During the entire 11 years of the sanctions on Iraq, the anger in the Middle East was simmering, not only among Iraqi parents but also among Muslims throughout the Middle East, who could only sit idly by and watch the deaths occur year after year. There was a sense of rage, futility, helplessness, and humiliation over the inability to do anything about it.
The idea behind the sanctions was that if Saddam would simply relinquish power, U.S. officials would be willing to lift the sanctions. Or if the Iraqi people would only oust him from power, the sanctions would be lifted. But Saddam would not leave office, and the Iraqi people were unable to oust him. So the sanctions were continued, and children continued to die.
Madeleine Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed the official position of the U.S. government. She was asked by Leslie Stahl on Sixty Minutes, “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright did not challenge the estimated number of children that the sanctions had killed. She simply said, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
Not surprisingly, Albright’s statement reverberated throughout the Middle East, undoubtedly turning the cauldron of simmering anger into one in full-force boil.
As early as 1993 there had been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. It was treated as a criminal-justice matter. It was an attack that was no different, in principle, from what was going to happen eight years later, on 9/11.
The United States didn’t invade Pakistan, where it turned out that one of the prime suspects, Ramzi Yousef, had escaped to. It didn’t bomb people. It didn’t kill wedding parties, as it has done in Afghanistan, where 99 percent of the people it has killed and maimed had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. In fact, despite all the bombs, bullets, killings, and maimings in Afghanistan, it still hasn’t apprehended the guy officials say planned the whole thing.
In 1993, relying on police procedures U.S. officials waited until they were able to locate the suspects. It was the right approach to terrorist blowback from U.S. foreign policy. Three years after the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, they apprehended Yousef in Pakistan and extradited him to the United States, where he was prosecuted in federal district court, convicted, and sentenced. He is still an inmate in the federal penitentiary system.
At his sentencing hearing, Yousef angrily explained why he had committed his terrorist act. It wasn’t because of hatred for America’s freedom but instead anger and rage arising from U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. He specifically cited the deaths of the Iraqi children from the sanctions.
Keep in mind that U.S. foreign policy prior to 9/11 also included the unconditional military and financial support of the Israeli government. U.S. officials also stationed U.S. troops near Mecca and Medina, the holiest sites in the Muslim religion, knowing full well the impact that that would have on Muslims generally.
There was other terrorist blowback — the attack on the USS Cole and the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And then there were the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
People say, “9/11 changed the world.” Actually, 9/11 didn’t change anything, at least not with respect to foreign policy. It was just one more in a series of terrorist attacks in response to what the U.S. government had been doing to people in the Middle East.
What did U.S. officials do? They blamed 9/11 on freedom and then used the attacks to justify their invasion of Iraq, wreaking more death and destruction than they had with the sanctions. When they failed to find the infamous WMDs, they simply switched gears and changed their emphasis to bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people, whom they now professed to love. Yet, through eight years of occupation, there has never been an upper limit placed on the number of Iraqis who could be killed in the process of bringing the survivors freedom and democracy. No price in terms of Iraqi life has ever been too high to pay for such a goal. As Albright had suggested, any number of Iraqi deaths is considered “worth it.”
The United States had used the invasion to secure what the sanctions had been unable to accomplish — the ouster of former U.S. partner Saddam Hussein from power.
The United States also invaded Afghanistan, killing countless innocent people in the process. In fact, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan have become the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history. Every time Americans kill 10 suspected terrorists, they produce 30 new angry terrorist recruits. Sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, parents, grandparents, cousins, spouses.
The reaction among Afghanis to all this is no different than it would be among Americans if, say, the Chinese invaded the United States. Sure, there would be people cooperating with the occupiers, but there would be at least a small segment of Americans who would never stop retaliating against Chinese forces until they finally left the country.
It’s all freedom’s fault
But it’s all freedom’s fault, according to U.S. officials. Terrorism has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, they say. It’s all because the terrorists hate America for its freedom and values.
You also see this avoidance of individual responsibility on the welfare-state side of things. It’s all freedom’s fault.
Recall the Great Depression. It was all the fault of America’s free-enterprise system. We’re not supposed to blame the real culprit — the Federal Reserve and the monetary manipulations it was engaged in during the 1930s. That would involve placing the blame for the Great Depression on the federal government. That’s considered unacceptable.
The recent housing collapse and the home-mortgage debacle? Officials tell us they had nothing to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those quasi-government institutions that were guaranteeing mountains of speculative loans. And they tell us that the crises had nothing to do with the Federal Reserve, which was producing artificially low interest rates with its monetary manipulations, trying to encourage institutions to make home loans to people who had no business borrowing such monies. They tell us the crises had nothing to do with economic regulations that required banks to make high-risk loans to people.
No, they say, all that had nothing to do with the crash. It was all because of greed, speculation, and the bankers. In other words, the fault was freedom and free enterprise.
They simply cannot take individual responsibility for the damage and destruction their beloved welfare state has wreaked upon America, especially for the poor and the middle class.
So there is this perfect storm, consisting of the welfare state, the warfare state, and the drug war. There is all this darkness, and then you have people who won’t take personal responsibility for all the death and destruction their storm has produced. There are ever-increasing threats to our freedom and well-being, especially at the hands of our own government.
But along with all these crises has come opportunity. Because for the first time there are ever-growing numbers of people who are asking questions. They’re asking why government spending is out of control, why the government’s debt continues to skyrocket, and what the role of the Federal Reserve is in all this.
When people are asking such questions and not robotically nodding their heads at every government pronouncement, then we have a chance to put the nation back on the right track. When people are asking the right questions, there exists the possibility that they will arrive at the right answers and the right solutions.
That’s where we libertarians enter the picture.
What libertarians don’t believe
For decades, we libertarians have been warning Americans of what all this statism was going to bring them. This is the road to big government, we repeatedly warned, the road to statism, the road to serfdom, the road to moral debauchery, the road to national bankruptcy, the road to where the nation of Greece now finds itself.
What were the statists, both conservatives and liberals, saying the whole time? Don’t listen to those libertarians, they cried. We can maintain a worldwide military empire. We can serve as the world’s international policeman. We can sanction and invade any countries we want.
We can also have welfare for everyone here at home. It will all be free. Free retirement. Free health care. Free education. Free bailouts. Free stimulus plans. Don’t worry. Just trust us. Don’t listen to those libertarians.
All of a sudden, however, people are starting to listen to us.
Meanwhile, the statists are coming up with their standard litany of reform plans to deal with the ever-increasing crises of the warfare state, the welfare state, and the drug war. They just won’t let go, and hope springs eternal in the minds of the statists that they will finally make statism succeed.
They ask us libertarians, “What is your plan for Iraq? What is your plan for Afghanistan? What is your plan for Social Security? What is your plan for Medicare? What is your plan for the drug war?”
They just don’t get it. Libertarians don’t have plans for statism. Our goal is freedom, which means the eradication of statism. We stand for moral principles. We believe it’s wrong to take what doesn’t belong to you, whether you do it individually or through the force of government. We stand for free markets, for individual freedom. We stand for what it once meant to be an American, what it once meant to be free.
We are not interested in saving Social Security. We are interested in repealing it, immediately. You couldn’t find a better example of an anti-family government program than Social Security.
It’s the same thing with health care. We are not interested in saving Medicare and Medicaid. We want them repealed, immediately. They are the root cause of America’s health-care problems.
We are interested in abolishing, not reforming, the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Education, Commerce, and all the rest of the welfare-state, regulatory agencies and departments.
What libertarians believe
As libertarians, we believe in ourselves and we believe in freedom. We know that freedom works. We believe in others as well. We have no doubts that most children can be trusted and relied upon to honor their mother and father on a purely voluntary basis and that the marketplace and voluntary charity will pick up the slack in those cases where children choose not to do so. We have no doubts that the market will produce the vehicles for education and health care and all the other areas that socialism has taken over.
Unlike the statists, we value the concepts of free will and freedom of choice. We understand that it’s just plain wrong to coerce compassion or to force someone into doing the right thing.
Throughout the statist darkness that has enveloped the land as a result of this perfect storm produced by the warfare state, the welfare state, and the drug war, there are flickers of light. All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish those libertarian flickers of light. Even if you are the only libertarian in your community, you can light the darkness.
There are certain segments of the statist movement that are obviously incorrigible. You’ll never convert them. Don’t waste your time trying. Smash their statist arguments and cast them into the dustbin of history, where they belong.
But there are people out there who are now genuinely questioning and seeking the truth. Some of them will inevitably be attracted to libertarian flickers of light. As those flickers of light multiply, the darkness is extinguished.
How do we libertarians accelerate this process? By relying on our weapons: truth, principles, and integrity.
We must never do what the conservatives did — abandon our principles for the sake of expediency, popularity, and power. I’ve heard some libertarians claim that we must compromise or hide our principles in order to achieve respectability among the media, in order to get votes, in order to achieve our goal.
Nothing worse could befall the libertarian cause. Who can have respect for a movement that engages in that sort of conduct?
We libertarians are participating in one of the grandest, most glorious, most honorable movements in history. Libertarianism ranks right up there with habeas corpus, Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Declaration of Independence, due process of law, and the Constitution.
We have nothing to apologize for or to conceal. It’s the statists who should be doing the apologizing. It is the statists who should be ashamed for what they have done not only to the people of this country but also to the people of the world.
If we libertarians maintain our principles, if we maintain our integrity, if we continue speaking the truth, I can’t guarantee you that we will be successful. Life doesn’t guarantee success, but I can assure you that it’s the only thing that can be successful. It’s the only chance.
If we do that, we can confront dangers courageously, we can overcome the statism that has enveloped our nation, and we can make it through the storms. We should keep in mind that the darker and stormier things get, the closer we might be to the mountaintop.
If we continue with principles, integrity, and truth, we can seize the opportunity to lead not only the American people but also the people of the world to the highest reaches of freedom ever seen by man.
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 edition of Freedom Daily.