Letter to the Editor

Chris writes:

For the last few months I have been battling some cognitive dissonance when making conclusions about the current state of U.S. foreign affairs. Ever since the Ron Paul days of 2008, I have been firm in my conviction that the libertarians are correct in this regard. I think on one hand that despite whatever disasters that may occur after a full military pull-out of all foreign countries, the situation couldn’t possibly be worse than allowing the U.S. government to continue the policy of the last century.

On the other hand, I am not privy to any inside-information. How can I possibly make conclusions about a subject that I have very limited knowledge of? What if Ron Paul himself made it into the White House and decided to continue the current policy because it’s the thing any sane person would do if they had the relevant facts and the ability to make the calls? This could explain the many reversals that we have witnessed from presidents as they transition from candidate-to-president.

While I still ultimately think the right course of action is a complete termination of the interventionist policy and that the politicians are war criminals, I don’t have a strong answer to the second, contradictory premise.


I respond:


Yeah, no, that’s all wrong. Bush was lying when he said he wanted a more humble foreign policy. Obama was telling the truth when he said he wanted to get out of Iraq so as to help shore up the power of the American empire elsewhere. Trump was lying when he said he wanted to abandon “globalism” (the empire). None of them ever truly ran as Ron or Kucinich did as actual anti-imperialists. And so none of them truly had their minds changed about anything. (Trump’s resistance to Afghanistan-alone was still only ever paper-thin.)

Look at what the generals did to lock down stupid Trump:

Nothing about preventing the end of the world, just “you like stealing money, right Mr. President? Well, that’s what we do here.”

Look at the times they said they had to do something: overthrow the Taliban, overthrow Saddam, overthrow the Somali ICU, overthrow Gaddafi, overthrow Saleh, (half-assed) overthrow Assad: all that we’ve gotten out of these wars is nothing. No actual threat was preempted or prevented. Meanwhile, Ayman al Zawahiri and his men — the only actual enemies of the American people on earth — have benefited from every single one of these.

Right now they want trouble with Iran. Which has done exactly what to the U.S. ever, other than overthrow the U.S.-backed dictator (with U.S. permission, in fact, which wasn’t retroactively withdrawn until the few-days-later hostage crisis broke out)? USA still fights directly for Iran’s friends in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also: Bush took a perfectly awesome deal with DPRK, which suspended their nuke program, and instead forced them out of the NPT and into nuclear weapons.

There is no secret secret that justifies all this bullshit. They don’t know more than you or me about it. Not in any meaningful way. In fact, just think about how much more incentive you have as an outsider to critically evaluate their choices, when they do not. It’s always best for them to truncate or simply ignore the antecedents and go on with the next stupid plan.

They will always claim that the alternative is worse. Remember when they said “we can’t leave now, the violence will get worse!” over and over in Iraq War II from 2003-2008, when it was the USA that was making the violence worse. Bush had put U.S. forces at the service of the Iran-backed Badr Corps which was cleansing Baghdad of its Sunni Arabs. A million people died. A million. And we don’t know for sure the alternative — assuming the invasion and toppling of the Baathists, but then immediate withdrawal — but we do know that Bush removed any incentive for them to compromise, and instead gave them every reason to use and abuse U.S. power against their defeated rivals, which helped create a situation where western Iraq was ungoverned and wide open to takeover by ISIS after Obama’s project to back the terrorists in Syria, as a consolation prize to Saudi after giving Iraq to Iran, blew up so badly into an actual bin Ladenite caliphate for 3 years, until Iraq War III was successful in driving them back out again.

Putin has been kissing America’s ass since 2000 and gets nothing but shit for it. We could be friends, if not allies — not that I’m promoting alliances with anyone, you understand, just sayin’ — but instead our side is threatening to ratchet things back to where they were in Reagan’s first term when the Cold War threatened to get hot — hotter than the sun.

I can’t imagine what holocaust the U.S. has prevented by waging about a fifth of one itself over the last 15 years. Certainly if they have anything approaching a legitimate excuse for all this, the burden must be on them to demonstrate it.

Read Secrets by Daniel Ellsberg, about the intoxicating power — in more ways than one — of having insider access to secrets, and the manner in which it prevents broader knowledge and wisdom from ruling the minds of decision makers.

I don’t know how old you are, but in 2002 and early 2003, virtually every claim made by the government about Iraq’s WMD programs were already in dispute, if not completely debunked: eg, the aluminum tubes were reported to be for rockets not centrifuges in a non-existent Iraqi Manhattan Project, in the Washington Post by September, 2002. But whenever anyone brought this up, the canned response from TV-enslaved Americans — like a nation of myna birds or MK-Ultra subjects — was the same every time: “Well, the president must have secret information that we don’t know about.”

Literally, that must have been repeated tens of millions of times by millions of Americans. It’s the question-begging fallacy. There must be a good reason for it or they wouldn’t be doing it. Draw your conclusion first, then when no actual information in the world supports it, imagine that there must be some other reason they haven’t bothered to tell us yet.

But just look what their secret information was: lies picked from the CIA’s trash, lies from Iranian-backed Iraqi exiles, lies from Gen. Clapper’s satellite office, lies cooked up by Ariel Sharon’s own little Office of Special Plans in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, lies tortured out of Sheik al Libi and Abu Zubaydah pointing the finger at Saddam for training al Qaeda. God-damned lies. That’s why they couldn’t tell us: because their claims could not bear scrutiny. Because they were lies.

Abandon your false premise that the people who run the U.S. government care about you or this country any more than their sometimes-ally Ayman al Zawahiri does. They don’t.


Cross-posted at the Libertarian Institute.

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.