BA(10): I wish I knew why those terrorist did that. Me: Would it comfort you to know why? BA: It would help me if I understood why. Me: Well, they murdered those people so you would hate Muslims. Like Al (a friend who is Muslim). They want you to hate Al. BA: I would never hate Al. Why do they want me to hate him? Me: They want you to make Al feel hated and attacked. They want you to work for them and make Al feel attacked. Like you are his enemy. They want you to hate Al and attack him so he has to defend himself from you. BA: Why would they want that? Me: They want Al to feel persecuted by you and they can’t do that job. They have to make you do that. They want hate between you. They want Al to hate you and they want Al to join them. BA: I would never hate Al. Me: It doesn’t begin as hate. It begins as fear and distrust. When you fear and distrust your friends and neighbors you are doing the work the terrorists want you to do. You are working for them. BA: If I hate anyone I hate the terrorists. Me: That also serves them. Hate is like a little pile of burning matches. You can not put out that little burning pile of matches by adding your own burning match to it. You must quench hate and more hate does not quench hate. Do you see? BA: Yes. Me: When there is great hatred like there was last night in Paris we are being called to great love and compassion. We are called to love the people who have died and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends who are heartbroken with grief. Love quenches hate. Do you see? BA: They want me to hate and be afraid. Me: Yes. Do you remember those people who came to our church to frighten people? BA: It’s like that. It’s the same thing. Only they didn’t kill us they just tried to scare us. Me: Yes. It’s hate. They want you to hate. When you hate, you are on the side of those who hate.
Me: YS, do you know what a Hydra is? BA (10): It’s a monster. Every time you chop off one of its heads, two grow in its place. Me: How do you know this? BA: Minecraft. In the Twilight Forest there’s a Hydra. Me: Do you know why I’m asking about the Hydra? YS (15): Terrorism? It’s like we’re fighting Hydra. The more we fight, the more heads it makes. Me: So how do you defeat an enemy like that? YS: First you need to stop cutting off the heads. Me: But that doesn’t make it go away. How do you destroy a thing you can’t destroy with an attack? YS: Stop fueling it. Me: What is this Hydra’s fuel? YS: We’ve been giving this Hydra literal weapons, literal training, literal financing. Me: Why did we do this? YS: We thought we could control it so we grew it. Then it spun out of control. Now it’s attacking us. Me: Who are the teeth of the Hydra? YS: Terrorists who carry out the attacks. Me: And what can you tell me about them? YS: They’re mad. They’ve had something done to them. Me: They are called Injustice Collectors and they are easily radicalized. You’re describing something called radicalization. Sometimes what happens is citizens of a country will become radicalized and carry out acts of terror in their own country. People are afraid of immigrants and refugees when actually it’s just as likely to be radicalized citizens who carry out terrorism in their own countries. If someone is running away from terrorism in their own country are they going to become radicalized in their new home? YS: No. They want nothing to do with it. Refugees from ISIS are the anti-ISIS. They have experienced it. Me: What kind of effect will an influx of refugees fleeing ISIS violence have on a population? YS: Those people are not likely to be recruited. They’re going to tell people who could potentially be radicalized that they shouldn’t. They’ve lived it. Me: What else feeds the Hydra? YS: Hatred. Me: When you are hateful to a person they are more willing to be the teeth. How do we make them unwilling to be the teeth? YS: Those people around us that ISIS is targeting for recruitment, we need to show them kindness. Me: That’s what starves Hydra. YS: The state has murdered their people in our name, just like ISIS has murdered people in the name of all Muslims. We have to be kind and think logically. We have to not want to be afraid of these terrorists. Emotional responses don’t get people anywhere. Me: We kind of enjoy being afraid, don’t we? YS: Right. Like gun control. Emotional, irrational responses. There’s a mass shooting and people get scared and the start yelling for gun control. It’s like that. It doesn’t work. Gun control doesn’t stop violent people. It just makes it easier for violent people to be violent. It’s an emotional response. We need to think but emotional responses are a lot of fun for the majority of people.
An amendment to the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would guarantee that no American citizen can be indefinitely detained by the federal government without charges being filed against them.
In 2011, Congress passed the FY 2012 version of the NDAA, which contained a controversial provision that, read broadly, could be used to detain American citizens suspected of terrorism without charges or trail under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against al-Qaeda. The Lee amendment – which is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of senators, including Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. – would resolve the controversy.
“America should never waiver in vigilantly pursuing those who would commit, or plot to commit, acts of treason against our country. But the federal government should not be allowed to indefinitely imprison any American on the mere accusation of treason without affording them the due process guaranteed by our Constitution,” Lee said in a statement released by his office. “By forbidding the government from detaining Americans without trial absent explicit congressional approval, the Due Process Guarantee amendment strikes the right balance between protecting our security and the civil liberties of each citizen.”
“The Constitution does not allow President Obama, or any President, to apprehend an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, and detain these citizens indefinitely without a trial,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another cosponsor of the amendment. “The Due Process Guarantee amendment will prohibit the President’s ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens arrested on American soil without trial or due process.”
“While we must vigorously protect national security by pursuing violent terrorists and preventing acts of terror, we must also ensure our most basic rights as American citizens are protected,” Cruz added.
The Senate is currently debating the FY 2016 version of the NDAA. Votes on amendments will occur over the next few legislative days. The bill passed the House in mid-May by a vote of 269-151.
Hell may have just frozen over. Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 and again from 2001 to 2006, says that President George W. Bush’s attempt to bomb Iraq into accepting “democracy” was “unrealistic.” Rumsfeld made the comments during an interview with The Times of London.
“The idea that we could fashion a democracy in Iraq seemed to me unrealistic. I was concerned about it when I first heard those words,” Rumsfeld told the paper. “I’m not one who thinks that our particular template of democracy is appropriate for other countries at every moment of their histories.”
The comments are surprising. Rumsfeld was one of the major figures promoting the Iraq War. In fact, he was one of prominent administration figures who tried to connect the Middle Eastern country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. In September 2004, Rumsfeld, who has since denied making the connection, said the ties were “not debatable.”
President Bush announced Rumsfeld’s resignation November 8, 2006, a day after Republicans were shellacked at the ballot box in that year’s mid-term election and lost control of both chambers of Congress.
With the rise of the Islamic State and Levant, which has taken control of swaths of Iraq, Rumsfeld may have had a change of heart. The question is, will Republicans currently pushing for war with other countries heed his words?
It’s not likely. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has firmly supplanted himself as one of the top Republican war hawks in the upper chamber, which isn’t an easy task considering that he serves alongside Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Although Cotton is frequently touted as a fiscal conservative, his doesn’t seem to understand that perpetual war is inconsistent with limited government.
Last week, Fred Boenig, an antiwar activist whose son, Austin, committed suicide in May 2010 while serving in the Air Force, confronted Cotton during an event at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Washington, DC.
“I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction,” said Rubio. “But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.”
When a host said that Rubio sounds like he backs nation-building, the freshman Florida Republican said: “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”
That’s a distinction without a difference, senator.
Maybe Rumsfeld’s comments, which are only now getting traction in American media, will put Republican hawks on the defensive, forcing them to answer tough questions about the failed the failed foreign policy Republicans all too frequently promote. But don’t hold your breath.
On Tuesday, the United States Senate gave final passage to the USA Freedom Act, but not without drama on the floor of the upper chamber. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered three amendments that, if passed, would have weakened the bill.
With the support of hawks in the Senate Republican Conference, McConnell proposed amendments that would have increased the transition period from three to six months, removed essential transparency requirements, and required private companies to notify the federal government if they changed their data retention policies. Each of the amendments failed, falling short of the majority needed for passage.
After the USA Freedom Act passed with significant bipartisan support, a visibly irritated McConnell railed against the bill from the floor, lecturing his colleagues that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” doesn’t cover phone records.
“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records,” said McConnell. “And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’”
Part of the legal justification for bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is grounded in a little-known 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the installation of the pen register on the phone of Michael Lee Smith without a warrant was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. But as Jim Harper of the Cato Institute has explained, this interpretation of the case is wildly misleading.
“It is not possible to argue honestly that the facts of Smith are anything like the NSA’s bulk data collection. The police had weighty evidence implicating one man. The telephone company voluntarily applied a pen register, collecting analog information about the use of one phone line by that one suspect,” Harper wrote in August 2013. “I can’t think of a factual situation that could be at a further extreme than NSA’s telephone calling surveillance program.”
Add to Harper’s point that Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allowed only the collection of records related to specific investigation into terrorism. It didn’t permit the bulk collection of all phone records of every American, a fact that was noted recently by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Others, like Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., believe the USA Freedom Act merely shifts the method of bulk collection from the National Security Agency to private phone companies. The USA Freedom Act, Amash said after it passed the House of Representatives in mid-May, “actually expands the statutory basis for the large-scale collection of most data.”
But with debate on the USA Freedom Act now over, at least for now, President Barack Obama’s signature on the bill, some may be asking what’s next. The Guardian reported on Wednesday that the administration is seeking to restart the bulk collection program “temporarily” to transition “the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called ‘call detail records’ the government seeks to access.”
So, just to be clear, the administration will, according to The Guardian, “argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.” Add that one to the growing list of Orwellian statements from this administration, and put it right under “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” and “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
The USA Freedom Act failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate during a session that stretched into the very early hours of Saturday morning. Senators also blocked a two-month extension of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which has been broadly interpreted to allow the National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance on law-abiding Americans, in a showdown between two Kentucky senators.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced substitute language of the USA Freedom Act. The Senate version of the bill is different, Burr says, because it “provides a longer transition period to ensure that the metadata collection process moves properly to the carriers” and “contains a bipartisan approach which would provide the government with advance notice of a carrier’s intent to change its data retention policies.”
The new language of the USA Freedom Act was a nonstarter in the Senate. The upper chamber blocked motion to proceed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on the bill in a 57-42 a vote. The motion required 60 affirmative votes. Even if the Senate did proceed, House Republicans, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., warned that the new language would not have the votes to pass the lower chamber.
“Senator Burr’s proposal to plug the so-called ‘holes’ in the USA FREEDOM Act is dead-on-arrival in the House. His bill is not stronger on national security, it is just much weaker on civil liberties,” Sensenbrenner said on Friday. “This is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to kill the USA FREEDOM Act, which passed the House 338-88.”
“If the Senate coalesces around this approach, the result will be the expiration of important authorities needed to keep our country safe,” he added.
McConnell tried to move forward with a simple two-month reauthorization of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which expires on May 31. McConnell could muster only 45 votes, far short of the 60 votes required.
The scene got even more interesting when McConnell began making motions for unanimous consent to shorten the length of extension of the provision. The Republican leader first tried to extend the provision to June 8, but his home-state colleague, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was not having it.
“Reserving the right to object, we have entered into a momentous debate. This is a debate about whether or not a warrant with a single name of a single company can be used to collect all the records, all of the phone records of all of the people in our country with a single warrant,” said Paul. “Our forefathers would be aghast. One of the things they despised was general warrants.”
Paul has proposed a series of amendments to any attempt to reauthorize Section 215, including giving Fourth Amendment protections to records held by third parties and placing limitations on Section 213, the so-called “sneak-and-peek” provision, to only terrorism and espionage investigations.
“I started out the day with a request for six amendments; I’m willing to compromise to having two amendments at a simple majority vote,” Paul stated before objecting to McConnell’s consent agreement. “I think that’s a very reasonable position, and if we can’t have that and we can’t have an extensive debate over something we’ve had four years to prepare for.”
Blocked by Paul, McConnell tried to shorten the reauthorization to June 5. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., objected. McConnell tried again, proposing extension to June 3. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., blocked him. McConnell tried one last time, shortening the date to June 2. Paul objected.
Seeing no path forward on reauthorization early Saturday morning, McConnell conferred with Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on how they should proceed with reauthorization as the Senate entered into a week-long recess.
Shortly before the Senate moved onto other business before recessing for the week, McConnell announced that members would come back to Washington on Sunday, May 31 for a final chance to reauthorize Section 215.
Whether the opposition seen on Saturday morning will last through the week or some sort of agreement will be worked out between Paul and Republican leadership to allow him to offer amendments remains is unclear. But the scene in the Senate was encouraging for those passionate about the protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The 10-hour marathon speech by Rand Paul, the freshman Kentucky Republican senator, may not technically be considered a filibuster, but it served an important purpose, nonetheless, as the upper chamber seeks to close out its business before going into a week-long Memorial Day recess.
The Senate was in the midst of a debate over the proposed Trade Promotion Authority on Wednesday when, at 1:18 PM, Paul rose from his desk and began speaking against the Patriot Act, executive overreach, and the National Security Agency.
This was Paul’s second filibuster, loosely speaking, since he took office. In February 2013, the Kentucky Republican, for nearly 13 hours, filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency over the Obama administration’s use of drones to target American citizens.
“There comes to a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer. That time is now,” Paul declared on Wednesday. “And I will not let the Patriot Act, the most un-patriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”
Paul was joined by 10 of his colleagues, including Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Senator Ron Wyden and Joe Manchin, both of whom are Democrats.
Whether Paul’s latest marathon can be considered a filibuster is irrelevant. There was a method to his madness. Some, such as Reason’s Scott Shackford, have speculated that Paul and Wyden, both vigorous opponents of the Patriot Act, hope to include amendments to make the USA Freedom Act, which has already passed the House of Representatives, a stronger bill.
Paul did state that he plans to propose amendments to the bill, which is backed by Cruz and Lee, to ensure that the privacy of Americans is protected. But Wednesday’s speech may have served another purpose.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act is set to expire at the end of May, the Senate may not have enough time on the clock to pass what is expected to be a very close vote for reauthorization. Rather than the nearly six year extension of the Patriot Act that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, may be forced to settle for a short-term reauthorization to avoid sunset of the controversial provision. Paul, who opposes the USA Freedom Act without stronger provisions, would prefer to run out the clock on the provision, letting it expire.
The situation is fluid because McConnell has floated keeping the Senate in session through the Memorial Day weekend to strong-arm reauthorization, but most observers have speculated that there are not the votes to bypass a filibuster, with many members of both parties expressing a desire for reform.
Whether Section 215 survives is fluid at the moment, but Paul’s speech has already had a huge impact. The Department of Justice issued a statement on the status of the NSA’s illegal surveillance program.
“After May 22, 2015,” the release said as reported by the Associated Press, “the National Security Agency will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata program in anticipation of a possible sunset in order to ensure that it does not engage in any unauthorized collection or use of the metadata.”
It may be too early to declare victory, but it’s certainly within reach.
TAX KARMA: “I’m at the breaking point. It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes. I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.” — Austin, Texas artist Gretchen Gardner at an Austin town hall meeting. She fears that the rising local taxes she voted for will drive her out of her home. First quoted in the Austin-American Statesman, May 31, 2014, then widely disseminated.
WAR FOREVER: “I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” — former Obama Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, explaining why he thinks the U.S. war with ISIS must be extended to Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere, for decades. Quoted in “Key Democrats, Led by Hillary Clinton, Leave No doubt that Endless War Is Official U.S. Doctrine” by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, October 7, 2014.
MERCHANTS OF DEATH CHEER ENDLESS WAR: “Led by Lockheed Martin Group (LTM), the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world… the four largest Pentagon contractors…rose 19 percent this year through yesterday, outstripping the 2.2 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Industrials Index…investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq…” — journalist Richard Clough, “Syria-to-Ukraine Wars Send U.S. Defense Stocks to Records,” Bloomberg, September 25, 2014. (Hat tip to FirstLook.org)
KUCINICH VS. OBAMA: “Qatar and Saudi Arabia can now overtly join with the U.S. in striking Syria, after they have been covertly attempting for years to take down the last secular state in the region. We are now advancing the agenda of the actual Islamic States — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — to fight the ersatz Islamic State of ISIS. …What does this have to do with the security of the 50 States United? Nothing!” — Dennis Kucinich, former 16-year member of Congress and two-time presidential candidate, “The Real Reason We Are Bombing Syria,” Sept. 23, 2014.
WHICH ENEMIES SHOULD WE SUPPORT? “The U.S. government has been intervening in the Middle East for more than half a century under the pretext of achieving peace. But things just keep getting worse. We must stop stoking conflicts that tear countries apart, stop dropping bombs, and stay out of the region. Democratic and Republican politicians have meddled so extensively in the Middle East that they’re now in the ludicrous position of siding with very recent U.S. enemies: Iran, Assad, and al-Qaeda, all of whom oppose the Islamic State.” — Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian Party National Committee, “Libertarian Party urges lawmakers to get out, stay out of Iraq and Syria,” press release, September 9, 2014.
DRUG WAR POLICE STATE: “Thanks to the Drug War, merely on the whim of saying that they smell something, cops are now able to enter homes, search cars and totally violate the rights of nonviolent people. The Drug War and terrorism are the two biggest excuses used to violate people’s rights, yet according to the national safety council you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. The very existence of the Drug War to begin with, or a prohibition on any object is a fundamental violation of natural rights that should not exist in any civilized society.” — John G. Vibes, “8 Reasons to End Prohibition of All Drugs Immediately,” The Art of Not Being Government website, October 2, 2014.
THE FREE PRESS: “Political reporters are complaining that the White House has been asking them to edit some of their stories to make the president look better. The White House said that’s not true, and those reporters should please change what they said.” — Jimmy Fallon, Sept. 25, 2014.
“We Must Demilitarize the Police” is the title of a bold article by Sen. Rand Paul at TIME.com.
Written as the troubles in riot-torn Ferguson, Missouri were escalating, Paul says:
“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable — though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.
“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action. …
“There is a systemic problem with today’s law enforcement. Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
“This is usually done in the name of fighting the War on Drugs or terrorism. …
“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury — national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture — we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”
Paul quoted others who share these concerns:
Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): “Soldiers and police are supposed to be different. … But nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians.”
Walter Olson (Cato Institute): “Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? … Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that ‘We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone’?”
Evan Bernick (Heritage Foundation): “The Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment. … federal agencies of all stripes, as well as local police departments in towns with populations less than 14,000, come equipped with SWAT teams and heavy artillery. …
“Bossier Parish, Louisiana, has a .50 caliber gun mounted on an armored vehicle. The Pentagon gives away millions of pieces of military equipment to police departments across the country — tanks included.”
Concludes Sen. Paul: “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. … Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”
For more libertarian critiques on Ferguson, see “Where Are the Libertarians on Ferguson? Here, LMGTFY,” by Elizabeth Nolan Brown, The Dish, Aug. 14, 2014.
Radley Balko, a libertarian journalist who writes for the Washington Post, has a great recent book on the dangers of U.S. police militarization, Rise of the Warrior Cop. You can read a lengthy excerpt from it here.
“Blowback” is a term that originated in the CIA in 1954. It originally referred to the unintended consequences of a covert foreign operation — consequences that are often suffered by the civilians of the nation whose government instigated the covert operation. This “blowback” may take the form of riots, demonstrations, hostage-taking, terrorist attacks, and similar hostile actions. The civilians on the receiving end of the blowback don’t realize that it was their own government’s secret activities that caused the anger and violence being directed against them.
Blowback is a term heard more and more when discussing foreign policy. And its definition is often expanded to include overt as well as covert foreign interventions that have negative consequences.
Ron Paul helped popularize the concept of blowback, as well as the word itself, during his GOP presidential campaign runs. For example, in the 2008 Republican presidential primary debates in South Carolina, he introduced it this way:
“I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’ When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the shah, yes, there was blowback. A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages, and that persists. And if we ignore [blowback], we ignore that at our own risk. If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem. They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there. I mean, what would we think… if other foreign countries were doing that to us?”
Scholar Chalmers Johnson also popularized the term in an influential trilogy of books: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2005); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2006).
Johnson defines the term and tells about the operation that led the CIA to use it:
“’Blowback’ is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression to the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided ‘covert operation’ of the U.S. government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”
Blowback is a useful word in describing the unintended, but often terrible, consequences of foreign intervention.
But it is a very useful term for discussing domestic policy as well.
Just like foreign intervention, domestic government intervention has many unintended negative consequences. As the word “blowback” becomes a familiar, popular, colorful pejorative in foreign policy discussions, it is also beginning to be used to describe the unintended destructive consequences of domestic government activities.
Libertarians — who are very aware of the negative unintended consequences of government domestic policy — can use the word blowback to add power and color to our discussions of domestic issues.
“An increase in the minimum wage would lead to blowback in the form of the loss of hundreds of thousands of desperately needed entry level jobs. This blowback would hit the most vulnerable people in our economy: the low-paid, the unemployed, the under-educated, minorities, and the young.”
“Blowback from the War on Drugs includes crowded prisons and wasted law enforcement resources, overdoses from impure street drugs, the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis B and C from shared needles, drugs peddled to children, loss of fundamental Bill of Rights civil liberties, the enriching of violent criminal gangs, the funding of terrorism, drive-by shootings by warring drug gangs… and more.”
“The blowback from government welfare programs includes the break-up of families, multi-generational poverty, dependence on government, and a weakening of the vital role that voluntarily-funded charities play in our society.”
There are innumerable further possibilities.
Blowback is a powerful, provocative word that quickly and colorfully conveys a vital concept. Many people realize its significance in the foreign policy realm. Their ears will perk up, and they may reach new understanding, when you apply it to domestic policy as well.
Bad ideas never seem to go away. The Republican House leadership has unveiled brand-new “Immigration Reform Principles” — and the pro-liberty organization Campaign for Liberty reports this proposal resurrects once again the foul idea of a national ID.
In a section entitled “Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement” the plan says: “In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.”
This, warns Campaign for Liberty, will require a new national ID card based on Social Security cards — cards that would:
* Be tied to a national database containing biometric identification information, potentially including fingerprints, retinal scans, or scans of veins on the back of your hands, which could easily be used for government tracking.
* Be required for all U.S. workers regardless of place of birth, making it illegal for anyone to hold a job in the United States who doesn’t obtain this ID card;
* Require all employers to purchase an “ID scanner” to verify the ID cards with the federal government. Every time any citizen applies for a job, the government would know — and, warns Campaign for Liberty, it’s only a matter of time until ID scans will be required to make even routine purchases, as well.
Further, according to Campaign for Liberty President John Tate, this sets us up for a swift slide down a steep slippery slope:
“Gun ownership, health records, purchasing habits, religious beliefs — virtually anything you could dream up could all be added to this massive national ID database.
“And doing so wouldn’t even require a vote by Congress. Instead, it could happen with a simple stroke of a president’s pen.
“This is exactly the type of battle that often decides whether a country remains free or continues down a slide toward tyranny.”
Terrorism, border control, immigration reform, voter fraud, gun control, insurance, health care… seems like every year Congress discovers yet another urgent new reason why we need a national ID.
Liberty-minded folks across the political spectrum have denounced the insidious dangers of these schemes. See Wired, the ACLU, Reason, and the conservative Rutherford Institute, for starters.
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