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Restoring Freedom, Peace, and Prosperity, Part 1

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Now that the celebrations over the killing of Osama bin Laden have died down, reality is setting in for the American people. It is slowly dawning on them that the killing wont make any difference whatsoever and, in fact, might even make things worse for them. The occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan continue, as does U.S. foreign aid to Middle Eastern dictatorships and the Israeli regime. The war on terrorism continues, including the assassinations, indefinite detentions, kangaroo tribunals, kidnappings, renditions, secret prison camps, intrusive searches, and Guantanamo Bay. The infringements of fundamental rights and liberties also continue and almost certainly will expand, given the threat of terrorist retaliation for the killing of bin Laden.

What did bin Ladens killing accomplish? It accomplished nothing good for the American people because government officials will continue to trample upon their fundamental rights and liberties in the name of gaining safety from the terrorists and in the name of national security. Americans will also continue to bear the burden of ever-increasing federal spending, taxes, debt, and inflation that come with an imperialist foreign policy and a perpetual war on terrorism.

Not so, however, with the proponents of big government. Bin Ladens killing rejuvenated enthusiasm for the U.S. governments role as the worlds sole remaining empire, convincing some people that the empires invasions, occupations, killings, maimings, support of dictatorships, torture, indefinite detentions, kidnappings, kangaroo tribunals, and Gitmo are preventing the terrorists (or in some peoples minds, the Muslims) from invading and occupying the United States.

Moreover, bin Ladens killing refortified in the minds of federal officials the need to continue sacrificing the rights and liberties of the American people, especially privacy and civil liberties temporarily, of course until the war on terrorism is finally won sometime in the future. What better example than the recent four-year extension of the USA PATRIOT Act some 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, under the rationale that letting it lapse would unnecessarily expose Americans to more terrorist acts?

This is obviously not a normal life. It is instead an aberrational life. A normal life is one in which people are living their lives peacefully and harmoniously and not in constant fear of when the next terrorist attack is going to take place. A normal life is one in which people are going about their daily affairs with a sense of privacy rather than the notion that the government is monitoring their activities to prevent the next terrorist attack. A normal life is one in which people generally are bettering their economic condition through labor, investments, or inheritance rather than one in which it is plundered from them through government spending, taxes, debt, and inflation.

The obvious question arises: Is it possible to attain a normally functioning society, or are we doomed to live out our lives in the aberrant society in which we find ourselves?

The key to a normal life

It is possible, but in order to restore a normal, functional society to our land, there are two necessary conditions: Americans must be willing to confront the root cause of their woes and, and they must be willing to adopt a new paradigm for the future. Absent those two conditions, they will continue to live their lives in a state of constant chaos and crisis, death and destruction, fear and terror, and growing economic impoverishment and bankruptcy.

It has been said that 9/11 changed the world. Actually, from the standpoint of the U.S. governments policies in the Middle East, the 9/11 attacks didnt change anything. In fact, they provided U.S. officials with the opportunity to continue to do what they had been doing before 9/11 and thereby engendered anger and hatred toward the United States because of its an multiyear policy entailing death, destruction, torture, and humiliation.

Whenever a foreigner or foreign entity wreaks deaths and destruction on Americans, there is tremendous anger and rage and even a thirst for vengeance among the American people. Think about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Or, more recently, the 9/11 attacks. In both instances, Americans were filled with anger and rage, and many of them even wanted the government to do whatever was necessary to get revenge. Thus, some Americans were happy with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as revenge for what had happened at Pearl Harbor. After 9/11 some Americans called for atomic bombing of the entire Middle East, except for Israel, in revenge for the 9/11 attacks.

That phenomenon is not difficult to understand. But where Americans have a blind spot is with respect to death and destruction that is wrought upon foreigners by the U.S. government. All of a sudden, everything changes, at least from the standpoint of Americans. It does not enter their minds that foreigners might get just as angry and hateful toward the United States as Americans get toward foreigners who come to the United States to kill Americans.

In fact, even when it is openly acknowledged that the U.S. government has participated in the killing, maiming, torture, or dictatorial oppression of people in other lands, many Americans automatically assume that all of that was somehow necessary to the vital interests or the national security of the United States. Therefore, the notion is that foreigners have no right to be angry or full of rage, because the victims got what they deserved. When innocent foreigners are killed, such collateral damage is considered merely unfortunate and regrettable.

Generally, there has been a tremendous refusal on the part of the American people to focus on the conduct of their own government in foreign affairs. When they do, they dont usually critically analyze it from the standpoint of determining whether its morally right or wrong and the extent to which it has given rise to the anger and rage that foreigners have toward the United States.

The reasoning goes like this: Everyone knows (or should know) that the United States is a good country, one blessed by God, and that the Americans are a caring and compassionate people ruled by a government that spreads freedom and democracy and maintains order and stability in the world. Thus, anyone who resists this universal force for good must be put down, and no foreigner has the right to get angry about it; if he does, then hell just have to be put down, too.

Understanding 9/11

Recall the famous 2008 presidential debate exchange on terrorism and foreign policy between Ron Paul and Rudolph Giuliani. Paul pointed out that the terrorists came over to America and killed Americans on 9/11 in retaliation for the U.S. governments killing of people in the Middle East before 9/11.

Giuliani was outraged, and so were his statist cohorts on the panel. The thought that the U.S. government was somehow responsible for bringing about the 9/11 attacks was anathema to them. In fact, it was clear that to them, Pauls statement was unpatriotic, perhaps even heretical.

And they werent the only ones with that reaction. The day after the presidential debate, the mainstream press went ballistic over Pauls observation. Oh, so the libertarians are blaming America for the attacks, they cried. Condemn them! Banish them!

Yet, much to the surprise (and chagrin) of the statists, Pauls statement touched a chord within countless Americans, especially young people. Those Americans were not so willing to accept the statist notion of My government, never wrong. They understood that something isnt right with America and were willing to consider the possibility that the U.S. government itself was the cause of the problem.

The statist position was that the 9/11 terrorists simply hated America for its freedom and values, not because of anything the U.S. government had done to people in the Middle East. In fact, the last thing that the statists wanted was any focus on what the U.S. government had been doing to people in the Middle East before 9/11.

Thus, when libertarians began bringing peoples attention to what the U.S. government had been doing in the Middle East before 9/11, the statists hit us with, Youre a justifier! Youre a justifier! Youre just trying to justify the 9/11 attacks! Youre trying to justify Osama bin Ladens fatwah against our country. Why, you just hate America!

The statist objective behind such invectives was obviously to shut down any discussion about U.S. foreign policy before 9/11. If the statists could convince Americans that this new war on terrorism was rooted in hatred for Americas freedom and values, then the U.S. government could continue doing the things it had been doing to people in the Middle East before 9/11.

Why did libertarians believe that it was important to focus on what they believed was the true motivation for the 9/11 attacks? For the obvious reason: If people figured out the real reason for the attacks, then there was a way to prevent future attacks by preventing the government from continuing to do the same sorts of things that had provoked the attacks.

Waco and Oklahoma City

Think back to Timothy McVeighs terrorist bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Immediately, the statists took the same position that statists would take after 9/11 that McVeigh was motivated by unpatriotic hatred for his country (again conflating the government and the country). When libertarians pointed to the importance of analyzing and understanding McVeighs real motivation, the statists went on the attack: Youre a justifier! Youre a justifier! Youre just trying to justify McVeighs killing of all those innocent people, including children. Why do you hate your country so much?

What the statists failed to understand (or perhaps not) is that motivation is different from justification. For example, in a murder case the prosecution will oftentimes point to motive in the attempt to persuade the jury that the accused did, in fact, commit the crime. But that obviously doesnt mean that the prosecutor is justifying the commission of the act. Hes simply trying to show why the defendant did what he is accused of having done.

In principle, it was no different with respect to Oklahoma City. What motivated McVeigh to commit the terrorist attack, libertarians pointed out, was deep anger and rage within him arising from the U.S. governments massacre of the Branch Davidian people, including innocent children, at Waco two years before.

Now, most people control their anger. Most libertarians were horribly angry over what the feds had done at Waco, just as they were horribly angry over the fatal shooting in the back of a teenage boy and the fatal shooting in the head of his defenseless mother at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. But libertarians channeled their anger into speeches and articles, gradually raising the conscience and consciousness of the American people to recognize the grave immorality of what the feds had done to those innocent people.

The problem, however, is that there are inevitably going to be people in societies who do not control their anger and rage and channel it into peaceful means of education and resistance. They want revenge, and they want it now. That was obviously the case with McVeigh.

Why was the focus on McVeighs motive so important? Because by bringing people to realize that the U.S. governments misconduct at Waco played a critically important role in the terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, the U.S. government was dissuaded from committing any more Wacos. Since that horrendous occurrence, the U.S. government has not murdered any more large groups of Americans.

The result of no more Wacos?

No more Oklahoma Citys! That segment of people who simply do not control their rage stays beneath the surface. But if the government were to murder another large group of Americans, there is little doubt that some segment of people who do not control their rage would surface and retaliate with terrorist strikes. And then wed hear the standard statist plaint: They just hate America!

The matter is no different with respect to U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. Lets examine what the U.S. government was doing to people in that part of the world before 9/11 and particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it lost the specific enemy that officials had long believed would justify into perpetuity the existence of their extensive national-security military empire, which came into existence following World War II.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 edition of Freedom Daily.

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    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.