Thursday, August 22, 2013

Revisiting the Classics (8-22-2013)

This Thursday's edition of Revisiting the Classics will include several more articles from the past (and even from the present) that I consider to be worthwhile.

"The Silent Power of the NSA" by David Bumham: A worthwhile and classic 1983 NYT article that dealt with the satanic power of the National Security Agency (NSA) before the recent revelations of the ever-growing surveillance state.

"Free or Compulsory Speech" by Murray Rothbard: This classic supports the side of free speech and free non-speech, and rejects compulsory speech. That would include the right not to testify against yourself.

"An Open Letter to Bill Bennett" by Milton Friedman: Milton Friedman, famous free-market economist, wrote long ago to conservative Bill Bennett attacking the drug war and showing its utter folly.

"'Human Rights' as Property Rights" by Murray Rothbard: The fifteenth chapter from Rothbard's 1982 magnum opus The Ethics of Liberty shows us that property rights and human rights are not incompatible but inseparable; human rights are ultimately impossible without property rights.

"Freedom of the Press" by Ludwig von Mises: This excerpt from Mises's classic The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality shows the fundamental nature of the freedom of the press in the classical liberal society.

"The Myth of Media Watchdogs" by William L. Anderson: This article explores the myth of our media as watchdogs being promoted all around the country and throughout the world.

"The Road to Totalitarianism" by Henry Hazlitt: This classic essay deals with our road to the totalitarian system, and it is still relevant to our times today.

"Speech: Free and Unfree" by William L. Anderson: This wonderful essay, published thirteen years ago, deals with the distinction between unfree and free speech.

"Testing the Limits of Free Speech" by Christopher Mayer: This 1999 article deals with the true nature of free speech and why it allows for even the wickedest of speech.

"'Free Speech' Does Not Mean 'Trespass'" by Doug French: Doug French's 2003 article argues that the freedom of speech does not equal the trampling of private property rights, as is taught by most ACLU-line civil libertarians.

"The Harm In Hate-Speech Laws" by David Gordon: David Gordon's review of Jeremy Waldron's The Harm in Hate Speech may not be classic in the sense of old, but it is classic in the context of its relevance to our times and to all of time.

"Free Speech, Free Association and Private Property" by Ninos Malek: Ninos Malex, in his 2003 Mises Daily, Ninos Malek shows how free speech, free association and private property fit well in the libertarian society, and it also shows how freedom of speech doesn't necessarily apply to private property-owned areas which explicitly disapprove of certain speech.

The Rise of the Nationalist Left

The American Conservative has this piece by Sean Scallon which covers the rise of the "nationalistic left," the left which has been infected with conservative pro-war militarism.

Sean Scallon notes that what changed the Left from the anti-Vietnam, anti-war creed to the pro-war, Clintonian, Obama-esque creed "was power, pure and simple. The end of the Cold War in 1991 took foreign policy from being the main point of difference between the two parties and let questions of economics take center stage, making it possible for a scandal-tarred five-term Governor of Arkansas to become President of the United States."

The sellout to power was similar to Thomas Jefferson's sellout in his second term to the big-government Federalist schemes, which negated all the good he did in his first term.

The Left had went from attacking Vietnam and opposing the mass killing of civilians to a celebratory, pro-war, pro-Obama position.

And it is possible to argue that American leftists, with few exceptions, have never been antiwar in the first place, as Tom Woods argues in 33 Questions About American History You're Not Supposed to Ask.

Even with the occasional anti-Iraq War outbursts that occurred during the Bush administration, there was a "loud silence," as Justin Raimondo terms it, when President Obama first came in to power.

Why America Should Stay Out to Syria

Stephen Zunes at explains why the USA should stay of Syria, despite whatever crimes may occur within that country.

Says Zunes:

"The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways the United States could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, 'What we can do?'
The short answer, unfortunately, is not much.
This is hard for many Americans to accept. We have a cultural propensity to believe that if the United States puts in enough money, creativity, willpower, or firepower into a problem that we can make things right. However, despite the desires of both the right-wing nationalists and liberal hawks, this isn’t always the case.
Both the right and the far left seem to embrace the idea that United States—either for good or for ill—has the power to determine the outcome of virtually every conflict in the world. However, there are limits to power. The tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms sent to the Shah and to Mubarak were not enough to keep these dictators in power against the will of their own people. Overwhelming U.S. military force could not prevent a Communist victory in Vietnam or create a peaceful, democratic, pro-American Iraq."
This article of wisdom ends with this relevant piece: "Opposing U.S. support for the armed resistance in Syria has nothing to do with indifference, isolationism, or pacifism. Nor is it indicative of being any less horrified at the suffering of the Syrian people or any less desirous of the overthrow of Assad’s brutal regime. With so much at stake, however, it is critical not to allow the understandably strong emotional reaction to the ongoing carnage lead to policies that could end up making things even worse."

Dan McCarthy on Snowden, Manning, and the National-Security State

Dan McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative (one of the few good conservative magazines, along with Taki's Magazine and The New American, that supports noninterventionist foreign policy and welcomes libertarians and front-porch radicals), comments on Snowden, Manning, and their relevance in the much wider and more epic debate over the surveillance state.

He shows us the relevance of the debate, and that it is not irrelevant. He shows us that the NSA and the whole bureaucratic system was built to fight the Cold War (which can be very instrumental in creating the statist system we are in today), but once that cold war ended, it was looking for more work to do.

Here are the three things McCarthy urges us to focus on when discussing the NSA and the national security state in general:

1. "First, most of it was built during the Cold War for the purposes of winning that conflict. The National Security Agency’s prowess with intercepting electronic communications of all kinds had a particular purpose. Every foreign government and non-state entity was fair game, though neither foreign nationals nor their signals were necessarily geographically restricted. There was always incidental pickup of U.S. citizen communications."

2. "Second—and this is a point brought out in Barton Gellman’s invaluable book Angler—the national-security reforms of the Watergate era branded the brains of Republicans like Dick Cheney. They saw two presidents, Nixon and Ford, crippled in their ability to wage the Cold War by legislative meddling. Cheney, for one, believed that the presidency and the agencies serving it had to be restored to the level of power they had wielded before Nixon’s disgrace."

3. "Third, prosecutors and investigators at all levels have a professional interest in wider surveillance, and long before 9/11 they were fishing for pretexts that might reward them with Patriot Act-like powers. Threats of turn-of-the-millennium terrorism looked like a magic lamp that might grant every wish, but it turned out to take a real act of terrorism on 9/11 to fulfill long-thwarted professional fantasies. After 9/11, who was going to say no? Who would dare even question the expansion of domestic surveillance and police powers?"

The increase of the surveillance state enriches the military-industrial complex, all while the state is growing at the expense of our traditional liberties and freedom. Before 9-11, McCarthy points out, "there was political will (from the likes of Cheney), technical means (the Cold War intelligence infrastructure), and professional interest (on the part of domestic law enforcement and regulators) for weakening the distinctions between foreign surveillance and domestic intelligence gathering. Until 9/11, there was also resistance—but immediately after 9/11, all that dissolved. There was no debate commensurate with the gravity of what was being done. Congress was compliant and the press, including the nascent blogosphere, was doubly so. Pundits were falling over one another in those days to see who could endorse torture quickest."

There was basically no debate, with the exception of Ron Paul and the resistance from the libertarians, anti-war conservatives and civil libertarians, over the surveillance state that was growing under the Patriot Act.

It was only with Manning (see here, here and here) and Snowden that the debate was set off and people began to rethink their previous support for the surveillance state.

Dan McCarthy's article is vitally important because it sheds light on these prescient facts.

CIA Admits to Participating in 1953 Iranian Coup

It seems that the CIA has finally admitted its role in the infamous 1953 Iranian coup, according to the Guardian. There are declassified documents that show in detail how the CIA worked against Mohammed Mossadeq.

Says The Guardian:

The CIA has publicly admitted for the first time that it was behind the notorious 1953 coup against Iran's democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, in documents that also show how the British government tried to block the release of information about its own involvement in his overthrow.
On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.
"The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government," reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.
More documents of this can be found in the National Security Archives, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
And as to the UK, it still hasn't admitted its role in the coup, as that would be "very embarrassing" to do so. They went so far as to try to stop US officials from releasing the "embarrassing" documents.
The Guardian concludes their eye-opening report by showing that recently "Iranian politicians have sought to compare the dispute over the country's nuclear activities to that of the oil nationalisation under Mosaddeq: supporters of the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad often invoke the coup. US officials have previously expressed regret about the coup but have fallen short of issuing an official apology. The British government has never acknowledged its role.
My own conclusion is that this should cause major rethinking of US foreign policy, and that this should be used as an example to revise the current, indoctrinated understanding of the US-Iranian conflict. If that doesn't, then maybe nothing will.
As Malcom Byrne said: "There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely known to every school child in Iran. Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides."
If those "evil," "nuke-loving" Iranians have better grasp on history than our "peace-loving" Americans, then something is very, very wrong.