Republican Candidates and Waterboarding

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Although as a traditional conservative I cannot vote for Mr. Obama, I also cannot vote for Mr. Cain or Ms. Bachmann. I am voting for Ron Paul, and would be open to voting for Mr. Huntsman if he got the Republican nomination. I can swallow hard and vote for neoconservative warmongers such as Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum, but I will not vote for a candidate who supports waterboarding. Mr. Can and Ms. Bachmann explicitly said that they would reinstate waterboarding, which is, despite their denials, a form of torture. Mr. Perry hinted that he could support waterboarding, and that adds another reason I could not vote for him. Torture is objectively morally evil, and for candidates to claim Christian identity while supporting a crass utilitarianism that would countenance torture reveals their hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of their “Christian” supporters who also support waterboarding and other forms of torture. I am not so naive so as to believe that the United States has not used torture in the past, but torture has not been a part of official U. S. policy–at least it wasn’t until the administration of George W. Bush. Even Mr. Obama has only added window dressing in limiting torture, letting other countries do the dirty work. To support torture or to deny that waterboarding constitutes torture reveals a major character flaw that is incompatible with a person being president of the United States. Even if we could obtain actionable intelligence from waterboarding, which is doubtful to the point of being practically impossible, this would not morally justify the practice. Mr. Cain and Ms. Bachmann (and perhaps Mr. Perry) find themselves supporting an evil practice that strips human beings of their dignity, a dignity presupposed in the Geneva Conventions. If an open supporter of torture receives the Republican nomination, I will vote for a third party candidate. Critics of Mr. Obama might say that any Republican would be better than him, but a Republican who states that he or she would reinstate waterboarding would not be better than Mr. Obama.

The problem is that both major parties have been purchased by warmongers, to the point that critics of war and or torture such as Mr. Paul, receive limited air time in a lengthy debate. Mr. Paul only received ninety seconds of air time in last night’s debate. That is a travesty that reflects the extent to which the military-industrial complex has captured the U. S. media. The fact that so-called Christians criticize Mr. Paul for opposing torture in all forms and for opposing unnecessary wars reveals the so-called “Christian right” to be neither Christian nor truly right wing. The traditional right would neither have supported torture no engaging in unnecessary wars. The Cold War was the beginning of the fall of the right into warmongering. Afraid of Communist world domination, which could not have happened given the inevitable inefficiency of Communism, the American right supported the major U. S. military buildup of the 1950s. Southerners, who should know better after the War between the States, strongly supported this warmongering policy, as did the leaders of the Christian right in the 1970s and 80s. When  the U.S. engaged in torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, and with the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, these same groups supported the U.S. practice of torture. There are a few people on both the right and on the left who oppose torture. They should work together to change U. S. policy to the point that it cannot engage in torture anywhere and at any time. If they fail, the United States will pay by losing support in the world community–and by losing its soul.

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Libya: Another Foolish U.S. Intervention

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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.

The Tea Party–Are they Finally Supporting Cutting Defense Spending?

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U.S. Defense Spending Trends from 2000-2011

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The Tea Party Movement has energized the Republican party and poured new blood into a party that had become corrupt and bloated with country club Republicans and RINOs. However, like many self-styled “conservatives,” they did not seem interested in cutting defense spending. Yet now there are Tea Party leaders who are saying that defense spending should not be off limits in attempts to bring government spending under control. This is a positive development.

The military became bloated during the 1950s as a result of the Cold War. Instead of combating Communism, which would have eventually collapsed under its own inefficiency in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the Cold War created a vast “military-industrial complex,” to use President Eisenhower‘s words from his 1961 Farewell Address. Not only does a bloated military suck up government spending, it encourages the United States to be involved in unnecessary wars that feed the defense industries with fat profits. Vietnam, the U. S.’s involvement in Bosnia, and Iraq are good examples; some response to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was necessary, but an approach using smaller special forces units and CIA agents, which was the original CIA plan, probably would have worked better than sending over 100,000 American troops. The more the military-industrial complex is fed by war, the more money it demands, and the more money defense-related companies with government contract make.

In addition, a large standing army is a threat to freedom–deep cuts in defense spending could reduce the military’s size and limit the potential threat to both the sovereignty of the states and to individual Americans. Concentrations of power in large organizations, whether those organizations be big government or big business, is dangerous to freedom–and the combination of big defense industries, big government, and a large standing army, is particularly dangerous. More than just “cutting the fat” out of the defense budget is required to bring defense spending under control–and I wonder if any Tea Party leaders want the deep cuts necessary. Hopefully the fact that some Tea Party leaders are at least open to cutting defense spending will lead to a broader discussion of the need for deeper cuts to control the power of the military-industrial complex.

I Pray for a Better 2011

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Another year has passed, and the older I get, the faster time seems to pass. I pray that the world will be a better place in 2011 than it was in 2010. As a Christian, I am thrilled by the rapid spread of Christianity in Africa–and African Christians, unlike American Christians, can pay a steep price for their faith. Their dedication in facing persecution, in walking twenty or more miles in the mud to get to church, is a model for all of us to follow.

I pray that there will be fewer wars and that the American people will wake up to the power of what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex.”

I pray for the unborn, that God would protect them from the scourge of abortion. I pray for marriage–that it will continue as a permanent union between one man and one woman. I pray for parents to be good fathers and mothers, to be affectionate for their children, to praise them when they do well, and discipline them when they do wrong. I pray that the trend toward physician-assisted suicide and toward active euthanasia will be reversed. I pray that Americans realize that older people have just as much intrinsic value as young people–and they often have more wisdom.

I pray that colleges and universities will recover some of the sanity that they once have. I pray that young people will learn the great classics of literature, philosophy, and religion. I pray that more traditional Christians strive for teaching and research careers in higher education.

I pray that the American people will take more responsibility for their actions and not blame others for all their misfortunes. I pray for greater courtesy between people. I pray that mediating institutions that stand between the person and the state–churches, civic organizations, and clubs–will grow and prosper. I pray that Americans realize that there is a life beyond both big government and big business.

I pray that we all stop and enjoy the beauty of nature, that we realize that environmentalism is not contrary to Christianity, but recognizes the goodness of the earth and the plants and animals God created. I pray for less cruelty toward animals, that people realize that humans are not the only animals with intrinsic value, that even if humans have more value than other animals, that does not imply that animals be mistreated. I pray for more free range animals and fewer factory farms. I pray that people treasure their pets, and I pray that God in His mercy will raise them from the dead when He reconstitutes the world in a perfect form.

I pray for the salvation of all people, recognizing that there is a possibility of eternal damnation–I pray, though, that Hell will be empty. I pray that we will forgive without excusing, mete justice but balance it with mercy when mercy is warranted. I pray that Americans will realize that people are more important than material possessions, that the accumulation of riches alone will never make a person happy. I pray that all people will strive to have virtuous characters, and that God will reach down and touch the most damaged of souls, all those with intractable vices or mental illness, all those who suffer from the sin of narcissism, those who suffer from borderline personality disorder, even those who are psychopaths.

I pray that the New Atheism will show forth its shallowness and not convince people that God does not exist.

I pray for the success of Sam Parnia’s study of Near-Death Experiences, that his findings will suggest that a spiritual realm truly does exist.

I pray for my family, my friends, for every person that they will cooperate with God’s grace to become all they are meant to be. And to the readers of this blog, may God’s richest blessings descend on you in 2011.

Anti War Activism, Patriotism, and the Federal Government

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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.

The Neverending Warfare State

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Oval Office

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For anyone who believes that the so-called “withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq” means the end of the Iraq War for the United States or the end of American and Iraqi casualties, you can also believe I have terraformed the planet Mars. Mr. Obama has been a huge disappointment in foreign policy for anyone who opposes continual U. S. engagements in places it ought not to be. President Eisenhower, in his January 1961 Farewell Address, warned of the dangers of the growing power of “the military-industrial complex.” What many Americans don’t realize through the fog of war rhetoric is that many people profit from war. The defense industry profits. The workers in the defense industry benefit, for they keep their jobs. A small-time defense contractor told me once, “I love Republicans,” since Mr. Bush had pushed the United States into a needless and costly war in Iraq. But Democrats do no better, as Mr. Obama shows. In the end, they also yield to the forces of the military-industrial complex. It is dangerous for a country to have a large portion of its work force in both the armed forces and in the defense industry. This situation only pushes the United States into further military adventurism–a prospect it cannot afford. The short-term pain of a smaller standing army and a smaller defense industry will be outweighed by the long-term gains of a smaller budget deficit and a more diverse economy. In addition, the risk to freedom resulting from a nation have a large standing army would be reduced. Mr. Obama could keep his promise and withdraw all U. S. forces from Iraq. He could do better and withdraw all U. S. forces from Afghanistan, and South Korea. Closing European and Asian bases would be helpful as well. If a massive reduction in U. S. defense spending does not become reality soon, the U. S., like the old Soviet Union of the 1990s, will spend itself, if not into disappearing, into becoming a third world country (especially if China and Japan refuse to buy U. S. bonds to finance the deficit). War is a waste–of soldiers’ and civilians’ lives, health, and productivity. I say to my fellow conservatives: it is a conservative position to oppose the military-industrial complex–what, after all, is more big government than that alliance between the federal government and the defense industry? Where else is there such a concentration of power, power that conservatives claim they eschew? Conservatives, libertarians, and anti-war liberals should ban together in opposing the constant state of war in which the United States has fallen. I recommend that everyone take a look at http://www.antiwar.com and read the articles from an alliance of people from all sides of the political spectrum who desire the United States to withdraw from current wars and stay out of future ones.