February 28, 2017

It’s time to end the failed War on Terrorism

war_on_terror_montage1_800x581Another September 11 is upon us and the usual calls for “vigilance,” “resolve” and “remembrance” have begun. For Americans, this has become a quasi-religious event, with the kinds of rituals and communal utterances once reserved for holy days like Christmas and Easter. Except, in this case, it is not a call to love thy neighbor or one’s enemies, but to continue what can only be described objectively as another failed government “war.”

The War on Terrorism is as complete a failure as the War on Drugs. Both share the hallmark symptoms of all such government endeavors: continually increasing budgets, exploding proliferation of what is made war upon, increasingly harsh measures following each successive failure and enormous collateral damage.

At the center of both debacles is the same fundamental issue: the failure to recognize government intervention as the root cause of the problem itself.

The attack fifteen years ago was not the first terrorist attack perpetrated by foreigners on American soil, but it was by far the worst. And just as it does for so many other government-caused catastrophes, the public demanded the government “do something” about it, rather than stop doing the things that motivated the killers.

Or, maybe the public simply went along with the government-media complex’s unison exhortation for a “war on terror,” along with its promotion of the ludicrous ‘hate us for our freedom” explanation of the motivation behind the attacks. Never mind that every single terrorist ever captured and questioned by U.S. authorities – including those prosecuted for the 9/11 attack itself – have cited U.S. military intervention in the Middle East as their motivation.

The unwillingness to accept the perpetrators’ own words for the motivation behind their attacks is unprecedented in American jurisprudence. For any other crime, correctly identifying the motive is a key element of the prosecution’s case. Failure to prove a compelling motive can mean acquittal, even for a guilty defendant. Yet Americans show no interest in the motive for this crime, defaming anyone who talks about it for “blaming America.”

If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, nobody claims she hated him for his freedom. Acknowledging her true motivation is an integral part of proving her guilty. But for the War on Terror, like most government programs, common sense and logic doesn’t apply.

Regardless of whether one faces reality concerning the motive for 9/11, one thing is certain: terrorism has proliferated enormously since the government declared war upon it, just like drug use. It’s time to ask ourselves exactly what we hope to accomplish with another fifteen years of bombing, invading or sanctioning destitute countries full of people with nothing left to lose.

There are two possible reasons for continuing the “war:” deterrence and revenge. The former is the politically correct reason. The latter is not, but, let’s be honest with ourselves, just as real. When Americans post “never forget,” they are expressing a range of emotions, but among them is the same understandable anger that motivated Sam Houston’s soldiers who exclaimed “Remember the Alamo!” while visiting a merciless slaughter upon Mexican soldiers, even after the Mexicans began trying to surrender.

If revenge is the motivation, it has been accomplished. The 9/11 attackers killed approximately 3,000 Americans. The War on Terror has since killed millions of inhabitants of the Middle East, most of them as innocent as the Americans killed on 9/11. It has ransacked two entire nations, indirectly led to chaos in several others controlled by ISIS and other jihadist groups, and created the refugee crisis we now find ourselves dealing with. For fifteen years, every day has been 9/11 for populations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several other Middle Eastern countries.

At some point, even Sam Houston’s soldiers stopped the slaughter.

As for deterrence, it should be obvious by now that those of us who always maintained that fighting a conventional war with bombers and ground troops does nothing to deter individual terrorist acts were right. This should be intuitive. How could a conventional army fighting a war thousands of miles away possibly do anything to deter terrorists like the Tsarnaev brothers, who cited those very wars as the motivation for their attacks?

An entire generation of Middle Easterners who weren’t even born on September 11, 2001 will turn fifteen years old tomorrow. They are approaching adulthood having lived their entire lives under the constant threat of death from above, with foreign troops of an alien culture patrolling their streets by day and kicking in their doors at night. Only a fool could expect anything but hatred, rational or not, from people in this situation.

Only a government could suggest this epic failure simply requires more funds spent on the same strategy to turn decades-long failure into success. It’s the same fairy tale taxpayers are told about education, poverty, or drugs. The dynamics don’t miraculously change nor the government become suddenly competent when it is fighting terrorism. But it does create even more lethal problems for those it purports to help.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

We Need to Really Gut the Military

cracked-american-flag-jpgU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told the Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday that Americans will be grappling with violent extremism for generations to come. If that feels like déjà vu, you’re not imagining things. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schisslersaid the same thing – in 2006.

Schissler was expressing concern at the time over wavering public support for a war that had already lasted longer than WWII. His concern was warranted. The Republican Party had just suffered a shellacking in the mid-term elections, largely due to public dissatisfaction with “neoconservative” foreign policy. They would lose the White House two years later for largely the same reasons.

American voters may have believed they “threw the bums out,” as Carroll Quigley might put it, but the foreign policy never changed. The Obama administration may have used different tactics, but it’s been even more interventionist than Bush’s. It’s certainly intervened in more countries.

Bush and the 2000s Republicans were called neoconservatives, but they weren’t. Their way of seeing the world is classic conservatism, straight out of Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes not only saw all individuals, but all nations, in a de facto state of war with each other, in the absence of some overwhelming external force “keeping them in awe.”

This was the inspiration for the British Empire, which sought to “civilize” the world by force of arms. It eventually bled itself dry, its biggest failures occurring on precisely the same ground the United States is bleeding on now.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Washington’s Al Qaeda doesn’t exist and never did

al qaedaTAMPA, December 11, 2013 — For twelve years, the Bush and Obama Administrations have promoted a narrative about the War on Terror. It has changed slightly in superficial ways, as when President Obama gave it a new name, but the crux of the narrative has not changed. The United States is fighting a war against a worldwide terrorist organization called al-Qaeda, formerly headed by über-terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Americans are led to believe that this organization has a single mission against the United States and is directed by a hierarchy of terrorist leaders, all reporting up to a senior command located somewhere in Afghanistan. Many of the lawmakers and cabinet personnel who promote this narrative likely believe it themselves, at least to some degree.

Washington sees al-Qaeda the way it sees itself, a centralized, top-down hierarchy with a chain of command reporting up from every corner of the earth. It makes for a good story, but it’s not even remotely true. Virtually every incident involving this fictional organization refutes the narrative.

Veteran reporter Eric Margolis never did. He’s been reporting on the true nature of the Islamic militant groups from the very beginning. He should know what he’s talking about. He was embedded in Afghanistan in the 1980’s when bin Laden and what is now Al Qaeda and the Taliban were U.S. allies, fighting the Soviet Union.

For what it’s worth, bin Laden and other Islamic militants apparently regarded Margolis’ reporting as accurate. He was named as one of a small group of reporters who “fairly and accurately reported on the region” in alleged Al Qaeda letters released last year. Commenting on that release in “Osama’s Almost Letter to Me,” Margolis wrote,

“Al-Qaida was not founded by Osama bin Laden, as many wrongly believe, but in the mid-1980’s in Peshawar, Pakistan, by a revolutionary scholar, Sheik Abdullah Azzam.

I know this because I interviewed Azzam numerous times at al-Qaida HQ in Peshawar while covering the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Azzam set up al-Qaida, which means “the base” in Arabic, to help CIA and Saudi-financed Arab volunteers going to fight in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. In those days, the west hailed them as “freedom fighters.”

Margolis goes on to report that neither Al Qaeda in Afghanistan nor the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11. Their raison d’etre is fighting foreign troops within their borders. When the invaders were Soviet, they fought the Soviets, using similar but updated tactics to those previously used against the British. When the invaders were American, they fought the Americans. That’s what they do. Thus Afghanistan’s ominous nickname, “Graveyard of Empires.”

According to this alternate narrative, the “extremists” in Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 nor any tangible connection to the group that perpetrated the attacks. Those were mostly Saudi Arabian nationals who planned the attack in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid. The only thing the attackers had in common with Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was hatred of the United States. But they hated the United States for different reasons.

The 9/11 attackers, being Saudi, most likely hated America for precisely the reason Osama bin Laden stated: U.S. bases in the Muslim holy land and (secondarily) its support for Israel. Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan hated America because the United States invaded, ignoring the Taliban’s quite reasonable request for the U.S. to produce evidence of bin Laden’s guilt before demanding his extradition.

What Washington is calling “Al Qaeda in Syria” is also a completely different group. They exist to overthrow the Assad regime. Since that regime is a longtime ally of Russia’s, the U.S. has actually supported these rebels, amidst heavy criticism from within Washington’s ranks that the Obama administration is supporting Al Qaeda. This was apparently confirmed when Syrian Jabhat al Nusra Front chief Abou Mohamad al-Joulani pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Sheik Ayman al-Zawahri.

However, the pledge of allegiance actually supports the alternative narrative, not Washington’s. It is apparent from the reports on the pledge that the Syrian group had no previous connection to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It came immediately following an announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq that al Nusra was part of its network.

The ISI is one of many militant groups that filled the vacuum left after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and which had no active presence before Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. ISI similarly pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2004 while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

According to The Telegraph’s April 10, 2013 report, Syria’s al-Nusra pledges allegiance to al-Qaeda,” al-Joulani (al Jawlani) was quick to clarify the relationship with ISI:

“We inform you that neither the al-Nusra command nor its consultative council, nor its general manager were aware of this announcement [the announcement by ISI]. It reached them via the media and if the speech is authentic, we were not consulted,” Jawlani said…We reassure our brothers in Syria that al-Nusra Front’s behaviour will remain faithful to the image you have come to know, and that our allegiance (to al-Qaeda) will not affect our politics in any way,” he added.”

In other words, the Syrian rebel group al Nusra was a group organized around toppling the Assad regime in Syria. It pledged allegiance to what Washington calls “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” but which is really the ISI. The ISI in turn was a group organized to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, with the long term goal of establishing an Islamic state there after U.S. forces withdrew.

None of these groups were part of a worldwide, centralized organization to fight the “Great Satan.” Instead, they are all disparate groups which formed for different, localized reasons and discovered after the fact that they all had a common enemy, the United States. The one exception to this is the group in Syria, whose western, industrialized enemy is Russia. That is why “al Qaeda in Syria” has sought to work with the United States instead of fight against it. The United States is useful in its goal of toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

All of this leads to one, inescapable conclusion. The United States has accomplished nothing in twelve years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq War actually expanded the presence of Islamic militant groups and led to a fundamentalist Islamic state there, with strong ties to Iran.

Rather than waging a war against a centralized, top-down organization with divisions in several Middle Eastern countries and agents embedded all over the world, Washington is actually playing a deadly game of “whack a mole,” with new moles popping up out of new holes every time Washington swings its mallet.

That means that triumphant announcements about killing “the number three man in Al Qaeda” mean absolutely nothing. That Al Qaeda hierarchy doesn’t exist. Instead, independent groups all over the world discover a kinship with each other all centered around one phenomenon: U.S. intervention in their nations. Intervention could be military, covert or merely aid to a local dictator.

Iranian militants hate America because the CIA helped overthrow their democratically-elected government in 1953 and then maintained the hated Shah as dictator there for almost three decades afterwards.

Militant groups in Saudi Arabia hate America for maintaining the Kingdom of Saud and for the additional insult of previously garrisoning troops in their holy land.

Militant groups in Iraq hate America for first supporting Saddam Hussein over the wishes of the Shiite majority and then destroying their country when Hussein became troublesome for the United States.

Militant groups in Afghanistan hate America merely because they are the latest western empire to invade their homeland. It will soon be apparent that they have expelled the United States the same way they did the Soviet and British empires.

The Tsarnaev brothers took direction from no one overseas. They just dreamed up their horrible crime and executed it. Their stated reason? U.S. military interventions in the Middle East.

That doesn’t mean the terrorists are justified. If a wife catches her husband with another woman and shoots him, no reasonable person would conclude that she “hated her husband for his freedom.” Acknowledging that cheating on her was the reason she shot him is not the same as condoning the murder. If she confesses to the murder and states her motive, nobody questions it.

Given the complete failure to accomplish anything in twelve years of war, the true, decentralized nature of the various Islamist groups and the likelihood that new ones will emerge wherever Washington intervenes, nonintervention seems to be the only effective way for Washington to reduce the risk of terrorism in the United States.

Washington should have learned this from the Cold War. Wherever nations succeeded in establishing communism, including in Viet Nam after the U.S. withdrawal, communism eventually died of natural causes. The only places it still exists is Cuba and North Korea, both still under siege by the U.S. military. The U.S. military presence in and sanctions on both countries have kept communist regimes in power long after their shelf life, solely because the people rally around their leaders in the face of a foreign threat.

History is repeating itself. Islamic fundamentalism is the new communism. The difference is that the U.S. is no longer capable of squandering its resources for decades whacking moles. It’s time to start playing the game smart, before America loses it for good.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

The War on Terror has not made us freer or safer

Enduring FreedomTAMPA, December 5, 2013 — There has been predictable bluster about President Obama signing a deal with five other nations to begin the process of lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for commitments by Iran not to develop nuclear weapons. Neoconservatives have howled that it abandons U.S. ally Israel and endangers the entire planet.

Regardless, it is a harbinger of things to come. Economic reality is forcing the United States to change its interventionist foreign policy. Normalizing relations with Iran is just one part of that puzzle. Without a realistic political solution to crushing entitlement liabilities, the only place to make meaningful cuts is in military spending.

As the U.S. government comes to grips with the inevitable, Americans should expect to hear quite a bit about the end of a decade of war and of the sacrifices so many have made to “accomplish the mission.”

There’s no doubt about the sacrifice, both in blood and treasure. It’s the accomplishments that should be evaluated with a high degree of skepticism.

A good percentage of the public seems to regard the Iraq War as a colossal mistake. President Bush took the fall for that, as did the Republican Party in two straight elections. President Obama campaigned successfully on the argument that Iraq was “the wrong war.” The United States should be concentrating on Afghanistan, he argued, from whence the 9/11 attacks and other terrorism supposedly originated.

Americans seem to accept this premise implicitly, but it is far-fetched justification for a decade of war and $5 trillion in additional debt.

Despite most of the 9/11 attackers being Saudi Arabian, Americans were told that Afghanistan must be invaded because Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda army enjoyed a safe haven there, where they “radicalized” new Islamic terrorists in a network of paramilitary training camps. By invading Afghanistian, Americans were told, the U.S. government could break up the camps and greatly diminish the threat of terrorism.

It all makes good sound bites, but almost none of it has any connection to reality. There is credible evidence that the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany, not in Afghanistan. Whether that’s true or not, minimal critical thinking skills are required to arrive at the conclusion that an attack like 9/11 could be planned anywhere.

The Tsarnaev brothers proved that last April. Immediately following the attacks, there were several reports of authorities trying to establish that the elder Tsarnaev had traveled to Dagestan to “become radicalized.” This was a desperate attempt to keep the narrative going. Terrorists like Tsarnaev have to go somewhere in order to become fully committed to crimes like the Boston bombing.

Otherwise, the U.S. government really wasn’t accomplishing anything by invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries.

Ultimately, authorities concluded that Tsarnaev had changed his mind about joining a militant group in Dagestan and had been radicalized right here in the USA.

Whoops.

For the second time in two generations, America has spent over a decade at war in third world countries thousands of miles away. With the Taliban officially part of negotiations and likely to be a major force in post-war Afghanistan, if they don’t return to power altogether, Americans should face some harsh realities.

The first is that twelve years of war in the Middle East has accomplished absolutely nothing. There is no cause and effect relationship between the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the risk of new terrorist attacks in the United States. There never really was. It just sounded good when passions were high and the government felt it had to “do something.”

It hasn’t made Americans freer at home, either. On the contrary, the past decade has seen American society adopt a national security state footing that bears far too much resemblance to 1930’s Germany. There might not be concentration camps or mass murders, but Americans certainly live in a “Papers, please” culture, complete with surveillance cameras on every corner and drones flying overhead.

It’s important to face these facts and learn from history if American doesn’t want to remain doomed to repeat it. America should mourn the dead, take care of the wounded and try to put its finances in order. But don’t let the government put a smiley face on this debacle.

Otherwise, our children may find themselves fighting the next unnecessary war. They already have to pay for this one.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 

Obama right: Boston Marathon bombing possibly not terrorism

TAMPA, April 16, 2013 – Conservative critics immediately criticized President Obama’s initial statement about the Boston Marathon bombing because he did not classify the crime an act of terrorism.

“We still don’t know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But, make no mistake; we will get to the bottom of this,” said the president.

This libertarian doesn’t get to say this very often about any president, but Obama was right. The bombing was a heinous crime, but there is no way to know if this was an act of terrorism until it is determined who perpetrated it and, more importantly, why. That’s because a mass murder is not necessarily an act of terrorism, unless it is carried out for a political purpose. According to Title 22, Chapter 38 of the United States Code,

“…the term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents;”

Definitions vary internationally, but virtually all definitions distinguish terrorism from other crimes against life and property by its political motivation. When perpetrated by foreign agents, acts of terrorism are viewed as quasi-acts of war, carried out by enemies of the state who may not represent a foreign government but nevertheless believe themselves to be at war with the target country. Examples would include the perpetrators of both World Trade Center attacks.

Read the rest of the article at Liberty Pulse…

Non-Aggression Is Not Pacifism (Libertarians Hit Back)

Heading into “Super Tuesday,” many conservatives lament that they do not like any of the remaining Republican candidates for president. Romney is too moderate, Gingrich too much a “Washington insider,” and Santorum both an insider and a guaranteed loser against Obama thanks to his willingness to bare his soul about some of his more outlandish socially conservative views.

That leaves Ron Paul, who would seem to be the ideal conservative candidate. Paul’s Plan to Restore America actually cuts $1 trillion from the federal budget in his first year as president, including eliminating the Department of Education that Ronald Reagan promised to abolish.

Paul is the only candidate that actually disagrees with President Obama in principle on “spreading the wealth around.” Paul doesn’t just nibble a few pennies away from financially insignificant welfare programs. He actually has a funded plan to let young people opt out of Medicare and Social Security. This is really a plan to responsibly end these programs. Government-mandated programs only survive because people are forced to participate. If conservatives really do oppose socialism, they should agree with Paul on this. Where do they think Social Security got its name?

For a large group of conservatives, they are with Paul right up until he explains his foreign policy. Suddenly, not only does the courtship end, they stop taking calls and change their phone numbers. That’s unfortunate because most conservatives make this decision upon a completely distorted view of Paul’s foreign policy.

Read the rest at The Daily Caller…

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

 


[1] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816 from The Works of Thomas Jefferson edited by Paul Leicester Ford G.P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press 1905  pg. 533-34

Is the Patriot Act Unpatriotic?

Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul had an interesting exchange at the National Security Debate hosted by CNN on November 22nd. Not surprisingly, Gingrich supported the Patriot Act, going so far as to say that it should be “strengthened.” Paul argued that “the Patriot Act is unpatriotic,” because the legislation undermines American liberties. He thinks it should be abolished. Both men did well making their points and each got enthusiastic applause from their supporters. But who was right?

At first glance, it might have seemed as if Paul had stumbled into a “gotcha” by bringing up Timothy McVeigh. In supporting his assertion that one must never give up liberty for security, Paul argued that Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, was prosecuted, convicted, and executed under the existing laws, without the “tools” that the Patriot Act provides to law enforcers. Gingrich replied:

“Timothy McVeigh succeeded. That’s the whole point. Timothy McVeigh killed a lot of Americans. I don’t want a law that says after we lose a major American city, we’re sure going to come and find you. I want a law that says, you try to take out an American city, we’re going to stop you.”

Paul responded:

“This is like saying we want a policeman in every house, a camera in every house, because we want to prevent child beating and wife beating. You can prevent crimes by becoming a police state. So, if you advocate the police state, yes, you can have safety and security and you might prevent a crime, but the crime then will be against the American people and against our freedoms and we will throw out so much of what our revolution was fought for. So don’t do it so carelessly.”

It is likely that uncommitted observers – those not passionately for Paul or Gingrich – thought that both men made good points and that the right answer is “somewhere in the middle.” To be moderate is always viewed as being more reasonable. But is that really true? I believe that the question debated here between Paul and Gingrich is a fundamental question and compromise is impossible. To use a well-worn but appropriate cliche, Gingrich wants America to cross the Rubicon. Once we do, there is no going back.

The crux of the matter is preemptive government. Not just preemptive war, but the ability of the government to act preemptively in any situation. Paul takes the libertarian position that is based upon the non-aggression principle. Government force may never be employed against anyone until that person has invaded the person or property of another. Gingrich takes the more Hobbesian-conservative position: if the government is not all-powerful, we will all be killed.

If “patriotic” means the love of one’s country’s ideals, the highest being liberty for Americans, then you have to agree with Paul. That’s because not only is non-aggression the libertarian position, it’s the founding principle underlying the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. The meaning of the word “liberty” is to be free from coercion, which is free from other people initiating force against you. Once the government or anyone else is legally empowered to do so, rather than limited to responding with force in defense against an aggression that you’ve already committed, then liberty as Thomas Jefferson understood it is gone.

Non-aggression is the concept expressed in the statement that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, the government can’t use force against you until it is not only asserted but proven that you have committed an aggression against the person or property of someone else.

If you’re reading this to mean that the government is powerless against individuals until after they’ve committed a crime, then you’re correct. That is the price of liberty and there really is no way to compromise it. Force must always be initiated by someone. To be free means that it is never initiated against the innocent, at least not with the endorsement of the law. A person is innocent until they actually commit a crime. You cannot prosecute someone for what might be in his mind – at least not in a free country. As Paul argued, once you throw out the principle of liberty, you have invited the police state, complete with ubiquitous surveillance, unwarranted searches, curfews, and the rest. It is astounding how much of it is already in place in a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.”

The obvious concern with this line of reasoning is that it would seem that to be free, one must set oneself up as a sitting duck for criminals and terrorists, powerless to resist them until it is too late. Ed Meese cited the “42 terrorists attacks, amied at the United States…thwarted since 9/11,” and went on to say, “Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists.”

I don’t know how Meese arrived at that number, but it doesn’t jibe with reality. I suspect that it includes all of the entrapment schemes that have been perpetrated by federal law enforcement officers, whereby an undercover agent poses as a terrorist and approaches a mentally unstable person for the purpose of convincing him to participate in a phoney terrorist plot. Once the hapless “terrorist” agrees, the undercover agent arrests him and charges him with a crime.

All of the attempted terrorist attacks that the American public know about since 9/11 have defeated the Patriot Act and other security “tools” insituted since that crime was committed. The shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were both overpowered by private citizens acting in their own defense, after the would be terrorists had defeated the security measures within the Patriot Act and the TSA. Even on 9/11, with the federal government already in charge of security, albeit without the “tools” of the Patriot Act, the only crime that was prevented was the one that would have been perpetrated using Flight 93. Again, it was private citizens acting in their own defense and defense of their neighbors that thwarted the attack. While they were unsuccessful in defending their own lives, they prevented the loss of many, many more.

This illustrates another fundamental element of liberty – the right of each person to be allowed to provide for their own defense. The right and duty of each individual to defend themselves to the best of their ability replaces absolute power in the hands of the government. Consistent with this idea, Paul has been a staunch advocate of the 2nd amendment, while Gingrich, although he supports the right to bear arms in rhetoric, also voted for the Lautenburg Gun Ban and the Criminal Safezones Act, sponsored by Nancy Pelosi.

Gingrich tries to qualify his position on the Patriot Act by drawing a conceptual line between criminal law enforcement and national security. He says that “criminal law – the government should be on defense and you should be innocent until proven guilty. National security – the government should have many more tools in order to save our lives.”

In other words, if the government decides that “national security” is threatened, you are  no longer innocent until proven guilty. He also says that Americans must “build an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.”

Do the math.

This exchange between Paul and Gingrich represents a fundamental choice that the American people have to make. They can take personal responsibility for their security and take power back from the federal government or they can hand unchecked power to the federal government along with their liberty. There is no “centrist” or “moderate” position, because once the principle is conceded, liberty is gone.

As Benjamin Franklin warned, the choice between liberty and security is a false one. No, there were not nuclear weapons in 1755, but to think that the existence of nuclear weapons changes the principle is counterintuitive. Franklin spoke those words in 1755 because the same choice existed then as now. Those who sacrifice liberty in the hopes of greater security deserve neither and will get neither. The most immediate threat to one’s security is always the closest one – the government itself.

In deciding who was right in this debate, Americans are really deciding whether liberty is something they cherish or whether Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and the rest were wrong. If they were wrong or if we’ve decided that there is something fundamentally different today that trumps those timeless principles, let’s at least dispense with the notion that we live in the “land of the free.” At the next sporting event, let the singer end with “o’er the land of the secure, and the home of the safe.” It may not be pleasing to the ear, but neither is Gingrich’s plan for a “secure” America.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

© Thomas Mullen 2011

Fighting For Our Freedom?

iraq warTo even question the active wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the now-institutionalized worldwide military empire being maintained by the U.S. government draws tourrettes-like attacks from all who identify themselves as conservatives.  Not only are critics of U.S. foreign policy accused of being unpatriotic or even traitorous, but conservatives routinely go so far as to label them ungrateful.  The argument goes that critics of the empire enjoy the freedom of speech with which they criticize the government only because the military has fought to defend that freedom.  Therefore, those who oppose the present wars or our military presence around the world should be ashamed of themselves for “biting the hand that feeds them.”

Of course, this argument rests upon an assumption.  The assumption is that if the U.S. had not fought any of its past or current wars or had not maintained its military presence around the world, that we would have lost some or all of our freedom.  This fundamental assumption is never questioned (or I suspect even considered) by supporters of U.S. foreign policy, despite the fact that it completely disintegrates under even superficial examination.

Let’s give conservatives WWII for now, Pat Buchanan’s interesting arguments notwithstanding.  Is there any credible argument to be made regarding any of the major wars that the United States has waged since 1945 wherein one could conclude that not fighting it would have resulted in a loss of freedom for Americans?  What chain of events can any reasonable person construct whereby U.S. citizens would have lost their freedom if not for the invasions of Korea, Viet  Nam, Afghanistan, or Iraq?

The first two post-WWII wars were justified for ostensibly the same reason.  We supposedly had to prevent the communist governments of North Korea and North Viet Nam from taking over South Korea and South Viet Nam, respectively, because if we did not, communism would spread like a virus throughout all of Asia and eventually the world.  This was the so-called “Domino Theory.”  While anyone with a globe that is more or less correctly scaled can see through the ridiculousness of the argument in terms of Korea, one need not even resort to conjecture to refute this argument regarding the Viet Nam war.  History has shown in its case that the domino theory was completely untrue.

North Viet Nam did take over South Viet Nam.  The U.S. pulled out of Viet Nam in defeat and the very outcome that the U.S. had spent 14 years, the lives of 50,000 U.S. soldiers, and hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to prevent came to pass.  The communists took over all of Viet Nam.

Did American citizens lose any freedom as a result?  No.  In fact, as young men were no longer conscripted into the army to participate in this futile exercise, anti-war protestors were no longer being suppressed, and a huge chunk of government spending was eliminated (in theory, anyway), Americans were actually far freer once the war was lost than they were while it was being fought.

There is no argument to be made, no matter how far logic is stretched or how much disbelief is suspended, that Americans lost any freedom as a result of the loss of the Viet Nam war.  Therefore, the assertion that the troops fighting it were “fighting for our freedom” must be false.

Moreover, communism didn’t spread like wildfire beyond Viet Nam. After approximately 12 years, it imploded there just as it did in China at about the same time.  In the mid-1980’s, the Vietnamese began transitioning to a market economy, just as China did.  Today, both countries are arguably as capitalist as the United States, which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

As for Korea, the most generous conclusion one could come to regarding the “fighting for our freedom” theory is that the jury is still out – sixty years later.  U.S. troops are still stationed at the 38th parallel, supposedly keeping the communist barbarians from taking over South Korea as a stepping stone to the rest of the world.  Here speculation is certainly necessary, but not random speculation.  While it certainly would not be a postive outcome for South Koreans, can anyone seriously argue that if North Korea took over South Korea tomorrow that American freedom would be lost or even noticeably diminished?  How?

Fast forward 25 years and consider the present war in Iraq.  That war was started based upon on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was preparing to use against its neighbors to destablize the Middle East.  Let’s pretend for a moment that this assertion was not proven completely false.  Exactly how would another war in the Middle East, which would presumably resemble Iraq’s ten-year war with Iran, jeapordize the freedom of American citizens?  What cause and effect relationship could possibly be established between Middle Eastern politics and American freedom?  This question has to be answered before the “fighting for our freedom” assertion can be proven.

There is only one answer: none.  The Middle East has been unstable for thousands of years, and freedom has come and gone for countless western nations regardless of political devleopments in the Middle East, with the exception of the actual invasions of Western Europe by Muslim nations in the Middle Ages.  Those were ultimately defeated.  Certainly today the Middle Eastern nations pose no military threat to Europe, much less the United States.  To assert that Afghanistan could possibly threaten American freedom borders upon the absurd.

Putting the active wars aside for the moment, any objective observer would be even harder pressed to conclude that the U.S. military presence in the other 135 countries in which the U.S. maintains troops is contributing anything toward American freedom.  Can anyone seriously argue that if the U.S. government were to remove the 56,000 troops presently stationed in Germany that American freedom would somehow be jeopardized?  How?  The same question applies to  the 33,000 troops in Japan, the 10,000 in Italy, and so on.  There is simply no reasonable argument to be made that Americans would be one iota less free if all of these troops were to come home.

Warfare conducted for any purpose other than defending the borders of the nation does not make Americans freer.  On the contrary, it destroys freedom without exception.  More of Americans’ property is confiscated in taxes to support warfare.  Freedom of speech is curtailed.  Opponents of the war are rounded up and imprisoned or exiled.  Privacy is destroyed by the government in search of enemy spies or saboteurs.  These destructions of freedom have occurred during every war that the United States has ever fought, including all of the wars of the past 60 years.

Furthermore, America’s vast military presence in countries where no active war is being fought also results in less freedom for Americans.  Regardless of the public relations efforts of the U.S. military establishment, foreign troops are universally regarded the same way by the citizens of countries where they are stationed: they are resented.  This resentment breeds terrorism in some countries and other forms of protest in others.  Americans traveling abroad are much less free in what they can do, where they can safely go, and where they are welcome because of resentment born of U.S. troops stationed in foreign nations.

As Randolph Bourne famously observed, “war is the health of the state,” and the state is the enemy of freedom.  America was founded upon the idea that the state was “at best a necessary evil” and that there was an inverse relationship between war and liberty.  James Madison wrote that if “tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. No Nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”  History has proven him correct.  In the post-WWII era, the wars have become more numerous and longer and government has grown exponentionally.  With the expansion of war and the state, freedom has diminished.

This is not an argument for pacifisim or against the actual soldiers.  We live in a world with other nations that pose a threat to our lives and liberty and there must be some means to defend ourselves against an aggressor nation.  Whatever their reasons for joining, the men and women who serve in our miltary do make a huge sacrifice.  The overwhelming majority of them serve honorably both on the battlefield and off.  They join believing that they are defending our nation and freedom and the blame for our foreign policy does not rest with them.  A military force cannot function with each of its members questioning every order before carrying it out.  They have an obligation to disobey an order which is obviously immoral, such as shooting a non-combatant or torturing a prisoner, but beyond situations like those they must carry out their orders without question.  They place a sacred trust in their civilian leaders to deploy them only when it is absolutely necessary.

It is those civilian leaders who have violated that trust over and over again for the past sixty years.  It is they who have not supported our troops, spending their lives like so much loose change in wars that have been fought for everything but freedom.  They have sent them to countries that pose no military threat to the United States whatsoever and then tied their hands with rules of engagement that, whether intentionally or not, have prolonged those wars for years and even decades.  There can be no greater insult to the honor of brave soldiers than to exhort them to give their lives defending freedom when in fact freedom is not at issue in the war.

The United States government is broke.  It has accumulated a debt that can never legitimately be repaid.  While entitlement programs are ultimately far more economically destructive, costing over twice as much as U.S. military adventures, the $700 billion annual military budget is the next largest contributor to the deficits.  Of that $700 billion, less than $200 billion is spent fighting the two current active wars.  An active war should represent the high water mark of government spending, yet most of our military expenditures go to support standing armies in places like Germany and Japan.

It is evident that the military could be downsized by orders of magnitude without jeapordizing U.S. security in the least.  In fact, the U.S. would be far more secure without troops in 135 countries inspiring resentment against Americans and fighting wars against nations that could not launch a military attack against the United States in anyone’s wildest dreams.  Most importantly, the lives of hundreds of thousands of our troops, their opponents, and the innocent civilians in the countries that they fight in would be spared.

The gargantuan U.S. military establishment survives because American soldiers and civilians continue to accept the assertion that it is necessary to preserve our freedom.  This assertion is at best a destructive delusion and at worst an insidious lie, told by people who care nothing for our troops or the civilians they defend.  It is time to stop believing the lie and to truly support our troops.  Bring them home.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

How Can Conservatives Support Sanctions Against Iran?

Many have decried that the so-called “liberal left” has abandoned its anti-war stance and thrown its support behind President Obama’s intent to impose sanctions on Iran. As the reason for the sanctions is Iran’s supposed pursuit of nuclear weapons, the left actually remains more philosophically consistent than the right. Liberals have always attacked the natural right of self defense, usually as it manifests itself in the individual right  to keep and bear arms. They have also traditionally supported large-scale warfare, as long as the war was started by a member of their party. Remember that U.S. involvement in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Viet Nam was initiated in each case by a liberal Democratic president with the support of a Democratic majority in Congress. There is nothing out-of-character about liberals supporting President Obama’s war agenda with Iran.

What is harder to understand is how conservatives can defend the 2nd Amendment and still support these sanctions, given the stated reason for their imposition. As a sovereign nation, Iran could make all of the same arguments regarding their right to develop nuclear weapons as conservatives make regarding the individual right to keep and bear arms. Iran lives in a world in which many of its neighbors possess nuclear weapons. In the event of a nuclear attack against Iran, there is nothing the “international community” can do until it is too late, just as there is nothing the police can do for an individual at the moment he is attacked by an aggressor. Like any potential mugging victim, Iran is much safer armed with a deterrent than at the mercy of those who wish her harm.

Liberals often argue for gun controls or bans based upon what an armed civilian might do with a weapon. Conservatives correctly argue there is not justice in using government force against people because of “what they might do.” Until an individual actually commits some form of aggression, conservatives  argue it is no one’s right to infringe upon another’s right to keep and bear arms. This certainly applies equally to nations in relation to one another. How can conservatives deny this right to Iran?

Liberals make the argument that the world is safer without handguns and so oppose them indiscriminately for everyone except government employees. Conservatives correctly argue an armed citizenry is much safer against criminals than an unarmed one. They remind us that every known statistic shows neighborhoods under stricter gun controls have a higher incidence of violent crime, because the criminals still have guns and  know law abiding citizens are helpless. Conservatives understand this implicitly in terms of individuals, but it completely eludes them when applied to the relationships between nations. They also fail to recognize that history supports this argument: the only nuclear attack in human history was perpetrated by a nuclear-armed nation against one that did not possess nuclear weapons.

Conservatives make the argument that to deny Iran the right to develop nuclear weapons is not the same as disarming them. They would still be “allowed” to retain a conventional military force. How ironic this argument is coming from conservatives, who become red in the face when liberals argue that they are not violating the 2nd amendment by limiting the types of firearms that civilians can carry or by banning “assault weapons (is there another kind?).” Conservatives recognize that the word “allow” has no place in the same conversation when discussing a right, including the right to keep and bear arms.

Denying one individual or group the right to keep weapons relatively equal to those possessed by his peers nullifies his ability to effectively defend himself. Conservatives routinely make this argument, saying law abiding citizens need weapons of comparable fire power to the average gang-banger. Otherwise, the poorly armed citizen is still at a disadvantage against the well-armed criminal.

Their reasoning is sound. Why does it not apply to Iran? To deny Iran’s right to possess weaponry equal to that of any other sovereign nation – especially those that habitually threaten her – is to deny Iranians their right to provide for their own defense.

Conservatives respond that Iran is a “rogue nation” and therefore cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. This is nothing more than cultural bias which is flatly refuted by reality. During the past 200 years, Iran has never invaded another country or initiated military force against anyone. Beyond the 1979 hostage crisis, they have burned a few U.S. flags and said some very nasty things about the U.S. and Israel. Otherwise, they have been content to screw up their own country and leave the rest of the world alone.

In contrast, the United States has invaded doezens of nations in just the past 50 years and has committed direct acts of war against Iran, including overthrowing their democratically-elected government and installing an American puppet in its place. When Iran responded by deposing the Shah and taking U.S. hostages, the U.S. waged a decade-long proxy war against Iran through another of its puppets, Saddam Hussein.

This is not to condone Iran’s seizure of civilian hostages in 1979. Violence against civilians is never justified. But given that the hostages were returned relatively unharmed just over a year after their capture, the U.S. government’s conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and secret prisons throughout the world seems to overshadow Iran’s “rogueness” in this area rather considerably. Using the “rogue nation” standard, there is a long list of nations that should be sanctioned ahead of Iran, starting with our own.

Conservatives  recognize the right of self defense is the foundation of freedom and equality. They understand that if all men are created equal, there is no justification for one person to deny to another the right to defend themselves, nor to deny another person the right to determine for themselves what weapons are necessary to that end. In order to defend themselves against aggression by other nations, individuals delegate that aspect of self defense to their government’s military force. Based on the same principles as our own Constitution, this is as much their right as the individual right to keep and bear arms. As in the case of individuals, no nation has a right to decide for another what weapons it will keep for that purpose.

The people of Iran as a sovereign nation have all of the same rights that the people of the United States. It is not for the United States to decide what weapons Iran possesses any more than it is Iran’s place to decide what weapons the United States possesses. One would have to employ the most convoluted logic imaginable to arrive at any other conclusion.

The United States was born defending the right to keep and bear arms, a fact  glossed over when American history is taught in public schools. Despite the “intolerable” taxes, quartering of troops, monetary manipulation, and a host of other offenses by their government, the American colonists did not fire upon their own troops until those troops attempted to disarm them. The colonists recognized that if they were disarmed they were no longer free. Why would Iran think any differently?

The United States government claims to be promoting freedom in the Middle East. These sanctions demonstrate it has forgotten about what freedom really is. In order for Iraq, Iran, or any other Middle Eastern nation to be free, they must be recognized as equals by the other nations of the world, with all of the same rights that equals are entitled to. The most important right is the right of self preservation, often called the “first law of nature.” Until we recognize Iran in this way, we will be in a perpetual state of war with her, with nothing to gain and so much to lose. It is time to stop playing emperor with Iran and start practicing what we preach. Liberals have always been confused about the relationship between self defense and freedom, but conservatives should know better than to deny Iran’s right to keep and bear arms.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.