Harry Browne's Journal

August 31, 2004

Eternal siege: Now we know.

President Bush says that we can't win the War on Terror. We can only hope to make it difficult for the terrorists.

Thus we can expect that America will remain in a state of siege for the rest of our lives. We will never be able to get on an airliner without being screened, searched, and intimidated. Our email and phone calls will be subject to monitoring. The people arrested as potential terrorists can expect to remain in prison forever with no trials, no access to attorneys, no communication with their families, no right to confront their accusers, none of the supposed safeguards in the Bill of Rights.

In other words, we will never have America again.

During the Cold War, we lived in a constant state of fear fearing nuclear attack. Now, in the War on Terrorism, we not only live in a state of constantly fearing an attack, but also fearing our own government's grabbing us and taking our lives away from us.

It appears that we had less to fear from Leonid Brezhnev than we do from George Bush.

Tax cuts for the rich: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has confirmed what John Kerry has said that the rich received larger benefits from the Bush tax cuts than the poor did.

According to the CBO's report, people in the top bracket, averaging $1.2 million in income, received a tax cut averaging $78,460. But the people who averaged only $16,620 in income received a tax cut of only $250. Can you imagine? People making $16,620 a year didn't get the same $78,460 tax cut given to the very rich.

And we call ourselves a land of equal opportunity!

August 28, 2004

America is a colony of the world: America is no longer an independent country. It no longer can plot its own destiny, but instead must do what is dictated by other countries.

This distressing news comes from President Bush, Senator Kerry, and practically every other U.S. political leader.

Of course, they don't put it that way. What they say is that America had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was a bad man.

If you never respect anything else I say, I hope you will weigh very carefully these words. They may be the most important statement I've ever made regarding America's foreign policy:

If America is obligated to sacrifice its youth to depose every dictator that emerges, America is not a free, independent country. Its actions are dictated not by its own people, but by the worst elements in the world.

I am determined to do whatever I can to help restore American independence.

Abu Ghraib: Now it appears that doctors were complicit in the torture at the Iraqi prison signing incorrect death certificates to cover up the torture, reviving prisoners who had collapsed from torture, advising the interrogators on ways to psychologically or physically intimidate prisoners. And the doctors didn't see any reason to report the abuse to anyone.

These findings come from a study made by the British medical journal The Lancet, examining records of Pentagon investigations.

However, the study continues to repeat the mantra that no higher-ups were involved, although they probably should have provided better leadership. This also was the finding of an investigation led by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger.

No higher-ups? Well, let's see. Eight months ago, any thought that American soldiers would abuse Iraqi prisoners would have been laughed out of court. Just one month ago, any thought that American doctors were helping in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners would have been considered absurd. Today, any idea that U.S. commanders might have known anything about the abuse is flatly denied.

But what will be discovered next month and the month after?

History is never finished. Today's word is never the final word.

August 24, 2004

Government education: Whenever you see an excerpt of a George Bush or Dick Cheney speech on the TV news, you always see the crowd showing enormous enthusiasm for what's being said. It can make you wonder whether you're the only person in the world who doesn't see the logic in what they're saying.

Of course, by now you've probably heard about the careful screening that goes on to guarantee that only enthusiastic Republican supporters are present at such events. But you may not know how scrupulously the Republicans stage-manage every Bush appearance.

When Bush spoke at Ohio State University the students attending were told to stand and cheer the President. Last year Bush decided not to give a speech at the European Parliament because he wasn't guaranteed a standing ovation.

Even Bush's appearance in Iraq and other military venues have been carefully staged, with the audience limited to soldiers who are all in favor of the Bush doctrine.

On July 31 Dick Cheney gave a speech in Albuquerque. Anyone who wanted to get in to the speech had to sign an oath that he was supporting George Bush for reelection. In part the oath read:

I, (full name), do herby [sic] endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States.

This provides absolute proof, if any were needed, that we must have a new federal reading & writing (not to mention Civics) program entitled: No Republican Left Behind.

Redeeming Michael Moore: Yesterday I quoted someone's statement that Michael Moore, in his interview with Bill O'Reilly, said Hitler should have been stopped from coming to power. I went on to point out that Democrats and Republicans are more concerned about parties than about enemies. They support wars of their own party and oppose those of their political opponents.

Anthony Gregory, who writes regularly for LewRockwell.com, provided an interesting insight on Michael Moore:

On Clinton's wars, Moore was actually among the more principled antiwar leftists. He harshly criticized Clinton's bombing of Serbia, in writing as well as in his film, Bowling for Columbine. I did not like the anti-gun content in the Columbine film, but he had some insightful things to say in it about how US foreign policy violence may incite violence in our culture.

Abortion: I received the following email:

I have been a faithful libertarian for over 10 years, and happily voted for you. I only have one problem: the Libertarian position on abortion. Everything I have read by you and other Libertarians treats it as a woman's privacy issue.

If we are truly for life, liberty, etc. how can we not be firmly pro-life and protect the unborn?

A woman's right to privacy simply does not trump anyone's right to life.

Please help me understand.

Chris

I believe that, until science can prove that life begins at some point beyond conception, I must assume that abortion is the taking of a human life. Thus I am firmly opposed to abortion.

Knowing what government is and how it perverts whatever it promises to do, I am just as firmly opposed to any government program to stop abortion.

I hope those who believe abortion is wrong won't waste their time trying to get government at any level to reduce abortions. Government never delivers what you want. It doesn't protect adults on the streets. It doesn't protect children in the schools. Why should we think it will protect the unborn in the womb?

Government doesn't persuade; it forces. And that's why it can't bring about any lasting change you might want.

Its War on Poverty has expanded welfare in America. Its War on Drugs has escalated the use of drugs. Any government War on Abortion could easily lead within five years to men having abortions.

Every day we spend begging the government to stop abortion is a day wasted a day that could have been spent doing something truly effective, such as . . . 

Working for less restrictive adoption laws.

Encouraging private educational efforts to show young women the alternatives to abortion.

Repealing the income tax so parents can spend more time with their children, teaching them values that will minimize teenage pregnancies.

Repealing any law that encourages people to ignore the consequences of their actions.

As with any other problem, only a program of education and persuasion undertaken voluntarily by individuals, not government can work. I admire the people who work so hard to dissuade young women from rushing into abortions, who arrange adoptions for pregnant women who aren't ready to raise a child, who fight to undo the restrictive adoption laws, and who spend their own money to help produce ads that celebrate the lives of children who weren't aborted. These are efforts that make a true difference unlike those of politicians who pose and preach and promise, and never deliver anything.

To me, abortion is a horror. But giving politicians the power to run your life, hoping they will stop abortions, isn't the way to end the horror. In fact, in one way or another, it's bound to make a bad thing worse.

To answer your question, this isn't an issue of a woman's right to privacy or anyone's right to life. It's an issue of how to achieve what you want which is to minimize abortions. And government is never the way to achieve that.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Critiques of the Moore-O'Reilly debate: After posting my comments on the debate (August 21, below), I received several emails from people who disagree with parts of what I said. Here are their comments, together with my responses . . . 

 . . . Moore on the other hand refused to admit that there is evidence that Bush didn't lie but did in fact make a mistake based on bad intelligence. This is an area that I have to back track on myself. Initially it appeared that Bush did lie. While its possible he did, there were some people in the US, UK and Russia that thought Hussein had WMDs. Its a moot point to me though because I, like you, do not trust government to fix anything. If they were not dishonest then they were incompetent.

George Bush did lie. Anyone who says, in effect, "We know Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" is lying. Bush purposely allowed the American people to believe that he had absolutely certain evidence of the WMDs, of the unmanned airplanes that could attack the East Coast of America, of Al-Qaeda training camps, of missiles that could attack Europe, and much more.

If he was misled into speaking these lies, it was his fault. It's one thing to take the word of an advisor on some petty matter that might turn out to be a small waste of money. It's another thing to take someone's word on a matter that could bring about the deaths of tens of thousands of people and then speak as though he had certain knowledge of facts he hadn't even examined for himself.

An honest President would not have told the American people he knew what he didn't know. On such a life-and-death matter, an honest President would have demanded to see the evidence for himself, and would have told the American people exactly how likely or unlikely it was that Hussein had WMDs or anything else.

As to "some people in the US, UK and Russia thought Hussein had WMDs," think it through before you repeat this last refuge of the war hawks. How did the people in the UK, Russia, the UN, Germany, France, and other countries also come to believe that Hussein had WMDs? Did they have spies in Iraq who had thought they'd seen WMDs? Of course not.

They got the idea that Hussein had WMDs because George Bush told them so.

And even George Bush apparently didn't have spies in Iraq. His minions were simply taking the word of Ahmed Chalabi and members of the Iraqi National Congress a self-serving group that for many years was working to overthrow the Hussein government and take power for themselves. Even the American war hawks have abandoned Chalabi now.

I can't read the minds of other people. I wasn't present at administration strategy meetings. But it certainly seems likely that the people in the Bush administration (presumably including George Bush himself) wanted to go to war with Iraq no matter what Hussein had or was doing. And so they took at face value any intelligence, reports, rumors, allegations, or fantasies that would support their preconceived desire to go to war.

And when George Bush used this "garbage in" intelligence and spoke with certainty about something he obviously didn't know for certain, he lied.

And Michael Moore was right to put it in those terms.

Incidentally, I'm not a booster of Michael Moore. I was simply commenting on the fact that he was one of the very few people in the public eye who has spoken of the Iraq controversy in terms of the human lives that were snuffed out.

As a Libertarian, I also take issue with the suggestion that Americans "send their children off to death," as Moore and his ilk claim. We currently have no compulsory military service in the United States. That being the case, the persons we are discussing are all grown adults who made the individual choice to join the military. When making such a choice, I doubt any of them considered themselves safe from the possibility of harm, including death while in combat. The reality of death is apparent before one volunteers for service.

These are not children; they are adult men and women who made decisions for their own lives. We who remain in the States, including their parents and the politicians, are not "sending them off to death." To say so implies they had no choice in the matter. As a Libertarian, I feel this is a noteworthy distinction.

The children who join the Army have been lured by a number of inducements help to go to college, the opportunity to learn a trade that can be used to earn a good living in one's post-military life, or just marking time while trying to decide what to do with one's life. The Army's TV recruiting ads don't show young men and women wearing full body armor in 110-degree heat, fighting for their lives.

What is more important is that most middle-aged adults in America are completely oblivious to the number of armed encounters our military has engaged in over the past few decades in Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, the Philippines, Lebanon, Somalia, Iran, and on and on. If adults watching TV news regularly have no idea of these military engagements, how can we expect young people fresh out of high school to know about them?

More than anything else, they couldn't believe for a moment that their President would use phony information to send them to fight in the desert.

Although I oppose the idea of a draft strenuously, the concept of a volunteer army in no way negates the idea that the war hawks are "sending our children off to die."

The complete transcript from the Moore-O'Reilly interview is at
http://www.drudgereport.com/dnc4.htm.

What I found interesting was that Moore said he wouldn't have let Hitler come to power. It seems to me that Moore flip-flopped about preemptive war. He doesn't support it when it's Bush, but he does when it's him. It seems to me that Moore isn't as anti-war as he is anti-Bush.

What a surprise someone using the war for his own political agenda.

I need to write an article about the way political parties turn brains into mush. Those who criticized Clinton for bombing Serbia are praising Bush for demolishing Iraq. Many of those who are criticizing Bush for Iraq today were very supportive of Clinton's many foreign adventures. It isn't the issue that's important to these people, it's the party. If "my" party is in favor, I'm in favor. If my party is opposed, I'm opposed. After all, the guys in the other party are evil and we can't let them win the debate on anything.

I'll write that article some time this decade.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Debating Iraq: A few weeks ago Michael Moore appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show, after O'Reilly had for some time been calling Moore a liar for accusing George Bush of lying about the threat from Iraq. Their debate was relatively restrained and civil, but Moore finally thrust home when he asked O'Reilly, "Would you sacrifice your son for Fallujah?" Moore asked the question several times but O'Reilly refused to answer. He claimed that he (O'Reilly) would die, but Moore pointed out that this was mere bravado since they were both too old to be shipped to Iraq to die, and that it was the children who always are sent to the slaughter.

It seemed that Moore had clearly gotten the better of the debate, but O'Reilly claimed otherwise even replaying the interview on a later show to demonstrate that he'd bested Moore. As for the "Would you sacrifice your son for Fallujah?" question, he said that Moore had clearly lost on the facts (O'Reilly gave no examples), and so Moore had resorted to asking the question as a cheap emotional trick. In other words, it's a cheap emotional trick to point out that people actually die in wars.

O'Reilly seemed to be whistling in the dark, but he may actually believe he won the debate. And this points up an important principle: In any political debate, almost everyone watching will believe that his side won no matter what actually happened. This is because each spectator will believe that his man said the things that were far more relevant and far more significant than whatever the opponent said.

Thus the beauty of a debate is that everyone gets to go away from it thinking he's won.

Death: Moore's question was designed to bring home the reality of death. In wars people die. And those who die are people who wanted to live as much as you want to live. And they meant as much to their parents as your children mean to you.

Every one of the tens of thousands of people who died in Iraq, including the roughly one thousand Americans, was someone's husband, daughter, father, son, brother, sister, mother, or wife.

But the administration flaks (both in and out of government) don't care. They're too busy telling us of the wonderful job the American military is doing rebuilding the schools, hospitals, and power plants that were destroyed by American bombs.

The Daily Show: A couple of weeks ago the Television Critics Association announced its annual awards for the best shows on TV. Along with the awards for best comedy, best drama, and such, was the award for the best news show on television.

And the winner? The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. That's right, on the Comedy Central channel. And if you've ever seen the show, you can understand how it won the award.

Stewart calls it a "fake news show." And there are fake news reports here and there. But what makes the show so successful, I think, is the true news reporting that it does. Virtually every show includes actual clips of politicians being hypocritical, contradictory, or just plain stupid. For example, showing George Bush saying "This country is in great danger" and then showing him three days earlier saying "America is much safer now."

Just after the critics' award was announced, on one of those weekend shows in which a panel discusses the media's handling of current news, the host mentioned the award and asked whether this was some kind of joke. One of the panelists immediately leaped to the defense of the award pointing out that The Daily Show was the only program expressing any real skepticism prior to the Iraqi war, and that the show was holding the politicians' feet to the fire in a way the broadcast and cable news shows refuse to do.

If you've never seen The Daily Show, you're in for a real treat. The show skewers politicians of both major parties equally. It's on five days a week, 30 minutes a show. Each episode airs three times during the day. Most cable systems carry Comedy Central. Check your cable guide.

Death again: On The Daily Show Jon Stewart generally does a pretty fair job of interviewing guests. But he had one disappointing interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN. Stewart kept pressing Blitzer for an answer as to how such a horrible miscalculation could have been made that brought about the invasion of Iraq. Blitzer kept answering, in effect, that it was a case of "Oops, I made a mistake." In other words, everyone makes mistakes; so why can't the CIA and the President occasionally be wrong?

Not once did either Stewart or Blitzer acknowledge that this particular "Oops" caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Not once was the death of even one person referred to. The "Oops" was treated in the same way as a federal budget miscalculation.

Life is the most important possession any human being has. And to snuff it out is the worst possible crime. But to do it so casually as politicians do, to act as though it is something wonderful that some poor soul has "died for his country" that's adding insult to murder.

In his speech asking Congress to enter World War I, Woodrow Wilson said:

America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.1

"Spend her blood"? No, spend the blood of individual young men who were conscripted shanghaied, kidnapped, put into slavery to do the dying for Woodrow Wilson.

How did those young men end up?

Shirley Millard, an American nurse in an army hospital in France, later wrote about her experience. She was shocked by the terrible reality of what happens to soldiers in war. She could see that they weren't privileged to spend their blood. She described one batch of wounded brought into the hospital:

They cannot breathe lying down or sitting up. They just struggle for breath. But nothing can be done. Their lungs are gone. Some with their eyes and faces entirely eaten away by the gas and bodies covered with burns. . . . One boy, today, screaming to die. The entire top layer of his skin burned from his face and body.

She didn't exactly see the situation in the same way as Woodrow Wilson or Bill O'Reilly. She asked:

What's the sense of it? Why did they have to be killed before they had even begun to live?2

I am not generally a vengeful person. But I hope the darkest, hottest, most painful region of Hell is reserved for those who so casually send other people to their deaths in order to preserve some meaningless political position.

--------------

1The complete text of the War-Declaration speech is at InfoPlease

2I Saw Them Die by Shirley Millard, pages 92-107; cited in The Illusion of Victory by Thomas Fleming, page 275.

September 2004 Journal

 

 

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