Foreign Policy

An Unhappy Summer for Liberty

Locally and nationally, we live under governments that prefer to rule rather than to serve.

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paul-w-locke/Flickr

At the root of the chaos in the Middle East and here at home are governments that respect no limits on their exercise of power. Public officials—who are supposed to be our public servants—routinely behave as if they are our masters. They reject the confines of the Constitution, they don't believe that our rights are inalienable, and they fail to see the dangerous path down which they are leading us.

It is a path to an authoritarian America, predicted by the British writer George Orwell in his dark and terrifying novel 1984, in which governmental power was fortified by fear at home and war abroad.

President Obama has dispatched 60,000 National Security Agency (NSA) spies to monitor the cellphone and landline calls, as well as the emails, texts, bank statements, and utility bills, of nearly all Americans, in utter disregard for the constitutional standard required for doing so: probable cause of criminal acts by the persons spied upon. Yet his spies somehow missed the Boston marathon bombing, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and theft of Crimea, the downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner, and the growth of ISIL in the Middle East.

ISIL was fomented by the tragic, immoral, and illegal American invasion of Iraq. That invasion was carried out under the false pretenses that the United States needed to find the weapons of mass destruction we had sold to Saddam Hussein. The Iraq war cost the lives of 650,000 Iraqis and 4,500 Americans. It displaced more than 2,000,000 Iraqis and, because it was paid for by borrowed funds, added $2 trillion to the U.S. government's debt.

The consequence of American Middle Eastern imperialism has become the virulently anti-American and viciously efficient fighting force called ISIS. President Bush and his generals and Obama and his spies knew or ought to have known about it. This disciplined group of fanatics is the latest American bogeyman at whom the warmongers are aiming their cries for more American military action and thus more American blood.

Bush was reckless to have fought an unjust war, and Obama is reckless to have misguided our intelligence resources toward Americans and then feign surprise at the growth of this foreign disease right under his nose. But this is a disease that he and the military-industrial complex will use to terrify us into another useless war. By their standards, any group or government—except for the U.S. and our allies—that uses violence to get its way should be eliminated by more violence. That will literally bring war without end.

Congress is a potted plant. It has permitted Obama—in defiance of the Constitution—to destroy Libya, bomb innocents in Pakistan, and kill Americans in Yemen. There is a reason only Congress can declare war: to ensure debate about war, to discover whether there is a legal basis for it, to explore all options to it, and to prepare for its human, geopolitical, and financial consequences.

The next domestic political battle will be a fight between the Senate and the CIA, as the Senate Intelligence Committee releases its report on CIA torture. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee chair, has accused the CIA of spying on her and her staff, and just as Congress began its summer break, CIA Director John Brennan admitted the spying. That spying is a felony, and Brennan's job and his personal freedom are at stake, even as he and Feinstein argue about how much of the report should be released.

Why is this report important? According to those who have seen it, it will demonstrate not only that the U.S. government tortured victims all over the world, but that its techniques were not those revealed and approved by congressional regulators, that the CIA repeatedly lied to its own congressional supporters and, most importantly, that the torture did not produce any material actionable intelligence, including the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

The report is also important because in a democracy, all persons have a fundamental right to know what the government is doing. Transparency is a disinfectant for political corruption, and a people cannot be free when the government gets away with law breaking and lying about it.

The other coming domestic issue is the militarization of the police. We learned this summer that in New York City, you can be choked to death by cops while selling untaxed cigarettes, and in Ferguson, Mo., you can be shot in the head by a cop while unarmed—and none of the killers has yet been arrested, charged, or prosecuted. This is the result of recent Supreme Court opinions that give the police qualified immunity. That doctrine makes it nearly impossible to sue or prosecute cops who kill innocents so long as they can claim that a reasonable cop would have done as they did. That is no protection from thugs in uniform; it is a license to kill.

And speaking of killing, why do the police in America now have grenade throwers, a weapon that kills indiscriminately and is banned from use against the civilian population by international law? They have them because of a lack of transparency. The Department of Defense in secret gave or sold these weapons of mass destruction to American police departments in secret and thus without the consent of the public, whom the police are supposed to protect.

Locally and nationally, we live under governments that prefer to rule rather than to serve, that choose not to tell us the truth but to keep it from us, and that have enacted laws that purport to make their behavior legal.

In 1949, when he wrote 1984, Orwell predicted all this, including the secret torture, the perpetual warfare, the continuous spying, and the fear of the government. His predictions were right on the mark—he was only mistaken by 30 years.

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  1. This article sure covers a lot of ground.

    1. There is a lot of ground to cover,more every day

  2. Another great essay, judge.

  3. the downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner

    Wait…what?

    American Middle Eastern imperialism

    Sigh. Can you update the lexicon a bit – there are plenty of ways to criticize intervention/war, but I am still waiting to hear where our colonies are, what lands we have annexed, what tribute we receive, who our satraps are. Wilsonian crusading is not “imperialism”.

    1. im?pe?ri?al?ism
      im?pi(?)r???liz?m/Submit
      noun
      a policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force.

      1. Well, in that case, we are clearly not an imperial power, because diplomacy and war mongering over the last couple of decades have weakened our power and influence.

  4. grenade throwers, a weapon that kills indiscriminately and is banned from use against the civilian population by international law?

    Is he trying to say a grenade launcher is not an aimed weapon? You just let it out of its cage, it starts flinging explosives everywhere until you can get it back in its cage for the night? I remember having to aim at very specific points when qualifying with an M203.

    Now I certainly hope the cops wouldn’t ever get an HE or Willie-Pete round in their inventories…

    1. Bah, the cops need WP, how the fuck else can they mark a human target for an airstrike !!!

    2. I think he means due to the nature of the projectile.They explode,harming any one in a limited area.Unlike a single bullet which can be fired at a single,exact target.

      1. Look, why do you hippies not understand, the police need huge fucking area destroying / denying weapons, it is a God Damn War Zone out there !!! Police aren’t in some happy lollipop land having fun and playing Soldier like the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, or something, where no one gets hurt. Police in Deluth are in a no shit, real, war of attrition to the death each and everyday with God only knows how many police dying each and every day, all the time, every DAY !!! Why can’t you people understand !!!!!11

        I say give em cluster bombs, FASCAM,Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, Hell whatever they need.

        1. Nuke it from orbit…it’s the only way to be sure…

  5. More empty whining about symptoms. No plan to address the root cause of the problem.

    Pursuit of Hamilton’s dream – “imperial glory”, centralized government and a federally-managed economy – has been the dominant paradigm in D.C. since 1861. We’re living the endgame of that paradigm. The only way to avoid the collapse that paradigm guarantees is to undo the damage that has been done these past 150 years: de-centralize authority, dismantle the federal Leviathan and re-establish a functioning, constitutional Republic of sovereign States who manage their own civil affairs, economies and social organization. A huge, standing federal army is not part of that equation.

    Here’s the thing missed in this article: “democracy” is NOT a guarantee of transparency. The two are orthogonal. In fact, a representative democracy, such as the US is purported to be, specifically delegates authority with no concomitant demand for transparency or accountability whatsoever – the “ballot box” is supposed to provide accountability. Nonsense. It’s irrational to elect professional liars to positions of authority and then expect them to do the right thing. And, look: they don’t. Spare me the “outraged” response.

    The federal government is never going to fix itself, no matter who is ‘elected’ there. Only the States can ever fix this, and every time I see some pundit obsessing over “federal” abuses, I know they have no real interest in understanding, much less working to solve the problem.

  6. and in Ferguson, Mo., you can be shot in the head by a cop while unarmed?and none of the killers has yet been arrested, charged, or prosecuted

    Can Reason please cut the crap and let the legal system do its job instead of joining the lynch mob?

    Homicide and self-defense trials usually take many months for an indictment, and a year or more to go to trial.

    1. *Can Reason please cut the crap and let the legal system do its job instead of joining the lynch mob?*

      No kidding. If this is the best libertarians can do, perhaps they ought to fold up the tent and go home.

    2. Doesn’t an alleged perp normally get arrested immediately and then have a bail hearing?

      1. What purpose would that serve? Arrests and bail hearings aren’t punitive, they are simply intended to ensure appearance at subsequent court dates. Wilson isn’t likely to disappear; he has nowhere to run and he is under police protection anyway. Furthermore, he may not even get charged since the case against him looks pretty weak.

  7. Full racist. Iraq is violent because, lacking agency, they just instantly react to America violently.

    Interesting theory that strips them of reason and humanity. I wouldn’t go there, but all right.

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  9. “Only the States can ever fix this”
    This is nonsensical. The state (federal, local, etc.) can only exist through violence which is antithetical to liberty and violates the NAP. It doesn’t matter which branch of gov’t it is, just because the state would be in charge doesn’t magically change the fact that central planning and control, and the socialist services are failures and are unable to economize, and also force individuals to participate against their will. They remove the voices of millions, and their ability to regulate business through their media of exchange, or punish bad economic actors by either pulling funding, or never investing in said businesses. The business would also receive bad press for their business practices.

    You are looking to replace one form of coercion and violence with another. No matter the failures throughout history, and the violence of gov’t itself, folks still believe that yet another piece of paper will be followed “this time around”. This thinking is a danger to freedom and liberty, as it promotes neither. It promotes yet another version of violence and extortion through the state.

  10. “de-centralize authority, dismantle the federal Leviathan and re-establish a functioning, constitutional Republic of sovereign States who manage their own civil affairs, economies and social organization.” States can not manage an economy. This “solution” was tried with the revolution. The experiment failed, and that piece of paper failed to secure the blessings of liberty and restrict gov’t. If you wish to have others extort you and manage your economy, do so on your own. For you to impose this upon others will force them into slavery, and they will not be free.

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