Assassinating suspects undermines justice

My following letter about assassinating terrorists appeared in the Daily Beacon, the University of Tennessee’s student newspaper, on March 5, 2010:

In light of the publication of a secret Israeli assassination in Dubai, Treston Wheat committed his Feb. 25 waste of ink to glorifying assassination, which he deems necessary to the fight against terrorism. Even if this were true, assassinations are illegal under domestic and international law, so he condones lawbreaking. While ignoring all moral and legal questions, Wheat boldly assumes that assassination can stop terrorism. It cannot, and one could argue that the assassination of suspected terrorists increases the strength and legitimacy of the terrorists’ cause, while undermining our claim on liberty and justice.

As a Jew and a staunch advocate of freedom, due process and the rule of law, I am often disappointed by the Israeli government’s tactics and policies. I am equally disappointed by self-proclaimed followers of Christ like Wheat, who defend government policies that are immoral, expedient, unnecessary and antagonistic to everything Jesus taught. The philosophical innovation of Judaism was the recognition of human freedom; to this, Christianity added the common brotherhood of all men. These Western religious tenets, freedom and brotherhood, have been abandoned by the current Israeli coalition and its supporters. Do I support Israel? Yes, but only an Israel that recognizes all its inhabitants as free and equal under the law, and one need not look far into Israel’s laws to discover that it does not. I hold every other nation to the same standard.

The United States itself participates in secret assassinations more often than we know. The targets of these assassinations are suspects. They are innocent until proven guilty. They are the accused, and in a free and just society, the accused have rights. Our CIA is not all bad, but it is often involved in a lot of mischief offensive to our idea of justice. Recently, ABC News released agency recordings of a small plane being shot down over Peru, with the aid of our CIA. The plane was suspected of smuggling drugs, but was actually carrying an American missionary family, all of whom were killed by the machine gun fire of Peruvian fighter jets. These deaths are a consequence of the notion that it is okay to murder suspects without the benefit of a trial, or even evidence presented against them. Even if the plane had been carrying drugs and smugglers, since when is capital punishment, executed in secrecy without trial, the proper punishment for this crime? Or any other crime, for that matter? This practice destroys 800 years of our legal traditions dating back to the Magna Carta. Now we are told by the CIA that it considers itself obliged to assassinate American citizens, on secret evidence, in order to protect us from threats. The power given to the U.S. president by our passive acceptance of this practice is definitively totalitarian. It is a real threat to essential human liberties.

Terrorism works, and the more brutal the physical force opposing it, the more quickly it strengthens and spreads. The true “War on Terror” is a battle of ideas and politics, because terrorists are inspired by ideas and political grievances. I prefer destroying the dark tree of terrorism at its root — not picking off one prickly leaf at a time, as several grow back in its place. To do this, we must ask ourselves what the root cause of terrorism is and address that cause. If we have not properly answered that question, and the answer to it is well-publicized by its perpetrators, we cannot begin to address the terrorist threat.

Wheat’s disapproval of the recent Mossad assassination stems from its sloppiness, not its intent. The trouble with the Israeli government’s policy of murdering suspected criminals, Wheat has so amorally asserted, is that the crime was eventually caught on film. The real trouble is that assassination is murder with impunity. It is always unjust. If a person is evil enough to “deserve” assassination, certainly that person is evil enough to stand trial for his crimes.

Alex Winston

Senior in political science

Liberty, justice, taxes, and the U.S. Constitution

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Article 1 Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution limits the taxation powers of Congress, saying:

“No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.”

This simply outlaws income taxes.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ends:

“…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This says the government may not deprive the accused of natural rights, and that the government cannot take private property without paying for it.  

Some would argue that the last part does not apply to income or labor, but only to physical property, such as land or belongings.  Let it be recognized, however, that land and belongings are nothing more than tangible storages of income and labor.  Moreover, it would be absurd to suggest that a man’s labor is not his property, and therefore, according to this amendment, the government may not take a person’s labor (income) for public use without just compensation.

The Sixteenth Amendment grants Congress the authority to tax incomes:

“Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

This is a clear contradiction of Article 1 Section 9.

Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This prohibits any entity from forcing any individual to work by force or by state-imposed coercion (or threats thereof), unless as a punishment for a crime.  

The income tax is not technically a form of involuntary servitude to the government, because the government does not force anyone to work.  However, under the income tax, everyone who chooses to work is forced to work for the government, so the spirit of the amendment may very well apply to outlawing the income tax.  

There are certainly those who feel like slaves to the government, because the government takes a great part of the fruits of their labor; but technically, this is not true, because they may always choose not to work, and while this choice may be a threat to their survivals, it is not a direct threat from government.  This unhappy choice, however, contains the implicit threat: “work for the government, or die.”  So it is not completely clear whether the income tax qualifies as universal slavery, which would be prohibited by this amendment.

When this amendment ended slavery, note that it literally scribbled out all other portions of the Constitution that contradicted the new amendment.  Note also that, when the Sixteenth Amendment was written to allow income taxes, none of the previous portions that outlaw such taxes were removed from the Constitution.  

This practical difference, I believe, shows the spirit with which these two amendments passed.  When slavery was ended, the public was quick to remove from the record all evidence of its existence, because slavery was a stain on liberty and justice; it was an embarrassment to an otherwise proud society of free individuals.  But when the income tax was instituted, the amendment allowing it was the embarrassment to freedom, and all else in the Constitution that contradicted it was left to bear, so the people could still call it their own, and perhaps retain some nostalgic feeling of what it was to be free.

Hate crime legislation perpetuates injustice

Blind Justice

What we have established is not justice.  We have established laws, law enforcement, legal proceedings, punishments, and all the trappings of a system of justice.  At a glance, the credulous simpleton may call that system justice, and on a windy night, he may see a white sheet on a clothesline, and call it a ghost; in the second instance, he is perhaps less the fool.  A mysterious white figure in the night is not a ghost, and a justice system is not justice, and it may be that, over the course of history, humans have known true justice only as often as they have known true ghosts.

The Senate recently passed legislation expanding the definition of hate crimes, and also expanding federal jurisdiction over the enforcement of hate crime legislation, which reminded me of a justice system injustice: hate crime legislation.

One hope of such legislation is to deter hate crimes by handing down harsher sentences.  The proponents of hate crime legislation also claim that it promotes justice.  In Congress, as usual, absurdity triumphs.

Firstly, the term “hate crime” is problematic (can we please have some “love crime” legislation?).  Is a crime committed out of greed any less offensive, any less dangerous, or any less deserving of punishment than one committed out of hate?  What about a jealous crime?  Is the jealous felon more noble than the hateful one?  Blind justice does not see a greedy murderer, a jealous murderer, and a hateful murderer; she senses that all three act with malicious intent, and if their crimes are otherwise identical, their emotions are inconsequential.  Of all killers, she absolves only the fearful self-defender, who is no criminal at all, and who may serve as an example to further test the justice of hate crime legislation.

If a human kills another in indisputable self-defense, that human is guilty of no crime; no one inquires into the dead’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  It is not unthinkable that, had the assailant been of another gender, the person acting in self-defense would have employed non-lethal measures.  This possibility, however, does not affect justice; justice is blind to group distinctions.  The person acting in self-defense always acts justly.  In like manner, the person committing a crime always acts unjustly; still, justice is blind to group distinctions.

“Hate crimes” are designed to protect victims who may be targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.  However, judges only protect certain groups.  Absurdly, it is ruled that many majorities and even some minorities cannot legally be the objects of hatred.  A white, heterosexual, Christian, American male is incapable of being the victim of a hate crime, no matter how vehemently his attacker hates white, straight, Christian, American men.  If a criminal targets obscenely wealthy people only because they are obscenely wealthy, and the criminal admits to hating such people, he cannot be charged with a hate crime.  Hate crime legislation requires that individuals belonging to certain groups are given more legal protection than others.  This is unequal treatment under the law; it is, by definition, injustice.

Most harmfully, hate crime legislation actually encourages and perpetuates group bias, inequality, and injustice.  An unbiased perspective cannot prevail among a people whose government legally differentiates between individuals on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, income, economic status, political ideology, or any other such distinction; and that is exactly what hate crime legislation does.  Ironically, it is the self-proclaimed champions of the unbiased perspective that–perhaps unwittingly–prevent it from taking root.

Racist, sexist President Obama appoints racist, sexist judge Sotomayor

Obama appoints Sotomayor

Surprise, surprise. Brief thoughts on the bigoted choice:

President Obama considered only females for the open Supreme Court seat; that’s sexism epitomized.  His choice was, by his own admission, largely influenced by race as well.  If Wal-Mart considered only men when choosing a new board member, and then announced they were proud of their choice because he is not only male but white, they would face a lawsuit.  Objectively, that is exactly what Obama did (only with a Hispanic woman), to the cheers of “liberal” bigots everywhere.  The absurdity and injustice of the process was disgustingly bigoted.  As is our wont, government sponsors injustice, the government-educated majority loves it, and everyone capable of objective, critical thought has to accept it, because democracy, in all its tyrannical splendor, is the new god.

Debunking the “beauty of the two-party system” myth

Republicrat beast
“Government is a beast” – Thomas Paine

I copy the following from a conversation I had with a Democratic friend, because I think his is one of the most common arguments in favor of the status quo, and I think it is faulty.   My friend said,

“The compromise of Democracy or Republicanism or whatever you want to call it (I think you’re splitting hairs – nobody is advocating mob rule) is what makes our country great… the constant push-pull of left and right that always eventually ends up in the middle.”

My response was this:

Is it great to bomb Pakistan?  Is it great to invade Iraq?   Is it great to detain people without evidence?  Is it great to start wars and support the pre-emptive first strike doctrine?  Is it great that the government can listen to your phone calls, read your emails, etc.?  Is it great to condone torture?  Is it great to imprison non-violent drug users?  Is it great to reward failed business practices?  Is it great to call dissenters terrorists?  Is it great that both parties support all of these measures?  When policies like these have become your cherished middle ground, is the push-pull of left and right really so great?  I think justice is great.  Many have died willingly for it, and i think they were all great.  Supporting moderation in the pursuit of justice is the mark of a person who is not great.”

There is nothing beautiful about two parties whose petty quarrells never fail to bring more government, more police, more imperialism, and less freedom.

So many reasons to love Thomas Paine

Paine

Thomas Paine was, by some accounts, the most well-read Englishman ever to live. If you are reading this, regardless of who you are, or how many Nobel prizes you have won, you can rest assured that Paine’s education was more complete than your own. When you read his commentaries on money and the role of government, it is difficult to believe that Thomas Paine was one of the most influential members of the liberal movement. I have little doubt that, if Paine were to traverse time and visit America today, and observe the frail philosophy–if it can be called that–which now occupies the title of “liberalism,” he would promptly vomit all over Barack Obama’s shoes.

Here I present Thomas Paine’s wisdom, in so many of his truthful quotes, based on nature and reason. From the spirit of revolution he carried to the American people through Common Sense in 1776, to his unwavering faith in God as expressed in his 1794 work, The Age of Reason, Paine was an indomitable figure in political history, and he would have died for his beliefs (and in many ruling minds of the time should have–he was held or tried for treason in France and England, as well as demonized worldwide for sharing his honest opinions); but Providence, it seemed, would not allow it. He was instrumental in inciting the two greatest revolutions of the Enlightenment (French and American), and worked with all his creative genius to expose both the beauty of Creation and the absurdity of monarchy, hoping through Rights of Man (1791) to incite a third revolution in Great Britain. In his words, which are relative today, as they always will be:

“There are habits of thinking peculiar to different conditions, and to find them out is truly to study mankind.” – Case of the Officers of the Excise

“The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.” – Common Sense

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” – Common Sense

“Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ingorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.” – Common Sense

“The reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.” – Common Sense
“It is repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things, to all examples from the former ages, to suppose, that this continent can longer remain the subject to any external power.” – Common Sense

“It is not in numbers but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.” – Common Sense

“Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, and independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap.” – Common Sense

“Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others the most improper to defend us. Conquest may be effected under the pretence of friendship; and ourselves, after a long and brave resistance, be at last cheated into slavery.” – Common Sense

“The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.” – Common Sense

“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensible duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.” – Common Sense

“Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society.” – Common Sense

“Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.” – Common Sense

“When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” – Common Sense

“Men read by way of revenge.” – Common Sense

“He who takes nature for his guide is not easily beaten out of his argument.” – Common Sense

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Common Sense

“Peace with trade is preferable to war without it.” – Common Sense

“Our plan is peace for ever.” – Common Sense

“Call not coldness of soul, religion; nor put the Bigot in the place of the Christian.” – Common Sense

“And here without anger or resentment I bid you farewell, sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every individual inhabitant of America.” – Common Sense

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” – American Crisis

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” – American Crisis

“Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.” – American Crisis

“A right, to be truly so, must be right within itself: yet many things have obtained the name of rights, which are originally founded in wrong. Of this kind are all rights by mere conquest, power or violence.” – Public Good

“It seldom happens that the romantic schemes of extensive dominion are of any service to a government, and never to a people. They assuredly end at last in loss, trouble, division and disappointment.” – Public Good

“Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.” – Public Good

“Other revolutions may have originated in caprice, or generated in ambition; but here, the most unoffending humility was tortured into rage, and the infancy of existence made to weep.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Were it possible we could have known the world when in a state of barbarism, we might have concluded that it never could be brought into the order we now see it.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the philosopher of another: he takes his seat in the temple of science, and asks not who sits beside him.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Our style and manner of thinking have undergone a revolution more extraordinary than the political revolution of our country. We see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used. We can look back on our own prejudices, as if they had been the prejudices of other people.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Of more use was one philosopher, though a heathen, to the world, than all the heathen conquerers that ever existed.” – Letter to the Abbe Raynal

“Freedom is destroyed by dependence, and the safety of the state endangered thereby.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“To hold any part of the citizens of the state, as yearly pensioners on the favour of an assembly, is striking at the root of free elections.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Gold and silver are the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of art. The value of gold and silver is ascertained by the quantity which nature has made in the earth. We cannot make that quantity more or less than it is, and therefore the value being dependent upon the quantity, depends not on man. Man has no share in making gold or silver; all that his labours and ingenuity can accomplish is, to collect it from the mine, refine it for use and give it an impression, or stamp it into coin.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“The only proper use for paper, in the room of money, is to write promissory notes and obligations of payment in specie upon.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“When an assembly undertake to issue paper as money, the whole system of safety and certainty is overturned, and property set afloat. Paper notes given and taken between individuals as a promise of payment is one thing, but paper issued by an assembly as money is another thing. It is like putting an apparition in the place of a man; it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing remains but the air.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Money, when considered as the fruit of many years’ industry, as the reward for labour, sweat and toil, as the widow’s dowry and children’s portion, and as the means of procuring the necessaries and alleviating the afflictions of life, and making old age a scene of rest, has something in it sacred that is not to be sported with, or trusted to the airy bubble of paper currency.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“The evils of paper have no end. Its uncertain and fluctuating value is continually awakening or creating new schemes of deceit. Every principle of justice is put to the rack, and the bond of society dissolved: the suppression, therefore, of paper money might very properly have been put into the act for preventing vice and immorality.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“As to the assumed authority of any assembly in making paper money, or paper of any kind, a legal tender, or in other language, a compulsive payment, it is a most presumptuous attempt at arbitrary power. There can be no such power in a republican government: the people have no freedom, and property no security where this practice can be acted: and the committee who shall bring in a report for this purpose, or the member who moves for it, and he who seconds it merits impeachment, and sooner or later may expect it.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Of all the various sorts of base coin, paper money is the basest. It has the least intrinsic value of anything that can be put in the place of gold and silver. A hobnail or a piece of wampum far exceeds it. And there would be more propriety in making those articles a legal tender than to make paper so.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“Nature has provided the proper materials for money, gold and silver, and any attempt of ours to rival her is ridiculous.” – Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank, and Paper Money

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” – Rights of Man

“A single expression, boldly conceived and uttered, will sometimes put a whole company into their proper feelings; and whole nations are acted upon in the same manner.” – Rights of Man

“All the great laws of society are laws of nature.” – Rights of Man

“All the great services that are done in the world are performed by volunteer characters, who accept nothing for them.” – Rights of Man

“Are not conquest and defeat each of the same price, and taxes the never-failing consequence?” – Rights of Man

“By the simple operation of constructing government on the principles of society and the rights of man, every difficulty retires, and all the parts are brought into cordial unison.” – Rights of Man

“Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.” – Rights of Man

“For a nation to love liberty, it is sufficient that she knows it; and to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it.” – Rights of Man

“From a small spark, kindled in America, a flame has arisen, not to be extinguished.” – Rights of Man

“Government is a beast.” – Rights of Man

“Governments now act as if they were afraid to awaken a single reflection in man.” – Rights of Man

“I do not believe that any two men, on what are called doctrinal points, think alike who think at all. It is only those who have not thought that appear to agree.” – Rights of Man

“If the crimes of men were exhibited with their sufferings, stage effect would sometimes be lost, and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they should commiserate.” – Rights of Man

“If the good to be obtained be worthy of a passive, rational, and costless revolution, it would be bad policy to prefer waiting for the calamity that should force a violent one.” – Rights of Man

“If we examine, with attention, into the composition and constitution of man, the diversity of his wants, and the diversity of talents in different men for reciprocally accommodating the wants of each other, his propensity to society, and consequently to preserve the advantages resulting from it, we shall easily discover, that a great part of what is called government is mere imposition.” – Rights of Man

“In the representative system, the reason for everything must publicly appear. Every man is a proprietor in government, because it affects his property. He examines the cost, and compares it with the advantages; and above all, he does not adopt the slavish custom of following what in other governments are called LEADERS.” – Rights of Man

“Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” – Rights of Man

“Instead of seeking to reform the individual, the wisdom of a Nation should apply itself to reform the system.” – Rights of Man

“Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretences for revenue and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey, and permits none to escape without a tribute.” – Rights of Man

“It can only be by blinding the understanding of man, and making him believe that government is some wonderful mysterious thing, that excessive revenues are obtained.” – Rights of Man

“It is a general idea, that when taxes are once laid on, they are never taken off.” – Rights of Man

“It is time that nations should be rational, and not be governed like animals, for the pleasure of their riders.” – Rights of Man

“Laws difficult to be executed cannot generally be good.” – Rights of Man

“Lay then the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity. It is their sanguinary punishments which corrupt mankind.” – Rights of Man

“Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.” – Rights of Man

“Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of government.” – Rights of Man

“Man will not be brought up with the savage idea of considering his species as his enemy, because the accident of birth gave the individuals existence in countries distinguished by different names.” – Rights of Man

“Man, were he not corrupted by governments, is naturally the friend of man, and human nature is not of itself vicious.” – Rights of Man

“Nations can have no secrets; and the secrets of courts, like those of individuals, are always their defects.” – Rights of Man

“Nations, like individuals, who have long been enemies, without knowing each other, or knowing why, become the better friends when they discover the errors and impositions under which they had acted.” – Rights of Man

“Nothing is to be looked for but what has already happened; and as to reformation, whenever it come, it must be from the nation, and not from government.” – Rights of Man

“Only partial advantages can flow from partial reforms.” – Rights of Man

“Principles must stand on their own merits, and if they are good they certainly will.” – Rights of Man

“Public money ought to be touched with the most scupulous consciousness of honor. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labor and poverty.” – Rights of Man

“Reason and discussion will soon bring things right, however wrong they may begin.” – Rights of Man

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” – Rights of Man

“Taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but wars were raised to carry on taxes.” – Rights of Man

“That there are men in all nations who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between nations, it becomes the more unpardonable.” – Rights of Man

“The American constitutions were to liberty, what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech, and practically construct them into syntax.” – Rights of Man

“The greatest of all ridiculous things are acted in governments.” – Rights of Man

” Commerce needs no other protection than the reciprocal interest which every nation feels in supporting it.” – Rights of Man

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.” – Rights of Man

“The most unprofitable of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profits of any trade.” – Rights of Man

“The name of the Creator ought not to be introduced to witness the degradation of his creation.” – Rights of Man

“The probability is always greater against a thing beginning, than of proceeding after it has begun.” – Rights of Man

“The right of war and peace is in the nation. Where else should it reside, but in those who are to pay the expense?” – Rights of Man

“There is existing in man, a mass sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.” – Rights of Man

“What at first was plunder, assumed the foster name of revenue.” – Rights of Man

“What inducement has the farmer, while following the plough, to lay aside his peaceful pursuit, and go to war with the farmer of another country?” – Rights of Man

“Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee, as well as possess.” – Rights of Man

“When governments are at war, the attack is made on the common stock of commerce, and the consequence is the same as if each had attacked his own.” – Rights of Man

“Why do men continue to practice themselves the absurdities they see in others?” – Rights of Man

“Wisdom degenerates in governments as governments increase in age.” – Rights of Man

“It is a dangerous attempt in any government to say to a nation, “thou shalt not read.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“The principles of and conduct of any government must be bad, when that government dreads and startles at discussion, and seeks security by a prevention of knowledge.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“Principles have no connection with time, nor characters with names.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“It is only in governments founded on assumption and false principles, that reasoning upon, and investigating systems and principles of government, and showing their several excellencies and defects, are termed libellous and seditious. These terms were made part of the charge brought against Locke, Hampden, and Sydney, and will continue to be brought against all good men, so long as bad governments shall continue.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy, and every species of hereditary government–to lessen the oppression of taxes–to propose plans for the education of helpless infancy, and the comfortable support of the aged and distressed–to endeavour to conciliate nations to each other–to extirpate the horrid practice of war–to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce–and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; –if these things be libellous, let me live the life of a libeller, and let the name LIBELLER be engraved on my tomb.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“I have written a book; and if it cannot be refuted, it cannot be condemned. But I do not consider the prosecution as particularly levelled against me, but against the general right, or the right of every man, of investigating systems and principles of government, and showing their several excellencies or defects.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“Whatever the rights of people are, they have a right to them, and none have a right either to withhold them, or to grant them.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“A thing, moderately good, is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is a species of vice.” – Letter Addressed to the Addressers of the Late Proclamation

“If you now enjoy freedom and happiness, you should be conscious of the reasons for your contentment.” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarchy

“A person educated in the belief that he has a right to command others is inevitably bound by his surroundings to lose all sense of reason and justice.” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarcy

“Why assume an evil solely for the purposes of providing a remedy?” – An Essay for the Use of New Republicans in Their Opposition to Monarchy

“It is our duty as legislators not to spill a drop of blood when our purpose may be effectually accomplished without it.” – Reasons for Preserving the Life of Louis Capet

“I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.” – Age of Reason

“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” – Age of Reason

“It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.” – Age of Reason

“The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.” – Age of Reason

“That many good men have believed this strange fable, and lived very good lives under that belief (for credulity is not a crime), is what I have no doubt of. In the first place, they were educated to believe it, and they would have believed anything else in the same manner.” – Age of Reason

“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel.” – Age of Reason

“There is not, throughout the whole book called the Bible, any word that describes to us what we call a poet, nor any word which describes what we call poetry. The case is that the word prophet, to which latter times have affixed a new idea, was the Bible word for poet, and the word prophesying meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music.” – Age of Reason

“Had it been the object of Jesus Christ to establish a new religion, he would undoubtedly have written the system himself, or procured it to be written in his life-time. But there is no publication extant authenticated with his name. All the books called the New Testament were written after his death. He was a Jew by birth and by profession; and he was the Son of God in like manner that every other person is–for the Creator is the Father of All.” – Age of Reason

“Do we want to know that God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the creation.” – Age of Reason

“As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me a species of Atheism–a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God.” – Age of Reason

“Wealth is no proof of moral character; nor poverty of the want of it.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“When all other rights are taken away the right of rebellion is made perfect.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy.” – Dissertation on First Principles of Government

“There are cases in which silence is a loud language.” – Letter to George Washington

Thank you for displaying true liberalism, Tom–not whatever the modern “liberal” wackos espouse today.

Unjust war: are passive Americans responsible?

Feeling guilty forever

“A policy of overthrowing or destabilizing every regime our government dislikes is no strategy at all, unless our goal is international chaos and domestic impoverishment.” – Ron Paul

I received a good question about a post in which I asserted, “those who henceforth perpetuate the lie that the surge is working are war criminals, and perpetrate crimes against humanity, by extending an illegal, unjust, and murderous war through known falsities.” Bold, I know. When I said it, I was thinking of government officials, but a layperson would also take it personally.

The thought-provoking question was essentially this: how can a person be called a war criminal if they have only claimed that “the surge is working”? The following is my attempt to answer that question.

You are not a war criminal in the legal sense, and should certainly not be held accountable as such. But there have certainly been what natural law would consider crimes perpetrated in the war with Iraq. Let us say, hypothetically, that time proves me correct in my belief that this war is unjust. I suggest that we do not have to be prosecuted for a crime to feel guilt for having aided in it. I also suggest that those who support the Iraq war (even passively), may in the future feel some guilt for having done so, assuming they have the capacity for honest reflection. Did passive German citizens not feel guilt after WWII, even though they accepted the Nazi claim that they were fighting to save Western civilization prior to the war’s end? Even some of the finest philosophers and scientists in the world fell for, and sometimes even contributed to, the aggrandizement of Nazi empire. The same could be said of British imperialism. Are not all empires (even unacknowledged ones–in our era no one calls oneself a fascist or imperialist) eventually humiliated, and forced by nature to admit their arrogances and poor judgments?

“We are fighting for freedom against a dangerous enemy”, “the surge is working”, “support our troops”, “let the generals decide”, “it’s a complex region”, “there would be chaos if we leave”, “we are winning”, “let the troops win”, “we are at war with Islamo-fascism”, “be patriotic”, “don’t blame America”–all are comforting phrases intended to stifle dissent against the Executive and destroy critical thinking in America, but when we research them, we find that few of them are backed by substance. Because the war is impossible to justify, the President has bombarded the people with mystery, nationalism, irrationality and fear, because reason cannot argue in favor of falsehood. The American people, starved for leaders and clarity, have been subjected to rulers and ambiguity. They deserve better than the empty slogans that lead this stanza, and, appallingly, no one in the media seems to be taking responsibility for providing them with the truth.

As far as my philosophy on this war is concerned, I agree with what Gandhi wrote: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”

I believe the threat posed to our security by Iraq was certainly overstated, if not fabricated. I am opposed to war without just cause. I consider the acceptance of aggressive war to be an assertion that murder and plunder are legal if a legitimate government commits them. The reality is, any government that engages in aggressive, unjust war becomes illegitimate in doing so. Moreover, I see our presence in the Middle East as only adding to the grievances that terrorists use against us to convince suicide bombers that their mission is worthy. Take away the U.S. presence in the Middle East, and terrorists would likely turn their efforts against the dictators that are the true cause of their wretchedness.