The Violent Hypocrites

This piece was written by Jo Labadie after World War I.  I [ed.] have changed some spelling, corrected some grammar, and eliminated a couple of obscure references, but the piece otherwise remains as originally written.

All of this talk and legislation against the use of force and violence as means of changing sociological conditions is hypocrisy on the part of exploiters.  Force and violence are at the bottom of exploitation.  Government itself is force and violence.  Tell me, some of you governmentalists who are so averse to the use of force and violence, not only here in American but the world over, how did you become possessed of the land on which the native races earned their living? Continue reading

The War Prayer

This piece was written by Mark Twain in opposition to an earlier war of conquest by the united states military, that against the inhabitants of the philippines just over a century ago.  Perhaps those who believe they can both oppose the war and “support the troops” will be moved to rethink their position after reading it.

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.  The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.  It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came—next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams—visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.  The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation: “God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest!  Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!”

Then came the “long” prayer.  None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language.  The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory.

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness.  With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting.  With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside—which the startled minister did—and took his place.  During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne—bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention.  “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import—that is to say, its full import.  For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of—except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer.  Has he paused and taken thought?  Is it one prayer?  No, it is two—one uttered, the other not.  Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.  Ponder this—keep it in mind.  If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time.  If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer—the uttered part of it.  I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it—that part which the pastor—and also you in your hearts—fervently prayed silently.  And ignorantly and unthinkingly?  God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient.  the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words.  Elaborations were not necessary.  When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory—must follow it, cannot help but follow it.  Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer.  He commandeth me to put it into words.  Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle—be Thou near them! With them—in spirit—we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.  O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it—for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.  Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Why I Support A Draft

Some politicians have been suggesting recently that military conscription should be reinstated.  A draft would help relieve the ever increasing demands being placed on the military to advance US interests abroad, especially in regards to our current attempt to put a friendly regime in place in Iraq, which contains one of the largest proven reserves of oil in the world, and which is also within missile range of Israel.  The Bush administration insists that it is all about human rights and bringing democracy to the Iraqi people.  Why the people of Iraq deserve democracy while the people of Haiti do not, and why they deserve it now and not 20 years ago when Saddam was our ally against Iran, I don’t quite understand, nor do I understand why the US only intervenes militarily to secure human rights and democracy for the peoples of governments who oppose us, while tolerating such abuses when committed by countries such as Guatemala, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, China, and Israel for example, and even Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge for goodness sake.  If this were really a War on Terrorism, you wouldn’t need a draft–there aren’t nearly that many terrorists out there.

When President Carter reinstated draft registration in the early 1980s, I passed a petition opposing it.  After several weeks of going door-to-door and sitting at tables, I amassed hundreds of signatures.  I submitted the petition to my Congressman and got one of those polite letters, thanking me for sharing my concerns, and urging me to contact him again in the future with any other concerns I might have.  We protested when the local draft board met, pointing out that only subject peoples are conscripted, that free men volunteer.  I think we also pointed out the distinction between defense and imperialism.  That didn’t work either.  So I wasn’t terribly surprised when, leading up to the invasion of Iraq, ten of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, marched around the country to oppose the war, and we were met with police and were politically ignored.

But my fevered brain has come up with a new way to stop the slaughter of the working class of one nation by the working class of another.  A Constitutional Amendment on military conscription, which would require that the children and grandchildren of federal and state politicians who vote for war, children and grandchildren of executives of companies engaged in the war industry, and of those whose adjusted gross family income for federal income tax purposes is above $80,000, be the first groups to be conscripted.  Offspring of celebrities and journalists who beat the drums of war would also be included.  This would limit the enthusiasm for bloodshed among these influential groups, and also reverse the injustice of having those who reap the fewest benefits from our society making the greatest sacrifices, as was mostly the case during the Vietnam War.

If the Constitution really meant anything though, Congress would have to vote to declare war instead of voting to authorize the President to declare war.  And everyone charged with a crime would have the right to an attorney and to appear in court.  And if you were hassled at the airport because you are on a terrorist database, you would be told why, and you could challenge it.  And if the police broke into your home, they’d have to tell you and show you a search warrant.  And if the police beat someone to death, they would lose their jobs.  So I guess my new plan is not going to work either.  Besides, the politicians are much too busy defending us from the peril of gay marriage (and are apparently unconcerned about the equally dire peril of straight marriage).

I guess we can appeal to another country to invade and “change the regime.”  Foreign troops will occupy the US, and anyone who resists will be branded a terrorist and sent off indefinitely, without a trial, to a prison camp, to be drugged, disoriented and badgered until they either confess or commit suicide.  Just killing them is too humane.  Americans who have been living abroad will be appointed to positions of power and will write a new constitution, unhindered by messy elections.  Any resistance will be ruthlessly crushed by our foreign friends, who will linger on, year after year.

Four More Years of Government and War

Although it would have been nice to see the bums kicked out, it really matters little who won the election.  Kerry and Bush were both committed to pursuing the war in iraq, limiting the freedoms of americans for “our own protection,” and otherwise engaging in the standard government business of pillage and violence.

But the politicians have not maintained their grip on power by themselves.  The voters of this country have imposed their preferred masters on those of us who choose not to participate in the vile process of selecting our rulers.  Those who vote may well be considered to have given their consent to being governed, but unfortunately they and those they elect believe the rest of us should also be bound by the results of their election, whether we like it or not.  While we can abstain from voting, there is no practical way to completely escape the domination of governments and their supporters.

Not only do these voters and politicians impose their will on those of us here in the united states who simply want to be left alone, they are responsible for spreading death and destruction around the world.  American troops have just devastated Fallujah, the most recent chapter in their campaign of terror that has murdered thousands of non-combatants in iraq.  United states occupiers prop up the brutes who run afghanistan.  Money from Washington enables the israeli military to continue its brutal rule over gaza and the west bank.  American sanctions impoverish the people in cuba and help sustain the nasty government of Castro and his allies.  Meddling by united states politicians and military forces has subjected the people of haiti to one murderous government after another and impoverished the country.  The list of violent and destructive activities by the american government all over the world goes on and on.

Unfortunately, most americans appear to support their government in terrorizing the neighborhood.  Not only this, but they are eager to give up more and more of their own freedom.  Even though there have been no further violent attacks like the ones on September 11 several years ago, which provided the excuse for the most recent rampages of the american military through afghanistan and iraq, the government wants more and more power to watch over us, interfere with our travel, monitor what we read, pat us down at airports, and encourage people to be suspicious of others, all in the name of the “war on terror.”  And the voters show their support for this nonsense by turning out by the millions to vote for more of the same.  The politicians and bureaucrats lie to people about the real likelihood of violent attacks in order to justify the growth of their police state.  But most people take these manipulators at their word, making no effort to learn about the world and evaluate risks and benefits on their own.  They seem to have forgotten the joke about the three great lies, one of which is “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

The american news media continue to play an essential part in this campaign of disinformation.  They parrot the government’s line on most things, fawn over the military, and basically function as cheerleaders for the slaughter in iraq.  Of course they give coverage to the more extreme cases of outright murder and mistreatment by american military personnel, like the killing of unarmed people and the abuse of prisoners.  But most of the stories by the TV anchors and embedded reporters portray the war in iraq as a generally virtuous endeavor, with the occasional excess perpetrated by misguided individuals.

Newscasters and reporters uncritically use the vocabulary created by the government and military, writing about the “war on terror,” “coalition forces,” the “sunni triangle,” and “terrorist” iraqi “insurgents.”  They write story after story about the hardships endured by american soldiers and their families, despite the fact that everyone in the american killing machine is a volunteer and knew what they were signing up for.  Most of the press and other news sources defer to government, defend its policies, and drum up support for its military adventures among readers and viewers.

But despite the propaganda of the government and its fans in the news media, the responsibility for supporting or opposing government lies with each individual.  Governments would not exist without the support of most of their subjects.  People can choose to either follow the lead of the rulers and their agents, or think for themselves and stand up for their freedom not to be told what to do or robbed to pay for slaughter around the world.  Voting, joining the military, and otherwise propping up the state through voluntary acts of submission, show the failure of people to think for themselves, critically evaluate the conduct of government, and envision a better alternative to the world that exists.  Unless people become free-thinkers and withdraw their support from the state, recognizing they are capable of living their lives free of coercion, the cycle of war and domination will go on.

The War Parties Fight It Out

In preparation for the election in November, Bush and Kerry are each trying to convince voters that he and his party are the better warriors.  As the carnage in iraq goes on, with the abuse and murder of non-combatants and prisoners by the american military there, Kerry is making it clear that, if elected, he will continue the occupation and do his best to expand the military.

Most of the opponents of the war who vote will, of course, vote for the democrats, despite their pro-war positions.  Too many believe there is an important difference between the parties and will thus try to elect Kerry the war-monger because of their hatred for Bush the war-monger.

During the last democrat presidency, the united states military invaded haiti, bombed innocent people in serbia, sudan, and afghanistan, and continued the bombing and sanction campaign that devastated and impoverished iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of regular people.  In fact, during most of the decade preceding the September 2001 murder by airplane of hundreds of people in new york and pennsylvania, it was democrats who controlled the american military and foreign policy establishment.  It was their meddling in the affairs of other countries created the loathing for the united states government that led to these killings.  Meanwhile, at home, Clinton did his best to get his own version of the patriot act passed in order to make it easier for the government to monitor residents of america who speak out against government murder and repression.

Whatever their differences, and there are some, the parties are united in their contempt for individual freedom and their dedication to violence to get what they want.  It is foolhardy for anyone to believe that a  democrat president will end the war, free the prisoners held and abused in secret in iraq, cuba, or the “homeland,” or make anyone more free.  By voting, people simply strengthen the institutions of government and give aid and comfort to the enemies of liberty.  The time spent campaigning for Kerry (or Nader or Sharpton or Kucinich) by those who seek an end to war and a freer world is being wasted.  The state will never be a friend of freedom or a force for peace.  Even if the candidates were motivated by the best intentions, which is clearly not the case, they could not accomplish good ends by using the evil means which would be at their disposal as president.  Taxation, the police, the military, and the laws, rules, and regulations by which the lives of people both here and abroad are ordered, restricted, and sometimes ended, are what make government what it is.  Force and violence are its lifeblood, and nobody elected to office can change the basic nature of politics and government.  Nobody can use the military, police, and legal system, institutions based on hierarchy, servile obedience, and violence, to expand anyone’s freedom.  Only by abolishing government can we advance the cause of liberty.

Nobody who runs for office will end the war, abolish taxes, dismantle the FBI, or make you free.  So don’t waste your time, vote for nobody.

 

The Masters of War

Despite the opposition of most of the world, the united states and united kingdom have subjugated, at least temporarily, the residents of iraq. Of course, as was the case in the american-led war against serbia several years back, most of the claims that were initially used to justify the invasion have proven to be false. There were no smallpox stores. The baathists had no ties to al-Qaeda. The old iraqi government had no capability to attack the united states, britain, or anybody else for that matter except some of its own subjects. It did not buy nuclear materials from niger. There is no evidence of any chemical or biological weapons program conducted by the military. In other words, the case for war was built on lies.

Once they were found out, however, the american and british governments decided that the real reason for the invasion was their desire to liberate iraqi people from an oppressive government. But, just as was done last year in afghanistan, the invaders have replaced one nasty and brutish government with another, after killing thousands of innocent people. The occupiers have declared a group of their puppets as the new government and have stifled any attempts by non-compliant iraqis to form any alternative structures that might challenge their power. They imprison 4400 people they call “security detainees,” who are denied even the limited “rights” granted to official prisoners of war. American soldiers bully, harass, arrest, and kill iraqi civilians who do not obey quickly enough. They invade people’s homes, tie up innocent people, and confiscate their weapons and savings. They shoot at journalists and wedding celebrants. Their kurdish allies expel arabs from their homes in villages around Kirkuk. Religious bigots are free to intimidate women into wearing head coverings and staying off the streets. American agents are rewriting the history books used in iraqi schools to reflect the occupiers’ version of recent history. Corporations whose owners and managers are friends of our rulers are making big money rebuilding a country whose businesses, utilities, and health care services were destroyed by sanctions, constant bombings, and outright war conducted for over a decade by american and british politicians. And then americans wonder why so many residents of iraq seem ungrateful and resistance to the military occupation continues.

After posing as liberators, american troops have shown their true nature. They are conquerors as surely as any other imperial military has ever been. They disarm any locals who do not demonstrate sufficient loyalty to the new regime. They intentionally kill peaceful demonstrators. They “accidentally” kill non-combatants simply going about their lives, and recently slaughtered a group of iraqi police officers trained by americans, shooting up a hospital in the process. They occupy hotels and government palaces and swim in the indoor pools of former rulers, while leaving their new subjects without adequate power, clean water, or medical care.

The “independent” american news media, in general, do their best to portray the occupiers in a positive light, while portraying the opposition as evil religious or “saddamite” zealots. No serious criticism is raised when united states troops use enriched uranium weapons that result in disease and death among non-combatants, slaughter civilians with “misplaced” aerial bombs, or kill motorists who fail to stop when ordered to do so. And no mention is made that the united states military itself possesses vast stores of precisely the “weapons of mass destruction” whose purported possession by the former iraqi government was used to justify the invasion in the first place.

In addition to frank cheerleading for the war, the newspapers, magazines, and TV news anchors choose their language carefully in order to encourage their readers and listeners to look favorably on united states military operations, and harshly at any iraqis who resist or simply do not follow commands. Heroic american soldiers carry out raids.   But iraqi “terrorists” “ambush” occupying troops. American administrators living and working in comfort in buildings confiscated from the former rulers are portrayed as do-gooders, while iraqi civilians who have started a private transportation service in Baghdad with buses the former government bought with money they stole from their subjects, are called “looters.” Iraqis trying to make a quick buck from selling oil on the black market are accused of responsibility for power shortages in Basra, while the destruction of much of iraq’s oil industry and other infrastructure during the continuous american bombing and embargo from the early nineties on is seldom mentioned. Needless to say, the reporters who were “embedded” with the troops are only too happy to listen to whatever they are told by their masters, sometimes reporting complete lies, like the whole fairy tale about Jessica Lynch’s capture and rescue.

While news media coverage has helped convince most americans to support the war and occupation, patriotic supporters of this bloody business should consider what the reaction of the american colonists would have been had some other nation decided to “liberate” them instead of letting them do it themselves. The revolutionaries would not have rolled over and played dead had france defeated the british colonial authorities, instituted a government that they believed best suited the needs of americans, and disarmed the militias. Instead they would have fought the french occupiers, just as so many iraqis are now waging a guerrilla war against the american and british invaders.

In afghanistan, too, where the occupiers have had more time to impose their will, armed resistance to the invaders and their governors of choice continues, as do challenges to the authority of the american-backed government in Kabul. Of course, the united states and afghan governments and their devotees in the news media label resistance fighters terrorists and rival politicians warlords. But none of this alters the fact that people in afghanistan, like those in iraq, do not appreciate being murdered and bullied by americans and their afghan servants any more than they enjoyed the predations of the former tyrants.

Of course the fact that the locals in these two countries continue to demonstrate their contempt for their new masters is unlikely to deter further meddling by united states politicians in the affairs of other countries. Aroused by their recent victories, the american warlords are now making threatening noises directed at north korea, iran, and syria, and ratcheting up the economic war against cuba. It is no wonder the despots in Tehran and Pyongyang, after witnessing what happened in afghanistan and iraq, are interested in acquiring nuclear weapons. It should be obvious to any thinking person that the willingness of the american military to bomb and invade any country it feels it can defeat rather easily serves to promote the proliferation of advanced weapons among countries that rightly perceive themselves to be on the hit list of the american government.

The rulers of the united states have taken advantage of their war to launch an assault on our limited domestic freedoms as well. The government has arrogated to itself the power to monitor what we read, where we travel, and what we say in meetings. Utilizing their increased powers under the patriot act, federal agents have carried out hundreds of buggings and surveillance operations and have visited a number of libraries and mosques to snoop around. They refuse to identify prisoners accused of terrorism and deny them access to lawyers or any other semblance of “due process.” People are secretly detained without charges as “material witnesses. Immigrants are being tricked into registering with government agencies and then deported. A judge recently imprisoned someone for creating an “anarchist” website with links to information on bombs, an area of study the government apparently considers its exclusive domain. While Ashcroft dismisses its critics as hysterics, the (in)justice department is seeking to expand the scope of the patriot act, even as the transportation security administration plans to implement a color-coding scheme for air travelers to advise screeners who can and can’t fly and who should be harassed even more than the run-of the-mill flyer. And this is all somehow supposed to preserve the freedoms which “our” enemies supposedly hate.

The former despots in iraq and afghanistan were brutal murderers, who are mourned by few but their families and cronies. And it will be a welcome event when the people in korea (both north and south), iran, and syria find the wherewithal to send their own nasty rulers packing. But that is a task for the residents of these countries, not foreign invaders who will simply come in and set up new tyrannies, albeit ones friendlier to the conquerors.

The best outcome of all, in the view of this anarchist, would be for people all over the world who are oppressed and robbed by governments and their corporate buddies to throw out their rulers and not simply replace them with new, more liberal or democratic ones. Abolishing government and the principle of force in human relations in the only method of instituting and preserving individual freedom of thought, action, and association. But such an outcome requires a complete change in the way most people view the world. Until individual people everywhere come to believe that they themselves are the best, and only, ones suited to make decisions affecting their lives, interests, and activities, the world will remain mired in wars and infested by governments and rulers-in-waiting.

NO WAR

It appears that the united states government will soon increase the intensity of the war it has been waging continuously against the people who live in iraq for over ten years. Unable to terrorize iraq’s rulers into unquestioning obedience to the american political, economic, and military establishment, the owner of the world’s largest array of weapons of mass destruction will now use this might to further torment the people and ravage the land of iraq, with the intent of replacing the local tyrants with an occupation government run by american generals. As with any attempt to justify a war of aggression, the threat posed by the iraqi government and military to those in other countries has been wildly exaggerated. Even some in the FBI and CIA have disputed Bush’s claim of iraqi ties to al-qaida. But american politicians have never let the truth get in the way of a good war. Remember the Maine?

It is unquestionable that the government of iraq has robbed, murdered, and brutalized those it rules over, as well as the residents of other countries, especially iran. But none of this domestic and international terrorism bothered those who rule the united states until the iraqi military invaded kuwait in 1990. In fact, the american government considered Saddam Hussein an ally during the many years his military waged war against iran.

While they have fashioned themselves as the world’s head cops for a long time now, it is only in recent years that the united states government and military have been able to fully implement their vision of world dominion. They have announced that those who are not with them in their alleged war against terrorism are against them. Being “with” america means endorsing whatever action its politicians and military leaders engage in, and the united states feels free to do whatever it wishes to torment those who are “against” it. It threatens sanctions against countries whose rulers do not comply, and claims the right to cross international borders in hot pursuit of “terrorists.” Like their pirate forbears, american navy ships feel free to stop and board foreign vessels on the high seas if they suspect them of carrying oil or weapons they have declared contraband, ie, those originating in countries whose rulers the american state is on the outs with. And, always, there is the ongoing threat of military attack to achieve american foreign policy goals.

The united states government calls for regime change in iraq. But, of course the new rulers will not have to be democrats or humanitarians, as we have seen in the case of afghanistan, where prisoners are suffocated to death in containers, women continue to be treated abominably, student protestors are shot in the streets, and foreign TV programs are banned by the government installed by the american military. All that really matters is that the new regime does not step on the toes of the united states in international matters and allows american oil companies to have their way with iraq’s natural resources. What they do to the people they have power over is of little concern to the state department or the pentagon.

The aggressive military posturing of the united states has served to encourage and justify similar behavior on the part of its allies. The australian government threatens “pre-emptive” military strikes, the leaders of the british state practically salivate at the idea of war with iraq, and the russian government justifies its murderous campaign in chechnya as a war against its own islamist terrorists. The chinese rulers label separatists in east turkestan as terrorists and hope to quiet international criticism of their brutal behavior there by saying it is part of the international “war on terror,” while israel continues its slaughter of teenagers and destruction of the homes of relatives of those it considers terrorists. It is the height of hypocrisy that american politicians label the iraqi tyrants as unacceptable threats to world freedom, while they are in bed with the brutes who rule china, pakistan, indonesia, israel, and saudi arabia.

Even when at war, allegedly to protect freedom, the american military and security agencies have managed not to be distracted from their other important work, of course. The coast guard somehow manages to find the time to board and harass cruise ships in alaska and prevent desperate people trying to escape the united states-supported government in haiti from landing on american shores. The DEA has stepped up efforts to prevent ecstasy from getting into the country. The INS still considers it important to harass and deport people who have come from as far away as morocco to Dutch Harbor in order to try and make a living by working in the seafood processing plants there. And the army has not let its desire to increase the number of soldiers fluent in arabic keep it from expelling a number of such interpreters who enjoy homosexual sex. So it should come as no surprise that those with whom the military forms alliances have no respect for individual liberty, either.

While our limited internal american freedoms have been under attack by the government since September 2001, things will probably get worse in the near future. In addition to causing the death of large numbers of iraqi non-combatants, this “new” war will serve as a pretext for the accelerated growth of the domestic police state, where, already, immigrants from some countries are presumed to be terrorists until proven otherwise, and long-time residents with no criminal history are jailed and deported; prisoners are held without charge or legal representation and otherwise denied due process; legal residents traveling even within states are subjected to inane, insulting, and demeaning “security” procedures which do nothing to increase flight safety; people are encouraged to inform on others based on snippets of conversation overheard at a restaurant or on a plane; armed air marshals are allowed to terrorize airplane passengers; local school systems are required to turn their students’ names over to the military to facilitate recruitment; and domestic spy agencies may readily snoop into people’s mail, listen in on phone conversations, and obtain library and bookstore records simply by claiming a possible terrorist connection. Politicians have also proposed requiring americans travelling abroad to inform the government of their comings and goings, and some are now advocating reinstitution of the military draft.

As always, most of the members of the party in “opposition,” after mouthing a few platitudes, will fall in line to “support the troops” as soon as the massacre starts. War is a bipartisan policy, as evidenced by the relentless bombing of iraq, the murderous assault on people in serbia, and the occasional bomb tossed at sudan or afghanistan witnessed under the previous administration.Beside the increase in military spending that will come at the expense of other government programs which arguably benefit some regular people, the number of civilian federal employees, including those involved in airport “security,” is increasing as well. Government, as always, continues to grow, funded by the money the state extorts from working people in taxes and fees. But, corporate america also continues to benefit from the sweat of working people as the government, blaming the economic difficulties of the american airlines on the attacks in September 2001, has given large amounts of money taken from working people to the airlines so that their stockholders, managers, and consultants can continue to live their extravagant lives while regular workers are laid off or see their pay cut. In addition, the government has agreed to use tax dollars to pay off claims against private insurers that can be blamed on terrorism. And one can be sure that as soon as the dust settles in “liberated” iraq, united states corporations will move right in and extract massive amounts of profit by “helping” the iraqis to extract, refine, and sell the oil and natural gas found in their country. War is the health, not only of the state, but also of corporate capitalist enterprises.

The prompt formation of an anti-war movement here and abroad has brought some hope to the scene. Opponents of american military adventurism in iraq range from some european governments and politicians, the catholic church hierarchy, and former cold warrior and author John le Carré to average people who have gathered on the streets of cities throughout the united states and the world, including Anchorage, to voice their opposition to the government’s plan to slaughter people in iraq. The growing non-compliance of individuals and institutions with the government’s attempt to whip up pro-war hysteria by conducting widespread inoculations against a non-existent smallpox threat has also demonstrated that not everyone has been taken in by the lies and distortions of the state and the news media that, largely, serve it. But the only way that this war will be avoided is if even more regular people begin to question authority, look critically at what they are being told, and stand up and say no.

Anarcho-Libertarianism and the Security Forces

Few things are more certain to elicit righteous anger from anarcho-libertarians than mention of State security forces: overt and covert police, armed forces, and intelligence agencies. For sure, even when they are those possessed by the liberal democracies and not merely the tools of some outright dictator or particularly vile political or religious creed, there are often very good reasons for this. For example, their enforcement of laws incompatible with individual liberty; their role in suppressing ‘extremist’ ideologies such as anarcho-libertarianism that threaten the status quo; their overly enthusiastic support of many of the world’s despots in the name of ‘national interest;’ and of course their all-to-frequent engagement in abuses of power and outright criminality that even the liberal democracies deplore in principle.

Instead, the real reason for anarcho-libertarians’ hostility to the security forces is not so much what they do, but rather what they are: amongst the most important creatures of ‘the State,’ a concept that anarcho-libertarians simply regard as a fictitious warrant for certain individuals to acquire and exercise aggressively coercive power over others.      But this is to miss what ought to be the real reason behind anarcho-libertarians’ hostility towards the security forces, and it is a trap into which many can and do fall and end up looking like fools. For if one is to take this empirical approach and enumerate all the bad things that State security forces actually do, then honesty requires one to admit that—again at least in the liberal democracies—they also do a lot of desirable things as well, a concept that many anarcho-libertarians find quite heretical. For example, they can detect and apprehend— perhaps even fend off beforehand—those who commit crimes that would be considered wrongs in the most anarchistic of societies such as physical assaults or the theft of personal property; they can deter the armies of a mad despot who has a cowed people and the resources of a country upon which to call; and yes it needs to be admitted that they can suppress terrorist-inclined political and religious movements of a collectivist nature compared to which liberal democracy seems like paradise on earth.

The problem comes when, having rejected the notion of the State and thus regarding as inherently illegitimate any coercive power that an individual or organization exercises in the name of the State, anarcho-libertarians sometimes are perceived to—and sometimes actually do—reject reflexively everything that the so-called State and its agencies do. Anarcho-libertarians also oppose compulsory schooling and ‘public-sector’ healthcare, both of which are funded out of coercively expropriated taxation and which place severe limits on individual choice by, for example, many forms of more-or-less mandatory occupational licensing. Yet we emphatically do not oppose either education or healthcare. Indeed, we say that a freer life will enrich these very things by allowing greater experiment and innovation outside of the straightjacket imposed by the State. What we do say, however, is that no one should be forced to ‘participate’ in these services, whether as a funder or a consumer. So too with the security forces. It is not security as such that anarcho-libertarians reject, but the illegitimately coercive nature of State security.

Another aspect of this is the crypto-world-revolutionaryism and (in its pejorative sense) utopianism that still afflicts many anarcho-libertarians. To put it simply: that anarcho-libertarianism ‘will come about’ (a) very rapidly via some mass uprising, (b) more-or-less simultaneously throughout the world, and furthermore that (c) all of the flaws of mankind will disappear once liberated from the corruption of Statism.

Sensible anarchists and libertarians have long eschewed revolution as a realistic mechanism for advancing their cause. Firstly, at any give stage, there is only so far that even the most ‘liberal State—or rather the individuals who benefit from promoting the fiction—can be pushed, and the asymmetry of power in the even semi-advanced nations—not least from the very security forces under discussion here, of course—is these days such to ensure the revolution’s defeat. Second, that history shows—with the partial exceptions of the three English revolutions in the 1640s, the 1680s, and in the American colonies in the 1770s—that the winning side in revolutions tend to espouse even more despotic beliefs than the various regimes that they overthrew and that furthermore they tend to be led by men with a personal predilection for violence. What this inescapably leads to—except for those who wish and are able to live as self-sufficient hermits away from the world—is the belief in some form of generally peaceful gradualism. This means that at any given moment some aspects of the State might be more sensibly—from both a tactical and ethical point of view—attacked by word and (non-violent) deed than others.

If this is true within our existing countries, then so too is it true amongst the many different countries in the world today. Even if an anarcho-libertarian society was established in a country—or a sufficiently large portion of it so that by that stage the remaining Statist-inclined had accepted defeat in at least that region—there would still most likely remain other Statist countries, often controlled by men and ideologies of astonishing aggressiveness and cruelty. In short, the newly-founded anarcho-libertarian society, having achieved success against domestic Statists, must either now defend itself against often malignant and militarily well-equipped foreign Statists or die soon after its birth. This can only be done—assuming that it is not also a wholly pacifist society—by the retention of troops and hardware in sufficient numbers, training, and modernity to see off the threat. Anarchism is not ‘disorder.’ but voluntary and spontaneous order formed from the one unifying purpose of defending mutual individual liberty.

The point is that anarcho-libertarians need to be careful that they do not in fact, nor even in appearance, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater.’  They need to demonstrate that they take security seriously, both in showing that they are not naive about the realities of human nature or international politics, that even in the most anarcho-libertarian society there will be remain a need for security forces to counter both domestic (‘criminal’) and foreign (‘military’) threats, and also that there are in reality only a certain number of effective ways that this can be arranged.

Finally, anarcho-libertarians, in common with most other reasonable observers of the world as it actually is, fully recognize that one does not have to be a Marxist to acknowledge that social systems can have a profound impact on the attitudes, beliefs, behavior, and social psychology of people. This is why, for example, even within the parameters relating to the various political settlements that we see in the world today, corruption tends to be positively associated with (relative) political authoritarianism: despotism breeds distrust and mendacity. Nevertheless, it is credulous in the extreme to think that criminality—the tendency of some individuals to choose to act as invasive human parasites—will wholly disappear in an anarcho-libertarian society. Therefore, some form of security and police—by whatever name they are known—will still be needed.

The point is that anarcho-libertarians need to be careful that they do not in fact, nor even in appearance, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ They need to demonstrate that they take security seriously, both in showing that they are not naive about the realities of human nature or international politics, that even in the most anarcho-libertarian society there will be remain a need for security forces to counter both domestic (‘criminal’) and foreign (‘military’) threats, and also that there are in reality only a certain number of effective ways that this can be arranged.

Finally and vitally for the promotion of the cause of liberty, anarcho-libertarians need steadfastly to maintain that effective security most assuredly can be arranged in a voluntaristic way absent of the aggressive and coercive ‘State.’ This needs to be done in a threefold manner: by arguing the theoretical case; by noting whatever examples of voluntaristic security—and, indeed, other ‘emergency’ services—already exist and have survived formal prohibition and informal ‘crowding out’ by the State; and where it might be possible, setting up parallel security agencies that are run in accordance with anarcho-libertarian principles.

Who can it be now?

So we’re all like, “Hey, let weapons inspectors back in!” and the Iraqis are all like, “Dude, you pulled out, inspectus interruptus was your idea from the last time you bombed, and you’re like spying on us anyway!” and we’re all like “Shyeah, as if, let us in or we bomb you!” and they’re all like “This is sooo like just a pretext, we say yes and you’ll find something else!” and we’re like “No, dude, we swear, no pretext and we’re serious and we have lots of bombs!” and they’re all like “Let me talk to Kofi Annan, OK?” and Kofi’s all like “Dude, they mean business and they have bombs fer sher, we’ve seen ‘em!” and they’re all like “Jeez, OK already, your inspectors that you pulled out anyway can come in again” and now we’re all like “Psyche, dude!  Too late! Not good enough!  Give us a minute to think of more demands before we bomb you anyway!”  So like, what I want to know is, isn’t that the very definition of pretext?

War and Rumors of War

As the united states government gears up to escalate the ongoing war they and the british rulers are waging against the people who live in iraq, the slaughter in afghanistan, which the military hypocritically calls Operation Enduring Freedom, continues apace. While the military authorities deny the true extent of their killing of non-combatants, aided in this endeavor by the compliant american news media, some particularly egregious examples of their murderous actions occasionally manage to show up in the US press. When the american military is caught engaging in the slaughter of civilians, however, such actions are routinely described in the newspapers as errors, accidents where a “bomb goes astray,” even though military officials say they were attacking a “legitimate” target. When bombers attacked a wedding party in the town of Kakarak in July, killing 44 of those attending the celebration, a military spokesperson insisted that american forces had been attacked with anti-aircraft fire from the area, even though no traces of such weaponry could be found. Of course, when peaceful afghans are killed in explosions caused by the equally loathsome forces opposed to the allied invasion, such murders are considered the work of “terrorists.” Quite a double standard.

The government has used the war and the attacks in this country last September as a pretext to further limit the already restricted freedoms of residents of the united states. Federal authorities investigating the September murders arrested around 1200 people and continue to detain at least 147, refusing to even release their names. In June, 131 captives, none of whom were implicated in any terrorist activities, were secretly deported to pakistan after being held for months at INS detention centers. When a judge earlier this month ordered the “justice” department to hand over the names of 751 people detained on immigration charges and another 129 held on criminal charges since September 11, the feds opposed this decision, arguing it would endanger the country. The US has also encouraged other governments to deny their subjects due legal process, as in June, when sudan arrested and deported a “suspect” so that american agents could interrogate him in a third country.Besides committing both random and well-planned acts of murder against regular people in afghanistan, the US government and military routinely detain people using the “war on terror” as a pretext. In May, american forces raided an afghan village and captured 55 people, holding them for at least a week, and punishing them if they talked to each other while imprisoned. The united states-sponsored thugs who make up the current afghan government have incarcerated thousands and keep their prisoners in horrid conditions where many suffer from malnutrition. Prisoners held at Guantanamo by the american military, are kept in cages, hog-tied when they don’t obey their captors, and denied legal counsel. A number of these prisoners apparently were non-combatant charity workers from kuwait, but their attempts to use the american legal system to secure their release have been in vain. The federal government has given its stamp of approval to conditions at Guantanamo by maintaining its courts have no jurisdiction over these prisoners held outside the US, and has thereby given the military permission to treat these captives in whatever way they see fit.

Increases in government surveillance and power have not been limited to the investigation and pursuit of people who have been implicated somehow in violent actions. Visitors to Ellis Island are now subjected to facial recognition camera systems; people from certain countries will be fingerprinted and required to tell the feds about their movements and activities when in the united states; the FBI has been authorized to monitor opposition rallies, internet chat rooms, and church services; one can be arrested for making a joke about bombs at an airport; and FBI agents are checking people’s reading records at public libraries. Some politicians feel even these invasions of our liberties are not enough, like the senator who wants to repeal the posse comitatus act to enable soldiers to arrest american civilians. These authoritarian measures have set a precedent for other governments around the world, who have eagerly used the threat of terrorism to further whittle away at the liberties of their subjects, while avoiding criticism from the supposedly more freedom-loving states of america and europe. The threat of terrorism is also being used to justify international power politics and intimidation, as seen when russia attempts to use the current situation to its advantage by labeling its neighbor georgia, with whom it has some disputes, a nest of terror second only to afghanistan. The lesson the governments of the world are learning—or seeing reinforced—by the US is that one can justify any behavior, no matter how odious, by declaring that it furthers the war against terror.

It is clear that the united states is going to take advantage of the current atmosphere to launch a full-scale attack on and/or invasion of iraq at some point in the future. Justifying this escalation of the ongoing war of terror already being waged on iraqis by claiming that the rulers of that country are developing weapons of mass destruction is the height of hypocrisy. The united states itself already possesses enormous stockpiles of such weapons and has shown itself more than willing to use them, but wishes to deny others the opportunity to have them as well. It has even criticized its sometime ally russia for selling nuclear technology to iran, another country the american politicians have demonized for its refusal to follow their orders. Besides turning up the pressure on its enemies du jour, the US is also attempting to greatly increase the power of its naval forces, which can already board any sea-going vessels in international waters whenever they please, harassing their passengers with impunity, by seeking permission from a number of other countries to police their national waters, as well.

As could be expected, this war-making has increased the budget and size of government, especially the military, and has profited corporations that supply government agencies. The senate has authorized $29,000,000,000 for the aptly named “terror fight” and approved a $355,400,000,000 defense budget, $34,400,000,000 higher than that for last year. The house of representatives has approved even more war money, $383,000,000,000 for 2003. Weapons manufacturers have increased production, in at least one case to the highest level in 15 years, and the coast guard recently awarded a $17,000,000,000 contract to two military suppliers.

While most of the foreign governments the united states dislikes and many of the prisoners it holds are brutish and murderous, this can also be said of many of the governments and politicians with whom it has chosen to align itself. However bad the actions of these “enemy” institutions and people, however, killing peaceable residents of other countries and abusing prisoners can never be justified. The united states has claimed the moral high ground in its military and political actions after the September 11 murders, but has shown itself to be as terroristic and brutal as any of those it is waging its current war against. Ultimately, it is always regular working people, just trying to go about the business of living, whether they live in New York, Kabul, or Baghdad, who end up the victims of terrorist groups, including those that constitute themselves as governments.