March 15, 2012
Fundamentalism, Iraq War, war
Habeas Corpus, Ron Paul, Southerners, Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the American South
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It would seem that Ron Paul should do well in the Southern primaries. Southerners have traditionally supported a limited role for the federal government and have called for the federal government to actually follow the Tenth Amendment. Part of that tradition was affirming the sovereignty of the states over against federal power. Even though federal power might be used for a good end, it could also be used for evil ends, and to avoid tyranny, the federal government should not be allowed to force states to follow mandates beyond its constitutional authority. Federal moves to take power from the states or to force them to remain in the federal union by force were considered unconstitutional, from the War between the States to the de facto regional dictatorships of federal judges over certain states in the South which has been forced on them since the early 1970s. Ron Paul is the only candidate who truly accepts a strictly limited role of the federal government in the lives of the states. Yet Mr. Paul does far better in the North than he does in the South and finds himself in single digits in most Southern primaries.
Sadly, Southerners have been aggressive in supporting wars. War is the most effective way for the federal government to gain unwarranted power over the people and over the states. During the War between the States, Mr. Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus and shut down newspapers that opposed administration policy. In World War I, opponents of the war were arrested and jailed. World War II massively increased federal spending and created a military-industrial complex that de facto runs the country. Federal spending–and federal incursion into the authority of the states–has increased at a rapid pace since the Second World War. The freedom and rights of the states that traditional Southerners valued, preserved for a time by Supreme Court rulings in the 1870s and by the decline of Reconstruction, have been weakened by every U.S. military intervention that bloats the federal government even more than before.
Yet Southerners have been rabidly pro-war, strongly supporting the Vietnam War (except for a few brave Southern legislators) long after the rest of the country had begun to question its wisdom. The 1968 American Independent Party vice-presidential candidate was Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the saturation bombing against Japanese cities in World War II and supported the use of nuclear weapons against North Vietnam as a way to ensure a South Vietnamese and American victory. The irony of a states rights party with a vice-presidential candidate who was part of the vast federal military-industrial complex who supported the anti-Christian murder of civilians was lost on Southerners. Southerners were gung ho about Desert Storm and were among the most aggressive in supporting the second Iraq War. Now Southerners are among the most rabid supporters of war with Iran, and Southern Evangelicals’ blind support for Israel’s aggressiveness is well known. A combination of Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity, Premillenial theology, and Scotch-Irish aggressiveness have combined to push Southerners into supporting wars that erode the very freedom from the federal government that they seek. Thus most Southerners support warmongering Neoconservatives such as Mr. Romney, Mr. Gingrich, or Mr. Santorum rather than supporting the true candidate for freedom from federal tyranny, Ron Paul.
Only if conservative Southerners overcome their lust for war will they be able to support a candidate, such as Ron Paul, who would work to reverse the power of the federal government over the states.
January 10, 2012
George W. Bush, hypocrisy, Iraq, Iraq War, Israel, Manichaenism, Native Americans, patriotism, United States of America, war
Cold War, ColdWar, George W. Bush, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Manicheanism, Philip Zimbardo, Soviet Union, Sovietunion, Stanford Prison Experiment, United States, United States Army, United States Army Air Corps
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There has always been a strand of Puritanism in American thought that survives in part as a Manichean division between good and evil. Rather than seeing the United States as a mixture of good and evil, many Americans see it as “the good guy” in the world with no major faults. Individuals who disagree are labeled as “unpatriotic,” told to “go to Russia,” or are called “America-haters.” Although I do not deny that there are individuals and groups of people who hate their country, not every critic of American practices hates the United States. Nor is someone who points out that there is much good in countries considered to be enemies of the United States, such as Iran. Many Americans want an overpowering, evil enemy state because many Americans are more Manichean, believing in sharp lines between good and evil, than they are Christian. Christianity recognizes that no being created by God is totally evil–traditionally, since evil is a lack of good, and thus a lack of being, a totally evil being could not exist. If Americans of all stripes are honest with themselves, they will see that they are capable of great evil. Philip Zimbardo, the Stanford psychologist who ran the Stanford Prison Experiment, showed how “good” people can turn evil when they have great power (as prison guards) over others (in this case, students who played the “prisoner” role). He notes the power of situational factors that can lead to a good person torturing and even killing innocent human beings.
Reinhold Niebuhr recognized that groups are capable of great evil just as individuals are, and Zimbardo’s work showed this to be the case. Nation-states are groups of people, and in any group unethical practices can arise that lead to people doing things that are evil under group pressure. No nation is immune to this. Was the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” as President Reagan affirmed? I would say “Yes,” with the qualification that there was good even in the old Soviet Union, and evil in the United States of America. In the War between the States, Generals Sherman and Sheridan engaged in the first modern war (with Lincoln’s endorsement)–both these generals and President Lincoln believed that war should be engaged against the civilian population. The brutality with which federal troops put down the anti-draft riots in New York as well as Sherman’s March to the Sea are evidence of the results. The United States Army was brutal in the Philippines war in the early part of the twentieth century, mowing down men, women, and children. The United States Army Air Corps engaged in the saturation bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, and of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs. President Roosevelt placed thousands of Japanese-American citizens in internment camps. In the Vietnam War, the United States dropped more tonnage of bombs than it did in the whole of World War II. The atrocities and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan (and in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba) are well known–torture has not been totally eschewed as the official policy of the United States, and the U.S. still sends prisoners to other countries to be tortured. Civil liberties, from the genocide of the American Indians to the mistreatment of the Irish, the Chinese, and of African-Americans, have not been uniformly honored in the United States. Does this mean the United States is an evil country? I do not think it is as evil as a totalitarian society such as the old Soviet Union or China under Chairman Mao, but it does mean that the notion of the United States as the paragon of virtue and (during the Cold War) the Soviet Union as the epitome of evil is a Manichean view that does not reflect the good and evil mixture found in all nation-states.
President George W. Bush held a simplistic, Manichean view of the world that many Americans eagerly followed. Saddam’s Iraq was an evil state, and the good United States was obligated to attack the evil state (at first for the alleged but missing “weapons of mass destruction” and then to “save the Iraqi people from Saddam”). Americans’ hubris was expanded by its view that it was the hero country liberating the Iraqi people from a Satanic dictator. Now Iran is the enemy, and the Neoconservative war cries are loud–and Americans are buying into the new lie as well. Yes, Iran’s president holds an evil position in his denial of the Holocaust. Nothing can justify his views, nor his support of the radical religious groups that have held the country hostage since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However, Iran also has a working democracy, unlike many other states in the region, including states the United States supports. Israel has a vital interest in what Iraq does, and if Israel wants to defend its vital interests militarily, that is Israel’s task, not that of the United States. However, the Neoconservatives are appealing to American Manicheanism and demonizing Iran as the new “evil empire.” Hopefully Americans will see that all people are “fallen,” as well as all nation-states, and any positing of “We good, they bad” is misleading and leads to unnecessary wars and bad foreign policy decisions.
June 16, 2011
Afghanistan, Christianity, Iraq War, war
Afghanistan, Christ, Christian, Evangelicalism, George W. Bush, Iraq, Iraq War, Just War Theory, Sermon on the Mount, The Beatitudes, United States, Warfare and Conflict
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A sad fact of contemporary American Christianity is the open-ended support many Christians give to war. Among the most fervent supporters of George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan have been conservative, Evangelical Christians. This is not to say that all Evangelicals support the wars–as with any group, there are exceptions. However, Evangelicals, who are mostly politically “conservative” (though I fail to see what is “conservative” about waging war) have tended to support U. S. military intervention abroad. Many Evangelical churches will have special services to honor our “heroes,” the troops returning from Iraq or from Afghanistan. Evangelicals in general are the most zealous supporters of “American Civil Religion,” with a U. S. flag prominently displayed in church and with patriotic songs sung at services on or near the date of national holidays such as July 4. Christians who protest the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are labeled as “wimps,” “liberal peaceniks,” or worse. Sometimes the rhetoric comes across as saying that a person who opposes these war is less of a Christian than those who support the wars. And some Evangelicals I have heard are bloodthirsty–there is no other accurate description. They will talk about nuking all “enemies of America” with an expression of sadistic glee.
Even if a Christian supports the notion that war is sometimes necessary, that does not imply that the Christian should accept the justness of any war a nation wages just because he is a citizen of that nation. Some advocates of just war theory opposed the Iraq War in particular–Iraq had never invaded the United States and was not a threat to the United States. “Preemptive war” is nowhere a part of just war theory. Yet millions of traditional Christians naively supported Dubya, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in their execution of an unjust war that killed many thousands on both sides.
Even if a war is necessary, no Christian should support it with glee, nor should the Christian rejoice at enemy deaths. Such a message is contrary to Christ‘s command to “love one another” and to “love your enemies.” A bloodthirsty attitude toward killing is incompatible with Christianity. Such an attitude is so contrary to the message of Jesus that, from a traditional Christian point of view, it is difficult to see how one who accepts that attitude could live in the eternal presence of God. Hatred of others and joy in killing and in war are products of Satan, not of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps Evangelical Christians, who are so literalistic on other parts of the Bible, should follow this advice literally.
March 22, 2011
Afghanistan, Antiwar, Iraq War, Libya, military-industrial complex, United States of America, war
Bahrain, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Libya, Middle East, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saudi Arabia, United States
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The neoconservatives, nation-building liberals, and a few pseudo-libertarians are whining about the opposition to another foolish U. S. and European intervention–against Qaddafi in Libya. “We’re just trying to overthrow a cruel dictator,” or “We’re trying to save innocent people” are the excuses such individuals give for bringing the United States into another Middle Eastern conflict. The U. S. only removes dictators it finds inconvenient–it does not remove the authoritarian regimes in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. The U. S. did not militarily intervene in Pinochet‘s Chile when he was in power murdering his people, nor in the semi-dictatorial China. The sheer hypocrisy of American policy is nauseating. Long-term, that is how those in the Middle East, even those who appear to support the U. S. intervention, will view the United States. The direct involvement of France, which sent fighter jets, will not help matters–the old North African colonial power strikes again. Despite claims of limited U. S. involvement, pressure will mount for further bombing and eventually for the introduction of U. S. ground troops. Hopefully Mr. Obama will at least fight that suggestion. He has followed the warmonger Hilary Clinton‘s advice too much already. Mr. Obama has become, in effect, George W. Bush II. Not only has he intervened in Libya, he has not brought back most of the troops in Iraq, and he has expanded U. S. intervention in Afghanistan. He has not renounced the use of torture in the treatment of prisoners held by the U. S., and he has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The United States has become a permanent warfare state–and wars cost not only lives on both sides, but also money. Although it may be a matter of time before U. S. national debt is so large that the U. S. imperium will collapse, much harm can occur in the meantime–and is occurring. It is long past time to stop the influence of warmongers on the left and on the right as well as the influence of the military-industrial complex on United States foreign policy.
November 29, 2010
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iraq War, State Department, Wikileaks
Iraq, State Department, United States, United States Department of State, War in Afghanistan (2001–present), WikiLeak
Image by Rainer Ebert via Flickr
As an opponent of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, it would be easy for me to praise Wikileaks for revealing evidence of U. S. torture in those wars. Or I could argue that the recent leak of State Department cables was useful in revealing a chaotic and seemingly incoherent U. S. foreign policy. But Wikileaks is more dangerous than helpful, and leaking secret government documents borders on treason.
Lives may be at stake. After these leaks, State Department personnel overseas may find themselves threatened by angry citizens from the countries where they are stationed. Other countries will be angry at the information in the leaks, which may do irreparable harm to U. S. relations with those countries. Some secrecy is essential for diplomacy to take place and for the State Department to do its job. Any other country has similar secrets, private memos criticizing other countries, memos about espionage activities, etc. Most countries would charge someone who leaked such sensitive information with treason, as indeed it is. Real people’s lives are at stake, as well as the ability of the United States–under any administration– to conduct diplomacy. Hopefully, if federal law enforcement does not do its job, Congress will play a role in stopping such a serious breach of secret information in the future.
The New York Times made a poor decision in its decision to reveal the information from the leaks. Of course if it had not done so, one of the other major news organizations would have revealed the information. This does not make revealing such information right. The idea that journalism must reveal every fact it knows is a morally irresponsible idea. Perhaps most of the damage to U. S. foreign policy can be undone, and prayerfully all U. S. personnel in the foreign service will be safe. I pray that the United States does not find itself drawn into another foreign war due to blowback from these leaks. The risk to the United States is too great for another leak of this magnitude to happen again.
November 9, 2010
George W. Bush, Iran, Iraq War, politics, President George W. Bush, Republican Party, United States of America
Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Iran, Iraq, United States
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Former President George W. Bush is out of hiding and into the limelight again as he promotes his new book. From the interviews I have read, there isn’t much new that redeems his poor performance as president. One positive is that he appears to question (just a little) the wisdom of the “Patriot Act.” And he admits that pushing belief in Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” was a mistake. How many people died for that mistake?
Bush admits his mistake in not foreseeing the economic crisis. He and his advisers ought to have seen the mortgage crisis coming. Either someone did not warn Mr. Bush who should have warned him or he ignored the warnings he did receive. In either case, it was the Administration’s almost complete deregulation of the banking industry that allowed financial institutions to make so many bad loans–the government policy of forcing banks to loan to the poor does not, by itself, explain the extent of the crisis. Mr. Bush bears some responsibility.
Despite appointing two excellent Supreme Court justices, overall, Mr. Bush’s presidency must go down as an abysmal failure. The good he did was outweighed by two wars, excessive defense and excessive domestic spending, and the collapse of the economy. His dependence on Neoconservative advisers such as Vice-President Dick Cheney virtually destroyed his presidency. Sadly, Bush still doesn’t “get it.” Perhaps one day he’ll swallow his ego and take more responsibility for the damage he did to the United States and to other countries.
Mr. Bush is unapologetic on torture, claiming that waterboarding gave the United States and Great Britain some useful intelligence. Thus Mr. Bush still supports a practice that is now almost universally acknowledged as evil and barbaric. Unfortunately his successor hasn’t closed the door on torture–so the post-911 madness of America continues.
Bush gives his policies credit for there being no more attacks on the U.S. before the end of his term as President. This reminds me of a story (from Ann McGovern’s book Ghostly Fun) about a man who hired a wrinkled old witch holding a broom outside his front door. His wife, horrified, asked him why. His reply: “To scare the elephants away.” His wife said, “But there aren’t any elephants around here!” Then her husband says, “See! It works!” There are too many causal factors that could have prevented a post 9-11 attack for Bush to give himself credit. But this is one president who has no problem with failing to restrain his ego.
Apparently Mr. Bush had asked the Pentagon to draw up war plans for Iran. Thank God that war did not materialize, though I would not put it beyond Mr. Obama to start one. Iran is years away from developing a nuclear weapon. Unlike Israel, it has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And although I find Iran’s president to be morally reprehensible, that does not justify war with Iran. Mr. Bush, consistent with the neoconservatives, rarely found a war he didn’t like.
Mr. Bush did considerable damage to the Republican Party; it is only because of the ineptitude and radical ideas of President Obama that the Republicans gained so many seats in Congress this year.
September 25, 2010
Afghanistan, Antiwar, Iraq War, military-industrial complex
Afghanistan War, Federal government of the United States, Iraq War, Police power, United States, Vietnam War
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So the government has raided the homes of antiwar activists in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Shades of the 1960s, anyone? During the Vietnam era, antiwar activists discovered the cost of questioning the military-industrial complex. Now I am not saying I think the 1960s anti war activists were saints. Some were losers such as member of the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party. But they were correct in opposing a needless war. And it was wrong of the United States government to harass anti war groups simply because they opposed the war in Vietnam, a position they have every right to espouse and defend. The Constitution, after all, guarantees freedom of speech.
The Iraq War was based on lies, involved attacking a country that did not attack us, and resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries and an Iraqi government that is friendly to U.S.-hostile Iran. The Afghanistan War has done little to stop the Taliban, and successes against Al Qaeda have been due to a combination of good intelligence, effective use of drones, and small special forces units, rather than large scale military forces. The CIA’s original plan to use smaller units to hunt down terrorists was the correct idea, but the Bush Administration opted for all out war. Mr. Obama, albeit under intense pressure from the military establishment, opted to continue the war with an increase of troops. That will be a never-ending war, or at least it will continue until the U.S. is too bankrupt to support it. What is so anti-patriotic about opposing the war in Afghanistan? One can admit that the Taliban are evil in their treatment of women and in their cruelty in general without supporting a quagmire. Opposition to the war is not support of terrorism. Yet the United States government seems to think so, just as it did during the Vietnam era.
Paul Craig Roberts has argued that after these raids the United States is already a police state. I would not go that far yet, but they are a step in the wrong direction. So-called conservatives, instead of supporting wars and demonizing supporters of wars, ought to return to the traditional conservative view that the United States should focus on dealing with its own problems and not be involved in foreign wars. Such wars only increase the power and influence of the central government and are not good for the country. War is necessary only when it is clearly in the national interest of the United States. And opposition to war is just as patriotic, if not more so, than support of war. A true conservative will not support federal police forces entering homes because people oppose the position of the United States government–unless so-called conservatives would rather emulate Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. De facto, if conservatives support a police state that persecutes anti-war activists, they are implicitly supporting the tactics of every dictator in history. With “conservatives” like that around, true conservatives do not need liberal enemies–they have enough in their own camp.
September 6, 2010
Iraq War, President George W. Bush, President Obama
2003 invasion of Iraq, Iraq, Iraq War, United States, United States armed forces, Warfare and Conflict
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So American troops fight in Baghdad after “all American combat troops have been withdrawn.” Anyone with minimal intelligence should have known that combat for American troops would not end in Iraq. Although Mr. Obama had the good sense not to declare victory, as Mr. Bush did when he announced the end of “major combat operations,” his actions remain deceptive. So-called support troops will come under fire from insurgents, and they will have to choice but to defend themselves. Iraqi forces will become overwhelmed at times, and U. S. troops (and “civilian contractors” in some cases) will come to the rescue. Mr. Obama claims all U. S. troops will be withdrawn by the end of 2011. I’m not holding my breath.
The Iraq war began in deception and continues in deception. How many more Americans and Iraqis will die or be maimed for life due to this insanity? It may take the United States many years to recover from the foreign policy blunders of the previous administration. I had hoped that the new administration would not follow suit. Unfortunately that hope has been dashed as the American empire continues to gasp its dying breaths. The aftermath, I fear, will be ugly.