Known as “The Butcher of Prague,” Reinhard Heydrich was for the government of Nazi Germany an accomplished senior figure. He had the preferred look that many racialists enjoyed, clean cut and Germanic. A man that Adolf Hitler had described as having an “Iron Heart.” For many of the monumental events in the history of the Nazi government, Heydrich had helped organize or participated in them. From the 1936 Berlin Olympics to the Kristallnacht persecutions, he was a crucial element of the prewar government and its growth. Heydrich was an excellent administrator and would be an ideal asset for most any government; obedient, a stickler for bureaucraucy and administrative detail and void of compassion. A man of action. The particular ideology of the Nazi regime seemed to suit his talents and principles best. It was one of those perfect historical matches, where the outcome was terrible.
Heydrich became instrumental in establishing the task forces that rounded up Jewish people and placed them into ghettos. Some estimates claim that one million innocent people were murdered during the process of this bureaucratic implementation. Heydrich’s planning and attention to detail ensured that no child was left behind or no family was spared. No exceptions were made, it was the law. By 1941, Heydrich’s reputation was such that he was appointed as Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, what was formerly known as Czechoslovakia. Executions, arrests, and slavery ensued. For the history that was being written for the Nazi State, he was a great man. Which is why he was one of the key figures at the Wannsee Conference, the ninety minute meeting that would write the laws allowing for the mass extermination of those determined to be of Jewish descent. Genocide was to become official government policy.
The cruelty of Heydrich’s administration in Czechoslovakia was brutal. He was an efficient government director, calculating and obedient to the ambitions of the state. He was the viceroy of an already industrial and productive sector pre-occupation, and he milked and bled the people under his rule to gain profit for the state. The nation was at war and men like Heydrich were crucial in protecting the state from defeat from its many enemies. In 1942 Heydrich was killed by British military-trained Czechoslovakian operatives. For the Nazi state, a hero had been slain by foreign backed terrorists. The reprisal was horrible.
Immoral Revenge of the Law
The German government’s instinctive proposal was to kill 10,000 random Czechoslovakians, but after some consideration the plan was dropped. The region was an important industrial sector for the war effort, so such random mass murder could interfere with production. Over 13,000 people were arrested, most tortured. Approximately 5,000 were then executed. German military intelligence falsely linked the village of Lidice to the assassination. Everyone in Lidice was punished. On the spot 199 males were murdered. 195 women and 95 children were taken into custody and ended up in concentration camps. Rape and torture ensued; eventually the women were gassed to death along with 81 children. The village of Lidice and neighboring Lezaky were destroyed. The full power of the state and control over human life was on display as the spirit of vengeance took hold.
A thorough manhunt followed; the German government threatened to murder more innocent people if information relating to the culprits did not reach them by the end of a deadline. A bounty was also set for information leading to the capture of the killers of Heydrich. One of the culprits, Karel Caruda, gave himself up and shared the location of his contacts. For his confession he was paid one million Reich-marks. When the Nazi agents raided a safe house, a 17-year-old boy was tortured, forced to get drunk, and then shown his mother’s severed head that had been placed in a fish tank by the authorities, all attempts to get him to talk. He was told that if he did not give up information, his father would be next. He ended up revealing what he knew to save his father. He was later executed with his father, his fiance, and her family. The state rarely keeps its promises.
Others were arrested and a siege occurred at the Karel Boromejsky church. The defenders fought back with determination against a larger German paramilitary force. The defenders were armed with pistols and the German government, besides using conventional weapons of war, also deployed tear gas and had the local fire fighters flood the church. The defenders were eventually killed and identified. The bishop and senior church leaders were tortured and then murdered by the Nazis. The mathematics is always simple: the death of one government official is worth the blood of thousands of innocent civilians to the state.
An Exceptional Man and Collective Responsibility
Heydrich was mourned as a hero. Two large funeral ceremonies were held in his honor. A great leader of the Nazi Party had been assassinated by terrorists and the reprisal was a punishment to those associated by any collective identity to have been linked to the killing. It is the mindset that all governments impose when they embrace policies of vengeance. It may be the carpet bombing of cities, the targeted attacks on infrastructure, embargoes, or the destruction of Czechoslovakian villages. Because of his position in the German government Heydrich was an important human being. He is above others; in some ways such an individual is sacred and in death the government will sanctify such a man and justice will be absolute to any who would dare defy.
The collective responsibility of punishment utilized by the German government was not unique to the Nazi regime. It is in essence common among all governments. It is found inside of prohibitions and censorship and each regulation. The assumption that all are to be held responsible because of the imagined potential actions of a few or because in the past a minority had in some way been linked to that which is now being banned or controlled. The collective belongs to the state, to be ruled and regulated by the government. Regardless of the ideology of the government the outcome always is that the state is more important than individuals. The state is absolute but the elites that fill its key positions or hold influence are examples of unique human beings that transcend the rest of the citizenry. The more egalitarian the policies of the state, the more it collectivizes and the more the planners, experts, and policy makers of importance become exceptional and above all others.
Because the Nazi regime was defeated, men like Heydrich are no longer seen as heroes (except from among the ranks of a perverse few). Heydrich is seen as a criminal though he acted lawfully according to his own government. He was cruel and savage, though in victory he would have been justified. People like Heydrich are called monsters, though they were human beings. They left a path of pain and death for millions of innocent civilians. Any neutral moral observer would judge a person for such outcomes and that is all that should matter. No context needs to be considered other than the contribution to so many innocent deaths and countless tortures. We however do not live in a moral and neutral world; context and perspective seems to reign and steer many minds. For those inside Nazi Germany proper, Heydrich was a hero. His victims were necessary eggs to be broken in order to improve the omelette of the state, or so it is often said well beyond the bloody history of Nazi Germany.
Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell is given credit for popularizing the “Pottery Barn” rule of foreign policy. Though he denies using that exact phrase, in arguing against what became the disastrous 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq Powell made the point that, as in Pottery Barn, “if you break it, you own it.”
Bush and his neocons—ironically with the help of Colin Powell himself—did indeed break Iraq and the American people as a result “owned” Iraq for the subsequent 22 years (and counting). It was an idiotic war and, as the late former NSA chief Gen. Bill Odom predicted, turned out to be “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.”
Attacking and destroying Iraq—and executing its leader—not only had no value in any conceivable manner to the United States, it had negative value. In taking responsibility for Iraq’s future, the U.S. government obligated the American people to pick up the tab for a million ransacked Pottery Barns.
There was no way out. Only constant maneuvering and manipulation to desperately demonstrate the impossible—that the move had any value or even made any sense.
So it is with Ukraine. In 2014 the Obama/Biden Administration managed to finish what Bush’s neocons started a decade before. With the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Ukrainian government that year, the U.S. came to “own” what no one in their right mind would ever seek: an economic basket case of a country with a political/business class whose corruption is the stuff of legend.
Rather than admit what a colossal blunder the whole thing had been, the U.S. foreign policy establishment doubled down.
“Oh, this might be a neat tool to overthrow our own election: let’s pretend Trump is Putin’s agent!”
In fact Trump was impeached because a certain Col. Alexander Vindman—himself of Ukrainian origin and doing the bidding of a Ukrainian government installed by Washington—solemnly testified to Adam Schiff and his Democrat colleagues in charge of the House that Trump was clearly Putin’s puppet because his lack of enthusiasm for continuing to “own” Ukraine went against “the Inter-Agency Consensus.”
We “own” Ukraine and there is no way back—at least if the U.S. foreign policy establishment has its way.
That is why our hapless State Department today continues to peddle the fiction that Russia is about to invade – and thus “own”—Ukraine. U.S. foreign policy is one of projection: accuse your rivals of doing what you yourself are doing. No sane country would want to “own” Ukraine. Except the Beltway Think Tank class, thoroughly infused with military-industrial complex money.
That is why the U.S. government, though its Embassy in Kiev, is bragging about the arrival of $200 million in lethal aid, all pointed directly at Russia.
That is why the U.S. State Department is maintaining the fiction that Russia is about to launch a ground war to occupy Ukraine by dramatically announcing an “evacuation” of all “non-essential personnel” from its Embassy in Kiev.
It’s just too bad that we don’t share the opinion of who are really “non-essential” State Department personnel in Kiev: the last person out could be asked to turn off the lights.
By overthrowing an elected government in Kiev in 2014, the U.S. government disenfranchised millions of voters in eastern Ukraine who voted for the overthrown president. Those voters unsurprisingly came to view the U.S.-installed regime as illegitimate and sought self-rule under the concept of self-determination. As ethnic Russians, many of these successfully sought Russian passports.
Russia has been clear for a long time about Ukraine: it will not allow an armed invasion of eastern Ukraine that would result in the deaths of thousands of Russian citizens. Were the shoe on the other foot, the U.S.—and any country—could be expected to react the same way.
The U.S. is nearly the last country on earth that still holds to the WWII-era concept of war for territorial gain. Russia wants to “own” Ukraine like most people want to “own” a 2003 Saturn. That is why despite neocon/neo-liberal hype, magnified by the lock-step U.S. media, Russia is not about to invade Ukraine.
This fantasy is being pushed by those who desperately need to continue to gin up enthusiasm for a thoroughly idiotic and counterproductive imperial enterprise.
Biden while vice president sowed the regime change winds in Ukraine. Now his inept Administration will reap the whirlwind of that continuing train wreck and eventual dissolution of the country. No matter what Antony Blinken peddles to the contrary.
Even the comedian Zelensky knows this is a really bad joke.
Archival institutions are not known to be pioneers of technological innovation. They are preoccupied with the past, after all. That is why censors still often black out classified information physically, with a marker, a piece of paper or whatnot.
The Israeli State Archives, on the other hand, have apparently been experimenting with virtual censorship tools. In the minutes of a cabinet meeting of Israel’s provisional government during its “War of Independence,” released following requests of the Akevot Institute, digital blackouts were included to cover the more problematic statements made by the Zionist leaders present. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently found out, however, these comments could be unveiled with a simple click. Woops! (Perhaps due to a similar technical error, I was able to access the paywalled Haaretz article once. Fortunately, the details can be found at Middle East Eye, too.)
The technical malfunction put the war-time document, dated July 1948, suddenly in an entirely different perspective. The censored version had shown David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of the brand-new State of Israel, as saying that “I am against the wholesale demolition of villages.” But then, once the blackout was removed, there followed a “but.” Indeed, he quickly elaborated: “But there are places that constituted a great danger and constitute a great danger, and we must wipe them out. But this must be done responsibly, with consideration before the act.”
These comments are testimony of the well-documented ethnic cleansing of Palestine during Israel’s foundational war.1Ilan Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, 2006). In fact, the ‘wiping out’ of Arab forces and the “expulsion” of the Palestinians was officially sanctioned policy during the conflict. The censorship, which the Israeli State Archives claims to have been unintentional, is only the latest attempt to obscure this historical crime against humanity.
The Roots of Ethnic Cleansing
David Ben-Gurion is widely celebrated in Israel as the country’s founding father who led the war effort during and after the declaration of independence of May 14, 1948. Travelers flying to Tel Aviv today are immediately reminded of this historic figure as they land in Ben Gurion Airport. But the airport in fact predates the founding of Israel. Established in 1934, Arab and European airlines used Lydda Airport, as it was called before World War II, for local and transcontinental travel. In July 1948, however, the same month as the above-mentioned cabinet meeting, the Israelis seized the airport and gave it a Hebrew name: Lod Airport. In 1973, after Ben-Gurion’s death, it was renamed again to its present name in honor of Israel’s first prime minister.
This is just one tiny example of how Palestinian land—and Palestinian history for that matter—was ‘wiped out’ as a result of the 1948 war. This process, as well as the massive expulsion of Palestinians that went along with it, was not a haphazard outcome of the war, however. Rather, as this article argues, ethnic cleansing was at the root of the Zionist project and was implemented as policy by Ben-Gurion in the late 1940s.
From the very beginning, political Zionism implied the “transfer” of the indigenous population to other countries. In their early efforts to gain support from Western nations, Zionist leaders proclaimed that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” In reality, they knew that the first part of that slogan was a lie. The Palestinian people were like “the rocks of Judea, obstacles to be cleared on a difficult path,” as Chaim Weizmann, a prominent Zionist figure and future first president of Israel, put it in 1918.2Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: the concept of ‘transfer’ in Zionist political thought, 1882-1948 (Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), 5-48. Quote at page 17.
This dismissive attitude towards the pre-existing civilization in Palestine perhaps explains the early Zionist optimism surrounding the “Arab question.” Theodore Herzl, the founding father of political Zionism, believed that the Palestinians could be uprooted with non-violent methods. In 1895, he wrote that “we shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.” The property owners, on the other hand, could easily be tricked into giving up their lands according to Herzl. “Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us something far more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”3Idem, 8-9.
The free market turned out not to be a very good ally, however. Only 5.8% of Palestinian land was under Jewish ownership by December 1947, more than half a century after Herzl’s remarks. Realizing that Jewish immigration, establishing kibbutzes and buying property was not enough, Zionist leaders soon turned to political and military means.
Political help was secured first. During the First World War, a great-power patron was found in Britain, which pledged to put its weight behind “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” in the so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917. When the British secured a League of Nations mandate over Palestine in 1922, words were followed by deeds. During the Mandate period, the British allowed for the creation of a Jewish Agency to function as a semi-governmental body while denying similar advantages to the Palestinians. As such, the Palestinians had to bear the brunt of two colonial movements simultaneously: a settler-colonialist movement in Palestine, aided and abetted by the world’s foremost colonial power in London.4Rashid Khalidi, The hundred years’ war on Palestine: a history of settler colonialism and resistance, 1917-2017 (Metropolitan Books, 2020), 17-54.
The more extreme branches of the Zionist movement, such as the “Revisionists” led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, were the first to resort to military means. As far back as 1925, Jabotinsky wrote that “Zionism is a colonizing venture and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.”5Idem, 51. Since he was open about an “Iron wall of bayonets” that needed to separate Jews and Arabs, there was little confusion about the purpose of the paramilitary militias that Jabotinsky endorsed. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Irgun and the Stern Gang launched a terror campaign against Palestinian civilians (and British officials towards the end of the Mandate period) that left hundreds of casualties.
Lest these extreme forms of intimidation be seen as evidence that the need for ethnic cleansing was solely a right-wing policy aim, it was actually accomplished under the leadership of the dominant “Labor” branch of the Zionist movement. With the help of sympathetic British officers, the Jewish Agency was allowed to expand its military arm, the Haganah, during the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936-1939. Meanwhile, the mainstream Zionist leadership, too, was gravitating towards a military solution to the “Arab Question.” Ben-Gurion, for instance, told his compatriots of the Jewish Agency in June 1938—ten years before the ‘wipe out’ comment—that “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.”6Pappe, The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, XI.
The Execution of Ethnic Cleansing
But how was this “compulsory transfer” to be accomplished? How, indeed, did the Zionists gain control over the majority of Palestine by the beginning of 1949 if a little over one year earlier they owned barely 5% of the land, the majority of which was concentrated in the cities? Here, the political and military clout they had built up over the years converged.
This time, foreign political help came from the recently founded United Nations, which, bear in mind, before decolonization in Africa and Asia was in large part a club of the Western Great Powers. These nations felt obliged to compensate the Jews for the Nazi Holocaust. In February 1947, the British decided to turn the fate of Palestine over to the UN. On November 29 of that year, after nine months of deliberation, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which envisioned the partition of Palestine into two separate states. 56% of the land was to go to a Jewish state, while the Palestinians were left with only 43%. (A small enclave around Jerusalem was to become internationally governed.)
The Palestinians were vehemently opposed to partition, however. They considered it unfair since they held almost all of Palestine and had lived on their lands for generations. Moreover, while only 10,000 Jews would end up under Palestinian governance, 438,000 Palestinians—as well as hundreds of villages and the most fertile land—would end up under Jewish rule overnight. Leaving these Palestinians in the hands of an ideology which had openly vowed to de-Arabize Palestine contributed to the fate that was to befall them.
Indeed, the Palestinian and Arab rejection of the UN plan allowed the Zionist leadership to claim the moral upper hand. Ben-Gurion was a good tactician; like many of his successors, he kept the most extreme Zionist elements at bay and made sure to demonstrate to the outside world that the Jewish side, contrary to the Arabs, did accept the UN plan. Behind closed doors, however, he knew that the borders of the Jewish state “will be determined by force and not by the partition resolution.”7Idem, 36-7.
Still, the two-state solution created a huge problem that preoccupies Zionists until today: the so-called “demographic balance.” Jews would constitute only a tiny majority in the future Jewish state, and this did not stroke with the exclusionary Zionist ideology. As Ben-Gurion said in a speech a few days after the publication of the UN partition plan, “there are 40% non-Jews in the areas allocated to the Jewish state. This composition is not a solid basis for a Jewish state. […] Only a state with at least 80% Jews is a viable and stable state.”8Idem, 48.
And thus, the plan to ethnically cleanse Palestine was born. By the end of the year, parallel to an escalation in terrorist attacks by Irgun and the Stern Gang (and later on also the Haganah), Ben-Gurion gave the green light for lethal assaults on Arab villages. The object was clear: “Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion.”9Idem, 64. In early March, ethnic cleansing was adopted as official policy in Plan Dalet (or Plan D), which sanctioned operations aimed at “destroying villages (by setting fire to them, by blowing them up, and by planting mines in their rubble). […] In case of resistance, the armed forces must be wiped out and the population expelled outside the borders of the state.”
It is difficult not to read “in case of resistance” here as a silly pretext. Indeed, in a letter to the commanders of Haganah brigades, Ben-Gurion stated unequivocally that “the cleansing of Palestine [is] the primary objective of Plan Dalet.”10Idem, 128. Moreover, although there was certainly Palestinian armed resistance (and at times acts of retaliation), the systematic ethnic cleansing of 531 villages and eleven urban neighborhoods and towns that followed happened regardless of the presence and activity of Arab armed forces. Hundreds of civilians were killed in dozens of cold-blooded massacres, which, as intended, drove more than 750.000 Palestinians to flee beyond the territory under control of the Israelis. These refugees would never be allowed back in.
The Memory-Holing of Ethnic Cleansing
Like all subsequent assaults on Palestine, Israeli propaganda has done its best to try to paint the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1947-1949 as a defensive war. Echoing later proclamations that the Jews were about to be “driven into the sea,” Ben-Gurion and company justified their military action as a desperate attempt to stave off a “second Holocaust.” In private, however, Ben-Gurion was well aware of the superior military power of the Zionist forces. In a letter from February 1948, for instance, he wrote that “we can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief, but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.”11Idem, 46.
The Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, and Jordanian forces that entered Palestine following Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948 almost exclusively operated in the areas allocated to the Palestinians under the UN partition plan. For the Jordanians, not crossing the UN-proposed borders was even part of a secret deal with the Jewish Agency. But even at defending those borders the Arab forces did a bad job. Indeed, after the war was over the Israelis controlled 78% of historic Palestine, having conquered almost half of the land that was supposed to become part of a Palestinian state. What was left was the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the first two of which were annexed by Jordan and the last by Egypt. In 1967, finally, Israel conquered and occupied these areas (as well as the Egyptian Sinai and Syrian Golan Heights), too.
In the procrastinated peace process that has dragged on ever since, the acceptance of the State of Israel within the 1949 armistice lines (the so-called “Green Line”) has formed a sine qua non for the Israelis. Everything that happened before 1967 is considered a fait accompli and is simply not on the negotiating table. Israel, with diplomatic help from its new great-power patron, the United States, to this day ignores UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which affirms the right of return for the millions of descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians it expelled between 1947 and 1949. Meanwhile, under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return, every Jew in the world has the right to “return” to Israel and acquire citizenship.
The fate of the Palestinians that the Israelis failed to expel beyond the borders of historic Palestine is perhaps even more tragic. Palestinians inside the State of Israel, which today make up around 21% of the population, live under a system of Apartheid. Palestinians living in the West Bank continue to live under occupation. And Palestinians in Gaza are confined to what is often called “the world’s largest open-air prison,” suffering at the hands of a devastating fifteen-year-old Israeli-Egyptian blockade and intermittent Israeli bombing campaigns.
It was 103 years ago, to the week, that the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified which made the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors a criminal offense. One year later its companion statute to enact and enforce the amendment, Volstead Act, went into effect.
Ask any American why only 12 years later the Twenty-first Amendment was passed, making it the sole example in the history of our constitutional republic where an amendment was ratified for the sole purpose of un-amending the Constitution. They will all give you a fairly similar and fairly accurate litany of reasons: you can’t legislate morality, you can’t escape the natural law of supply meeting demand, what you can’t buy honestly you will procure illicitly, it didn’t greatly reduce alcohol consumption but did increase public corruption and violent crime, people were regularly poisoned by the adulterants criminals added to moonshine or by denatured alcohol, disrespect for bad laws fosters disrespect for good laws, etc.
Despite this fairly universal comprehension of the failures of prohibition (which if you stop and think about it have everything to do with human nature and market forces) you will find a sizeable minority of people across the country who will insist our current drug prohibition is somehow different despite the fact you can find superfluous examples of the very same ills that brought prohibition to an end.
For brevity’s sake I will admit to my own bias here. These sorts of utilitarian arguments are, at best, superfluous.
All it takes to understand the follies of drug prohibition is a knowledge of the principles of libertarian ethics; individual liberty, self-ownership, and the non-aggression principle.
Since actions are the result of conscious choices, individuals have ownership rights in their person and they—and they alone—have the sole liberty to decide how to use their body. Applied practically, self-ownership manifests itself in the non-aggression principle (NAP) and the free market; that no individual, or group of individuals, may forcibly restrict liberty unless they themselves violate the NAP by aggressing against others (like theft, rape, murder, fraud, pollution). The NAP is universal, treats everyone as equals before the law, and does not excuse this rule even if you call yourself the IRS, the U.S. Marines, or a corporation.
A simple application of this philosophy says that drugs should be decriminalized not due to the horrendous legacies of drug prohibition, but because you own your body and have the right to put whatever you want into it. Not that you should consume hard drugs (or smoke, consume alcohol, drink soda, and eat fatty foods), but no one may legally deny you that right. Without choice, there can be no virtue. To tell someone what they can or can’t consume is like telling them what they can or can’t read.
Unfortunately, a priori reasoning is not as persuasive to others as it necessarily is for libertarians. Fortunately both the historical truth of alcohol prohibition and the current drug war support the wisdom of the libertarian position.
I doubt anyone can sincerely believe the unintended negative externalities of alcohol prohibition don’t apply to today’s drug war. But sincere or not, that doubt is still sometimes claimed.
To comprehend the enormity of the drug policy failure let’s look at a few statistics of self-evident importance:
The “War on Drugs” has cost American taxpayers $2.5 trillion
The annual costs alone is, at minimum $47+ billion
In 2018 arrests for violation of federal drug laws was 1,654,282
Of these arrests 1,429,299 were merely for possession (accounting for 86% of all drug law arrests)
In 2018 arrests for marijuana were 663,367 (that’s 40% of all arrests)
Of these 608,775 were solely for possession of marijuana (that’s 92% of all marijuana arrests)
Bear in mind that in 2018 nine states and the District of Colombia had made recreational marijuana legal, a further thirteen had decriminalized marijuana possession, and there were only four states that did not have laws allowing for medical marijuana.
The Failure of Prohibition
Prohibition, of course, did not stop drinking in the United States. Although per capita alcohol consumption did drop sharply during the early years of Prohibition, by the latter half of the 1920s tt had rebounded to 60-70% of its pre‐Prohibition level and remained steady before and after repeal. Certainly crime did not decrease. According to one study, crime in 30 major cities increased 24% between 1920 and 1921. In Philadelphia alone, drunkenness‐related arrests nearly tripled from 20,443 in 1920 to 58,517 in 1925. The national homicide rate climbed from about 7 per 100,000 people in 1919 to nearly 10 per 100,000 by 1933, and then it dropped sharply after repeal.
Domestic moonshine and industrial alcohol provided the majority of the alcohol consumed during Prohibition. Moonshiners would distill neutral grain spirits in hidden stills and then attempt to mimic the color and flavor of whiskey or gin with additives called congeners. Industrial alcohol, denatured by government order to make it undrinkable, was typically repassed through a still to remove the poisons, but not always successfully. Thus, between 1925 and 1929, 40 out of every 1 million Americans died from toxic liquor.
That these statistics are so readily available and many people remain baffled by the rise in fentanyl-related heroin overdoses is mind boggling.
Prohibition also failed on its own terms. Instead of putting a stop to problem drinking, it criminalized it, making it more dangerous in the process. Prohibition created a violent black market for alcohol that helped empower and enrich violent criminals. Problem drinkers continued to imbibe. Many drinkers switched from relatively low-proof beer to much higher-proof alcohol, which was easier to transport.
In early 1930, The Outlook and Independent magazine wrote:
The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company has published the fact that the alcoholic death rate among their nineteen million policy holders has increased nearly six hundred percent in the last ten years—double what it was in 1918, and approximately the same as in the years preceding. This removes the last doubt from the mind of any reasonable person that the time has come to move for the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.
During Prohibition, the death rate from acute alcohol poisoning (due to overdose) was more than 30 times higher than today.
Criminal Justice Reform
Criminal justice reform is a subject everyone left, right, and center claims it believes in. Research shows what would easily be the most beneficial single act of criminal justice reform: end the War on Drugs.
Our government has spent trillions of dollars trying to stop drug use. It hasn’t worked. More people now use more drugs than before the “war” began. What drug prohibition did is exactly what alcohol prohibition did a hundred years ago: increase conflict between police and citizens. “It pitted police against the communities that they serve,” says neuroscientist Carl Hart, former chair of Columbia University’s Psychology department, who grew up in a tough Miami neighborhood where he watched crack cocaine wreck lives. When he started researching drugs, he assumed that research would confirm the damage drugs did.
But “one problem kept cropping up,” he writes in his book Drug Use For Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, “the evidence did not support the hypothesis. No one else’s evidence did either.” After 20 years of research, he concluded, “I was wrong.” Now, he says, our drug laws do more harm than drugs. Because drug sales are illegal, profits from selling drugs are huge. Since sellers can’t rely on law enforcement to protect their property, they buy guns and form gangs. Cigarettes harm people, too, but there are no violent cigarette gangs—no cigarette shootings—even though nicotine is more addictive than heroin, says our government. That’s because tobacco is legal. Likewise, there are no longer violent liquor gangs. They vanished when prohibition ended.
Fortunately, there are some real-world alternatives to the dominant approach of criminalization and harsh enforcement in the United States. In 1999 Portugal had the highest rate of drug-related AIDS and the second highest rate of HIV in the European Union. In response it decided in 2001 to decriminalize drug use and the results have been dramatic. The number of people voluntarily entering treatment programs rose dramatically, while the number of HIV infections, drug overdoses, incarceration rates and AIDS have plummeted.
The Portuguese model, while falling short of full legalization for adults, does provide some empirical data to support a policy which treats drug use as a public health problem rather than a crime problem. Its approach is to offer treatment, rather than incarceration, and makes sterile syringes readily available. Possession for small amounts for personal use are non-prosecutable but trafficking in large quantities which cause death or serious bodily harm carry prison sentences.
To give some examples of how the Portuguese model has fared vs. the American one, consider the following statistics:
Overdose deaths in Portugal declined by over 80 percent after decriminalization
Incarceration rates for drug offenses in Portugal fell by over 40% between 1999 and 2016
In 2015 in Portugal there were only three overdose deaths per 100,000
In 2017 in the United States there were 21.7 deaths per 100,000 (totalling 72,000 people), an overdorse rate of more than six times that of Portugal
For today’s policymakers and policy influencers, Prohibition remains a cautionary tale about government overreach. It was a dysfunctional and badly run system predicated on ugly, populist notions and deluded ideas about the power of government to solve social problems. Not only did it fail to accomplish its goals, it created a host of unintended consequences that were worse than the problems it was supposed to solve.
The straightforward lessons of Prohibition are obviously applicable to any number of public policy issues making headlines today, from the opioid crisis to marijuana legalization to immigration, and our elected leaders would be wise to heed them.
So yes, the anniversary of Prohibition is a warning of all the ways that government policies can go wrong, and the lasting damage the worst of those policies can do. But its eventual reversal and tainted legacy also offer reasons for hope. Prohibition’s end is a reminder that the very worst policies, no matter their scale, aren’t locked in place, and we aren’t stuck with them forever.
One of the most vital struggles in the writing and publishing of history is the conflict between the government’s propaganda myths, enshrined in “official history,” and historical reality brought forward by “revisionism.”
Murray N. Rothbard, Ph.D., Left and Right, p. 231
For 25 years, Dr. Johnson has been a full-time scholar, writer and speaker. The historical, theological, philosophical and political issues detailed here can’t be merely stumbled upon nor taken from any mainstream source. They’re the result of decades of concentrated study in an academic environment. Having been driven from academia as an “eccentric reactionary malcontent,” he depends on the support of his listeners and readers to continue his work. To say the very least, Dr. Johnson’s scholarship is unique, critical and irreplaceable today. It cannot continue without your help and support.
Twenty years ago, on January 11, 2002, the prison at Guantánamo Bay (GITMO) admitted its first round of post-9/11 terrorist suspects. Two recent films, The Mauritanian (2021) and The Forever Prisoner (2021), chart parts of the ugly history of the facility, during which acts of torture were rebranded by officials as “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) and inflicted on at least 119 of the 780 men held at GITMO over the course of the Global War on Terror. The story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was cleared for release in 2010 but remained incarcerated for another seven years as the Obama administration appealed the decision, is relayed in director Kevin Macdonald’s film The Mauritanian. The story of Abu Zubaydah, who remains incarcerated still today, is covered by Alex Gibney’s film The Forever Prisoner.
Many other men were abused in prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Bagram in Afghanistan, in addition to an array of “black sites” erected around the world in collaboration with “torture-friendly” governments. The CIA’s EIT program was commissioned and approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government, and deemed legal by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo. The practices included waterboarding (which mimics drowning), slamming detainees’ heads against the wall, rectal feeding, confining naked suspects in small boxes along with insects, depriving them of sleep for days on end, and forcing them to endure extremely cold temperatures while naked. Some of the victimized men died, and while a number of deaths were characterized by the powers that be as suicides, at least one prisoner was acknowledged to have died of hypothermia as a direct result of the conditions he was forced to endure.
The nightmarish series of abuses to which these men were subjected were claimed by the architects and orchestrators of the EIT program to be supported by “the science” and sure to save American lives. At least twenty-six of the victims of torture held in GITMO were later determined to have been captured in error in what were most charitably interpreted as overzealous efforts to thwart the next terrorist attack. Bounty hunter greed and/or penury appears also to have played a significant role in the erroneous capture of thousands of innocent men throughout the War on Terror.
A thorough investigation of classified CIA documents eventually culminated in the 2014 release of the “Report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program.” This 712-page document, which has come to be referred to colloquially as “The Torture Report,” includes a 500+ page executive summary of the thousands of pages of the original report instigated by committee chair Senator Diane Feinstein and prepared over a period of several years by her staffer Daniel Jones, among others. The investigation was undertaken in response to the revelation that the CIA had destroyed films of some of the detainees being victimized. The story of how The Torture Report was commissioned and eventually released is relayed in the 2019 film The Report (directed by Scott Z. Burns), which offers shocking insights into the lengths to which the CIA—including the director at the time of the report’s release, John Brennan—were willing to go in order to absolve themselves from allegations of wrongdoing.
Faced with the findings of the report, some of those involved, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Deputy Director for Operations José Rodriguez, continued to deny that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were morally repugnant forms of torture. Others employed by the U.S. government during that period, including John Brennan, claimed that they had expressed moral reservations about the program, although there is no written evidence to that effect, and the director of the CIA at the time, George Tenet, has publicly denied that he was ever approached with such objections. The EIT program proved in any case to be tactically nugatory, at best.
According to the report’s authors, none of the ghastly procedures deployed resulted in actionable intelligence used to thwart terrorist attacks. Some of the men were entirely innocent and so obviously had no information to share; others told interrogators only information which had already been obtained from other sources or which had already gone stale; and some of the men simply made up stories so as to call a halt to the torture. Most notoriously, the false claim that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Al Qaeda was obtained through torture and used to rationalize the misbegotten 2003 war on Iraq.
In response to the Senate committee’s report, President Obama, to his credit, publicly admitted that “We tortured some folks,” and issued Executive Order 133491, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” The order references the Geneva Conventions and explicitly prohibits the barbaric activities perpetrated by U.S. government employees and contractors under the guise of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Notwithstanding Obama’s rhetorical efforts to restore the image of the United States as a beacon of human rights, the president never delivered on one of his primary campaign promises, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. He also declined to prosecute any of the torturers. Obama did stop sending new prisoners to the facility, and some of the remaining prisoners were released and sent to other countries for processing and rehabilitation.
The primary obstacle to Obama’s closure of GITMO was claimed by his apologists to be the political opposition he encountered to the prospect of suspects’ standing trial in the United States, which was thought by some to risk the increased incidence of terrorist attacks in the homeland. Concerns were also raised that some of the prisoners may have been made more dangerous by the torture to which they were subjected. Indeed, it was thought by some that even men who were not previously connected to terrorist groups, having been captured and imprisoned on the basis of faulty intelligence, may have been radicalized by the dramatic proof of the evil nature of the U.S. empire which they themselves had personally witnessed.
The Guardian recently reported that some of the men removed from GITMO and relocated to other countries have been stuck in legal limbo for years, unable to return to normal life because they have not been cleared for release by the governments of those countries. Others have found themselves unemployable and therefore unable to reassimilate into civil society. But they are still alive, which cannot be said of the many suspects pegged during the eight years of Obama’s presidency and labeled “Enemy Killed in Action” (EKIA) after having been dispatched by missiles launched from drones on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence of possible future complicity in possible future terror plots. We have Daniel Hale, the drone program whistleblower now serving a federal prison sentence, to thank for sharing documents revealing that suspects were effectively defined by the Obama administration as guilty until proven innocent before being summarily executed.
A number of politicians in addition to Obama, including the instigator of the Torture Report, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war (POW) in Vietnam, spoke out against torture, agreeing with Obama that “That’s not who we are.” In addition to straightforward moral concerns about abusing human beings, some politicians and military officers aired concerns that such practices could also endanger U.S. troops, who when taken prisoner might be subjected to similarly cruel techniques.
Shockingly, however, some of the most vociferous denouncers of torture, including Senators Feinstein and McCain, continued enthusiastically to support the far more ghastly practice of summary execution without trial of suspects, often unnamed, on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence, even when the targets were neither bearing arms nor located in war zones. The Obama administration itself reported in 2016 that they had ended the lives of between 2,372 and 2,581 of such men “outside areas of active hostilities,” in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan (not the active war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria) where there were no uniformed U.S. soldiers on the ground to protect.
Having spoken out about the crimes committed by the Bush administration, Obama opted not to take as prisoners the suspects identified by his own administration using the very same forms of evidence which had served as the basis for capturing and imprisoning thousands of men during the first eight years of the War on Terror. It is therefore essential to observe here that 732 of the 780 men incarcerated at GITMO were eventually released without charges. Because the types of circumstantial evidence being used to peg suspects did not change under Obama, and continued to include intelligence obtained from bribed informants (human intelligence or HUMINT), and cellphone SIM card data and drone video footage (signals intelligence, or SIGINT), we have grounds for believing that many of the thousands of men executed rather than captured during Obama’s presidency, were, too, innocent.
President Obama had a choice to make in the light of the revelation that longterm detention and torture did not yield actionable intelligence. But rather than capture suspected militants and treat them humanely, detaining them in circumstances conducive to proper judicial processing, respecting their rights and acknowledging the very real possibility that they might in fact be innocent, his administration instead defined them as guilty until proven innocent and executed them using lethal drones.
Mentored by his drone-killing czar, John Brennan, Obama became known as the “drone warrior president,” who revved up a veritable “killing machine” to eliminate nearly all of the terror suspects identified as such during his eight-year term as president. Obama and Brennan (promoted to director of the CIA in 2013), opted to use lethal drones to execute suspects on hit lists generated by a vast network of government employees and private contractors who collected and analyzed HUMINT and SIGINT. These hit lists were reviewed by the president himself during what were termed “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which nominees for execution were evaluated on the basis of flash card presentations.
When the Obama administration located and executed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the president was praised by many U.S. citizens. Later that year, he proceeded to act on the political capital he had garnered to take the drone program to a qualitatively new level, executing even U.S. citizens without indictment or trial. He authorized the killing of not only Anwar al-Awlaki, a formerly moderate Muslim cleric arguably radicalized by the War on Terror itself, and Samir Khan, a propagandist, but also, two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s sixteen-year-old son, Abdulrahman, along with a group of his teenage friends.
I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.
The gravity of this normalization of summary execution of suspects and their associates (including family members) appears to have escaped altogether those who throughout the Trump presidency waxed nostalgically about the “good old days” when mild-mannered, anti-torture Obama was president. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump vowed not only not to close GITMO, but also that he would fill up the facility with “bad dudes.” In reality, once president, Trump simply followed Obama’s lead, putting his newly appointed defense secretary, James “Mad Dog” Mattis on a very long leash and essentially allowing the killing machine—not only the drone program but also special operations forces—to eliminate anyone anywhere suspected of connections to “bad dudes.” Trump, like Obama, killed one of the children of Anwar al-Awlaki. In Trump’s case the victim was an eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, who was destroyed by U.S. special forces during a raid in Yemen, where both her father and her brother had been killed by drones.
Predictably enough, the norms governing state homicide were loosened yet again when President Trump, in his usual swagger-filled attempt to outdo his predecessor, openly vaunted his assassination of Qassim Soleimani, an Iranian general who was located in Iraq at the time. Before the War on Terror, assassination was widely regarded, even by U.S. officials, as illegal. President Bush may bear primary responsibility for the torture program, but we have President Obama to thank for having normalized the premeditated, intentional execution of persons believed by their killers to be dangerous, even when they are unarmed and located outside areas of active hostilities. This sleight of hand was accomplished through putting the CIA in charge of the drone program, ironically the very organization which had presided over the practices denounced in The Torture Report.
In the case of summary execution by drone of suspects, the CIA operated for years under its usual cloak of secrecy, allowing it to evade congressional oversight. As many critics of the drone program have observed (myself included), the decision to enlist the CIA to run the killing machine outside areas of active hostility was in all likelihood an effort to evade accusations of war crimes, to which the military itself would have been subject. In abject violation of the Geneva Conventions, the targets of drone strikes are not provided with the opportunity to surrender or lay down their arms, nor to defend themselves against allegations based on faulty intelligence. In other words, this slick rebranding of assassination as “targeted killing” also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which suspects are to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Instead, the “principle” governing the premeditated, intentional execution of specific persons at the caprice of the killers is tantamount to “Everything is permitted.”
Leaders rarely cede power unless forced to do so, and U.S. military leaders have long aimed to maximize both efficiency and lethality, so it should come as no surprise that President Joe Biden has taken up the drone-killing mantel to continue fecklessly on with the same policies vaunted by Obama as “smart war.” One horrifying example of the general laxity of standards in the use of lethal force by the U.S. government, regardless of who is in charge, was the incineration on August 29, 2021, of ten civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the basis of intelligence according to which people who drive white Toyota Corollas and move stuff around town might be planning to bomb the airport. A Pentagon investigation into the case concluded that no wrongdoing had been committed, as the perpetrators had abided by standard protocols and followed their rules of engagement. As a direct result of the manner in which the drone program has evolved through four presidencies, the impunity long enjoyed by the CIA for what once were plausibly deniable acts of lawless killing has in this way been transferred to the military as well.
Torture is inhumane, barbaric, and immoral. It harms the victims both physically and psychologically, and it degrades the perpetrators, who are corrupted by their atrocious treatment of fellow human beings. We should accordingly welcome films such as The Mauritanian, The Forever Prisoner, and The Report, which aim to illuminate some of the many crimes committed in our names and using our tax dollars. Let us not, however, be distracted by the heartfelt denunciations of torture by some government officials from the even more egregious practices which some of them continue to champion.
As objectionable as torture may be, its perpetrators can still be conceptualized as having chosen misguided means to the acquisition of what they believed would be actionable intelligence needed to thwart imminent terrorist attacks. In contrast, the summary execution of unarmed suspects located outside areas of active hostilities, and identified as such on the basis of purely circumstantial evidence, serves no tactical or strategic aim whatsoever. It is evil, pure and simple: the intentional, premeditated annihilation of human beings denied all human rights, from the right to surrender, to the right to defend themselves against false claims that they have committed crimes.
Substituting drone killing of suspects for longterm detention and torture may seem superficially less objectionable to the untutored populace, but as is so often the case, appearance diverges starkly from moral reality. Through linguistic neologism and rebranding, conjoined with the development of technologies which have made it possible to kill anyone anywhere, through the push of a button from thousands of miles away, the atrocious practice of torture has been supplanted by the intrinsically evil and tyrannical practice of summary execution without indictment or trial. Is this who we are?
Scott is joined by Andy Worthington, author of Guantanamo Files to discuss the status of the prison two decades after it opened. Worthington explains who remains detained at the prison, where detainees stand regarding trials and the developments that have happened under Biden so far. Scott and Worthington also discuss the shameful history of the illegal prison.
“The enemy was nowhere, but everywhere.”- Dan Rather, CBS News Report, Saigon, 1968
As the world approaches a period of unmanned systems, automation, and perhaps in many fields human obsolescence, warfare marches into its own future of certain uncertainty. Despite the great leaps in technology, warfare is very much the domain of the imperfect human. Perhaps in the not too distant future artificial intelligence will guide and “man” killing machines against one another and human beings. Engineers and geniuses will create and devise such killing machines to ensure that governments stay standing and expand their reach while always ensuring that there is profit from the techno-violence. But technologically inferior humans will resist and perhaps overcome as they always have.
The Vietnam War has been described as a “technowar,” a war of managers and planners who utilized their technological supremacy against a peasantry and second class enemy that resisted despite many short comings. For the planners and engineers, technology and complicated systems were the answer. Technology and superior ideas and methods are often the wisdom and hubris by which great powers wage wars. At times they will achieve victory, eradicating the enemy and absorbing them into their nation or empire. And when the great fail against the weak, a litany of reasons are sought but never are the will and resilience, determination and conviction of those defending ever properly appreciated until it is too late.
Twenty years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States military went home and in many ways the status quo returned to the region despite so much effort and loss. A horrible war by any measure. The objectives of the invaders, whether Soviet in the past or NATO in the more recent era, were never truly distinct. The basic goal was to prevent the capitulation of a proxy government, one that was never popular, after which Kabul still fell. Wars where wisdom and hubris existed alongside each other, and those on the ground who were observing from afar could see in the living minutes what was wrong, but the experts and planners persisted regardless, ever so confident and certain of victory, despite the uncertain aims. The powerful empires, Soviet and American, wrapped in the armor of resources and armed with immense weapon systems, failed under the incompetence of their own arrogance. And a determined human enemy won.
Whether in the jungles of South East Asia or the caves of Central Asia, the objective was often simple for the defender: eject the invader and reject the invader’s puppet government. What brought the insurgents to such a cause may at first have been deviant self-interest or religious idealism but for many it was a patriotism that the invaders in their own histories had experienced and romanced. The Soviets had once been those ejecting a powerful invader while the Americans were once proud insurgents. Greatness changed both their perspectives.
The well-armed invaders viewed the native populace as threats or the enemy. Whether walking through a village or observing via screens far away, the natives are unfamiliar. Regardless of how benevolent the invaders claim themselves to be, the natives are often considered as being inferior. For the locals, the strangers from afar may as well have come from another planet, alienated by ignorance of local customs and language while heavily relying upon superior technology and academic central plans of subjugation. Their perspectives would have been as different even if they were from off planet.
During the 1968 Tet Offensive, it is argued that the U.S. did not lose militarily, only politically. It was a coordinated offensive between insurgents and North Vietnamese military personnel attacking key targets of the U.S. and their allies. The impressive and expensive U.S. embassy in Saigon came under attack while a handful of insurgents managed to infiltrate and give the U.S. government a symbolic bloody nose. The flea had bitten the dog.
The Gardener and the Warrior
There is a samurai saying; “Better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in war.” And while this may be true for individuals, it ignores the importance of will and perspective. The gardener is not always just a gardener. When circumstances call upon them, whether through vengeance or a need to defend the home and garden, they become the warrior. Ones craft is defined by how they ply it. Most great warriors did not commence their lives with the ambition of being a war fighter and many who practice the martial trades in peacetime do not necessarily achieve victory in war. Most warriors by trade serve a master; this is their duty. Often duty requires them to venture into the gardens and face a man defending his everything, regardless of any peacetime trade and his tools at hand.
There is footage of a slender man, perhaps in his early twenties, almost naked being dragged from a sewer drain. His body is drenched in slime, he is armed with a pistol and perhaps a grenade or explosives. He had been crawling through the narrow sewage pipes of Saigon. With great discomfort and risk, he did this in the hopes of gaining entry into the government buildings during the 1968 Tet Offensive. One could never imagine that a man would be able to make the journey through such filthy pipes, and would risk his life and health while enduring such discomfort in the hope that he may plant explosives or shoot a government official. That’s determination.
The great planners with their war games, think tanks, and millions of dollars in research and technological marvels could seldom conceive that such a factor is important. It is not calculable, you can not duplicate it in training and among academic discussions it is not understood. That is the will to overcome, not just to survive but to kill the enemy, to outlast and destroy him. Such will is important. It cannot be trained. It needs to come from purpose and perspective. While the insurgent captured in the sewer tried to crawl his way to fight, some of his comrades had blown holes in the U.S. embassy’s walls and rushed into the compound, fighting to the death. They did not destroy the U.S. embassy, but they had bitten an empire.
The many governments of the world often invest time and resources into training police and military units that then become the elite. The elites that train hard are made up of individuals of great will and skills. They are those who are often depicted in fiction as being nearly superhuman, the men of the special forces. Unique humans are expected to perform with inhuman ability, to act as tools for their government.
The modern overreach of many governments has exhausted and over utilized these elite warriors, expecting them to perform missions that are almost impossible and then requiring them to do it again. In retirement some become celebrities while others may be lost to the strain and injury of their profession and experiences. These men who can usually perform great tasks are expected to be both mathematicians and elite athletes, operate complicated weapon systems while also performing paramedical acts under great stress. They are the warrior to the gardener.
Their enemy usually do not have such training, skills, or logistics. The government elites usually have regular military forces on standby, ready to back them up with aircraft and maritime vessels to extract them and provide support. Their enemies may at best have converted trucks and in the past bicycles and mules. It is uncertain how skilled that man in the sewer was. What had he done before the war? perhaps he was a gardener. As he crawled the sewer he had become a “combat sapper.” In that moment he was the machete inside the jungle of conflict, his utility was his simplified focus. His logistics was resilience and will. Though captured, his failure was in some ways a victory. As he was filmed and dragged into custody, his pathetic state of sewage slick nudity contrasted with the uniformed men of the government.
Inside a decade Saigon fell.
In a recent episode of a Dan Carlin hosted podcast titled “Engineering Victory with Elon,” Elon Musk discussed the importance of the engineer in warfare and how the engineer was often ignored by the historians. Musk made some interesting and relevant points. Engineers are crucial, and they are often downgraded after the fact, compared to the strategists and political leaders of war. Musk went on to make the case that technological supremacy is the key to victory and that the U.S. government could have won in Vietnam if it had of “wanted’ to.” Musk claimed that the U.S. government fought the war with the aim of preserving civilian life. Carlin politely mentioned the fact that the U.S. had destroyed nearly every building and village in North Korea during that war. But the issue was not pressed. Carlin did not mention the extensive civilian death count, not only in Vietnam but in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. Instead the conversation returned to the importance of technology and air supremacy.
The mindset that any great power could win any war if it really wanted to is one that is held by engineers like Musk and it is also the self-preserving declaration of the defeated imperialist. How does one win an insurgency? Wars between governments is one things but against the “people” it becomes a harder to define path to victory. If the goal is to kill every person in a region, to turn a nation into glass, then certainly the United States or any nuclear armed nation could do this. Is that victory though? And was that the aim and intention during the South East Asian war that the United States waged?
What were the actual goals in the wars on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc? To kill so many people from that region that they would love the invader and assimilate? To kill those who opposed the presence of a foreign invader and anyone that fit the profile of such a defender? And then what? To turn the survivors into allies and proxies who must obey the ultimate aims of the invader? In that case then mass destruction and death is the antithesis to such aims. But to an engineer the problem is simple: to kill. To make weapons that kill as efficiently as possible. But to conquer and win an invader requires a degree of humanity and interactions with the population. There is more to it than lonely fortresses, checkpoints, and “firing lasers from space.”
If one can not define the war itself, it is hard to define who the enemy actually is. For the men and women driven by hatred, revenge, fear, ideology, faith, patriotism and even love, the aim is seemingly simple. They will endure so much just so that they can kill. To kill the invader becomes survival itself. By the end of the century drones and robots will likely dominate the future battlefield and their utility as a police and anti-insurgency weapon will be paramount. Those rejecting such control by an invader will fight with the ancient will that has stretched across all of human history. They will find a way, not through anticipation or academic conjuring, but in the moment, after gaining experience and loss.
For those who talk about war from afar, it is academic problem to be fixed by engineers and strategists. It is a comfortable and impersonal puzzle to be solved, where human lives are digits. To them technology alone is the crucial element, the trump card for dominance. Technology will not make the conquered love the invader and it cannot make them yield, only incarcerate or kill. Such defiance and determination, the crude ingenuity of the peasant, can and has overcome. If victory requires killing as many as possible then the serial killer is life’s champion. From the armchair or the tables of a think tank the blood and carnage is absent, so technical details are the fascination of calculation. For those on the ground it is never so simple. The engineer is important and often neglected but so is the human of purpose or seemingly no other choice.
A Stone’s Throw Away
It is not that the defender rejecting the invading warriors always succeeds; the past century is littered with examples of might being triumphant. In 1968, the same time that the U.S. was grappling for control in South East Asia, the Soviet Empire swallowed up those rejecting it in Czechoslovakia. A pin prick of defiance perhaps, but the spirit of ‘68 would remain decades later when then Soviet Empire collapsed along with communist rule in Czechoslovakia, succumbing to freer governance and independence. Other peoples are not so lucky and continue to suffer.
Young boys will stand in front of tanks and throw stones when they have nothing else to fight with. In occupied Palestine the Israeli government may some day soon utilize drones and non-human combatants to interact with those that it has conquered. Such technology may allow them to convert the region into the world’s largest prison. They may not be about to eradicate the Palestinians for fear of international condemnation, but they can at the very least imprison them in a dystopian city of walls, cameras, checkpoints, and tyranny. It is occurring elsewhere on Earth for those resisting the Chinese, Indian, and Venezuelan governments. There may only be a glimmer but the same instincts of defiance flicker on.
To the very bitter end, as the adults are imprisoned and killed, the children will go on fighting. It is a circumstance of misery and one where technology and an advanced military seeks to overcome an impoverished people. With an ancient spirit they will resist but they may not overcome. The reprieve in such a circumstance can only come from without, embracing the humanity of those inside. Understanding that one is not an anti-semite simply because they empathize with a Palestinian family who has lost everything due to the actions of the Israeli government. The child throwing the stone may do little damage to the tanks of the IDF but as a symbolic act of defiance it may as well be a boulder dropped from above. And when it is drone vehicles roaming the streets, children not yet born will cast rocks at them too so long as they are oppressed.
It is the enduring defiance and the yearning to be free that can give a small cadre of peasants the edge over a professional army of invaders. The drones and AI may not suffer the fatigue that a conscript or a professional soldier might, they may not suffer trauma or moral injury. The imperfections of the human killer will be removed and replaced by a synthetic one. That does not mean that the inevitable human replacement is superior or indestructible. These drones will have their own weaknesses and flaws and those fighting them will find it and exploit it because they have to. Unless of course winning means destroying everything and killing everyone.
There is no moral virtue in resistance alone, just as none exists in conquest. It is not a clear cut case of good and evil. It is the understanding that perspectives drive objectives. When objectives are intangible and unimaginable for those on the ground or among those who are charged with achieving them, it can become almost impossible to “win.” This is not limited to warfare but for most government policy. For those resisting, the victims or the others, the objective and goal are simple: an end to occupation, to be left alone, eject the invader, or even freedom itself.
To drop the bombs, run the check points, burn down villages and so on may be done in order to enforce security and support a “friendly” government.Over time one must realize that such actions lead to instability and disorder while feeding the resistance. While the frontiers were conquered, the “savages” were tamed and many aboriginal peoples have been subjugated or wiped away. The great nations have committed their genocides and replaced what was with their own. That was the victory those who claim “if we wanted to” accomplished. Modern technology also allows us to observe and challenge such a means of victory to shame and expose the violence for what it is. In both victory and defeat there will always be the warrior in the garden and the sapper in the sewer.
“Whether the primary cause of revolution is nationalism, or social justice, or the anticipation of material progress, the decision to fight and to sacrifice is a social and a moral decision. Insurgency is thus a matter not of manipulation but of inspiration.”
“I am aware that such conclusions are not compatible with the pictures of guerrilla operations and guerrilla motivations drawn by the counterinsurgency theorists who are so much in vogue today. But the counterinsurgency experts have yet to win a war. At this writing, they are certainly losing one.”
Their picture is distorted because their premises are false and their observation faulty. They assume–perhaps their commitments require them to assume–that politics is mainly a manipulative science and insurgency mainly a politico-military technique to be countered by some other technique; whereas both are forms of social behavior, the latter being the mode of popular resistance to unpopular governments.”
On COI #214, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman cover the U.S.-Russia talks in Geneva, the JCPOA talks in Vienna, and the criminal legacy of America’s Guantanamo Bay torture prison.
Connor updates Iran’s regional diplomacy and the nuclear deal talks. The Europeans are increasingly admitting progress is being made. Even the Israelis appear increasingly split on the issue with Tel Aviv’s Military Intelligence Chief saying it would be better for Israel if the JCPOA is revived. According to a new poll, most Americans support the deal as well.
Kyle breaks down all the news out of Geneva and what the indications are for U.S.-Russian diplomacy. The Russians and the Americans are still at odds over Ukraine’s potential NATO membership, a red line for Moscow and a tripwire for war. Connor and Kyle note that it does appear the Americans are willing to negotiate missile placements, perhaps replacing the INF Treaty, and limiting the size and scope of both NATO and Russia’s military exercises. Though Kyle shows how the media is preparing Americans for the talks’ failure.
Kyle details the history of Guantanamo Bay, the torture of detainees, new facilities being built that cost millions of dollars, and Biden’s broken promises to close America’s gulag.
“To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”– Sun Tzu
On March 12, 2006 five U.S. soldiers violated, then murdered, 14-year-old Abeer Hamza in her home at Yusufiyah, Iraq. Then they covered up the killing by wiping out most of her family at taxpayer expense.1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmudiyah_rape_and_killings
Fifteen years and four days later, several dozen U.S. policy enforcement officers stormed a quiet neighborhood in America’s Pleasantville: Keene, New Hampshire. After using a battering ram connected to an armored vehicle, they flew a drone through the window of a home studio housing the state’s top radio discussion show, Free Talk Live. Washington claimed that some of its libertarian hosts had been selling significant amounts of Bitcoin without government permission and filed charges of “unlicensed money transmission.” The imperial capitol is seeking life imprisonment for at least one of the arrestees, with no credible claim that he even victimized anyone.2https://www.unionleader.com/news/crime/claiming-flight-risk-judge-orders-free-keene-activist-held-until-bitcoin-money-laundering-trial/article_04baa708-5613-5bc2-9f58-ac97b76616d6.html
Though different in a hundred ways, each of these federal excesses exemplified the numberless grievances which have sparked a growing pushback against D.C. in the “Live Free or Die” state. Local activists and legislators reacted with the New Hampshire Independence Amendment, also known as CACR 32. This constitutional revision would allow all NH residents to vote in a 2022 referendum on whether the state will continue being governed by Washington.
New Hampshire already has a long history of example-setting. But by striving for independence—and a more humane world security protocol—its citizens may be able to do something better. With your help, and the careful placement of a new idea on the geopolitical board, maybe our tiny new nation could even stop a world war.
NH independence proponents make a simple case. The FedGov, they say, has bloated beyond the point where normal individuals can meaningfully oppose its atrocities with conventional civics. They point to the successes of Estonian and British independence movements as well as the global trend toward “smaller nations.” In 1900 there were roughly 60 countries in the world. Now there are about 200. Meanwhile, thanks to these and other national divorces, the harm-inflicting capacity of various empires is less than it would be if they were still full-sized. Successful independence drives in America, too, should have a limiting effect on U.S. warmongering in faraway places.
But what of, say, Chinese government warmongering outside its borders? Whatever cruelties the U.S. government may have imposed, the nations bordering China do seem to generally prefer alliance with Washington over alliance with Beijing; some rely on D.C. for their security more than they should.
One of the main criticisms of NH independence is that it could undermine U.S. defense capability or, more accurately, American capacity for carrying out the existing commitments to NATO and Taiwan. The latter is of special significance, and we’ll use it as the focus of this discussion. But the arguments here apply to every U.S. ally.
Critics argue that America is overextended, much as Britain was overextended in the 1939 era when it guaranteed Poland against the Nazis. In those days the perception was that London had only two available courses of action: Wage war on Germany or appease Hitler by abandoning Poland. Today people imagine that we face a similar unthinkable choice as China flexes its new powers against Taiwan. An invasion of the island could trigger these same two ruinous impulses against a great resurgent Power, this time with the likelihood it would escalate into nuclear war. Taiwan’s friends, the thinking goes, would either have to commit another Munich…or defend the quasi-nation by risking civilization. Wouldn’t a New Hampshire independence drive damage America’s ability to follow the second option to victory?
Actually, there is a third option which could prevent both the evils of “big war” and the abandonment of overseas promises. An independent New Hampshire, or prospect thereof, is one way to put that path on the table. Let’s call this option the “Porcupine Peace Plan” for now…in honor of a less-threatening but better-defended posture some of us envision for America’s alliances.
This plan rests upon the barely-discussed idea that there is a great, untapped defense capacity among all reasonably-prosperous peoples, especially in Taiwan. Unlike military buildup it is a power which, when exercised, saves tax dollars rather than spending them…increases freedoms rather than reducing them. It possesses little potential for starting wars of aggression but has a proven history of discouraging them. Nevertheless, this power is often suppressed by the rulers of vulnerable nations…even as some of them face invasion or treat nuclear first-strikes as a legitimate method of self-protection.3https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/us/politics/nuclear-war-risk-1958-us-china.html
This seemingly magical ability…is the power of armed, individual self-defense…weapons freedom for the private citizen. And it is a power that the government of Taiwan has systematically denied to its people, at grave risk to a nervous world. The island’s gun control laws are so strict that WorldPopulationReview.com lists the number of civilian firearms there at literally zero per 100 persons (the U.S. has 120). Historically, the relative gun freedom of America helped it win the Revolutionary War and limited its risk of invasion over the following centuries.4https://davekopel.org/2A/LawRev/american-revolution-against-british-gun-control.html
We must respect the wishes of Taiwanese regarding their internal laws. But Taipei should respect our wishes when it comes to whether we risk our lives for them over their willful self-emasculation. We currently are doing exactly that at their government’s request; every last American is potentially on Beijing’s target list.5https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_first_use And Taipei has unnecessarily increased the chances for war with Beijing…by keeping its civilians disarmed.
This policy cannot help but cause Taiwan to be a far more attractive target for invasion than it would be if it had weapons freedom for the average citizen. The island’s well-meaning government has formidable armed forces, but there is no substitute for the “defense dispersal” and individual initiative which comes from civilian weaponry. Gun freedom, in 1940, made fascist-surrounded Switzerland impractical for Germany to invade.6https://davekopel.org/2A/Foreign/swiss-and-their-guns.html Norway, by contrast, was heavily defended by the British Empire and nowhere near surrounded…but fell quickly when Hitler’s forces mounted an attack on “central points of failure.”7https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II/The-invasion-of-Norway
Gun availability for the average person can solve only so many problems, but nations which acquire this freedom also acquire a ready-made, widely-dispersed guerilla arsenal ready for use against any occupier. It lets a tiny nation do what Sun Tzu suggested, and “be like water.” When added to Taiwan’s existing military deterrent…this “scary freedom” should be enough to prevent invasion indefinitely.
Skeptical? Then you tell us: How well has the U.S. “nuclear government” fared against Afghan riflemen? Why is Beijing so terrified of guns that it has enacted some of the world’s strictest prohibitions against civilian-owned weaponry?8https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_control_in_China
Thanks to Taipei, the mainland communists don’t have much of that to be terrified of in Taiwan. They don’t have to factor civie-guns much into their “invasion equation” as Hitler did when he abandoned his plan to attack Switzerland. Ending this citizen-disempowerment could be just enough to prevent the expected attack on Taiwan. And New Hampshire can gently make the case…either through government policy or constructive private action. Here are the suggested steps to get us there:
The New Hampshire Independence Amendment must get a full and fair hearing by our State and Federal Relations committee and face the full legislature without substantial alteration. This will give NHexiters new clout to advance the Porcupine Peace Plan. In the unlikely event Independence obtains legislative super-majorities on this first try, it would then go before the people. If they vote “yes” then…
Neutral by default, the newly independent nation could begin negotiations on whether it will re-join the alliances it has just departed.
The negotiators should request, as a minimal precondition for re-joining, that Taiwan and other countries take steps of their own choosing to undo the invasion-friendly types of laws we’ve outlined above. It would be on the Taiwanese themselves to figure out how they want to handle this…and on us to decide whether their reforms, if any, are sufficient to win us over as renewed allies. The more weapon freedom they can offer their people, the more we’d want to join.
If Taipei can’t accept this suggestion, loyally and responsibly given, New Hampshire could simply remain neutral and is probably better off that way anyhow. As Switzerland and Costa Rica have proven, neutrality can be much safer than joining an alliance. But we will have kept faith with the beleaguered island.
Even if New Hampshire doesn’t get past step one in 2022, we should at least be able to put the gun-control-helps-invaders issue on the table. And the same weapon freedom concerns which apply to Taiwan…should apply toward any potential ally, even as new personal defenses begin to replace firearms. A cheaper and more humane way of looking at security…may start to set in.
A) Crime concerns. Taipei presumably keeps its people disarmed in an honest attempt to reduce violent crime and/or uprising. Probably there is a fear that relaxation of gun laws would cause these to increase. There are not many test cases of real gun freedom in first-world Asia; we Westerners can only tell our own tale. We know that the U.S. states with the least gun control also have the least crime. New Hampshire, for example, has virtually no gun laws of its own and the second-highest level of gun freedom in America. Perhaps because of this it also has the second-lowest crime rate, and there was no violent uprising here during the 2020 unrest. Meanwhile the District of Columbia has gun restrictions comparable to Taiwan’s, “some of the strongest gun violence prevention legislation in the nation.”9https://giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/washington-dc/ Perhaps because of this…it also has America’s highest rate of violent crime and two semi-violent protests since 2020 which partially penetrated White House and Capitol Building defenses respectively.10https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_violent_crime_rate
The statistics are not always so clear-cut in favor of gun freedom as a crime reducer…but they do not take into account the potential—much greater—violence of the wars which gun control enables.
B ) Gun incidents—More weapons could mean more accidents and suicides; people would need to get up to speed on firearm safety. For the sake of argument let’s assume it would also mean more crime. But let’s keep these challenges in context. Taipei’s gun control has helped create a situation where the U.S. Navy is prepping for a possibly civilization-ending fleet battle over Taiwan, projected to cost it more than 10,000 lives on the first day of full engagement.11https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_keFhXPclns
C) Disruption. The Porcupine Peace Plan could trigger more independence legislation or otherwise distract Beijing’s target governments at a time when they arguably need to focus on preventing/winning the hot/cold war. If we’re an unwelcome disruption, perhaps we can make up for it. Maybe we could trigger a larger volunteer effort to help Taiwan deter invasion, with her consent. The goal should be lawful, private weapon and ammo shipments to Taiwanese civilians. But perhaps medicines or other pre-positioned supplies are doable now on an individual basis.
Meanwhile, it should not be hard for New Hampshirites, thinking, acting, maybe even being outside the box, to do better for Taiwan than we have in the past. Last year we were just another tiny assimilated unit in the Pacific alliance…paying taxes to the fumbling U.S. torture state but giving little thought to our sister democracy on Formosa. There is plenty of room for improvement.
D) The next objection should come from you. Visit to the link above if you’d like to raise concerns publicly. You can also contact me there, or volunteer to help. This idea is potentially world-changing, but I’m just another de-platformed videographer; what I can do alone is very limited without you.
Ultimately, this idea is not competing with perfect. It’s competing with the existing, terrifying options which unimaginative bureaucracies have handed us: Appeasement and nuclear war. You don’t need much speed to win a race with turtles, but urgency is indicated. For Taiwan and an honorable world peace…time is probably running out.
This article was originally featured at the Shire Forum and is republished with permission.
Last year’s Jan. 6 clash at the Capitol may be the most politically exploited ruckus in American history. Team Biden is doing a victory lap to mark the anniversary, but the feds continue covering up key information regarding that day’s events. Democrats are canonizing a false version of history to change voting laws to perpetuate many of the shoddy if not shady practices that tarnished the 2020 election.
After the fracas a year ago, Democratic members of Congress made ludicrous claims about the perils they faced that day. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said, “We came close to half of the House nearly dying” from the attackers. But the only person gunned down that day was 35-year-old Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, shot at point-blank range by a Capitol policeman.
While heavy penalties are justified for protesters who physically attacked police, President Joe Biden and his media allies portray clashes that day as an insurrection seeking to destroy American democracy. But Reuters reported in August that the FBI had found little or no evidence that the attackers were part of an “organized plot to overturn the presidential election,” with almost all protesters “one-off cases” unrelated to a grand scheme.
Special-interest legislation is inherent in the very nature of government. On the free market, the network of voluntary exchanges, all activity is based on individual liberty and results in mutually beneficial outcomes. The competitive profit and loss mechanism incentivizes individuals to produce goods and services that consumers desire. However, the government, the legitimated monopoly of power, lacks this mechanism and produces outcomes that are harmful to society. The incentive structure is different: unlike the Invisible Hand of the market, individuals that control the coercive Visible Hand are encouraged to pass legislation that benefits themselves at the expense of others. The stronger the government, the more lucrative the rewards. To control the government machinery is to control the levers of cronyism.
Patrick Newman, Ph.D., Cronyism: Liberty vs. Power in America, 1607 – 1849 (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, 2021) p. 13
Dr. Patrick Newman, a Fellow of the Mises Institute, is assistant professor of economics at Florida Southern College and a Fellow of its Center for Free Enterprise. He completed his PhD in economics at George Mason University.
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