Category Archives: anti-war

Restore Our Freedom

This Memorial Day weekend we are once again drowning in a sea of reminders of what this holiday is truly about; honoring those servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of protecting our “freedom”. Memorial Day has become the secular state’s equivalent of Easter in the de facto state religion: the Church of the State. In this new religion we worship icons (the flag), we beatify the saints (former presidents) but above all we worship those in the military who involuntarily (the draft) or voluntarily sacrificed their lives upon the altar of the state. They, like Jesus through his death, gave us a gift – in this case it is the gift of “freedom” rather than salvation. Unfortunately the myth of that gift is a lie. This lie allows the political class to maintain their hold on power by simultaneously convincing the noble to serve and the gullible to vote.

Now don’t get me wrong, those who have given their lives are indeed worthy of remembrance and respect. It is the rare individual who will sacrifice not for just his own kin, but for strangers he has never met. Such men and women are true heroes. What I am addressing is the monstrous lie our own government deploys every time they send these brave souls into harms way. To those in government, the citizenry is but mere fodder, to be disposed of with as much regard as one has for Kleenex when blowing one’s nose. Ever since the draft ended (and we stopped forcing young men to kill others at gunpoint) a false narrative has been spun in order to convince those of noble hearts that they are participating in something grand, something larger than themselves, that they are securing “freedom” for their fellow man.

Although superficially plausible (the military protects our freedom) ask yourself, when is the last time this country engaged militarily with anybody that was actually threatening to encroach upon our “freedom” as it were? Was North Vietnam preparing to invade Florida? Was Saddam Hussein ready to roll into Delaware? Yes, I see you there in the back of the class with your hand up going “ooh, ooh, ooh” just busting to remind us all of Hitler or Pearl Harbor. Surely those are example wherein our military protected our “freedom”. Pearl Harbor falls into the same category as 9/11; situations where the passive-aggressive interference of the US (e.g. economic sanctions against Japan, US troops in the middle east) were the direct and proximate cause of these supposed “first strikes” that were in fact counterattacks. That is not “blaming America” to recognize this fact – but it is indeed blaming our politicians who provoked these events. Their recklessness resulted in events that caused us to sacrifice so many needlessly. But seriously, does anyone think Germany or Japan could have invaded and taken over the entire continental United States? Please.

Every military situation this country has been involved in owes its genesis to some initial act by our own government. Even the rise of Hitler is directly traceable to US involvement in World War I (thank you Woodrow Wilson!) insofar as our strong hand during armistice negotiations table made the onerous treaty of Versailles possible. This lopsided treaty punished Germany so harshly it set the stage for Hitler’s rise; absent that treaty Hitler would have remained a bitter nobody.

If we truly wish to honor those troops that have given their lives, we too must fight. We must fight to elect those that promise to pull our military back to our shores and end our ceaseless meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. The biggest threat to our freedom is not from some foreign invader but rather from our own government. We are fast on our way to becoming a 100% permission based society. Consider what freedoms we have already lost and then consider the irony of thanking veterans for protecting these dwindling “freedom”: we must ask for permission from government to get a job, take a drug, start a business, pay an employee, sell alcohol, cut hair, sell any product, teach our children, by a gun, carry a gun, buy health insurance, board a plane, leave the country, enter the country, get married, or leave belongings to loved ones when we die. Likewise no permission is needed from us if the state wishes to enter our homes, cars or persons, guns drawn, looking for “something”. “Papers please!” cannot be too far behind.

So I say to the troops, if you really want to protect my freedom, don’t do it rolling around in a Humvee in some dessert somewhere. Do it by getting yourself elected and being part of the turning of the tide on government trespasses against our freedoms.

Look at the flowers…

The release this past week of the Senate’s “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” has exposed the dark underbelly of intelligence gathering to the bright daylight of public opinion. This is a good thing (the exposure, not the torture). The release of this information and subsequent national soul-searching reflects the somewhat schizophrenic nature of the American soul (insofar as a country can have such a thing). We, as a nation, are able to strike out and destroy anything that might be harmful while simultaneously being filled with remorse for doing so. “Look at the flowers… look at the flowers” (Walking Dead reference).

So while it is heartening to see the justifiable outrage of those who have learned of the sadistic crimes committed in the name of their “safety”, it is equally discouraging to witness a vigorously jingoistic defense of these crimes. The most common defense offered is a plausibly reasonable one: it produced actionable intelligence that saved lives. You know, the greater good and all. Unfortunately for that narrative, according to the published report, that is not the case. At best the torture only confirmed information that had already been acquired elsewhere using non-torture means.  At worst, people were tortured to prove a negative. That is, the CIA didn’t think the detainees knew anything of value, but they tortured them anyway just to make sure. Let me repeat that so the enormity of that evil sinks in. They tortured people they thought were innocent and of no intelligence value.

The more reprehensible torture defense is the “I just don’t care” defense. This is most succinctly portrayed in a burgeoning Internet meme depicting a person falling from the World Trade Center with the text overlaid “This is why I don’t give a damn how we gathered information from terrorists.” Yes, 9/11 was an awful, horrific, tragic event, but it is a complete non sequitur to conclude that anything done in the name of preventing something similar or finding those responsible is justifiable. For example, the US could nuke every country on the face of the earth except ours – that would definitely prevent another 9/11 and kill the perpetrators – but that doesn’t make such an action “ok”. So if we rightly repudiate the notion of killing billions of innocents to punish the guilty, we should also repudiate the killing (or torture) of even one innocent. It’s not worth it. Why? Well ask yourself how you would feel about that proposition if you were the one innocent person. Not so gung ho now.

Did the CIA likely have some really bad people in custody? Yes. But they also (based on the report data) had a lot of totally innocent people as well. The reason we don’t (or shouldn’t) engage in torture is the same reason we have an innocent until proven guilty court system; it is not out of concern for the guilty, but rather concern for the innocent. This protects you and me from being thrown in prison or tortured on the mere word or hunch of somebody; “so you say Jane’s a witch (terrorist) do you? Well that’s all the information I need, let’s go kill her.”

Should the suspected terrorists have a trial? Yes, every last one in custody. Otherwise how can anyone know if they are actually terrorists? If there is proof, then there should be no problem getting a conviction. But, if you subscribe to the notion that we won’t always have concrete proof, that sometimes we just have to go on conjecture, hearsay, or hunches, then here’s hoping you never end up in a prison of a like-minded country.

Middle Eastern Chess – Check!

So let me see if I have this straight. Even though there was zero evidence that Iraq was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001 or that Al-Qaida had any operational presence in Iraq, the US invaded Iraq anyway. This resulted in nearly half a million dead Iraqi’s, close to a million Iraqi orphans and a death toll of US military personnel that more than doubled the carnage of September 11. The invasion was the light that brought on the moth-like focus of Al-Qaida to that region. Not content with that mess, the US unilaterally decided to depose Gadhafi, thereby creating a power vacuum in Libya that allowed Al-Qaida influenced forces to move in. The US then fomented instability in Syria by backing Al-Qaida linked rebels there in the hope that they might overthrow Assad. Now with the entire region destabilized, an Al-Qaida splinter group (ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) managed to seize Mosul (Iraq’s second largest city) last week using money and equipment the US funneled to its destabilizing pawns in Libya and Syria. With the capture of Mosul they have further enriched their US equipment arsenal (left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army). This situation is so upside down that the US is actually receiving invitations from the Iranians for joint operations to battle ISIS in Iraq. Brilliant. How did we get here? For years the US supported a number of Middle Eastern dictators as long as they supported a Petrodollar based economy that ensured the free flow of cheap oil to the US. But when our pet dictators stopped behaving, the US tried to displace them with more malleable US-friendly social democracies. Unfortunately the exact opposite developed: US-hostile Islamic theocracies. They have a word for that: blowback.

Then again, US opposition to this shift in power (or the one presently underway in the Ukraine) is completely hypocritical. States may differ in ideology, but they all behave exactly the same. The current power shift merely exposes to public scrutiny the operations of the state normally hidden behind a wall of threats: violence by a select few who proclaim to speak for a majority in order that they may impose their will upon a wider population circumscribed by an arbitrary geopolitical boundary.

In fact nothing is really changing in any of these regions. The flags, slogans and draperies of the capital building may change, but the core violation of the right of the individual to live their life as they, and not others, see fit remains. So even though we may personally object to the precepts of Sharia law, are we objecting to the law itself, or are we objecting to its apparent imposition on the people? Would such objections evaporate if 51% of the people there desired Sharia law? Does majority opinion legitimize such laws? Before you answer that, consider this: ISIS is slowly fostering such communal consent via the oldest political trick in the book – bribery. ISIS is taking a page from the placate-the-people-playbook of modern social democracies. In both Syria and Iraq they have organized “dawa”, i.e. social welfare programs for the local populace (food, fuel, medicine) . And just as honeybees are calmed with smoke, so too are people calmed by the ephemeral gifts of those in power. ISIS is run not by warriors, but politicians with guns. Every politician knows that if you give the people something, they will give you their consent (vote) in return – in this case the price is not literal votes but implied consent to Sharia law. So, if you are for “freedom” and “democracy” and assuming you aren’t a total hypocrite then you should be ok with this extension of majoritarian communal consent. After all, democracy is nothing if not the concept that when some people freely make a choice, it is ok to impose that choice on everyone. But, if you realize democracy is the wool the state pulls over your eyes to fool you into believing you have control, then you will also recognize that majority opinion is as legitimate in determining how we should live our lives as a coin toss.

Health of the State

The War on Drugs is perhaps the most unjust “war” ever waged. It is not, as in conventional warfare, a conflict between states, but rather a conflict of a parasite (the state) against its host (the people). Just as cancer grows by attacking its host, so too does state power expand as it attacks its citizens in the name of saving them. The tumor that is the drug war is but one variant of the cancer that is state power.

It has been said that war is the health of the state (Randolph Bourne). If that is so, then traditional wars (against people) are far too fleeting as a means to bolster state power. The end comes relatively soon as both sides are worn down through attrition. In order to have unending war the state must fight an enemy without form, substance, or soul. This is achieved by waging war against thoughts, emotions, and things; for these things can never be conquered, and thus is ensured the eternal health of the state.

The colorful imagery of a “War on Drugs” suggests perhaps we are battling against anthropomorphized weed and poppies as they brutally attempt to intoxicate us by crashing through our doors and up our noses. Yes, I’m being facetious – now I shall be sarcastic: the real criminals in this war are those who possess these vilified substances.

The police will almost never stop a murder, rape or robbery in progress, but gosh darn it they sure as heck can find a crime in progress if the crime is mere possession. What is the easiest way to capture a criminal? Declare random object X illegal and then find people who happen to possess X. Such prohibitionary lawmaking has led to a perversion of policing incentives. The police now have two choices: Demonstrate effectiveness in catching real criminals through laborious detective work that rarely pays off, or, invent new and interesting pretexts to see if dear citizen is in possession of a verboten substances. Which one is more likely to yield results? Exactly. And so focus shifts to the quick and easy result at the expense of the more difficult task of meting out authentic justice.

This truth has engendered the most sinister aspect of the drug war: the no-knock raid. If the police knock then the suspect might stealthily comply with the law and cause himself to no longer possess the banned material. So on the premise that it is better that a thousand men die than one guilty drug user go free, we have seen the birth of the no-knock raid. Yes, sometimes they’ll get the wrong house, sometimes they’ll accidentally shoot totally innocent people (or almost routinely shoot innocent dogs), but it’s all worth it if it prevents a drug possessor from sometimes getting away. No-knock raids are a breeding ground for all manner of confusion and mistakes. To wit, just last week in Cornelia, Georgia a no-knock raid resulted in a 2 year old suffering massive burns over his face and body when a “distraction device” (aka flash grenade) was tossed into his crib, inches from this face, by the invading SWAT team. Naturally this was a mistake; they never intended that to happen. Procedurally they did nothing wrong – everything was by the book. That fact alone should scare the hell out anyone. Who will be next? Maybe someone that matters to you.

Even if we were granted a wish that all recreational drugs were forever vanquished from this planet and the only price would be the life of one innocent, that price would be far too high. The irony is that those in charge of this wretched war are killing people who would never have used drugs in order to possibly save those who actively seek to use them. But what would you expect from the state? States have always sought to butcher civilians in order to persuade others to change their behavior. Sound familiar? But the ends justify the means, so that makes everything ok.

The Debt of Memorial Day

War is ugly. War is dirty. War is perhaps the single most horrifying event one could participate in. And yet despite all of that, there are those who have been compelled, for a variety of reasons (duty, honor, peer pressure, guilt, pragmatism, or in the case of the draft, direct threat) to suppress all natural human instinct and jump headfirst into that icy blackness of omnipresent death that is war. Those that survived we honor as veterans, those less fortunate we honor on Memorial Day. And how should we most appropriately honor the fallen? With parades? With solemn speeches? That may indeed seem the most respectful, but for the vast majority of Americans that is followed more in the breach than in the observance. In fact, most Americans honor those fallen in war in the most appropriate manner possible: living and loving. Memorial Day is spent with family, loved ones and friends. It is a brief respite to take the time we often don’t have to do the things that should matter most. This is how we honor them, by living our lives to the fullest, by doing that which if they were here they would also be doing. I can’t imagine they would want anything less.

However, their sacrifice has put us in their debt. This debt is an obligation not to them, but rather to those presently in the armed services. We have an obligation to recognize the pattern of behavior of the political class who is forever embroiling us in futile and senseless wars that serve no defensive interests of the United States (World War I, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II and countless skirmishes (Grenada, really?) Once their saber rattling is recognized, it must be silenced, as it was last fall when those in power were hell bent on sending US troops to Syria, and with one united voice the people told them NO! No more war! No more shall our loved ones be used as mere pawns as the US attempts to widen its scope of global hegemony. No more shall children grow up without a father or mother, sacrificed as they were upon the altar, not of defense, but that of blind patriotic fervor. No more shall innocent men, women and children be slaughtered by US weaponry in an attempt to take out a token “bad guy” in a sea of innocence.

Most who have chosen to serve this country militarily do so because they have an honest desire to DEFEND this country from external attack. But consider this: a truly unprovoked attack has never occurred in US history (save for the War of Independence). If this country prosecuted purely defensive wars, the US military would be more like the Maytag repairman than Rambo. And while the aphorism “the best defense is a good offense” may be apt in sports, it is a hideous affront to morality when employed militarily. But it is this prevention mindset that has caused far more warfare than it could have ever foiled. US meddling in the affairs of others has created numerous enemies where none existed before. That is the paradox of preemptive war; you cause the very thing you were trying to avoid.

So this Memorial Day let us all pledge that we will honor the dead by taking up the mantle of responsibility they have left for us. We shall charge forth boldly against those who would seek to act antagonistically toward other countries in the hope of provoking a response that will justify a call to arms. We the people can prevent war, by obstructing those who would foment war from gaining power. And if we can do that, then perhaps one day there shall be no need for a Memorial Day.

Cookie Jar Policy

President Obama recently gave a speech (January 17) at the Justice Department outlining a variety of procedural changes to some of the NSA spying programs. Why the changes? The government got caught with their hand in the cookie jar when Edward Snowden revealed that these programs not only spy on potential security threats, they also “unwittingly” can and do spy on Americans. And not simply a little here or there by accident; they vacuum up petabytes of phone and Internet data every day about you and me. Oddly enough most Americans don’t take too kindly to this invasion of privacy and so after months of soul searching Obama has decided to placate the natives by establishing a new cookie retrieval procedure. Ah! We have a procedure now; that will definitely prevent abuse.

In order to justify these spying programs Mr. Obama cites historical precedent for the benefits derived from such spying during wartime. The rather troubling message here is that if wartime practices (spying) are permissible upon your own citizens during peacetime, what other wartime practices might also be justified in order to advance the cause of protecting the homeland? Kidnapping? Murder? Would the justifications used today for spying be that different from the justifications for drone strikes on US soil to “take out” a suspected terrorist (along with any unfortunate innocents in the vicinity)? Make no mistake; we are “at peace” now, we are not “at war.” A mere pronouncement by blowhards of us being at war on a concept (terror) does not magically justify the use of wartime methods.

We are told terrorism changes the rules of the game. In the past it was easy to define our enemy. “They” were on that side of that line, and “we” were on this side of the line. But today, with terrorism, the enemy hides among us in plain site, like a melanoma masquerading as a freckle. If the enemy can be anywhere or anyone among us, then that necessarily means from an enforcement or prevention standpoint we are all presumed to be the enemy, that is, we are guilty until proven innocent. Listening to your phone conversations or reading your emails is the only way to exonerate you dear reader!

Our leaders would have us believe the infiltrative-sniper-like threat of the terrorist is something new, a 21st century phenomena that requires a 21st century response. But this enemy-among-us mindset is no different than the McCarthyism of the 1950’s – where a fever of paranoia gripped the nation into thinking the “commies” were everywhere, ready to unleash their fury at a moments notice. During this cold war we were indeed infiltrated by enemies (spies) in exactly the same manner we are infiltrated by terrorists today. The difference was back then the technology was so limited it necessitated that we do actual work to identify the actual individual threat in order to devote our limited and scarce resources to monitoring that threat. However advances in technology have facilitated laziness. Why devote energy to identifying specific threats when you can just monitor EVERYONE instead. Today’s technology allows spies to achieve what their predecessors only dreamt of: the complete and wholesale monitoring of the movement, actions and communications of every digitally connected human being on the planet. Unfortunately this information overload has ironically led to less effective results. This vacuuming of data has not resulted in a single instance of attack prevention.

Before Edward Snowden’s revelations we didn’t know what we didn’t know. The “people” can’t act as a check on government abuse if we aren’t even aware of the abuse. Thankfully Edward Snowden made us aware. Absent that revelation you can be sure Obama would not have been laying out these “reforms.” But make no mistake; these proposed changes mean nothing. If the US Constitution can be ignored by the majority of Congress, why should we have any hope that a few policy guidelines or oversight committees will have any impact on how government governs it own actions. Quis custodiet ipsos custodies

What War Would Jesus Start?

For a supposedly Christian nation that was presumably founded upon Christian values, the United States has a rather bellicose history that is entirely incongruous with the Christian message of loving your enemy and turning the other cheek. As easy as it was for most of us to have been caught up in the patriotic fervor of striking back at the stronghold of the 9/11 hijackers, that response was fundamentally un-Christian. Not only does Jesus say that one must turn the other cheek but that one must likewise love those that are engaging in the cheek slapping. That’s a pretty difficult message for anyone to accept. But if you are a Christian it is pretty unambiguous. Even if the message is honored at the individual level it must likewise be honored at the collective level. It is a rather large feat of cognitive dissonance to believe one man may not kill another man but that 100 men acting in unison may justifiably kill another 100 men. War is simply the collective actions of individuals. If it is wrong for the individual to kill then it is wrong for the collective to kill. If it is commanded that the individual love his enemy then it is commanded that the collective love their enemy. If you are a Christian and believe the US is justified in going to war against Syria then you need to reexamine your beliefs. You cannot simultaneously believe in the divinity of Jesus and pick and choose which of his commandments you will adhere to.

Now that I’m done chastising the pro-war Christians don’t think the pro-war non-Christians are getting off so easy. Even if you do not accept the divinity of Jesus, this particular directive of his, of loving your enemy, contains within it an essential lesson that is theologically neutral. What is that message? That in order to break the cycle of violence someone must be the first to actually break that cycle. Someone must step forward and say, “I have been wronged, but I refuse to respond in kind.” The ability to make a conscious decision about our behavior that runs counter to every instinct built into our being is one of the defining characteristics of humanity. “Mind over matter” is what separates us from the instinctually driven animal world. A dog bitten will bite back; he knows no other response. Two dogs caught in this cycle will continue until both are nearly destroyed or one dies. Are we mindless animals unable to rise above our base instincts of an eye for an eye? Or are we intellectually superior to our enemies such that we alone are capable of recognizing the merry-go-round we are on and realize the only way to get off is to simply jump and say “no more.”

So, Jesus’ message of “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” is not so much a commandment as it is a key. With this key we have the means to unlock the cycle of violence and finally bring true peace to the world. A peace based on mutual respect and understanding. Such a peace is preferable to the global peace currently being proffered by those running the United American Empire, namely the “peace” that exists between well-armed prison guards and their prisoners.

No Country for Assad’s Men

On August 31 President Obama revealed to the world that when it comes to executive decision-making he has apparently taken a page from the book used by President Bush. Just as Bush justified interventionism in the economy by proclaiming that he must “abandon free market principles to save the free market” so too does Obama likewise make the oxymoronic case that in order to maintain peace we must go to war.

Our “leaders” are only as powerful as the support we give them; upon its withdrawal they are as but infants.

So, it is off to war in Syria then. The reasoning Mr. Obama laid out was one part demagoguery, two parts fear mongering. He opened with the age-old politician’s ploy of invoking “the children”. He thusly reminds us of the deaths of several hundred children in the recent Syrian gas attacks. However this example is somewhat hypocritical considering the US government has killed at least a hundred children with its overseas drone strikes alone, to say nothing of the children “gassed to death by their own government” at Waco Texas in 1993. Say what you will of the leaders at Waco, certainly their children did not deserve to be burned alive by their own government.

He then segues into the same tired justification trotted out for all preemptive wars: the risk of what “might” come to pass. If we do nothing, then: it might make a mockery of prohibitions on chemical weapons, it might endanger our allies, it might lead to more chemical weapons. Might, might, might. Here’s a “might” for you Mr. President. If we keep our nose out of other country’s business then they “might” just figure out how to solve their own problems, without our help. The losing side “might” not blame us for their loss, in which case the US “might” not once again become the target of homicidal rage.

Secure in his reasoning, he smugly asserts that he is confident the US can hold the Syrian government accountable for their actions. Since a necessary condition for being accountable to some other entity is being subservient to said entity, then clearly this President (and his predecessors) views all other countries as being subservient to US authority. The United States, in their minds, is not so much a country as it is a global empire. And an empire must keep its quarrelsome protectorates in line. In the American Empire all countries, companies and individuals are accountable to the King or his Court, err, I mean the President or Congress. Let us hope China never decides they need to hold the US government accountable for its actions by bombing US civilians into the Stone Age.

But then, there was a glimmer of hope. Mr. Obama graciously acknowledged that even though he’s sure he is King and can do whatever he desires, he’s a nice guy after all and does have that annoying Nobel Peace Prize to live up to. So, he’s going to make us a deal. He shall deign to permit Congress to debate and vote on whether we should bomb Syria. How quaint – he’s going to actually follow the Constitution for once (which clearly states war may only be authorized by Congress (Article 1, Section 8)). I wonder how he’ll proceed if the vote doesn’t go his way. If that comes to pass then we will once and for all discover whether we have elected a President or a Führer.

Ok, enough bellyaching about what we shouldn’t do. What should we do? A humanitarian evacuation. Send our naval fleet to retrieve every civilian in Syria who wishes to escape the crossfire of a civil war and immigrate to the US or any other country that will permit them entry. Without a population to support them both the rebels and the Assad government will crumble from within. Our “leaders” are only as powerful as the support we give them; upon its withdrawal they are as but infants.

Time to Raise the Hood

A common business practice is to require that all employees take some vacation time each year. It not only improves morale but also ensures that potential problems attributable to that employee will be brought to light in their absence (as co-workers unwittingly uncover latent issues). In other words, although it can be disruptive to the status quo, sometimes it is a good idea to raise the hood every now and again and make sure all is working as it should. This is nowhere more true than in government. This country has been handing out billions of dollars in foreign aid for decades. For the most part this funding is on autopilot, it’s simply rubber stamped each year as the routine process of government functioning. But there’s been a recent snag in the status quo. Some in Congress are (finally) questioning the wisdom of sending billions of dollars overseas when we face such a tremendous deficit at home. That sentiment, coupled with the recent military coup in Egypt, has brought to the forefront the legitimacy of the US continuing to send foreign aid to a country in political turmoil. Discontinuing aid should be a no-brainer even for foreign aid proponents, just turn off the money spigot until we know who is actually in charge. But alas, it is apparently not so simple after all for some senators. It turns out much of this aid is funneled right back into the home districts of many in Congress. This long obscured truth is THE dirty little secret of foreign aid.

The public has been, as they say, “sold a bill of goods” when it comes to foreign aid. The propagandized message is that such “aid” is going to help poor people overseas. In fact, the money is funneled to rich people (the well connected in foreign governments) in poor countries and to even richer people in the US. How does this money end up back here? Almost all foreign aid comes with either implicit or explicit “strings” attached that stipulate that aid must be “directed” toward the purchase of goods or services from US based corporations. And which corporations might those be? Predominantly those that are part of the “military industrial complex” – the very same crony capitalist war machines that President Eisenhower presciently warned us about over 50 years ago.

So what’s the problem with foreign aid? Is it that it spreads state of the art weaponry across the globe (weaponry that could easily fall into the hands of terrorists) resulting in a planet armed to the teeth poised at the brink of war? Is it that we are borrowing money from China to subsidize foreign governments in an attempt to bribe them into submission? Is it that food aid actually harms more than it helps by destroying farming as an occupation in countries receiving aid (who could compete with free food)? No, for those in Congress none of these deleterious effects are a problem. Why? Because “foreign aid” gets many re-elected, particularly when such aid is directed at companies in their home district (e.g. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), is rather adamant that aid not be cut off to Egypt, and by bizarre coincidence it just so happens that a General Dynamics plant is located in Michigan.

At its core, foreign aid is no different than other government “stimulus” programs – it simply takes money from those not in favor with the political elite (that is, us) and hands it over to those who are in favor with the political elite (the true 1%). But there is one key cost incurred by foreign stimulus not typically seen in domestic stimulus: death and suffering. These are a direct result of the weapons produced and the tyrannical regimes supported. The political unrest in Egypt has finally forced us to raise the hood and take a closer look at the wisdom of foreign aid. To those in Congress who got caught with their hand in the foreign aid cookie jar, take note: your days are numbered.

Breaking Bad

I’m old enough that I now find most entertainment to be fairly derivative and predictable. However the TV series “Breaking Bad” is a welcome exception. If you are not familiar with it but enjoy solidly unpredictable drama you owe it to yourself to look into it. The August 12 episode’s ending left the audience in a state of numbed denial [spoiler alert: stop here if you have not seen the episode yet]. The main characters have just clandestinely robbed a train of a key chemical needed to prepare crystal meth when a young boy on a motorbike happens them upon. Without a word one of them pulls out a gun and simply dispatches the boy as blithely as one would a troublesome fly. Why? Because the boy might say something which could lead to their arrest.

After the shock of witnessing the senseless onscreen (albeit fictional) death of a young innocent wore off I came to realize why this scene was so disturbing: this type of violence occurs routinely. The boy’s death is iconic of the reprehensible loss of civilian life in wars. In “traditional” wars civilians usually know where the front line is and can avoid it. Today that is impossible. The wars on “terror” and drugs occur on a global battlefield from which there is no escape. Innocence is no defense: you are just one street address typo away from no-knock raid carried out by machine gun festooned goons.

Apropos to the “preventive” murder depicted, the US repeatedly goes to war upon the same principal of “potential threat neutralization” (Spain-1898, Korea-1950, Vietnam-1965, Iraq-2003). Unsurprisingly the neocons and chicken hawks are now rattling their swords to do the same to other countries (Iran, Syria). We as a nation are engaging in the same onscreen behavior as the thieves in “Breaking Bad”: shooting first for fear of what might happen. This behavior is reprehensible at the individual level and at the national level. The moral validity of actions does not change based on the numbers that simultaneously engage in those actions.

The moral validity of actions does not change based on the numbers that simultaneously engage in those actions.

For parents there is no greater fear than contemplating the untimely death of your child. So consider what kind of a country would inflict on foreign parents our most horrid nightmare. The US has killed both directly (drone strikes) and indirectly (sanctions) hundreds of thousands of children through the cold indifference of our leaders. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright in a 1996 interview with 60 Minutes stated that “we think the price is worth it” when asked if the confirmed deaths of half a million Iraqi children due to UN sanctions was “worth it” in relation to the goals of those sanctions. The Bush administration fares no better: he (and Congress) restarted the Iraq war (of which even low estimates are 100,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and authorized the use of torture. Likewise Obama has failed to live up to his 2009 Nobel Peace Price. He acts as a remote executioner via the deployment of the “judge, jury, and executioner” drone strikes that have killed countless civilians who are written off as “collateral damage.” Ah, yes, the ends always justify the means. Wake up America. We have “broken bad” and are now the “bad guys.” Would we tolerate Chinese drone strikes of Americans because China deemed them to be a potential “threat” ?

In terms of this country’s meddling, interventionist, blow-back prone foreign policy it doesn’t matter whether Obama or Romney wins; they will both continue our current wars and will have no qualms about starting new ones. If you are tired of the endless wars (drug and terror) and have no more desire for the blood of innocents to be on your hands by way of voting for the “lesser of two evils” (“hmmm… who should I vote for, Hitler or Stalin…”) then consider the alternative that the media is so afraid you might hear about they won’t even include him in national polls: Libertarian Party candidate for president Gary Johnson.