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Biden and Allies Continue to Put Iran in the Crosshairs

In addition to escalating brinkmanship with Russia and China, President Joe Biden’s administration is flirting with war against Iran. The clearest evidence of this includes the ever expanding “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, as well as the development of a U.S.-led, NATO style alliance encircling Iran. There is also ample support for Israel’s incessant drone strikes, assassinations, and ceaseless bombings of allegedly Iranian targets in Syria.

Last month, Biden traveled to the region to publicly genuflect before the rulers of America’s cherished Gulf tyrannies and apartheid Israel. The aforementioned burgeoning alliance topped his agenda.

In May, Tel Aviv’s U.S. taxpayer subsidized military murdered Shireen Abu Akleh, a world renowned Al Jazeera journalist, a Palestinian Christian, and American citizen. During a raid on the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot her in the face while she was wearing a press vest. They also attacked her funeral procession, attempting to knock her casket to the ground while mourners were carrying it.

But Biden, “Israel’s man in Washington,” got off the plane at Ben Gurion airport and said our bilateral relationship is “bone-deep.” And speaking for the “vast majority” of Americans, he stated emphatically we are “completely devoted to Israel’s security without any ifs, ands, or buts—without any doubts about it.”

He went on to sign a joint declaration with acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid committing the U.S. to use all of its “national power” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

During an interview ahead of his Israel visit, Biden said he would use force, threatening war against Iran “as a last resort.” It is not enough for the Israelis, they demand an “offensive” and “credible” military threat against Iran. Lapid called it “the real thing.”

Biden refuses to lift the necessary sanctions to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal, which means at least the brutal economic war on Iran will persist in perpetuity. This week, Biden levied fresh sanctions on Iran. Biden’s issuance of sanctions has become more frequent in recent months and ever since the other members of the P5+1 began approaching a finalized deal.

As Dave DeCamp, news editor at Antiwar.com, reported,

The U.S. on Monday issued fresh sanctions against Iran meant to target the Islamic Republic’s oil and petrochemical sales to East Asia.

The new sanctions targeted three Chinese firms and one UAE firm accused of doing business with the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industry Commercial Co. (PGPICC), which the U.S. Treasury Department says is one of Iran’s largest petrochemical brokers.

According to the Treasury Department, PGPICC facilitated the “sale of tens of millions of dollars worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia” through the firms that were hit with sanctions.

The sanctions are the latest sign that the Biden administration is not serious about reviving the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked if the U.S. was ready to return to JCPOA, but he sidestepped the questions and put the responsibility on Iran.

Donald Trump and Biden’s “maximum pressure” campaign has led to 40-50% inflation rates and medical shortages. Washington has deliberately suffocated the Iranian people, almost half of whom live below the poverty line.

Last year, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Biden his “strategic vision” for Iran was “death by a thousand cuts,” or myriad military and diplomatic attacks, as well as clandestine attacks, “the gray-area stuff.” Bennett went on to demand U.S. troops remain indefinitely in both Syria and Iraq.

But the decades of lies and unsubstantiated assertions by hawks about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons may remain a useable casus belli. Americans aware of Israel’s arsenal, which includes 200 or more nuclear weapons and makes U.S. aid illegal, are considerably outnumbered statistically by those who falsely believe Iran has the bomb. The Iranians have never sought nuclear arms, and they recently reiterated twice that they have the technical capability but, despite their encirclement, Tehran has chosen not to take this course. The development of such weapons is haram under Islamic law, forbidden by the Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwah.

However, this was never about the phony threat of Iran nuking Israel. The Iranians’ latent threat is unacceptable for Tel Aviv because it may finally restrict the Israelis’ ability to attack their neighbors with impunity, the way they bomb Syria every week.

In the book Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, Scott Horton, the Libertarian Institute’s Director, explains,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his then-defense minister, the former prime minister Ehud Barak, admitted in 2010 that even if Iran were hypothetically to gain atomic weapons, the Israelis were not afraid the Ayatollah would attack them in a first strike, as they constantly tell the public. Instead they were merely concerned that it would limit their “freedom of action” against other regional adversaries, such as Hezbollah, and could cause a “brain drain” of talented young Israelis to the United States. Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the New York Times that, “Just as Pakistan had the bomb and nothing happened, Israel could also accept and survive Iran having the bomb.” Former Clinton administration State Department official Jamie Rubin also explained in Foreign Policy that the problem was never an Israeli fear of a first strike by Iran, but “Israel’s real fear – losing its nuclear monopoly and therefore the ability to use its conventional forces at will throughout the Middle East – is the unacknowledged factor driving its decision-making toward the Islamic Republic.”

Horton continues quoting Rubin,

[F]or Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. It’s the fact that Iran doesn’t even need to test a nuclear weapon to undermine Israeli military leverage in Lebanon and Syria.

Earlier this year, the Israelis simulated a massive bombing campaign over Iran, with a series of repeated airstrikes against the Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. The drills took place over the Mediterranean Sea, spanned over 10,000 kilometers, and saw more than 100 military aircraft and navy submarines participating.

These simulations capped off a month long military exercise called Chariots of Fire which practiced for war with Iran and other contingencies. The U.S. General overseeing Central Command was in attendance. The IDF’s chief of staff has now announced the Israeli military’s primary focus is preparing an attack on Iran. In the Red Sea, the U.S. and Israel are now conducting joint war drills.

The Iran situation is another deadly indication that presidents and administrations may change, but the overall foreign policy agenda does not. Apparently, it only gets worse. The U.S. empire is in decline and the American people feel it. But the neocons and their liberal interventionist partners are holding onto their dream of a “Unipolar Moment.”

As the world adjusts to a multipolar world order, the U.S. foreign policy establishment, left and right, has picked fights with its enemies, not ours.

Americans’ only enemy is our own ruling class who would drag us into wars (proxy wars or otherwise), including with nuclear armed world powers to fulfill their desires to violently dominate the planet, funneling trillions of our dollars into the military-industrial complex. This establishment’s geopolitical and monetary schemes are destroying our nation’s future.  As the Ron Paul Institute’s Daniel McAdams recently said, “[American] foreign policy is the FED with nukes.”

We have been stuck with a bill for more than $10 trillion after more than 20 years of war and killing in the Middle East, with millions dead and tens of thousands of soldiers committing suicide. It is long past time Americans put their foot down.

We have a choice. Do we want to continue gambling on the apocalypse, fighting wars with Iran, Russia, and China in memory of the disgraced neocon Charles Krauthammer’s “Unipolar Moment?”

Or should we pursue “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none?”

The answer should be obvious.

After a National Divorce, Where Does the Debt Go?

The topic of secession has become increasing more common in recent years as various regions and minority populations (e.g., California and Texas) has openly suggested breaking away from the United States. The idea is forwarded with varying levels of seriousness, but the fact that talk of secession is increasingly done openly and repeatedly suggests increasing strength for what the political scientists call “centrifugal” forces. That is, cultural and political trends increasingly point toward growing separation and away from increased union.

But even those willing to entertain the idea of national separation will bring up many practical questions about how such a separation would actually take place. One of the most common questions among these people is: what happens to the government’s debts in case of secession?

Fortunately, there are some historical examples that help shed some light on what does happen to debts following national break-ups. In most cases, what happens to the debt comes down to negotiations among successor states. The ideal model in these cases is probably the Czech-Slovak separation in 1992. But other examples exist as well, as in the post-Soviet states and in Latin America.

In many of these cases, what happens to the debts depends not only on negotiations between the successor states, but also on negotiations with the third-party states who see themselves as representing a large number of creditors hoping to get their money back. That is, third-party regimes often intervene in secession disputes to pursue arrangements that will increase the odds of repayments of at least a sizable portion of the debt in question.

But sometimes negotiations don’t go very far, and successor states—and their supporters—are sometimes simply willing to pay the economic price of separation without a clear debt plan in place.

In any case, experience shows that in spite of debt-repayment being a concern in these cases, national separations can happen and do happen, often without a need for repudiation of existing debts.

Dividing up the Debt

A decade after gaining de facto independence from Spain, Great Colombia began to split up into three smaller countries: Venezuela, Ecuador, and New Granada. Bondholders primarily pursued the repayment of debts from New Granada, but the New Granada regime refused to take on the full burden of Great Colombia’s old debts. As part of an effort to gain diplomatic recognition from Britain, all three countries agreed to an apportionment of debt obligations proportional to the populations of the successor states.1Beatriz Armendariz de Aghion and John Williamson, “The G-7’s Joint-and-Several Blunder,” Essays in International Finance, No. 189, April 1993, Princeton University Press. p. 2. The debt was not repudiated although it was renegotiated on more than one occasion.

The same “population principle” was again accepted in the aftermath of the breakup of the Central American Federation. Consisting of what is now Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, the Federation broke up in 1840. External debt—much of it owed to British creditors—was divided proportionally to population in each new republic in return to British recognition of the new states’ sovereignty.2Ibid., p. 4.

But the population principle has not always been used, and in some cases external debt is taken over entirely by only one party. This is known as the “zero-option” formula. This was true for Colombia which took on all external debt when Panama seceded in 1903, and it was the case when Pakistan retained external debts in the midst of Bangladesh’s secession in 1971.3Ibid., p. 2.

Other examples of lopsided debt allocation can be found in numerous cases of generally peaceful secession for purposes of decolonization in Africa. In these cases, former colonies seceded, but were not expected to take on a share of the debt owed by the “mother country.”

Post-Soviet Secession

Om December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union legally ceased to exist. In its wake were 15 new independent states, the largest of which were Ukraine and Russia. Naturally, many creditors who had loaned money to the USSR still wanted repayment—from someone. This led to a series of negotiations in which the states of the G-7 essentially imposed a repayment system on the new independent states, based on the so-called joint-and-several formula. Beatriz Armendariz de Aghion and John Williamson explain how it was supposed to work:

The joint-and-several formula imposed on the Soviet successor states was … a novelty in the context of international debt. Indeed, it is an idea drawn from the very different world of domestic loans made jointly to several partners. In domestic loan contracts, lawyers include the joint-and-several provision to increase the assurance that a loan to multiple partners will be serviced on schedule: the inability of any one partner to pay its share will be offset by additional payments by the others; the lender will suffer no loss as long as at least one of the debtors remains solvent and liquid. Because there is increased assurance of repayments, the loan is presumably made on finer terms than the lender would otherwise concede.4Ibid., p. 11.

For a variety of reasons outlined by the authors, the joint-and-several idea was a “blunder” and it failed. None of the new states other than Russia paid any debt service under the scheme. In the end, the new Russian Federation ended up offering the zero option. The Russian regime volunteered to take on all the debts of all the successor states in exchange for control of all external Soviet assets such as gold and foreign exchange, real estate including as embassies, and the USSR’s loan portfolio. Ukraine, however, argued in favor of taking on a share of the debt itself “in order to demonstrate its sovereignty in the area of international finance.” The Russian state finally paid off its Soviet debt in 2017.

The Czech-Slovak Split 

Perhaps the “ideal” case of a national split is the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, which was a case of a “highly integrated” federal state peacefully negotiating a separation into two new sovereign states.5Robert Young, The Breakup of Czechoslovakia (Kingston, ON: Queen’s University, 1994) p. v. Although negotiations were often tense, both sides did eventually agree to a plan of dividing assets and debts “generally based on relative population and location.” That is debts were allocated based largely on a 2:1 ratio with Czechs being the more populous group. However, many aspects of the negotiations were problematic. Both Czech and Slovak activists contended they were being exploited by the other side. The Slovaks, who were outnumbered by the wealthier Czechs often felt the Czechs received an unfair advantage from the fact the assets of the outgoing federation tended to be concentrated in Czech areas. Ultimately, however, negotiations were concluded peacefully.

Politics Often Trump Economics in Negotiations

The downside of national separation has long been the usual problem of political and economic uncertainty: it tends to drive up lending costs and drive down investment due to investor reluctance to put money in jurisdictions with an uncertain political future.6Dane Rowlands, “International Aspects of the Division of Debt Under Secession: The Case of Quebec and Canada,” Canadian Public Policy, Vol. XXIII, No. 1 1997.  Empirical studies in secession movements suggest that seceding areas often face a short-term flight of capital as investors hold back to see how things turn out.7Tim Sablik, “The Secession Question,” Econ Focus, First Quarter, 2015, p. Claims by unionist activists that separation would be disastrous for local finances were employed, for example, in arguments against Quebecois secession in Canada and against Brexit in the UK. Indeed, some research shows that investment fell in Quebec even as secession was merely contemplated—out of fear the region would lose direct access to the larger Canadian economy.

Separation can bring a “secession dividend” in some cases, however. Estonia and Lithuania have clearly benefitted economically from their separation from the Soviet Union. Their economies consistently outpace that of Russia. The United States—itself a product of (a very disorderly case of) secession—has often enjoyed an economy that has outpaced the United Kingdom in terms of economic growth and development. Both Czechia’s and Slovakia’s economies recovered from their initial post-separation recessions within five years.

Any financial costs of separation must also be viewed in light of what internal political instability, injustice, or violence that might occur if political union continues. Yet, it must be admitted that separations and national dissolution do come with financial costs, especially in the short term.

Not all costs and benefits of changes to regimes and political institutions can be counted in monetary terms, however. Separatists often know that separation comes with costs, but proceed anyway to pursue the psychic benefits of self-determination and the possibility of future improved economic improvement beyond the near term. This is clearly often true in cases of national liberation as occurred in the post-Soviet Baltics and throughout the decolonization processes in the Americas and in Africa. Sometimes the gamble has paid off financially. Sometimes not so much.

Even in the Czech-Slovak split, separatists appeared prepared to accept that the separation might bring significant economic costs. As Robert Young notes in his study of the split, as time went on, the idea of national separation became more and more of a fait accompli in the minds of citizens—regardless of possible economic consequences. What began as a tentative move toward separation thus took on a life of its own and after a time “the choice was no longer between splitting up and staying together but between the orderly and disorderly dissolution of the country.”8Young, The Breakup of Czechoslovakia, p. 56. In other words, once Czech and Slovak nationalists—a growing portion of the population at the time—made up their minds that separation would happen, the details of dividing up debts and assets in an orderly way became simply a best-case scenario rather than a precondition for separation. As Young put it “On matters where agreement was impossible…[the Czech government was] prepared to accept impasse and to deal themselves with the repercussions.”9Ibid., p. 64.

The lesson here is that fears over the financial cost of not having every aspect of debt repayment squared away is not necessarily an impediment to national separation. Other political considerations may simply relegate that concern to the back seat. Economists and financiers often like to think they have the most convincing and compelling arguments, but this is often not the case. In many cases, however, post-secession successor states are indeed willing to negotiate terms for debt repayment. This is often done in hopes of speeding international recognition for new regimes, and in hope of establishing the new states as reliable places for new investment. National divorce does happen, and debts are not necessarily repudiated as a result.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

Did the Syrian Revolution Have Popular Support?

In the mainstream view, the armed groups fighting the Syrian government since 2011, collectively known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), were part of a Syrian revolution that represented the Syrian people. At the same time, the Syrian government, or Assad regime, allegedly represented only a small number of loyalists, in particular from President Assad’s minority Alawite community. Such a view undergirded demands by Western and Gulf-funded think tank scholars, who claimed that the Syrian people wished for FSA groups to be armed, and even for Western military intervention on behalf of the FSA, whose fighters they sympathetically described as rebels.

For example, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution claimed in February 2012 that “…we find ourselves in an odd but increasingly common situation, where Syrians themselves are more enthusiastic about foreign military intervention than Americans are. It is, in this sense, the reverse of Iraq, which was rightly seen by many as a tragic Western imposition.”

However, there is no evidence that the FSA ever enjoyed significant popular support among Syrians, including among Syria’s Sunni community, the FSA’s presumed demographic base. Instead, Syrians broadly feared the FSA groups, which invaded town after town and city after city over the course of the war.

Syrians widely hated and feared the so-called rebels because, contrary to the mainstream narrative, the armed groups comprising the FSA were not secular and democratic, nor comprised primarily of army defectors. As I have shown elsewhere, the early earliest and strongest FSA factions were primarily comprised of civilians-turned-fighters from Syria’s Salafist community, which in turn served as auxiliaries for foreign jihadist groups, namely the al-Qaeda offshoots of the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, and ISIS.

Once the Salafist orientation of the early FSA groups is acknowledged, this helps explain why Syria’s armed opposition groups enjoyed such little popular support from the civilians they claimed to want to liberate from Assad’s rule. The Salafist orientation of the major FSA groups, with its religious intolerance and sectarian motivated hatred of religious minorities, was simply at odds with Syrian culture broadly, including Syrian Muslim religious culture, which was largely Sufi in orientation. Only through massive military and financial support from the U.S., Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey, was the FSA, along with the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, able to pose a serious threat to the Syrian army and government.

In the remainder of this essay, I discuss the evidence showing that most Syrians rejected the FSA, and in turn either wished to remain neutral in the conflict or supported the Syrian government in combating the foreign-sponsored Salafist insurgency that plunged Syria into chaos starting in 2011.

The Spread of Black Flags

The first reason Syrians broadly rejected the FSA is an intuitive one, namely that Syrians living in a stable, religiously tolerant society simply feared the sectarian Salafist armed groups invading their towns and cities. Acknowledging this, opposition supporter and prominent al-Jazeera contributor Azmi Bishara wrote in 2013 that, “Islamic jihadist groups were part of the Free Army” and that their “presence aroused significant fear among Syrians,” due to the “spread of black Islamic flags making reference to al-Qaeda, and the appearance of religious sharia courts.”

That Syrians broadly feared the FSA is also not surprising given the brutal tactics used by these groups. Writing for al-Quds al-Arabi, journalist Wael Essam notes that, “Many believe that what distinguishes ISIS is the role of foreign jihadists and the practices of its extremist elements in beheading, for example,” however, “the moderate Islamic factions and the Free Army carry out many similar practices…but the difference is advertising.”

While most Syrians are religious, the majority are of course not sectarian religious extremists. They therefore did not want the FSA invading their towns and cities and raising the black flag of al-Qaeda, as quickly happened after a coalition of so-called rebel groups, including FSA brigades, Ahrar al-Sham, and the Nusra Front captured Raqqa, the first provincial capital to come fully under opposition control during the war, in March 2013.

“It Has Always Been That Way”

The case of Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, clearly indicates that the FSA did not enjoy broad popular support. The FSA and Nusra Front invaded Aleppo in July 2012. The beginning of the campaign to capture the city was announced by prominent FSA leader Abdel Qadar al-Saleh in a video alongside a Nusra commander.

After the invasion, an FSA commander acknowledged to The Guardian that, “Yes it’s true…Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them.” Journalist Rania Abouzeid, who reported from on the ground in Syria for years, wrote that what she called the revolution, “had devolved into anarchy,” and that “Perhaps nowhere was the chaos more evident than in the great northern metropolis of Aleppo,” which was “dragged into the uprising in July 2012 like a hostage” by men who “weren’t welcomed by locals—men with little camaraderie, undisciplined groups, some of which looted the homes of civilians they claimed to be protecting.”

Additionally, if the FSA groups invading Aleppo had enjoyed broad popular support, their fighters would have largely come from the most populated cities in Syria. Instead, most came from the less populated countryside. For example, Abouzeid noted in December 2012 that, “At the same time as announcing plans for an Islamic state in Aleppo, Jabhat al-Nusra has begun undertaking relief efforts in the neighborhoods of the city it is based in, seeking a stronger foothold in the local community, even though paradoxically like many rebel groups operating in Aleppo, its fighters are largely not from the city.”

Given the poverty prevalent in the Syrian countryside, many young men joined FSA groups for financial as much as ideological reasons. Funding from Salafist networks and intelligence agencies in the Gulf created the demand for the formation of armed groups to fight the government, whose demand was filled by entrepreneurs-cum-warlords. This led to many FSA groups in Aleppo becoming notorious for their criminal activities, which damaged the already limited popularity of these groups still further. Syrian journalist Edward Dark noted for example that in Aleppo, “Some rebel groups are no more than organized crime syndicates, opportunistically engaging in kidnapping, extortion and large-scale looting of factories and warehouses. The fact that the ‘good guys’ in the rebels haven’t been able to stop them casts a very dark shadow on all the rebels here.”

Additionally, many insurgents invading Aleppo were not from Syria at all. One Nusra commander in Aleppo told The Washington Post in July 2012 that his men were fighting as part of the FSA’s Liwa al-Tawhid, and that “his contingent included men from Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Lebanon, as well as one Syrian who had fought in Iraq against the Americans.” In August 2012, correspondents from The Guardian also observed seeing anti-government fighters from other parts of the Islamic world, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria and Senegal.

The heavy al-Qaeda presence within the Syrian opposition groups was acknowledged by CIA case officer Douglas Laux, who operated undercover in Syria and observed that as of February 2013, the Syrian opposition was “chock full of al-Qaeda under the banner ISI,” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq, which founded Nusra and which shortly thereafter became ISIS.

Author Nu’man Abd al-Wahid observes that despite the obvious jihadist presence within the FSA, Western-based opposition activist Robin Yassin-Kassab nevertheless bizarrely sought to portray the Salafist invasion and looting of Aleppo as a socialist revolution led by freedom fighters struggling on behalf of Syria’s working class. That FSA fighters were looting Aleppo’s factories, selling the equipment to capitalists in Turkey, and thereby destroying Syria’s industrial base, rather than seizing factories to be owned and managed by Syrian workers, appeared not to concern Yassin-Kassab. Nor was he concerned when FSA groups and Nusra looted Syria’s state-owned oil resources in April 2013, and sought to sign contracts with Western oil firms to export Syria’s oil for their own, rather than the Syrian people’s benefit.

An Alawite Regime?

It is often claimed that the Alawite-dominated Syrian government is waging a war against Syria’s Sunnis, and that therefore the country’s Sunnis universally support the FSA’s fight against the government. Aleppo, however, is a majority Sunni city, and most of its residents nevertheless sided with the government and the Syrian army. This should not be surprising, given that, as Roland Popp of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich observes;

“Asad is by no means the head of a ‘minority regime,’ as is often argued. The religious group of the Alawites (which accounts for about 12 per cent of the population), to which Asad’s family belongs, is certainly over-represented in the country’s leadership and particularly in the officer corps. But this is mainly due to a system of rule which is based on patronage and clientelism. The large majority of Alawites has hardly benefited from Asad’s rule at all. Indeed, important parts of the Sunni-Arab majority, who make up about two-thirds of the population, have been integrated into the Asad system and constitute an important part of the economic elites in the country’s major cities. Asad will strive to keep at least parts of these groups on his side, although this is becoming increasingly difficult as the fighting spreads to the country’s economic centres and the sectarian antagonism becomes increasingly aggravated.”

Falsely casting the conflict as between Alawites on the one hand, and all of Syria’s Sunnis on the other, was a deliberate strategy employed by the opposition in the hope of encouraging Sunni Syrian soldiers to defect from the army. Popp notes further that, “Some rebels believe that by recasting the conflict as a sectarian antagonism between the Sunni majority and pro-regime minorities—which include not only Alawites, but also Christians, Ismailis, and Druze—they can accelerate the disintegration of the armed forces.” Stoking a sectarian civil was therefore to the advantage of the opposition, not the Syrian government, as is often claimed. It is also consistent with a Salafist worldview, with its sectarianism dating back to the thought of the medieval theological innovator, Ibn Taymiyyah.

Such an outcome, a Sunni-Alawite civil war and the collapse of the Syrian state and army, was viewed positively by elements of the Israeli intelligence community, because such a scenario would “obstruct Iran from its nuclear activities for a good deal of time,” and possibly “even prove to be a factor in the eventual fall of the current government of Iran.” The desire to weaken Iran explains in part why not only Israeli, but also U.S. planners supported the Syrian opposition, of which al-Qaeda constituted “a big chunk,” as acknowledged by Barack Obama’s deputy national security advisor, Ben Rhodes.

“They Know What They Don’t Want”

Fear of the Salafist-dominated FSA groups meant that many Syrians critical of the government and hopeful of reforms therefore had no choice but to support the government and look to the Syrian army for protection once the prospect of heavily armed Salafist armed groups invading their cities, towns, and villages became clear.

For example, Robert F. Worth of The New York Times quoted one Aleppo resident as explaining why he no longer considers himself a member of the opposition: “No one is 100 percent with the regime, but mostly these people are unified by their resistance to the opposition…They know what they don’t want, not what they want.”

Edward Dark similarly explained that “People here don’t like the regime, but they hate the rebels even more…I, and many other residents of Aleppo saw firsthand how the armed rebels were acting on the ground, and the various crimes and looting they were committing with impunity. Another reason is that there are foreign jihadi fighters with extremist ideologies here. This wasn’t what we revolted for, to replace one group of criminals with another.”

Even those Syrians supportive of the opposition often did not want the FSA in their cities and towns because they knew that the fighting between the FSA and Syrian army would come to them. For example, pro-opposition media outlet Al-Dorar Al-Shamiyya acknowledged that, “At the beginning of the revolution, there were some reservations from the people of Aleppo about the entry of Liwa al-Tawhid [a prominent FSA group] into the city, fearing the response of the strong Syrian regime and its impact on it.” The head of the FSA’s Liwa al-Tawhid, Abd al-Qader al-Saleh, dismissed these fears, and justified the civilian suffering and destruction that resulted from the presence of the FSA in Aleppo. Al-Saleh explained that this was the “price of freedom” required to “liberate” the people “from the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” without stopping to wonder whether the people of Aleppo actually wanted to be liberated, and if so, by him and his U.S. and Gulf-funded Salafist fighters.

Robert Worth also quotes a Syrian engineer from Aleppo who explained, in contrast to al-Saleh, that, “Look, people consider me opposition…But the way I see opposition—it doesn’t mean I must destroy my country and put us back 100 years. That kind of opposition is a betrayal of the country, a betrayal of the ideals I’ve grown up with…Freedom doesn’t come from destroying the country.”

Millions of Syrians of course fled their homes to escape the fighting, whether traveling abroad to become refugees, or to other areas under government control. While the Western and Gulf press continually laid blame for the displacement of civilians solely on the Syrian government, a detailed study carried out by American academics Max Abrahms, Denis Sullivan, and Charles Simpsonare indicates that a large majority of Syrian refugees were “fleeing not only, or primarily, from Assad, but from a complex civil war with multiple belligerents who all pose a threat to the population. The ‘blame-Assad only’ narrative may resonate, but most refugees count him as one of several culprits, alongside the rebels [FSA, Nusra Front] and ISIS.”

This supports the common-sense conclusion that millions of Syrians fled their homes simply to escape the violence, which often came at them from all sides. When the fighting came to their city or town, each family had to make the difficult decision of whether to flee their homes or to remain and hope for the best.

A Duel Victory

And what happened when Syrian government forces finally defeated the Salafist militias, including the Nusra Front and FSA factions, and re-took control of eastern Aleppo in December 2016? Predictably, the majority of civilians in eastern Aleppo welcomed the Syrian army as liberators.

Journalist Tim Ripley of Jane’s Defence Weekly described how during the offensive;

“Social media was soon full of pictures and videos of thousands of civilians coming out of their homes to greet the advancing Syrian troops. The vast majority of the population of this part of the city did not flee with the retreating rebels. A significant chunk—maybe 8,000—opted to head into a nearby Kurdish neighbourhood; but the vast majority appeared to decide to stay put in the territory newly controlled by the Damascus government’s troops.”

Ripley explains further:

“Pictures also emerged of Syrian soldiers guarding groups of cold and sullen-looking young men [captured opposition fighters]. Then a torrent of more civilians began to emerge from their houses. This looked like tens of thousands of people, who were carrying all their worldly possessions. They began to walk out of the city in huge columns towards government- and Russian Army-run refugee shelters. They looked shell-shocked and exhausted but seemed happy to be alive…For Syria’s president, it was a dual victory. Not only had the rebel fighters been driven from the city but the vast majority of the population of the enclave had opted to stay with the government troops. According to ICRC monitors, some 34,000 civilians and rebel fighters had boarded the green buses for the journey to rebel territory around Idlib. Yet in January 2017, the United Nations was reporting that 110,000 civilians from the enclave had gone over to the government side. President Assad also won the battle for the hearts and minds of Aleppo’s citizens.”

Other Western journalists visiting Aleppo after the Syrian government took control largely described how civilians were doing their best to rebuild their lives and return the city to a state of normality. On December 21, 2016, as the last Salafist militants were being evacuated from Aleppo, the Los Angeles Times described a “carnival like atmosphere” as “large crowds had filled the Basel stadium in Aleppo” to attend a celebration of the Syrian government’s victory.

U.S. government-funded Voice of America reported on December 23;

“Hundreds of Syrians returned to Aleppo on Friday to check on their homes after the last rebels left the city Thursday. Residents wrapped in heavy coats crossed into neighborhoods that had recently been dangerous front lines during the battle for Aleppo, sorting through the wreckage for personal belongings. Some of them had not been able to reach their homes for five years.”

Time Magazine reported how Aleppo’s Christians were busy celebrating Christmas in the Saint Elias Cathedral for the first time in five years, and that, “Hundreds of people danced and celebrated in the Azizya neighborhood, where the public Christmas tree had gone unlit since rebels took the eastern half of the city in 2012.” Reuters reported a month later how “Some semblance of normality returned to battle-scarred Aleppo for a few hours on Saturday as local soccer clubs Al Ittihad and Horiyah met in the first derby in the city for five years.”

One Turkish journalist visiting Aleppo after the government recaptured the eastern part of the city suggested that Assad was largely still popular, despite the destruction resulting from the war against the so-called rebels. He quoted a professor from Aleppo University as saying: “I oppose the regime, but I have to admit Assad managed the crisis well. At the moment, we have no alternative to him. If there were an election today, he would get more than 70% of the vote. Of course, my criticism of the regime hasn’t changed. People put their criticisms on the back burner temporarily because they realized the country was about to disintegrate. It wasn’t the right time to settle scores with the regime.”

Such a view was perplexing both to Western observers and to many Syrians long living abroad, who had been subject to a torrent of pro-opposition propaganda in the western press suggesting that Assad was committing horrific crimes, including an effort to commit genocide against Sunnis.

For example, The Washington Post published an op-ed in October 2016 in the run up to the Syrian army’s liberation of the city contending that Syrian and Russian forces were carrying out the “genocide of our time” in Aleppo. In November 2016, The Washington Post published an op-ed which was co-written by Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, which made the claim that “More than 250,000 in Eastern Aleppo could die after the next 20 days” due to “mass starvation and restricted access to lifesaving medical care.” In December 2016, The Daily Beast published an article with a headline claiming that women in eastern Aleppo were choosing “suicide over rape,” and that the Syrian Army was carrying out “mass executions,” and, most fantastically, that children were being “burned alive” by the Syrian Army, based on information solely from a spokesperson from the Salafist militias. These claims, taken seriously by Western observers, could not have been farther from reality.

In contrast, Robert Worth further quotes an Aleppo resident as explaining “Syrians abroad who believe in the revolution would call me and say, ‘We lost Aleppo.’ And I would say, ‘What do you mean?’ It was only a Turkish card guarded by jihadis.” Worth notes further that, “For these exiled Syrians, he said, the specter of Assad’s crimes looms so large that they cannot see anything else. They refuse to acknowledge the realities of a rebellion that is corrupt, brutal, and compromised by foreign sponsors. This is true. Eastern Aleppo may not have been Raqqa, where ISIS advertised its rigid Islamist dystopia and its mass beheadings. But as a symbol of Syria’s future, it was almost as bad: a chaotic wasteland full of feuding militias—some of them radical Islamists—who hoarded food and weapons while the people starved.”

Shilling for Imperialists

The lack of popular support of the FSA, including the foreign jihadists embedded in its ranks, was obscured for many observers by Western and Gulf-funded think tank scholars, who claimed, without evidence, that the “Syrian people” wished for Western military intervention.

As mentioned above, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution claimed in February 2012 that “…Syrians themselves are more enthusiastic about foreign military intervention than Americans are.”

While claiming to speak for Syrians, Hamid provided no evidence that anything nearing a majority of of the population wished for foreign intervention in support of the FSA. He noted only that the Syrian political opposition abroad, which like the FSA was completely dependent on the foreign powers seeking to destroy Syria, had requested it. Hamid writes only that “In December [2011], the Syrian National Council ‘formally endorsed’ foreign intervention. If they formally request military assistance—presumably the next step—we have a moral responsibility to take it seriously.” Such a claim could only be taken as seriously as the suggestion that the Iraqi people had wanted the U.S. military to invade and occupy their country in 2003, simply because the neoconservative stooges from the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by Ahmed Chalabi had demanded it.

Even after the FSA and Nusra invasion of Aleppo had clearly illustrated the so-called rebels had little popular support and were widely feared, pundits like Hamid refused to walk back their pro-FSA advocacy. Instead, Hamid and others simply doubled down.

In September 2013, Hamid argued the Western powers must continue working with the so-called rebels, even though the major original FSA groups had just formed an “Islamic Alliance” which included al-Qaeda (in the form of the Nusra Front) and which Hamid himself acknowledged “would be considered ‘extreme’ by U.S. standards insofar as their commitment to applying sharia law and anti-minority rhetoric are concerned.” Hamid continued to advocate for the so-called rebels despite even the warnings from Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey in the summer of 2013, namely that any Western intervention against the Syrian government would at the same time be an intervention on behalf of al-Qaeda, because Nusra fighters dominated the rebel ranks.

Though Aleppo was liberated in December 2016, large parts of Syria remained “a chaotic wasteland” full of “radical Islamists.” This was particularly true of Idlib province, which had become “al-Qaeda’s largest safe haven since 9/11,” in the words of U.S. official Brett McGurk. Despite this, Hamid refused to show remorse for his advocacy for the al-Qaeda dominated Salafist insurgency, stating in 2022 that he was “extremely proud” of his calls to aid the so-called rebels a decade earlier, and that “subsequent events vindicated the argument” he made at the time.

Hamid’s stealth advocacy for al-Qaeda is not surprising, given that the Brookings Institution for which he worked received significant funding from the government of Qatar, which was itself the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front’s strongest state sponsor. That the Brookings Institution is also funded by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, known fronts for CIA cultural projects, as well as by weapons manufacturers Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin, further points to Hamid’s role as a prostitute for imperialist interests.

Hamid was also an early advocate for U.S. and Qatari intervention in Libya in 2011, and was equally as unapologetic when Libya similarly became a failed state dominated by Islamist militias and a safe haven for ISIS. Shilling for imperialist interventions of this sort, which leave heaps of dead Muslim corpses in their wake, provides an indication of why Hamid continues to receive his Brookings paycheck. Hamid’s claim to speak on behalf of the Syrian and Libyan people, while actually speaking on behalf of his imperialist sponsors, explains why his writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, and why he regularly appears on television, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS.

Conclusion

More than ten years after the start of the Syrian conflict, it is still not widely understood that the “Syrian revolution” was no popular revolution at all, and that the Free Syrian Army was in no way a people’s army enjoying wide popular support. Instead, the so-called Syrian revolution was a U.S.-executed regime change operation planned long before 2011, while the FSA was comprised of local sectarian Salafists and foreign jihadists who were widely feared and hated by the majority of Syrians, including by most of Syria’s Sunni community and by many opponents of the Syrian government generally.

Without billions of dollars in weapons supplied by U.S. planners and their counterparts in allied intelligence agencies, the FSA would have had no ability to challenge the Syrian government. This financial and military support, for what were effectively mercenaries in the service of Western imperialism, was in turn only made possible by propaganda spread by Western and Gulf think tank pundits, who performed the mental gymnastics necessary to portray the sectarian Salafist militants of the FSA as “moderate.” Both the allure of money and the prestige of publishing in the most prominent Western media outlets was easily enough for such pundits to enthusiastically perform the function demanded of them by their imperialist sponsors, regardless of how much bloodshed and suffering among Syrians their actions caused as a result.

WATCH: Cops Kill Handcuffed Woman by Dropping Her From Patrol Car

Before her horrific death last month, Brianna Grier, like so many people before her suffered from mental illness. Occasionally, this mother of two, would need to be hospitalized to get herself back to a state in which she could function. But when police officers showed up instead of EMS—taking Brianna to jail instead of the hospital—Brianna would never have a chance to get herself back to a functioning state. Instead, she’d be thrown from a police cruiser while driving down the road, and die.

When Hancock County Sheriff Terrell Primus visited Mary and Marvin Grier last month, he told them their daughter Brianna had been airlifted to Grady Hospital in Atlanta. Brianna, according to the sheriff, had kicked open the door on the patrol car and jumped out while it was rolling. However, according to recently released body camera footage and an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, responding officers never closed the passenger door which led to her deadly fall.

On July 14, her parents and sister had called 911 for help when Brianna had a schizophrenic episode. She was “in the throes of a mental health crisis.” Marvin Grier told WMAZ that this wasn’t the first time Brianna has had a schizophrenic episode. He said usually EMS would come, transport her to Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin and take her to the psychiatric unit, but this time was different. Brianna got guns and badges instead of ambulances and hospital beds.

Instead of EMS, two deputies arrived at the home between 12 and 1 a.m. and put the 28-year-old in handcuffs. Because she was frantic and scared, the deputies thought it would be a good idea to scare her with the taser before putting her in the back of the car.

Body camera footage shows Brianna lying on the ground, manic and frightened. Deputies then grab her by the shoulders and feet and throw her into the back of the patrol car. Before taking off, one of the deputies asked the other, “is the passenger side door closed.” He responded that it was.

However, as the News & Observer reports, citing additional footage, the GBI said one of the deputies also opened the rear passenger side door during Grier’s arrest but forgot to close it before pulling off. Grier was handcuffed at the time and wasn’t wearing a seat belt, investigators said.

She was supposed to be taken to the sheriff’s office but she would never make it there.

Moments after taking off, Brianna, who was alive before getting in the car with deputies, would be dying on the side of the road as the two deputies slapped her and attempted to sit her up.

As TFTP reported last week, the sheriff told the family the next day that she had “kicked the door out and jumped out the car,” Marvin Grier told WMAZ.

When the Griers made it to the hospital to see Brianna, they were heartbroken to find her on life support.

“I just broke down and cried because it’s just ridiculous how she laying up there with tubes and pipes everywhere on her for no reason because it didn’t have to be that. It didn’t have to be that,” Mary Grier said.

Brianna would die four days later.

As the family began their grieving process, they also had lots of questions. Given that police patrol car doors cannot be opened from the inside, how was it that Brianna was somehow able to kick open the door and “fall” out of the car?

“I would do what any other parent would do, and that’s what we’re trying to do is find answers,” Marvin Grier said.

“If she got out the car, they had to let her out the car. That’s my interpretation, because in a police car, you can’t open the door from the inside, it had to be the outside,” Mary Grier said last week.

Now, the family has been proven right. Brianna never kicked open the door—because the door was never closed—and her death was the result of poor policing.

Whether through incompetence or malice, the deputies who picked up Brianna that night, have left a family in shambles. Brianna’s two daughters will now grow up without their mother.

Below is the graphic body camera footage. Warning it is disturbing.

This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.

How the Government Exacerbates Cancer

This essay is dedicated to the memory of Witold Kwaśnicki, a Polish libertarian who recently passed away at the tender age of seventy. He died from pancreatic cancer. He expired not in a matter of years after diagnosis, nor even months. Rather, he succumbed in a matter of mere weeks. What a horrible disease that is.

I am now 80 years old. I full well realize that no one gets out of this alive; that my life expectancy is not what it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. How do I come to grips with the prospects of my not too distant demise? How do keep my chin up?

I do so in two ways. First, I resolve to make each and every day, hour, minute (even second if I can) count. I try to enjoy myself all the livelong day (to a great degree through writing and speaking out in behalf of liberty). Yes, of course, everyone has chores. No life is a full bowl of cherries. But I do my best to appreciate whatever time I have left as much as possible. I have been doing this for decades.

The second way I try to achieve happiness in the face of inevitable death is try to understand its cause, such as from cancer. Why, then, do we now suffer from this dread disease? Surely, in 500 years this ailment will go the way of smallpox, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, rubella, hib, measles, whooping cough (pertussis), pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox, diphtheria and others —which we have either eradicated entirely, or pretty much wrestled to the ground, so that they no longer constitute death sentences. Why are we still beset by cancer, and other such killers?

The only answer that satisfies me is that this is the fault of the government.

How so? First, they take some 50% of the goods and services we all produce. This impoverishes us. We are now half as wealthy as we would be without this malevolent institution seizing our hard-earned property. Murray Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, maintains that a more accurate GDP calculation would subtract the government’s “contribution,” not add it to what emanates from the private sector. But matters are even worse.1Rothbard, Murray N. 1961. “The Fallacy of the ‘Public Sector’” the New Individualist Review; reprint: Rothbard, Murray N. 1997. “The Fallacy of the ‘Public Sector.’” The Logic of Action: Applications and Criticism from the Austrian School, Vol. II, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar

For what do the statists do with “their” share of our earnings? With their regulations, prohibitions, and compulsions they further reduce our economic power. As a rough estimate, we are now down to 33% of where we would otherwise be, without this pernicious institutional arrangement. Let us consider but one regulation that directly impinges on the search for medical cures. When and if a breakthrough occurs, government will limit profits; it will quell “profiteering” and price “gouging.” It will insist upon lowered drug prices. It is due to this threat that firms in this industry will have less of an incentive to do the necessary research than would otherwise be the case.

What does this have to do with death by cancer, heart attacks, kidney disease and other such debilitations? According to that old adage, “Wealthier is healthier,” the richer we are, other things equal, the more able we will be to rid ourselves of these medical scourges.

We must of course acknowledge that government does spend money not only on direct attempts to find cures for these horrid diseases, but also indirectly, through pure research. We must give the Devil his due. But the state insists upon its own agenda; it “cancels” researchers who adopt alternative plans; it threatens the medical licenses of physicians who pursue and recommend non-centrally planned medications, as in the case of COVID-19. It engages in affirmative action in both the private and so-called public sector which results in people less qualified occupying their laboratories in the first place.

We cannot claim that if the populace were three times as well-to-do as it is at present—in the absence of intrusive government—that all of this would go into basic or medical research. But more of it likely would. And we would be closer to quelling these diseases that plague mankind.

If government would get off the neck of the economy, we cannot be sure that under free enterprise cancer would be overcome. Perhaps, instead, it might be heart disease, strokes, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, tuberculosis, cirrhosis.

A tried and true aphorism is that “To know, is to forgive.” I turn this around just a little bit. What keeps me going is, instead, “To know, is to obviate the pain that comes when we contemplate needless, premature deaths from tragedies such as pancreatic cancer.” Understanding the real cause of such abominations—government—makes it seem less of a threat, less terrible.

The Loneliness of Ron Paul: By the Numbers, 1975-1985

In 2022, the ideological landscape of American foreign policy opposition is the most dynamic and diverse it has been in over eight decades. This newfound disorder is especially true for the right, as a new crop of libertarian-leaning and populist Republicans are challenging fundamental precepts of America’s mission in the world. For those who know their foreign policy history or are old enough to remember the Cold War, this represents a sea change in the American right.

While the right has a long history of “isolationism,” that tradition of foreign policy restraint waned for much of the early Cold War. Caught under political pressure, generational turnover, and internal tension between anticommunism and restraint, right-wing noninterventionism effectively vanished from the GOP by the early 1970s. And it is in that vacuum that Ron Paul began his congressional career in 1975.

When Ron Paul launched his political career in the 94th Congress, he was a man after his time. With the retirement of Iowa Congressman H.R. Gross, the last of the so-called “Old Right” departed office. In their place arose the “New Right,” a new generation of conservatives more aligned with the goals of the Cold War and the technocratic liberal vision which undergirded them. During his first two stints in Congress (1975-1977 and 1979-1985), Paul served as the lone voice of right-wing opposition to U.S. foreign policy and act as a bridge between an earlier era of ubiquitous right-wing foreign policy restraint and our current era of debate and disorder.

Paul’s unique opposition can be measured and displayed using computational analysis of congressional voting records on diplomatic and military policy. This article will use computational methods on a corpus of congressional roll call votes compiled from UCLA’s Voteview database. The dataset used for this article is comprised of 3,680 votes associated with U.S. foreign aid, diplomacy, and military policy from 1935 until 1992.

Each roll call was coded into one of three categories, foreign aid, diplomatic policy, or military policy. To evaluate changing attitudes on U.S. foreign policy I generated percentages of opposition to roll call votes for parties, wings, chambers, and individuals. Statistics were generated per congress or over the course of an individual career. To generate these statistics, I divided the number of noninterventionist votes by the total vote. Running these basic statistics reveals that Paul’s voting career on U.S. foreign policy was truly unique for his time.

Of all 473 Representatives or Senators who began their careers between 1975 and 1985, Ron Paul posted the highest career opposition to U.S. foreign policy, at 72.8%. Of the 202 Republicans, his next highest competitor was Claudine Schneider (RI-2), a liberal GOPer who voted in opposition a relatively lower 47% (see Table 1).

Paul’s uniqueness was especially stark given his generation (Silent, born 1935) and ideology (libertarianism). The 35 right-wing Republicans of the Silent generation who began their careers between 1975 to 1985 averaged a career opposition percentage of a mere 29.4%.

Name Wing Opposition Percentage Generation Chamber State
PAUL, Ronald Ernest Right 72.8% Silent House TX
SCHNEIDER, Claudine Left 47.3% Boomer House RI
LEACH, James Albert Smith Center 45.2% Silent House IA
CAPUTO, Bruce Faulkner Center 44.9% Silent House NY
TAUKE, Thomas Joseph Center 43.4% Boomer House IA
EVANS, Thomas Cooper Center 43.1% Greatest House IA
KELLY, Richard Right 42.8% Greatest House FL
ATKINSON, Eugene Vincent Center 42.5% Greatest House PA
CRANE, Daniel Bever Right 42.4% Silent House IL
SENSENBRENNER, Frank James Jr. Right 41.8% Silent House WI

Table 1: This table shows the ten rank Republicans by opposition percentage to U.S. foreign policy who began their careers between 1975 and 1985. Paul ranked number one, with an opposition percentage of 72.8%.

During the height of the Cold War’s re-escalation, he was the sole right-wing Republican consistently in opposition to the excesses of U.S. foreign policy. By the mid-1970s, the poles of opposition to U.S. foreign policy flipped. This seismic change in the ideological polarity of opposition effectively broke the political continuity of the interventionist right…save for the presence of Ron Paul. In this new political landscape, he was essentially on his own. Plotting Paul alongside his Democratic colleagues who posted similar opposition from 1975 to 1985, his political loneliness becomes clear (figures 1 and 2).

congressional opposition in foreign policy chart

Figure 1: These two graphics compare the ideological landscapes of congressional opposition to U.S. foreign policy between those who began their careers between 1935 and 1945 (above) and those who started their careers between 1975 and 1985 (below). Each dot represents a House member or Senator who voted in opposition more than 50%. Each member is located on a two-dimensional political axis. The x-axis depicts a member’s position on economic policy, with further to the left, the more liberal, and the further right, more conservative. The y-axis represents a member’s social policy position, the lower their position, the more liberal, the higher, the more conservative. Each member is colored by their party, red for Republican, blue for Democrat. Each member is sized by their career opposition percentage. The ideological landscape of congressional opposition to US foreign policy from 1935 until 1945 was ideologically and politically varied. While the GOP was the primary party of opposition a number of Democrats and members of other political parties recorded significant opposition.

congressional opposition chart 2

Figure 2: By the time Ron Paul began his career, the ideological diversity of foreign police opposition had all but disappeared. Opposition to U.S. foreign policy became associated with the Democratic Party and particularly it’s left wing. Paul was the only Republican to oppose U.S. foreign policy more than 50% of the time during his first two stints in Congress (1975-1977, 1979-1985).

The uniqueness of his voting record on military policy is even starker given his generation, party affiliation, and ideology. While 41 Democrats posted higher military policy opposition than Paul (see below), his 69% opposition percentage was the highest in the GOP. And while several leftwing and centrist Republicans resisted the excesses of the military-industrial complex, his was the only right-wing Republican who posted significant opposition. Paul’s closet competitor on the Republican right, Jim Sensenbrenner, voted in opposition to defense policy only 39% of the time.

Paul’s position as a right-wing opponent of excessive defense spending was unique among his peers and generationally out of place. While earlier generations of right-wing Republicans opposed U.S. defense budgets, the draft, and other programs, such figures were exceeding rare after WWII. Until Paul, the last right-wing Republican to fight defense policy was Senator William Langer (ND, 51% opposition), who left Congress in 1959. Again, Paul was on his own in advocating for defense restraint from a uniquely right-wing or libertarian perspective.

congressional opposition chart 3

Figure 3: This graphic depicts the generational voting patterns on defense policy for the Republican party. Each dot represents a Republican Senator or House member as indicated by shape. Each dot is colored by the member’s wing, green for the left, red for centrists, and blue for those on the right. Each member is located on an x-axis that shows their first congress served, and on a y-axis depicts their career opposition to defense spending and policy (between 1935 and 1992). When Paul entered Congress in 1975, he was the first right-wing Republican to consistently oppose the excesses of defense spending in 16 years. The last such political figure, Senator Herman Welker (R-ID) began his career in 1951.

On foreign aid and diplomatic policy, Paul was similarly the sole consistent right-wing voice of restraint. On issues of foreign aid (which includes all forms of economic, military, and technical assistance) Paul posted 78% opposition, number one overall. Paul was similarly the sole consistent voice of right-wing restraint on foreign aid and diplomatic policy. Similarly, on issues of Diplomatic policy (defense pacts, economic arrangements, overseas military deployments), led the oppositional pack and posted with 72%.

He opposed U.S. covert operations in Nicaragua. He voted against military assistance to El Salvador. He sought to limit the presence of U.S. troops in Central America and fought to bring American troops home from Lebanon. In all of these actions, he was among a mere handful of Republicans and still fewer who could be considered conservative or libertarian.

While some in the liberty movement view Ron Paul as a controversial figure, it is undoubtedly true that he was the single political thread that attached the Old Right to this new era of political transformation. Of the 2,404 Senators and Representatives who served between 1935 and 1992, Paul ranks #30 in all-time opposition to U.S. foreign policy. Of Republicans, he ranks #23. And of those born after 1930, he’s at the top of the hill at #1. Regardless of what some may think of his legacy, he kept the lights on for a vision of foreign policy restraint based on sound money, national sovereignty, and nonviolence. For those that desire a retrained foreign policy, regardless of ideology, that alone should warrant gratitude.

This article was originally featured at Brandan P. Buck’s blog and is reprinted with permission.

The MIC Cult

One of the most fascinating features of religious cults is that their tenets are impervious to empirical refutation, or even disconfirmation. Every apparent exception to the reigning narrative, every refractory datum, has a ready explanation compatible with the story already believed by the cult members. The teachings are in effect metaphysical, which is why the group is able to continue to recite what they regard as “the gospel” no matter what transpires.

Conceptually trapped within a fantasy world of their leader’s creation, the acolytes have been indoctrinated to believe that their leader is special and has privileged access to the truth. So devoted are his loyal followers that when the cult leader claims that he will effect a miracle, but this does not come to pass, they piously respond that they have not been faithful enough. The failure of the leader to do what he claimed he would do is taken to demonstrate not that he is a shyster or a fraud, but that he has not been adequately supported by the members of the group.

Accordingly, the cult members step up their proselytizing efforts and go out on street corners to sell flowers to bring in even more funds for their exalted leader. To outsiders this may seem utterly absurd, but to the members of the cult, it makes perfect sense. Strongly reinforcing their beliefs is the fact that everyone around them agrees. When an outsider approaches with the news that the group members have been conned and are laboring in a state of total delusion, they balk and spurn what they take to be the benighted critic. If he dares to persist in challenging their worldview, then they may label him either evil or insane.

These very same dynamics, witnessed in religious cult after cult since time immemorial, are observable throughout the military industrial complex or, to be more precise: the military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-pharmaceutical-logistics-banking complex, the octopoid tentacles of which support one another by claiming that all of them are contributing to the greater good through defending values such as freedom and democracy. It matters not to subscribers to the militarism creed that war itself is the most oppressive and tyrannical of means, imposing as it does the will of the killers upon anyone unlucky enough to live where they have decided to drop their bombs.

Nor is any importance attached to the actual effects of the bombing. No matter how many people are killed and maimed, military supporters continue religiously to bleat, “Freedom is not free!” convinced as they are that anything labeled “defense” is everywhere and always good. They rally behind calls for military intervention wherever and whenever the warriors please, and when a mission ceases in one place, they redirect their energies to the next so-called just war.

The church in this case may have been replaced by the military state, but the cult dynamics used to defend, maintain and promote the expansion of the institution are one and the same. On the most obvious level, people who dare to oppose war are denounced, derided, diminished, discredited and deplatformed. When all else fails, dissidents can always be destroyed. For those who stand ready to defend any war, anywhere, for any reason, war opponents are fairly easy to marginalize and dismiss, and even more so in recent years, since the highly effective commandeering of the mainstream media by the government. As in any cult, when everyone who is anyone already agrees, including all of the “experts” showcased by the media, then nearly no one notices that there’s anything wrong.

Soundbites are most helpful in efforts to silence critics and accordingly form the core of the MIC’s rhetorical arsenal. Anyone who, for example, points out the rationality of Vladimir Putin’s security concerns as NATO plays war games near the Russian border is immediately denounced as “Putin’s puppet.” Again, when inquiring minds raised questions about the purported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, the same response, mutatis mutandis, was wielded by advocates of intervention. Anyone who dared to point out that Bashar al-Assad had no rational reason for resorting to the use of such extreme means was reflexively labeled an “Assad apologist” and, by extension, because Russia was an ally of Syria, a “Kremlin crony.” This despite the fact that false-flag provocation tactics by factions hoping to garner international support for their cause have been witnessed in recent history, for example, in Kosovo.

The refusal to listen to the complaints of the enemy is a prime example of the fact-free approach of a cult in maintaining the basic tenets to which all members subscribe. In the interventionist’s worldview, it does not matter in the least what anyone already labeled “The Evil Enemy” claims to think. The content of his utterances is treated as irrelevant because those clamoring for war have already concluded that he is evil. From there, it is a short step to refuse any form of negotiation. George H. W. Bush used this tactic to garner support for Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the first full-scale U.S. war since Vietnam.

Denouncing the enemy as evil and irrational is a ploy as old as war itself, but pronouncing them incapable even of articulating their very own grievances has been a dominant approach in the twenty-first century. Military supporters often point to the 1991 Gulf War as an example of a resounding U.S. military victory, and if history had ended in 1992, then that would have been the last word on the matter. But the consequences of President George H.W. Bush’s war on Iraq—the U.S. occupation of Middle Eastern territories, the massive destruction caused by bombing, and the crushing sanctions imposed on the people of Iraq—provoked the attacks of September 11, 2001, according to the orchestrators themselves.

U.S. politicians promoted instead the evidence-free notion that what happened on that day was an expression of the terrorists’ hatred of our freedom. Accordingly, rather than reassess their policies in the Middle East, the government opted to double down, multiplying the grounds for grievances already articulated by the members of nonstate factions such as Al Qaeda, and generating sympathy for their cause. Predictably enough (to anyone who understands how violence breeds violence), ISIS emerged in Iraq in response to the 2003 invasion, and the U.S. occupation itself led to the spread of al Qaeda affiliates all over the Middle East and Africa throughout the war on terror.

None of the U.S. government’s twenty-first-century military experiments has been successful by any even vaguely empirical measure, such as stability, democratization, or economic prosperity in the lands attacked. Instead, the U.S. military has left chaos, misery and corpses in its wake. Yet those who dare to take issue with this veritable orgy of killing, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning, among others, are facilely recast as traitors who not only sympathize with the enemy but aid and abet them as well.

The funding of what has become non-stop U.S. military intervention abroad also reflects the dynamics of a cult. When the U.S. government failed to take action to thwart the attacks of September 11, 2001, despite being in possession of intelligence pointing toward the possible use of airliners for just such a purpose, the responsible bureaucrats were not taken to task for their incompetence. Strikingly, the Pentagon was unable even to protect the perimeters of its very own physical building. Yet, rather than being redressed, the Department of Defense was rewarded with massive budget increases and granted the latitude to do whatever the president and his entourage deemed justified in responding to the attacks, up to and including extraordinary rendition, torture, and summary execution of suspects, all of which contradict the founding principles of the United States.

Far from admitting that the very Bush administration bureaucrats who ignored their pre-9/11 intelligence briefings were inept, military supporters accepted on faith everything they said. They swallowed hook, line and sinker the interpretation according to which what happened on September 11, 2001, had nothing whatsoever to do with past U.S. military policies of aggression. Rather than pursue the responsible parties, the administration rebranded the crimes of a small group of nonstate actors as a declaration of war, and mobilized the entire military in response. In October 2002, the U.S. Congress, through an open-ended Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), granted President George W. Bush the authority to wage war where and when he pleased, without further need to confer with lawmakers. The rest is history.

In 2021, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan finally ended after twenty years of attempting to destroy the Taliban. In the process, many thousands of civilians were killed and millions more harmed and displaced. Throughout the war on terror, thousands of U.S. troops also came to ruin. But when President Biden withdrew the remaining troops from “the graveyard of empires,” the response of interventionists was simply to ignore that the government had wasted trillions of dollars and sown corruption throughout the Middle East, upending entire societies in multiple lands. The congress did not investigate waste and call for reform, but opted instead to dramatically increase the defense budget.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claimed in 2011 that the seemingly endless war on Afghanistan was effectively a money-laundering operation, what would be an outlandish claim, if not for the fact that, with the benefit of hindsight, it appears to be true. Of course, many of the members of the War Party who supported the two decades of wrecking-ball policies in the Middle East probably did not consciously believe themselves to be supporting a money-laundering operation. Even some of those with clear financial interests in perpetuating the war on terror may have clung delusively to their irrefutable article of faith, that conflict abroad should be addressed through the application of military force. What cannot be denied is that the country was indeed returned to its former leaders, the notoriously oppressive Taliban, whose patience and perseverance were rewarded by the inheritance of all of the weapons and equipment left behind.

Whether or not Assange is right that some subset of the MIC is concerned solely with war profiteering, it is certainly not the case that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan came about because the government suddenly had a change of heart and decided that the Taliban were not bad guys after all. The simplest, most charitable, and least conspiratorial explanation of what happened is that the U.S. government finally recognized after twenty years of terrorizing, maiming and killing the people of Afghanistan that the mission was, after all, just another Fool’s Errand.

Yet even assuming the most charitable of all possible interpretations, that the architects of the war on terror were not corrupt but merely incompetent, the failure of the Afghanistan mission has in no way deterred the War Party from rallying for even more interventions. President Biden recently reintroduced troops to Somalia, apparently under one of the infinite AUMFs granted to George W. Bush twenty years ago, and nearly no one (aside from the usual antiwar, mostly libertarian, suspects) demurred.

The persistence of the preposterous idea that the people of the nation are being somehow defended through a perpetual-motion program of state-inflicted mass homicide abroad, its nearly total imperviousness to effective critique, is ensured by the hordes of lesser folk who do not themselves craft policy but have been hoodwinked into reciting the tired refrains of propagandists over and over again. The use of mass homicide as a first not a last resort has by now been normalized in the minds of the populace, despite the fact that it does not solve but exacerbates problems in conflict zones. The massive allocation of weapons to Ukraine has been supported by every member of the War Party duopoly, as though the failed war on terrorism never even took place.

“Isolationism” continues to be denounced as an immoral approach to foreign policy, even in the face of the ever-lengthening list of failed and counterproductive missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and beyond. Those who point out that, given Russia’s formidable nuclear arsenal, the only sane way out of the Ukraine-Russia conflict is through negotiation brokered by third-party outsiders are needless to say subjected to the usual array of mischaracterizations and denunciations. Undeterred even by the very real risk of nuclear war, interventionists reflexively label as isolationists any critics who oppose any military initiative, no matter how irrational.

The surprising degree to which militarism has infiltrated ostensibly nonmilitary aspects of society is revealed by Nick Turse in The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives. In the years since 2009, when The Complex was published, the amoeba-like seepage of military influence has spread like an indelible dye to tinge nearly every facet of American culture. The millions of minor cogs of the military machine are in some cases operating purely opportunistically: mercenarily driven military contractors and subcontractors, the dependable warmongering hacks, and of course the network newscasters who promote the War Party line. But among the many proponents of any- and every war are also plenty of people who by dint of repetition and impressive powers of self-deception (think: Bill Kristol and Max Boot) appear truly to believe that every military intervention they promote is just and righteous.

The number of people who have not already pledged allegiance to the MIC is dwindling, as its tentacles continue to divide and spread, capturing more and more people whose gainful employment depends upon the success of what is, all euphemisms aside, an industry of homicide. With the mainstream media entirely coopted by the military colossus and its pseudo-diplomat defenders such as President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken, it may seem that all is lost. How can anyone throw a wrench into such a sprawling killing machine?

The U.S. government’s multifaceted military agenda—challenging Iran, China and Russia simultaneously, collaboration with and weapons sales to confirmed murderers in Saudi Arabia, ongoing attempts to expand the executive’s power—may succeed in demoralizing some critics into silence. But the takeover is not yet complete, and those who have recognized the creeping cooption of the republic by hawks must continue to speak out before it is too late. Nothing is more important at this unique moment in history than that we reject all efforts by pro-military propagandists to inculcate in the populace the central tenets of this cult: that offensive military action is a form of defense, and bombs have the power to do anything more than terrorize and destroy.

Concerned About the Fentanyl Crisis? Blame the Government

As drug overdoses continue rising in the United States, one drug has emerged as the most notorious killer of our day: fentanyl. Unfortunately, those clamoring loudest about fentanyl’s death toll support policies that actually bolster its position in the illicit drug trade.

First approved for U.S. medical use in 1968, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to counter severe pain after surgery, and chronic severe pain. Though similar to morphine or heroin, it’s 50 to 100 times more potent.

Most of the fentanyl circulating on the streets doesn’t come from pharmaceutical companies. According to the DEA, black market fentanyl is “primarily manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the United States through Mexico.” China is a major source of its chemical ingredients and some finished product too.

As with other black-market knock-offs, the inconsistency of illicit fentanyl makes it more dangerous. Worse, it’s often laced into other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana and counterfeit pills disguised as pharmaceutical-grade Oxycontin, Xanax, and Adderall.

Though its effect varies by a user’s size and tolerance, ingesting just 2 milligrams can be fatal. That fact lends itself to jolting descriptions of fentanyl’s lethality by public officials, pundits and click-chasing media. A recent Fox News headline is just one of countless examples of fentanyl sensationalism: “Colorado State Patrol seizes enough fentanyl to kill 25 million people.”

When you consider that, in 2021, there were 108,000 overdose deaths from all drugs in the entire country, you can see where headlines and rhetoric centered on such calculations aren’t meant to enlighten an audience so much as to shock it.

American discourse about fentanyl is further warped by politicians and sloppy journalists who promulgate urban legends about cops and bystanders dying from merely touching fentanyl powder.

For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently asked Fox’s Sean Hannity if he’d heard about “a young woman who picked up a dollar bill sitting on the floor of a McDonald’s and fell down” because fentanyl was supposedly on it. “That’s how deadly it is.”

Like many similar tales, this one proved false. Fentanyl can be plenty deadly, but not that way.

Over-the-top fentanyl scaremongering isn’t just about attracting an audience. For some—like McCarthy—it’s an opportunistic means of advancing a goal of reducing illegal immigration via tightened border security.

Setting immigration policy aside and keeping our focus here on fentanyl, we now come to an essential truth that’s little-known either inside or outside of government:

The more you intensify drug interdiction along the border and elsewhere, the more you elevate fentanyl as the drug trade’s import of choice.

Blame it on the “Iron Law of Prohibition.” First put forth by Richard Cowan in 1986, the Iron Law of Prohibition states: “As law enforcement becomes more intense, the potency of prohibited substances increases.”

Continue reading at Stark Realities with Brian McGlinchey

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