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Why Shouldn’t the Federal Government Be Blamed for Boston?

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Every time someone suggests that the federal government is to blame for the Boston bombing, American statists have an apoplectic fit over what they view as heresy. But the question is: Why shouldn’t the federal government be held accountable for the natural and foreseeable consequences of its policies?

Consider, for example, 21-year-old Melissa Kennedy, who was killed last November when undercover drug cops opened fire on her car in the parking lot of an old apartment complex in West Valley City, Utah. According to an article in Saturday’s New York Times, Kennedy “struggled with drug addiction for much of her life.” She was killed after she “had been seen buying drugs.” When the cops approached her vehicle, “she backed up in their direction, striking one officer. They opened fire, hitting her in the head. She was unarmed.”

Sure, one could say, “Jacob, Kennedy was to blame for her own death. She knew she was breaking the law when she tried to buy those drugs. And if she hadn’t tried to flee, she wouldn’t have struck that police officer with her vehicle. Consequently, the cops wouldn’t have been shot and killed her.”

Fair enough. But there is another important factor to consider here. If drugs weren’t illegal, that young woman would be alive today. As a drug addict, she would have been purchasing her drugs in a safe and legal environment, such as a pharmacy, much as alcoholics purchase their booze in liquor stores.

These types of occurrences do not come as any surprise, especially after 40 years of drug warfare. They are a natural and foreseeable consequence of the war on drugs. Drug addicts are going to do what is necessary to satisfy their addiction. Cops are going to do what is necessary to enforce drug laws. There are going to be miscalculations, many of which bring death.

Why shouldn’t the federal government be held accountable for the death of 21-year-old Melissa Kennedy? If there were no drug war, she’d still be alive today.

Consider the case of 51-year-old Henry Sanders, who just got sentenced to serve 60 years in prison for a violent carjacking spree that Sanders committed in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to an article in Saturday’s Washington Post, Sanders targeted drivers in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, brutally struck or stabbed them, and robbed them.

According to the Post, at Sanders’ sentencing hearing, “A friend also spoke about Sanders’ longtime addiction to crack cocaine. ‘Henry has struggled down through the years with his personal demons,’ she told [Judge] Greenberg, saying the crimes were about getting money to buy crack. ‘It was a binge.’”

One might say, “Jacob, Sanders has free will. He chose to commit those acts of violence. He has no one to blame but himself.”

Fair enough. Why shouldn’t we hold the federal government accountable for implementing policies that set into motion occurrences such as this?

After all, everyone knows by now—after 40 years of drug warfare—that making drugs illegal makes drugs exorbitantly more expensive. Thus, while a wino can satisfy his addiction at a relatively low price, not so with a crack-cocaine addict. Owing to the drug war, which artificially limits the supply of drugs, he has to pay an inordinately high, black-market price for the crack cocaine.

If there had been no drug war, 51-year-old African-American Henry Sanders wouldn’t have had to carjack, assault, and rob his victims to get the money to pay for his addiction, and he wouldn’t have to be spending the rest of his life in prison. Since drugs would be reasonably priced, much as booze is, he would have simply lived as a drug addict.

Why shouldn’t we hold the federal government accountable for what happened to Henry Sanders and his victims, especially when such occurrences are natural and foreseeable consequences of the federal government’s 40-year-old obviously failed war on drugs?

The same principle applies to the Boston bombing. According to media accounts, one of the surviving suspects in the bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, scrawled a note inside the boat in which he was hiding when he was captured. CBS reports:

The note — scrawled with a marker on the interior wall of the cabin — said the bombings were retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims “collateral damage” in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. “When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims,” Tsarnaev wrote.

While American warfare statists undoubtedly would have loved for the note to have instead said, “I did it because I hate America for its freedom and values and because I am a Muslim who is participating in a centuries-long war against Christianity,” such is not the case. Like all other acts of anti-American terrorism since the end of the Cold War, the Boston bombs are the result of anger and rage arising from the U.S. government’s interventionist and imperialist policies in the Middle East.

Of course, just like the drug war, one might say, “Wait a minute, Jacob. The bombers had free will. They didn’t have to commit that bombing. They chose to do it. They’re to blame for their actions.”

Fair enough. But just like the drug war, why shouldn’t the federal government be held accountable for implementing policies that engender the anger and rage that ends up manifesting itself in anti-American acts of terrorism?

Suppose John begins striking Peter in the face. Peter accepts it. John just keeps punching and punching Peter in the face. Finally, unable to take it any longer, Peter swings back with a violent uppercut, which breaks John’s jaw.

When he comes to, John exclaims, “He hit me! He didn’t have to do that. He has free will. He chose to hit me. He’s to blame for my injury.”

John’s got a point. Peter could have chosen to just keep accepting John’s punches without retaliation. On the other hand, however, why shouldn’t John be held accountable for his actions, especially when Peter’s uppercut is a natural and foreseeable consequence of John’s actions?

Or let’s assume that John goes into a forest and begins poking hornets’ nests, the type of scenario I posited in an article in December 2001 (three months after the 9/11 attacks) entitled, “The Fable of the Hornets.” After a while, the hornets come out and viciously attack John, stinging him in multiple places.

John exclaims, “Don’t blame me! Those hornets are to blame. They didn’t have to come out and attack me. They could have just stayed right where they were and let me just keep poking their nests.”

But why shouldn’t we hold John accountable for his injuries? Aren’t the hornet attacks a natural and foreseeable consequence of his actions?

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, The Future of Freedom Foundation repeatedly stated that if the U.S. government continued its policies of death, destruction, humiliation, and abuse that it implemented in the Middle East after the Cold War ended, Americans would ultimately witness terrorist attacks on American soil. We were referring, of course, to the brutal sanctions on the Iraqi people, which were killing Iraqi children by the multitudes, the stationing of U.S. troops near Muslim holy lands in Saudi Arabia, the support of brutal dictatorships in Muslim and Arab countries, and the unconditional military and financial support provided to the Israeli government.

We weren’t the only ones. Chalmers Johnson issued the same warning in his pre-9/11 book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire.

Yet, the U.S. government persisted in continuing those policies, notwithstanding the pre-9/11 terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center, the USS Cole, and the U.S. embassies in East Africa, all of which were rooted in anger arising from U.S. Middle East policies.

Of course, one might say, “Jacob, the 9/11 terrorists had free will. They didn’t have to commit those attacks. They could have simply continued to accept what the U.S. government was doing to people in the Middle East.”

That’s true. But it’s also true that retaliatory terrorist attacks were a natural and foreseeable consequence of U.S. policies in the Middle East. Why shouldn’t the federal government be held accountable for the natural and foreseeable consequences of its policies?

Many people forget that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was worldwide empathy and sympathy for the American people, including among Muslims all over the world. If the 9/11 attacks had been treated in the same manner that the 1993 attack on the WTC had been treated—as a criminal-justice manner—the world would have remained on our side in the hunt for the perpetrators, who would have been isolated wherever they were.

Treating these attacks in a military manner would inevitably kill and injure multitudes of innocent people in Afghanistan and wreak massive destruction upon the country, which would inevitably turn the world against the United States. Moreover, invading and occupying Iraq would inevitably kill and maim countless more Iraqis, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. The inevitable result would be ever-increasing anger and rage, manifesting in a constant threat of anti-American terrorism, along with ever-increasing infringements on civil liberties at the hands of the federal government.

Why shouldn’t the federal government be held accountable for the natural and foreseeable consequences of its policies? It’s not a god, is it?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.