A Fitting Flourish on a 20 Year Killing Spree

A Fitting Flourish on a 20 Year Killing Spree

On August 29, 2021, the U.S. military killed a group of people in Kabul, Afghanistan, using a Hellfire missile launched from an MQ-9 Reaper drone. The Pentagon claimed that “the procedures were correctly followed, and it was a righteous strike.” In a surprising development, rather than merely parroting the Pentagon account of what transpired, the New York Times decided to investigate what happened and has produced a compelling film to illustrate that the people incinerated were not ISIS-K terrorists, or anyone associated with groups posing a threat to U.S forces and allies. Instead, the victims were an aid worker, Zemari Ahmadi, and his entire family, including seven children. While the Pentagon believed that the target was behaving suspiciously, in fact, he was going about an ordinary day of running errands. Ahmadi, an electrical engineer by training, worked for a California-based NGO, Nutrition and Education International. On his last day of life, he was bringing water to his home, and transporting colleagues around town.

Reporters for the New York Times pieced together very clear security camera footage of Ahmadi moving about with colleagues, holding laptops and empty plastic water containers, which they placed in a white Toyota Corola. The Pentagon interpreted the water bottles and laptops as evidence of an imminent terrorist attack. In press conferences after the strike, officials maintained that a large secondary explosion showed that the car contained bombs, intended for use to further disrupt the evacuations underway at Kabul airport. Independent weapons experts enlisted to assess the damage at the scene, however, found no evidence of a secondary blast. They found no damage to peripheral structures, and no indication that the destruction of the car and the deaths of ten human beings were caused by anything but the missile launched from a U.S. drone.

Unfortunately, the only thing truly surprising about this development is that a mainstream media outlet has done some real reporting to get to the bottom of the story. What distinguishes this from hundreds of other drone strikes in Afghanistan throughout the twenty-year War on Terror is only that the Pentagon was not allowed to squelch any possible suggestion to the effect that they incompetently killed innocent people while claiming to be protecting them. The New York Times enthusiastically promoted the government line all through the War on Terror, portraying in a positive light even abominations such as the Obama administration’s Terror Tuesday meetings, during which nominees for elimination were considered on the basis of flashcard presentations. I am frankly surprised that the story of what happened in Kabul less than two weeks ago made it through the editorial office at the New York Times and have to wonder whether the editor who gave the piece a green light will continue to be gainfully employed. It would be nice to believe that the New York Times editorial board has done some soul-searching and wishes to repent for its warmongering ways, but let us be perfectly clear: through publishing pieces in which they verily gushed over Obama’s new role as a technokiller, the New York Times helped to make palatable and ultimately normalize assassination of suspects by lethal drones on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence.

The summary execution of suspects was established as a standard operating procedure during the War on Terror not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but all over the Middle East and in Africa as well. We know from documents stolen and shared by whistleblower Daniel Hale, that, far from ensuring that no civilians would be killed before drone strikes were carried out, analysts deemed targets guilty until proven innocent. Scandalously, many of the persons killed were of entirely unknown identity. When standards of justice were inverted in this way, injustice was systematically perpetrated under a specious guise of national defense. Standards of truth were also corrupted as military bureaucrats wove stories to attempt to convince the populace that they did nothing wrong, even when they killed scores of human beings at gatherings such as funerals and weddings, and even when they bombed hospitals. Recall also that when Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who volunteered to fight in the War on the Terror, was killed in a friendly fire incident, the Pentagon concocted a fable to paint him as a hero instead. And that was only one of many cases in which truth was abandoned in the name of public relations to prop up a misguided and ill-fated military mission. Lies were what kept the war on Afghanistan going long after it should have ended. Trillions of dollars and countless lives later, the administration finally acknowledged that it had been a Fool’s Errand all along.

Lies were used not only to keep troops on the ground in Afghanistan long after the mission to locate Osama bin Laden had ended, but also to expand the War on Terror to many surrounding countries and to Africa as well. Most of these were undeclared wars, said by their perpetrators to be necessary in national defense and claimed to be authorized by a sweeping AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force), which congress cowardly bestowed upon President George W. Bush in order to avoid responsibility for whatever might ensue, allowing him, in effect, to bomb wherever he wanted to. No U.S. citizen was ever protected by any drone strike targeting suspects in unoccupied lands, and now that Afghanistan is no longer under U.S. occupation, what happened on August 29, 2021, can be used as a lens through which to see the magnitude of injustice perpetrated over twenty years in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and beyond. In such countries, locals who attempted to dispute official pronouncements on the military-aged men killed and claimed to be terrorists were denounced, discredited, and sometimes targeted, again for being so-called propaganda outlets for Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. But because the U.S. military no longer controls the narrative of what is going on in Afghanistan, having returned the country to the Taliban, we have been afforded a rare glimpse into the terrible reality of what has been done in our name for two decades.

Perhaps this latest tragedy could have been avoided, had the revelations of Daniel Hale and Julian Assange been taken seriously. Preposterously, Hale is serving a prison sentence, and Assange is the ongoing victim of a relentless persecution campaign to extradite him to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act for publishing factual material, including the shocking Collateral Murder video. If the U.S. government were to acknowledge the concerns of whistleblowers and admit that executing people on the basis of circumstantial evidence contradicts everything the United States supposedly stands for, including human rights, then they would have to pause and assess what the actual consequences of their drone program have been. Instead, they criminalize the whistleblowers and plod on as before.

Rather than learn from their mistakes, the Pentagon persists in doubling down on failed strategies. Lest we forget, the U.S. government was provoked by the events of September 11, 2001, into launching a vast and ruinous campaign of terrorism, torture, and mass homicide throughout the Middle East. The provocation strategy worked once again in August 2021, when a bomb set off at the Kabul airport, killing thirteen Marines, immediately led to President Biden’s declaration that he would seek revenge. Three days later, the drone strike on August 29, 2021, incinerated an entire family of ten people who were hoping to obtain refugee visas to the United States. This was, once again, a misguided reaction to a terrorist attack specifically intended to goad the U.S. government to overreact, which of course it did. The difference between this drone strike and the hundreds of others which preceded it is only this: because the military had already left Afghanistan, there was no one around to suppress the counter narrative of locals at the scene of the crime.

Throttling the Truth: Why the Case of Julian Assange Is More Important Than Ever

Throttling the Truth: Why the Case of Julian Assange Is More Important Than Ever

In a world with a functional Fourth Estate, the case of Julian Assange would be on the front page of major newspapers every day. Instead, it has been all but blacked out. Perhaps this makes sense, given that the raison d’être of Wikileaks, according to its founder, was to provide to the public important news which is omitted by the mainstream media outlets. To defend Wikileaks in a sustained way would be for network news channels and syndicated newspapers to acknowledge, at least tacitly, that they have been coopted by the government, as critics have long maintained. Nonetheless, the unwillingness of truth-driven journalists to say more about what is going on is puzzling and suggests that the situation is far worse than we may imagine. The future of press freedom is at stake and, with it, the very possibility of dissent.

In some ways, the U.S. government’s quest to silence Assange has already succeeded, for the founder of Wikileaks is no longer having any effect on the world, and he has had very little effect since 2018, when his internet access was cut off. From 2011 to 2019, Assange lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, having sought asylum there in order to avoid persecution by the U.S. government. He was wrenched from his safe haven in 2019, when the government of Ecuador stopped protecting him and permitted the British government forcibly to remove him from the premises. This appears to have been a case of bribery or threat, and most likely both, given the well-established modes of “persuasion” used by the U.S. superpower to bend lesser powers to its will. Whatever ultimately precipitated his ejection from the embassy, Assange was taken away by agents of the United Kingdom and placed in Belmarsh prison, where he remains today, awaiting the court’s decision on whether to extradite him so that he can be made to stand trial in the United States on charges of espionage.

Assange, an Australian citizen, published troves of secret documents stolen by whistleblowers who wished to illuminate what they took to be malfeasance, both in the Global War on Terror and in the DNC’s (Democratic National Committee) efforts to determine the outcome of the Democratic presidential primary election in 2016. I suspect that, if the extradition quest succeeds, the death knell for Julian Assange will have been not the dissemination of war-related materials, such as the shocking Collateral Murder video showing Reuters journalists “neutralized” in Iraq by soldiers hovering above in an Apache helocopter, but the revelation that the progressive candidate Bernie Sanders never stood a chance against the pre-selected nominee of Democratic Party elites, Hillary Clinton.

I say this because despite the fact that Assange’s asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy was abruptly ended under President Trump, and may well have been a cynical and primarily political ploy to further discredit the already discredited Russian collusion narrative, the Biden administration continues to pursue Assange just as ruthlessly. According to the Russian collusion hoax, which dominated U.S. political discourse for more than three entire years and continues to be discussed by some pundits still today, Trump was elected as the president of the United States in 2016 only because of the Russians. Trump’s election had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Hillary Clinton was an abysmal candidate who haughtily called half the nation “deplorable,” nor because she was a hawk who rallied for the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, nor because she was instrumental in persuading President Obama to bomb Libya, among other foreign policy disasters to her credit. Just as I doubt that President Biden will pardon whistleblower Daniel Hale, because doing so would tarnish the image of Barack Obama by acknowledging that he lied about the drone program, I doubt that Biden/Harris will drop the charges against Assange, who is blamed by all self-styled right-minded Democrats for the election of Donald Trump.

Whoever shared the DNC email trove with Wikileaks (whether Russian trolls or Seth Rich, the DNC staffer murdered in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2016—or perhaps someone else altogether) the missives clearly revealed to Bernie Sanders voters that they had been played. All of their hours of volunteer work, all of their hard-earned cash donated in small sums to a campaign doomed to fail from the start, were obviously for naught. There can be little doubt that some Sanders supporters declined to vote at all in 2016 after discovering in Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails what had been going on behind the scenes at the DNC. Thousands of registered Democrats left the party in what they hashtagged as a #DEMEXIT protest, and some among them went even so far as to vote for Donald Trump. For this, Assange will never be forgiven by millions of people, some of whom continue to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and persist in blaming the Russians for every catastrophe under the sun. Rational people recognize, of course, that if the DNC had not rigged the election, then there would be no reason for their voters to be angered by the primary result. Resolute “I’m With Her” Hillary Clinton supporters are not bothered in the least by the behind-closed-doors shenanigans of the DNC, but only by the fact that they were made public by Wikileaks.

Assange also shared with the public evidence of U.S. war crimes, so one reason his case is rarely mentioned by anyone in the mainstream media is simply that war coverage is slanted to support the U.S. military. Viewed as a simple market-driven problem, the major news channels today are primarily in the business of infotainment rather than journalism, and it seems unlikely that pointing out that taxpayers fund the murder of innocent people abroad could do anything but lower ratings. The networks are obviously more interested in audience satisfaction than truth, as the case of Rachel Maddow illustrates. A judge recently ruled that Maddow is not a journalist but a liberal activist, who offers hyperbole in place of facts and “distorts reality.” This, however, is supposed be fine because her viewers are expected to know that she is not reporting the news but sharing her own often emotional views. During the Trump years, the author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power somehow lost the journalistic plot to become Hillary Clinton’s arch apologist, ironically comporting herself in a manner not unlike Alex Jones and abandoning altogether her former role as an antiwar critic. Needless to say, Maddow, in contrast to Jones, has not been deplatformed across the Big Tech outlets and denounced as a lunatic, for she, unlike Jones, is a useful sensationalist, who has come dutifully to serve the establishment.

There was a time, years ago, when Julian Assange was still being discussed quite a bit in the mainstream media, and that initial, propaganda-riddled coverage seems to have got lodged in people’s minds. In my travels around the world, I have been surprised by the responses of people in completely different places to my questions about the founder of Wikileaks. Anecdotally, I can report that there are apparently intelligent, reasonably well-informed people, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and even Assange’s country of citizenship, Australia, who believe that he is an underhanded, morally despicable criminal. This they take to have been demonstrated by the fact that Assange was summoned back to Sweden to answer allegations of rape some years ago but “bolted,” as his critics characterize it, rather than confront his accusers back in 2011.

A decade after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, it no longer seems to matter to many of those same people that Swedish authorities abandoned the Assange case for lack of evidence to sustain an indictment. The initial portrait painted of Assange, in a very effective discreditation effort, as someone who cowardly evaded justice by hiding out in the embassy, seems to loom larger in many people’s minds than the crimes which he exposed. Needless to say, this morally unsavory portrait was made even uglier to Hillary Clinton Democrats after the leak of DNC emails which most likely did contribute to Donald Trump’s election in 2016, regarded by so many as “unthinkable.”

The Assange haters, in clinging to the image created for them by the media, are either unwilling or unable to consider rational explanations, such as simple prudence, for Assange’s decision to protect himself through seeking political asylum. To offer only one of many possible examples, consider the plight of Michael Hastings, one of the most public antiwar journalists to have emerged on the scene in the twenty-first century and whose work actually ended the career of General Stanley McChrystal. Hastings died under strange circumstances in a single-car automobile accident on June 18, 2013, shortly after having told friends that he was being pursued somehow by the FBI, and also that someone had been tinkering with his car. Suggestions to the effect that there may have been foul play involved were swiftly dismissed, and Hastings has by now been forgotten by all but a few “conspiracy theorists.” But it is a fact that single-car accidents are a specialty of the CIA, and Hastings had picked fights with people in very high places. Indeed, at the time of his death, Hastings was working on an exposé of Obama’s lethal drone czar, John Brennan, who had been confirmed as CIA director on March 8, 2013. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) declined to investigate the case, and Hastings’ wife, Elise Jordan (a former speechwriter for Condoleezza Rice, improbably enough), went out on the media circuit to insist that the death was an accident.

Whatever may or may not have been done to Hastings, the point is that Julian Assange, being acutely aware of what the CIA and its affiliates were capable of doing, acted altogether prudently in protecting himself by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, and remaining there up until he was forcibly removed. The Collateral Murder video footage, after all, depicted the execution of journalists. Even more ominously, Obama’s expansion of the drone program effectively normalized extrajudicial killing, formerly known as “assassination,” of noncitizens and citizens alike. From the cases of Anwar al-Awlaki, his son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan (editor and publisher of Inspire magazine) there can no longer be any doubt that the U.S. government is willing to kill even its own citizens with no due process whatsoever.

Before being muted and sequestered, Julian Assange, like both Michael Hastings and Anwar al-Awlaki, was a very public and vocal opponent of U.S. military interventions in the Middle East. Once in the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange and his lawyers were spied upon, which surely counts as evidence that his concern for his own safety was sound. Added to that, according to his defense team, there were discussions among Spanish paid operatives about taking Assange’s life while he was living under asylum. Nonetheless, Assange, who has been kept in Belmarsh prison with very little interaction with anyone for more than two years, is being treated as though he were a convicted criminal.

On July 7, 2021, the UK High Court ruled that the U.S. government could continue its quest for extradition, and on August 11, 2021, a judge ruled that Assange will remain in prison while the U.S. government is permitted to expand the grounds for its appeal, having raised doubts about the mental health pretext used in the January 4, 2021, court judgment according to which extradition to a supermax prison in the United States might lead to Assange’s suicide. What is undeniably a concerted effort to muffle the founder of Wikileaks is succeeding, for he continues to be wholly consumed with the matter of his own survival. This despite the obvious violation of procedure through spying on him and his lawyers, and despite the fact that Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson, a key witness in the U.S. case against Assange, revealed in an Icelandic newspaper that he had fabricated his story in exchange for immunity offered to him by U.S. authorities.

The U.S. government wishes to try Assange under their expansive interpretation of the 1917 Espionage Act, for having illegally obtained and disseminated top secret U.S. government documents. But surely Assange has neither a legal nor a moral duty to support the government of the United States, least of all when he believes that it regularly commits war crimes, evidence of which he has made public and for which he is now being persecuted. As many critics have insisted, to claim that Assange violated U.S. law by publishing documents obtained and shared by whistleblowers sets a very dangerous precedent by expanding the power of the state to the point of being able to stifle dissent by preventing journalists anywhere from reporting on war crimes committed by governments anywhere. This is a step onto a totalitarian slope, allowing only the state propaganda department to determine what constitute the facts and allowing the government both to deny and to hide all evidence of the government’s own crimes, such as those detailed in the Afghanistan War Diary and the Iraq War Diary published by Wikileaks.

After twenty years of squandered blood and treasure, the U.S. war on Afghanistan ended unceremoniously with the Taliban taking over the country, demonstrating once again, as the saying goes, that Afghanistan is “the place where empires go to die.” Predictably, the major networks have continued to tap the usual suspects, the incompetent war architects themselves, to criticize not the war itself but the manner in which it was ended. While foreign policy experts seem at the moment to be consumed with an ugly blame game, I suspect that the timing of the U.S. withdrawal had more to do with other, more ambitious projects in the works, and in no way reflects an abandonment by political elites of their imperial aims. For it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a vigorous and well-orchestrated effort, in countries all around the globe, to create a different sort of world altogether, one where places such as Afghanistan no longer matter much at all.

Placing the case of Assange into the broader context of ongoing efforts to squelch dissent, it is noteworthy that the Biden administration press secretary, Jen Psaki, recently revealed, in a display of open scorn for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that the government is “working closely with Facebook” to stop the dissemination of what they regard as misinformation. But Psaki herself is open to charges of disinformation, not only about the COVID-19 vaccines, about which she parrots Fauci, claiming a mythical “The Science” as her source of knowledge, but also whenever she speaks about Biden’s predecessor. In an exchange with a reporter over negative vaccine messaging by Biden before becoming president, Psaki quipped, “I would note that at the time, just for context, the former president was also suggesting people inject versions of poison into their veins to cure COVID. So I think that’s a relevant point.” There is no film or document in which Trump tells people to inject themselves with poison or to drink bleach, because he never did.

The Biden Ministry of Propaganda continues nonetheless to keep these tropes alive just as surely as the Bush team continued to pretend that Saddam Hussein really did have WMDs and was somehow in cahoots with Al Qaeda, even as it became increasingly obvious that neither was true. The situation has become far more perilous now, however, for the very future of the republic. The government has long worked closely with the mass media news outlets, especially to promote war, but the very possibility of whistleblowing is in danger of being altogether eliminated as the government works with the Big Tech companies to censor so-called disinformation on the only available alternative news source, the internet. Already in 2021, the U.S. government seized entire websites in Iran, and there is little reason to think that they will stop there. After all, one country’s cyberattack is another country’s national defense.

In her press conference, Psaki was referring to “misinformation” about COVID-19, meaning reports in conflict with the administration’s own narrative, but by the same logic, there could no longer be any dissent from the misadventures of the U.S. military, no matter what they did. Convicting Assange as a spy would likely put an end to what small amount of true journalism continues on today, cementing the current substitution of propaganda for news, with the government granting the government itself the right to black out sites such as Wikileaks altogether. Before sermons by Anwar al-Awlaki were removed from the internet, he was “convicted” of terrorism in the public eye by extrajudicial state execution. If Assange were convicted in a court of law of espionage, then some in the government could be expected to feel justified in erasing every trace of his work from the world.

If the internet, along with the mainstream media, comes to be completely controlled by the government, then dissent will be impossible, and a formerly democratic society will have been transformed into a totalitarian system, where oligarchs determine what may and may not be said, and those who demur are criminalized, not for violent or fraudulent acts, but for disagreeing with “the official story” and standing up for the truth. We have seen how redefining “offense” as “defense” and “bombing” as “humanitarian intervention” were cynical but highly successful ploys to promote the war machine. Those who dare to dissent, like Assange, and manage to do it effectively, are discredited and deplatformed, by hook or by crook.

In the current COVIDystopic climate, even credentialed scientists and doctors are permitted only to parrot the decrees of the government’s small committee of policymakers with clear financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. When they dare to demur, backing up their dissent with data-based research, they are deplatformed. Remarkably, it has become official government policy in many places around the world that healthy people can be criminalized as public menaces and citizens required, on pain of loss of civil liberties, to serve as subjects in experimental trials for medical treatments of which they have no need. Under Obama, the presumption of suspect innocence was perversely inverted to become a presumption of guilt and used as the pretext for executing thousands of persons located outside areas of active hostility. Now we are witnessing an inversion of presumed health to sickness, with citizens being required to demonstrate their vaccination status in order to go about their daily lives. We have seen over a matter of mere months political leaders go from attempting to bribe citizens to undergo experimental vaccination in exchange for lottery tickets, cash payments and free food, to criminalizing their very attempt to conduct their lives peaceably in civil society by attending public events, dining out, using public transport, visiting museums or going shopping.

The Department of Homeland Security recently listed “Opposition to COVID Measures” as one of its “Potential Terror Threats.” What happens next? We know from history that once groups of people are convincingly portrayed by the government as despicable criminals and pariahs, then there is no limit to what “good people” will do to see that they be eliminated, and those who have freely declined the COVID-19 vaccines are now being punished in the cities of Paris, New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, where they are no longer permitted to participate in society. The most frightening aspect of the propaganda campaign currently underway is that it has been propagated through easy-to-parrot soundbites (such as “Listen to The Science!”) which many people, in states of total self-deception, proclaim from the hilltops against what they take to be the unwashed, unvaxxed, unmasked and ignorant enemy. So convinced are compliant citizens by now of their moral righteousness that many of them will not even engage in discussions with those who disagree.

The revelations of Julian Assange, Bradley/Chelsea Manning and Daniel Hale demonstrated for all to see the government’s assertion of the right to kill anyone anywhere, without indictment or trial, on whatever grounds it deems sufficient. Assassination is certainly the most direct and facile way of dealing with dissidents who are articulate enough to defend themselves in a court of law. Anwar al-Awlaki, for example, was able to convey clear, antiwar, anti-imperialist objections to the U.S. government’s fiascos in the Middle East. Rather than allow him to pose an intellectual threat to the official story, by having him stand trial in a court of law, al-Awlaki was summarily silenced for all time through incineration by lethal drone.

Perhaps, then, no one should be surprised by the increasingly aggressive attempts by Western governments to coerce citizens to submit to experimental medical treatments, even while death has been acknowledged to be one of a number of documented side effects. The latest spec sheets for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines now include a full paragraph warning about the danger of myocarditis, yet the propaganda campaign to vaccinate young persons at nearly no risk from COVID-19 plows ahead with the CDC now recommending a third “booster” shot for everyone who has already received two shots, regardless of their age or health condition.

As data continues to be amassed, more and more research studies are appearing to vindicate “the quacks” who disagreed early on with the reigning global public health narrative. These studies may be ignored by the Biden administration’s Ministry of Propaganda, but we must patiently await the day when the fear of the virus no longer propels people blindly to follow the government’s arbitrary diktats, nor to pressure their neighbors into doing the same. Public health officials, being political appointees, will not save the world from what looks at this point to be an inexorable march toward totalitarianism. Our last best hope lies in the courts. We must mount lawsuits to defend our civil rights, and we must, along with Julian Assange, cling to our faith that there are still a few sane and rational judges who have not been politically or financially coopted, nor terrorized by the sheer fear of death after a year and half of non-stop propaganda. Those judges will assess the data and side with the truth in defending societies from their bureaucratic tyrants run amok.

The Drone Program Whistleblower Problem

The Drone Program Whistleblower Problem

“I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole…We had entire training courses…”

– Former CIA Director and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

 

The concept of whistleblowing seems simple on its face: a government employee recognizes that crimes are being committed by the agency they work for and reports them so that the public is made aware that their tax dollars are being misused by those in charge. But what happens when large parts of the operations of an entire agency (such as the CIA), or even the entire executive branch of government, are grounded in immoral behavior? Is it possible to effectively “blow the whistle” on the entire sprawling apparatus? Or is that conceptually impossible, given that the government reserves for itself the prerogative to issue judgments on what it does?

A system of checks and balances in the United States is said by its defenders to be preserved through having three separate and independent branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. If a governor enacts a law which some citizens believe violates the Constitution, then they can sue the governor, and a judge will issue a verdict on the matter. If the citizens do not win the suit, they can still appeal the ruling by taking the case up again in a higher court. Eventually, the most contentious disputes wend their way up to the Supreme Court, where debate comes to an end and a final judgment is made. This system allows some degree of checks and balances on lower court judges whose political biases may impede objective assessment of the matter in question. Of course, Supreme Court justices, too, are human beings who have been appointed by politicians, so bias cannot be altogether eliminated. But because the nine Supreme Court justices are never appointed by the same president, there is some hope that perspectives will be balanced, and at the very least, dissenting justices in the minority are able to articulate the grounds for their dissent, so that if ever the matter reaches the high court again, it can be informed by those concerns.

Legality and morality, however, are two different things, as much as we may wish for the former to reflect the latter. Expressing moral dissent from what is being done by the government becomes far more difficult when the perpetrators are granted by law the ability to commit moral atrocities, as in war. During wartime, the standards of civil society are completely flouted, permitting the premeditated, intentional killing of human beings, even of soldiers who have been coerced to fight, and even of completely innocent civilians, provided only that the perpetrators claim to have good intentions. Antiwar activists continue to question the “just war paradigm” presupposed by modern military practice, but the complete abolition of war remains a lofty ideal, given the less lofty financial dynamics propelling the war machine forward.

As difficult as it is to take issue with war itself, many veterans throughout history have done just that, having once witnessed firsthand the stark disparity between wartime rhetoric and reality. It is even more difficult to criticize government killers when they operate under a cloak of secrecy. If final judgments regarding alleged wrongdoers are exclusive to the very institution or branch being criticized, then the system becomes microcosmic of tyranny, for the head of the institution effectively writes the “laws” for his subordinates. One example of this was the military’s own assessment of events captured in the video footage Collateral Murder, which was shared by Private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning through Wikileaks. In that harrowing film, Reuters journalists are killed by U.S. soldiers hovering above them in a helicopter. After assessing the episode in response to public outrage over what transpired in New Baghdad, Iraq, on that day, the Pentagon concluded that the soldiers had in fact acted in accordance with military protocol. Manning did the public a great service by revealing a shocking truth about what the U.S. military regards as acceptable behavior.

Notwithstanding the oft-recited claim that the United States is a pillar of democracy, there are sizable portions of the U.S. government which are beyond the reach of effective criticism for the simple reason that they are shrouded in secrecy on grounds of national defense. Notably, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the part of the Pentagon’s wide-ranging initiatives paid for using the ever-expanding Black Budget operate with effective impunity. The pretext of “national self defense” is used to prosecute and sometimes destroy the lives of those who dare to demur from the sorts of immoral activities undertaken by government entities allegedly for the good of the nation. In many cases, what are really being defended are the agencies themselves and the comportment of their compliant employees.

The reason given for the assiduous pursuit of whistleblowers in such cases is identical to the alleged reason for the secrecy: that to reveal anything about what is underway is to compromise national security. When whistleblowers expose what look to be war crimes, they are said by prosecutors specifically to endanger the lives of those implicated in the allegations—both regular government employees and cultivated sources. Indeed, the mere possibility of endangering the perpetrators—even when there is no evidence of any harm done by the leaks—usually suffices for the prosecutors of whistleblowers to win their cases. The irony, of course, is that the reason why the revelation of unsavory government activities to the public is dangerous to the perpetrators is manifestly that the acts in question are immoral and will be denounced by most any right-minded person who is made aware of them.

Before the twenty-first century, crimes such as the assassination of suspected enemy spies were committed both by the CIA and by the Pentagon. There was very little, if any, congressional oversight over secretive assassination programs throughout the Cold War, and the small number of congresspersons privy to the details evidently agreed with what was going on. Nonetheless, in the 1970s, the Church Committee and the Pike Committee did manage eventually to rein in the CIA and the Pentagon run amok during the Vietnam War, when hatred and fear of communism led government administrators to devise morally dubious programs such as Phoenix, which resulted in widespread civilian carnage. A moratorium was put on assassination by President Ford in 1976 through Executive Order 11905, and it seemed that the self-correcting system had worked to some degree—albeit not in time to save the lives of thousands of human beings.

During the Global War on Terror waged in response to the events of September 11, 2001, the moratorium on assassination came to an end. Far from being regarded as taboo, such killing was normalized and came eventually to be openly acknowledged and even vaunted to the public. In effect, the intentional, premeditated execution of specific individuals—formerly known as assassination and considered illegal under international law—was rebranded as targeted killing and embraced as a new standard operating procedure of what was enthusiastically billed as smart war. By using remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), or lethal drones, it would no longer be necessary to risk troops’ lives, which was naturally good news to politicians who promoted the drone program without thinking about the consequences for the people on the ground, nor the global effects later on down the line, when other governments began to deploy lethal drones in achieving their aims.

“Taking the battle to the enemy” was deemed necessary for national self-defense, and now, the marketing line went, it could be done without sacrificing any U.S. soldiers’ lives. There might be a bit of so-called collateral damage here and there, but as usual it would come to be ignored or brushed aside as one of the inevitable consequences of “the fog of war.” By portraying targeted killing as a rational way of minimizing combat losses, the whole notion of what counts as permissible warfare was transformed, seemingly irrevocably, given that the United States and Israel set the precedent. Over the course of the war on terror, thousands of people have been killed, and many times more maimed and terrorized, using missiles launched from drones hovering above Yemen, Syria, in Northern Africa, and beyond, in programs administered by the CIA rather than the military. The fact that drone strikes “outside areas of active hostility” (where no U.S. troops were on the ground to protect) were made the province of the CIA to initiate and supervise was diaphanously intended to evade meddling congressional attempts at oversight.

By now, lethal drones have been purchased by governments all over the world, who are free to use these weapons to dispatch anyone whom they designate as the enemy, no matter where they may be. First in line among non-U.S. heads of state to emulate President Obama in intentionally hunting down and assassinating citizens located abroad was U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron used lethal drones in 2015 to execute British citizens located in Syria, despite the fact that capital punishment is forbidden by U.K. law. Had Cameron indicted and tried his victims in Britain, then they would likely still be alive, even if found guilty in a court of law. Rather than prosecute his targets as citizens entitled to due process, Cameron waited until they traveled to Syria before extrajudicially assassinating them.

Where formerly it was considered illegal (under the Geneva Conventions) for a soldier to execute an unarmed enemy soldier point blank, in the Drone Age it is said to be perfectly permissible for an operator located thousands of miles away from a “battlefield” devoid of allied soldiers to push a button and eliminate a suspected enemy combatant, along with anyone who happens to be around him at the time. Still reeling from the shock of what transpired on September 11, 2001, politicians and the populace alike were essentially tricked into believing the manifest absurdity that a soldier located in a trailer in Nevada could be said to kill in self-defense a person who not only was not provided with the right to surrender nor prove that he was not a terrorist, but in fact was not even armed. Understandably, some of the enlisted soldiers lured into working in the U.S. government’s interagency drone program have deeply regretted their participation and abandoned the profession.

A few of the persons privy to the details of the drone program have spoken out, including Daniel Hale, a former signals intelligence analyst who was recently sentenced to nearly four years in prison for violating the Espionage Act. Hale, who worked in the drone assassination program in Afghanistan, stole and shared a trove of top-secret documents, which were published online by Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept as “The Drone Papers,” and in book form as The Assassination Complex. The documents confirmed what other apostate drone operators had already claimed: that the U. S. government, far from achieving “near certainty” about their targets before dispatching them with missiles launched from drones, in fact defined all victims of drone strikes as Enemy Killed in Action or EKIA, provided only that they were military-aged males. Instead of needing to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before executing these suspects, the entire program has been based on the preposterous premise that such persons are guilty until proven innocent. Under this assumption, lengthy hit lists have been drawn up for years by analysts using circumstantial evidence such as SIM card data from cellphones of suspected terrorists. No matter that some of the military-aged males incinerated by drones may have worked as taxi drivers, delivery persons, etc. If their number was derived during a data sweep from the phone of a person already suspected of having terrorist organization connections, then they became “guilty until proven innocent” by transitivity. In “crowd killing,” entire groups of men of unknown identity have been eliminated under the assumption of guilt by association.

The atrociousness of this inversion of justice, which took place during Barack Obama’s presidency and resulted in the deaths of thousands of unnamed persons of color, is difficult to exaggerate. The fact that Hale, in an eleven-page handwritten letter which he sent to the judge presiding over his trial, has explicitly taken issue with President Obama’s public statements on the drone program makes it seem very unlikely that President Biden will pardon the whistleblower—although I certainly hope that I am wrong about this. The problem in this case is that to pardon Daniel Hale would be to acknowledge that either President Obama lied to the public when he said that drone strikes were only carried out when there was “near certainty” that no civilians would be harmed, or else he was incompetent, having no idea what was being done by his drone program czar, John Brennan, and those whom he supervised. A classic Charybdis and Scylla.

Daniel Hale is obviously not a spy, for his avowed intention in disclosing top secret documents was only to alert the public about what was going on in the drone program under a bogus pretext of national self defense. What he revealed is not that a few rogue operators have killed innocent people with impunity, but that the entire drone program is premised on the assumption that it is perfectly acceptable to execute anyone anywhere on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence. In addition to cellphone SIM card data, drone video footage and the testimony of bribed informants on the ground are also used to add names to hit lists. But in the third world countries where these drone strikes have been carried out, the destitute locals who provide HUMINT, or human intelligence, obviously have compelling financial incentives to locate targets for the people paying them.

To acknowledge that Daniel Hale was right to act on his conscience and inform the populace that they were being lied to is simultaneously to assert that the entire drone program is fundamentally misguided, indeed just as wrong as murder—because that is what it is. Hale correctly recognized the financial incentives driving the employees of the “killing machine,” with private military companies (PMCs) rewarded for identifying as many “terrorists” (in reality, suspects), as possible. All of the employees involved in the hunting down and killing of suspects using lethal drones outside areas of active hostilities have been embroiled in a taxpayer funded large-scale program of mass murder. Yet this killing has been rendered banal to most citizens, in large part because the mainstream media outlets decline to discuss the matter at all, deferring as they always do to the Pentagon under, again, a pretext of national self-defense.

Daniel Hale: Drone Program Whistleblower

Daniel Hale has been sentenced to nearly four years of prison for documenting what other drone operators had spoken out about: that military-aged males killed by missiles launched by drones were assumed guilty until proven innocent. Under President Obama, thousands of unnamed suspects were killed outside areas of active hostilities–in other words, in places where there were no U.S. soldiers on the ground to protect. Trump naturally continued the drone program, and now the Biden administration is following suit.

National Bird: A Cautionary Tale

How Not to Treat Human Beings as Moral Persons

How Not to Treat Human Beings as Moral Persons

Immanuel Kant, an eighteenth-century German philosopher, famously espoused the following maxim of morality:

Act in such a way that you treat humanity…never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.

The terms of this principle, a formulation of what he calls “The Categorical Imperative,” are rather abstract, but Kant also provided a more practical test for determining whether a prospective action is morally permissible or not:

Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

According to Kant, violations of this formulation of the Categorical Imperative embroil one in a “practical contradiction.” It is not immediately obvious what he means by this, which is why his oeuvre continues to be a lively subject of debate among professional philosophers. Those sympathetic with Kant’s general outlook have sometimes drawn parallels to more familiar principles of the major religions, including the Golden Rule:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Even without having studied philosophical ethics, many people will nonetheless aver that when we talk colloquially about someone using another person, the implication is that it is immoral. Excellent examples include notorious “black widows” (and widowers), who murder their spouses in order to gain possession of their wealth. In fact, every case of mercenarily motivated murder would seem likewise to violate Kant’s Categorical Imperative—and The Golden Rule. The idea of not using people solely as the means to our selfish ends coheres rather well with commonsense morality and is embedded in the legal systems of modern western democracies.

Much ink has been spilled over the past few centuries by some scholars in rejecting Kant’s deontological theory in favor of more practical, teleological or consequentialist, approaches such as utilitarianism, according to which one should always act so as to maximize the happiness or pleasure (or “utility,” as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham termed it) of the greatest number of people. According to utilitarianism, no action is excluded from the outset, because one must determine what its consequences will be in order to know whether it is right or wrong. If a black widower donates his miserly wife’s estate to help people in dire need, then a strict utilitarian might in fact deem the murder (intentional, premeditated act of homicide) to be the right course of action. More generally, if by sacrificing one person or a small number of persons one will thereby save millions of morally equivalent others, staunch utilitarians will insist that the sacrifice not only can but should be made.

Quasi-utilitarian reasoning is found frequently among calls for wars of so-called humanitarian intervention, which promoters claim will save many more people than doing nothing, even though there will invariably be some “collateral damage” victims who die as a direct result of the bombing itself. The outcomes of modern bombing campaigns never reflect the sunny forecast of those who set the intervention machine in motion, but even if they did, this rationalization for “humanitarian intervention” assumes that killing and letting die are morally equivalent, a position which is rejected within the bounds of civil society. Except in rare cases, involving persons with special obligations of care, such as physicians and parents, we do not regard permitting people to die as the moral equivalent of killing them.

The ongoing mess in the Middle East shows how wrong the prognosticators were when they claimed that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 would be swift and simple, ushering in an era of peace and democracy for Iraqis, who instead went from suffering under the rule of a despot to living in a chaotic and deadly environment in which their security and quality of life were severely degraded. The state of Libya a decade after the 2011 bombing campaign and the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi is another striking example of how wrong interventionists can be about the consequences of their “well-intended” programs of homicide.

One reason why hawks reach so facilely for utilitarian rationalizations for their wars may be that in this approach to normative morality there is no need to reflect seriously upon the plight of individual soldiers. The end justifies the means and, yes, that will include the sacrifice of some young persons in the prime of their life. In galvanizing support for invading and bombing other countries, the effects on soldiers—the thousands who may be physically maimed or killed, and the many thousands more who may be psychologically wrecked by the experience—are not mentioned at all because they are not recognized as real until after the fact, and then only by some. Indeed, the U.S. military itself has repeatedly and systematically denied responsibility for injuries to soldiers—caused by the spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the bombing of chemical facilities in the First Gulf War, the use of burn pits during the occupations, etc.—even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the soldiers were harmed not by the enemy but as a direct result of their own military leadership’s callous disregard for the well-being of troops.

Utilitarian-esque reasoning is quite versatile and is readily invoked in debates on a variety of other military matters as well. Opposition to military conscription, for example, can be made on the purely utilitarian grounds that coerced soldiers are unlikely to fight as effectively as volunteers. Accordingly, whenever soldiers are forced to fight, rather than invited to do so, the outcomes will likely be worse than they would otherwise have been. In World War I, this problem was “solved” by sending wave after wave of young men to their deaths, effectively expending them as cannon fodder.

The Kantian reason for opposing military conscription, whereby unwilling persons are coerced to fight, kill and possibly die in wars over which they have no say, differs markedly from the utilitarian perspective. Efficacy, far from being morally decisive, is in fact irrelevant in the Kantian moral framework. What is wrong with conscription is not that it will have negative consequences but that such soldiers are treated merely as the means to the ends of political elites. Alongside draftees, many a volunteer soldier has been squandered as cannon fodder, but so long as he freely entered into the Faustian bargain of agreeing to kill and risking his own life in exchange for employment, benefits, etc., then he is not being used in the same sense in which every drafted soldier is.

Now, there are good reasons for thinking that war as a means to conflict resolution is at least irrational, if not intrinsically immoral, because no one should ever agree to kill complete strangers at the behest of war promoters, many of whom stand to profit from war—whether financially or politically, and often both. But as a result in part of the long-entrenched myth of heroic warriors who take up arms everywhere and only in the name of “justice”—so long as they are on our side!—wars do continue to be waged and fought, victims slain, and soldiers sacrificed. Relative to that world, delusional though it may be, forcing persons to take up arms is still worse than allowing them to do so.

As shocking as it may seem, twentieth-century soldiers were experimented on in a variety of contexts, under what appears to have been the assumption that they had already signed their lives over to the military, so why not? During the 1991 Gulf War and in the following years, U.S. soldiers were required to be vaccinated against Anthrax using a yet-to-be-approved (by the FDA) pharmaceutical product which caused significant bodily harm to some of the troops. As a result of the Anthrax vaccine fiasco, soldiers are no longer required to undergo experimental treatments, including the emergency authorized COVID-19 vaccines, which have yet to receive full FDA approval. Needless to say, the pharmaceutical and biotech companies involved are doing everything within their means to obtain an early approval so that the vaccines can be mandated by law in a variety of contexts, including the military.

More generally, the current COVID-19 crisis provides a refractive lens through which to distinguish the two very different ways of conceiving of morality, the deontological (as exemplified by Kantianism) and the teleological (as exemplified by utilitarianism). Human experimentation, such as the mass vaccination programs currently underway, is carried out under the utilitarian assumption that the sacrifice of a few will ultimately save millions of lives. Every medical treatment, even those which have received years of testing and full FDA approval, has negative outlier effects on a small portion of the population, and it is purely a matter of misfortune to be one of the persons who ends up being harmed rather than helped. No one has been singled out for harm, so the situation is similar to a lottery where most people win the prize—in this case immunity or, at the very least, better prospects for survival in the case of infection—but a small percentage do not.

The Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System (VAERS) dababase catalogues the reported harms caused by vaccines, and in the case of Covid-19, these have included myocarditis, severe allergic or immune reactions, and Bell’s Palsy, among other possible effects, up to and including death. That these vaccines are being distributed in an ongoing experimental trial is underscored by the fact that the specification sheets for recipients and caregivers were recently updated to reflect the incidence of heart disease as a rare but possible side effect. That risk was not recognized in the early, much smaller, trials, nor in the initial roll-out to elderly persons, but became clear only when younger persons began to be vaccinated, who would ordinarily not have heart troubles, as older persons sometimes do.

So long as patients are properly informed of the potential dangers, if ever so slim, to their health and well-being, then it is their prerogative to incur risks in exchange for the prospective benefits of vaccination, should they deem this to be the proper course of action for themselves. In other words, the case may be viewed as similar to a fully informed person who agrees to enlist in the military, even while knowing the risks involved. There are, however, some curious factors in the present case which together suggest that nothing like morality is driving the quest for universal vaccination. Most obviously, a heavy-handed and ubiquitous propaganda campaign is being used to persuade persons to believe that it is somehow wrongheaded, ignorant and/or selfish not to agree to serve as a subject in an experimental trial of a treatment for which many of them have no need, given their prospects for survival even without the vaccine.

Under normal circumstances, individual persons, so long as they are mentally competent, are deemed the appropriate authorities about which treatments to undertake in efforts to protect themselves and enjoy good health—or not. Free people are also permitted to smoke, eat junk food, avoid exercise, consume alcohol as they please, and engage in risk-taking activities such as rock-climbing at their caprice, even though each of these behaviors may result in premature death. In the current crisis, we have seen endless exhortations to universal vaccination from figureheads such as President Biden and Vice President Harris, both of whom recently emoted on Twitter: “Get vaccinated, or wear a mask until you do!” Such sweeping prescriptions on the part of persons with no information about the individual patients whom they are sternly enjoining to undergo treatment would be a clear violation of medical ethics, if in fact Biden and Harris were physicians, which of course they are not.

Competent medical professionals do not issue blanket prescriptions to be followed uniformly and mindlessly by all possible patients. The particular circumstances of particular patients call for particular treatments to be undertaken—or not. Sound medical advice derives from a licensed professional who is familiar with the condition and circumstances of the patient in question. There is no prescription applicable simultaneously to infants, toddlers, adolescents, young adults, pregnant women, middle-aged persons, and nonagenarians, because their bodily conditions are completely different. Moreover, even within each partitioned category, a wide range of variation exists. Some people (whatever their age) are obese, while others are not. Some people have smoked or continue to smoke, while others do not. Some persons suffer allergies, while others do not. It is nothing short of incompetent to suggest that any treatment should be applied in a one-size-fits-all fashion, as is being done in the propaganda campaigns for the COVID-19 vaccines. Far worse than offering people incompetent (because ill-informed) medical advice, however, would be to force them to comply with mandatory edicts derived from incompetent medical advice.

An overzealous judge (Richard Frye) in Ohio recently sentenced three persons convicted in his court of law to COVID-19 vaccination, which would seem to be a flagrant violation of civil rights. Certainly the punishment cannot possibly be said to fit the crime, because it is completely irrelevant to it—to any crime, as a matter of fact. The judge explained his decision in the following terms, “It occurred to me that some of these folks needed to be encouraged not to procrastinate,” demonstrating only that he has no business residing over any court of law, for he has decided to use the courtroom as his personal pulpit, legislating from the bench in the most obnoxious of ways. One of the criminals, Sylvaun Latham, was offered the choice of COVID-19 vaccination plus a one-year term of probation or else a five-year term of probation. In other words, his liberty to conduct himself as he pleases was tethered by the judge to his willingness to serve now as a subject in an ongoing experimental trial of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is not scheduled to end until 2023.

To require convicts to serve as subjects in experimental trials for drug treatments for which they may or may not have any need (see The Imitation Game for the tragic story of Alan Turing in Britain) is tantamount to making them the property of the state and their lives the prerogative of the state to risk and even sacrifice. This is a very different scenario from voluntary conscription, whereby fully informed persons agree in exchange for remuneration to risk their own lives and well-being. But soldiers who volunteer to fight for their country do not simultaneously agree to serve as pharmaceutical company guinea pigs, which is why forced experimentation on soldiers, too, is wrong. As difficult as it may be to believe, we have now entered an era in which so-called public health experts who support mandatory vaccination are galvanizing judges to conduct themselves in the manner of the officials of the Third Reich. During that deplorable episode of history, judges regularly sentenced persons to sterilization, and many persons were used in human experimentation against their own will.

The most important conclusion of the Nuremberg court regarding human experimentation was this:

The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision.

Extorting convicts to undergo experimental vaccination in exchange for shorter prison or probation sentences clearly violates this Nuremberg court finding. Indeed, every case of “force, fraud, deceit, duress, overreaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion” to undergo medical treatment is also a violation.

Going even farther than the Ohio judge who imposed vaccine sentences upon convicted criminals, the government of France is effectively criminalizing those who refuse to participate in the vaccine trials. On July 12, 2021 (ironically two days before Bastille Day), President Emmanuel Macron announced that proof of vaccination will be required in social venues, on public transport, and in some cases to remain gainfully employed. By denying persons the right to use public transportation, or even to work, the French government is especially targeting poor people, for wealthy people have private cars and do not need to work. But all “non-compliant” French citizens are being punished as though they committed crimes when in fact they have every right in the world to decide which medical treatments to undergo and which to decline. These measures effectively transform French society into an everted prison in which everyone who refuses to offer his body for use in an experimental trial has his liberties curtailed as though he were an incarcerated criminal who has been convicted of a crime. In effect, everyone who declines the experimental vaccine is being put under house arrest.

In the United States, some businesses are requiring vaccination of their employees, and quite a few universities are requiring vaccination of both employees and students, even though the chance of deleterious, life-changing or even deadly, vaccine side effects may for some cohorts (such as young males) be greater than the chance of death should they become infected with COVID-19. It is nothing short of extortion to threaten people with extremely negative consequences should they not volunteer to serve in an experimental trial for a drug/device of which they have no need. You want to finish your college degree? You want to remain gainfully employed? Then roll up your sleeve! And yet a disturbing number of otherwise apparently rational people support these initiatives, at least judging by their comportment on social media. (Note that there are many bot farms operating on this front as well, and whether they are being paid for by governments or the companies who stand to profit is unclear.)

On July 6, 2021, President Biden announced his administration’s intention to send vaccine promoters door-to-door to persuade those who have not already complied to change their mind. The assumption behind this “folksy” approach of “community outreach” is that anyone who declines vaccination is ill-informed, and with the appropriate amount of friendly banter they will recognize the error in their ways. The problem, however, is that, pace Anthony Fauci, “The Science” has not spoken yet. Information censored and dismissed as disinformation by the media and those who parrot its every proclamation includes hypotheses, theories and bald facts which do not support the reigning narrative and suggest that it may well be false. While appealing to a “community outreach” spirit, Biden also likened this initiative to a “war-time” effort and called willingness to be vaccinated “patriotic”, the insinuation being that declining vaccination is unpatriotic.

Preposterously, given the thousands of breakthrough cases of persons fully vaccinated but who contract COVID-19 anyway, the so-called vaccines may not effectively prevent transmission but only mitigate symptoms—which is what they were designed to do. The shots offer a very slim risk reduction (ARR or absolute risk reduction of ~1%) to most people, because most people are not vulnerable to COVID-19, making it far from obvious that there is any reason for them to undergo an experimental treatment. Yet facts appear incapable of slowing the propaganda machine set in motion more than a year ago, and vaccine proselytzers persist in haranguing even the millions of already recovered persons to roll up their sleeves.

The global propaganda campaign has been so relentless and vast that those who decline vaccination, as in France, stand to have their liberties severely curtailed by government bureaucrats the world over who cling tenaciously to disinformation about the supposed superiority of vaccine immunity over natural immunity, despite numerous studies demonstrating the robustness of the latter and mountains of evidence that social mitigation measures have no effect on outcomes from place to place. Strikingly, if the vaccines do not prevent infection but only diminish symptoms, then millions of vaccinated persons should be expected to fall into the supposed class of “asymptomatic carriers” and considered more likely to transmit the virus to other people once they stop wearing masks and practicing social distancing—at least according to the religious tenets of the Branch Covidians.

As in every other case when quasi-utilitarian rationalizations have been trotted out in support of policies which will destroy some persons’ lives, no one has any idea what the longer term effects of the vaccination programs will be. To pretend otherwise is to lie and, in Kant’s view, to deceive and thereby treat the persons in question merely as means, not as ends in themselves. To treat people as moral persons is to grant them the dignity of being able to inform themselves, assess the facts, and come to their own conclusions about how best to conduct their own lives, up to and including which medical procedures to undertake. Anyone who agrees that it is wrong to use people solely as a means should be wary of pseudo-utilitarian propaganda, above all when the self-styled utilitarians have nothing to lose and something to gain. That there exist today people who are rallying for forced vaccination by the government of the very people whom the government supposedly serves reveals, once again, as many historical episodes attest, how frightened people can be persuaded to support objectively abhorrent policies, sacrifice their fellow human beings and even renounce their very own rights.

When Biden’s Pfizer minions show up at your doorstep, let us hope that they do not in their missionary fervor undertake to vaccinate you without your consent. Just as the cases of President Macron and Judge Frye illustrate, for fanatics convinced of their intellectual superiority and moral righteousness, the end always justifies the means. The danger of this political climate for free people cannot be overestimated. Given the length and range of the COVID-19 vaccine propaganda campaigns, which have completely saturated the mainstream media, there is some reason for suspecting that readily available forms of forced vaccination may be nearer than we think, given the willingness of state authorities such as judges and presidents to criminalize the refusal to serve as a subject in a pharmaceutical product trial.

That Biden has claimed to be on a “wartime” footing vis-à-vis COVID-19, and the Pentagon itself recently held a “war game” specifically addressing the COVID-19 crisis certainly does not bode well for the future of free people. The technology already exists to be able to vaccinate the unwilling using aerosol sprays which could be delivered by automated drone swarms. As horrifyingly dystopic as that possibility may sound, we already know from their many military misadventures abroad that government officials are ready and willing to use any and all of the implements in their arsenal in achieving their aims, and they have no problem ignoring altogether the moral personhood of their victims.

The Con Job of the Century?

The Con Job of the Century?

Over the course of the past century, a number of truly awe-inspiring heists have been carried out by con artists, whose modus operandi is to exploit human frailties such as credulity, insecurity and greed. Con is short for confidence, for the con artist must first gain the trust of his targets, after which he persuades them to hand their money over to him. A con job differs from a moral transaction between two willing, fully informed trading partners because one of the partners is deceived, and deception constitutes a form of coercion. In other words, the person being swindled is not really free. If he knew what was really going on, he would never agree to invest in the scheme.

The “Ponzi scheme” was named after Charles Ponzi, who in the 1920s persuaded investors to believe that he was generating impressive profits by buying international reply coupons (IRCs) at low prices abroad and redeeming them in the United States at higher rates, the fluctuating currency market being the secret to his seemingly savvy success. In reality, Ponzi used his low-level investors’ money to pay off earlier investors, support himself, and expand his business by luring more and more investors in. More recently, Bernie Madoff managed to abscond with billions of dollars by posing as an investment genius who could deliver sizable, indeed exceptional, returns on his clients’ investments.

It is plausible that at least some of the early investors in such gambits, who are paid as promised, suppress whatever doubts may creep up in their minds as they bask in the splendor of their newfound wealth. But even those who begin consciously to grasp what is going on may turn a blind eye as the scheme grows to engulf investors who will be fleeced, having been persuaded to participate not only by the smooth-talking con artist, but also by the reported profits of previous investors. Eventually, however, the house of cards collapses, revealing the incredible but undeniable truth: there never were any investments at all. No trading ever took place, and all of the company’s transactions were either deposits or withdrawals of gullible investors’ cash.

Before a con artist is unmasked, nearly everyone involved plays along, either because they stand to gain, or because they truly believe. Sometimes the implications of having been wrong are simply too devastating to admit, and these same psychological dynamics operate in many other realms where most people would never suspect anything like a Ponzi scheme. It is arguable, for example, that the continuous siphoning of U.S. citizens’ income to pay for misguided military interventions abroad constitutes a form of Ponzi scheme. If President George H. W. Bush had never used taxpayers’ dollars to wage the First Gulf War on Iraq in 1991 and to install permanent military bases in the Middle East, then Osama bin Laden would likely never have called for jihad against the United States. If the U.S. military had not invaded Iraq in 2003, then ISIS would never have emerged and spread to Syria and beyond. Such implications are deeply unsettling, and even in the face of mounds of evidence, most people prefer to cling to the official story according to which the 1991 Gulf War was necessary and just, while the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were completely unprovoked, and all subsequent interventions a matter of national self-defense.

The series of bombing campaigns in the Middle East beginning in 1991 are plausibly regarded as a type of Ponzi scheme because the “investors” (taxpayers), have actually paid to make themselves worse, not better, off. Not only have the “blowback” attacks perpetrated in response to U.S. military intervention abroad killed many innocent persons, but the lives of thousands of soldiers have been and continue to be wrecked through dubious deployments abroad. Along with all of the blood spilled, much treasure has been lost. The more than $28 trillion national debt (as of June 2021) is due in part to the massive Pentagon budget, rubber-stamped annually by Congress, to say nothing of the many other “discretionary” initiatives claimed to be necessary in national defense. Afghanistan is a perfect example of how billions of taxpayer dollars continue to be tossed into the wind even as the formal U.S. military presence winds down. The reason why the War on Terror continues on is not because it is protecting the citizens who pay for it or helping the people of the Middle East but because it has proved to be profitable to persons in the position to influence U.S. foreign policy.

One might reasonably assume that anyone who stands to enrich himself from government policies should be excluded from consequential deliberations over what ought to be done, and in certain realms, the quite rational concern with conflict of interest still operates to some degree. With regard to the military, however, there has been a general acquiescence by the populace to the idea that because only experts inside the system are capable of giving competent advice, they must be consulted, even when they will profit from the policies they promote, such as bombing, which invariably increases the value of stock in companies such as Raytheon. Throughout history, there has always been a push by war profiteers to promote military interventions, but Dick Cheney, who served as Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and vice president under his son, George W. Bush, took war profiteering to an entirely new level. By privatizing many military services through the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), Cheney effectively ushered in a period of war entrepreneurialism, beginning with Halliburton (of which he was CEO from 1995-2000), which continues on today, making it possible for a vast nexus of subcontractors to profit from the never-ending War on Terror, and to do so in good conscience. When more people have self-interested reasons for supporting military interventions, then they become more likely to take place.

With the quelling of concerns that conflict of interest should limit the persons who advise the president on matters of foreign policy, the formal requirement that the secretary of defense be not a military officer but a civilian has been effectively dropped, with both James Mattis and Lloyd Austin easily confirmed as “exceptions” to the rule, despite the fact that, not only did both have significant financial interests in promoting war, but each also had a full career in the military before retiring and being invited to lead the DoD. Military men are inclined to seek military solutions to conflict, which is undoubtedly why high-ranking officers are invited to join the boards of military companies, making Mattis and Austin textbook examples of “revolving door” appointments.

Arguably even more ruinous to the republic in the longterm than the rampant conflict of interest inherent to “revolving door” appointments between the for-profit military industry and the government has been the infiltration of the military into academia, with many universities receiving large grants from the Defense Department for research. Academia would be a natural place for intellectual objections to the progressive militarization of society, but when scholars and scientists themselves benefit directly from DoD funds, they have self-interested reasons to dismiss or discredit those types of critiques—whether consciously or not—in publishing, retention and promotion decisions. In addition to the institutional research support provided by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), successful academics may receive hefty fees as consultants for the Pentagon and its many affiliates, making them far more likely to defend the hegemon than to raise moral objections to its campaigns of mass homicide euphemistically termed “national defense”.

As a result of the tentacular spread of the military, Cui bono? as a cautionary maxim has been replaced by Who cares? People seem not at all bothered by these profound conflicts of interest, and the past year has illustrated how cooption and corruption may creep easily into other realms as well. Indeed, there is a sense in which today we have two MICs: the military-industrial-complex and, now, in the age of Covid-19, the medical-industrial-complex. This latter development can be viewed, in part, as a consequence of the former, for in recent decades the military industrial complex has sprouted tentacles to become the military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-pharmaceutical-logistics banking complex. Long before Covid-19 appeared on the scene, the Veterans Administration (VA) adopted pro-Big Pharma policies, including the prescription of a vast array of psychotropic medications in lieu of “talk therapy” to treat PTSD among veterans and to preemptively medicate soldiers who expressed anxiety at what they were asked to do in Afghanistan and Iraq. The increase in the prescription of drugs to military personnel generated hefty profits for pharmaceutical firms, allowing them to expand marketing and lobbying efforts to target not only physicians but also politicians and the populace.

Since the initial launch of Prozac in 1986, the pharmaceutical industry has become an extremely powerful force in Western society, made all the more so in the United States when restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising were lifted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997. Already by 2020, about 23% of Americans (nearly 77 million out of a population of 331 million) were taking psychiatric medications, and those numbers appear to have increased significantly during the 2020 lockdowns, which took a toll on many people’s psychological well-being. As medications are prescribed more and more throughout every sector of society, drug makers exert a greater and greater influence on policy, even as the heroin/fentanyl overdose epidemic, caused directly by the aggressive marketing and rampant overprescription of opioid painkillers, continues on.

Just as the military industry is granted the benefit of the doubt on the assumption that they are helping to protect the nation, the pharmaceutical industry accrues respectability from its association with the medical profession. Who, after all, could oppose “defense” and “health”? In reality, however, for-profit weapons and drug companies are beholden not to their compatriots, nor to humanity, but to their stockholders. War and disease are profitable, while peace and health are not. The CEOs of military and pharmaceutical companies, like all businesspersons, seek to ensure that their profits increase by all means necessary, the prescription opioid epidemic being a horrific case in point. Just as academics may enjoy Defense Department funding, many doctors and administrators of medical institutions today derive essential funding from drug companies and the government, whether directly or indirectly. These connections are immensely important because many politicians receive generous campaign contributions from Big Pharma, which by now has more lobbyists in Washington, DC, than there are congresspersons, and not without reason. Formulary decisions at the VA regarding the appropriateness of prescribing, for example, dangerous antipsychotic medications such as Astrazeneca’s Seroquel to soldiers as sleep aids are made by administrators who are political appointees, as are public health officials more generally.

With a functional Fourth Estate, it would be possible to question if not condemn the conflicts of interest operating in the for-profit military and medical realms. Unfortunately, however, we no longer have a competent press. Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, this has become abundantly clear as alternative viewpoints on every matter of policy have been squelched, suppressed, and outright censored in the name of the truth, when there may have been ulterior motives at play. In fact, the complete quashing of any directives regarding non-vaccine therapies for mitigating the effects of Covid-19—including Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine—may be best explained by the simple fact that FDA emergency use authorization of vaccines in the United States is possible only when “there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives,” as is stated plainly on the specification sheets for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Regarding the origins of the virus, early claims by some researchers that Covid-19 may have been produced in the virology lab in Wuhan and released accidentally were swiftly dismissed as “conspiracy theories.” Anyone who suggested this eminently plausible origin of the virus was immediately denounced by the media and deplatformed or censored by the big tech giants. “Gain-of-function” research, often funded by the military, involves making existent viruses deadlier to human beings and is said by its proponents to be necessary in order to be prepared for future natural pandemics or in the event that some enemy might use such a virus as a bioweapon. The latter is a familiar line of reasoning among military researchers, invoked also (mutatis mutandis) in nuclear proliferation and the military colonization of space: we must develop the latest and greatest nuclear bombs and effect total spectrum domination of the galaxy before any other government has the chance to do so! Many of the scientists involved in these endeavors may have the best of intentions, but that does nothing to detract from the propensity of human beings to commit errors.

In the case of Covid-19, the origin of the virus was deemed settled because Dr. Anthony Fauci, an ardent apologist for gain-of-function research and the reigning public health guru in the United States, authoritatively insisted that the transition from bats to humans came about naturally. After Fauci’s pronouncement, it seemed a matter of common knowledge to “right-thinking” believers in The ScienceTM everywhere that the virus probably came from the wet market in Wuhan, where live animals were sold as ingredients for use in culinary delicacies such as bat soup. When the World Health Organization (WHO) looked into the matter, they appointed Peter Daszak to lead the investigation. But Daszak had in fact funded gain-of-function research by repackaging and distributing U.S. government funds through his firm EcoHealth Alliance. Needless to say, Daszak had every reason in the world to squelch any suggestion to the effect that he himself may have had something to do with the millions of deaths caused by Covid-19.

We do not yet know whether the virus had a natural or manmade origin, but if in fact U.S. taxpayer-funded research caused the pandemic and millions of deaths, then this would constitute yet another example of a government-perpetrated Ponzi scheme, rivaling and perhaps even surpassing the War on Terror in its negative consequences. We pay for gain-of-function research (determined by bureaucrats such as Anthony Fauci to be a good idea), and then we suffer the consequences when things go awry. Note that, just as Ponzi scheme perpetrators may begin as regular businesspersons before committing fraud, there is no need in the case of Covid-19 to invoke conspiratorial hypotheses. Many politicians who promoted and thereby helped to realize the 2003 invasion of Iraq may have been convinced that Saddam Hussein posed a grave danger to the world. Similarly, there may not have been a conscious intention on the part of anyone to let loose the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus on the world. After all, it’s not as though incompetence among government bureaucrats is a rarity.

Whether accidentally or intentionally caused, disasters invariably pave the way for massive power grabs on the part of select persons advantageously situated. Once Iraq had been invaded, this served as the pretext for sacrificing even more blood and treasure as the quagmire intensified and spread to other countries. When the Covid-19 virus arrived on the scene, it became the pretext for a massive and abrupt transfer of wealth. Not only did much of the commerce of small businesses crushed by lockdowns migrate to companies such as Amazon and Walmart, but billions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into pharmaceutical firms.

The multi-trillion dollar Covid-19 aid packages included provisions for research and development, testing, and hospitals. But the most lucrative venture in all of this frenzy has been a vaccine program with universal aspirations. The U.S. government funded the development of the Covid-19 vaccines, and now that they exist, President Biden has purchased 500 million more doses of the Pfizer product to donate to other countries. The global propaganda campaign to vaccinate everyone everywhere with elixirs touted initially by their developers as having up to 95% efficacy, too, has been paid for by governments. It was unclear from the initial press releases about the spectacular new vaccines what efficacy actually meant, as there was a fair amount of equivocation regarding whether the treatments would confer immunity and prevent transmission of the disease or simply lessen the severity of symptoms. After millions of persons had already been vaccinated, it emerged that the reports of 95% efficacy were at best misleading and at worst fraudulent, for the reported percentages were relative risk reduction (RRR) rates, which reflect outcomes only for the small proportion of the population vulnerable to the disease. When the rates are calculated for the general population, the vast majority of whom are not vulnerable to Covid-19, it turns out (as those who declined the vaccine had already surmised on the basis of the survival statistics), that the absolute risk reduction (ARR) rates of the Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are quite low, to be precise: 0.84%, 1.2%, 1.3%, and 1.2%, respectively. Nonetheless, aggressive campaigns to require vaccine passports of citizens as a condition on their resumption of normal life are everywhere on display.

A clue that the well-being of patients is not at the forefront of the minds of those running the “vaccine everyone” campaign has been the encouragement of pregnant women and children to undergo vaccination, though neither group is at serious risk from the virus and neither group was included in the trials used to secure emergency authorization. Even more remarkably, against all established science on immunology, the idea that persons who have already recovered from the disease must also “get the jab” has been aggressively promoted all around the globe. Judging by the media coverage, the reason for insisting that persons who were already infected with and have recovered from Covid-19 must also be vaccinated is supposed to be that people can become reinfected with the virus. That line of reasoning, however, is refuted by the statistics for reinfection. As of June 2021, out of nearly 180 million cases of Covid-19 worldwide, there were 148 confirmed cases of reinfection. Studies recently published in Nature and by the Cleveland Clinic conclude that vaccination offers no benefit to previously infected persons.

In the build up to every new war, many people who do not stand to benefit from the intervention and may even be harmed by it often succumb to the propaganda and enthusiastically take up the cause. In the current crisis, the false dichotomization into two exhaustive and mutually exclusive categories, the enlightened science lovers and the anti-vaxxers, is also a part of a propaganda campaign. The persons who have declined vaccination, either because they already survived Covid-19, or because they prefer to wait for longterm safety data and do not believe that the possible benefits outweigh the unknown risks, are dismissed as crackpots, when in fact they are simply being prudent. Yet the media persists in propagating a misleading depiction of vaccine hesitancy in this specific case as proof of hostility toward science. This sort of polarization of the populace is, needless to say, on display during wartime as well, when anyone who dares to oppose a military intervention is depicted as a supporter of a tyrant abroad or an irrational pacifist or, when all else fails, a simple traitor.

It would be incredibly naïve to fall prey to the idea that pharmaceutical executives are somehow philanthropic, for they command enormous salaries for maximizing their stockholders’ profits. In 2020, Pfizer CEO Anthony Bourla enjoyed a 17% increase in compensation, to $21 million, while Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, became a billionaire. The pharmaceutical industry and the military industry, despite comprising publicly traded companies, are prime examples of “crony capitalism”, benefiting as they do from large infusions of cash from the government, which is allocated by bureaucrats many of whom have career and other financial interests at stake. Moreover, the funding links between the military and the public health and pharmaceutical sectors form a tangled web. Not only did the Department of Defense receive a chunk of the Covid-19 rescue packages, but gain-of-function research has been paid for by military institutions. Indeed, much of the funding provided to Peter Daszak for redistribution by EcoHealth Alliance derived from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Both the for-profit military and for-profit pharmaceutical industry now use the mainstream media as a propaganda outlet to further the interests of their shareholders. Even the independent media have been infiltrated by pro-military and pro-pharma voices, which is why falsehoods such as “Saddam is in cahoots with Bin Laden and has WMDs!” and “Lockdowns save lives!” are able to gain such traction among the populace. That liberty-restricting policies should be lifted only on the condition of vaccination requires people to believe that the mediation policies were both necessary and effective. But in the United States, the differences in outcomes in various states do not appear to depend on the timing or extent of lockdowns. Nonetheless, just as the mass surveillance and collection of people’s private data was accepted by many as a necessary part of the War on Terror, many persons with no financial interests at stake now rally on behalf of Big Pharma for universal vaccination.

The global propaganda campaign to require people to show health papers or a “vaccine passport” in order to participate in human society—to travel, dine out, shop or even gather together in groups—reveals that the mistakes made by a few actors are being seized upon to exert more and more control over the population. The mass surveillance of Americans was accepted by many as necessary, given the potential dangers of factional terrorism, and now, having spent more than a year whipped up by the media into a paralyzing state of fear for a virus which kills less than 1% of the persons it infects, many citizens appear willing to accept what influential globalists have been insisting must be “the new normal”. This is a grave mistake.

It is too early to know how this unprecedented chapter in human history will end, but the trends are not encouraging. With countries continuing their serial lockdowns, travel restrictions, masking, testing, and quarantine requirements, they deepen the divisions already on display making it seem more likely that some form of apartheid state with totalitarian qualities will emerge. Does any government have the right to force its citizens to undergo a medical treatment for which, according to all available statistical data, they have no need? Why are universities requiring vaccination as a condition of enrollment and employment? Why are more doctors not rising up to challenge the aggressive push to vaccinate everyone everywhere with an experimental treatment? There is no medical basis whatsoever for requiring previously infected persons to undergo vaccination, which has never been demanded in the case of any other disease.

What is at stake is not merely inconvenience, and the solution is not, as some liberty lovers have suggested (if only facetiously), to acquire a forged vaccine passport. We should reject in the most categorical of terms the very idea that anyone anywhere should be required to prove his health status to anyone else and that anyone anywhere should be compelled to undergo a medical treatment against his own will—whatever his reasons may be. One’s medical choices affect one’s health, well-being and body, which no government can be said to own. To relinquish one’s right to one’s own body is to render oneself the property of a tyrannical state. If citizens permit the government to strip them of their right to make decisions about how to lead their very own lives, then they will have been fleeced far worse than the victims of the most mercenary Ponzi scheme, having paid with their freedom for their future enslavement.

Moral Rhetoric vs. Reality

Moral Rhetoric vs. Reality

Philosophers tend to divide normative theories of morality into two broad categories: deontological and teleological. Deontological theories prioritize right action over good outcomes. If an action is wrong, then it is intrinsically wrong, regardless of the consequences which may ensue. The Ten Commandments and Kant’s Categorical Imperative are classic examples of deontological theories, and the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is another one: Do not initiate violence against any person or damage or steal his property. Teleological theories, in contrast, define rightness in terms of goodness. One determines what to do in part—if not exclusively—by considering the likely outcomes or consequences of one’s prospective action.

Arguably the most famous teleological theory is utilitarianism, articulated by British thinkers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. According to the simplest formulation of utilitarianism, what one should do is always act so as to maximize the good outcomes (happiness or pleasure or something else positive—Bentham and Mill called this “utility”), and minimize the bad outcomes (unhappiness or pain or something else negative) for the greatest number of people. Without delving too deeply into what consistently applied utilitarianism would actually entail, the idea seems prima facie reasonable to many, and is appealing to “social justice warriors” and others who believe that the government has and should play an important role in improving the lot of the citizenry through engineering the society in which they live. This basic outlook informs socialist economic theories according to which wealth should be redistributed so that the goods of society are shared rather than “hoarded” by the small percentage of the population comprising the elites.

The theoretical problem with utilitarianism is that there is no hard limit on what can be done to a few people in the name of the net good of the greater group. Everything is, in principle, permissible, depending only on the context and likely consequences. If torturing or killing one innocent person will save the rest of humanity, then it may in fact be the right thing to do, according to utilitarianism. The hypothetical scenarios used to elicit utilitarian responses tend to be highly simplistic, such as the “Trolley problem” discussed in many college ethics courses. One version of the Trolley problem involves a conductor who must decide whether to kill five people (say, senior citizens) on one track, or to divert his car to another track and thereby kill three other people (say, toddlers). Those who devise such thought experiments are attempting to isolate the variables, rendering it possible to gauge sympathies for or against utilitarianism in spite of the inherent complexities of reality.

Because human beings live in societies, the political realm abounds with utilitarian-esque rationalizations for any- and everything. Currently many of those calling for universal vaccination against COVID-19 are reasoning as utilitarians when they presume that the relatively small number of outlier deaths and severe harm caused to a few of those vaccinated will be vastly outweighed by the lives saved. Those who decline vaccination are denounced in the harshest of terms as “selfish,” when in fact they may simply disagree with either the projected result (that millions of people will be saved from the virus and few killed by the vaccines) or else the risk calculation in their own case, based on the statistical data for COVID-19 vulnerability and the complete absence of data on longterm vaccine side effects. That competent individuals alone should make determinations of which risks to assume is a deontological position, denying as it does that “the greater good” is a sound pretext for stripping persons of their liberty and right to control their own body. Forced vaccination would constitute a flagrant violation of the libertarian’s non-aggression principle, so for libertarians who support universal vaccination, the only consistent approach is to persuade others to join them in rolling up their sleeves.

On the economic front, one occasionally finds people today explicitly asserting that humanity would be much better off, for example, if all of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s massive wealth were taken from him and used to put an end to world hunger. The people who make such suggestions (when they are serious), appear to assume that the accumulation of wealth is a zero-sum game, and they reject the “trickle-down” economic theories which may inform a more liberty-forward approach. Supporters of a socialist agenda are wont to ignore the lessons of failed experiments such as that of the former Soviet Union, maintaining that if only socialism were implemented correctly, then the world would be a better place. Needless to say, the persons to be harmed in such hypothetical scenarios tend not to agree with what would be the sacrifice of themselves or their property for the greater good of everyone else. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for example, have been known to take aim at Bezos despite the fact that each owns multiple houses but neither offers them (as far as I know) as shelter to persons worse off than themselves. Critiques of the “failure” of Amazon to pay any taxes are especially odd coming from the very legislators who write and ratify laws which permit companies to take advantage of loopholes in order to avoid paying taxes.

In any case, the same critique, that our society tolerates “obscene” disparities in wealth, can be directed toward anyone whose material conditions are significantly better than anyone else’s—which is arguably everyone in the United States, all of whom are better off than most of the people inhabiting third world countries—and yet chooses not to redistribute his own property. As much as caricatures may abound of libertarians as rich old white men unwilling to share their wealth with the descendants of the victims whom their great-great-grandparents oppressed, no one agitating for the mass redistribution of other people’s wealth need be taken seriously unless they make themselves into the extraordinarily rare example of someone willing to invite everyone less off than they are into their own home. Until their comportment is modified to match their rhetoric, the shrill virtue-signaling of Bezos haters and others of their ilk can be safely ignored.

Needless to say, such conflicts between moral rhetoric and reality are ubiquitous. People who denounce manmade climate change sometimes fly to global warming conferences in private jets. Nor do those who incessantly warn about global warming typically renounce their private cars, even when they live in cities with efficient public transportation systems. People who express concern about environmental pollution and the ocean life blighted by plastic waste may nonetheless continue to imbibe water from single-use bottles. That moral rhetoric and reality so often diverge illustrates what is the practical problem with implementing anything even vaguely approaching utilitarianism and is metaphorically expressed by George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The truth is that human beings, as a matter of fact, care much more about themselves and their family members and friends than random compatriots. Moreover, they largely ignore the plight of persons beyond their own borders, even when the taxes levied on their personal income have been used to generate widespread misery abroad. It is utiliarianian-esque reasoning when someone claims that wars may harm some people but on balance serve the aims of democracy and peace. Most of the victims of wars over the past century have been unarmed civilians, not soldiers, but their “sacrifice” is nonetheless reimagined by those who support every new war proposed as having contributed to the establishment of a better world.

The prevalence of this type of rhetoric, and its associated pseudo-moral rationalizations for policies which harm or even destroy other people, explains bizarre phenomena such as Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s public expression of gratitude to George Floyd for having been killed by police officer Derek Chauvin. Many people found Pelosi’s statement inappropriate and tone deaf, but she was essentially reciting a version of the same script which is rehearsed every single time soldiers are sacrificed needlessly and so-called collateral damage is “tolerated” in wars perpetrated abroad. Slogans such as “Freedom is not free!” are frequently slung about by military supporters, who assume that, on balance, the comportment of the U.S. Department of Defense has been good, even if mistakes are sometimes made, and even if a few “bad apples” emerge here and there to perpetrate the occasional atrocity, for example at My Lai or in the Abu Ghraib and Baghram prisons. Judging by their docile acceptance of the foreign policy of Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden, most Americans have yet to acknowledge that the twenty-year “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) has been a colossal failure: politically, economically and, yes, morally. The only people to have benefited from the non-stop bombing of the Middle East are war profiteers. Some people are more equal than others.

The long entrenched dogma that, all things considered, the world is a better place because of U.S. military intervention abroad explains why citizens continue dutifully to pay federal taxes while delegating all policy-making decisions to the legislature, who in the twenty-first century flatly renounced their authority to decide when and where war should be waged. The AUMF (Authorization for Use of Military Force) granted to President George W. Bush in October 2002 has been invoked by every president since then to claim the authority to bomb anyone anywhere in the world where the executive branch of government has deemed such action desirable.

“We are good, and they are evil,” is a time-tested trope which allows government administrators, whether elected or appointed by those elected, to get away with anything, on the pretext that the evil enemy must be defeated, and the perpetrators of mass homicide are acting only and everywhere so as to protect their constituents. Or to spread democracy and save the world from a despicable tyrant, all of which are essentially equivalent, or so the rhetoric goes…In the lead-up to every new war, citizens, having been subjected to vigorous fear-mongering propaganda campaigns according to which their very lives are at stake, tend momentarily to forget that politicians are liars. They listen attentively as quasi-utilitarianism is trotted out yet again to secure popular support for bombing campaigns through soundbites such as: “The war will pay for itself!” “We will be welcomed with flowers as liberators!” “The conflict will be short—in and out—with minimal collateral damage!” When the real consequences prove to be nothing like those projected by hawkish “experts” with financial ties to military industry, the warmakers then revert to defending themselves by appeal to their good intentions.

War advocates are able to sleep at night not because of utilitarianism, according to which the rightness of a war is determined by its outcomes, which any rational and informed person must own have been catastrophic throughout the Middle East, but because they have another theory to whip out in their defense whenever their “good wars” have infelicitous or even appalling consequences. That framework derives from just war theory, specifically, the doctrine of double effect, according to which what really matter, in the grand scheme of things, are the warmakers’ own intentions. “Stuff happens,” explained former Secretary of Defense and sage epistemologist Donald Rumsfeld in assuaging concerns that the conditions on the ground in Iraq were chaotic, with monuments and museums being looted, persons murdered and maimed, robbed and raped, among other unanticipated results of the 2003 bombing campaign.

Policymakers such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Tony Blair may assuage their conscience by professing the purity of their own, subjective, intentions: “We meant to do well!” Along these lines, ancient Greek philosopher Socrates reputedly quipped, “No one knowingly does evil,” by which he may have meant that everyone seeks what they regard as good and avoids what they regard as evil. What, after all, could they base their actions on, if not their own values? In other words, viewed at the level of individual action, “We meant to do well!” may hold true in the case of anyone who does anything, from the thief who steals to feed his family, to the serial killer who derives immense pleasure from destroying other people, to the warhawks and profiteers who persist in perpetuating and even expanding the War on Terror, though it has already destroyed or degraded the lives of thousands of Americans and millions of persons of color abroad.

Some people are more equal than others is assumed by anyone who claims to wish to even the economic playing field at home while altogether ignoring the plight of the millions of people who are not only not earning $15 per hour for their labor but in fact have been killed as the so-called collateral damage of wars supported or condoned by lawmakers with financial interests at stake. The forever war in the Middle East and Africa plods on with little protest, and some of the very people who vociferously demand justice for individual victims of police brutality such as George Floyd turn a blind eye to the plight of the thousands of victims of the bombing campaigns, despite the fact that the former can be said to derive in part from the latter. Not only does the Federal government set a highly visible example of how to resolve conflict through the continual perpetration of mass homicide, but police departments have been furnished with military equipment and are staffed in many places by veterans of U.S. wars, some of whom apply wartime techniques and tactics in combating crime.

With regard to the killing of persons of color within the United States, we have witnessed former President Barack Obama making public pronouncements on the outcomes of the George Floyd and Trayvon Martin cases, while declining to say anything whatsoever about his very own administration’s targeted killing of sixteen-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen incinerated along with a group of his friends by a missile launched by the U.S. government from a drone flying above Yemen in 2011. If presidents themselves can simply pretend that some of their very own victims never even existed, then it should not be all that surprising when Americans more generally follow their lead.

Self-styled progressives, for example, may agitate for the restriction of firearm possession domestically, while ignoring altogether the exportation of weapons in record numbers (since Obama’s presidency) to regimes and factions in Syria and other places where they are predictably used to harm human beings, primarily persons of color, on a completely different magnitude than occurs within the country where the weapons are produced. It is of course possible consistently to maintain, as do advocates of the right to bear arms, that guns are morally neutral but become implements of murder when wielded by murderers. But anyone who insists that gun possession leads to murder within the United States would seem to be committed, logically speaking, to the position that the many innocent persons killed abroad by U.S. weapons (whether by the U.S. military itself or by governments, factions or individuals armed by them) were, materially speaking, the murder victims of those who furnished the killers with the weapons. And yet, some (not all) of those who dispute citizens’ Constitutional right to bear arms are not only silent on the issue of weapons exportation but in fact complicit in enriching this industry and sowing the seeds for mass homicide abroad through their uninterrupted payment of federal taxes.

A similarly untenable duality would seem to be Senator Bernie Sanders’ outspoken opposition to capital punishment, which he manages to hold within his mind while simultaneously supporting the use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), or lethal drones, to kill terrorist suspects abroad. One of the most cogent arguments for abolishing the death penalty derives from the indisputable fact that convicted persons are sometimes exonerated posthumously. Mistakes are made, and erroneous executions are irrevocable. An equally compelling argument concerns racial justice. Among all convicted murderers, a disproportionately high percentage of persons of color are sentenced to death, in all likelihood because juries and judges perceive them to be more dangerous than white murderers. But each of these lines of reasoning applies a fortiori to the persons eliminated by missiles launched from drones in countries where nearly everyone is a person of color, and the victims are not even charged with crimes, much less given the opportunity to defend themselves against their killers’ allegation that they are evil terrorists who deserve to die. Why should a suspect have more rights within than outside the arbitrarily drawn borders of a land? If suspects have rights, then does it matter where they happen to stand? And if even convicted murderers should not be executed, as Sanders appears to believe, then how can mere suspects abroad be annihilated on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence such as SIM card data, drone video footage and the bribed testimony of destitute, and therefore corruptible, informants on the ground?

It may be tempting to conclude from examples such as Senator Sanders that lawmakers and the citizens who elect them and pay their salaries are simple hypocrites. It is more charitable, however, and at least as plausible, that they have been trained effectively to compartmentalize spheres of reality so that what seems obviously desirable within one domain has no implications whatsoever for anywhere else. Modern people have been effectively conditioned so as to find nothing wrong with applying completely different standards to different spheres of reality. Their rhetoric may be absolutist, but the moral requirements upon them as individual moral persons are assumed to be a function of the context and circumstances. No less than the politicians who enthusiastically advocate for bombing abroad while decrying police brutality in the homeland, most people appear to hold a motley assortment of arguably contradictory moral beliefs, which they apply to different groups of people according to caprice and mostly determined by what they have been indoctrinated to believe, above all by the media. In effect, modern people have developed split personalities. The innocent victims of Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s and now Joe Biden’s perpetual motion bombing campaigns do not exist in the minds of those who ordered or paid for their deaths, and are therefore excluded from all moral calculus.

The smallest sphere of morality, or moral community, comprises one’s self. At this level, morality and prudence coincide. Applying utilitarian reasoning to one’s self alone yields a theory according to which one should maximize one’s own happiness (or pleasure or well-being), even at the expensive of others, because they lie beyond the bounds of the sphere under consideration. The next smallest sphere of morality includes one’s family. After that, one’s friends may be included. Then one’s neighbors, one’s compatriots, and finally humanity. No finite person can perform a full and accurate utilitarian projection of the results of his prospective action on all of humanity, and people generally consider only the short-term effects on the persons with whom they interact and of whom they are directly aware. The answer to the question “What should I do?” will vary greatly depending on whether one considers the moral community to comprise one’s self (ethical egoism) or one’s compatriots (nationalism) or humanity (globalism). Utilitarian-esque rhetoric pervades public discourse because it seems reasonable and sounds “moral” (rather than “selfish”), but most people either do not recognize or do not agonize over the manifest inconsistencies between what they say and what they do in the various communities in which they interact.

Avoiding altogether this morass of moral relativism, the libertarian upholds the non-aggression principle (NAP), which is an easily applicable proscription: Do not initiate—or threaten—violence against other human beings. Period. Do not indulge in casuistic rationalization of why it is supposedly right to bomb countries abroad when in fact there is near certainty that persons of unknown identity (and therefore not known to deserve to die) will be destroyed, no matter what the warmakers’ intentions may be. Libertarians have many outspoken, virtue-signaling enemies these days, but in fact their theory is consistent, including as it does all people everywhere. If it is wrong for government agents (such as police officers) to kill suspects in the homeland, then it is equally wrong for government agents (such as drone operators) to kill suspects abroad.

Most of the federal discretionary budget goes to the military, which is why utilitarian-esque defenses of federal taxation are delusive, especially in view of the twenty-year War on Terror fiasco. Their rhetoric notwithstanding, the policymakers who determine how much to tax citizens and where federal funds are to be allocated prioritize the interests of not humanity, nor their compatriots, but the MIC, or military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-pharmaceutical-logistics-banking complex, all tentacles of which have teams of lobbyists in Washington, DC. In order to be completely consistent, then, it may be that libertarians should join the ranks of the war tax resisters, which is however easier said than done, given the harsh and coercive measures deployed by the state, again, in the name of “the greater good.”

Pascal’s Wager for COVIDystopic Times or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Coronapocalypse and Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Pascal’s Wager for COVIDystopic Times or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Coronapocalypse and Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Being of a naturally skeptical bent, I have harbored doubts from the very beginning about the upheaval of the entire world rationalized by politicians everywhere because of a virus which kills less than 1% of the people it infects. I watched in amazement as country after country closed their borders to foreigners, imposed “common sense” quarantines, lockdowns and mask mandates, and shut down entire economies. I was perplexed by the inability of anyone in the position to craft policies to recognize that what really needed to be done was to isolate vulnerable persons, allow everyone else to go about their business, and eventually we would achieve herd immunity.

This approach was rejected early on as untenable because, it was claimed, COVID-19 was simply too elusive. In contrast to many other deadly viruses known to mankind since time immemorial, we could not develop herd immunity to COVID-19, because there were documented cases of persons who had become reinfected after having already recovered. To my mind, that was the first red flag that perhaps the virus had not simply leapt from bats to humans when some hapless soul in Wuhan ate a bowl of soup. I started to wonder whether this was not some sort of Frankenstein gain-of-function virus, engineered in a lab by DARPA-funded scientists under the guise of national defense, to figure out what to do in case some other government developed such a virus to wipe out its sworn enemies.

The idea that COVID-19 was developed in a lab and accidentally released by human error was rejected by all of the CNN-certified authorities, so I naturally listened to the science and began focusing on other matters, such as whether the project of inoculating all of the 9 billion people on the planet with a vaccine might be a way of ending the pandemic. There were plenty of companies enthusiastic to pursue this project, and within months Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, in addition to a variety of companies in Russia and China, had already developed their vaccines, having been generously funded by governments so obviously keen to save lives.

Fine, I thought to myself. Now everyone who is vulnerable can get the vaccine, and those who are not can go about their business, become infected and then recover from the virus and its associated symptoms upon robust people, such as the “blah” feeling reported by Tom Hanks upon landing on Australian shores in March 2020 shortly before that entire country closed its borders seemingly forever. There was no question in my mind that we were on the way to the exit ramp of the highway to a dystopic world where no one is allowed to travel or congregate in groups for fear of transmitting the virus to persons who might die as a result. The situation was easy to comprehend by appeal to Pascal’s wager (mutatis mutandis):

 

The Question of Efficacy in Preventing Transmission and Infection

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Everyone who takes the vaccine will be protected from everyone else—whether or not they take the vaccine

 

Those who take the vaccine will be protected; others will remain vulnerable to COVID-19

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

No one who takes the vaccine will be protected from other people—whether or not they take the vaccine

No one will be protected—whether or not they take the vaccine

 

Further doubts, however, began to creep into my mind as I witnessed a variety of zealous public relations efforts to persuade people invulnerable to COVID-19 to get the vaccines. Front and center in luring the public to do what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have determined must be done have been COVID-19 guru Dr. Anthony Fauci and vaccine entrepreneur Bill Gates, who incidentally has revealed in interviews his fabulous financial success in the vaccine sector. I think that everyone, on both sides of the COVID-19 lockdown divide, can agree that a twenty-fold return on his investment is nothing to scoff at.

Fauci got right to work promoting the Moderna vaccine by pointing out to African Americans that, in fact, the vaccine was developed by a black woman. This struck me as an odd selling point, and I confess to have suspected racism. I looked up Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett on Twitter and found this on her profile: “Virology. Vaccinology. Vagina-ology. Vino-ology.” Not sure that the latter two count as credentials, but one thing is clear: vaccine hesistancy among African Americans has a well documented and understandable history, resulting in part from the horrifying Tuskegee experiments, in which black men infected with syphilis were left untreated “just to see what would happen.” That’s right: nonconsensual human experimentation was not the province only of the Nazis. It has happened right here, in the United States, as well. In turning Dr. Corbett into something of a media darling, Fauci’s idea appears to have been that people would be persuaded that a black woman would never dream of acting so as to harm other black people. That line of argumentation is unfortunately impugned by the fact that black nurses were among the perpetrators of the Tuskegee study. Indeed, the program coordinator, Eunice Verdell Rivers Laurie, was an African American woman. Nonetheless, Fauci may have succeeded in convincing some people to roll up their sleeves, to wit, those entirely ignorant of the details of the disturbing Tuskegee saga, which lasted a shocking forty years.

My next concern arose when some “experts” began exhorting pregnant women to “get the jab,” insisting that there was no evidence of harm to pregnant women from the new vaccines. I decided to look into the studies done before the emergency authorizations and discovered that pregnant women were not included in the first round of human trials. This finding naturally reminded me of the disturbing story of Thalidomide. That drug seemed very safe in initial clinical trials, which, however, excluded pregnant women. Ultimately, 40% of the babies of women who had been given Thalidomide as a remedy for morning sickness died around the time of birth. Of those who survived, thousands were born deformed, many with fin-like limbs. As is always the case, it took time for the longterm side effects to be sorted out. That is because each patient is unique, with different biological and environmental factors, including the medical treatment in question, acting upon her body. Approved in 1956, Thalidomide was not pulled from the European market until 1961. Why would anyone be encouraging pregnant women to “get the jab,” given the well-documented history of Thalidomide and the apparent invulnerability of infants and small children to the COVID-19 virus? I puzzled. After all, the word teratogen exists because there are substances which predictably lead to birth defects, and they are discovered when, and only when, pregnant women are exposed to those substances. Thinking about the case of Thalidomide and possible side effects provoked another Pascal’s Wager assessment:

 

The Question of Unknown Side-Effects—Both Short-Term and Long-Term

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will be protected from COVID-19 but may suffer side effects—up to and including death

 

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will not suffer any side effects.

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and may also suffer side effects—up to and including death

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will also not suffer any side effects.

 

The worst case scenario would be that the “vaccines” do not actually work and also have devastating side effects. Clearly, then, the rational choice for a given person is going to be a function of how vulnerable he or she is to the disease which the vaccines are intended to protect against. If one has a 99.5+% chance of surviving COVID-19, has no known comorbidities and therefore is unlikely to suffer severe illness, even if infected with the virus, then it is difficult to see why he or she would want to opt for the treatment, given that the risk of longterm side effects is entirely unknown—ranging anywhere from 0% to 100%. Fine, I concluded again. People who want the vaccine can get the vaccine, and everyone else can resume their normal life. Yet Fauci & Co. did not agree. I continued to puzzle over pregnant women being enthusiastically exhorted to “get the jab,” and those concerns were exacerbated when vaccine trials on children began, complete with a social media campaign featuring images of “heroic” pro-science kids rolling up their sleeves.

Eventually, after reflecting on this conundrum for quite some time, the firm believer in freedom of choice in me capitulated, concluding that, as in everything else, parents and pregnant women would have to decide what to do for themselves and their offspring. I decided to move on to other matters, as it was obviously futile to engage further with the mobs of people online who have redefined “prudential person” to mean “antivaxxer”. Instead, I turned to the rational grounds for believing that Moderna and its diverse research team have succeeded in producing a COVID-19 vaccine, which is defined by the CDC as follows:

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.

Going directly to the source, Moderna’s own website, I learned that the company specializes in gene therapy and has been operational for a grand total of ten years. They received a substantial DARPA grant in 2013, but have no FDA approvals for vaccines or devices to date, aside from the emergency authorization granted in December 2020 for the COVID-19 treatment. All of the COVID-19 therapies, whether m-RNA (as in Moderna’s case) or vector based, have been labeled “vaccines” not only in the hope that they may act as vaccines, but also in order to benefit from the legal immunity enjoyed by vaccine manufacturers in the United States, thanks to the PREP (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparation) act. Anyone who suffers harm as a result of these government-funded elixirs will have to take it up with the government, not the manufacturer. Unlike normal businesses, which must bear the legal brunt of the negative effects of their products upon human beings, Moderna is like a child being allowed to roam free, its parents prepared to clean up any messes which may result. Perhaps Moderna will get lucky and have produced a miracle cure, but the statistics on new medical treatments are not that encouraging. Of 5,000 new drug candidates, only a tiny fraction of them (5 out of 5,000 or .1%) are judged from the animal trials to be safe enough to be tested on human beings. Of those which are tested on human beings, only 20% eventually achieve (regular) FDA approval and are taken to market (.02% of the original candidates). Of those pharmaceutical products which make it to market, some are eventually recalled. From January 2017 to September 2019, 195 drugs previously approved by the FDA were recalled because of safety issues.

Now, many people have died of COVID-19, and no one wishes for that to happen to themselves or anyone they know. It is also true that very ill and vulnerable people are often willing to gamble on experimental treatments. In the case of terminally ill patients, what do they have to lose? It is unclear, however, why any rational person not at risk of death from COVID-19 should want to offer up, without compensation, his healthy body as a Petri dish to a government-subsidized and protected industry with a well-documented history of not only deception and fraud but also what are arguably human rights violations, above all, in third world countries. Moderna, being new, with no products on the market, has a clean slate to date (all none of its products have had no untoward effects on human subjects), but the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca tallies of criminal fines and settlements are awe-inspiring, to put it mildly. No one ever said that human experimentation was going to be risk free, but the fact that billions of dollars in compensations have been doled out to people harmed by pharmaceutical and other chemical companies underscores a sober truth: it is inherently dangerous to introduce novel foreign substances into human bodies, even in the best of all possible research and development scenarios.

The spec sheets for both the Pfizer and the Moderna shots explicitly state that they “may” prevent one from getting COVID-19 (which implies, of course, that they may not), and that “There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19.” These information sheets (which hardly anyone rolling up their sleeves appears to have read) also state plainly that “Serious and unexpected side effects may occur,” which should in any case be obvious since they were developed and tested over a course of months, not years (note: the average time to market for a new drug/device is 12 years). There simply is no longterm data yet—whether positive or negative. The makers themselves of these products rightly express ignorance as to their efficacy in preventing and transmitting disease, touting confidently only their therapeutic effect in reducing severe symptoms and diminishing the likelihood of death, both of which are in any case exceedingly rare for persons under the age of 50, according to all available statistical data. Feeling “blah” does not count, I presume, as a “severe symptom,” so it is unclear whether vaccination would have helped Tom Hanks at all. But who knows? One or more of these companies may succeed in producing a COVID-19 panacea, I mused. Until I remembered the problem of new virus variants.

The current slate of vaccines were developed against a dominant strain of COVID-19 last year, but the many variants, created through mutation and apparently numbering in the thousands, are by now so widespread that there are grounds for believing that even if the current vaccines work against the dominant strain, and even with strong vaccine compliance, vulnerable people will continue to die, sooner or later, while everyone else will be spared, not because of the vaccines, but because they were never vulnerable to the virus and its variants in the first place. As is always the case, given human variability, there have been some outliers, young persons who died or suffered harm from Coronavirus infection. On the other hand, more elderly people than one might surmise, given the media coverage, have survived. COVID-19 does not come close to being a death sentence, although the chances of dying are significantly increased for patients with comorbidities. Still, in some places, the average age of a COVID-19 victim is the same or even older than the average life expectancy of people more generally.

Curiously enough, persons who already survived COVID-19 are also being exhorted to get the vaccines, even though the very fact of their ongoing existence definitively demonstrates that their immune system is hardy enough to combat the virus. For other diseases caused by viruses and for which vaccines exist, the reason for getting the vaccine is to avoid at all costs getting the disease, which in cases such as Ebola and Yellow Fever are very deadly to anyone, regardless of age or comorbidities. But the vast majority of people infected with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms and do not require medical treatment. Reflecting on these matters, I circled back to my previous concern: Why should any healthy person believe that taking an experimental vaccine is a good idea, particularly if they already survived COVID-19?

As I continued to mull over this question, I marveled at the massive media marketing budget for COVID-19. All of the circular stickers on the ground and all of signs everywhere relaying important information such as the permitted capacity of persons inside stores, all scientifically calculated to three significant figures to yield numbers such as the 163 shoppers admitted to the local TJMaxx at a time. Even more impressive have been the ads on television and the internet everywhere encouraging people: “This is our shot. Let’s take it!” among a slate of similarly benevolent-sounding slogans. People may feel better when others hop aboard the vaccine train, and they may attempt to shame those who do not, but does any of this behavior have anything to do with whether or not the treatments will ultimately work? It seems safe to say that neither the virus nor the vaccines have any interest in the hopes and aspirations of human beings. Ironically, the pressure being put on people—threatening the requirement of vaccination for travel, work and play, and the lavishing of praise upon those willing blindly to accept as-of-yet unknown risks—appears to be having the opposite of its intended effect.

If it were so obvious that the vaccines worked and were the only solution to our current predicament, then why would Queen Elizabeth take to the airwaves to denounce people who refuse to get vaccinated as “selfish”? Why would Tony Blair insist that we will not be free again until vaccine passports become available? Why did former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama team up to produce a video in which they attempt to persuade people to get the vaccine? (Bush states in the ad, “The science is clear.” He was equally confident about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs.) Why would CNN be admonishing those congresspersons who have declined the vaccines made available to them, including those such as Representative Thomas Massie who have already recovered from the virus and therefore must have developed antibodies and T-cells in response? On its face, all of this propaganda seems vaguely insane, and it is scaring people away who might otherwise have agreed to participate in the experimental trials.

Sowing doubts even more effectively than appeals by confirmed liars in high places, more than twenty countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Finland, Thailand and, most recently, Canada, halted their distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in response to a number of blood clot cases. When the cases in Norway were first reported, the trusty mainstream media went into overdrive, dismissing “baseless” claims of connections between the blood clots and the vaccine. It seemed strange to me that over the course of the past year, every person who died with COVID-19 was recorded as having died of COVID-19, while no one who died after vaccination was acknowledged to have been killed by the vaccine. The in some cases deadly blood clots were “purely coincidental” was the judgment decreed by journalists onboard the vaccine train (before the matter was even investigated) and echoed by parrots throughout Facebook and Twitter to assuage the fears of persons who might be discouraged by the news from rolling up their sleeves. Even after the AstraZeneca vaccination resumed in most of these countries, some of them changed their guidelines. France, for example, having initially claimed that the AstraZeneca vaccine showed no benefits to elderly persons, reversed course to decree that the vaccine should only be used on persons over the age of 55. Canada, for its part, announced that they would be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine only to persons between the ages of 50 and 65. The governments which stopped and then resumed vaccination claimed that they had done so out of “an abundance of caution,” but when some scientists concluded that there was indeed a connection between the blood clots and a rare autoimmune response elicited by the vaccine, they also jubilantly reported that they had found a possible cure for that problem. By all means, take the AstraZeneca vaccine, and if you develop blood clots in your brain, then we’ll give you some other treatment to save your life! (If you have no Big Pharma stocks in your portfolio, now might be the time to buy.)

Many businesses have joined in on the public relations campaign and are rising to the challenge of convincing their customers that vaccination is the way to go. Qantas, the largest Australian airline, has adopted the punitive approach, alerting everyone everywhere that they will not be boarding any of their planes without first presenting proof of vaccination. But one company has gone above and beyond to offer what may finally be needed to convert the intransigent skeptics: Krispy Kreme. The doughnut giant has announced that anyone presenting proof of vaccination at any of their stores will be entitled to a free doughnut. Mind you, this is not a one-off promotion. Every vaccinated person is being offered a doughnut every single day that they show up at any of the Krispy Kreme locations with their trusty vaccination card in hand. Needless to say, this propitious development necessitates a revision of the Pascal’s Wager assessment:

 

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

 

Take the vaccine Don’t take the vaccine
The vaccine prevents transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will be protected from COVID-19 and will receive a free doughnut every day.

 

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and will not receive a free doughnut every day.

 

The vaccine does not prevent transmission and infection  

Those who take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 but will receive a free doughnut every day.

Those who do not take the vaccine will not be protected from COVID-19 and will not receive a free doughnut every day.

 

Luckily there are Krispy Kreme doughnut shops dotting the vast landscape of the United States, and, more importantly, there is one down the street from me. My fate, therefore, along with that of thousands, if not millions, of my fellow citizens (including, I presume, Representative Massie) is now sealed. I will be rolling up my sleeve, not because I believe in the novel m-RNA vaccines, nor because I think that it is in my best interests to undergo an experimental treatment for a disease to which I am not vulnerable and from which I have already recovered, nor because George W. Bush and Tony Blair want me to, nor because I care what Queen Elizabeth thinks of me, nor because the only way I can ever travel to Australia again will be to “get the jab.” No, I will be rolling up my sleeve for the sole purpose of receiving a free doughnut every day henceforth. I trust that, in recognition of the Krispy Kreme executive team’s manifest magnanimity, the government will confer upon their company the label “essential business” to protect it from revenue loss in the event of any future lockdowns.

The Pentagon Turns ‘Feminist’

The Pentagon Turns ‘Feminist’

For many years, male U.S. citizens have been required to register with the Selective Service, an independent agency within the Executive Branch of the U.S. Federal Government, so that they can be located in the event that it becomes necessary to reinstate military conscription. The most recent military draft was ended after the Vietnam War, in 1973, and ever since then people have proudly pointed to the “voluntary” terms of U.S. military enlistment. That soldiers are voluntary is also frequently invoked in passing by cynical civilians who dismiss complaints about the plight of soldiers during wars and their aftermath. Those wont to insist, “They freely chose to enlist!” not-so-slyly suggest that perhaps we should not care so much about the thousands of homeless veterans and the epic levels of suicides among distraught soldiers, who by 2019 were ending their lives at rate of about twenty per day.

In recent years, the question whether women should be permitted to serve as combatant soldiers has arisen, as more and more other professions have opened up to what historically has been regarded as “the gentler sex.” Until quite recently, the fighting forces of the military were always viewed as the province of men, but times have changed, causing some people to reconsider the longstanding association of the military with masculinity. There are essentially two standard arguments regarding female combatants.

First, according to what might be called the “traditionalist” approach, women are generally smaller and physically weaker than men. Their admission into the ranks alongside the physically strong males who have fought enemy soldiers one-on-one on bloody battlefields throughout history would severely compromise the military’s capacity to win its battles and, ultimately, the government’s wars. A second strand of the traditionalist view focuses on the idea that women should not be sacrificed needlessly. Women have historically been viewed as nurturing and less aggressive than men. If women were deployed evenly among the men fighting on the ground, then they would be more likely to perish than their male counterparts, not only because they are, on average, physically smaller and weaker, but also because they are less violent than men. But if women were eliminated, this would hurt society more generally, as women give birth to and often raise children.

The second approach, which might be termed “feminist,” holds that combatant selection should in no way depend on one’s possession or lack of a Y-chromosome. It may be the case that women on average are weaker and smaller and less aggressive than men, but that does not mean that all of them are. Over millennia, women have far more often filled the role of mother than that of breadwinner, but, again, times have changed. Today a woman can choose whether or not to be a wife and mother. Some women today serve as the CEOs of military weapons companies or even heads of state. What it means to be a liberated woman is to be able to choose between the full range of opportunities available to men. Furthermore, there are certainly examples of extremely powerful women, such as Serena and Venus Williams, who might, if they chose to fight rather than play tennis, do quite well on the battlefield. Accordingly, on this view, women should be permitted to train and compete with men for spots in even the most physically demanding of military roles, up to and including the Marines or special operations teams such as the Delta Force. The way to find out whether a woman qualifies for such a force is precisely the way in which men find out whether they qualify: through basic and advanced training which leads some candidates or their commanders to conclude that they may be better suited for less arduous roles.

In 2015, the Pentagon appeared to adopt the second, more progressive or feminist, approach, announcing that all combatant positions would henceforth be open to women. The reality, I believe, is quite a bit more crass, as evidenced by the fact that not long after women were invited to serve as combat warriors, people began discussing whether women should, along with men, be required to register for the Selective Service, so that they, too, could be called up should another military draft be instituted. This move, from permissibility to obligation, from a triumph of feminism to the severe restriction on liberty and potential enslavement of women, the prospect of their being demanded to serve in the armed forces against their will, is a curious non sequitur which seems to have gone unnoticed by the soi-disant feminists who support Selective Service registration for all. The Pentagon public relations wing naturally claims “woke” creds, but what is really going on here?

I am afraid that the traditionalist approach (which still has its adherents, for example, Fox News host Tucker Carlson), altogether misses the point of the Pentagon’s invitation to women to join the ranks of military killers. For most “combatants” in future war will not be found on the ground battling enemy soldiers in one-on-one fights to the finish. Instead, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), or lethal drones, will continue to be used, as over the course of the twenty-first century so far, to inflict death upon enemy “soldiers” who pose no direct threat to their killers. The risks in having both men and women fight in theaters such as the twenty-year War on Terror throughout the Middle East (which has also seeped into Africa) will become progressively less physical. Because of new technology, the primary harms suffered by future soldiers will be psychological and moral. This follows from the very logic of the use of drones to kill people abroad who cannot be threatening anyone with death because they are unarmed. Least defensible of all is the incineration of persons located in countries where there are no soldiers on the ground said to require force protection. Yet this is what drone operators are trained and required to do.

One of the most significant military discoveries in the twenty-first century, all but ignored by the warmakers themselves, is that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), does not emerge exclusively or always as a result of traumatic experiences on the battlefield, when soldiers are forced daily to face the specter of their possibly imminent deaths as they witness people dying all around them and move through dangerous territories where IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and snipers may be hiding any- and everywhere. Protracted fear and stress can be powerful factors in the onset of PTSD, but what we have learned from its high incidence among drone and laser sensor operators is that moral trauma and conscience also play an important role. Indeed, regret for what one has done is sufficient alone to induce profound PTSD, as evidenced by those drone operators who, in states of psychological and moral despair, have opted to abandon the profession at the termination of their initial contract, even when they have been enticed to stay by the provision of generous bonus offers.

On its face, the job of a drone operator may look like a good deal, and it did to those who later regretted and renounced their vocation: garner creds as a courageous warrior by donning a uniform and showing up to work in a trailer where one “fights” the enemy on a screen from thousands of miles away. No trenches, no IEDs, and no snipers—the drone operator himself remains unscathed, indeed, untouchable by the enemy. The physical job of a drone operator involves manipulating buttons and levers, observing the enemy on the screen and remaining alert, not as a way of saving one’s own life, but to make sure that the enemy does not get away. The images of what these soldiers see on those screens and have done to those people, however, sometimes come to haunt drone operators. Watching targets for hours, days, weeks, even months, before “splashing” them with a missile and witnessing them bleed out before dying, knowing in some cases that they are leaving behind widows and orphans, if not also first-order (physical) collateral damage, exacts a steep psychological toll on some of the push-button killers.

The military will continue to become progressively more lethal to the enemy but less deadly to its own combatant or killing forces because of the manifest rationality of not needlessly risking soldiers’ lives, and the development of technology which makes that possible. If a war can be won without sacrificing a single soldier, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed President Barack Obama did when he ordered hundreds of missile strikes on Libya in 2011, then why would any commander choose to do otherwise? This risk-averse approach to war began in earnest with President Bill Clinton, whose combat pilots flew high above their targets in Kosovo in 1999 in order to protect themselves from harm, despite the fact that by doing so they increased the risk of killing civilians on the ground. Presidents, along with the populace, care more about their compatriots than “collateral damage” victims abroad, who, being out of sight, are also out of mind.

The Libya intervention was quite far from being a success story, much less an example of, as Clinton gushed, “smart power at its best,” but it is true that no combatants were killed during the 2011 ousting of then-President Muammar Gaddafi. Ironically, U.S. State Department employees were killed in the post-war mêlée, but that was after the bombing had stopped. The country of Libya is now in shambles, but the Benghazi debacle, along with everything else which ensued subsequent to the bombing campaign, is simply written off by its architects, including former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power (recently pegged to head up USAID), as unpredictable, unforeseeable consequences of a military intervention with purely humanitarian aims. In attempting to convince Obama to take action, Power compared the situation in Libya to that of Rwanda in 1994. Remarkably, having been initially disinclined to intervene, Obama was persuaded to believe Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Anne-Marie Slaughter, the women who rallied for that war—a veritable case in point for those who claim that women can be just as aggressive as men. But was the post-war scene in Libya completely unforeseeable and unpredictable, as Power glibly maintains in her memoir? We may beg to differ with those armchair warriors who failed to draw appropriate inductive conclusions from the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan or the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, but, alas, they seem keen to ply their bellicose trade wherever and whenever it becomes possible again.

Thousands of people at the Department of Defense work full time in public relations, producing texts and media to persuade taxpayers that the government’s wars are just and right. One might reasonably wonder why, if all of the ongoing wars were in fact worthwhile and necessary undertakings, there should be any need for public relations campaigns to support them, or to lure young people to enlist. But because the necessity and justice of the nonstop bombing of people in the Middle East is far from self-evident, those paying for the carnage must continually be made to believe, against all evidence, that the soldiers killing people abroad today are just like the courageous men who defeated the Nazis in World War II. Snafus such as the photographs from Abu Graib prison must be explained away, and the military’s image re-burnished to ensure that young people will continue to enlist.

The “feminist” turn at the Pentagon, I submit, is just another ploy to address the recruitment crisis at a time in history when the skills required of the latest supply of cannon fodder have become significantly less physical. More drone operators are trained today than regular combatant pilots, and at some point the idea of risking one’s own life for one’s country will be deemed anachronistic and quaint. Robots with “boots on the ground” have been deployed for years, especially to assist troops in landmine-infested territories. “Ground force” robots have also been used to blow up targets, as was done, unbelievably enough, to U.S. military veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, in Dallas, Texas, on July 8, 2016, after he killed five members of the local police force. The replacement of mortal soldiers by robots will be further precipitated by the inexorable production of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), which will take human beings completely out of the killing loop once robotic killers have been programmed to gather, sort, and analyze data before selecting targets and launching missiles. Until the military has become entirely automated, however, it will continue to need human operators, and that is why women have been enthusiastically invited to join in on the killing spree.

The invitation to women to serve in combat forces has been billed as progress, evidence of how “woke” the Pentagon is, along the lines of President Biden’s appointment of the first African American Secretary of Defense, General Lloyd J. Austin. But, as in the case of Austin, the admission of women into combat forces has a subtext. The far more relevant factor in the case of Austin is his connection to military industry, the fact that he is a former board member of a company (Raytheon) which stands to profit every time Syria or anywhere else is bombed. The surface “wokeness” is just a patina, a veneer, a bit of public relations polish on what is ultimately an intrinsically pragmatic policy. The fact that Austin is black is an effective distraction from the reality of the ever-more tentacular MIC or, to be precise, the military-industrial-congressional-media-academic-pharmaceutical-logistics-banking complex. Military industry, which is funded by the Pentagon, has also gloated over its female CEOs. Meanwhile the crisis levels of sexual abuse by fellow soldiers and commanding officers of female enlistees has been largely ignored by the military-infiltrated mass media.

The admission of women troops as combatants is not so much an affirmation of the worth of female human beings as it is a recognition that they, too, can be trained to serve as push-button contract killers. There is an ongoing, chronic military recruitment crisis because service in the bungled missions in Afghanistan and Iraq has seemed progressively less honorable as the quagmires have dragged on. Many people were willing to enlist after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but by now nearly no one (aside from war profiteers) seems convinced of the righteousness of the forever wars in tThhe Middle East. In order for those wars to continue on, new, psychological, cannon fodder must be found. Step right up, ladies, we have a splendid job for you, complete with benefits, pension and paid maternity leave!

The issue of maintaining Selective Service registration for men alone is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it would seem that, in consistency, the entire program must either be abolished or expanded to include women. Under a faux-feminist guise, some “patriots” among the U.S. Congress (an extremely important limb of the octopoid MIC) will likely rally for the expansion, which would be a severe blow to liberty lovers of all stripes, men and women alike. If it is unconstitutional to require men but not women to register for the Selective Service, now that women are permitted to serve in the armed forces, then the proper remedy can only be to abolish the Selective Service registration requirement, for involuntary service violates every person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whether or not they possess a Y-chromosome.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised the issue before the Supreme Court on behalf of a group of men, and it may well be that they favor abolition of the requirement. Nonetheless, should the current law, under the present circumstances, be struck down as unconstitutional, then the fact that the Supreme Court did not previously find the Selective Service registration of males alone to be unconstitutional will be invoked by hawks in the U.S. Congress to push for new legislation mandating universal registration, regardless of biological sex. The question which needs desperately to be debated now, however, is whether the creation of an entire society of push-button contract killers is something which anyone should support.

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