Among the favorite mantras of conservatives is With freedom comes responsibility. They love to hurl it at liberals whenever they point to the disastrous failure of the welfare state. When liberals cry, Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our policies, conservatives respond, No, good intentions mean nothing. What matters is the damage and destructiveness your policies have caused. You liberals must take personal responsibility for what you have wrought.
Thats all fine and good, but there is at least one big problem here: The refusal of conservatives to apply their mantra to themselves their refusal to take personal responsibility for the damage and destructiveness of their own policies.
A good example is now playing out in Afghanistan. In the wake of the massacre of 16 people in Afghanistan, including women and children, and the burning of those Korans, an increasing number of conservatives are finally saying that its time to pull the troops out of Afghanistan.
But how many of them are accepting personal responsibility for the horrific consequences of the U.S. Empires undeclared wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?
Answer: Not one single one of them.
After all, while the neocons were the principal cheerleaders for the Afghan and Iraq wars, the truth is that the conservative movement was right behind them. When we libertarians opposed the wars on both countries, conservatives went on the attack.
With respect to Iraq, conservatives placed their full faith in President Bushs pronouncements that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash a WMD attack on the United States. When we libertarians pointed out the ridiculous and deceptive nature of the presidents claims, conservatives accused of us being unpatriotic and weak.
Then, when those WMDs failed to materialize, conservatives went on the attack again, seamlessly shifting to a welfare rationale for the Iraq invasion that the U.S. invaded to bring democracy to the Iraqi people.
What are conservatives saying today? One thing theyre doing is dredging up the standard line on the U.S. invasion of Vietnam that the troops havent been permitted to win the war that theyve had to fight with one hand tied behind them that the generals should have been given free rein without interference from the politicians.
But conservatives are engaging in deception, including self-deception, just as they did during the Vietnam War.
First of all, its not a war in Afghanistan. Its an occupation. The war in Afghanistan ended some 10 years ago on the day that the Afghan government was defeated and removed from power. The war in Iraq also ended around a decade ago when the Saddam Hussein regime was defeated and removed from power.
On those days, the U.S. government won the wars. The president could have then ordered all U.S. troops to return home. But, conservatives say, that would have been a bad thing to do because then the bad guys could return to power. It was necessary, they said, that U.S. troops occupy both countries in order to install friendly, pro-U.S. regimes, even if they were unelected, fraudulent, dictatorial, and just as brutal as the regimes they were replacing.
So, occupations was always inextricably interlinked with the invasions. This is one of the things what we libertarians kept telling people prior to the invasions, but conservatives claimed that it would all be pretty, paradisiacal, and cheap.
How many people have been killed and maimed in Iraq? We dont know. While claiming to be acting for the good of the Iraqi people (after those scary WMDs failed to materialize), the U.S. Empire steadfastly refused to keep count of the Iraqi wounded and dead. All that mattered were U.S. casualties. The attitude was that any number of Iraqi dead and maimed would be worth bringing democracy to the country and the Middle East. Were doing it for them, conservatives cried.
Keep in mind that of all the Iraqis killed, maimed, tortured, humiliated, and abused, not one single one had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.
Keep in mind also that the reason that the U.S. Empire invaded Afghanistan is not that Afghanistan participated in the 9/11 attacks by harboring terrorists. Thats just more deception. It invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban regime refused to comply with President Bushs unconditional extradition demand for Osama bin Laden.
Keep in mind also that under our form of government, both of these wars were illegal given that they both lacked the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.
Conservatives are now saying that that Army sergeant snapped because of his multiple deployments to Iraq. But it was conservatives who were supporting those multiple deployments. During the past 10 years, whenever we libertarians called for supporting the troops by bringing them home, we were reviled by conservatives, who said, Support the troops! Keep them right where they are! With supporters like that, who needed enemies?
In their heated analysis of that sergeants recent actions, conservatives fail to consider one important factor: guilt deeply seated guilt. After all, most people are not cut out to kill other people without cause. Thats what conscience is all about. How can ordinary people kill other people, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, and not expect that its going to have an adverse psychological effect on the killers? Where in the Bible does God say that its okay to kill people for the sake of democracy?
The federal officials who used the troops for these two imperialist, welfare escapades along with their conservative and neoconservative cheerleaders are co-responsible for the horrific consequences of these misadventures. Iraq should never have been invaded and occupied. The Iraqi people, including the countless dead, had a right to be left alone by the Empire.
And as conservatives are hopefully starting to realize, we libertarians were right about Afghanistan too. It was a horrible mistake to employ a military solution to address the 9/11 attacks, specifically through the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan people who have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. They had the right to continue living their lives unmolested by the Empire. All that death and destruction has done nothing but produce a machine of anger and hatred, which has manifested itself in the perpetual threat of terrorist counterattacks, which have then been used to suspend our civil liberties here at home.
Moreover, conservatives are wrong about the troops having had one hand tied behind them. For 10 years, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has been given free rein to kill as many people as it wanted. The problem is that the more people it killed and maimed, the more people became angry and vengeful. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq became the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history.
As the occupation of Afghanistan begins to inevitably wind down, we libertarians must renew our battle to dismantle Americas military empire and restore a constitutional republic to our land. The imperialists, including big government conservatives, will undoubtedly oppose us, even as they do their best to stir up new crises to justify the existence of their big-government military empire. Unfortunately, while doing so, they repeating the refrain of their liberal big-government counterparts: Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our policies.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
P.S. Yesterday, I wrote about the panel I participated in last weekend at the Left Forum, a big liberal conference in New York City. Kelley Vlahos, who was one of the panelists, has written a nice article about the panel and the conference. It can be accessed here.