S. policy in the Middle East was bound to create victims who sooner or later would want revenge. That they were less than discriminating in whom they sought revenge against does not alter that fundamental fact. To comprehend is not to excuse. If a victim of a crime goes on to commit a crime himself, that should not be a reason to ignore the initial crime. A country keeps itself safe from terrorism first by not forcibly imposing itself on others.
Every imperial power has been the target of what is called “terrorism.” But this term itself should make us suspicious. To be sure, horrific crimes against innocents are included under that label. But one must ask how legitimate the concept is in light of the fact that applying it to any U.S. conduct is impermissible virtually by definition. Something is wrong when the United States in the eyes of many Americans is incapable of committing terrorism, but any resistance to U.S. impositions is condemned with that term. Who controls the definitions controls the future.
How many Americans have any inkling of the crimes — yes, crimes — their government has committed against foreign people in their name over the last century? Most don’t know and don’t care — and that’s fine with their rulers because when vengeful foreigners assault American civilians (unjustifiably) or military occupiers, U.S. leaders and jingoist supporters can say, “America was the victim of another unprovoked attack. Why do they hate us?”
Anyone who is the least bit familiar with history will know the answer. It doesn’t take much effort to learn the truth. Reputable scholars and journalists have turned out a library full of books in the last six years documenting the U.S. government’s record as an international bully. There’s no excuse for ignorance.
Let’s stop whining and get curious. As Walt Kelly’s Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog “Free Association” or send him email.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 edition of Freedom Daily. Subscribe to the print or email version of Freedom Daily.
Imperialism is the single-greatest cause of war, and war is the midwife of new imperialist acquisitions.
— Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire 
Read on another blog:
The delegates are bound to McCain only for the first few rounds of voting at the convention. You see, the national convention is, in and of itself, an actual election. Only this time is the only election the really matters in determining who the party’s nominee will be. Some states send “bound” delegates to the convention who must vote for the candidate who garnered the popular vote win. Those delegates must vote for that person whether or not they support him or her. Each state has different rules, but the delegates are not bound forever. If, for example, McCain fails to get 1191 of the delegates to vote for him in the first election round at the convention, some of the delegates (depending on what state you’re from) are “released” and then can vote for whomever they want in round two… some are still bound and are not released until round 2 or three. I believe that after round three, however, that ALL delegates from ALL states are “released” and can vote for the candidate of their choice and it doesn’t even have to be a candidate who is even running!!
This is exactly how Abraham Lincoln was nominated. He went into the convention with virtually no delegates bound to him. The front runner at the time was a divisive figure (much like McCain is today) and was unable to garner the requisite number of delegate votes in round one. As delegates started to be released after each round, Lincoln garnered more and more votes until finally, after the 5th or 6th round, Lincoln received the requisite number of delegate votes and became the party’s nominee.
Bottom line… you’re state’s primary election results mean next to nothing in the overall nomination process.
USDA Renews Approval of 46 Non-Organic Ingredients in “Organic” Foods
by David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has renewed its approval for 46 non-organically produced substances to be used in foods and beverages that are labeled “organic.” At the same time, the agency withdrew its approval for a type of food coloring and a food additive.
Under the Organic Foods Production Act, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board is required to renew approval every five years for any non-organic ingredients that are allowed into organic foods.
The products renewed include five agricultural non-organic products and 41 non-agricultural, non-organic products. The agricultural produced products are corn starch, kelp, pectin, unbleached lecithin and water extracted gums. Some of these are not individual products, but categories; water-extracted gums, for example, include arabic, carob bean, guar and locust bean gums. Kelp may only be used as a thickener or a dietary supplement.
The 41 allowed non-agricultural products include common ingredients such as citric and lactic acid; calcium carbonate; calcium chloride; carnauba wax; bakers, brewers or nutritional yeast; dairy cultures; flavors; sodium carbonate; glycerin; mono- and diglycerides; and xanthan gum.
The USDA withdrew its approval, however, for colors derived from non-synthetic sources and for potassium tartrate derived from tartaric acid.
The organic industry is the fastest-growing agriculture sector in the United States, currently accounting for 3 percent of all food and beverage sales. Retail revenues have risen 20 to 24 percent each year since 1990, from $1 billion to nearly $17 billion in 2006. They are expected to reach nearly $24 billion by 2010.
At the same time, acreage of organic agriculture operations more than doubled from 2001 to 2005, to a current 4.05 million acres. The number of organic operations increased by more than 18 percent in the same period, to a 2005 value of 8.500 crop and livestock operations and 2,900 handling operations.
by James Bovard, Posted May 5, 2008
Americans are taught to expect their elected leaders to be relatively honest. But it wasn’t always like that. In the mid 1800s, people joked about political candidates who claimed to have been born in a log cabin that they built with their own hands. This jibe was spurred by William Henry Harrison’s false claim of a log-cabin birth in the 1840 presidential campaign.
Americans were less naive about dishonest politicians in the first century after this nation’s founding. But that still did not deter presidents from conjuring up wars. Presidential deceits on foreign policy have filled cemeteries across the land. George W. Bush’s deceits on the road to war with Iraq fit a long pattern of brazen charades.
In 1846, James K. Polk took Americans to war after falsely proclaiming that the Mexican army had crossed the U.S. border and attacked a U.S. army outpost — “shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil.” Though Polk refused to provide any details of where the attack occurred, the accusation swayed enough members of Congress to declare war against Mexico. Congressman Abraham Lincoln vigorously attacked Polk for his deceits. But Lincoln may have studied Polk’s methods, since they helped him whip up war fever 15 years later.
In 1917, Woodrow Wilson took the nation to war in a speech to Congress that contained one howler after another. He proclaimed that “self-governed nations do not fill their neighbor states with spies” — despite the role of the British secret service and propaganda operations in the prior years to breed war fever in the United States. Wilson hailed Russia as a nation that had always been “democratic at heart” — less than a month after the fall of the tsar and not long before the Bolshevik Revolution. He proclaimed that the government would show its friendship and affection for German-Americans at home — but his administration was soon spearheading loyalty drives that spread terror in many communities across the land.
In 1940, in one of his final speeches of the presidential campaign, Franklin Roosevelt assured voters, “Your president says this country is not going to war.” At the time, he was violating the Neutrality Act by providing massive military assistance to Britain and was searching high and low for a way to take the United States into war against Hitler.
In his 1944 State of the Union address, Roosevelt denounced those Americans with “such suspicious souls — who feared that I have made ‘commitments’ for the future which might pledge this Nation to secret treaties” at the summit of Allied leaders in Tehran the previous month. In early 1945, Roosevelt told Congress that the Yalta Agreement “spells the end of the system of unilateral action and exclusive alliance and spheres of influence.” In reality, he signed off on Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and the crushing of any hopes for democracy in Poland.
In August 1945, Harry Truman announced to the world that “the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, in so far as possible, the killing of civilians.” Hiroshima was actually a major city with more than a third of a million people prior to its incineration. But Truman’s lie helped soften the initial impact on the American public of the first use of the atomic bomb. (The U.S. government also vigorously censored photographs of Hiroshima and its maimed survivors.)
Presidential and other government lies on foreign policy are often discounted because they are presumed to be motivated by national security. But as Hannah Arendt noted in an essay on the Pentagon Papers, during the Vietnam War,
The policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy but chiefly if not exclusively destined for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress.
CIA analysts did excellent work in the early period of the Vietnam conflict. But “in the contest between public statements, always over-optimistic, and the truthful reports of the intelligence community, persistently bleak and ominous, the public statements were likely to win simply because they were public,” Arendt commented. The truth never had a chance when it did not serve Lyndon Johnson’s political calculations.
Vietnam destroyed the credibility of both Lyndon Johnson and the American military. Yet the memory of the pervasive lies of the military establishment did not curb the gullibility of many people for fresh government-created falsehoods a decade or so later. During the 1980s, the U.S. State Department ran a propaganda campaign that placed numerous articles in the U.S. media praising the Nicaraguan Contras and attacking the Sandinista regime. As the Christian Science Monitor noted in 2002, the State Department “fed the Miami Herald a make-believe story that the Soviet Union had given chemical weapons to the Sandinistas. Another tale, which happened to emerge the night of President Ronald Reagan’s reelection victory, held that Soviet MiG fighters were on their way to Nicaragua.” The General Accounting Office investigated and concluded that the State Department operation was illegal, consisting of “prohibited, covert propaganda activities.” There was no backlash against the government when the frauds were disclosed. Instead, it was on to the next scam.
Reagan, Bush, and Clinton
Reagan paved the way for subsequent presidents in immersing anti-terrorist policy in swamps of falsehoods. In October 1983, a month after he authorized U.S. Marine commanders to call in air strikes against Muslims to help the Christian forces in Lebanon’s civil war, a Muslim suicide bomber devastated a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 242 Americans. In a televised speech a few days later, Reagan portrayed the attack as unstoppable, falsely claiming that the truck “crashed through a series of barriers, including a chain-link fence and barbed-wire entanglements. The guards opened fire, but it was too late.” In reality, the guards did not fire because they were prohibited from having loaded weapons — one of many pathetic failures of defense that the Reagan administration sought to sweep under the carpet.
In 1984, after the second successful devastating attack in 18 months against a poorly defended U.S. embassy in Lebanon, Reagan blamed the debacle on his predecessor and falsely asserted that the Carter administration had “to a large extent” gotten “rid of our intelligence agents.” A few days later, while campaigning for reelection, Reagan announced that the second embassy bombing was no longer an issue: “We’ve had an investigation. There was no evidence of any carelessness or anyone not performing their duty.” However, the Reagan administration had not yet begun a formal investigation.
On May 4, 1986, Reagan bragged, “The United States gives terrorists no rewards and no guarantees. We make no concessions; we make no deals.” But the Iranian arms-for-hostage deal that leaked out later that year blew such claims to smithereens. On November 13, 1986, Reagan denied initial reports of the scandal, proclaiming that the “‘no concessions’ [to terrorists] policy remains in force, in spite of the wildly speculative and false stories about arms for hostages and alleged ransom payments. We did not — repeat — did not trade weapons or anything else for hostages nor will we.” But Americans later learned that the United States had sold 2,000 anti-tank weapons to the Iranian government “in return for promises to release the American hostages there. Money from the sale of those weapons went to support the Contras’ war in Nicaragua,” as Mother Jones magazine noted in 1998.
Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990 provided a challenge for the first Bush administration to get Americans mobilized. In September 1990, the Pentagon announced that up to a quarter million Iraqi troops were near the border of Saudi Arabia, threatening to give Saddam Hussein a stranglehold on one of the world’s most important oil sources. The Pentagon based its claim on satellite images that it refused to disclose. One American paper, the St. Petersburg Times, purchased two Soviet satellite “images taken of that same area at the same time that revealed that there were no Iraqi troops ‘near the Saudi border — just empty desert.’” Jean Heller, the journalist who broke the story, commented, “That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn’t exist.” Even a decade after the first Gulf war, the Pentagon refused to disclose the secret photos that justified sending half a million American troops into harm’s way.
Support for the war was also whipped up by the congressional testimony of a Kuwaiti teenager who claimed she had seen Iraqi soldiers removing hundreds of babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and leaving them on the floor to die. George H.W. Bush often invoked the incubator tale to justify the war, proclaiming that the “ghastly atrocities” were akin to “Hitler revisited.” After the United States commenced bombing Iraq, it transpired that the woman who testified was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that her story was a complete fabrication, concocted in part by a U.S. public relations firm. Dead babies were a more effective selling point than one of the initial justifications Bush announced for U.S. intervention — restoring Kuwait’s “rightful leaders to their place” — as if any Americans seriously cared about putting Arab oligarchs back on their throne. (A few months before Saddam’s invasion, Amnesty International condemned the Kuwaiti government for torturing detainees.)
Bill Clinton’s unprovoked war against Serbia was sold to Americans with preposterous tales of the Kosovo Liberation Army’s being freedom fighters, with absurd claims that a civil war in one corner of southeastern Europe threatened to engulf the entire continent in conflict, with wild and unsubstantiated claims of an ongoing genocide, and with a deluge of lies that the U.S. military was not targeting Serb civilians.
Lying and warring appear to be two sides of the same coin. Unfortunately, many Americans continue to be gullible when presidents claim a need to commence killing foreigners. It remains to be seen whether the citizenry is corrigible on this life-and-death issue.
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy  as well as The Bush Betrayal , Lost Rights  and Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice and Peace to Rid the World of Evil (Palgrave-Macmillan, September 2003) and serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 edition of Freedom Daily. Subscribe to the print or email version of Freedom Daily.
by Eric Black
How does the United States come to arrogate to itself the right and the need to overthrow the governments of countries that have not attacked ours?
One guy who has a theory on that is Stephen Kinzer, the long-time New York Times foreign correspondent. Kinzer has written book-length treatments of some of those overthrows – most recently and notably, the CIA’s overthrow of the democratic government of Iran in 1953. That book, titled “All the Shah’s Men,” gives Kinzer a window onto the potential next foreign policy crisis.
In his 2006 book, “Overthrow,” Kinzer flew at a higher altitude and surveyed what he considers to be the 16 cases, starting with the overthrow of the native queen of Hawaii in 1893, in which Washington has played the regime change card.
Kinzer gave a recent videotaped interview to Maya Schenwar of Truthout.com that focused a lot on Iran. Kinzer is quite worried about a U.S. attack on Iran. The whole interview is excellent, and not very long. But my favorite exchange was Kinzer’s answer to the question of whether the interventions are as nakedly economic as many lefties believe, or whether he credits the altruistic public motives for many of them, such as spreading democracy. I’ve transcribed his answer below:
“One of the advantages of studying these interventions all together, as I did in my book, ‘Overthrow,’ is that you begin to pick up patterns. You begin to see what ties these different interventions together. One of the things that ties, not all of them but many of them together, is what I detect as a three-part process of motivation. Why do we do it? Usually, it’s this three-phase explanation.
“The first thing that happens is that the government of Country X, bothers or harasses or taxes or nationalizes or interferes with some big foreign economic interest. And then the owners of that interest complain to Washington.
“That’s the first thing that happens. If the government of that country doesn’t bother some American corporation, then that country doesn’t even get on the radar screen in Washington. So that’s the key, that’s how the process usually begins. However, the U.S. government doesn’t actually overthrow governments to protect the interests of U.S. corporations.
“Inside the foreign policy process — inside the White House if you will — the motivation morphs. It changes. We decide that any government that would bother or tax or harass or restrict or regulate or nationalize an American corporation must be anti-American, anti-capitalist, brutal, repressive, possibly even the tools of our global enemies.
“Therefore we decide that we need to overthrow that government, not because of what it did to those companies, but because the fact that it did those things shows that it poses a political or geostrategic threat to the United States. So that’s the second phase
“Then the Third phase comes when it’s time for American leaders to explain or justify the intervention: ‘We did it to liberate oppressed people. We not only didn’t do it in order to gain something, we sacrificed ourselves in order to help poor suffering people in that country.’
” This is a very potent argument in the United States. On the one hand, we’re very compassionate people. We hate the idea that people are suffering or being tortured or starving in some other country. We really want to do something about it.
“At the same time we’re quite ignorant about the actual situation in those countries.
“When we hear that we’re undertaking a long, difficult, expensive, costly intervention in another country in order to help the people there, that usually sounds OK to us. So we give our seal of approval as a people.
“So that’s the three stages. It starts with the economic thing. Then it morphs into these political, strategic motivations, And In the end, it’s explained as an operation that was only in defense of human freedom, human rights.”
I haven’t read “Overthrow,” although I ordered as I was transcribing. But I figured I had better at least provide the list of the 14 countries that Kinzer considers the “overthrow” cases:
Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Chile, Iran, Grenada, Afghanistan and Iraq.