Harry Browne's Journal

This Journal provides random thoughts on news items and other issues. There won't be new postings every day, but most weeks there should be three or four new entries. This isn't an interactive blog where you can post your thoughts. However, you can email me and if your email seems to be of general interest, I might respond in this Journal. I can't provide a personal answer, because I don't have the time to do many things I'd like to do.

November 27, 2004

Conservatives emulating liberals: Jonah Goldberg of National Review writes:

Rich Lowry received a note from the father of a Marine fighting in Fallujah. In it the proud father recounted what his son had told him. Many residents of that besieged town left bedding for the Marines and soldiers, along with notes thanking them for liberating their town from the terrorists and inviting them to sleep in their homes if necessary.

Every day, I receive wonderful, uplifting, heart-wrenching e-mails from Marines and soldiers or their families with similar stories of Iraqis' expressing their gratitude and relief that the Americans are doing the hard work of democracy and decency (the latter being vastly more important than the former).

See, see it's all worthwhile!!! Why are you opposing this wonderful war?

It's amazing how much conservatives have adopted the ways of liberals now that the conservatives are in power.

Do you remember how, in Bill Clinton's State of the Union speeches, he would always call attention to some child or family in the audience who had benefited from some Clinton program? Clinton never mentioned the family whose taxes were increased, or whose access to market resources were reduced, or who had to pay higher prices because of the Clinton program. Just point to a few beneficiaries and make us think that the program is an unqualified success in making life better for Americans.

In the same way, conservatives point to the success stories that "we hear so very little of from the media" in order to make us think the Iraq war is a great endeavor one we shouldn't be criticizing.

But, in passing on his "success stories," Goldberg neglects to mention the tens of billions of dollars that have been drained from our pockets, the 1,000+ Americans who have died, the thousands of Americans who have been maimed, the tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and resisters who have died, the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians (men, women, and children) who have died, the tens of thousands of homes that have been destroyed, and the tens of millions of people around the world who have learned to hate America because the U.S. military invaded Iraq without provocation and without any provable excuse.

Are a handful of emails and tales of gratitude worth all that?

Bill Clinton as President was a demagogue. And conservatives have learned to imitate him.

Understanding the words: And supporting the demagoguery concerning Iraq are the media (you know, the "liberal media" that Rush Limbaugh and other Republicans love to hold up as a threat to truth and the American way). TV reporters utter many empty statements in defense of the Bush rule-the-world policies in Iraq and elsewhere.

We really need a translating dictionary in order to understand what these empty statements are supposed to mean.

I'll do my part by contributing a few entries to start off the lexicon:

Support our troops = Don't say anything bad about the Bush war in Iraq because that might demoralize the soldiers fighting there. So just let them continue to die, rather than suggest that they might be dying in vain.

The French are weak and cowardly = They may have been right about Iraq, but when was the last time they invaded a country without provocation? (Comments about French cowardice generally come from people who have not volunteered to go to war.)

Pat Tillman (the professional football player who gave up a lucrative career to enlist, go to Afghanistan, and die) is an example for us all = Aren't you ashamed of yourself for ignobly focusing on earning a living for yourself and your family, rather than laying down your life for a promise that the world's problems will be solved once Iraq is completely destroyed? And don't ask me why I haven't enlisted.

America has the best-trained military in the world = I can't think of anything intelligent to say, and I have no way of knowing how well-trained our soldiers are, but maybe this will make people feel good and earn me some brownie points.

We need to involve the international community, so that American troops can come home = Face it we're never going to leave Iraq, so learn to live with it.

More emptiness in the conservative media: Incidentally, if you want to see just how empty conservative writing can be these days, read Jonah Goldberg's entire article for examples of muddled thinking in support of a bad war.

Note that he cites the U.S. Marines' "good works" in Fallujah as evidence that America is a "wonderful, decent nation, brimming with millions of people who take people as they find them and do what is right because that is their character" neglecting to mention that America is "helping" people in Fallujah because our government has coercively confiscated the resources from us, not because it's in the character of the American people to voluntarily give up their earnings and their lives to change a government halfway around the world.

He talks of the self-correcting nature of our way of life, saying: "Not all criticisms are fair or accurate, and some are just plain silly. But when an idea is valid we adopt and nurture it." But now that every excuse for invading Iraq has proven to be wrong, why aren't "we" correcting the mistake? Could it be because a conservative government admits of no error and cares little what has proven to be true?

And he says: "For every politician who takes a bribe, every journalist who plagiarizes, every husband who hits his wife, every child who cheats, there are multitudes who do none of these things, . . ." And for every President who confiscates $2.4 trillion of our money, sends Americans to their deaths, locks up people without trials, and alienates almost the entire non-American world, there are hundreds of millions of Americans who don't steal, don't murder, don't kidnap, and don't make America look bad.

November 23, 2004

Empty lives: Regarding my Journal entry, "Playing Politics with American Lives," I received this email message:

I must adamantly disagree with your statement that you would let Osama bin Laden go if it would guarantee no future terrorist attacks. The fact that I believe Osama is insincere is irrelevant. The fact of the matter remains that this man has killed 3,000 people, and justice must be served. And, yes Mr. Browne, I would gladly lay down my life to pursue that end.

You have my sympathy. I'm very sorry that your life is so empty that you would give it up for a George Bush promise to capture Osama bin Laden and rid the world of evil. Even if you fought and died, and even if bin Laden were captured, American foreign policy would remain as it is, bin Laden would be replaced by others determined to inflict damage on the United States, and America would continue to live in a state of siege.

Perhaps as you die, you'll shout out the immortal words, "I regret that I have but one life to give for a George Bush promise."

Leave us alone: And with regard to my other articles on American foreign policy, I received this note:

The US attacks on our enemies must continue, on their turf, until all who want to hurt Americans are put out of existence. When they are peaceful, we as America will leave them alone. At the peak of the Roman rule in Europe, no one dared harm a Roman citizen. Why? Because anyone who assaulted a citizen of Rome would be hunted down and killed by the Romans. This meant death to the perpetrator and his village and his family, etc. This should be the mantra of the U.S.: Leave us alone and we will leave you alone.

But the U.S. hasn't left others alone.

Long before 9/11, the U.S. overthrew the democratic government of Iran, installing the oppressive Shah; the U.S. helped the Israelis invade Lebanon; the U.S. invaded Panama and Iraq: the U.S. bombed Serbia: the U.S. helped the Indonesians kill thousands of Muslims in East Timor; and much more. None of these countries had even threatened the United States, let alone attacked us.

You must understand that the world didn't begin on 9/11. You can't separate the terrorist attacks from the foreign policy that caused such mayhem around the world that it induced tens of thousands of well-meaning people to turn to thugs for revenge.

Dealing with the threat: And I received this note of concern:

I agree that the cause of most of the hate towards the U.S. comes from America's interference with foreign countries, but I still believe that we are in for some violent times, and we need a president who will hunt down and destroy these cells before they can strike. At what point are we justified to interfere when it seems that a country is becoming a major threat?

There is only one country that poses a threat to America today, and that's Russia. But the "president who will hunt down and destroy these cells before they can strike" has no interest in what Russia does. Countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran are no threat to the United States, but they are the ones George Bush likes to attack. So supporting a President "who will hunt down and destroy these cells before they can strike" means supporting a President who enlarges "America's interference with foreign countries."

Our government needs to do several things to restore a safe, secure, peaceful America:

  1. Bring all American troops home from foreign countries.
  2. End all foreign military and economic aid to dictatorships and democracies alike.
  3. Pledge a new policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.
  4. Dismantle the enormous offensive American military machine.
  5. Create in its place an effective defensive American military one that would cost a small fraction of what we're paying now to rule the world. An effective defense would include a missile defense developed by a private company receiving a winner-take-all reward for doing so, rather than waiting 20 years for the bureaucratic Department of Defense to finish something.
  6. Repeal the Patriot Act and all other police-state measures that have been imposed based on any excuse the Bush administration can think of. Restore the Bill of Rights in its entirety.

It's obvious that our current leaders have no intention of doing any of these things, because they enjoy the power they get by attempting to run the whole world.

So don't hold your breath.

November 14, 2004

Free at last!: George Bush never tires of telling us that "we" have freed Iraq, that the Iraqi people are free, that "freedom is always worth the price," and on and on and on.

To further that freedom, the U.S. government set up the Media High Commission in Iraq, designed to encourage investment in the media and to deter state meddling in the press after decades of strict control under that modern-day Hitler known as Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi Media High Commission did its part to further freedom of the press in Iraq this past week when it warned Iraqi news organizations to stick to the government's line on the invasion of Fallujah or else the government "will be forced to take all the legal measures to guarantee higher national interests." The Commission also told the press organizations to "set aside space in your news coverage to make the position of the Iraqi government, which expresses the aspirations of most Iraqis, clear."

In August, the satellite television channel Al-Jazeera was ordered to close its Baghdad office for one month for aiding "criminals and gangsters" by airing parts of videotapes from groups claiming to have seized or killed foreign hostages. A month later the ban was extended indefinitely.

Who could object? Force is always necessary to impose freedom.

Or as Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently put it, "freedom is messy."

Dignity: On Friday, George Bush told reporters that he wants to expand America's role in the world in order to bring freedom to everyone. (After all, he's done such a good job with Iraq.) He said, "We must apply the combined strength and moral purpose of Europe and America to effectively fight terror and to overcome poverty and disease and despair, to advance human dignity and to advance freedom."

I got a taste of that dignity yesterday in the Fort Lauderdale airport. I had the privilege of joining with a hundred or so fellow free Americans in being herded through a line like cattle being led to a slaughter, being ordered to take off my shoes and jacket, submitting to being searched without probable cause or a warrant, and obeying various other orders as the price of getting on an airplane operated by a private company.

Foolishly, some people in the world may resist having Bush's American "freedom" and "dignity" imposed upon them by force.

Obviously, they don't know what they're missing.

Making out: Many years ago, in the Rochester, New York, airport, while waiting for an overdue plane to be ready for take-off, I spotted a lovely fellow passenger who was waiting by herself. I screwed up my courage and inflicted a lame pick-up line on her. Somehow she didn't object and eventually my beloved Pamela and I were married. I haven't tried to pick up a woman in an airport since that day so long ago in Rochester.

But this past Thursday, while waiting to board a plane in Nashville, I looked up at the CNN television monitor and saw the face of Yasser Arafat. Suddenly, I was overcome with the spark of inspiration. If only I were single again, if only there were a lovely woman waiting by herself to board the plane, if only I had the opportunity to try out the best pick-up line in the world: "So, are you going to Arafat's funeral?"

November 11, 2004

Playing politics with American lives: Lost in the shuffle during the last few days before the election was the videotape of Osama bin Laden's statements to the American people.

In it, he said that they were fighting for their security, "contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example Sweden?"

To take this statement seriously, to repeat it to the American people, to discuss it on TV chat shows would open up a can of worms for all those who for three years have been reciting the mantra that "they hate us for our freedom, our democracy, our prosperity." So the statement along with the rest of bin Laden's remarks was simply ignored.

There are several different translations of bin Laden's text available. And the words differ from translation to translation, but each translation contains a version of the most important statement in the text.

In the Fox TV News translation, bin Laden said, "Any state that does not mess with our security has naturally guaranteed its own security."

In the CNN translation, he said, "Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked."

In the Al-Jazeera translation, he said, "And every state that doesn't play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security."

Any way you translate it, the result is the same. He's saying that Al-Qaeda will not attack America if America will quit interfering in the Middle East.

Now, I have no way of knowing whether he is sincere or even whether he has the power to control all the firebrands who might be eager to attack the United States. But if you were President, wouldn't you want to find out? Wouldn't you want to explore the possibility that this could end the so-called "Terrorism War"? Didn't every U.S. President from Eisenhower to Reagan meet with leaders of the Soviet Union in hopes of finding a way of reducing world tensions? Why wouldn't a U.S. President look into the possibility of ending the state of siege that suffocates America today?

So how did the two presidential candidates respond to bin Laden's statements?

According to a CNN report:

George Bush said, "Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Senator Kerry agrees with this. . . . We are at war with these terrorists, and I am confident we will prevail."

John Kerry said, "Let me make it clear crystal clear: as Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. . . . They are barbarians. And I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes. Period."

So appearing macho two days before the election was far more important to these two men than possibly heading off another terrorist attack that might kill thousands more Americans.

But shouldn't Osama bin Laden be captured and punished for what he's done?

Ideally, yes. But if he is really sincere about ending this war, why shouldn't that possibility be explored?

I don't know about you, but if I were President, I would gladly let bin Laden go free if I were sure that it would prevent another attack that could kill thousands more Americans.

But then, I'm not a Republican or a Democrat.

November 10, 2004

It's never too early to say something bad about Hillary: Well, our week of no tiresome campaign news is over, and it's time to start thinking about 2008. The "Stop Hillary in 2008" efforts have begun.

I really have to wonder whether Hillary Clinton really is interested in becoming president. And even if she is, I have to wonder whether she could win the Democratic nomination. Easily 90% or more of what we've heard about her running for president has come from Republicans, not Democrats.

I sometimes even wonder whether there is such a person as Hillary Clinton. All the evidence indicates that she's simply a fictional character created by some Republican fund-raising genius. It's rare indeed that a Republican fund-raising letter doesn't mention Hillary as the devil incarnate the bogey woman who will eat us all alive if we don't send money right now to buy crosses and wooden stakes with which to stop her.

It would be amusing if we one day found out that the person we think is Hillary Clinton is really Sean Hannity in drag.

The Libertarian presidential campaign: For the past week, small-l and large-L libertarians have given their opinions on whether the Badnarik campaign's vote total was impressive or depressive. But I think they're missing the point. The vote total should be the least of our concerns at this point, as I argue in "The Libertarian Vote Total."

November 9, 2004

Sorry for the week-long layoff, but the lack of an election campaign with all its absurdities has left me with nothing to carp about.

However, I expect to be making new entries starting tomorrow.

November 3, 2004

The long national nightmare has ended: At last at long last the campaign is over. A solid year of being inundated with news of political campaigns, of Republican spin and Democratic spin, of he's a liar, no he's a liar, of predictable statements, and watching people cheering idiots and now, thank heavens, it's over. No more of this inanity for three years or so.

But you would think that our reward for putting up with the same tired arguments repeated over and over, day after day, would be something more attractive than four more years of Old Smirk & Swagger.


October 2004 Journal           December 2004 Journal



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