After more than 15 years of US-led war and occupation, the Taliban are steadily consolidating gains in Afghanistan. The war was lost the day it was launched of course, but it is only a matter of time until the last of the dead-enders admit what is obvious: regime change and nation-building does not work.
By Adam Dick
Since the San Bernardino killings last week, many statements of politicians and stories in the media are painting a picture of “gun violence” in America that, on a closer look, appears to be far from reality.
These are some of the messages we hear in constant rotation: Be afraid of your neighbor who has a few guns and some boxes of ammunition; he must be planning a violent attack. Panic about the mass murders epidemic. Dread the explosion of violent crimes of recent years.
The barrage is deafening. But, should it be believed?
It is true people use guns to kill other people, including in mass murders. But, it is also important to not fall for exaggerated claims related to guns and mass murder.
Below are a few observations on guns and mass murder that should be considered when evaluating the fear-building messages that seem to be favored by many individuals in politics and the media:
Be cautious of tales spread in times of heightened fear. These tales are often spun for the purpose of converting fear into support for expansions of government powers that the communicators have long supported but could not implement in calmer times. Though it may be difficult when fear is burning all around you, give a try to stepping back, taking a breath, asking questions, and looking for alternative viewpoints. You just may find that the people promoting the fear are the ones who pose the greatest danger.
This article was originally published at The Ron Paul Institute.
While most Americans are focused on Christmas shopping -- while not obsessed with "homegrown terrorism" -- Congress is busy pushing legislation that will hit the pocketbook and further curtail privacy. A legislative update with Campaign for Liberty's Norman Singleton.
By Dan Sanchez
Fourteen years in, and the Terror War is raging on, mass-producing exactly what it was supposed to eliminate: terrorism and chaos. Western intervention has racked up at least six jihadi-overrun failed states throughout the Greater Middle East: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen. The scope and scale of the imposed civilizational meltdown have become so great that the West itself has been increasingly inundated by its wreckage (in the form of refugees) and stung by its shrapnel (in the form of terrorist attacks).
To paraphrase Yeats, is the empire merely staggering toward Har Megiddo (Armageddon)? Or is there a Machiavellian method to the mass-murderous madness? If so, how could such a perpetually widening and intensifying catastrophe possibly serve anybody’s interest? What could possibly be the end game?
We know what the jihadis’ end game is. They plainly tell us in their official publication. ISIS, in the tradition of its forefathers Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wants to use terrorist provocation to polarize the entire world into two irreconcilable enemy camps. By eliminating any “gray zone” between “the crusader camp” and “the camp of [Salafist] Islam,” the terrorists seek to precipitate an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations,” out of which they will arise victorious.
The US-led imperium has been so prompt and thorough in falling into this trap (to the point of exceeding the jihadis’ wildest dreams), that one must wonder if its leaders, like Br’er Rabbit, see the “snare” as a briar patch. Maybe this is exactly what they want too. In a sense the crusader and jihadi enemies are allies: like shoulder-to-shoulder linebackers pushing the rest of humanity back toward an end zone with no gray zone.
Indeed, the loudest proponents of the Terror War (aka the Long War) are quite forthright in their calls to accept the inevitability of a Manichean Ragnarök. “Clash of civilizations,” after all, was coined by a neocon theoretician. And it has recently been promulgated by the neocon Manchurian candidate Marco Rubio.
And every single phase of the Terror War has seemed specially formulated to wipe all gray zones off the Middle Eastern map.
The secular Arab nationalist regimes of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, for all their evil deeds, were denizens of the gray zone. They were co-existers. They protected religious minorities, including Christians, even lifting some to public office. They even strove to co-exist with the American empire that actively sought to destroy them.
Yet one by one, they were targeted for regime change. And one by one, the countries they ruled faded to black, from gray zone to utter darkness, as the green flags of the Arab nationalists were supplanted by the stark black and white flags of the jihadis.
In Iraq, the US invasion and regime change unleashed Zarqawi, who had been hiding from Saddam’s security forces. The Sunni terrorist ringleader celebrated his freedom with a long string of bloody attacks, in part against the occupiers, but chiefly against Iraqi Shia and their holy sites. These sectarian attacks elicited violent Shiite reprisals against the general Sunni population.
The US further polarized Iraq by “de-Baathifying” it, driving countless secular Sunnis into unemployed desperation, and also by one-sidedly backing the most ruthlessly sectarian, Iran-backed Shiite factions. The US orchestrated an election that gave the Shia a monopoly of power and handed Iran-backed militias control over the new US-armed Iraqi military. These forces soon began “cleansing” Baghdad and other towns of Sunnis, and an all-out sectarian civil war broke out. The US armed forces brutally fought and won that war alongside and on behalf of the sectarian Shiite forces.
In the process, scores of Baathist “dead-enders” and myriad other Sunni “military aged males” were rounded up and warehoused in prisons like Camp Bucca, where they were placed in close quarters with Zarqawiite zealots. The contacts made there between such strange bunk-fellows led to a later alliance in ISIS (which evolved out of Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq). The military and bureaucratic expertise of Baathist ex-officers (as well as their smoldering resentment) and the fiery fanaticism of the head-chopping, suicide-bombing Salafis were combined to deadly effect. This “Islamo-fascist” alliance soon thereafter began infiltrating neighboring Syria.
Western air power overthrew Gaddafi in Libya on behalf of Sunni jihadist rebels, precipitating a civil war there too. The CIA then began running guns from Benghazi to Syrian jihadis, until the Americans were betrayed by their Libyan jihadist allies who sacked the embassy and killed the US ambassador.
In Syria, the US (CIA, State Department, Pentagon) and its western (Britain, France, etc) and regional (Saudis, Turks, Qataris, etc) allies were sponsoring (with training, coordination, recruitment, arms, and money) a Sunni jihadi-led insurgency against Assad and his multi-sect “gray zone” constituency.
It was amid that foreign-backed Syrian insurgency against Assad that ISIS, as predicted by Pentagon intelligence, thrived and rose to conquest. ISIS burst back into Iraq, seizing the northwest of the country, and reigniting the Iraqi civil war.
Even after declaring war on ISIS’s new “Caliphate” extending from Syria to Iraq, the US has continued to back the Syrian jihad, along with its regional allies who back the worst elements even more directly. The allies (especially Turkey) are so dead-set on “Assad must go” that they are even willing to militarily come to blows with Russia over that imperative.
In Yemen, the civilian-slaughtering US drone wars and the US-backed Saudi war on the Shiite Houthis has led to the rise of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) amid failed state chaos and near famine.
In Somalia, US drones and a US-backed Ethiopian invasion has led to the radicalization and rise of the Islamist group Al Shabaab amid failed state chaos and full famine.
In Afghanistan, the US is driving the Pashtuns into the arms of the Taliban and ISIS with its drone wars, hospital bombings, and support for death squads and child-rapist warlords.
Even in Egypt, the formerly mild Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood there are increasingly being driven into the arms of ISIS (which shot down a Russian airliner over the Sinai peninsula) by the brutal repression of a US- and Saudi-backed counter-revolutionary junta.
And now from Paris to San Bernardino, the terroristic blowback from these wars against Middle Eastern gray zones has dwindled Western gray zones as well, as outrage over attacks has replaced war weariness and regret with indiscriminate anti-Muslim animus and bloodlust.
So the Western war mongers are advancing steadily (with the help of the jihadis) toward the end zone with no gray zone. But what then? What happens when they get there? What do they do with all the terror and hate they have cultivated?
Two words: complete colonialism. We’re talking razed cities, massive invasions, and military occupations. Only this time, the occupations will be permanent.
That is what the war party cannot accomplish so long as any gray zone remains. They cannot convince the American public to disgorge the blood and treasure necessary to permanently occupy basically moderate Muslim countries ruled by co-existers, because they simply are not threatening enough.
But it’s a different story once you erase the gray zones. Once you rip those countries apart into warring fragments, turning them into jihadi-infested, terrorism-emanating, refugee-spewing hellholes. And once the terrorists, Western governments, and terror-amplifying media together whip the Western public into a frenzy over what is still (in spite of all our governments’ terrorism-cultivating efforts) a vastly overblown menace.
Then, “we have no choice.” Suddenly the exigencies of the situation demand total war. Suddenly we need American tanks and American boys and girls stationed throughout the Muslim world and patrolling its streets and raiding its homes forever. Suddenly we need a Western occupation of the Greater Middle East as permanent, pervasive, and ruthless as the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Of course the military budget will have to skyrocket and remain stratospheric forever in order to pay for all of this. So much the better for the military industrial complex.
And of course the colonial governments and their connected corporations will have to commandeer the natural resources of the occupied lands. Wouldn’t want them falling into terrorist hands after all. And it’s only right that the benighted locals pay us back for our “benevolent global hegemony.”
And with our very survival on the line, we cannot domestically have the seditious dissent of disgusting “terrorist-lovers” imperiling the all-important war effort. So an all-encompassing police state will be the order of the day: speech codes, restrictions on assembly, an even greater militarization of the police, more checkpoints, regular city-wide lockdowns, a cyber-ministry of truth, and a global cyber-panopticon. Remember, “we have no choice.”
To hell with that. We do have a choice. We can choose right now to stand athwart this march toward total war and totalitarianism and bellow “Stop!” We can choose not to give in to despair. We can choose to use the relatively free internet, while we still have it, to wake up as many people up as we can. Even as the terrorists and hate-mongers on both sides eat away at civilization — even as the gray zones give way to encroaching darkness — no matter how bleak things seem, we can always choose hope, human decency, and action.
This article was originally published at Antiwar.com.
Recently Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that all military jobs would be open to women, including the most dangerous combat jobs. Some have hailed it as a victory for equal rights and are even calling for women to be eligible for the draft. Are they missing the point?
By Ron Paul
Sadly, I don't see much to be gained from President Obama's speech from last night on gun control and ISIS. We're now apparently involved in a war that both Republicans and Democrats don't see and end to. Perpetual war is a sure-fire prescription for government to continue to erode and take away our liberties.
The major liberty that President Obama attacked last night is a person's right to defend himself with a gun. The President was slightly deceitful when he said the following words: "What can be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?" He argued that a person on a no-fly list should be banned from buying a gun.
However, just think of all the errors that are on the government's no-fly list. There aren't just a couple of dozen mistakes, but probably thousands of people that are erroneously on the list. Ironically, there are a significant number of employees from the Department of Homeland Security that are on the no-fly list. That shows the stupidity of the argument right there.
As a matter of fact, in 2007 the government admitted that there were 10,000 names that were on the no-fly list that didn't belong there. A bureaucrat can, for political reasons, add people to the no-fly list. Political opponents could be added to the list and have their second amendment rights abolished in one fell swoop if President Obama were to get his way on this issue. Keep in mind that even though people are wrongly put on the list, they have a very difficult time getting their names off of it.
Unfortunately, at the root of the problem, there is still no consensus to change our foreign policy to one of non-interventionism and peace. If you want to control guns, then control the military guns that have killed so many people who have not attacked us. We should be minding our own business, defending this country, and defending our liberties here at home.
The greatest threat to us right now is the undermining of our liberties. That threat is domestic, and it's much greater than any entity that seeks to come into this country to attack us.
President Obama delivered an address last night on recent attacks in San Bernardino and his plan to fight terrorism. We are exceptional, he reminded us, but we must not give in to fear. Meanwhile he announced several proposals that would further deprive us of our civil liberties and further enrage people overseas.
By Ron Paul
A little-noticed provision in the highway funding bill Congress passed this week threatens a right most Americans take for granted: the right to travel abroad. The provision in question gives the Internal Revenue Service the authority to revoke the passport of anyone the IRS claims owes more than $50,000 in back taxes.
Congress is giving the IRS this new power because a decline in gas tax receipts has bankrupted the federal highway trust fund. Of course, Congress would rather squeeze more money from the American people than reduce spending, repeal costly regulations, or return responsibility for highway construction to the states, local governments, and the private sector. On the other hand, most in Congress fear the political consequences of raising gas, or other, taxes. Giving the IRS new powers allows politicians to increase government revenue without having to increase tax rates. Some even brag about how they are “cracking down on tax cheats.”
Pro-IRS politicians ignore how this new power will punish Americans who have actually paid all the taxes they are legally obligated to pay. This is because the provision does not provide taxpayers an opportunity to challenge a finding that they owe back taxes in federal court before their passport is revoked. Because IRS employees are not infallible, it is inevitable that many Americans will lose their right to travel because of a bureaucrat’s mistake.
It is particularly odd that a Republican Congress would give this type of power to the IRS considering the continuing outrage over IRS targeting of “Tea Party” organizations. This is hardly the first time the IRS has been used to intimidate its opponents and/or powerful politicians. Presidents of both parties have used the IRS to target political enemies.
For example, one of the articles of impeachment brought against Richard Nixon dealt with his attempt to have the IRS audit those Nixon perceived as political enemies. During the 1990s, an IRS agent allegedly told the head of an organization supporting then-President Bill Clinton's impeachment, “What do you expect when you target the President?” Can anyone doubt that some Americans will be targeted because an IRS bureaucrat does not approve of their political beliefs and activities?
Some support giving the IRS new powers because they think that those who underpay their taxes somehow raise everyone else’s taxes. This argument assumes that the federal government must collect the maximum amount of taxes because the people cannot do without big government. Of course the truth is that the people would be better off without the welfare-warfare state. Wouldn't we be better off without a national health care program that increases health care costs, or without a war on terrorism that led to the rise of ISIS? Freeing the people from taxation, including the regressive and hidden inflation tax, is just one of the many ways the people will benefit from restoring constitutionally limited government.
As the federal debt increases and the American economy declines, an increasingly desperate Congress will look for new ways to squeeze more revue from taxpayers. Thus, the IRS will increasingly gain new and ever more tyrannical powers over Americans, including new restrictions on the right to travel or even move capital out of the country. The only way to end the IRS's assault on our liberties is for the people to force Congress to stop looking for new ways to pick our pockets, and instead usher in a new era of liberty, peace, and prosperity by demolishing the welfare-warfare state.
By Ron Paul
Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of Dr. Paul's latest speech that can also be viewed on The Ron Paul Liberty Report.
The credibility of all American politicians now requires acknowledging that America is engaged in a great war for survival – “the war against Islam.” Fear of “radical Islamic terrorists” requires our undivided attention. We’re to believe that the ugly and vicious violence of a very small percentage of the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world, without an army, navy, or air force, is on the verge of engulfing America and Western civilization. The claim is that the Western concept of Christianity, liberty, and free markets is threatened. If this is so, it speaks more about the weak support for these values than for the strength of a small group claiming to speak for all of Islam. It may not make much sense, but it provokes the fear required for war-mongering.
The popular belief that a gigantic clash of civilizations explains today’s conditions fits well into the propaganda efforts of the neocon inspired American Empire. One cannot deny that a group exists that associates itself with Islam and preaches violence in combination with extreme religious beliefs. Al Qaeda and ISIS do exist. Claiming that they alone are responsible for the great “clash” is purposely misleading. That misunderstanding is required by Western propagandists to gain public support for their wars in the Middle East, and for a continuation of the American Empire. Unfortunately, so far it has worked pretty well.
Fear is the tool used to galvanize a people into supporting war while sacrificing liberty. Exaggerations and propping up groups who falsely claim to represent 99 percent of Muslims, serves the interests of those in the West who want the clash of civilizations for their own selfish purposes. Current US and Western support for ISIS in Syria, even though it’s denied, is designed to remove Assad. This policy is in the tradition of our foreign policy of recent decades. Aligning ourselves with the creation of Hamas and the mujahedin (Taliban) is well documented.
The emphasis on a clash of civilizations is more about ruthless pragmatism than it is of a great battle of two civilizations. Promoters of war must first find or create an enemy to demonize in order to gain the people’s support for stupid and illegal preemptive wars. The Iraq war was built on lies and fear-mongering. US leaders, prodded by the neoconservatives, continue to propagandize for a “crusade” against Islam in order to justify rearranging the Middle East according to their desires. Disregarding all previous failures in this effort is not a problem if the people can be convinced that the enemy is grotesque and threatening our way of life.
It’s strange, but 130 people killed in Paris has served the purpose of throwing reason to the wind, and the majority of Americans have become anxious for a showdown with Islam no matter how many lies have to be told and people killed.
If what is said by the neoconservatives about Islam is true, nuking Indonesia would seem logical. Two hundred and three million Muslims could be wiped out rather quickly. What many fail to admit is that ISIS deliberately manipulates Islam to inspire violence by some, which helps them gain recruits for their cause. This is not a reflection of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. It’s like claiming that the KKK represents sound Christian theology. Many evangelical Christians support preemptive war in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean that Christians must give up the notion that, as Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.”
Both sides of this huge so-called clash of two civilizations benefit from allowing fringe elements of both religious cultures to support the hypothesis. Both sides need the fear associated with a clash of civilizations to motivate the masses to fight a war that Western leaders have initiated. It may be a hoax, but such a war is still very dangerous and can easily spin out of control.
The death of 4 million Muslims in the Middle East over the last 14 years, since Western foreigners moved in, has rearranged the political power structure of the region. This cannot be ignored. The deliberate killing of innocent civilians and retaliation lays claim to the reality of a clash of civilizations rhetoric.
The US can’t be serious in this clash of civilizations, which is used to radicalize both sides. Our ally Turkey playing games with ISIS hardly convinces us that ISIS will bring our civilization to its knees and destroy our way of life. The United States is a loyal supporter of Saudi Arabia, a nation noted for its ruthless enforcement of Sharia law. This hardly suggests our political leaders are at war with Islam. The neoconservatives, perpetrators of the clash of civilizations rhetoric and a war against Islam, aren’t advocating bombing Saudi Arabia even with evidence of their involvement in 9/11 and the recent shootings in California.
Our foreign policy makers, both Republicans and Democrats, remain obsessed with overthrowing another secular Muslim country: Syria. That policy did not work out well in Iraq and elsewhere, and so far it has only made the Middle East an ever more dangerous place. The harder we work at remaking the Middle East, the worse the conditions become, with an ever stronger and more dangerous Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The more violent our military response is to ISIS, the easier it is for more jihadists to be recruited to its cause. And the greater the violence and political demagoguery, the more gullible Americans join the ranks of supporters for expanding this so-called “holy” war.
Republicans have a knee-jerk explanation for the violence in the Middle East which is now spreading into Europe: It’s simply “Obama’s fault.” He hasn’t killed enough Muslims fast enough. It may not be the “clash of civilizations” that many describe, but Islamic terrorism confronts a Western crusade against Islam inspired by radical minorities on each side. Neocon radicals are the greatest domestic threat to liberty here at home -- not foreign invaders.
Many Americans fervently believe that our policies represent “American exceptionalism” -- democracy, freedom, generosity, and a willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of mankind. They accept the notion that we have a responsibility as the world’s policeman to thwart evil. The recipients of our “largesse” and interventions don’t see it that way. They understand exactly what encroachment of empire means to them. It is understood that our presence has nothing to do with spreading humanitarian American goodness and values. Instead, the people of the region see us as invaders: stealing their oil, while corrupting and bribing puppet dictators to serve our interests. The response should never surprise us. Blowback and unintended consequences should be easily understood and anticipated.
The answer we get from those most angry with our plunder and killing comes in the form of inspired radical Islamism that pretends it speaks for all of Islam. The radicals of neither side really speak for a “civilization.”
The influence and profiteering of the military-industrial complex is never criticized by the neocons. Never do we hear an honest debate by the politicians regarding the immorality of the Bush/Cheney doctrine of pre-emptive war that was soundly repudiated in the 2008 election. Memories are short, and demagoguery is a team sport by politicians.
Transparency -- and a little history -- should convince the people that the clash of civilizations rhetoric is only war propaganda. The idea of the clash of civilizations is not new or unique. Samuel Huntington responded to Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 book “The End of History,” and addressed this issue. Huntington was allied with neoconservative guru Bernard Lewis and the American Enterprise Institute. The origin of this recent use of the term should tip one off as to the motivation for popularizing the idea of the “ clash of civilizations.”
Huntington, in his 1996 book “The clash of civilizations,” encourages the notion that Western Christian civilization is destined to be in conflict with the Muslim world of the Middle East. Almost at the same time, in 1997, the neocons released their plan “For a New American Century.” Philosophical support for the war between the East and the West was especially helpful to the neocons after 9/11. It served to deflect any consideration of blowback being a contributing factor to the attack on the US on September 11th. Our instigators for war and empire have worked diligently to place the blame for the violence in the Middle East on Islam itself, with which we are now said to be at war. To suggest anything else today is “blasphemous” to the concept of “American Exceptionalism.”
Huntington’s thesis is that ideology and economic conditions are no longer important in world conflicts. That age, he claims, has ended. The world is now moving back, according to Huntington, to a more “normal” state of cultural and religious conflicts and away from state versus state in conventional war.
But it’s not quite so simple. Diminishing the importance of the state should always be helpful since less big wars and central powers would result. But that’s not their plan. World government is what the neocons and many other world leaders seek.
Espousing correct ideology and real economic understanding are the only answers to unwise cultural and religious clashes, or clashes between various governments. My sense is that although most wars have many components to them, economic conditions are always important. A healthy economy usually results from a decent respect for economic liberty, and establishing conditions that encourage peace over war. International trade diminishes prospects for war as well. Inflation and hunger encourages civil strife and violent overthrow of incompetent governments.
The argument that cultural and religious wars occur when there is an absence of an ideology and economic policy is not a reasonable explanation. It’s my opinion that ideas and economic conditions override cultural and religious differences. When economic conditions deteriorate and cultural differences arise, religious beliefs are used to mobilize people to hate and start killing each other.
Economic ideas that encourage empire-building and resentment are what hurts the economy and encourages war. Instead of understanding how free markets, sound money, property rights, and civil liberties lead to prosperity and peace, the explanation is that the ensuing wars are explained by a “ clash of civilizations” stirred up by racial tensions and religious differences. This is something that always ends badly.
Here is the sequence: First, it’s the powerful financial interests that initiate empire building and control of natural resources. Second, the people’s response is to resist, and the occupying forces compensate by establishing puppet dictators to keep the peace by force. Third, when resistance builds, preemptive war is used to circumvent national and international restraints on initiating wars. Fourth, both sides develop reactionary groups, motivated by anger, cultural, and religious differences, and a desire to expel the foreign groups that occupied their land.
Today in the Middle East it’s the various uprisings over economic conditions, plus other concerns, that prompt a struggle to push governments to reflect the people desires rather than the dictates of foreign occupiers and their stooges. Witness the growth of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups that currently saturate the entire Middle East.
In the United States, the “ clash of civilizations” is manifested by a contrived anger directed toward Islam, immigrants, and a worsening of wealth inequality. The latter results from a flawed economic policy and an ideology of entitlements.
Nearly everyone senses that there is grave danger on the horizon. This leads to an aggressive populism with an appeal to a broad spectrum of society. Note that numerous black ministers now claim they support billionaire Donald Trump’s promise of making everything right with America, delivered with an authoritarian confidence that the people welcome – a bit unusual for a Republican candidate for president.
This is a perfect set up for a clash between ISIS, inspired by a group of radical Islamists, and a tough and energetic populism promoted by Donald Trump. The ideology that encourages the use of force is engulfing the world and many are anxious to bring on the clash of civilizations for their own selfish purposes. Rough days are ahead, but ending an era of bad economic policy and lack of respect for liberty opens the door for the growing interest and understanding of liberty by a new generation. Voluntarism is far superior to the authoritarianism offered to the world today.
What seems to be support for constant escalating wars can all be reduced by replacing the bad policies of state-ism with a simple and easily understood philosophical principle: “The rejection of all aggression as a method for individuals or governments to alter society.” In spite of the chaos the world is now facing, the solution is not complex. As the state entities continue to fail, a little common sense could go a long way in advancing the cause of liberty, peace and prosperity.