Hayek’s road of wisdom

Hayek

The Road to Serfdom is real. Americans travel its course with eyes shut. Some of us have opened our eyes, but at this point, we feel powerless to change the direction of the masses, who march confidently in the dark, behind their eyelids. If you do not yet know what is wrong with this country, you will have a hard time understanding what those who have awakened are feeling, but I will try to describe it:

Imagine you are in a crowd marching toward the edge of a cliff, perhaps one hundred yards ahead. All the people around you–your fellow citizens, acquaintances, neighbors, friends, and family–are in a hypnotic trance. The most regarded intellectuals are there, alongside the blue-collared laborers. Your children are at the front of the line, looking not entranced but bewildered; and being good children, they obey the adults who pressure them forward. The crowd approaches the cliff’s edge without even acknowledging its existence. You try to point out the folly ahead. You plead with them, yell at them, shake their shoulders, pound their chests, and slap them in the face, until you grow weary and mad. They do not heed your warnings, but tighten their ranks, and move forward, trapping you inside their throng. You cannot remove yourself from their movement. The coming fall is as much your fate as it is theirs, but they refuse to see it coming. They appear completely senseless. You notice that they are looking up at something–some irrelevant nonsense from which you cannot steal their focus for even a moment. It is the song of the sirens that will bring about their fall–your fall. They are about to push their children–as well as your own–off the edge of a very high promontory, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

If you can imagine a situation like the one I have just described, you can imagine how those of us who have awakened to the injustices of our government must feel. Now, imagine that it’s real. The warnings were summarized extremely well by F.A. Hayek in 1944, in his famous reflection of warning, about the socialistic economic causes of German fascism, The Road to Serfdom, from which I quote to drive home truth and rationality:

“If in the long run we are the makers of our own fate, in the short run we are the captives of the ideas we have created. Only if we recognize the danger in time can we hope to avert it.”

“There are few signs yet that we have the intellectual courage to admit to ourselves that we may have been wrong. Few are ready to recognize that the rise of fascism and naziism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.”

“Many who think themselves infinitely superior to the aberrations of naziism, and sincerely hate all its manifestations, work at the same time for ideals whose realization would lead straight to the abhorred tyranny.”

“Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?”

“How many features of Hitler’s system have not been recommended to us for imitation from the most unexpected quarters, unaware that they are an integral part of that system and incompatible with the free society we hope to preserve? The number of dangerous mistakes we have made before and since the outbreak of war because we do not understand the opponent with whom we are faced is appalling. It seems almost as if we did not want to understand the development which has produced totalitarianism because such an understanding might destroy some of the dearest illusions to which we are determined to cling.”

“The contention that only the peculiar wickedness of the Germans has produced the Nazi system is likely to become the excuse for forcing on us the very institutions which have produced that wickedness.”

“When the course of civilization takes an unexpected turn–when, instead of the continuous progress which we have come to expect, we find ourselves threatened by evils associated by us with past ages of barbarism–we naturally blame anything but ourselves.”

“That democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something utterly different that few of those who now wish it would be prepared to accept the consequences, many will not believe until the connection has been laid bare in all its aspects.”

“It must always be remembered that socialism is a species of collectivism and that therefore everything which is true of collectivism as such must also apply to socialism.”

“Anyone who has observed how aspiring monopolists regularly seek and frequently obtain the assistance of the power of the state to make their control effective can have little doubt that there is nothing inevitable about this development.”

“It is the very complexity of the division of labor under modern conditions which makes competition the only method by which such coordination can be adequately brought about.”

“The argument for freedom is precisely that we ought to leave room for the unforeseeable free growth.”

“While it is true, of course, that inventions have given us tremendous power, it is absurd to suggest that we must use this power to destroy our most precious inheritance: liberty. It does mean, however, that if we want to preserve it, we must guard it more jealously than ever and that we must be prepared to make sacrifices for it.”

“Although the state controls directly only the use of a large part of the available resources, the effects of its decisions on the remaining part of the economic system become so great that indirectly it controls almost everything.”

“The effect of the people’s agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go: with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all.”

“Agreement that planning is necessary, together with the inability of democratic assemblies to produce a plan, will evoke stronger and stronger demands that the government or some single individual should be given powers to act on their own responsibility. The belief is becoming more and more widespread that, if things are to get done, the responsible authorities must be freed from the fetters of democratic procedure.”

“Hitler did not have to destroy democracy; he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done.”

“It is the price of democracy that the possibilities of conscious control are restricted to the fields where true agreement exists and that in some fields things must be left to chance.”

“When it becomes dominated by a collectivist creed, democracy will inevitably destroy itself.”

“The fashionable concentration on democracy as the main value threatened is not without danger. It is largely responsible for the misleading and unfounded belief that, so long as the ultimate source of power is the will of the majority, the power cannot be arbitrary. The false assurance which many people derive from this belief is an important cause of the general unawareness of the dangers which we face.”

“The more the state ‘plans,’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

“If the law says that such a board or authority may do what it pleases, anything that board or authority does is legal–but its actions are certainly not subject to the rule of law. By giving the government unlimited powers, the most arbitrary rule can be made legal; and in this way a democracy may set up the most complete despotism imaginable.”

“Most planners who have seriously considered the practical aspects of their task have little doubt that a directed economy must be run on more or less dictatorial lines.”

“It is we who have to solve the economic problems of our lives.”

“Nothing makes conditions more unbearable than the knowledge that no effort of ours can change them; and even if we should never have the strength of mind to make the necessary sacrifice, the knowledge that we could escape if we only strove hard enough makes many otherwise intolerable positions bearable.”

“It is only because we have forgotten what unfreedom means that we often overlook the patent fact that in every real sense a badly paid unskilled worker in this country has more freedom to shape his life than many a small entrepreneur in Germany or a much better paid engineer in Russia.”

“Who will deny that a world in which the wealthy are powerful is still a better world than one in which only the already powerful can acquire wealth?”

“While absolute equality would clearly determine the planner’s task, the desire for greater equality is merely negative, no more than an expression of dislike of the present state of affairs; and so long as we are not prepared to say that every move in the direction toward complete equality is desirable, it answers scarcely any of the questions the planner will have to decide.”

“When security is understood in too absolute a sense, the general striving for it, far from increasing the chances of freedom, becomes the gravest threat to it.”

“Either both the choice and the risk rest with the individual or he is relieved of both.”

“Every restriction on the freedom of entry into a trade reduces the security of all those outside it.”

“There has never been a worse and more cruel exploitation of one class by another than that of the weaker or less fortunate members of a group of producers by the well-established which has been made possible by the ‘regulation’ of competition.”

“The younger generation of today has grown up in a world in which in school and press the spirit of commercial enterprise has been represented as disreputable and the making of profit as immoral, where to employ a hundred people is represented as exploitation but to command the same number as honorable.”

“The totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard for ordinary morals and failure. It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism.”

“Socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove.”

“The belief in the community of aims and interests with fellow-men seems to presuppose a greater degree of similarity of outlook and thought than exists between men merely as human beings.”

“To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group.”

“The separation of economic and political aims is an essential guaranty of individual freedom and it is consequently attacked by all collectivists.”

“What is called economic power, while it can be used as an instrument of coercion, is, in the hands of private individuals, never exclusive or complete power, never power over the whole life of a person. But centralized as an instrument of political power it creates a degree of dependence scarcely distinguishable from slavery.”

“The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivists must not be prepared to do if it serves ‘the good of the whole,’ because the ‘good of the whole’ is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.”

“From the collectivist standpoint intolerance and brutal suppression of dissent, the complete disregard of the life and happiness of the individual, are essential and unavoidable consequences of this basic premise, and the collectivist can admit this and at the same time claim that his system is superior to one in which the ‘selfish’ interests of the individual are allowed to obstruct the full realization of the ends the community pursues.”

“Few traits of totalitarian regimes are at the same time so confusing to the superficial observer and yet so characteristic of the whole intellectual climate as the complete perversion of language, the change of meaning of the words by which the ideals of the new regimes are expressed. The worst sufferer in this respect is, of course, the word ‘liberty.'”

“It is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought. But the minority who will retain an inclination to criticize must also be silenced.”

“Probably it is true enough that the great majority are rarely capable of thinking independently, that on most questions they accept views which they find ready-made, and that they will be equally content if born or coaxed into one set of beliefs or another. In any society freedom of thought will probably be of direct significance only for a small minority.”

“The very magnitude of the outrages committed by the totalitarian governments, instead of increasing the fear that such a system might one day arise in more enlightened countries, has rather strengthened the assurance that it cannot happen here.”

“We should never forget that the anti-Semitism of Hitler has driven from his country, or turned into his enemies, many people who in every respect are confirmed totalitarians of the German type.”

“Very frequently even measures against the monopolists in fact serve to strengthen the power of monopoly. Every raid on the gains of monopoly, be it in the interest of particular groups or of the state as a whole, tends to create new vested interests which will help to bolster up monopoly. A system in which large privileged groups profit from the gains of monopoly may be politically much more dangerous, and monopoly in such a system certainly much more powerful, than in one where the profits go to a limited few.”

“Private monopoly is scarcely ever complete and even more rarely of long duration or able to disregard potential competition. But state monopoly is always state-protected monopoly–protected against both potential competition and effective criticism. It means in most instances that a temporary monopoly is given the power to secure its position for all time–a power almost certain to be used.”

“There is no other possibility than either the order governed by the impersonal discipline of the market or that directed by the will of a few individuals; and those who are out to destroy the first are wittingly or unwittingly helping to create the second.”

“In their political beliefs and aspirations men are today more than ever before governed by economic doctrines, by the carefully fostered belief in the irrationality of our economic system, by the false assertions about “potential plenty,” pseudo-theories about the inevitable trend toward monopoly, and the impression created by certain much advertised occurrences such as the destruction of stocks of raw materials or the suppression of inventions, for which competition is blamed, though they are precisely the sort of thing which could not happen under competition and which are possible only by monopoly and usually by government-aided monopoly.”

“The mere preservation of what we have so far achieved depends on the coordination of individual efforts by impersonal forces.”

“It is sensible temporarily to sacrifice freedom in order to make it more secure in the future; but the same cannot be said for a system proposed as a permanent arrangement.”

“To aim always at the maximum of employment achievable by monetary means is a policy which is certain in the end to defeat its own purposes. It tends to lower the productivity of labor and thereby constantly increases the proportion of the working population which can be kept employed at present wages only by artificial means.”

“Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them has our decision moral value. We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else’s expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice. The members of a society who in all respects are made to do the good thing have no title to praise.”

“It is true that the virtues which are less practiced now–independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one’s own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one’s neighbors–are essentially those on which the working of an individualist society rests.”

“It is one of the most disheartening spectacles of our time to see to what extent some of the most precious things which England, for example, has given to the world are now held in contempt by England herself.”

“Neither good intentions nor efficiency of organization can preserve decency in a system in which personal freedom and individual responsibility are destroyed.”

“If we are to succeed in the war of ideologies and to win over the decent elements in the enemy countries, we must, first of all, regain the belief in the traditional values for which we have stood in the past and must have the moral courage to stoutly defend the ideals which our enemies attack.”

“To undertake the direction of the economic life of people with widely divergent ideals and values is to assume responsibilities which commit one to the use of force; it is to assume a position where the best intentions cannot prevent one from being forced to act in a way which to some of those affected must appear highly immoral.”

“It is fairly certain that in a planned international system the wealthier and therefore most powerful nations would to a very much greater degree than in a free economy become the object of hatred and envy of the poorer ones: and the latter, rightly or wrongly, would all be convinced that their position could be improved much more quickly if they were only free to do what they wished.”

“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.”

“The young are right if they have little confidence in the ideas which rule most of their elders. But they are mistaken or misled when they believe that these are still the liberal ideas of the nineteenth century, which, in fact, the younger generation hardly knows.”

“If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century.”

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.

Shakespeare, who made America and beat Hitler

Shakespeare, taking names and kicking a**

In modern democracies, politics and popular culture are inseparable. While a small percentage of Americans know what was discussed on Capitol Hill this week, a significant number know who was booted from American Idol, and observing this tableau, a political mind may be repulsed. For the liberal philosopher, turning the minds of an apathetic or propagandized public seems an impossible hill to climb. Average people do not really care to read about the meaning of life, the unnecessary confines of their society, or the causes of human suffering. Average people do, however, enjoy a good show. Since the times of the American continent’s first presses and playhouses, in England and its American colonies, that show was Shakespeare. Long before the Beatles, the prolific poet from Stratford-upon-Avon may have posthumously been America’s first British pop sensation-and its most influential. Shakespeare’s attention to detail in the individual identities of his characters, and his intellect for relative moral standards, infused English and American cultures with an unprecedented appreciation for individual liberty, which led to the American Revolution and United States Constitution. Shakespeare’s cultural legacy is the defense of individualism that pervaded everywhere his work was popular, and in the ways that truly matter to society, Hitler was defeated not by the bomb-dropping Allies of World War II, but by a dead English poet wielding only a feather.

This realization came to me as I was reading The Federalist, the famed series of newspaper publications that circulated in the United States in 1787-88. The carefully constructed papers succeeded in persuading the American people to ratify the newly formed Constitution. In the second essay of the series, one of the mystery authors (later revealed as John Jay) refers to “the poet” without explanation, as if every reader should already know that “the poet” is Shakespeare. This is evidence that, to Jay and his intended audience, the American public of 1787, Shakespeare was an assumption that required no specific definition, like air, earth, moon, sun or divinity, or even humanity itself. There is no comparable figure in 2008. When we hear “the poet” today, we need an antecedent, so as not to be confused as to whether it is Dickinson, Frost, Shakespeare, Donne, Hughes, Eliot, Kipling, or Whitman-we do not conditionally assume one. The same can be said for our other modern influences. There is no modern actor, writer, comedian, singer, musician, pundit, et cetera, whose proper identity is an informal extension of common title, so Shakespeare’s influence on early U.S. culture is, by our standards, immeasurable.

The extent to which Shakespeare shaped America’s early cultural identity is a subject of debate among historians, and each critic brings a unique perspective to the argument, sometimes adding invention to observation. All agree that Shakespeare profoundly shaped England’s language and culture, and most believe the American identity was consequently Shakespearean. Few, however, will go so far as to say Shakespeare was a major factor in American independence. The argument that Shakespeare had little effect on America’s revolutionary founding is centered on the mystery of Shakespeare’s own politics. What Shakespeare’s characters believed was often abundantly clear, but the playwright’s own political opinions will always remain a mystery. It is true that Shakespeare contributed nothing concrete to political discourse. He was an artist. However, the mystery of his politics, along with the variety of characters he created, is actually central to my argument, because as soon as the public learns a writer’s opinions, a large sector of it will ignore his work. We learn, in Shakespeare’s world, that no one’s opinions are right. This realization is the essence of the United States’ liberal individualistic founding, and Shakespeare made it popular in England and the United States. In this way, Shakespeare founded the United States as we know it.

Historians give credit for the modern concept of the self to English philosopher John Locke, who argued that the infant’s mind is a blank slate shaped by experience, but he published An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1690, a century after Shakespeare penned his works containing more than one hundred main characters and thousands of developed side characters, each having unique identities. Locke, they claim, is one of American liberty’s founding philosophers, but Locke may have only been observing what Shakespeare revealed in England a century before. In Shakespeare: the Invention of the Human (1998), Harold Bloom argues that “personality, in our sense, is a Shakespearean invention, and is not only Shakespeare’s greatest originality but also the authentic cause of his perpetual pervasiveness.” This seems accurate. We see a multitude of personalities in English, American and French cultures not often seen elsewhere. Distinctive personalities, seen in a positive light in our country, are in non-Shakespearean cultures considered a social obstacle. In talking to a Chinese exchange student, I discovered that in his culture, people have difficulty understanding why anyone would want to restrict the powers of the government. While Shakespeare’s cultures reject government coercion of the individual, collectivist cultures like China’s fear the potential chaos of individual freedoms.

Shakespeare’s influence in America has been taken to the extreme by more than one critic. In 1917, Charles Mills Gayley authored Shakespeare and the Founders of Liberty in America, which argues that Shakespeare had direct contact with liberal leaders in Virginia. Most of his argument is based on a single unpublished letter received by Shakespeare from William Strachey, a liberal member of the Virginia Company. Gayley claims Shakespeare was intimately and directly involved in the beginning of American liberty, but there is little evidence his claim is true. While his assessment that Shakespeare has left a heritage of liberty in England, France, and America is correct, Gayley has-whether imaginatively, vainly, or greedily-overstepped in attributing political beliefs to a political mirage.

The United States and England embraced Shakespeare throughout the nineteenth century, and until radio and television formats revolutionized media, Shakespeare remained dominant in American and British popular culture through print and performance. The individualism highlighted by Shakespeare’s characters remained on the consciousnesses of these nations well into the twentieth century. Early in the twentieth century, when other modern societies turned to combinations of socialism, nationalism, totalitarianism, or fascism-and did so with seeming success-England, France and the United States were, for yet unexplained reasons, unable to undo individualism, despite pleas from religious, scientific and interested communities. Germany was not so lucky. Before Hitler’s prominence, German culture had scientists, religions, artists, philosophers, and politicians-all arguably more refined than those of any other nation. For this reason, many intellectuals in England and the United States admired Germany’s Nazi socialism prior to the onset of war.

F.A. Hayek describes the evolution of Germany’s national socialist thought in The Road to Serfdom (1944), which is considered among the most important social criticisms ever written, and is a warning to politicians in all individualistic societies. In it, we learn Germans believed that in realizing the advantages of socialism, they had discovered an advantage over Anglo-American individualism. He quotes German Nobel Prize winner Wilhelm Ostwald saying, “I will explain to you now Germany’s great secret: we, or perhaps the German race, have discovered the significance of organization. While the other nations still live under the regime of individualism, we have already achieved that of organization.” This reveals the cultural difference between Germany and England during World War II: individualism. For some reason, English culture cherished individualism while German culture esteemed organization. Germany had an advanced scientific and artistic society; what German culture was missing was the Shakespeare effect. The underlying presence of Shakespeare explains the awareness that standards are relative to the individual (and not society as a whole), to which the inhabitants of England, France, and America so desperately clung during World War II.

Germans felt socialism was the answer to their economic woes. However, implementing socialism required the unscrupulous denial of certain individual rights, and Hitler was the only leader strong enough to make it work. It was not until after the outbreak of war that we became acutely aware of the dangers of Germany’s collectivist thought. Their patriotic socialism, though it may seem favorable in concept, becomes an uncontrollable and brutal beast in practice, because socialism can only be implemented by means most socialists detest. With its comfort in conformity, corporate interest in government, promises of safety, and mystical faith in the benevolence of power, socialism is more similar to the tyranny of the past than the prosperity of the future.

Although we did not formally recognize the evils of Nazi socialism until Hitler showed them to us, something in our culture told us it was wrong-and that something was Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s redefinition of the English language throws a wrench into the very notion of “organization” in society. It was Shakespeare’s personalized characters that instilled individualism, which made American independence seem so right. It was the same individualist lens through which socialism seemed so wrong. Everywhere his work is popular, individual liberty is Shakespeare’s legacy, and in the absence of his popularity in America today, we should realize we are at greater risk of internalizing collectivist ideals; in the spirit of Shakespeare, let us not be governed by them.

Iraqis have a voice, “but nobody listened.” Will you?

We have committed the invasion.

I have written a book; and if it cannot be refuted, it cannot be condemned. But I do not consider the prosecution as particularly leveled 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.” – Thomas Paine

Don’t share this with anyone allergic to truth. I have recently seen testimony that is–shocking is not the right word–horrifying. The official story we have been told about Iraq is a lie so big (though some leader, perhaps modeling for our own, once noted that people are more apt to believe a big lie than a small one), that I fear American heads will roll as a result of its telling, and perhaps justly. The big lie has officially lost legitimacy, and can now only be perpetuated through force. God bless America.

Iraqi leaders have been allowed to talk to members of Congress on CSPAN, and it should well ruin the war propaganda campaign that the Clinton and Bush Administrations, in conjunction with mainstream U.S. media (yes this includes “conservative” talk show hosts), have been orchestrating against the American and Iraqi people for the past decade. What the Iraqis are revealing, to the horror of Americans who have tuned in:

  • “The surge is working” is a lie, and always has been. Anyone who uses this phrase after the revelations of 06.04.08 is either a contemporary or a follower of Goebbels, and should be prosecuted for sedition or libel, before their efforts pave in America, a short road to Nazi Germany. 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.
  • Iraq is undeniably capable of defending itself without U.S. military aid, and has been for some time.
  • The U.S. is not defending Iraq from Iranian invasion.
  • Iraqis would rather have Saddam Hussein than what America has “given” them.
  • Most Iraqis want American forces to withdraw.
  • Continued presence of American troops in Iraq will increase the size and strength of terrorist militias there.

If we believe it too radical to suggest that the people of a nation should govern themselves, if we believe that our distant and uninformed (if not misinformed) opinions will serve the Iraqi people better than their knowledge and experience can serve themselves, if we lack (or unpardonably disregard) the God-given virtues of humility and compassion that the Scripture commands us in all of our affairs to employ, and if we disdain our own blessings so severely that we might arrogantly idolize ourselves as Rulers of the Universe, then we will care very little for what the Iraqi people think of our presence in their country.

As American republicans and good people, what I have described in the preceding stanza is not our condition, but if it were, we could rightly call ourselves evil, and if unrepentant, we would certainly deserve Hell, presuming its existence. If our intentions in Iraq are good, we must seek to remove all ambiguity from our understanding of the conflict, because, as a selfish but quotable man once wrote, “the consciousness of good intentions disdains ambiguity.” A selfless and more quotable man expressed as much in fewer words: “mystery is the antagonist of truth.” And I’m told a wise chimpanzee shared a banana. With that in mind, I leave you to the material at hand, with this advice in closing: seek truth, remove ambiguity, remain conscious of good intentions, eliminate mystery, and most importantly, share your bananas.

Why hasn’t the media been telling us that these tan-colored, robed creatures in Iraq are capable of rational thought? I feel misled, for I almost believed Iraqis were little more than cackling orangutans with bombs strapped to their torsos. Apparently this Iraq War thing Americans have been watching almost as attentively as they watched season six of Survivor–Iraqis actually care about it for some reason. You would think the Iraq War actually affected their lives. Go figure. Maybe it does. Who knows? Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to see what these surprisingly rational residents of Mess-o-potamia are saying, and I have compiled some video and quotes from my worldwide web travels.

Some quotes from a prominent Iraqi Shiite leader and a prominent Iraqi Sunni leader, sitting side by side in the Capitol Building in Washington:

“I just would like to assert that Iraq is capable to defend itself.” – Dr. Nadeem Al-Jaberi, Iraqi Parliament

“The majority of the people of Iraq are for the withdrawal, perhaps even about 70 percent.” – Dr. Nadeem Al-Jaberi, Iraqi Parliament

“The [American] Embassy in Iraq has an incredibly large amount of staff. It is certainly larger than the diplomatic mission for which it has arrived. I have information that there may be about three-thousand employees, and there certainly is another view than the one that we see … From the principle of reciprocity, would it be appropriate for the Iraqis to establish a three-thousand employee embassy in Washington?” – Dr. Nadeem Al-Jaberi, Iraqi Parliament

“There definitely is a resentment for the presence of [U.S.] military bases.” – Dr. Nadeem Al-Jaberi, Iraqi Parliament

“I would prefer if it [the invasion of Iraq] didn’t happen, because it led to the destruction of the country. The U.S. got rid of one person. It put in hundreds of persons that are worse than Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, now Iran is going into Iraq, and this is under the umbrella of the United States.” – Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, Iraqi Parliament

“Increasing the number of forces [a.k.a., the troop surge] didn’t affect the level of violence in Iraq. What led to the reduction of terrorism acts and violence was the forces of … those volunteers from the tribes of the areas where terrorists are more, and those forces managed to eliminate the terrorists, because they know them, and they know their tactics. We suggested that a long time ago for our government and for the American government, but nobody listened. I believe that the reduction of the level of violence is due mainly to the efforts of the volunteers. I believe the thing that will reduce the violence more–not a military force–but having realistic solutions to convince others to join the political process. I believe the best method to achieve that is a real national reconciliation, not only slogans, as is being done now.” – Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, Iraqi Parliament

“Many of the armed militias were established in order to fight the presence of foreign troops on their land, so their justification is to liberate Iraq from the foreign troops, so as soon as the troops have withdrawn, they have no more justification to exist, because it doesn’t make sense for them to start killing their own compatriots. It is my belief that when the troops withdraw, these groups will not bear arms any longer. And for as long as we have foreign troops on our land, these groups will actually increase in number…the presence of foreign troops is actually serving these groups. In the case of a withdrawal, we can rehabilitate them so that they can become civilians, and then include them in the democratic process in Iraq.” – Dr. Nadeem Al-Jaberi, Iraqi Parliament

Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXelUuw4nWk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3eQVVe-dH0

A frightening parallel: European Jews and the FLDS sect

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.” – Martin Niemoller, on the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power.

It seems appropriate that this post should come on Passover, the day that Jews all over the world celebrate the exodus from enslavement in Egypt, because for Jews like myself, today is a day to be thankful (and vigilant) for religious freedom. Today is also a day to remember the way a group of humans in Europe mistreated (and eventually began exterminating) other groups of humans, simply because they did not live in a manner deemed proper by mainstream culture. Today we remember the Nazis, and their ideas of a perfect society and a final solution. Today we watch the news, and we hear about a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) accused of–at the very least–child abuse and gender discrimination. We rush to judgment, which we base on what is considered mainstream, proper, or even perfect, about our own society.  If we are to learn anything from history, we must constantly compare our society to the facts of the past, and we must continue to utter, to declare, to yell and scream and burn into the hearts and souls of anyone who will listen, “NEVER AGAIN!”

When I read the headlines, and watch the cable news clips of these people, I am reminded of my Jewish grandmother, whose Passover Seder I attended this evening. She is 86 years old, an immigrant from pre-World War II Poland. Her family lived in a small town that was separated from “mainstream” European culture. Everyone there was Jewish, and everyone spoke Yiddish–think “Fiddler on the Roof”, where arranged marriages, traditional clothing, and gender roles were simply a way of life. Families were generally happy there, as they are in any society, but their way of life was very different. Dotting the landscape of southeast Europe before World War II were hundreds of towns just like hers, where free and good people–Jewish people–lived in relative peace, away from the bustle of liberal European philosophy and culture, which was probably most advanced in Germany.  Despite its destruction, the world of my grandmother’s childhood was a unique but legitimate society, with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, morals, customs, and respect for laws and tradition, where young boys played games and young girls exchanged meaningless secrets, and the individual lived, loved, smiled, laughed, cried, and felt the growing pains of youth, and the debilitating pains of age–a culture that lended to its subscribers a different but normal life. It was a self-sufficient bubble, soon to be burst by German tanks and train cars, eventually thrust behind the now infamous fences of concentration camps.

The Jews were just a little bit too indoctrinated, too oddly clad, too nostalgic, too stubborn in their matrimonial traditions to see the enlightenment of proper German culture, and so they had to be dealt with coercively. 

Could it happen here?  It is happening here.  It’s happening to a fundamentalist mormon sect in El Dorado, Texas.   That our own government imitates the beginnings of Nazi oppression is as shocking as it is true.  Although they seem trifling when reflecting on the state-sponsored kidnapping of several hundred children, the media’s headlines reveal the coldness of the collective American soul today, and do great harm to the reputation of our nation’s many good individuals.  Among the top stories in major metropolitan newspapers:

“Sect children will undergo genetic tests” (This headline is Holocaust Museum material.)

“Cult kids will remain in state custody” (It’s strange how the press only refers to their ranch as a “compound,” while the state is the entity actually keeping them locked up.

“Polygamist sect indoctrinated girls” (There is irony when commercial media accuses anyone of indoctrinating girls.)

“400 children saved from Mormon sect amid allegations of child abuse”

“Texas authorities must protect children” (From their parents? Are their parents Meth addicts?)

Taken at gunpoint without explanation, herded to a government facility, and detained endlessly without any presentation of evidence.  As it turns out, the phone call that led authorities to them now appears to be a hoax, and the abused teen girl, “Sarah,” may not even exist. 

Never again to the Jews, the FLDS, or any group.  Never again destroy a peaceful and free people.  Never again assume that people who live differently are living incorrectly.  Never again allow a government to forcefully shape the individual soul.  This is not America.  This is totalitarian hell.  Let these people go.  If you stand with the government on this one, you stand with Hitler.  Sit down.

The market and fascism

The Federal Reserve has decided to delay a recession–a move that will make that recession longer and more severe. A proper correction would see Dow Jones Industrial Average slump to below 8500 points, but a series of rescues orchestrated by the Fed has kept the Dow hovering around 12,000 for a few weeks. Stocks today refuse to stay afloat without the Fed’s help. Now, any time the market is up, my first question is “what did the Fed do?” The answer on March 20, 2008: “Fed adds $24 bln in reserves through 7-day repos” – Reuters.

The collateral accepted for these repurchase agreements is, of course, mortgage-backed securities. The market’s problem, according to banks, is that the Federal Reserve, in accepting over $400 billion of worthless securities this month in exchange for “liquidity”, is not doing enough to make up for banks’ irresponsible lending and investing strategies. Any greater measure than what the Fed has already taken, however, would be similar to compiling all American consumer debt to a dollar amount, and then ordering the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving to provide that amount of cash to banks. This preposterous proposition is perhaps a better option, because it is more efficient than the slow, deceptive version of itself the Fed is employing.

The truth behind the federal government’s rescues is that individual wage earners have been abandoned by their elected officials, so that corporate campaign-makers will not have to pay for their own mistakes. This is fascism in its truest state-through unified corporate control over citizens and government, the invisible dissent of the governed requires no response. As Mussolini said, “fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”

We see this merger in nearly every corner of American industry today. There is scarcely an established business in the country that doesn’t depend on federal preference to restrict the competitive market and maintain its slice of an ever-shrinking consumer pie. In exchange for competitive advantages and profitable contracts, established corporations (as well as other associations of concerned citizens) have financed thousands of campaigns and substituted their own agendas where the citizens’ belong, without the fear of losing power at the hands of an angry citizenry–because that citizenry remains ill-informed by the corporate media.

When we realize that over two-thirds of the nation opposes the Iraq war, when we hear the Vice President respond to that by saying “so what,” when we notice the media’s blackout of anti-war voices, when we see gasoline sellers moving in perfect unison, when we watch healthcare costs skyrocket, when we see a tax code no one comprehends, when we see laws passed that no one reads, when we understand that wealthy bankers are turning their losses over to the U.S. Treasury while inflation outpaces interest, when we come to grips with the lack of true representation in Washington, and hold before a mirror the true character of the current democratic republic, the reflection is clear and awful. We have become a mix between Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, only we suffer from a much more complete control over information, because nearly the whole nation depends on corporate television for political awareness, and nearly the whole nation nods its head at whatever the television says.  All fascist democracies characteristically believe that theirs is the freest nation in the world. It is only after the dissolution of fascist control that the masses become aware of the evil under which they lived; the few who saw it all along were always sidelined as irrational or “anti.” If the people cannot be awakened from their current state, the end of American fascism will be catastrophic.

Fox News propaganda for aggressive war

Paul raised money from real people--not corporate lobbyists
From January 12 (so that we may not forget the blatant propaganda allowing America’s crimes against humanity to perpetuate).  After being left out of Fox’s NH debate, Ron Paul is allowed back into a discussion, to the disappointment of cold-hearted corporatists and governors everywhere.  No stone was left unturned in the establishments disgusting effort to destroy the only powerful person in America who actually cares about the original American cause of freedom.  When they realized they could not refute his argument, that his Presidency would be a blow to socialism and corporate power, and that he was picking up momentum faster than any of their chosen candidates, the media ignored him and made fun of him, and called him “cultish,” when all he did was tell people the unadulterated truth.

From the freakish opening anthem to the head-nodding post-debate “focus groups” led by the perversely coercive “F*** You Frank” Luntz, Fox News’ coverage of the South Carolina GOP Debate Thursday looked more like Hitleresque propaganda than news.

The debate was preceded by a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which is traditionally sung artfully by a single individual, only this time it was a sung quickly and forcefully by a group of men in stiff black suits and Stepford-like women in white dresses. They were unnaturally spaced and robotic as they sang. “This is weird,” I said aloud as I watched.

The debate itself was, by professional and political standards, a complete failure. The most important issue to Americans is the economy. The greatest threat to the economy is the fiscal gap, and no candidate–with the exception of Ron Paul–laid out any sort of plan to cut spending. There was one mention of the possible reinstatement of the line-item veto, something Republicans worked against during the Clinton years. Both parties have adopted the attitude that ignoring the Constitution is okay if their own party is doing it.

Fox News welcomed Congressman Ron Paul back to the unseemly surreality of second-rate cable news network debates, but if they missed the voice of reason in New Hampshire, they did not show it. The questions asked of Congressman Paul were anything but welcoming. He was asked whether or not he believed America attacked itself on 9/11, the answer to which the inquirer already knew was “no,” so his only motive was to connect Dr. Paul to this “truther” movement, as they call themselves. “Electability: do you have any?” was one of the questions proposed to Dr. Paul. He handled it elegantly by his standards, but the question lacked the respect and substance the setting of political discourse requires. For the contemplative person, these discredited Fox’s entire slew of pre-determined events. Never in United States history has a statesman been treated with such improper abhorrence. Never has such nationalist thoughtlessness been so easily accepted by the democratic American people, who have always been known for individuality.

While Ron Paul was given questions designed to make him look like a kook, his opponents laughed confidently, knowing that their lies would be more palatable than his truths. Such a mentality, and the media’s shocking acceptance of it, is the same one that gave the Nazi Party overwhelming leverage in Germany after the Reichstag fire.

Perhaps most concerning was not the heir of bigoted supremacy displayed by Fred Thompson and John McCain, but the fact that the once correctness-obsessed news media let their anti-Muslim jests slide completely. Thompson joked about Iranian seamen meeting their virgins. This is the equivalent of a Middle East leader saying he would like to shove a cross up a dead American soldier’s ass, but news organizations only reported how funny it was, completely ignoring the insensitivity of the comment. When addressing the issue of trade with certain Middle Eastern countries, John McCain said he isn’t interested in “trading burkas” with them. This too was ignored by the press. The way these men went uncriticized for these comments is similar to the way Nazis went uncriticized for anti-Semitic remarks. Simply delete Jew and insert Muslim, and the beginnings of National Socialist Germany fit neatly into contemporary American society.

After the debate, Frank Luntz was, well, Frank Luntz. Everyone in his focus group acted the way they were supposed to, with no original thoughts. I thought I heard one of his drones say, “Napoleon is always right,” but I could have imagined it. Frank would ask for a show of hands, “who thinks Fred Thompson won the debate?” All the hands shot up. “Who thinks Ron Paul lost the debate?” The hands shot up with passion, without a thought, in blind agreement with Frank’s suggestions. “I, Frank” they seemed to say. “Heil, Hitler” is what they unwittingly invoked, just following orders.