A Sad State of Affairs
It breaks my heart to see what is happening to our country today. All Americans have grieved over the losses served on 9-11. The grief for those who lost loved ones is beyond description. These losses have precipitated unprecedented giving to help the families left behind. Unless one has suffered directly, it is difficult to fully comprehend the tragic and sudden loss of close friends and family.
There are some who, in addition to feeling this huge sense of personal loss that all Americans share, grieve for other serious and profound reasons. For instance, many thoughtful Americans are convinced that the tragedy of 9-11 was preventable. Since that may well be true, this provokes a tragic sadness, especially for those who understand how the events of 9-11 needlessly came about.
The reason why this is so sad and should be thoroughly understood is that so often the ones who suggest how our policies may have played a role in evoking the attacks are demonized as unpatriotic and are harshly dismissed as belonging to the “blame America crowd.”
Those who are so anxious to condemn do not realize that the policies of the American Government, designed by politicians and bureaucrats, are not always synonymous with American ideals. The country is not the same as the Government. The spirit of America is hardly something for which the Government holds a monopoly on defining.
America’s heart and soul is more embedded in our love of liberty, self-reliance, and tolerance than by our foreign policy, driven by powerful special interests with little regard for the Constitution.
Throughout our early history, a policy of minding our own business and avoiding entangling alliances, as George Washington admonished, was more representative of American ideals than those we have pursued for the past 50 years. Some sincere Americans have suggested that our modern interventionist policy set the stage for the attacks of 9-11, and for this, they are condemned as being unpatriotic.
This compounds the sadness and heartbreak that some Americans are feeling. Threats, loss of jobs, censorship and public mockery have been heaped upon those who have made this suggestion. Freedom of expression and thought, the bedrock of the American Republic, is now too often condemned as something viciously evil. This should cause freedom-loving Americans to weep from broken hearts.
Another reason the hearts of many Americans are heavy with grief is because they dread what might come from the many new and broad powers the Government is demanding in the name of providing security. Daniel Webster once warned, “Human beings will generally exercise power when they can get it, and they will exercise it most undoubtedly in popular governments under pretense of public safety.”
A strong case can be made that the Government regulations, along with a lack of private property responsibility, contributed to this tragedy, but what is proposed? More regulations and even a takeover of all airport security by the Government.
We are not even considering restoring the rights of pilots to carry weapons for self-defense as one of the solutions. Even though pilots once carried guns to protect the mail and armored truck drivers can still carry guns to protect money, protecting passengers with guns is prohibited on commercial flights. The U.S. Air Force can shoot down a wayward aircraft, but a pilot cannot shoot down an armed terrorist.
It will be difficult to solve our problems with this attitude toward airport security.
Civil liberties are sure to suffer under today’s tensions, with the people demanding that the politicians do something, anything. Should those who object to the rapid move toward massively increasing the size and scope of the Federal Government in local law enforcement be considered un-American because they defend the principles they truly understand to be American?
Any talk of spending restraint is now a thing of the past. We had one anthrax death, and we are asked the next day for a billion dollar appropriations to deal with the problem.
And a lot more will be appropriated before it is all over. What about the 40,000 deaths per year on government-run highways and the needless deaths associated with the foolish and misdirected war on drugs? Why should anyone be criticized for trying to put this in proper perspective?
Countless groups are now descending on Washington with their hands out. As usual, as with any disaster, this disaster is being parlayed into an opportunity, as one former Member of the Congress phrased it. The economic crisis that started a long time before 9-11 has contributed to the number of those now demanding Federal handouts.
But there is one business that we need not fear will go into a slump: The Washington lobbying industry. Last year, it spent $1.6 billion lobbying Congress. This year, it will spend much more. The bigger the disaster, the greater the number of vultures who descend on Washington. When I see this happening, it breaks my heart, because liberty and America suffers, and it is all done in the name of justice, equality and security.
Emotions are running high in our Nation’s capital, and in politics emotions are more powerful tools than reason and the rule of law. The use of force to serve special interests and help anyone who claims to be in need unfortunately is an acceptable practice. Obeying the restraints placed in the Constitution is seen as archaic and insensitive to the people’s needs. But far too often the claims of responding to human tragedies are nothing more than politics as usual. While one group supports bailing out the corporations, another wants to prop up wages and jobs. One group supports federalizing tens of thousands of airport jobs to increase union membership, while another says we should subsidize corporate interests and keep the jobs private.
Envy and power drives both sides, the special interests of big business and the demands of the welfare redistributionists.
There are many other reasons to make one sad with all that is going on today. In spite of the fact that our government has done such a poor job protecting us and has no intention of changing the policy of meddling overseas, which has contributed to our problems, the people are more dependent on and more satisfied with government than they have been in decades, while demanding even more government control and intrusion in their daily lives.
It is aggravating to listen to the daily rhetoric regarding liberty and the Constitution while the same people participate in their destruction. It is aggravating to see all the money spent and civil liberties abused while the pilot’s right to carry guns in self-defense is denied. It is even more aggravating to see our government rely on foreign AWACS aircraft to provide security to U.S. territory. A $325 billion military budget, and we cannot even patrol our own shores. This, of course, is just another sign of how little we are concerned about U.S. sovereignty and how willing we are to submit to international government.
It is certainly disappointing that our congressional leaders and administration have not considered using letters of marque and reprisal as an additional tool to root out those who participated in the 9-11 attacks. The difficulty in finding bin Laden and his supporters make marque and reprisal quite an appropriate option in this effort.
We already hear of plans to install and guarantee the next government of Afghanistan. Getting bin Laden and his gang is one thing, nation-building is quite another. Some of our trouble in the Middle East started years ago when our CIA put the Shah in charge of Iran.
It was 25 years before he was overthrown, and the hatred toward America continues to this day. Those who suffer from our intervention have long memories.
Our support for the less than ethical government of Saudi Arabia, with our troops occupying what most Muslims consider sacred land, is hardly the way to bring peace to the Middle East. A policy driven by our fear of losing control over the oil fields in the Middle East has not contributed to American Security. Too many powerful special interests drive our policy in this region, and this does little to help us preserve security for Americans here at home.
As we bomb Afghanistan, we continue to send foreign aid to feed the people suffering from the war. I strongly doubt if our food will get them to love us or even be our friends. There is no evidence that the starving receive the food. And too often it is revealed that it ends up in the hands of the military forces we are fighting. While we bomb Afghanistan and feed the victims, we lay plans to install the next government and pay for rebuilding the country. Quite possibly, the new faction we support will be no more trustworthy than the Taliban, to which we sent plenty of aid and weapons in the 1980s. That intervention in Afghanistan did not do much to win reliable friends in the region.
It just may be that Afghanistan would be best managed by several tribal factions, without any strong centralized government and without any outside influence, certainly not by the U.N. But then again, some claim that the proposed Western financed pipeline through northern Afghanistan can only happen after a strong centralized pro-Western government is put in place.
It is both annoying and sad that there is so little interest by anyone in Washington in free market solutions to the world’s economic problems. True private ownership of property without regulation and abusive taxation is a thing of the past. Few understand how the Federal Reserve monetary policy causes the booms and the busts that, when severe, as now, only serve to enhance the prestige of the money managers while most politicians and Wall Streeters demand that the Fed inflate the currency at an even more rapid rate. Today’s conditions give license to the politicians to spend our way out of recession, they hope.
One thing for sure, as a consequence of the recession and the 9-11 tragedy, is that big spending and deficits are alive and well. Even though we are currently adding to the national debt at the rate of $150 billion per year, most politicians still claim that Social Security is sound and has not been touched. At least the majority of American citizens are now wise enough to know better.
There is plenty of reason to feel heartbroken over current events. It is certainly not a surprise or illogical for people working in Washington to overreact to the anthrax scare. The feelings of despondency are understandable, whether due to the loss of lives, loss of property, fear of the next attack, or concerned at our own frantic efforts to enhance security will achieve little. But broken or sad hearts need not break our spirits nor impede our reasoning.
I happen to believe that winning this battle against the current crop of terrorists is quite achievable in a relatively short period of time. But winning the war over the long term is a much different situation. This cannot be achieved without a better understanding of the enemy and the geopolitics that drive this war. Even if relative peace is achieved with a battle victory over Osama bin Laden and his followers, other terrorists will appear from all corners of the world for an indefinite period of time if we do not understand the issues.
Changing our current foreign policy with wise diplomacy is crucial if we are to really win the war and restore the sense of tranquility to our land that now seems to be so far in our distant past. Our widespread efforts of peacekeeping and nation-building will only contribute to the resentment that drives the fanatics. Devotion to internationalism and a one-world government only exacerbates regional rivalries. Denying that our economic interests drive so much of what the West does against the East impedes any efforts to diffuse the world crisis that already has a number of Americans demanding nuclear bombs to be used to achieve victory. A victory based on this type of aggressive policy would be a hollow victory indeed.
I would like to draw analogy between the drug war and the war against terrorism. In the last 30 years, we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a failed war on drugs. This war has been used as an excuse to attack our liberties and privacy. It has been an excuse to undermine our financial privacy while promoting illegal searches and seizures with many innocent people losing their lives and property. Seizure and forfeiture have harmed a great number of innocent American citizens.
Another result of this unwise war has been the corruption of many law enforcement officials. It is
well known that with the profit incentives so high, we are not even able to keep drugs out of our armed prisons. Making our whole society a prison would not bring success to this floundering war on drugs. Sinister motives of the profiteers and gangsters, along with prevailing public ignorance, keeps this futile war going.
Illegal and artificially high priced drugs drive the underworld to produce, sell and profit from this social depravity. Failure to recognize that drug addiction, like alcoholism, is a disease rather than a crime, encourage the drug warriors in efforts that have not and will not ever work. We learned the hard way about alcohol prohibition and crime, but we have not yet seriously considered it in the ongoing drug war.
Corruption associated with the drug dealers is endless. It has involved our police, the military, border guards and the judicial system. It has affected government policy and our own CIA. The artificially high profits from illegal drugs provide easy access to funds for rogue groups involved in fighting civil wars throughout the world.
Ironically, opium sales by the Taliban and artificially high prices helped to finance their war against us. In spite of the incongruity, we rewarded the Taliban this spring with a huge cash payment for promises to eradicate some poppy fields. Sure.
For the first 140 years of our history, we had essentially no Federal war on drugs, and far fewer problems with drug addiction and related crimes was a consequence. In the past 30 years, even with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the drug war, little good has come of it. We have vacillated from efforts to stop the drugs at the source to severely punishing the users, yet nothing has improved.
This war has been behind most big government policy powers of the last 30 years, with continual undermining of our civil liberties and personal privacy. Those who support the IRS’s efforts to collect maximum revenues and root out the underground economy, have welcomed this intrusion, even if the drug underworld grows in size and influence.
The drug war encourages violence. Government violence against nonviolent users is notorious and has led to the unnecessary prison overpopulation. Innocent taxpayers are forced to pay for all this so-called justice. Our eradication project through spraying around the world, from Colombia to Afghanistan, breeds resentment because normal crops and good land can be severely damaged. Local populations perceive that the efforts and the profiteering remain somehow beneficial to our own agenda in these various countries.
Drug dealers and drug gangs are a consequence of our unwise approach to drug usage. Many innocent people are killed in the crossfire by the mob justice that this war generates. But just because the laws are unwise and have had unintended consequences, no excuses can ever be made for the monster who would kill and maim innocent people for illegal profits. But as the violent killers are removed from society, reconsideration of our drug laws ought to occur.
A similar approach should be applied to our war on those who would terrorize and kill our people for political reasons. If the drug laws and the policies that incite hatred against the United States are not clearly understood and, therefore, never changed, the number of drug criminals and terrorists will only multiply.
Although this unwise war on drugs generates criminal violence, the violence can never be tolerated. Even if repeal of drug laws would decrease the motivation for drug dealer violence, this can never be an excuse to condone the violence. On the short term, those who kill must be punished, imprisoned, or killed. Long term though, a better understanding of how drug laws have unintended consequences is required if we want to significantly improve the situation and actually reduce the great harms drugs are doing to our society.
The same is true in dealing with those who so passionately hate us that suicide becomes a just and noble cause in their effort to kill and terrorize us. Without some understanding of what has brought us to the brink of a worldwide conflict in reconsidering our policies around the globe, we will be no more successful in making our land secure and free than the drug war has been in removing drug violence from our cities and towns.
Without some understanding why terrorism is directed towards the United States, we may well build a prison for ourselves with something called homeland security while doing nothing to combat the root causes of terrorism. Let us hope we figure this out soon.
We have promoted a foolish and very expensive domestic war on drugs for more than 30 years. It has done no good whatsoever. I doubt our Republic can survive a 30-year period of trying to figure out how to win this guerilla war against terrorism. Hopefully, we will all seek the answers in these trying times with an open mind and understanding.
Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.