Memo to Terrorists of the World

Published on on December 24, 1999

MEMO To: Terrorists of the World From: Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. Date: End of the Century

The U.S. State Department and every other official agency is telling us to be on the lookout for terrorist attacks from you guys. The attacks could come in any form, say the press releases, from a letter bomb to a truck bomb. Security at airports and U.S. borders is tighter than ever. But it is not just you swarthy foreign types who are under suspicion, but also regular Joe citizens. We are all suspects.

It’s hard to know what to make of these warnings. You might not be plotting anything at all. This could just be propaganda designed to instill fear in the American people. All governments know that people living in fear of attack are more likely to be obedient. Or it could just be an excuse to step up violations of civil liberties: searching us, interrogating us, snooping in our bank accounts, reading our emails, and tapping our phones.

It could also be a sign of our own government’s deepening paranoia. Certainly since the Oklahoma bombing, but even before, the U.S. government has become very defensive. Washington, D.C., is an armed camp. It is hard to believe that when I was a young man, all government buildings were open to the public, and in my father’s day, anyone could knock on the White House door. But back then, the U.S. government was small and didn’t attempt to run the world. Through commerce and example, the U.S. sought the friendship of nations.

On the other hand, these warnings may indeed be justified. Because of its foreign policy, imperial military reach, and global arrogance, the U.S. government is the most hated in the world. It’s not surprising that some of you might want to vent your anger. But before you do so, you should consider this: what the U.S. government has done to you and to everyone else in the world has nothing to do with the American people. Don’t blame us for the actions of the government.

You are undoubtedly outraged at the bombings and ongoing sanctions against Iraq. It’s true that these actions are grossly contrary to morality. It’s also true that tens of thousands of civilians have died because of them. But these actions were undertaken by the dictatorial executive branch, and with only the tacit approval of the Congress. No one asked the American people if we wanted this. Thanks to the long, progressive seizure of power by the presidency, the Clinton administration can act on its own, and pursue its own agenda apart from the will of the American people.

The same goes for the bombing of that pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. It’s true that this was a ghastly crime. It’s an outrage that the Clinton administration has still not issued a formal apology or offered to compensate the factory’s owner for the property damage. But here again, the American people were not asked if they wanted to lob bombs on innocents. The decision was undertaken at the highest levels, in consultation with half a dozen un-elected bureaucrats.

The same point applies to all the other grievances you have against us. The American people were not asked if we wanted to bomb the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. That happened in the midst of a war that was never even declared by Congress. The official polls showed that the war was only supported by 40 percent, and there’s no telling how many of those were just wanting to please the pollsters and get off the phone. Pollsters can be very intimidating; to average Americans, they have the air of officialdom about them, and that is hardly an inaccurate perception.

Americans are not war-like by nature. If you look at the U.S. Constitution, you can see the powers of the president listed in Article II. There’s nothing about the power to go to war, which is found in Article I, under Congress. Even there, the power is way down a long list of items in Section 8. Clearly the men who drew up this document did not envision the U.S. as a warfare state.

If the U.S. military’s actions are unconstitutional, how can the president get away with it? Over the course of the decades, the Constitution has become something of a dead letter. It began in the last century, when the president used the military to stop half the states from exercising their right to secede, and to terrorize dissenters in the North. It was downhill from there, though only since the 1950s has the government routinely gone to war without the approval of the American people.

You might object that the American people elected Clinton and elected the Congress which has the power to impeach and remove him from office. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean that we should be held responsible for everything they do. You also need to understand something about the American electoral system. It is not separate from the government itself. The two major parties are as closely tied to the central state as any parties in any country in the world.

Yes, we have the vote. But look at the choices we have. The candidates usually offered up to us have already been vetted by the political establishment. Most of the time, that puts voters in the position of choosing the lesser of two evils, which is still evil. We are not allowed to choose “none of the above.” For that reason and many others, fewer and fewer people are showing up at the polls.

Besides, most of the people who run our lives never appear on the ballot, especially judges. And the federal government employs 2 million people as full-time bureaucrats, their salaries crowbarred out of the American taxpayer. They never run for office and they can’t be fired. If we could unseat them, we would. But the system is set up to lockout citizen influence.

So, you see, you are not the only ones with complaints and gripes about the behavior of the U.S. The American people suffer under its thumb too. In many ways, we are all in the same boat — victims of an imperial, grasping, unaccountable and rogue regime that cares little for human rights and liberties, except as propaganda devices.

What can be done about it? You may propose violence, but that would be wrong, and it can only lead to more bombings, more interventions, and more crackdowns on liberties, at home and abroad. Indeed, terrorism can only play into the hands of the government because it seems to validate everything the Clinton administration is saying.

There’s a better way. The American people do not revere their leaders as they once did. In every way that is permitted, and some that are not, the American people are systematically withdrawing their consent from the powers that be. As we saw in Eastern Europe ten years ago, in Iran under the Shah and India under Gandhi, or in the American colonies in the 1770s, no government can continue to hold power once the people withdraw their consent.

So be patient. The U.S. military dominance of the world will not last forever. Give it some time; we’ll curb the power of the Leviathan. In the meantime, refrain from blaming the American people for the actions of our government, and from the violence that can only aid the empire.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.