Happy Birthday, Ron Paul

Ron Paul is 79 today

Libertarians owe him a great debt, one which can never be repaid. Without him, it’s more than likely that our movement would’ve either gone off the rails, succumbing to opportunism of the worst sort, or else slipped into obscurity, never to be seen or heard from again. Thanks to him,  neither of those dreadful scenarios occurred.

What happened instead was the almost miraculous growth and development of libertarianism into a viable national movement, with “mainstream” media forced to sit up and take notice. Now we are told we may be approaching the “libertarian moment” — by the New York Times, no less! — and 90 percent of the credit (maybe more!) goes to Ron  and the movement he inspired.

But it wasn’t easy. Three presidential campaigns, one under the Libertarian Party banner and two in the GOP primaries, with him travelling all over the country non-stop — a heroic effort for a man of his years. And he looks fabulous: I should only look that good at 79!

His career limns the upward trajectory of the rising libertarian movement, spanning the years when libertarians were totally unknown to the general public — I recall hearing, after telling someone that I was a libertarian, “I didn’t know the librarians had their own party!” — to our present Libertarian Moment. Without him, we may have reached it, eventually — but surely not as soon. And I know many of my readers will agree with me when I say it has come not a moment too soon.

To readers of this web site who may not be libertarians — and there are many — what’s important about Ron and the movement he spawned is the awareness he has brought to the public of the dangers inherent in our interventionist foreign policy. He has stood like a rock, even in the darkest days of the post-9/11 era, when even the staunchest peace advocates hesitated to raise their voices and the War Party was on the march. He stood up to the bully Rudy Giuliani, the has-been NY mayor and failed GOP presidential candidate, who was riding high at the time: he stood firm even as the know-nothings booed him and he told the truth about the gross stupidity and immorality of a foreign policy that has reaped such a whirlwind in the years since that moment. He stood up to the smears  of the War Party — and they’re still attacking him. Yet his stature, far from being diminished, only grows. At the age of 79, he is still speaking truth to power.

I have to tell a little story about Ron that underscores his sterling personal qualities as well as his ideological virtues. In my fiery youth, not even Ron Paul was radical enough for my tastes and I remember penning (yes, it was so long ago that we had pens in those days!) an article attacking him for “selling out.” It was a long diatribe, which was published in a long-defunct journal of which I was the editor. Not long after, I was surprised to receive a letter from him which was as gracious as can be, pointing out that “I don’t believe we are as far apart as you believe” and warmly inviting me to visit with him when I came to Washington. I published the letter in our paper, and came across it the other day as I was going through my old files.

Personally and politically, the man is a saint.

One last thing: I’ve been a Ron Paul-watcher for many years, and what I’ve seen of his long career is unusual in the sense that most people get more conservative as they get older: Ron, on the other hand, only got more radical. Radicalism is often thought of as the exclusive province of youth but in Ron’s case just the opposite pattern occurred. Through some alchemy of spirit, he’s just gotten younger over the years — which is perhaps part of the reason why he has inspired a vital and growing youth movement that has no equivalent on the left or the right.  Thanks in large part to Ron, the future of the libertarian movement is bright indeed — and how can you thank a man for fulfilling the dreams of your youth? You can’t, really — you can only try.

Call Congress: Stop the New US Invasion of Iraq

President Obama’s announcement that the US is sending 300 "advisors" back to Iraq to stave off the rising Sunni insurgency was couched in assurances that "American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq" – but who really believes that?

This President has absolutely no qualms about engaging in systematic deception if it serves his purposes. Indeed, his version of the numbers is in itself a blatant lie: in reality, we are sending 625 military personnel into Iraq, including the 325 Marines sent to guard the now-imperiled US Embassy — and that’s just what they’re announcing publicly. God knows what the real numbers are.

Furthermore, the President told us "we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it." This will presumably come in the form of air strikes, but the vague wording gives Obama lots of leeway.

Americans have had it up to here with Iraq, and want no part of another war in the Middle East. We did it when Obama announced he was going to bomb Syria: the War Party was taken aback by the sheer spontaneous power of the protest. Many thousands called their congressional representatives and made it crystal clear that they opposed any new war in the region, whether it be on "humanitarian" or "strategic" grounds.

The American people said "Enough!"– "Basta!" – and it’s time for them to do so again, in no uncertain terms. We here at Antiwar.com are asking our readers and supporters to call Congress and tell them under no circumstances should we send even a single soldier to Iraq. Not one penny, not one GI! And please don’t tell me it’s useless because they won’t listen – they did last time, as politician after politician, inundated with calls from angry constituents, backed away from supporting the supposedly imminent bombing of Syria.

We can win – it just requires action on your part. Go here to find the contact information for your representative in the House: go here to find out

The Munk Debate: Worlds in Collision

The much-touted debate on NSA spying sponsored by Canada’s Aurea Foundation between Michael Hayden and Alan Dershowitz on one side and Glenn Greenwald and Alexis Ohanian had few surprises — except for the surprise appearance of Edward Snowden in a video made for the occasion. In it, Snowden explains the power and scope of the National Security Agency: Hayden and Dershowitz spent the rest of the hour and a half or so denying that the pervasive surveillance described by Snowden and Greenwald even exists.

It was a case of worlds in collision – the truth presented by Greenwald/Ohanian and the outright lies of Hayden and Dershowitz. The latter never laid a glove on Greenwald, in spite of their tortured attempts to do so, while Glenn got Hayden good when he attributed Hayden’s contention that we might have stopped the 9/11 attacks if the NSA had its programs in place at the time: Hayden, Glenn averred, was merely covering up his own ineptitude on 9/11, when he was in charge at Ft. Meade. If a cartoonish “Ka-POW!” appeared over Hayden’s head at that point I wouldn’t have been surprised. Another Haydenism: “’Collect is all’ doesn’t mean collect it all!” That provoked a few startled laughs.

The debate cannot even be called a debate because the two sides simply were not talking about the same subject. Hayden-Dershowitz refused to discuss the actually existing NSA spying programs. Dershowitz, instead, insisted on taking what he called a “middle position,” which would involve “some rights violations” in the name of the “greater good.” Hayden, for his part, completely denied that the NSA’s surveillance system was violating anyone’s rights.

“Trust me,” said Hayden – and the audience laughed.

Why Criticize Your Own Government — and leave out others?

This is the answer to the question posed in the title:

“My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that: namely, I can do something about it. So even if the US was responsible for 2% of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2% I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

— Noam Chomsky, cited by Glenn Greenwald

Where Libertarians Should Really Stand on Crimea

John Glaser’s blog post on Crimea is typically American – i.e. it is bathed in unconscious albeit ferocious nationalism.

He starts out by accusing me of excusing “the crimes and misdeeds of foreign regimes that Washington sees as antagonistic.”

The crimes of foreign governments are the responsibility of the people who live in those countries: my critique of their actions has no power to effect any change as far as they are concerned, and it would be pointless for me to tilt at those particular windmills. I live in the United States, which is currently the main danger to peace and freedom in the world. Glaser admits this later when he writes that Ron Paul is “correct, in my opinion, to place criticism of U.S. foreign policy as a priority over that of other governments.” Therefore my criticism is directed at Washington, and yes I do admit – nay, proclaim! – my “grave bias” against the undisputed champion of death and destruction worldwide. The “invasion” of Crimea produced zero casualties: compare that to what happened when we “liberated” Iraq.

The rest of Glaser’s piece consists of hand-wringing over the presence of Russian troops in Crimea – a presence agreed to by Ukraine. If “nobody knows exactly how many” came in after or before the vote, as Glaser puts it, then how do we know there are any “extra” troops present? Glaser doesn’t know, as he admits, yet he uses the word “extra” so as to sound like all the other Washington pundits who sanctimoniously condemn the “invasion.”

But this is just splitting hairs. The underlying reality is that if some past President of the United States had handed over,  say, Maine to Canada on a whim – as Nikita Khrushchev handed Crimea over to Ukraine in 1953 – would anyone in the US dispute the results of a referendum reintegrating it back into the Union?

Glaser whines that some voters weren’t sent mysterious “vouchers” enabling them to vote in the Crimean referendum, but this hardly invalidates the vote. Crimeans have voted repeatedly – when they’ve been allowed to do so – in favor of reunion with Russia, which has held Crimea since the days of Catherine the Great. The last referendum, called by the Crimean parliament in 1992, was stopped by Kiev’s threat of force. The recent referendum was Crimea’s revenge – and good for them!

Glaser continues:

“Crimeans do have a right to self-determination. And they very well may have voted to rejoin Russia even without Moscow’s meddling and military incursions. But it is just a fantasy to believe this is anything other than an interventionist power grab by Russia. Obviously, this doesn’t mean one ought to support U.S. intervention of any kind. But I think it does mean libertarians, when asked directly, should not defend Putin’s regime.”

This paragraph conflates several different issues. Defending the referendum as legitimate has nothing to do with defending “Putin’s regime.” This accusation is a typical smear tactic designed to discredit arguments that cannot be answered by any other means. Putin is a typical statist, but that doesn’t mean his every action on the world stage is to be condemned. For example, he opposed Obama’s plan to bomb Syria: is giving him credit for that “defending Putin’s regime”? By Glaser’s standards – yes. By rational standards – of course not.

Contra Glaser, everything that comes out of Washington is indeed “without merit,” i.e. it is mendacity unadulterated by any meritorious substance, the sole purpose of which is to justify American and European expansionism.

What’s important about Glaser’s contribution to the discussion – so far, at least –is what it leaves out: a years long systematic subversion of Ukrainian politics, with millions of US taxpayer dollars pouring into the coffers of groups and individuals who are little more than Washington’s sock-puppets. He doesn’t mention this at all – yet more evidence of the unconscious American nationalism distorting his view of the Ukrainian events.

The American people have had it with military intervention, and Washington is adapting to this with characteristic quickness: they’re switching to deploying “soft power,” which can be just as deadly as the hard kind.

There was nothing “perfectly respectful” about the vicious attack on Ron Paul by the “President” of Students for the State Department Liberty: like Glaser, he conflated support for Putin’s “regime” with support for the right of the Crimean people to join Russia if they so wish. This is the latest version of the typical neocon accusation that accompanies all their attacks on those of us who oppose their vision of an world dominated by Washington. That Glaser is echoing this pernicious nonsense is sad indeed.

This silly idea that we are obligated to equally condemn the depredations of all governments everywhere is rubbish: it posits a moral equivalence between some Third World hellhole that never respected human rights and never pretended to with a country — the most powerful in the world — that does much worse in the name of “freedom” and “democracy.”

UPDATE: I see here that Glaser is citing Anthony Gregory, who blogs for the Independent Institute, in his defense. But Gregory’s argument is fatally flawed: he cites Tom Paine’s maniacal peroration to the effect that “My country is the world!” A crazy — and completely untrue — statement. This is what the warlords of Washington believe — and act on. But Gregory’s country is most certainly not the world — not if the world has anything to say about it.