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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Rendering Conscience unto Caesar


Yesterday, I pointed out one of the big downsides to the embrace of the national-security-state way of life — that it has induced Americans to maintain a constant state of delusion with respect to U.S. foreign policy. I pointed out how so many Americans have convinced themselves that the troops and the paramilitary forces are spreading goodness and democracy around the world while the reality is that they have long supported, trained, and partnered with brutal, tyrannical dictatorships.

One of the consequences of this national-security-state-induced delusion is that so many Americans just cannot fathom why so many people around the world hate the United States. Thus, they easily fall for the official line emitted by U.S. officials — that people around the world hate the United States for its “freedom and values,” which encompasses the notion that the U.S. nationa- security state is spreading goodness, freedom, and democracy around the world.

The worst consequence of the embrace of the national-security state has been a stultifying of the consciences of the American people, especially with respect to the killing of foreign citizens, including children, at the hands of the warfare state.

One can enter into any church in the United States, where he will hear sermons on the sanctity of human life, especially among the unborn. But he will hardly ever — in fact, perhaps never — hear any concern or prayers offered for the victims who have died as a result of bombs, missiles, or bullets from U.S. troops or the CIA operating overseas.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Priest and ministers across the land will exhort their parishioners to pray for the troops or for “peace” in the Middle East. But one mostly listens in vain for any prayers offered for the people who are dying at the hands of the troops.

Although they will never admit it to themselves, the truth is that Americans have elevated the national-security state to the level of a god, one who can do no wrong in the killing of foreigners. With the exception of libertarians and a few liberals, Americans consider it akin to heresy to question or challenge the killing of foreigners by the troops or the CIA. It’s just not supposed to be done.

The fact is Americans don’t give a hoot about foreigners who are killed by the troops and the CIA. Their only regret is that the dead placed our troops and the CIA into the position of having to kill them. What they mean when they pray for “peace” in the Middle East is that people will finally stop resisting the U.S. government and submit to its will.

Iraq provides an excellent example of what the national-security state has done to the consciences of the American people.

The primary justification that the U.S. government used to invade Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash WMDs on the United States. Every indication is that the rationale was bogus. The 10 years of brutal sanctions against Iraq had failed to accomplish their goal of ousting Saddam from power. U.S. officials knew that with the deep fear of terrorism engendered among the American people by the 9/11 attacks, Americans would blindly trust whatever U.S. officials said. Recall how many people on the eve of the Iraq invasion said, “President Bush has got information that we’re not privy to. We’ve got to trust him.”

Bush took months trying to secure a UN resolution authorizing the invasion. Never mind that the U.S. Constitution requires a declaration of war from Congress, not a UN resolution, before the president is legally authorized to wage war against another country. But the fact that Bush was going to the UN to seek authority to attack Iraq was powerful circumstantial evidence that Bush’s claim that Saddam was about to unleash “mushroom clouds” on American cities was bogus. After all, if such an attack really were imminent, would any U.S. president be going to the UN for authority to defend the United States from such an attack?

The U.S. invasion of Iraq killed countless people. Yet, when those WMDs failed to materialize, was there any regret or remorse among the American people for those dead people? Nope. Few people cared. The U.S. national-security state had just made an innocent mistake, Americans concluded. U.S. officials had meant well.

Yet, was there ever an official investigation into whether the entire WMD scare was nothing more than a bogus justification for invading Iraq, one in which Bush and other U.S. officials were forced to testify under oath? Nope. And there certainly wasn’t an outcry among the American people for such an investigation. People didn’t want that question to be asked or explored.

With the exception of libertarians and a few liberals, no one cared about the people who had been killed in an invasion that had been based on a mistake, at best, and a lie, at worst.

Did the U.S. government exit Iraq on discovering its error? Nope. It just remained, continuing to kill more and more Iraqis in the process of establishing regime change. In fact, the killing lasted for more than 10 years. How many people? We don’t know because the Pentagon made a decision early on that Iraqi deaths would not be counted. It didn’t matter because those lives didn’t count. Any number of deaths was considered worth the effort to establish regime change and to bring “change” to the Middle East.

Was there any outrage among the American people over such a cavalier attitude toward human life? Nope. Were there ministers who offered prayers for the victims of the Iraq occupation on the basis of the sanctity of human life? Not as far as I know. Did any of them question the moral legitimacy of killing people for the sake of regime change or “democracy-spreading”? If there were, I never heard of them. Instead, year after year of the occupation, Americans just continued to praise the troops for their courage, heroism, and service as they continued to kill more Iraqis.

And of course, there were the brutal pre-war sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Again, with the exception of libertarians and few other people, no one cared. If national security required the deaths of those children, so be it. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. government’s ambassador to the UN, expressed the conscience-free mindset of America when she told “Sixty Minutes” and the world that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions was, in fact, “worth it.”

In principle, it’s been no different in Afghanistan. The U.S. national-security state justified that invasion and occupation on the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t necessary to use a military attack on Afghanistan to address the 9/11 attacks. After all, the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a criminal-justice problem and the malefactors were ultimately brought to justice, without mass killing of innocent people at the hands of the military and CIA, as has occurred in Afghanistan.

In fact, the sad truth is that most of the countless people killed in Afghanistan, including all those  people killed at wedding parties, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Were there any prayers offered for all those victims? Fundraising drives? Concerts? Nope. Those deaths just didn’t matter. They were done by the national-security state. Praise the troops!

Finally, how many Americans care about all the innocent victims of the national-security state’s drone assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere? Will there be expressions of concern offered to them at the Super Bowl or any U.S. other sporting events? Nope. There would be if they had been the victim of some natural disaster, but not when they are the victims of the national-security state. Instead, the expressions of concern will be entirely focused on the troops and the CIA.

Here at Christmastime, it’s appropriate to remind ourselves of one of the profound statements made by Christ: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Conscience is one of those things that belong to God and yet Americans have rendered it to Caesar, in the name of “national security.” It’s undoubtedly the most horrific consequence of having permitted the cancer of the national-security state to be grafted onto our constitutional order.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.