This first appeared in The Libertarian Forum, Vol. III, NO. 5, May 1971
Do you ever get the feeling that the rest of the world is crazy and that you are one of the few sane people in it? I suppose that psychologists would consider such a feeling a sign of deep neurosis — except of course if you happened, empirically, to be correct. And reading the daily press is enough to induce such a feeling in even the sanest amongst us. In particular the stream of pronouncements emanating from the Nixon Administration. Every President, every Administration, has lied, lied grossly and systematically, to the public; but surely none before Nixon has elevated the Lie, big and small, to the constant and the universal.
There used to be the charge against Hitler that he used the technique of the Big Lie; yet Nixon lies continually and habitually, on virtually every issue, and the horrendous problem that arises is: how can he get away with it? Why don’t the American people laugh him off every public forum? Take for example the unemployment statistics. Every month a new statistic emerges, and the Nixonian experts anxiously examine its entrails for signs and omens. Always, and invariably, and whatever happens, the omens are pronounced to be superb. Thus, in one month, the unemployment falls by one-tenth of one per cent. So small as to be meaningless, right? Wrong, for Nixon’s crew will pronounce this to be the beginning of recovery from our recession. And then, the next month, the unemployment rate rises again by one tenth of one per cent. What does the Nixon team do? Do they admit that by their own logic things are looking gloomy? Do they at least have the good taste to keep their mouths shut? Not on your tintype. For there they are again, saying: Yes, this is a very good thing, for it shows that “unemployment is bottoming out."
Better is good; worse is good; whatever happens is terrific. On this Orwellian logic rests the rock of our Republic. There is first the Nixonian expansion of the war into Cambodia and Laos, each time proclaiming that, of course you ninny, this is how you “wind down” the war; any dolt knows that the way to phase out a war is to expand it. In Orwell’s world, the Ministry of War has become the Ministry of Peace, and so in the world of Tricky Dick. And the Laos invasion: we were going to nip into Laos, “cut the Ho Cho Minh trail’ — as if this "trail" were some sort of superhighway which we tear up (It is, in fact, an enormous, 30-50 mile wide network of jungle trails) — capture the base of Schepone, and maybe even stay there permanently to keep the trail cut”. So then we get bogged down, and the military genius of Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, the hero of Dienbienphu — turns the American-Saigon invasion into another Dienbienphu, a veritable disaster, in which the cream of the Saigon puppet troops get chopped up, from which the remainder barely escaped with their lives, and in which we lost many hundreds of helicopters. And our reaction? It was a great victory, we did just as we meant to do, we never, er, never meant to capture Schepone, or even to cut the trail — but by George we delayed their “timetable"! And since no one is privy to this mystic timetable, or even whether it exists at all, any thing can be said about it without fear of contradiction. So it doesn’t matter whether we win, lose, or whatnot — whatever happens, it was a glorious victory. How can we put up for another minute with this systemic fabrication and falsehood?
Or take Mr. Nixon solemnly proclaiming that all his life he has been “a deeply committed pacifist"! How can he say this, how can he dare, this mass murderer, this supporter of all of America’s wars and chief murderer of the current war? Whether one is a pacifist or not, this is surely a new height of affront.
Or Nixon’s gall in coming out against abortion because he is deeply committed to the “sanctity of human life”. Again from a mass murderer, a man who can order the systematic bombing of thousands upon thousands of innocent peasant women and babies, this killer and bomber and napalmer has the unmitigated gall to pout because women are ejecting fetuses from their bodies! For shame!
And then Nixon, the self-proclaimed champion of law and order, rushes in to interfere with the judicial process because of his "compassion” for the convicted little mass murderer Calley. Mr. Nixon was indignant enough about the mass murderer Manson to interfere against him in the judicial process. But Calley killed far more people than Manson, and yet here Nixon intervenes in the murderer’s favor.
Here it must be conceded that large numbers of Americans participated too in the mass outpouring of "compassion" for this convicted butcher, Orwell lives here again, for this was an American public that showed no compassion whatever when millions, yes millions, of Vietnamese and Cambodian and Laotian peasants were brutally and genocidally massacred by American weaponry. They showed precious little compassion for the women and babies whom Calley slaughtered at My Lai. No, it was only to Calley that their warmth and goodness reached, these same Americans who sternly oppose the “coddling of criminals”, who yearn for law and order. Let us indeed cease coddling criminals, especially those who have been duly convicted. Indeed, not being liberals, libertarians do not shrink from capital punishment when capital crimes are involved. “Let the punishment fit the crime!” is the old motto, and it remains good today.
Meanwhile, one good thing has emerged from this mess — the arrival of an authentic hero, Capt. Aubrey M. Daniel, III, of Orange, Va., the fearless and tireless prosecutor of the murderer Calley. Not only did he resist pressures within the Army, but Capt. Daniel sat down and wrote a tart and trenchant letter to Mr. Nixon attacking the President’s gross interference with the judicial process. There are precious few heroes in American life for us to ignore or fail to salute one when he finally comes along.
Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School, founder of modern libertarianism, and chief academic officer of the Mises Institute. He was also editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, and appointed Lew as his executor. See Murray’s books.
Copyright 2013 by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.