Random Rants, by Thomas Andrew Olson

Thursday, September 14, 2006

9/11 Retrospective, Part 4

[This is the fourth in a series of retrospective articles originally posted to my personal website on Lycos/Tripod in 2001, concerning my thoughts on the events of five years ago, as they unfolded at the time]

The Madness of King George

New York, March 21, 2002

Dr. Strangelove has taken over the Administration.

Our government's recent proclamation that it will now consider the nuclear option against states that do not possess weapons of mass destruction of any kind has got to send shivers of both fear and anger rippling throughout the entire world.

In our rabid, ill-thought-out "war on terror", it would seem that no action on our part is too egregious, morally bankrupt, or downright insane to be left off the table. The Doomsday Clock has returned - with a vengeance - just when we thought it was safe to live our lives again.

I can't help but remember that the US is the one sitting on 10,000 warheads, and has been the only nation to use nuclear weapons aggressively against a civilian population. There is a grave responsibility that comes with that, and we are now prepared to abrogate it, it seems, and plunge the world into another "defensive" arms race. So who's the "terrorist" here? It was one thing to use nukes as a deterrent, as a force of last resort during the Cold War, in the unlikely event of the USSR launching a massive pre-emptive strike against us. But now it would appear the Administration seeks merely to restore the illusion of invincibility we all had prior to 9/11.

We start with "strategic missile defense". Yes, we've had a couple of victories there. In four separate tests, the anti-missile hit the target. What happens when there are thousands of targets, and even more thousands of decoys? This may sound like some to be un-American on my part, but I hope the damn thing fails. How might this government behave if they thought no one could touch them? Imagine the US having all the big guns, with no one able to shoot back. Now imagine yourself living in China or Russia...or Canada, for that matter. How "safe" will an American truly feel, knowing that everyone hates them, even their "friends"?

At that point, we will have become the Evil Empire, and we all know from history what happens to empires - they collapse from the weight of their own hubris. Always. Every time. No exceptions. Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ottoman, British, Soviet. Find me one political and economic empire that withstood the test of time. Just one. There isn't one. If the entire world, simply from a sense of self-preservation, decides that 'enough is enough" and bands together against the US, all the posturing, technology, and nukes in our arsenal won't save us.

And do you think, even if successful, this grand plan would help preserve civil liberties at home? Forget it. Every "crisis" in our history has been used as a lame excuse by the political class to further render the Constitution a meaningless piece of paper, and this one is the worst yet. "Homeland Security"?? Wasn't that what the Defense Department was supposed to be for?? No, folks, Tom Ridge's main task will be to help other Federal agancies more effectively cow into silence any sort of resistance movement before it can gather critical mass. Today the airports - tomorrow, Interstate 80. When they are "checking your papers" at every state border and highway tollbooth, you will know Hitler's dream has finally arrived. And guess what? You volunteered - right there in that Florida voting booth.

And please don't sanctimoniously complain to me that you didn't vote for the current administration. If you'd actually get your heads out of the nether regions and actually LOOK at the records of your senators and congress-clones, you would realize that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, there hasn't been for decades, and both sides, regardless of who's "in" at the time, has been heading for the same program: total power and control over just about everything. If you can show me where the Bill of Rights fits into that plan, I have a bridge to sell you. I hate to suggest this, but Al Gore would have done almost exactly the same things. Haven't you seen him over the last few months, at speaking engagements, proclaiming in that stentorian judgemental voice of his that we should all support the President? He is a child of the System, the one that has fed and nurtured him his entire life, the System he still dreams of being in charge of, someday; so he must maintain the Grand Illusion.

But despite all the Fed, neo-con and Big Media efforts to stifle or marginalize the truth, there is a growing crowd of people who want to return America back to the philosophical roots the Founding Fathers envisioned, people like those who write for lewrockwell.com, givemeliberty.org, antiwar.com, lneilsmith.com, Counterpunch, and to a lesser extent, self-proclaimed electronic "samizdat" like myself and Fred Reed (fredoneverything.com). Read these sites. Find others. Support the ones you like the most financially, if you can. Most importantly, spread the word.

I find it ironic that the punditry was proclaiming with King George's coronation that the Federal government finally had adults back in charge, after 8 years of Clinton. Well, apparently these "adults" now want to give the whole world a spanking, whether it deserves it or not. No, ladies and gentlemen - this Administration, if it keeps doing what it's doing, will lead us all in their madness to the abyss. I, for one, will not step off the edge with them. How about you?

9/11 Retrospective, Part 3

[This is the third in a series of retrospective articles originally posted to my personal website on Lycos/Tripod in 2001, concerning my thoughts on the events of five years ago, as they unfolded at the time]


Marshalls Creek, PA, December 21st, 2001

If I didn't understand what it was like to be a minority before, I certainly do now.

I've been away for quite some time, looking at the world erupting around me and trying to make some sort of twisted sense of it all. The pace of events have precluded the kind of sober, rational intellectual exercise that is needed today - if what the professional pundits are spewing are any indication. As America seemed to dictate to Bush on 9/11, "do something...NOW!", the amassed punditry seem to be toiling under a similar dictum: "say something...anything...but say it NOW!" Never mind that what they're saying is utterly self serving, moronic, and only leads to more strife and unrest abroad and the crushing of civil liberties at home.

I haven't been totally absent from this page. I have contemplated - and even started upon - several articles over this time, but events seemed to get ahead of me, and the topics seemed passe before they could even be posted.

The first such I titled "America's Truth". It was a short treatise about how we, like Rome before us, repeated history by selling ourselves down the river from Republic to Empire; along with a running tally of all the civilian deaths our government - in your names and with your tax dollars - were responsible for: somewhere above 3 million over the last 100 years, from the Phillipines to Latin America to Japan to Korea, to VietNam, on and on and on.

Another I called "Conspiracies for Breakfast". It detailed the shady history of the political class when it comes to hegemony over critical resources, like oil. The Bush and Cheney families were paricular targets, as it is becoming common knowledge - at least in the foreign press - that our real agenda in Afghanistan was the construction of an oil and gas pipeline through there from Tajikistan. It would have been funded by China, built with aid from Iran, Pakistan and India, with American firms like Cheney's Haliburton pocketing the obscene consulting fees. The Taliban were standing in the way of all that "progress", so the US needed an excuse to get rid of them. Osama gave it one. Now - surprize, surprize - the Taliban have been deposed, we're mopping up the resistance, and everyone from Rumsfeld on down is claiming that "Osama wasn't the primary target", that we'll get him someday, but that wasn't the main reason we were in there. Soon you will see all these people lining up for the photo op as the new pipeline deal is announced, which will "bring undreamed of prosperity to the Afghan people" - the same people they wanted to screw over 4 years ago. Well, now that we've blasted their country to smithereens, I'm sure they'll be happy to accept any crumbs we'll toss their way. I may write these columns yet - in another format, someday. But suffice to say that for now, there have been plenty of others who have written the same things on these topics for those who wish to search for them - thus easing my "samizdat" conscience for the nonce.

Meantime, however, anyone - particularly those brave souls at LewRockwell.com - who dares to speak the ugly truths that surround us, or happen to disagree completely with government policy at this juncture, are dismissed by the official propagandists as the "blame America first crowd". What the hell does THAT mean?? Are we just supposed to go mindlessly along and live with the delusion that our own government, for the last 60+ years, in our names and with our tax dollars, has never performed ANY action against ANY nation that would incite some people to attack us? Are we supposed to act the role of the morally superior innocent? If so, it would seem that 90% of the public that engages in polls, at least, are sticking their collective heads in the sand.

It's depressing to think that every time since nine-one-one, when we reached a fork in the decision path, the Bush team took the wrong one - and again, if you believe the polls, a vast majority of Americans think his road is just fine, thanks.

Did we have to bomb Afghanistan, and forcibly remove the Taliban from power? No, we didn't, at least not if our goal was truly to get Bin Laden. As a "war against terror" is a conflict against an organized, well-financed and equipped underground network who know no single nation (and are accepted by few), our best chance at this would have been to keep the troops, ships, planes and choppers home, and, as I suggested in a previous article, do some good old fashioned espionage and police work, ferreting out the wrong-doers and bringing them to justice in a global forum. We didn't need to destroy a country - we only needed to render it irrelevant. We could have "bombed" the Afghani people with food, warm clothes, blankets, and small TVs with a satellite connection. Once the protein hit their brains they would have had the Taliban on the run all on their own.

Did we have to set fire to the Bill of Rights in order to achieve "security" at home? Of course not. In actual fact, the "problem" of airline passengers armed with boxcutters taking control of commercial airliners and crashing them into skyscrapers was solved within the first two hours of the initial occurence - by self-governing, concerned individuals, working with adequate information in a collaborative, open-source environment - I'm referring, of course, to Flight 93. Perhaps if they had even an extra hour or two of lead time, they could have found a way to save their own lives. Point being, all these extra "security" checks performed at airports, searching granny in Minnesota and confiscating her nail file are worse than useless. A "national ID card" is just another attempt to micromanage every aspect of American's lives, and those few Americans left who still have some cojones will resist it. I know I will.

Many of my wife's colleagues at work are natives of Britain, Ireland, or west Europe, and have suggested in casual conversation that "we'll just have to get used to it, and live like the rest of the world does". What utter drivel. We are Americans - we don't WANT to live like the rest of the world. That's why people all over "the rest of the world" are still clamoring to LEAVE there, come HERE, and build better lives for themselves. Of course, if the Constitution IS set ablaze, and Team Bush succeeds in turning America into a banana-republic-police-state (something the political class of BOTH parties have wanted for decades), it will end the immigration problem, as the desire to come here will virtually cease. If we allow ourselves to become "like everyone else" there will be no need to leave home, will there?

In the end, folks, "security" is an illusion, especially the way it's being handled right now by those who have the illusion of being "in charge". You want security? We need MORE freedom, not less of it. We need LESS government, not more of it. We need to reestablish a foreign policy that virtually guarantees terrorist attacks will cease - ironically, the same policy first expressed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson: peace, and free trade with all, entangling alliances with none.

Every time we've taken a collective step in the last 3+ months, it has been the wrong one. We are talking about taking out Saddam again, when we should be lifting sanctions and getting our military out of Saudi Arabla. We are letting the Israelis get away with murder in the occupied territories when we should be cutting off the entire region without a cent, and divesting ourselves of all involvement, and letting all the players stand or fall on their own. We should be bringing ALL the troops home from all 106 countries where they are stationed and start truly playing the role of peacemaker, rather than being an interventionist global bully/cop trying to hang onto an empire at any cost. We are setting up secret star-chamber military tribunals when we should be trying accused terrorists in the Hague. We are allowing the federal cops to tap our phones and e-mails and do "black bag" jobs in our homes without a warrant or even notification, when we should all be marching on Washington, demanding that they not violate our Constitutionally-protected rights, rights millions of Americans have fought and bled and died to preserve.

When we allow these things to happen, they will continue. They will get worse, until no action is considered too extreme or egregious on the government's part. Will you wake up THEN? Will it be too late??

We could have done things so righteously, and instead we've done them all wrong. By taking the wrong path at every fork in the road, we will succeed only in engendering more insecurity, more hatred, more violence, more terrorist acts, more war, more loss of innocent life on all sides, and more loss of liberty, to name only a few. We can't say we weren't warned.

9/11 Retrospective, Part 2

[This is the second in a series of retrospective articles originally posted to my personal website on Lycos/Tripod in 2001, concerning my thoughts on the events of five years ago, as they unfolded at the time]

It Won't Kill Us to Talk

New York, October 1st, 2001

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said, "It's better to jaw, jaw, jaw than war, war, war."

While I agree that the Taliban ruling regime in Afghanistan is being highly disingenuous in its response to America concerning the harboring of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, as the most powerful and influential nation on Earth, it behooves us to tread carefully and not just behave like a bully, as we have done so many times in the past.

In short, it's time for us to grow up.

America has suffered much in recent weeks - indeed, that should be etched into our collective consciousness - but that does not excuse us for shutting out the better angels of our nature.

Yes, we are the "wronged party" here. And yes, we have a right to demand that those responsible for the horrendous acts of 9/11 be extradited and brought to justice. This does not, however, give us the right to just barge in to a sovereign nation - even one whose ruling government we disapprove of - and just take what we want without a by your leave. And, I might add, good luck achieving that, as no one has won ANYthing from Afghanistan in about a thousand years. There are still 10 million or so land mines left over from the 10-year Soviet occupation. I would certainly not wish to be in the boots of the Special Forces paratroops coming down in THAT mess, only to go after a very mercurial objective.

Right now we are at an official impasse. The Taliban wish to "negotiate". The U.S. claims "there is nothing TO negotiate" - do it our way, or else. Great. NOW who becomes the "wronged party" in the eyes of the world, particularly the Islamic world, comprised of 1.2 billion people in 55 countries, if we just decide to unilaterally invade? It will be perceived as an attack on Islam itself rather than on criminals and terrorists, and the holy war the extremists have craved for centuries will be unleashed. And you can expect a lot more American non-combatants to die in terrorist attacks.

If we start down the same old road we've marching along for the past 50+ years, get ready for the quagmire, folks, as - like Vietnam - it WILL happen again. We should not be in the business of removing governments we don't approve of and replacing them with governments who only pretend to like us as long as the U.S. taxpayer money keeps flowing in.

On the other hand, we have a great opportunity here, if only we won't piss it away. Let's begin by being magnanimous. We are the richest, most powerful nation on Earth - we can afford magnanimity more than anyone else. So lets give the Taliban what they want - incontrovertible evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks. (Hell, I'd like to see that myself.) If the evidence holds up in the eyes of ALL the civilized world, then the pressure is on the Taliban to fulfill their end of the bargain. If they do not, if they continue to make excuses, the U.S. and its allies are in a great position. We will have pulled off a great PR coup, and can make the case for declaring the Taliban a "rogue state" and take appropriate actions to isolate it.

Even then, we don't necessarily have to send in the troops. We gave them radios that the NSA can't trace. But maybe we don't have to. Simply jamming their frequencies would suffice. We have all this incredible technology available. Why not simply cut them off from the world, no communication gets in, none gets out? In the meantime, we and our allies get busy rounding up bin Laden's network in the 50 or 60 other countries where he does business.

At the same time, we get food and medical aid in to Afghan civilians displaced and distressed by the crisis within their borders, thus showing the world we no longer consider "collateral damage" as a viable policy option.

In the end, the noose tightens around the Taliban and any other country harboring terrorists. Like cleaning up fire ants, we clean up all the outer "colonies" before going for the main nests.

By that time, the whole world will be behind this effort. Loss of life and property damage is minimal, we have redeemed ourselves as the true beacon of restraint in foreign relations, and we end the scourge of terrorism globally.

Of course, the next step would be for us to rethink our policy decisions that got us into this situation in the first place, but that's another story...

9/11 Retrospective, Part 1

[This is the first in a series of retrospective articles originally posted to my personal website on Lycos/Tripod in 2001, concerning my thoughts on the events of five years ago, as they unfolded at the time]

The Folly of Empire

New York, September 21st, 2001

It's times like these that I wish Barbara Tuchman was still with us.

Though not considered a "professional" historian by the literati, she nevertheless crafted compelling and thoroughly researched historical prose, and opened our eyes to aspects of our past we had never otherwise considered.

Her insightful book, "The March of Folly", published in 1985, described in lurid detail the pervasive presense of folly in the behavior of governments through the ages. Tuchman's book warned us against the "pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interersts, despite the availability of feasible alternatives". In her examples of such, including Troy, the Protestant reformation, the British in North America and the U.S. in Vietnam, an alternative course of action was available, the actions were endorsed by a group, not just an individual leader, and the actions were perceived as counter productive in their own time. Yet those actions persisted on to their - in hindsight - logical conclusions.

My biggest concern over the events of September 11th is that Americans, driven by passions rather than reason, will march down that road yet again, thus proving to the world that we not only cannot learn anything from history, but that we also learn nothing from even our own experience.

Dubya keeps repeating, like a skipping CD, that we are in a New Kind of War. So far, I've seen nothing from those in Government, however, suggesting that they actually DO comprehend that. Like his father before him, Dubya surrounds himself with advisors, many of whom are experienced in international folly of all sorts, and thus his first major action is to gather a coalition, call up the reserves, and send out the warships. What are warships and troops going to DO, other than make things worse?? The mightiest military machine in the world could not stop what happened to the WTC, nor is it capable of stopping other acts of subversive terrorism. It's the wrong machinery for the wrong war.

I've seen a lot of disgusting things go on this past 10 days. First and foremost, of course, are the horrific acts of 9/11 themselves - that almost goes without saying. But next come the sickening words of the pundits and pols. When Steve Dunlevy of the New York Post says "kill them all" I want to yank his Writer's Guild card. I also take issue with people such as Hal Lindsay, who has made a career out of apocalyptic biblical Prophesy, who, that very day, on WorldNetDaily, declared, in essence "I told ya so, hallelujah, Armageddon is here!" This kind of irresponsible inflammatory talk has been the mother's milk of Folly throughout the ages. I see neither Lindsay nor Dunlevy marching to the nearest Armed Services recruiter and volunteering for ground-pounding duty in the minefields of Afghanistan.

While no one can condone the atrocities of September 11th, one can certainly understand why some people can be motivated to perform them. There are potentially half-a-billion souls out there who have every reason to hate our guts. Bombing, shooting and starving non-combatant civilians has been our foreign policy for six decades. (In fact the idea of "total war" was first introduced by General William Tecumseh Sherman, on our own soil, in the War of Southern Secession.) While the American people may be the most fair, tolerant and generous people in the world, their government - in their names and with their tax dollars - are something else again. It's only a wonder something like this hasn't happened much sooner. (In 1993, it almost did, in the first WTC bombing, but the perpetrators bungled the job.)

Despite the stuff you read about an Islamic "holy war", these attacks aren't about religion - at least not by the Bin Ladens of the world. Those like him who inspire such acts - in religion's name - come themselves from wealthy, privileged, elitist, and very secular backgrounds. This so-called "holy jihad", however, IS, all about EGO - and there's more than enough ego to go around on all sides. Ego will also lead us to folly if we don't settle down and choose to curb our baser impulses.

In the search for reasons for the attack, the WTC was stated to be the largest symbol of "American" capitalist might. But one must consider that about half the office space in the WTC was rented by foreign firms doing business in the U.S., including Japan, India, Holland, and Britain. It has been estimated that 80 countries lost citizens in the attack. The WTC was never a symbol of "American capitalist hegemonic power" so much as it was one of private, peaceful, international capitalist cooperation. Now ask yourself - is that something Islamist political extremists desire?? Of course not. It's the mixing of cultures and free exchange of goods, service and ideas that they fear and loathe the most, making the WTC a far more multi-dimensional target.

I heard someone say last night that "Islam has been hijacked" - how true. Islam itself is about peace and tolerance, but the extremist minority "Islamist" political cult grossly misstates Islamic teaching to justify their own violent actions, in much the same way Christian "fundamentalists" in our own country quote the Bible out of context to build support for their own political agendas. If anything, Islamists just want the U.S. out of the way so they can continue on unimpeded. Fortunately, they are only a tiny minority in the Arab world, and stand little chance of wielding much influence - unless we hand them an opportunity by continuing to be the bullies we have been.

Domestically, pundits are rattling sabers, and calls for curbing essential freedoms are coming from the political class, who are undoubtedly rubbing their hands gleefully at the thought of eliminating the last vestiges of individual liberty in America, in the name of "safety and security".

Bush last night called for the creation of a new cabinet post - the "Office of Homeland Security". What a great spin - and perhaps it's even well-intentioned. It'll start out fighting the good fight against terrorism, and when it's done, it'll have to find other "enemies" domestically in order to justify its continued existence. This is how the KGB got started. PA Governor Tom Ridge, tapped by Bush last night to head the new agency, said, "I think it's all right to admit that I'm saddened that this job is even necessary, but it is necessary, so I will give it everything that I have." Will he be equally gladdened, then, to see the job go away again at the end of the War on Terrorism? Doubtful.

It has been oft-repeated that "freedom" was attacked that day. I disagree. Terrorists can't take away American freedom - only our own government can - in your name and with your tax dollars. For decades, essential liberties that our forefathers died to preserve have been continuously eroded away by our own government; and that war just gives the political class an opportunity to kick domestic tyranny up a notch or two. Freedom has been under attack by our own "representatives" for far too long, to now suddenly turn around and point fingers elsewhere. It sickened me yesterday to see a CNN poll that said 69% of those responding claimed to be willing to accept curbs on freedom in exchange for "security". Yet more folly posing as "democracy", and the best reason for an Electoral College that I can think of.

If you shut down the Bill of Rights, the terrorists win. We must jealously guard our freedoms; we must increase, rather than limit, civil liberties, and we must inform our elected representatives - in a way that is crystal clear - that any such small-minded, tyrannical responses are inappropriate, and will be resisted. In fact, when ANYone in the political class promotes curbs on essential liberties as a response to terrorism, your immediate response to THEM should be: "Whose side are you ON, anyway?"

Folks, life is not safe. Life is not "secure". Never has been, never will be. We are each one of us ultimately responsible for our own safety and security - that was the real moral lesson of Flight 93, where some brave passengers took on the hijackers at a crucial moment, sacrificing themselves for the sake of thousands of others. These are the lessons we should be teaching our children. Blind obedience to "authority", and closing your eyes and trusting the political class to act in your best interests, was the height of folly in the best of times. We cannot hide our collective heads in the sand now, at this critical moment for our nation's future.

As friend and author L.Neil Smith said in a recent article: "...these things happen to nations with imperial ambitions. There has never been a major act of terrorism I know of that hasn't resulted from an act of government that violated somebody's rights. The way to keep this sort of thing from happening again is to stop those violations."

We need to do three things as a nation: (1) we need to - with our allies - rout out terrorists all over the world and bring them to justice, (2) develop complete energy independence, thus eliminating at least ONE cause of foreign interventionism, and (3) a much harder proposition - we must do what we can here at home to eliminate the causes of terrorist actions - i.e., the things our government does in our names, and with our tax dollars, that help create the all-consuming hatred. Let me amplify...

(1) Terrorism is a blight that must be wiped from the face of the earth. We will not achieve that by noble objective, however, by sending in the Reserves as an invasion force to kill Afghan civilians. Terrorism involves 30 different groups spread out among 60 different countries. Hunting them all down and bringing them to justice is going to take years, perhaps a decade or more. It's going to take old-fashioned on the ground espionage work and a lot of civil police work. Any military action will only be effective in the form of surgical strikes at specific targets, assuming they can be found. But if we as a nation are to regain any semblance of moral authority in the world from here on in, we should begin by removing the words "collateral damage" from our lexicon. That should no longer be considered an option, as that turns us into our enemy, countering hate with hate. We can't do this out of a desire for vengeance, but rather for justice.

(2) We've let the oil cartels on both sides of the ocean have their way for far too long. The 1973 Arab embargo should have taught us something - it did not. We import more Persian Gulf oil more than ever, about 50%. Energy independence is more than just drill, drill, drill. It's about options. There are technologies out there that have been all but totally suppressed for the sake of Big Oil, like hydrogen, solar, and fuel cells. We need to push these technologies out the gate as fast as we can. Our biggest strength is our creativity. We should encourage the computer generation to work from home, thus saving billions in energy costs now racked up from daily commuting

(3) In the final analysis, though, we must ultimately bring the political class to heel and hold them to account for the interventionist mess they got us into. That will probably take a lot longer than rooting out terrorist cells, as the political class has wormed its way into absolute power over six or more decades. Their policies and actions have been responsible for the deaths of millions of civilians of foreign nations over that time, from Japan to Vietnam to Iraq. Once we've succeeded in wiping out global terrorism, the same fate must be meted out to the American political class.

Terrorism is generated by the total loss of options, the total loss of hope, and persistant violations of other's soverign rights by more powerful countries. If we seriously propose to go around the world cleaning up everyone's house, we, at the very least, should also clean up our own at the same time.