Posts tagged War

Re: Nick Hogan jailed for 6 months

[Google Reader comment on shared article Nick Hogan Jailed for 6 Months.]

It is certainly evil to imprison a man for allowing smoking on his own damn property. However, I certainly don’t know why I am supposed to wax indignant at either of the following cases in which people who did real damage were acquitted:

“Two anti-nuclear protesters who entered a dockyard planning to disarm one of Britain’s Trident submarines with an axe were yesterday cleared of conspiracy to cause criminal damage.”

“Four women walked free from Liverpool Crown Court yesterday after a jury found them not guilty of criminal charges despite their admission that they did more than pounds 1.5m worth of damage to a Hawk warplane.”

Well. Good for them. I’m glad they are free. Nobody should be imprisoned for damaging the war machines of government militaries. Those war machines are used to threaten or inflict death on innocent people throughout the world, and the government militaries that purchase and maintain them are hyperviolent criminal organizations, funded by coercion and habitually dealing out destruction. Government militaries have no legitimate property rights to anything, and where there’s no property rights there are no identifiable victims. Where there’s no victim, there’s no crime.

The people who engaged in these direct actions against government “property” (property in name only, derived entirely from coercive taxation) — these people, I say, are heroes, not criminals, and shouldn’t be locked up for even a minute. The more people can get away with disabling or destroying the State’s hideous war machines, the better.

Re: Howard Zinn R.I.P.


Well, don’t look so surprised. It’s not exactly unusual for Lew Rockwell to say kind things about anti-war revisionist historians, including those on the populist Left. He’ll typically say kind things about almost anyone who he thinks is on the right side of the war issue.

Re: This is What a Feminist Army Looks Like, II

Feminist Majority’s material on Afghanistan has been pretty uniformly confused-to-awful since December 2001. It doesn’t even have much to do with the Obama administration; their basic tone was established as soon as U.S. troops entered Kandahar, and hasn’t changed much if at all since Obama was elected. I think it has more to do with FMF’s politicos not wanting to set themselves squarely against the warfare state when they think that they might somehow be able to leverage it.

However, Alex Jones notwithstanding, I think that lumping Code Pink in with FMF on Afghanistan is awfully unfair to Code Pink. They’re one of the few major national antiwar coalitions that’s still staging regular protest actions at all, and opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan has been their central campaign since about November 2008. (Code Pink has also promoted RAWA, as an organization, in their anti-occupation campaigns; see for example how just this past month they promoted, and sponsored the Southern California stop for, an anti-occupation speaking tour by a representative from RAWA. They also run one of the few national campaigns against the bombing of Pakistan.) Does this reportback / action alert from the recent Afghan delegation really read like a group that’s just forgotten about the effects of war and occupation on women in the warzone?

Re: You’re On, Balko

Jeff: I have a little bit more of a social-contract view of taxation. If you live here, you’re bound somewhat by the will of the majority, and if the majority wants to deficit spend a little temporarily, you should pay the taxes to support it. This will-of-the-majority stuff is a dangerous road to tread, of course, but I’d hope a broad enough reading of the Constitution provides protection against tyrannies of the majority.

Well, since this conversation has been about setting out limits, what I’d be interested to hear from you is how far the suppression of minority preferences by the majority would have to go before you considered it “tyranny.” How gravely do my wishes have to be violated in order to satisfy the wishes of the majority, before I count as being tyrannized?

For example, do profound violations of conscience count? I ask because one of the things the Constitution clearly has not protected me from, and could not plausibly be expected to protect me from (given the basic list of enumerated powers) is being forced, by the will of the majority, to provide taxes that materially support the U.S. government’s wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am forced to cover the costs of these wars even though I oppose them as a matter of conscience; even though I consider what is being done with my money nothing short of an act of mass murder being carried out against innocent people. Set aside for the moment the question of whether or not you agree with me on the wars — I’m new to your blog so I wouldn’t know. But given that I believe what I believe does the fact that majoritarian politics has forced me to pay for acts that so fundamentally violate my conscience that I would die before committing or facilitating them voluntarily — from Bagram to Fallujah to Abu Ghraib — does that rise to the level of being tyrannized? If not, what would?

Jeff: … paying taxes is part of the social contract you’re in by living here. If you don’t want to have the government offer a service, fine, but if a majority of your fellow citizens do want that service offered, you’re bound to pay for it by that contract. By instituting a government, we’ve agreed to fund our collective endeavors. It’s up to the voters and their representatives to figure out what, exactly, those endeavors are.

Well, wait. Who’s the “we” here? I didn’t institute a government; I was never asked, and if asked, I would have declined. So if I’m not part of the “we” who instituted the government, how did I end up part of the “we” who allegedly agreed to the taxes and spending?

Re: Seriously? Do people not get what taxes are for?


If I’d been able to make it to my local Tea Party, I would have done so, unironically.

The reason I would have done so is that I don’t approve of 30% of my income being taken away from me in order to fund the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to blow up innocent people in foreign countries. Or to throw a few trillion dollars at failing corporations, so as to force me and my fellow workers to cover the costs of their bad investments, all for the explicit purpose of trying to use the force of the state to preserve the economic status quo.

Of course, you could say, “Well, aren’t there some things the government does that you do find useful?” Sure; I drive on the roads like everyone else. But if you total up the numbers, the government is spending more money — a lot more, by several orders of magnitude — on things that I find foolish, destructive, or morally appalling, than it is on things that genuinely help people. If I had a choice, I would certainly be happy to direct my money money away from the government’s war-machine and its corporate bail-out machine and direct a fair amount of that of my money towards things like roads and liberal education and mutual aid for my fellow workers. But, then, if I had a choice, we wouldn’t be talking about taxes anymore. We’d be talking about donations. The distinguishing feature of taxation is precisely the fact that the government makes me pay taxes in, whether or not I approve of the uses that they’ll be put to; and that I have no direct control over what purposes the government puts my money towards.

Re: Being upset about taxation a luxury, and not just a luxury for the rich.

Well, I can speak only for myself, not for American political culture as a whole. But I oppose and hate taxes because taxes pay for the government. I’m an anarchist, so I oppose and hate the government. So I also oppose and hate the taxes that make it possible.

You mention that taxes pay for social welfare programs. Sure they do; they also pay for missiles to blow up houses in Pakistan and for bombs to murder Iraqi children with. You might say that what you’d like to do is to pay in for the welfare and not pay in for the warfare. I’m sure you would; so would I. But if you got to pick and choose which projects your money went to, that would be a fine thing, but it wouldn’t be taxes anymore, would it? If you get to choose where it goes, then it’s voluntary mutual aid, and for that you need neither a government nor taxes, which necessarily entail that money is taken from people and put to purposes which the government, not those people, decide on.

Take this example: a village council decides that the farmers who live there have to give a certain percentage of their grain crops for a common grain storehouse for use in emergencies. The chief and elders request it and it’s done by the citizens. This is an example of taxation.

No it’s not. Tax collectors don’t “request”; they threaten. If people voluntarily agree to support a common project, then you’re not describing taxation anymore. You’re describing donations.

Re: Fuck the troops!


Each and every US serviceperson today who is not deserting, refusing to follow orders or turning their weapons on their commanders in, in fact, a criminal, and one for whom we should feel neither sympathy nor pity, let alone the specious solidarity of “support the troops” when it’s those same “troops” who are carrying out slaughter, destruction and torture in our name.

While I absolutely agree with you about the bankruptcy of uncritical “support the troops” appeals, I think that the question of willingness and criminality are a bit more complicated than that.

To the extent that soldiers willingly engage in deliberate violence against innocent people, they are certainly complicit in the crime and should be held accountable. But it’s not quite true that all soldiers in the U.S. military are “willing agents” or “volunteers” unless they “desert or disobey.” Everywhere else in the world besides the military, when someone willingly signs on for a job, they can always quit later if they have second thoughts about either the job in general, or about specific requirements imposed on them by their employers. But in the military these are treated as crimes, and can be punished by death if the government so chooses. Soldiers, even so-called “volunteers,” who want to leave the military, but are coerced into staying by the threat of imprisonment or death, should not be considered willing participants, any more than should victims of the draft.

That’s not an excuse for soldiers who directly commit acts of violence against innocents; nothing can excuse that, even if you were drafted rather than “volunteering,” and you should be willing to face imprisonment or death before, say, gunning down a child or a family on patrol. (That’s true of conscripts no less than it’s true of “volunteers.”) But it does make the situation a lot less clear-cut a case of “willing agency” when it comes to, say, a payroll officer or a mechanic or a truck driver, who is coerced into playing some role in the war machine but is not directly committing violence.

Now, that said, on the question of uncritical blanket “support the troops” messages, and moral responsibility, I agree with you, and it reminded me a lot of something really valuable that Utah Phillips said, at the time of the first Gulf War:

I spend a lot of time these days going to demonstrations and vigils, talking to people who support the war. They can be pretty threatening. But I always find there are people there–and I don’t mean policemen, but there are people there who will protect you. I don’t go there to shout or to lecture, but to ask questions. Real questions. Questions I really need answers to.

When I joined the Army, it was kind of like somebody that I had been brought up to respect, wearing a suit and a tie, and maybe a little older, in my neighborhood. Think about yourself in your neighborhood, and this happened to you. He walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulder, and said, See that fellow on the corner there? He’s really evil, and has got to be killed. Now, you trust me; you’ll go do it for me, won’t you? Now, the reasons are a little complicated; I won’t bother to explain, but you go and do it for me, will you?

Well, if somebody did that to you in your neighborhood, you’d think it was foolish. You wouldn’t do it. Well, what makes it more reasonable to do it on the other side of the world? That’s one question.

Well, now hook it into this. If I was to go down into the middle of your town, and bomb a house, and then shoot the people coming out in flames, the newspapers would say, Homicidal Maniac! The cops would come and they’d drag me away; they’d say You’re responsible for that! The judge’d say, You’re responsible for that; the jury’d say You’re responsible for that! and they would give me the hot squat or put me away for years and years and years, you see? But now exactly the same behavior, sanctioned by the State, could get me a medal and elected to Congress. Exactly the same behavior. I want the people I’m talking to to reconcile that contradiction for themselves, and for me.

The third question–well I take that one a lot to peace people. There’s a lot of moral ambiguity going on around here, with the peace people who say, Well, we’ve got to support the troops, and then wear the yellow ribbon, and wrap themselves in the flag. They say, Well, we don’t want what happened to the Vietnam vets to happen to these vets when they come home–people getting spit on. Well, I think it’s terrible to spit on anybody. I think that’s a consummate act of violence. And it’s a terrible mistake, and I’m really sorry that happened. But what did happen? Song My happened; My Lai happened; the defoliation of a country happened; tons of pesticides happened; 30,000 MIAs in Vietnam happened. And it unhinged some people–made them real mad. And what really, really made them mad, was the denial of personal responsibility–saying, I was made to do it; I was told to do it; I was doing my duty; I was serving my country. Well, we’ve already talked about that.

Now, it is morally ambiguous to wrap yourself in the flag and to wear those ribbons. And it borders on moral cowardice. I don’t mean to sound stern; well, yes I do, but what does the Nuremberg declaration say? There’s no superior order that can cancel your conscience. Nations will be judged by the standard of the individual. Look, the President makes choices. The Congress makes choices. The Chief of Staff makes choices. The officers make choices. All those choices percolate down to the individual trooper with his finger on the trigger. The individual private with his thumb on the button that drops the bomb. If that trigger doesn’t get pulled, if that button doesn’t get pushed, all those other choices vanish as if they never were. They’re meaningless. So what is the critical choice? What is the one we’ve got to think about and get to? And, friends, if that trigger gets pulled–if that button gets pushed, and that dropped bomb falls–and you say I support the troops, you’re an accomplice. I don’t want to be an accomplice; do you?

And I don’t want to dehumanize anyone. I don’t want to take away anybody’s humanity. Humans are able to make moral decisions–moral, ethical decisions. What do we tell the trooper who pulls the trigger, or the soldier who turns the wheel that releases oil into the Persian Gulf, that they’re not responsible–just following orders, just doing their duty, have no choice–bypassing them, making them a part of the machine, we deny them their humanity, their responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. Look, I’ve been a soldier. I don’t want any moral loophole. I need to take personal responsibility for my actions. And if we don’t learn how to do this, we’re going to keep on going to war again, and again, and again.

Utah Phillips (1992): from The Violence Within, I’ve Got To Know

More Orwell; perhaps apropos

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as keeping out of politics. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer….

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language (1946)

Re: You Reap What You Sow

I didn’t say that so-called “volunteer” soldiers aren’t responsible for their actions while in the military, or that the government’s coercion against them excuses immoral actions. I said that they aren’t actually willing volunteers. Willing volunteers are free to withdraw their decision to volunteer if they repent, or get scared, or have second thoughts. Soldiers aren’t.

Re: You Reap What You Sow

These are willing volunteers who have pledged their lives to the nation state. They are nothing less than his partners in crime.

To the extent that soldiers willingly engage in deliberate violence against innocent people, they are certainly complicit in the crime and should be held accountable.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s quite true that all soldiers in the American military are “willing volunteers.” Normally when someone willingly signs on for a job, they can always quit later if they have second thoughts about either the job in general, or about specific requirements imposed on them by their employers. Everywhere else in the world besides the military, this is called “quitting.” In the military it’s called “desertion” and it can be treated as a hanging crime if the government so chooses.

Soldiers, even so-called “volunteers,” who want to leave the military, but are coerced into staying by the threat of imprisonment or death, should not be considered willing participants, any more than victims of the draft should.