John Glaser and Scott Horton – Libertarianism vs the Empire

by | Mar 5, 2014 | Stress Blog | 2 comments

February 15, 2014 FFF, ISFL, Washington DC

Jacob Hornberger: Okay we’re going to go ahead and get started just a little bit early, so that the speaker or possible speakers have full time. I’m Jacob Hornberger, President of the Future of Freedom Foundation, and we’re very pleased to be back at the students for liberty conference. We’ve been participating with you all for two years and this is our third year. We’ve put together this conference within a conference; it focuses on the importance of civil liberties in the national security state.

We just believe that the warfare state constitutes the greatest threat to the freedom and well being of the American people so we wanted to come to this conference, raise the vision of the students and everybody else to this higher level of the critical importance of the civil liberties to a free society and what the national security state is doing to infringe on those liberties and actually end up destroying them.

We’ve had a lot of changes in the schedule as you know because of all the flight cancellations yesterday, we’ve had to do a lot of adjusting and we shifted Bob Higgs upward to the previous hour, so if you’re here for Bob Higg’s talk you missed it, but we recorded it, it will be on our website soon. We shifted Scott Horton and John Glaser down to the last segment, Scott just landed, he was one of the one’s that had his flight cancelled and so I doubt he is going to be here in time, but it is always possible that he may roll in and we’ll let him give his talk.

We’re going to go on with John Glaser and if Scott doesn’t go on, John is going to handle the entire segment. John is one of the, we wanted John to come and talk at this conference because he is obviously one that is very close to you guys in age, you know, the students. He is 26 years old and he is like a model of what can be achieved in this movement at a very young age, and what is possible.

These people say when you reach your 30’s or your 40’s then you can start writing and speaking, it’s nonsense, you can be whatever you resolve to be at any age and John is the former editor at which is the premier website for anti war stuff. After that he just started writing articles independently and he’s one of the greatest writers in the movement. Every day we’re looking for John’s articles. He gets published in the Washington Times, The Huffington Post, American Conservative, Daily Caller, it is just awesome and whenever he has an article out it’s like 100% sure that we are going to link to it in our FFF daily, it’s that good. It’s almost always around foreign policy, civil liberties, the national security state, and he writes in such a clear and succinct and easy way that is the type thing that you can forward to your friends and family and they will easily understand it, and not very many people have that capability. A lot of the academics as you know, write on a level that is just boring and hard to understand. That doesn’t apply to John, He previously also worked at American Conservative, he didn’t get published there, he worked there, or I guess he got published there too, also, the Cato Institute, the Institute for Humane Studies, so he has got a long pedigree in the movement, please welcome John Glaser.

JG: Well I appreciate the kind introduction. I was telling, I see some of the crowd has dissipated from the last session, I was telling Jacob, I once read about a poll which found that huge percentages of Americans have public speaking as their greatest fear, as opposed to death, and I think that if the stipulation was made that those public speakers would have to follow Bob Higgs, even more percentages would oppose it. {laughter}. Anyone coming after Robert Higgs feels like a statist [laughter}.

His talk kind of bleeds into mine. What FFF is doing here I think is a perfect example of where I hope the movement will go. Just by way of personal anecdote, I’m from the Boston area and prior to coming to D.C I never really met other libertarians. I met them in books and I interacted a little bit on the internet with them, but I came here through an IHS internship called The Koch Summer Fellow Program – KSFP.

I think in my entire class of 84 KSFP students I was the only one who would self describe as primarily focused in foreign policy and the national security state. This was surprising to me, I expected to meet more libertarians like me, and the truth is that the DC libertarian movement – if you want to find someone who focuses on tax policy they’re kind of a dime a dozen. There were plenty of libertarians in my KSFP class who wanted to focus on healthcare, economics, the drug war and philosophy and law and so forth, and all of those are really important subjects but I was perplexed at the lack of foreign policy expertise in the movement. That perplexion grew when I realized the established libertarians – the professional libertarians, the guys that we were all trying to be like in KSFP also had a dearth of foreign policy expertise. Even the few who focus on foreign policy often times do not have as radical a position as you would hope for. Some of whom even supported the Iraq war which I think we have still not come to grips with as a movement.

If you take the most basic definition, under prevailing international law to which the United States is a high contracting party. The Iraq war was one of the most clear-cut examples of a war crime in modern memory – vehemently opposed to every libertarian principle you can imagine. Part of this bias I think rests in libertarianisms focus on economics – that tends to push people into the domestic sphere. I think also Libertarianisms past as an out growth or at least an alliance partner of the conservative right. Many people just harbor nationalist feelings like they’re taught in school – to wave the flag and thank people for their service in the army. Many people just thought of the greatest generation who defeated the nazi’s or many people more just during the cold war though communism was a greater ideological threat than the sometimes big government policies of republicans or the fact that they were so often pro-war.
But still, when I came here, I thought ‘this shouldn’t be the case, more libertarians should be very clear on the war issue’. From my perspective libertarian principles are firmly grounded in an understanding of the state as an inherently violent institution, as we just learned from Bob Higgs. Surely we as libertarians can recognize that while the barrel of a gun is theoretically behind every tax on income and cap on carbon emissions, when the government literally takes out a gun on a mass scale and gets hundreds of thousands of people killed, surely that should be something that we should be able to recognize as a movement, as distinct from say, an increase on taxes. It’s a special kind of state exercise of power.

I think in the back of everyone’s mind we understand this. We like to hark back to the principles of the American revolution – Thomas Jefferson said that ‘war was pernicious to liberty’, James Madison said that, ‘If oppression and tyranny come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy’. Murray Rothbard said that, ‘the state thrives on war, it expands on it, it glories in it’. He once lamented that conservative libertarians are particularly interested in price controls and taxes but quote, ‘somehow when it comes to foreign policy there is a blackout’.

Charles Tilly who you may not know, he was an anarchist and a scholar that was famous for his work on the development of the modern state and he wrote a book in the 1990’s called Coercion Capital and European States, which studied the development of states in Europe from the year 990 to 1992. What he found was that war making was central to the development of the state. If you go back to tribal hunter-gatherer societies and the protection rackets, kingdoms and monarchs and inter-nation states, what you find is that that the ability to collect and administer coercive means to either subdue domestic rebels or to challenge neighboring rivals is literally what it means to be a state. You can eliminate the entire welfare state and you still have a state. You can eliminate all financial regulations, you still have a government.

But if you fiddle with this particular aspect you no longer have something that you can describe as a government. I’m going to quote Tilly at length here if you will bear with me:
“States themselves operate chiefly as containers and deployers of coercive means, especially armed force. Nowadays the development of welfare states, of regulatory states, of states that spend a great deal of their effort intervening in economic affairs has mitigated and obscured the centrality of coercion”.

Over the millennium of Europe history that he studies military expenditures, usually has consumed the majority of the state budget, and have typically constituted a larger single branch of government. Over this period, and this is the important part for the libertarian movement if we want to know where we should really place our priorities, he wrote:

“Major mobilizations for war throughout this period provided the chief occasions on which states expanded and consolidated and created and new forms of political organizations. ”

Many of you might recognize this language of being reminiscent of the very famous phrase now by Randolph Bourne that ‘war is the health of the state’, and it shouldn’t be a surprise – government gains in war. Greater interventions into the economy are permitted, abridgements of individual liberty are more readily tolerate, everything that eventually we as libertarians come to oppose starts with the war issue – the possibility that the government can expand with justifications originating in the national security.

To bring it out of the abstract a little bit, if anything WW2 and its aftermath should have made clear beyond a shadow of a doubt where the most destructive tendencies of Government lie. And therefore really a great focus of libertarianism ought to lie. Britain, which was on the verge of self-destruction in Europe, like the rest of the powers was declining and rolling back its empire. The United States was really taking over the mantle, to manage world affairs and expand its imperial reach the globe over. Washington in these early cold war years really embarked on a policy of global domination. We divided up the world into different war zones, every corner of the planet was placed under the auspices of some sub-division of the US military and national security state to be utilized in the effort to maintain what The Pentagon calls ‘global hegemony’ – or unparalleled power over all other states in the system.

We created NATO to maintain military dominance over Europe and to prevent the rise of another Germany, or even Britain, we placed military bases in every corner in the world, particularly in important strategic choke points. We overthrew governments in Iran, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, The Congo, The Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Chile, Brazil – we increasingly went to war without the consent of Congress, which speaks to the tendency of the national security state to whittle away at the rule of law which is another principle of libertarianism. The logic of hegemony, of obtaining evermore power over the globe led us into geopolitical strategies that got us into wars like Korea which is largely forgotten now but it killed millions of people and really contained unspeakable atrocities.
Then of course Vietnam which got 3 million people killed, we virtually destroyed an entire country, they’re still dying from chemical warfare. We went to war with Iraq in 1991 not so much as George H W Bush said – to liberate Kuwait, but to maintain a balance of power in the world’s most energy rich region that was amenable to the power interests back in Washington. Then of course we sanctioned Iraq during the 1990’s – killed maybe a million people – invaded on false pretenses in 2003 and killed another half a million people probably.

But even without these gruesome details the logic of obtaining unparalleled power – or hegemony – should set off alarm bells for libertarians. I mean anyone who can regurgitate cliches about checks and balances in the constitution or Lord Acton’s famous quote that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Anyone that sees this can recognize that the threat of Government in its national security capacity is a greater threat to liberty than probably anything.

This grand strategy in foreign policy by the way it’s worth noting was greater in scope and directly affected the lives of vastly more individuals than social security or medicaid or medicare or all of them put together. The scene that we have now in February of 2014 is that we have a President that can draw up kill lists and assassinate suspects including US citizens despite their fifth amendment rights to due process on Presidential decree largely in secret and using secret law. We have continued collusion with autocrats in the middle-east who we continue to arm and prop up. We have a war in Afghanistan that has still not ended – amazingly. We have a war on whistle-blowers and on journalists – unprecedented usages of the espionage act to crowd out dissent and criticism, we have the NSA which is virtually trying to destroy every sense of privacy that we have ever known. We have what seems like a traditional security competition with the Asia Pacific with China for regional hegemony in that region – which by the way could lead to utter catastrophe given that China is a nuclear weapons state and that these weaker states in the region like Japan and the Philippines are created extended tension between China and the United States.

So, we’re at the students for liberty conference and I assume that many people here are looking for careers in this world and I, I mean I guess the, essentially this is a long way of asking people if they are not already focusing exclusively on foreign policy and national security, to consider devoting considerable time to it and if you’re already my kind of libertarian you should press your peers to come to grips with war and the national security state as the most important issue that we ought to focus on. We can all agree that we oppose a 3% in the marginal income tax rate, we all oppose obviously, Government run healthcare exchanges, but we really need to be united and more firm in our opposition to what Charles Tilly called the most ancient and innate function of Government – which is war making.
That was my talk set for I believe 15 minutes, Scott Horton was supposed to come here, we were going to split the time evenly, and then leave an equal amount of time for questions, but I suppose I’ll just go with the questions and then run out of here early. I think you might want to go to the mic if you have a question so that the camera can pick up …

Question: Hello, so my first question is, I like the fact that you’re making the connection between foreign policy and what’s happening here domestically. Why is it so hard for libertarians to comprehend that a big Government that’s capable of fighting three different wars at once is the same big Government that is able to do that here, y’know war on drugs, war on whistle blowers …what is the barrier, what is happening in the libertarian mind that is incapable of connecting those two concepts?

JG: I’m not sure I have better answer than what I said in the talk, I mean on the one hand I think that libertarianism’s connection to economics makes it especially easy for people to end up focusing on domestic issues. I also think that libertarianism’s connection to conservatism and maybe the Republican party a little bit tends to give a pass on foreign policy and war and that kind of stuff. And also, you know I can’t blame people for having pet issues. If they’re really passionate about healthcare then by all means they should focus on that. We need specialization as such. It might be changing now. I think it is changing. I think that this conference several years ago, like when I first came here, was thanks to FFF it’s changed mostly. But I think that even back then there was much less focus on foreign policy and the war issue and I think it’s changing all the time – I think there’s more and more people – Ron Paul probably had a lot to do (2008 and 2012) with the refocusing on war and civil liberties. I mean we’ll see.

Question: I am a sports fan. I go to Wizards games, I go to Nationals games. It seems as though you can’t go to a sporting event these days where during at least one time out, you know where I’m going with this, they salute the military and they have veterans there and all that sort of thing – usually sponsored by a defense contractor – sometimes sponsored by a defense contractor. I’d like your perspective on these.

JG: Yeah, I mean it gets really, really explicit, especially at football games when you have flyovers of military jets you know booming through the air like we’re all supposed to cheer. We have war paint and all this stuff. As a sports fan you might not like my full answer because sports are really kind of a playful inconsequential exercise of the kind of spirit that infuses warfare on the domestic scene. When the Government gets into the and they identify and enemy – I mean any football game really, if you change the colors and maybe people’s outfits, you could mistake it for a Hitler rally quite easily. People are simply getting so juiced up over their tribal allegiances, which of course if you happen to have been born in Boston like me, I’m supposed to be a Red Sox fan, which is as stupid as I’m supposed to have allegiance to the Government that I happen to have been born under.
This is the emotions – it’s sports so it’s okay, you can play and it’s like nobody’s dying except football players with concussions …[laughter] – those kinds of things are very connnected I think – the war fever and the fever that you have at a sporting event where you scream and you rally and you wear the same face paint and the same colors and everyone chants the same chants and stuff like this, it’s the same kind of thing. I think that is probably why they are so connected. I’m ready for rebuttal if you’re happy for it. {laughter}

Question: Hi John, you touched on the Iraq sanctions a little earlier. Of course there is the very famous Madeleine Albright quote, you know, ‘we’re okay with half a million Iraqi kids being dead’. My questions about the Iraq sanctions from 1990 to 2003 – there have been numerous studies done on those sanctions by the UN, by university professors, by medical journals documenting the excess deaths and so forth. We have not seen any studies that I’m aware of on the Iran sanctions about the brutality of those sanctions, what the effect on the fatality of Iranians. There have been documented cases on Iranian patients suffering from hemophilia that have died because they were not able to receive medicine as a result of these sanctions, so, why don’t we see more studies on it. I see articles here and there, but no concrete studies. Is it because the fatalities are not as brutal? Or do you think the push for war against Iran has anything to do with it, is Ahmadinejad was he just too big of a boogie man? Do the Iran peace talks have anything to do with it? I’d like to get your thoughts on why.

JG: I think there is a few things going on here. What distinguished the Iran sanctions and the Iraq sanctions were not necessarily the severity. They’re very severe in Iran. The difference is that the sanctions in the 1990’s against Iraq started right after the first Gulf War when the United States military bombed a lot of the civilian infrastructure in Iraq and so they bombed sewage facilities and so forth and so you know – polluted water started flowing into the Tigris River, and people started consuming this stuff and getting typhoid at levels not seen anywhere but during famines and so forth. So Iraq was already at a much worse place when those harsh sanctions were employed and that made the child mortality rate sky rocket, people couldn’t get the right kind of medicines in.

That is the case in Iran, what is happening in Iran though is that the civilian infrastructure hasn’t been completely destroyed and bombed, at least since the 1980’s war with Iraq. They’re starting at a much different starting point, Iraq was much lower. There have been documented cases where cancer patients or hemophilia patients cannot get their medicines imported, and this is obviously a terrible crime and it shouldn’t be accepted at all. But it is not just getting medicines in, it’s also the inflation is rising uncontrollably, unemployment is rising, people can’t get food on the table anymore and so, I have a lot that I can talk about with regard to the negotiations going on right now, but I don’t think we have full time for that, I hope that they are successful even on the terms of jerks in Washington and that will mean that at least a considerable portion of the harsh sanctions that have been imposed since Obama will be lifted, but we’ll see.

Question: Hey John, respectively I know this is a conservative organization and we are in a relatively conservative conference, but in the mainstream, I mean the US press sucks, we know that, but in terms of covering these wars and covering these countries that the United States has diversely became involved in, generally speaking there are a lot of countries that are from Islamic backgrounds, and I’m a practicing Muslim and I’m always interested in – at what level of understanding do they understand the religion versus the practice of it? I want to guide the question more. Do we really understand these people that we’re invading and what do you think the US press, or how much do the US press influence the public opinion, especially organizations that are fairly conservative. From my understanding from my knowledge, some conservative organizations and not to generalize, have not understood Islam or Muslims at all. Thank you.

JG: Again, there are a number of things going on here. First of all, not only do they not only understand these societies, and the religions that are there, and the people that are there, and the cultures that are there, but they hold them in contempt with a severe prejudice and they draw up these mad ideas about you know 72 virgins and these overly simplistic, you know if you pray five times a day you are therefore a suicide bomber, or a future one. I mean these are incredibly racist notions and they’re driven in part by a war fever and in part by a Government and Press which reinforces them to a large extent – that is not an absolute, but we don’t have any understanding of these societies and you see what that leads to. I mean to take your point about the power of the press to influence public opinion, I think it was in 2011 or 2010 that there was a poll done which asked Americans, it found that I think something like 60% still believed that the United States had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I mean this doesnt’ have specifically to do with Islam and people’s perception of it, but you know, people, we talk a lot in public choice in libertarianism about rational ignorance – people are busy.

They have lives and homes and jobs and so forth and they can’t do research projects on their own, but the extent of their delusions about not only other societies but about US foreign policy is staggering. The Bush administration knowingly lied about its justification for going in to Iraq, I believe, especially the Vice Presidents office was pressuring intelligence analysts to come up with certain things with regard to weapons of mass destruction. And anyways, even if Saddam Hussein had masses of nuclear weapon stockpiles he still wouldn’t have been a threat. He might have been a lot of things but he was not suicidal and he never would have invited nuclear retaliation by using one on the United States or Israel. The delusions in the mass notions of foreign policy are very big and that’s one of our, I think, greatest challenges.
Question: You mentioned Ron Paul an Ron Paul brought me into a non-interventionist foreign policy and I think the way that he did it can be summarized as, you know when you watch Chinese troops in Texas, the theory of blowback is instead of where the peace activists have throughout history tried to get Americans to identify with and empathize with victims of American war making.

Blowback gives us the opportunity to empathize with terrorists,with the people that are doing the killing (who aren’t us), I’m curious about, you know, this seems to me like one of the rare instances of a person on the libertarian spectrum getting the attention of, and the sympathies of even non-libertarians on a non-interventionist foreign policy. Do you agree with that, do you agree with that assessment of the strategy and is it something that you engage in, or that you would recommend other people do?

JG: I mean I try to. Ron Paul did it very successfully. The appeal would not be targeted necessarily at terrorists and their feelings and that kind of thing, I mean they’re criminals and they’re committing crimes and they’re killing innocent people, and if we try the experiment of understanding as opposed to denouncing and getting all riled then yes it will be incredibly enlightening but the more powerful thing about that kind of enlightenment is what it tells us about ordinary peaceful people who are not reacting violently to our ruthless aggression.

Sanctions are a perfect example. Most Americans have no idea what went on in Iraq in the 1990’s. Two UN official, two high level UN envoys that were assigned to Iraq in the 1990’s resigned in protest because of how terrible the sanctions were. One of them described it as genocidal. He could not handle the fact that child mortality had risen so drastically that 500 000 children below the age of five were killed. Nobody can really talk about killing that many children and have it still be the sort of superficial talking heads campaign that you see on MSNBC and Fox.

It becomes much too serious and so yes, talking about our victims needs to happen more than anything else. If we simply get people to understand that because you live in a different part of the world and because geography happens to vary, it doesn’t have an effect on whether or not human life is valuable. I think that is an important tool to enlighten and to persuade, absolutely.

Question: At an earlier panel today there was some discussion about whether the President can even do anything about the war state we’re in because he faced with a sort of institutionalized behemoth of the military that and the national security agency and the homeland defense and their leadership comes in and briefs him and tells him about all the horrible things that are going to happen if he doesn’t let them have their way and you know, he doesn’t want that to have that happen on his watch, and if the President doesn’t go their way, they’re institutionalized and they can wait it out and wait until the next President and keep fighting that fight over and over again so that the real problem or that the real reason that we are where we are is that national security complex, military industrial complex, has just got so out of control. Then there was also some discussion on the fact that one of the only recent push backs was on Syria where we actually didn’t, haven’t yet at least, bombed Syria. I was wondering what happened that made that push back actually work on Syria, what factors coalesced so that we were actually able to at least postpone it (if we haven’t stopped it) and how can we have future efforts like that to push back on that a little bit and try to reduce the hold of the army on our foreign policy?

JG: Well I think there is a hopeful way to answer that and there is a not so hopeful way to answer it. I think that it is true that the general feelings in society and among the population and the certain kind of activism that stopped the Syrian war from occurring. I think what you had was an Obama administration that was already reluctant to do it even though it caught itself in its own sort of box and was going to. But what you have now extreme reluctance to get involved abroad after Iraq and Afghanistan, people are tired of it and people mainly, you know it ties into my last answer, I don’t think it’s necessarily everyone was saying, ‘please don’t endanger Syrian’, I think they were saying, ‘we’re out of jobs right now, we are not, we don’t want to pay for another quagmire, we don’t want to send our men and women to fight and die in another quagmire that doesn’t directly affect us’, I think that was probably the most important sort of move and push, that pushed the population to call all their senators. And I know, I spoke to Justin Amash about this after he spoke at the Cato Institute. It really is about senators and congressman getting calls on the phone. If they get a hundred and you probably know a hundred people, it’ll strongly influence what they’re about to do.

So, a part of this is just the ebb and flow of being sick of tons of war and therefore people are more active against it. It happened after the Vietnam war as well. I think to your question about how to sustain it and how to keep it going, like I said before, we have to keep reminding people, first of all about our victims, or our future potential future victims, and to not stop talking, it’s never time to stop talking about the warfare state. It’s never time to stop reminding people that it’s incredibly big and incredibly interventionist and that we shouldn’t tolerate it for another minute. And so I guess, it’s just to keep up this feeling of slightly anti war, anti interventionist feeling which is at a certain point right now but we should fight to sustain it and we should continue to right and talk and badger our family and so forth.

Question: How are you doing? So I notice at events like this, I find people coming from all different traditions and different jobs and different ways of being concerned about certain issues and they all have different specialties, but to me they all seem to be, not all of them, but most of them seem to be looking at the symptoms and to me they all have a common cause and a very common piece of philosophy where they all go wrong. It’s a really good idea once you know those handful of pieces of philosophy to be be able to relate your specialty to that. People need to have the skills in every different area of application. But how much do you go back to first principles and those simple pieces of philosophy and what are yours, how would you state them? Thanks.

JG: This is stuff that I kind of struggle with because my mind is naturally kind of tilted towards the empirical. I like to talk, I like to throw a bunch of facts at you and just badger you until you submit {laughter} and that can work on some people and on some people you need to go back to first principles – I don’t typically do it. I leave that for masters for Robert Higgs, I don’t know if you saw his talk right before mine but, I mean, it would just be a personal preference and when it comes to what people are receptive to I think it varies as well. I just try to focus on what I do best and that is badgering people. I’m being cut off, I’m sorry, can we do one more?

(Background …no we have one more speaker)

Jacob Hornberger: Scott Horton just walked in …Scott has one of the greatest radio talk shows you’ve ever listened to. His stockpile of interviews is the most incredible thing in terms of foreign experts, civil liberties experts ….formerly with, then he went out on his own, so he’s got The Scott Horton Show. He is an absolutely incredible asset to the movement, we’re all terribly proud of him and we wanted him to come and participate in this conference and show his perspective, so Scott Horton {applause}

SH: Thanks. Okay. I’m sorry that Scott Horton could not be here today, but I’m an icicle in the shape of Scott Horton. {laughter}. So, I’m not quite as good on foreign policy as him, but I’m pretty close. Okay now, also, I cannot read on the airplane so I’m not really prepared, this is going to be more of a winging it than a really prepared kind of thing, so sorry for the amateur nature of the proceedings, and also I’m not really sure what John already told you. {laughter}. Hi John.

So sorry If I’m a little too redundant here. Okay so, well, let’s see. I guess I want to start off by saying that yes in fact in case we’re not clear, in case there is any confusion for anyone here in the audience or on youtube later on, America is in fact an empire. The evil kind just like all the other empires and it’s true that it’s- they call it neo-Imperialism, it’s more an empire of bases than outright colonialism like back in the old days.

I mean really you could argue from the American perspective that that just makes it that much worse, because that means that everything goes out, and nothing comes back in, as Garet Garrett put it, and so when you look at who are the special interests who are involved in lobbying our Government and promoting empire, you don’t find the American people anywhere. What you find are rent seeking factions. Like for example, executive vice presidents at Lockheed, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or whatever it is, so they have their specific interests to gain at the expense of the rest of us. Not that it would make it okay if they were just looting Baghdad for all the gold to bring back here to the heart of the empire, but still it just shows you how much more wasteful it is when that is not really even the goal.

The Cato Institute did a study back in 95-96 back when we were spending chump change compared to now, and they said we spend I think it was more than twice the amount of money securing middle-eastern oil than we actually spend on middle-eastern oil at the pump. It’s absolutely ridiculous and if you looked at it from the point of view of the nation, as a business, it makes no business sense at all – only for the certain vested interests.

And then so the real point is the same thing is going to happen to our empire is the same thing that has happened to every other one before it, it’s going to fall apart, it already is falling apart. Empire is murder suicide. And we all learned this as little kids, I don’t even know when I first learned that all empires fall, it was probably before Return of the Jedi even came out. {laughter}

All empires fall. So, if you’re living in the heart of the empire and you would prefer to maintain your standard of living that you have here, you can stop thanking the empire for it, it is in fact costing you – and start to push for rollback and try to preserve what’s good of what we already have. Okay.

And now so, I’m sure that Oliver Stone and Bumper Hornberger have done great work on the Cold War and the big phony Cold War and who knows what else at this conference, so I basically just want to talk about post-Cold War Imperialism here real quick.

When the Soviet Union fell apart, James Baker and George Bush Senior immediately baited Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait – told him, ‘we’re not involved in your border dispute with Kuwait, we don’t get involved with inter-Arab affairs, go ahead’, they gave him the green light. Then they used his invasion of Kuwait as the excuse to expand America’s footprint in the Middle-East.

Now, I couldn’t find the footnote, it must have been Chalmers Johnson’s book because I can’t find it online anywhere, but I know for a fact that I read that, Lloyd Bentsen, former Senator from Texas, you might remember, Mondale’s running mate from 84, Texas oil man, conservative Democrat – old school Texas Democrat. He warned George Bush Sr., ‘Do not put troops on Arabian soil, you are going to drive the crazies crazy’, well, that is exactly what they did. In fact the Mujahideen, who had been the Reaganites’ friends in fighting the Afghan war against the Soviets, one of their main groups – the Addullah Azzam group that became al Qaeda and Bin Laden’s group – [their] first real grievance after coming home to Saudi Arabia after the Afghan war was that the King of Saudi Arabia invited the Americans to occupy the Saudi desert and wage the war against Saddam, when bin Laden wanted to use his own men and to go and fight another Jihad.

So that was the beginning of his estrangement from the Saudi King and the beginning of his recruitment efforts against the United States of America.

But back here at home, you had all the think tankers, and not just the neoconservatives, although of course, they’re the very worst of them, but you look at Hillary Clinton, she’s the cookie-cutter center-left internationalist, so called realist, you know, humanitarian interventionist, if she feels like she has to use that as an excuse, for a time. But she is basically the walking center of American foreign policy consensus – she is for everything. She is for all the drug wars all across Latin America, she is for and has been just like her husband when he was the President, for expanding NATO all the way to Russia’s borders so that we have Germany surrounded and working further on surrounding the Russians as the Cold War never ended – the Soviet Union fell apart but our Cold War against them never really stopped. Look at the attempted regime change in Kyrgyzstan just a couple of years ago, and the attempted regime change going on in Ukraine right now.

But the neoconservatives came up, typically the Hillary Clinton types prefer to go through the United Nations, get the French on board to defer costs and this kind of thing if possible, where as the neoconservatives said that, ‘we don’t need the UN Security Council, we have the National Security Council and since our military is more powerful than any other military power on earth could conceivably be, anytime soon, we’re just going to do, we’re not going to ask’. Karl Rove told Ron Suskind, ‘we are an empire now, we create our own reality and the rest of you and the reality based community, you’re just left to take notes on the new realities that we create, as you will’.

And so with that hubris in mind, they moved through the entire 1990’s, through the entire Clinton years, to expand NATO all the way to Russia’s borders, and he created the Caspian Oil Security Initiative or whatever to start buying up all of the dictators of the Stans in Central Asia for the Caspian oil resources, which we don’t even need.

Anyway, they created this thing in 1991 after the first Gulf War called the Defense Planning Guidance, and what it says is, ‘We will never let any nation or any group of nations anywhere on the planet earth, combine together to even begin to look at us funny, like they think that they could ever match our military might, we will bomb them off the face of the earth long before they ever even get there’. That’s it, permanent, benevolent global hegemony, as Robert Kagan and William Kristol call it. We will rule the world and no one will ever, ever, which is a really long time {laughter} challenge that power, we just won’t let them.

That is what has led to the terror war, obviously not the NATO expansion in Europe so much as the expansion of the empire across the middle-east and if you ask Ramzi Yousef who did the first World Trade Center bombing or any of the al Qaeda guys who did any of the attacks after that — there was a national guard barracks in Saudi Arabia attacked in 1995, then the Khobar Towers attack which Bill Clinton blamed on Iran because that was what Israel wanted, in 1996, which actually bin Laden did it. Then there was the Africa embassy attacks of 1998 in Tanzania, Nairobi Kenya and Dar es Salaam and then an attempted destroyer attack and then a successful attack on the USS Cole etcetera. —

All of these guys, all of the honest policemen and intelligence agencies around these cases and all of the paperwork, and the rumors and the interviews and the anything coming out of any of these attackers said that what they’re doing is they’re targeting the United States because the United States of America is already at war with them. And that is by way of support for the Israeli Government, and their permanent occupations of Lebanon and Palestine, which they finally pulled out of Lebanon in 2000, but we’re talking about back then. Of course the bombing of Iraq and the blockading of Iraq from the bases in Saudi Arabia which killed a million civilians in the 1990’s. And even though bin Laden himself was a murderer, and on one should take his word for anything, what is important for our purposes is that we understand what it was that he told people to recruit them. How did he get them to join his cause.

When the Ayatollah Khomeini denounced mini skirts and primary elections nobody cared in the 1980s’s, but Bin Laden cited specific foreign policies of the United States of America that had to be avenged and he was able to recruit guys to do that avenging. It is also the fact that Mohamed Atta – the ringleader of the 9/11 attack, the head hijacker here in the United States, filled out his own last will and testament in 1996 during Operation Grapes of Wrath – Israel in Southern Lebanon. It was just a couple of days later that the first Qana massacre took place. Bin Laden sited the Qana massacre in his first declaration of war against the United States. Mohamed Atta, just like Americans who went and joined the army after September 11th, he filled out his last will and testament and said ‘that’s it, I’m joining up the war’, but on their side.

So when he and Ramzi bin al-Shibh and their friends took the trip that so many other Arabs take to Afghanistan to go through the camps, Bin Laden got word that these guys had German passports and they could be very useful. That’s how the Hamburg cell of wannabe Jihadists became bin Laden ringleader pilots of the September 11th attack. Again, it was American support for Israel that pushed Mohamed Atta into making that choice. In fact Terry McDermott LA Times reporter in his great book Perfect Soldiers says that Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mohamed Atta and all of their friends would sit around their Hamburg apartment and do nothing but talk about Israel and about how “Americans must die for what Israel did today.” Day after day after day during Israel’s occupation in Southern Lebanon and of course the continuing occupation of Palestine.

Okay, so then 9/11 became the excuse for all this new intervention. You all saw those planes on TV, they came out of the clear blue sky and according to the President that is all you needed to know. According to all of the media and the entire National Security State that is all you needed to know. The 20th century is long gone, it never even happened in fact. 2001 was the first year ever, September 11th was the first day ever, and so: brand new excuse.

Evil doers have come and done evil for no reason and so now we must you know, avenge ourselves and of course with lie about their motive being that the only reason that they attacked us is because of how good we are, and that means that we have no option except to ruthlessly fight back. What are we going to do? Stop being good? Because they hate us, of course not, we can’t do that, I mean, don’t tell Bush and Obama. But, so they made it seem like, we are all just innocent victims, anything we do after this, will be defense – but here is the joke – and here i’ll get the quote right for you when I tell you the joke:

Bin Laden’s son gave an interview to Rolling Stone Magazine in the summer of 2010 he said, “I was still in Afghanistan”, first he compared America to the bull that chases the red scarf, and he said, ” I was in Afghanistan when Bush was elected, my father, Osama Bin Laden, was so happy. This is the kind of President he needs. One who will attack and spend money and break the country. I’m sure my father wanted McCain more than Obama, McCain has the same mentality as Bush”, – now of course this is a naive take on Obama, but we understand his point.

The Rolling Stone reporter asked Bin Laden’s son Omar, if he thinks there will be any more attacks in the United States and he replies, ” I don’t think so, he’, (his father Osama bin Laden – this is 2010 when he was still alive – ‘ he doesn’t need to, as soon as America went to Afghanistan his plan worked, he’s already won.’

And so now it makes sense, that if you weren’t already aware, that what Bin Laden was attempting to do was replicate their victory, with the CIA’s help, back in the 1980’s against the Soviet Union, against the United States. You know, everybody here wants to give Ronald Reagan credit, well you ask these guys, they give credit to Allah, and you know their faith in him and a good ole trusty AK-47.

And so, his entire idea was not to scare Americans away with the September 11 attacks, that we better not mess with these hombres, but to drag us in, to bait us like Bush Senior did to Saddam into Kuwait – to trick us into chasing them into their neighborhood, where they can bog us down in their quicksand, where they can snipe down on our guys from the top of the mountains down and where they can bankrupt the empire. So that eventually the American politicians will have to bring it home, they’ll have no choice but to bring it home and then all these little separate local jihads across the middle-east can get back to work overthrowing the Kings and the Sultans and the military dictators that we’ve been backing over them all these years.

And so this is why Michael Scheuer the former chief of the Bin Laden says that when America invaded Iraq that was the hoped for but unexpected gift to Bin Laden – “Are you kidding me?! Now you’re going to get rid of Saddam for me too?!” And hoot and holler and they just thought that was hilarious, in fact you might remember right before the invasion Bin Laden put out a message saying, urging the Iraqi people to all rise up against the “socialist infidel” Saddam Hussein and the Americans too, when they come next week he said.

Then what was the effect of occupying Iraq? And I’m sorry, I know I’m running low on time here, the effect of occupying Iraq of all first and foremost for the purposes of al Qaeda terrorism, it turned all of the Anbar Province and all of the Sunni Arab provinces of Iraq into completely lawless free fire zones where they’ve been waging war ever since there – ten years straight they‘ve been at war there now. Tens of thousands of young men have come from across the Middle-East to train, get battlefield experience and go home again, just like in the 1980’s in Afghanistan, the blowback which we’re dealing with now.

Then of course the other big part of the Iraq war, and this is something they never explain on TV, I guess they figure that you just don’t care, but what they did was they fought that whole bloody war in order to drive the Sunni Arabs out and to give the capital city of Baghdad to the Shiites for the first time ever, the first time the Shia Arabs have ruled an Arab capital city in a thousand years. And so, I’m not saying that in and of itself is wrong, but just that it means severe consequences, it means a defeat that the Sunni Arab kings, sultans, dictators, mujahideen and anyone else are not going to sit still for and stand for to the degree that they can help it from here on. I mean this is certainly a major provocation, a major set-up for major blowback continuing to come on down the line.

As we can see from the invasion of Iraq our sock-puppet dictator in Egypt Hosni Mubarak was absolutely right, he warned George Bush, ‘Don’t do this, you are going to create ten thousand bin Ladens’, and that is exactly what he did. He spread them across the middle-east, they went home to Libya, they went home to Syria, now funny enough, Obama’s policy even more than Bush, is so centered around Israel first, that Barack Obama has America backing al Qaeda, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and backing the Islam State of Iraq, the Al-Nusra Front and the new so-called Islamic Front in Syria and so, you know, if you just picture a map of Asia, on September say 30th 2001, al Qaeda was a couple of hundred guys exiled on the Durand line between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the CIA with their laser pointers and the Air Force with their Daisy-Cutters turned all of them to dust but two or three dozen. For some reason Rumsfeld surrounded them on three sides at Tora Bora and let them escape to Pakistan.

But anyway, there were just a few dozen, literally that escaped to Pakistan in 2001, there are now thousands of Al Qaeda guys spread, because of American foreign policy, because of the American government doing everything wrong, now they are spread from Afghanistan all the way into Mali, in Western Africa.

The consequences will continue to flow and they will continue to be sited as excuses to carry on the exact same disastrous policies on into the future.

To wrap up here real quick, I’m sorry I’ve been kind of disjointed and gone on so long, let me just say real quick here at the end, that what people really need to understand about this at the end of the day is that we can’t afford it . We’ve spent already at least 8 trillion dollars on the foreign empire and the homeland security state since September 11th – those are Chris Hellman’s numbers, it’s actually, Robert Higgs, there in the back, and the National Priorities Project agree we spend one trillion dollars a year plus now on national security – a trillion dollars a year.

Here is the real rub, error is mine, credit to Bob, they always inflate a giant bubble in order to pay for their wars – except for Korea, they did that one on a balanced budget, somehow. But all the rest of the wars, since World War I, they’ve inflated a giant bubble, because if they tell you they are going to raise your taxes by 40% to have a bonus war, you’re going to balk and not let them do it. So what they do is, George Bush you might remember, sent you, two different years in a row, a $300 rebate check in the mail right? Like, here is your dividend from all of the money we’re making off the Iraq war or something, you’re supposed to internalize this as being for your profit somehow.

But in fact what was happening was George Bush entered into a conspiracy with Alan Greenspan, to lower interest rates through the floor to put the lead foot on the gas pedal and inflate a massive bubble, which, thank God, popped in 08, and not in 09 – George Bush almost made it out of office with that thing crashing on somebody else’s watch.

That’s the cost of the Iraq war – it’s your time spent in the unemployment line, you don’t remember them raising your taxes, but you’re sitting there staring at your feet wondering if you can get some part-time work – that is your cost of killing one million Iraqis. So I hope you had a really good time. It’s a hell of a price to pay.

As I’m sure John really covered this in much more detail than I will be able to, we’ve lost so much liberty here, and one of the things that bin Laden was trying to do, in his own words, was to create for us in America, ‘a choking life’, meaning so many cops that we just can’t stand it anymore, so much police state, so much national security agency that we finally just say, ‘you know what, we don’t even want an empire’, and so I’m not saying that we should give into terrorists and do what they say, but it just happens to be the right thing to stop doing the wrong thing anyway.

And so, it seems like a pretty good compromise that we could make. It was Jeane Kirkpatrick who said back when the Soviet Union fell apart, ‘oh good, now we can be a normal country in a normal time’. I think it’s about time.

Thank you.

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