They Thought They Were Free

“What no one seemed to notice. . . was the ever widening gap. . .between the government and the people. . . And it became always wider. . . the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway . . . (it) gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about . . .and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated . . . by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. . .

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’. . . must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. . . .Each act. . . is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.

You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone. . . you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ . . .But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. . . .You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father. . . could never have imagined.” :

From Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1938-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

Thanks to Tom Feeley

The Sith and US Empire

What do Ancient Rome, Revolutionary France, The British Empire, The War Between the States, Nazi Germany, Vietnam, the “election” of Viktor Yushchenko and the war on terrorism have to do with Star Wars?

All will be explained on the Weekend Interview Show, Sat. 4-6 est.

The first hour will be me talking and playing clips, and in the second hour, I’ll be talking with Ludwig von Mises Institute Scholar, Mark Thornton all about it.

(Yes, I know I’m a dork)

Update: Arthur Silbur at The Light of Reason has some words for that dumb sonofapodhoretz over at National Review Online who can’t quite figure out these movies made for 10-year-olds.

Update II: Show’s over. Archives here.

Feith in the New Yorker

A Little Learning
What Douglas Feith knew, and when he knew it.
by Jeffery Goldberg

Wow, it turns out that Douglas J. Feith is indeed “the fu***ng stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”

One afternoon, I asked Feith what had gone wrong in Iraq.

“Your assumption is that everything went wrong,” he replied.

I hadn’t said that, but I spoke of the loss of American lives—more than fifteen hundred soldiers, most of whom died after the declared end of major combat operations. This number, I said, strikes many people as a large and terrible loss.

“Based on what?” Feith asked.

I like this part too. Accepting the limitations on his genius, Feith relies on his intellectual mentor for guidence and “sound judgement.” Hint: It’s not Leo Strauss.

“There’s a paradox I’ve never been able to work out,” he said. “It helps to be deeply knowledgeable about an area—to know the people, to know the language, to know the history, the culture, the literature. But it is not a guarantee that you will have the right strategy or policy as a matter of statecraft for dealing with that area. You see, the great experts in certain areas sometimes get it fundamentally wrong.”

I asked Feith if he was talking about himself, and he said, “I am talking about myself in the following sense: expertise is a very good thing, but it is not the same thing as sound judgment regarding strategy and policy. George W. Bush has more insight, because of his knowledge of human beings and his sense of history, about the motive force, the craving for freedom and participation in self-rule, than do many of the language experts and history experts and culture experts.”

To any rational American, this ought to be the final explanation of why we must adopt a non-interventionist foreign policy.

9 Trillion

So? It’s a week old. I missed it, maybe you did too.

The Washington Times: House moves to raise U.S. debt ceiling

Washington, DC, May. 3 (UPI) — The U.S. House has sent legislation to the Senate that would raise the federal debt limit to nearly $9 trillion, a $781 billion increase.

The House agreed to the increase under an automatically executing provision in the 2005 budget resolution approved by the House and Senate late last week.

The House officially sent the Senate a separate piece of debt-relief legislation increasing the limit as mandated by the self-executing provision in the budget resolution.

Gaining approval of the separate bill through the gambit avoided the need for a politically costly debate on the House floor over increasing the debt ceiling again and highlighting the inter-party split on the issue.

Fiscal conservatives within the GOP have been clamoring for greater fiscal discipline on budget matters considering the massive federal deficits, estimated to reach another record in dollar terms this year, for the second consecutive year. [emphasis mine]

How much is $9,000,000,000,000? (nevermind the interest)

One million seconds is about eleven days. One billion seconds is almost thirty-two years. One trillion seconds is 31,546 years

So if the victims of the American tax man can shell out a dollar per second for 283,914 years, our limited republic should be back in the black – as long as we stay out of any more stupid wars.

In Case You Missed It…

The Secret Downing Street Memo
On Sunday, May 1st (fittingly), the Sunday Times reported the existence of a top secret memo from Number 10 Downing Street dated July 23, 2002. It is definitive proof that the “bad intelligence” that fooled the American people and our congressmen into invading Iraq was absolutely, positively, outright lies.

We have all know for some time from Bob Woodward, Paul O’Neil and Richard Clarke that the decision to invade Iraq was made long before the war (in fact, long before September 11th), but now here is absolute proof that the Bush/Blair administration knew good and well that they would have to make up their excuse. That is, “fix the intelligence,” or as those of us in the private sector would say, “lie.”

Please take special note of our government’s willingness to fake an Iraqi casus belli in “Option (b) Running Start.”


From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell


Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam’s regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.


(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)


(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)

For CIA veteran Ray McGovern’s analysis, click here