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The Y2K Bug: How Government Creates a Panic

While I was not alive to see the Y2K panic, looking back to it has always shined a light on how panics start and how often they are “making a mountain out of a molehill.” In the case of Y2K, the blame falls squarely in the lap of the government. Or more accurately, the governments of the world.

For those unaware of the Y2K phenomion, computers before the 2000s had laughably small memory sizes. This forced computer programmers to scrape the “bottom of the barrel” for megabytes by shortening code. This led to years of computers being identified by only the last two digits of the year, leading to worry among programmers of what happens when the year becomes 00 (2000), hence the name “Y2K bug.”

There were potential repercussions that could have caused real damage, from nuclear power plant failures to incorrect billing and interest calculations, although there were contingencies and backup plans in place to shield against such danger. In addition, programmers and entrepreneurs were already working on fixes to Y2K and its problems before and even during the “supposed crisis.”

As expected though, the government never let a good crisis go to waste. In the United States, Congress passed the “Y2K Act” which created government-backed insurance for any “Y2K related problem,” getting rid of any financial liabilities it may incur. As well, $9 billion in total (around $14 billion today) was spent by the federal government.

Despite this heavy spending, it was not the government that fixed the bug and prevented “disaster.” They weren’t even the ones who identified the problem, as the first major identification was by a woman working for an insurance company in 1984. Entrepreneurs and programmers in the private sector seized on the issue and began to find remedies, with private sector spending in the U.S. on the issue being around $100 billion ($160 billion today).

You could say that the Y2K bug was actually a great moment for showing how effective entrepreneurs are in responding to a crisis compared to the government, but we don’t remember it as such because of how the government defined the narrative. President Bill Clinton and Congress continued with speech after speech and bill after bill to “address” the Y2K bug stressing “great danger” that could come from it. The media of course jumped in on that to help create a sense of panic in the United States and the world.

What is remembered from Y2K is the panic people had in response to it. People spent thousands on Y2K Survival Kits, literature, and gear that ended up being all for naught. Many had an intense and legitimate fear of “world-ending” scenarios, riots, nuclear war, etc that were all unfounded. But these scenarios were given fuel by media and government creating a panic that they did little to quell.

The lessons of such a panic are applicable to the modern-day amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as numerous times we have seen the state change its narrative. This has caused “shortages” in goods like toliet paper or hand sanitizer and in many grave cases the deaths of many in elderly retirement homes in their mismanagement of medical resources. This response has been worse than the initial pandemic exactly because of how the state responds, intensifies, and uses panics to its advantage. The situation becomes clear as you see how the effects of the pandemic hit countries with lower intensity on the freedom index.

What we can be sure from both waves of panic is that while there may be real concerns to be mitigated, the state is not only ineffective at mitigation, but often makes the panics worse by making “mountains out of mole hills.”

U.S. Airstrikes Have Killed Up To 48,000 Civilians in the War on Terror

As many as 48,000 civilians have been killed in the last 20 years as a direct result of U.S. air strikes, according to an Airwars investigation that sheds new light on the human cost of Washington’s so-called “war on terror”.

Publishing its findings ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the UK-based monitoring group concluded that at least 22,679, and potentially as many as 48,308 civilians, were killed by U.S. aerial strikes between 2001 and 2020.

Using local sources and official U.S. military data, Airwars concluded that, in the years following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has carried out a minimum of 91,340 air strikes across seven major conflict zones.

Continue reading this article at Middle East Eye

TGIF: Why Do We Question Motives?

I don’t know if we’re in the heyday of questioning the motives of people we disagree with rather than simply rebutting them–character assassination, that is–but it’s got me wondering why this is such a popular pastime these days. Think about how often we hear people’s motives impugned–even when they have impressive credentials–because of their positions on COVID-19, climate change, nutrition, racial policy–you name it. Considering motivation is not a bad thing per se, but too often it substitutes for a counterargument. That’s a confession of vacuity.

To oversimplify a bit, let’s assume that motives come in two flavors–virtuous and vicious. If someone defends a proposition that is easily refuted or has been repeatedly refuted before, we might wonder why that person defended it. Inquiring into the possible motives seems appropriate, but not before the claim is shown to be poor. Of course motives can vary widely, from money to vanity. It’s all too human a temptation to become invested in a position prematurely and then stick to it even after doubts have set in. No one is immune, not even natural scientists, medical experts, so-called public servants. People have livelihoods, reputations, and careers to look after. The mark of maturity is the ability to resist temptation.

On the other hand, if someone offers a serious and solid case for a proposition–one that deserves to be taken seriously–the early resort to motive-questioning ought to strike us as highly suspicious. This is especially so if the speculation about motives precedes any serious attempt to rebut the case. If the first salvo a critic launches is directed at motive, I have to assume that the critic can’t think of anything else to say. That obviously speaks volumes.

Really, why should the speaker’s motives or financing source matter? Who cares if the research was backed by someone with a horse in the race if the findings are solid? A good case is a good case, full stop. (See how physicist and climate optimist Willie Soon handles this issue.) Two kinds of financially self-interested people would want to finance supporting research: those who insincerely hold their position and want to lie to the public, and those who sincerely hold their position and want the truth to be disseminated. You can’t tell who is who merely by the mere fact that they’ve financed scientists to provide evidence. Why wouldn’t, say, a producer of fossil fuels want to defend his products? What counts is the quality of that evidence and the theoretical explanation of it.

It’s worth noting that people who seek government grants should be as open to motive-questioning as those who get their backing from business interests. Government officials for obvious reasons are apt to be more attracted to scientific research that seems to justify their expansion of power than to research that doesn’t. It’s the nature of the beast we call the state. Some researchers–they’re human after all–can be expected to act accordingly. Catastrophists of various stripes, by the way, ask us to believe something highly implausible: that people who know that an existential threat is looming pay other people to do bogus research that says otherwise for money. Really?

Even if an interested party’s case should fail we can still ask: who cares about motives? Talking about motives in these circumstances is a distraction, not to mention a low blow. Many past advocates have made strong arguments that were eventually shown to be wrong. Were all of them corrupt? Of course not. It should take more than a mistaken conclusion to presume corruption.

If you want to see character assassination on steroids, recall the Obama-era attempt to get the Justice Department to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)–which was written with reference to organized crime–to gag people who reject climate-change alarmism, not just business firms but also think tanks and scientists. The grounds? “Knowingly deceiving on climate risk.” Other scientists have been subject to campaigns to get them fired. You can’t make this stuff up.

Observe the current controversies. For example, even highly credentialed people who reject the climate alarmists’ analyses are likely to be accused of being not just financed but corrupted by the fossil-fuel industry or by ideological think-tanks. Qualified epidemiologists and economists who questioned the hysteria and dominant policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic were accused of being libertarians (!) in the pay of wealthy benefactors. Why isn’t it enough to rebut their arguments? is it because a rebuttal wouldn’t do enough damage? Accusing someone of corruption–even when that accusation couldn’t withstand the slightest examination–might silence the target, as well as others of like mind, because no one likes being called, in effect, an intellectual prostitute or zealot. The chilling effect is well-known. Luckily not everyone is deterred, but we know that many are.

I want to be fair. It seems to me that the preference for character assassination over refutation is more common among what I’ll call the various “consensus catastrophe” caucuses than among their critics. I can’t say it never happens on the other side, but it seems exceedingly rare. I think a reason for this is that today’s consensus catastrophe caucuses, such as those regarding climate change and COVID-19, rest on fragile foundations. They rely on well-rebutted scientific claims and a manufactured consensus. The most famous case of a manufactured consensus is the much-debunked claim about the 97 percent of climate scientists. The big questions of course are: 97 percent of what population exactly and what do they agree on exactly? But invoking that big number works; it can be used to accuse even respected scientists of denying science. If you can’t refute your opponents, all you need to do is portray them as going against virtually all the authorities. To many people, that just sounds bad. “What’s wrong with that guy?” (Ignaz Semmelweis and Alfred Wegener, both of whom were proved to be correct, were also viciously attacked for denying the consensuses of their day regarding puerperal fever and continental drift respectively.)

Each time I hear a consensus invoked against opponents with arguments and evidence, I think of Chico Marx’s famous line: “Who you gonna believe: me or your own eyes?” I also think of Einstein’s reported response when told that 100 intellectuals had put their name to a book arguing that the theory of relativity was wrong: “Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.”

If the first words out of a critic’s mouth include “consensus” or “motive,” I don’t want to hear anything else he has to say. Science–indeed, thinking!–isn’t about confirming consensuses. It’s about testing them against evidence. No one’s character should be questioned merely because he expresses doubt about even a widely believed scientific or other proposition, especially when it has the potential to impinge on individual liberty and well-being.

The War in Afghanistan Should Make You Reconsider Military Enlistment

Though the war in Afghanistan is over, its grim history is filled with hard truths about what it really means to serve in the American military.

Those truths are particularly relevant to anyone contemplating enlistment or commissioning in the armed forces. With that in mind, here’s a warning label informed by the grim lessons of Operation Enduring Freedom—the failed and futile 20-year war in Afghanistan.

You Could Lose Your Life Or Limbs In a War That Accomplishes Nothing

After 9/11, the U.S. government was right to lash out at Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. However, that mission was largely accomplished by the end of 2001. As Scott Horton wrote in Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, within three months of 9/11, “there were not enough (al Qaeda) left alive to fill a seventeenth-century pirate ship.”

The balance of the war was a futile effort to replace the Taliban with a government more palatable to western powers. Today, after more than 2,400 U.S. service members were killed and more than 20,000 wounded, Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban, just as it was two decades years ago.

You May Have to Fight Enemies Created By Your Own Government

Al Qaeda and the Taliban can be traced directly to a 1979 CIA operation, conceived by national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and approved by President Carter, that provided aid to opponents of Afghanistan’s then-pro-Soviet government, in hopes of drawing the USSR into a protracted, hopeless war.

As I wrote in a pointed 2017 Brzezinski obituary, “the Carter and Reagan administrations, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, funded, organized, transported, armed and trained Salafist extremists to fight the Red Army in a holy war on behalf of Islam. Among those who joined the cause were future al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.”

“The enduring global impact of this 10-year program bears emphasis: The CIA and Saudi GID recruited jihadists from all around the Muslim world, creating relationships and networks that would evolve into not only al Qaeda, but also ISIS and many other Salafist terrorist groups across several continents.”

You May Be Ordered to Tolerate Pedophilia

A disturbing, centuries-old Afghan custom called bacha bazi (“boy play”) frequently involves the enslavement and sexual abuse of young boys. In the 1990’s, the Taliban government outlawed it. Under the U.S.-sponsored government, however, it was not only tolerated, but was often practiced by Afghan officers within nightly earshot of U.S. service members.

Veterans say superiors told them to ignore the sickening crimes. One of them, former Special Forces captain Dan Quinn, told the New York Times, “We were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did.”

Reckless Waste Management Could Kill You, Years After Your Service is Complete

The U.S. military is regularly billed as a modern fighting force. However, when it came to disposing of vast amounts of waste in Afghanistan and Iraq, military commanders chose a decidedly medieval method.

In both theaters of operation, the military piled everything from batteries and Styrofoam to human body parts, paintchemicals, fuel, electronics, medical waste and plastic in enormous, open-air pits and simply set it on fire, often using jet or diesel fuel as an accelerant.

In a phenomenon that’s been likened to the illness and death caused by Agent Orange jungle defoliant in Vietnam, there’s a growing consensus that the burn pits have given War on Terror veterans respiratory conditions and a variety of cancers. As with Agent Orange, symptoms may surface years after exposure.

Your Mission May Bring Death and Misery to Vast Civilian Populations

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project, some 335,000 civilians have been killed in America’s post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. At least 38 million people have been forcibly displaced in those countries along with Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines.

Service May Harm You Psychologically

There have been more than 30,000 suicides among those who’ve served in the post-9/11 wars, and upwards of 20% of Operation Enduring Freedom veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a given year.

If PTSD strikes you, you may be inflicted with angry and aggressive behavior, recurring memories of traumatic events, nightmares, physical reactions to certain stimuli, difficulty expressing emotions, detachment from family and friends, feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, substance abuse, feelings of overwhelming guilt and suicidal thoughts.

Even thousands of miles of distance from your enemies can’t immunize you against PTSD: Drone operators working from the comfort of an air-conditioned buildings at stateside bases have been stricken too.

“How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile? How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” asked one former drone operator at The Guardian.

Superior Officers May Deceive the American People About a War You’re Stuck In

In 2019, the Washington Post published a large set of documents about the Afghanistan war, including 1,900 pages of transcripts and notes from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) interviews of U.S. and other officials.

Much like the Vietnam War’s Pentagon Papers, the Afghanistan Papers revealed senior officials’ optimistic public pronouncements about the war’s progress were completely at odds with the facts being reported to them on a daily basis.

As the Post wrote, “the documents contradict a long chorus of public statements from U.S. presidents, military commanders and diplomats who assured Americans year after year that they were making progress in Afghanistan and the war was worth fighting.”

Counterinsurgency Warfare Makes You More Likely to Suffer Genital Injuries and Double-Leg Amputations

Unlike conventional warfare, counterinsurgency operations emphasize foot patrols, which make soldiers vulnerable to improvised explosive devices.

Following a 2010 shift toward counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, the military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany saw a 60% spike in the share of inbound casualties with a limb amputation and a 90% increase in the proportion with genitourinary wounds.

If You’re Killed By Friendly Fire, the Pentagon May Lie to Your Family About It

Eight months after 9/11, NFL player Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract and enlisted in the U.S. Army. In April 2004, he was killed by fellow soldiers in the midst of a battle in Afghanistan.

Army brass, however, presented the public with a Hollywood ending to his unlikely story of selfless American patriotism. For weeks, the Army promoted a false account of his death—declaring he’d died in a line of “devastating enemy fire.”

Tillman’s family wasn’t told the truth until weeks after his death, and his nationally-televised memorial service. Subsequent Army and DOD investigations determined Tillman’s superior officers had almost immediately learned he’d been killed by friendly fire.

After You Swear Loyalty To the Constitution, You May Be Used In A Way That Violates It

By virtue of a widely-worded, open-ended congressional authorization to use military force (AUMF), one can reasonably argue the Afghan war was within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, which reserves the power to declare war to the Congress.

The same can’t be said for most U.S. military action over the recent years. From an attack on Syria in “retaliation” for a government gas attack that didn’t happen to regime-change intervention in Libya, brazenly unconstitutional warfare is now the norm, not the exception.

You Will Be Joining An Enterprise That’s Pushing the U.S. Government Toward Financial Ruin

The doomed war in Afghanistan squandered $2.3 trillion, and with more than 800 installations in more than 70 countries around the world, the sprawling U.S. military empire will this year alone consume $700 billion the U.S. government doesn’t have.

If you naively thought the end of the Afghanistan war would spark some belt-tightening, consider that House Republicans just announced a proposal to tack on another $25 billion to President Biden’s already bloated 2022 proposed DOD budget of $753 billion.

The national debt is a towering $28.7 trillion..and counting. So-called “defense” spending—which has enriched contractors as steadily as it’s helped bring despair and alternating destruction and reconstruction to countless millions—is a major reason why the government is marching steadily toward a financial meltdown.

Journalists May Desert You

If your war is being mismanaged, don’t count on major American media to keep your plight in the public eye, pressure Congress to perform oversight of your mission or urge the president to end it.

In 2020, the regular nightly evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS and NBC added up to over 14,000 minutes of programming. Out of that, the three networks devoted just five minutes to Afghanistan.

Military Service Doesn’t Equate To Serving One’s Country

Despite the best hopes of many an enlistee or newly-commissioned officer, it’s essential to understand that military service is primarily service to one’s government—not to one’s country. There’s a vast difference.

After the prompt shattering of al Qaeda in Afghanistan was complete, the 20-year nation-building fiasco there didn’t render a service to the people of the United States. Neither did the catastrophic invasion of Iraq on false premises, or the ensuing occupation.

Indeed, the entire war on terror has made the world a more dangerous place for Americans and non-Americans alike.

As Scott Horton writes in Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, “In a perverse imitation of our enemies, the policy of American dominance in the Middle East amounts to murder-suicide on a mass scale. The treasury is empty, the infantry is exhausted, the Bill of Rights is in tatters and the American people do not believe in the war anymore.”

Buyer Beware

Even if Horton’s correct in saying the American people have had enough already, eager foreign interventionists—working in harmony with defense contractors and parasitic foreign governments—still dominate Washington and the media-think tank ecosystem that surrounds it.

The war in Afghanistan may be over, but the potential for would-be U.S. military service members to be pointlessly harmed and to inflict pointless harm remains high.

Between a continued presence in Iraq, the illegal occupation of Syrian territory, troops deployed in Africa without the knowledge of Congress, saber-rattling over Taiwan, the pointlessly provocative expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and an Israeli government seemingly eager to fight Iran down to the last American, the late-stage U.S. empire and its too many allies are still poking hornet nests all around the globe.

As a (non-combat) veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, Pennsylvania National Guard and U.S. Army, I can attest to the fact that there are many benefits to military service, and they’re well-advertised.

However, anyone contemplating military service owes it to themselves to look inside the shiny red, white and blue packaging wrapped around it, and come to a full and sober appreciation of what service in today’s stumbling U.S. empire could really mean to them.

This article was originally featured at Stark Realities and is republished with permission.

Child Killer

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”- Howard Zinn

It is hard to imagine that a healthy mind would consider the murder of a child to be a justifiable action. It is the frightening action of monsters, the child killer. Not much is more pariah in a civilized society than such a being. As one series of wars slowly wind down, the drums beat to the distant call of likely more wars. It is the routine conduct of some nations to always be in a state of war, always to be “over there.” And no matter how many innocent are killed, how many children are murdered, there is never any justice, little is learned, and no shame is felt.

With the magical language of legalese, the collective responsibilities of the state, and abstract notions such as “social contracts” and the assumed right of government to rule, the lines of justification for the death of not just a child but of many children suddenly becomes, for some, complicated. Through action of very real violence those representing the state directly will and have murdered many children. At time this was done with direct intention, and on other occasions it was a known outcome where calculations of either tactical or strategic ambition were weighed up, and sometimes it was a mistake. A frequent mistake.

“We took ground fire and we returned fire. We estimate that around 40 were killed. But we operated within our rules of engagement.”- U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt on the Mukaradeeb Wedding Party Massacre (May 19, 2004), 42 civilians killed, 13 of them children 

It is then that the collective in some ways assumes responsibility. When the dead children are familiar, the call to justice is strong. Those who are associated with the killers are considered the enemy and often considered as guilty. The ‘trigger pullers’ are guilty, some may argue not if they were obeying orders. When the children are murdered in the application of foreign policy, guilt tends to be suffocated beneath the layers of bureaucracy and national politics. The murdered children of foreign policy become non-entities, dehumanized and made to seem unlike us. But like the victims of criminals at home, they are very human, They are the same as us.

Western liberal democracy is considered to be sacred. It has values that ensure its civilized perfume lingers on. Beyond its frontiers are barbaric regions of hatred and zealotry, religious fanatics and tribalism. The West is secular and has reason, beyond which is the endless wilderness of savages. Despite this belief the nations of Western reason have continued to go abroad and kill for decades. With a zealotry that transcends any theology, it can only be found inside the halls of academic pontification that such mass murder is always justified and conducted for good cause.

“We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us because our enemies know no such qualms.”

“Given the damage we were willing to cause to the bodies and minds of innocent children in Afghanistan and Iraq, our disavowal of torture in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed seems perverse.”Sam Harris, The End of Faith

It is the miracle of collective obligation and responsibility that both removes any obligation and responsibility while also spreading it across an abstract amount of individuals. A national government can kill thousands of children, with the intention of punishing the populace that they belong to. It is done in the name of national interest, the interest of the liberal democracy and its people. It is the strategic ambition and intention so determined by those who are elected through the legal institution and processes of liberal democracy.

How far along the line does the responsibility for the murder of those innocent children go? The operators of the weapons systems, the commanding officers, the logistics crews, the war planners, the policy makers, the contractors, the manufacturers, the voters, the taxpayers, the unborn, etc? It is a calculus that tends to go only one way, against them and not upon those inside the privileged Western liberal democracy.

“War is when innocent people are killed for the interests of others.”Winston Churchill.

During World War II, all German citizens were often considered responsible for the deeds of their government. Babies not born when London was blitzed or children unaware of the mass death camps being managed by the government that ruled over them all in some way became a legitimate target to be bombed from above. Inside Japan, not a democracy but a complicated imperial system of arrogant layers that lead to the murder and torture of millions, the private citizen had no say in government policy. But in the mind of planners a powerless Japanese baby was somehow still responsible for the policy of its government. In killing a child does this punish the community, the nation, or government? Such is the act of terror. Terrible it may be, it is argued by the killers that innocent life can be taken so long as it serves the cause of the righteous.

“In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.”- Robert McNamara

We are told that those in the liberal West enjoy a free society, they are nations of laws with checks and balances whose leaders are elected. The people have a say, either directly or through representation. When a national government of the liberal West murders the innocent, does that then make the citizenry who vote in free and fair elections responsible? It seems not.

It is a skewed perspective of justice. Perhaps a victors? A sane mind knows that it is wrong to kill the innocent. Especially a child. A liberal democracy is full of sane and rational individuals who value such virtues. Most claim to cherish justice, freedom, and the right not to be murdered, especially from a foreign military that has travelled far with the intention of starving, bombing, and assassinating with direct and random recklessness.

“55.6% percent of the U.S. public preferred and 59.3% percent approved of killing 100,000 Iranian civilians to save 20,000 U.S. soldiers”- SD Sagan & BA Valentino on a Gallup poll asking about a hypoethetical war with Iran, Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran: What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants 

Never have the people of the liberal democracies been held responsible, unlike many of those civilians who suffered beneath tyrants. An often claimed declaration from the private citizen is, “I can’t do anything about the wars,” or “I am powerless” and so on. Well then, what good is such a system of government if that is the case? The very virtues boasted by such governance are meaningless when they matter most.

The children that are blown to pieces in a drone strike or starved to death in an embargo are living human beings. They are not fictional creatures invented for talking points. The animosity and grief felt by those who love such children, the pain that the children themselves endure are very real and ever lasting. They do not suddenly evaporate because the policy of a liberal democracy had claimed good intentions.

“Most children killed and injured directly by U.S. forces and their allies were killed the same way as their parents: they died when bombs fell; when they were caught in ‘cross-fire’; shot in night raids; shot at check-points and run over by U.S. convoys who speed through the streets and roads.  The roadside deaths are often not recorded unless the U.S. gives some compensation to the families.”- Neta Crawford, Accountability for Killing: Moral Responsibility for Collateral Damage in America’s Post-9/11 Wars

Children whose parents were not even born during a war have been blown to pieces as they walk to school or play when a mine or bomb that had been sitting for decades suddenly explodes. Long buried in the marsh or jungles near their homes, they are horrible reminders of the past when liberal democracy visited their lands. This is the reality for thousands of innocent humans in the decades since the United States waged war on South East Asia.

A war that was fought to end communism; to save the people by bombing them. The planes and crews have long retired. The nation that dropped the bombs has moved on. It is a distant memory of mostly pop culture now, trapped in the films of Oliver Stone and Francis Ford Coppola. To the people of those lands it is still a home that continues to explode with random death and with chemicals that mutate babies with such frequency. But for the liberal democracy that war ended long ago. Not for its victims. Especially the children yet born.

Many years after the war some administration officials may admit some guilt as Robert McNamara exhibited in “The Fog of War” but most are venerated and cheered as heroes of history. It is always the great nations over there, it is always an expedition or crusade of the righteous. To quote Peter Van Buren, it is claimed that “we meant well.” Is that enough to wash away so much blood? And did “we” mean well in the end? an one shake the hand of so many demons and not expect to be considered the devil?

Maybe the only reason why the child killer from within is considered so wicked is because it may have been your baby, or a familiar’s that was murdered. Those abroad may as well be statistics, photos that no one can embrace. Perhaps the reason why war comes so easy to these exceptional nations is that the citizens who make it possible have an ideology of neurosis. Everything everywhere may in some way harm them, so they need to act with paranoid might, just in case. And should the blowback occur, then they have an absolute right to kill all, even children.

“We think the price is worth it.”- Madeline Alrbright, U.S. Secretary of State on the near half a million Iraqi children killed by U.S. sanctions in the 1990s.

It is after all the righteous domain of government to declare a city legitimate for destruction, to be bombed by fleets of planes or that a region should be made a “free-fire-zone” where soldiers may kill anyone or thing that lurks inside of the lines on a map. That entire nations may be starved of food and denied medicine, that children may be targeted by a drone, even if a citizen of ones very own nation. Would it matter if war was declared by Congress, senate or parliament or that war had not been declared at all? It does not change the fact that thousands are murdered. It is the power of the righteous to kill the children of another, simply because they can. Because they think it is worth it.

“Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, four United Nations agencies warned today. Of these, 400,000 are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment.”- World Health Organization report on the coalition war and blockade against Yemen (February 12, 2021)

When ISIS executes children in an almost universally agreed upon atrocious act, we are told this is why such a group is hated and opposed. These actions which make them monstrous is one of the defining aspects of such organizations, just as the Khmer Rouge or Lords Resistance Army are death squads of brutal conduct with countless victims. Still they have followers, supporters and those who enable, not to mention the killers who believe in the objectives and even methods. Not all of the killers are brutalized press ganged children or brainwashed zealots but many are willing individuals of rational thought. As perverse as it seems, some are even apologists for such cruelty and attempt to justify it, ends to means as such. When it is a collective that murders in the name of a cause, others will rationalize the calculations, weigh the murder upon intended outcomes. As a non-state actor, these groups are by definition illegitimate, criminal.

It is in the extreme examples of violence and torture that such illegitimate terror groups and regimes are considered pariah. It is not because they collect taxation, provide services, and operate schools. It is what most would agree to be considered, as McNamara calls it, “evil;” kidnap, torture, rape, murder and especially killing children, these are the evils that define such regimes and organizations. They are the evil actions of evil actors. What good lurks among this evil is not determined by the victims but only by those who are in someway involved in the evil acts. For some of those who live in the liberal democracies responsible, they can even pretend that this evil never happens at all.

“…many readers are no doubt thinking that war is a messy, unpredictable business, which always ends up hurting innocent people, such as children. Exactly. That is why war must end.”- John Horgan, Scientific American

The great nations of western liberal democracy continue to exercise imperial ambitions abroad. Creating instability when they claim to bring it, installing tyrants when they are supposed to oppose them, fighting terror by either supporting, training, enabling and allying with such groups. It is the alchemy of death and mayhem that planners play with, conducting “peace missions” that either prolong war or expand it and at times create an animosity that may lead to further wars. Murder of the innocent is not just the domain of government, but the government is the only entity with the exceptionalism to be “allowed” to do so. And in a liberal democracy does so, despite defying the virtues that it such governments apparently stand for.

“Running became a death sentence, even for women and children, with the dead person’s actions being recorded as ‘tactically manoeuvring’ to a firing position.”- Brereton Report on Australian war crimes in Afghanistan

Job security and patriotism are the often rationalized calculations as to why individuals can participate and ignore such murder. Indifference does not wash away so much blood. If you claim to support the government and profit from its actions, you under many definitions are complicit. In the eyes of the less moral, a legitimate target. After all it is likely that your own government would reserve such a definition for you, if you were born over there. Even your children would be considered legitimate to murder in such a case.

“The aim of Bomber Command should be unambiguously and publicly stated, that aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany. The creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale and the obliteration of German cities and their inhabitants.”- Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, Royal Air Force

Claiming to care about something and then ignoring it is not caring. Boasting that the murder of the innocent is abhorrent and then playing a dance of intellectual masturbation to justify it only proves that you support the mass murder. Most killers have a rationale and claim to have a righteous reason, whether through self preservation or a paranoid need to push their reach into the lives of others. In the end, the victims suffer. You can not claim to be good if all you ever do is evil (even if you believe otherwise). And ignorance of the murder is a choice in our age of constant information.

The next time your government commits to kill in your name, no matter how righteous the mission seems, it won‘t seem that way in a matter of years. No matter how evil the enemy is, they will pale compared to the next. And no mater how different the people are to you, there is more in common than you realize. If you dare to view the photo of a corpse wrapped in carpet congealed in dirt and blood, or of a young child burned to the bone from phosphorous or dismembered because of a land mine, they were real children. The stench, the pain, the agony are absent in the distance between you and them, but it is all too real. Just imagine that the child is your own, or at the very least a familiar.

Learoyd: “Why would you ever kill this baby, huh? Why?”

Captain Fairbourne: “Why would you have let me?”

From ‘Farewell to the King’

Perhaps we need to be the monarchs of our own morality. Moral dignity does not come from the mob or from law but from your very own principles as an individual. Nothing will change if you outsource your dignity and principles to others. So much collective cruelty is made possible because the individual does not stand up and defy the blood lust of the group. Even when that group is familiar and even when that blood belongs to a stranger. She loved being tucked in at night by her father, he loved to play soccer with his friends; why would you allow your government to murder them? They are children, imperfect beings but perfect in their innocence of the cruelty in this world. Innocent of the indifference and absolute power that strangers far away have over their lives. If you do not care or in some way think that they deserve to die to satisfy abstract ambitions then maybe you are just another child killer too.

Soldiers Are Losing Faith in Their Commanders

During the founding of the United States, Pennsylvania earned the nickname “keystone” for its essential role—geographic, economic, and political—in winning American independence. Two and a half centuries later, Pennsylvania maintained its Keystone State status in the now concluded war in Afghanistan.

In 2013, after the peak of the insurgency, state Adjutant Gen. Wesley Craig said that Pennsylvania endured “by far” the most National Guard deaths of any state. In the past two decades, according to tracker icasualties.org, the state has seen 93 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan in addition to Guardsmen, along with more than 400 wounded.

What do these sacrifices mean, many Pennsylvanians wonder, if the soldiers fighting our wars have no faith in their commanding officers—and  moreover, if there are no consequences for predictable failure?

Last Friday, U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller filmed a viral Facebook video in reaction to the suicide bombing at Kabul airport that killed 13 U.S. service members. “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability saying, ‘We messed this up,’” Scheller said, accusing the secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other top brass of “not holding up their end of the bargain.” Scheller was relieved of command that same day and has since announced his intention to resign from the Marine Corps.

His disillusionment is not isolated. Last weekend, I spoke with a born-and-bred Pennsylvanian and active-duty U.S. Army soldier who expressed similar disappointment in our military leadership. He prefers to stay anonymous to protect himself against the type of retribution faced by Scheller.

“I’m not mad about us pulling out of Afghanistan,” he said, having served in-country as a rifle squad team leader. “The frustrating thing for me is the fact that these senior leaders, I would say brigade level and up, are so disconnected from their formations that they thought that this [nation-building] was gonna work.” He added: “They thought that the Afghans would actually adopt a democracy. Their military would be able to fight off the Taliban, and everything would be great.”

The average enlistee, interacting on the ground with Afghan army recruits and fearing the infamous green-on-blue attacks—when those recruits turn their rifles on their trainers—were under no such fantasy. “You ask any grunt that has been on the ground in Afghanistan, ‘Do you feel the Afghan army was at any point or would be capable of effectively protecting their country?’ They’re going to tell you no.”

The soldier, who had previously served a tour in Iraq as well, placed blame on both the system and the men operating it. First is the insular nature of a command post. “These higher-up leaders, these generals, they only get their information through third parties,” he said. “You wouldn’t really see too many generals actually walking around, actually seeing what is going on.”

To adopt a phrase used by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, maybe it’s the strategists who are seeing the conduct of the war “through a soda straw.”

But even when policymakers and advisers get accurate information about the war’s progress (or lack thereof), their incentive is to sugarcoat it. “The way the army does its wording, the way they do everything, they don’t like to sound negative [if] there’s some kind of reprisal that’s going to come from it,” the soldier explained. “So, they word things so that it sounds better. It briefs well.”

In 2019, the Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, made up of leaked internal interviews featuring high-ranking military and government officials. The documents exposed an explicit and sustained effort to manipulate numbers, fabricate an optimistic narrative, and deceive Americans about the war effort.

“We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said about Afghanistan in one Post interview, contradicting the positive assessment he regularly doled out to the public. Lute, senior adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was willing to be candid behind closed doors, but not to voters—and certainly not to the men and women under his command.

Should anyone be surprised when this multi-decade deception erodes trust in our institutions?

This discontent is evident in Pennsylvania, a major political bellwether, and it’s not new. Unhappiness with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to widespread Republican losses in 2006, including the defeat of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. This same disillusionment helped fuel Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, especially in formerly Democratic regions that now trend Republican. This legacy has remained a major issue in the Keystone State.

This crisis of confidence, especially among soldiers, shouldn’t be ignored. The men and women tasked to defend our nation must reckon with defeat in a war about which they were never given an honest assessment. How many, like Scheller, are willing to walk away from their careers and pensions over it? How many, like the soldier I spoke to, are willing to continue their service but with pessimism toward their mission and a sardonic attitude toward the people deploying them?

This is the inevitable side effect of fighting multiple wars with impossible conditions for military victory. The only solution remains a drastic reassessment of U.S. foreign policy interests, including abandoning nation-building overseas and resolving to send our men and women in uniform to fight only in defense of our rights and liberties, and only in wars formally declared by Congress.

Like Americans elsewhere, Pennsylvanians are lamenting the course of these past 20 years.

This article was originally featured at RealClearPolitics and is republished with permission of author.

Cop Pleads Guilty to Trafficking in Child Porn, Raping Dog

As TFTP previously reported, a police officer from the Bossier City Police Department was arrested in December 2018 for filming unspeakable acts with animals. Officer Terry Yetman, 38, was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse of animals—producing the evidence himself—including filming sex with his own police K9. This decorated cop was also charged with 31 counts of child pornography several months later. Now, nearly 3 years after his initial arrest, Yetman has pleaded guilty.

TFTP learned at the time, Yetman, who had only been out on bail for two days for the 40 counts of animal abuse charges, was taken into custody once more and charged with 31 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles.

According to the Louisiana State police, Yetman was originally arrested on December 19, 2018 and charged with 20 counts of sexual abuse of animals by performing sexual acts with an animal, and 20 counts of filming sexual acts with an animal.

In a plea deal, however, Yetman—despite facing over 70 charges—pleaded guilty to just one count of possession of child pornography and five counts of sexual abuse of an animal.

“The Louisiana State Police Special Victims Unit who was assisted by the Bossier City Marshal’s Office and Department of Homeland Security did an outstanding job on this case. They delivered a very strong case to our office and Assistant District Attorney, Allie Aiello Stahl, did an excellent job prosecuting this case,” District Attorney Schuyler Marvin said. “My office will do everything in our power to prosecute those who prey on children and animals.”

Yetman is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 23, 2021. He faces a total of 45 years in prison and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

In Defense of Animals is a group who works to advance the cause of justice and show lawmakers the public is united against “senseless and horrific animal abuse,” and they held back no words when they decried this officer’s “horrific” abuse.

“Thousands of In Defense of Animals supporters were moved by this horrific case and want to see justice done,” said Doll Stanley, campaign director for In Defense of Animals in a news release at the time.

“A healthy society protects its innocents: vulnerable children, animals, elderly citizens. Sexual predators must be made to fear the loss of freedom and a stinging financial impact,” said Stanley.

As TFTP previously reported, Yetman was a decorated officer on the department’s Domestic Task Force. The task force was responsible for championing the rights of domestic violence victims and their families. Just before he was arrested, Yetman was awarded the the 2018 Trey Hutchison Award for his work on the force.

The image remains up on the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Sadly, however, it appears that Yetman led a double life and while he was “championing the rights of domestic violence victims,” he was initiating and filming his own violence and abuse at home.

Prosecutors say Yetman engaged in sexual conduct with a dog and possessed pornographic images of a person and an animal engaged in sexual conduct. That person was him.

Disgusting indeed.

Police officers sexually abusing animals—and even filming it—is not an isolated incident. Even more disturbing as well is the fact that, like Yetman, many of the officers who engage in sex with animals also abuse children. In fact, TFTP predicted this outcome with Yetman when he was arrested the first time.

As TFTP reported, Robert Melia Jr. was sworn to protect and serve, but a Burlington County jury found he abandoned that oath when he and his former girlfriend repeatedly molested teenagers in the home they shared in Moorestown.

The attacks, including a violent sexual assault on an incapacitated, bound and blindfolded teenager captured on video, took place just feet from where his Moorestown police uniform hung on his bedroom door. Melia and his girlfriend also filmed themselves having sex with a cow. They were both arrested and convicted for their acts.

Officer Derren Tomlinson, 44, with the West Mercia Police department was sentenced to 11 years in prison for unspeakable crimes against children and animals. The allegations against this well-respected police officer of nine years shocked the town.

This model public servant was convicted of raping a girl under 13-years-old, sexual assault on a child, and bestiality. When sentencing Tomlinson, Judge Robin Onions said he was “utterly unsuited to being a (police officer)” — an understatement, to say the least.

A Harris County Sheriff’s deputy, who was fired after the department found he’d produced and starred in a video where he was having sex with a dog, was sentenced to 27 years in prison. The cop, Andrew C. Sustaita Jr., 31, was not sentenced to prison for having sex with a dog. Instead, he was remanded to Texas’ penal system because he was found to have been in possession of child pornography.

As TFTP reported, Sustaita’s bestiality made national headlines but once investigators secured search warrants for his computer, some 200 videos and images of child pornography were discovered, some involving a family member’s daughter, made by Sustaita himself.

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

It’s Time to Bring Our Troops Home

“Let us resolve that never again will we send the precious young blood of this country to die trying to prop up a corrupt military dictatorship abroad. This is also the time to turn away from excessive preoccupation overseas to the rebuilding of our own nation. America must be restored to a proper role in the world. But we can do that only through the recovery of confidence in ourselves…together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.”—George S. McGovern, former Senator and presidential candidate

It’s time to bring all our troops home.

Bring them home from Somalia, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia.

It’s not enough to pull American troops out of Afghanistan, America’s longest, bloodiest and most expensive war to date.

It’s time that we stop policing the globe, stop occupying other countries, and stop waging endless wars.

That’s not what’s going to happen, of course.

The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world.

Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.” As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.”

Don’t fall for the propaganda, though.

America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world.

The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually. As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

This is how a military empire occupies the globe.

After 20 years of propping up Afghanistan to the tune of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost, the U.S. military may have finally been forced out, but those troops represent just a fraction of our military presence worldwide.

In an ongoing effort to police the globe, American military servicepeople continue to be deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere.

This is how the military industrial complex, aided and abetted by the likes of Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and others, continues to get rich at taxpayer expense.

Yet while the rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are policing the globe, these wars abroad aren’t making America—or the rest of the world—any safer, are certainly not making America great again, and are undeniably digging the U.S. deeper into debt.

War spending is bankrupting America.

Although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.

In fact, the U.S. government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year.

Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

Talk about fiscally irresponsible: the U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

War is not cheap, but it becomes outrageously costly when you factor in government incompetence, fraud, and greedy contractors. Indeed, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked.

A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government.

Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior.

Americans have thus far allowed themselves to be spoon-fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda that keeps them content to wave flags with patriotic fervor and less inclined to look too closely at the mounting body counts, the ruined lives, the ravaged countries, the blowback arising from ill-advised targeted-drone killings and bombing campaigns in foreign lands, or the transformation of our own homeland into a warzone.

That needs to change.

The U.S. government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the U.S. military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000 human beings. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds.

The U.S. government is not making America any safer. It’s exposing American citizens to alarming levels of blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America’s use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback.

The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomber was blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the U.S. Army, was blowback.

The U.S. military’s ongoing drone strikes will, I fear, spur yet more blowback against the American people. The latest drone strike reportedly killed seven children, ages 2 to 10, in Afghanistan.

The war hawks’ militarization of America—bringing home the spoils of war (the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.) and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield—is also blowback.

James Madison was right: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” As Madison explained, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.”

We are seeing this play out before our eyes.

The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls.

Clearly, our national priorities are in desperate need of an overhauling.

At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts:

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

This is the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us more than 50 years ago not to let endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, was alarmed by the rise of the profit-driven war machine that emerged following the war—one that, in order to perpetuate itself, would have to keep waging war.

We failed to heed his warning.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, there’s not much time left before we reach the zero hour.

It’s time to stop policing the globe, end these wars-without-end, and bring the troops home.

This article was originally featured at the Rutherford Institute and is republished with permission.

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