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Terrorism — Public and Private


On April 19, 1995, the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed. Hundreds of people, including children, were killed or injured. Although federal government officials have been sporadically killed in the line of duty in the past, this was the first mass killing of federal civil servants in American history.

There was tremendous shock, anger, and outrage over the Oklahoma City massacre. While most Americans, of course, did not personally know the victims, there was a deep sense of mourning for them and their friends and relatives. It was one of those events that could remain in our consciousness for the rest of our lives — like the day John F. Kennedy was killed. (See “JFK, the CIA, and Conspiracies” by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily , September 1992.)

The government arrested Timothy James McVeigh and charged him with the bombing. If Mr. McVeigh did, in fact, commit the act, there are strong indications that his motivation was to exact revenge for the deaths of eighty Branch Davidians, including children, in Waco, Texas, two years ago. The government announced that it will seek the death penalty against Mr. McVeigh and any others who are accused of the bombing.

But even if all of the participants in the Oklahoma City bombing are executed, that is not going to solve the central problem in this country. The bombing is the manifestation of a deep cancer that pervades the U.S. But it is not the cancer itself.

All of us feel the pain associated with private acts of terrorism. The problem, however, is this: Millions of Americans cannot bring themselves to recognize a deeply uncomfortable possibility — that their own government engages in murder and terrorism against its own citizens.

Fifty years ago, in 1944, Friedrich A. Hayek, who would later win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science, wrote a book entitled The Road to Serfdom . (A 50th-anniversary edition was recently published, with an introduction by Milton Friedman, another Nobel Prize-winning economist.) Hayek argued that although the U.S. (and Great Britain) was waging war against the Nazis, the U.S. had, in fact, adopted the statist and collectivist economic programs and philosophy. There is no difference in principle, Hayek argued, between the economic philosophy of Nazism, socialism, communism, and fascism and that of the American welfare state and regulated economy.

Americans were outraged. “How can you say that we are against freedom and free enterprise when our soldiers are fighting and dying against the Nazis on the battlefield?” Americans asked. They forgot that the communists, who themselves were not paragons of liberty, were also dying on the battlefield against the Nazis.”How can you say we are against freedom and free enterprise when the Roosevelt administration engaged in a massive governmental intervention into the economy to save free enterprise?” Americans asked. It was the intervention itself — and the collectivist philosophy that guided the intervention — that was the problem, Hayek said. One does not save freedom by destroying freedom. Hayek warned Americans that if they continued following this road — the road to the welfare state and the regulated economy — they would end up with an Americanized version of communist Russia, Nazi Germany, and fascist Italy.

Proponents of the welfare state vilified Hayek and others who repeated the warning. We can travel this road, they said — the road to the New Deal, the Great Society, the welfare state and the managed economy — without any bad consequences, as long as we call this way of life “freedom” and “free enterprise.”

Thus, decade after decade, through taxes and regulations, governments at all levels took ever-increasing control over people’s lives, wealth, and property. The control grew exponentially, decade after decade. The rationale was that the control was necessary — for society, for the poor, for the nation, even for freedom itself. Americans continued living their life of the lie: They continued believing that the more control government exercised over their lives and property, the freer they became.

This is the mind-set that has been created in public schools throughout most of the 20th century. It is not a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of the American people support the core philosophy of the welfare state: that what ultimately matters is not the sovereignty and freedom of the individual but rather the sovereignty and control of the government. It is not a coincidence that Americans overwhelmingly support what our 19th-century ancestors rejected: public schooling, income taxation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, and so forth.

Having been forced to pledge allegiance and to listen to government-approved schoolteachers for twelve long years, the minds of the American people have been molded well. Good citizenship means: Praise America’s “free-enterprise system”; obey the rules; don’t question the authorities; monitor and turn in your fellow citizens; and support your public officials, especially in times of emergencies. And all in the name of freedom and free enterprise.

Fortunately, thousands of us have broken free of this government-molded mind-set. And this is what separates us from our fellow Americans. They are still trapped within the prisons of the mind that were erected through years of political indoctrination. We have broken free of the walls our schoolteachers, knowingly or unknowingly, erected around our minds.

How is this division manifested in society? All of us feel the deep pain associated with the losses in Oklahoma City. But Americans who are still trapped by the indoctrinated mind cannot fathom why the rest of us feel the same pain, anger, and outrage over the deaths of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and of the Weaver family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. We weep over those deaths as much as the deaths in Oklahoma City. And we ask uncomfortable questions, such as: Why didn’t their funerals receive the same public attention and presidential appearance as those in Oklahoma?

Unlike the majority of our fellow Americans, we know that the U.S. government did travel the road to collectivism that Hayek warned us about fifty years ago. We recognize the welfare state for what it is: a program of massive political stealing labeled as “free enterprise” — backed up by the iron fist of the Internal Revenue Service. We see the war on poverty and the war on drugs for what they are — wars against the American people — brutal wars that are resulting in death, destruction, and impoverishment every single month. We know that such agencies as the IRS, the CIA, the FBI, and the Pentagon have deliberately killed, tortured, and terrorized innocent Americans.

But many Americans cannot yet see this. They cannot bring themselves to face the horrible truth: that their own government has become an organization of state terrorism. They accept that foreign governments — the Soviet Union, China, Rwanda, Mexico, Argentina, and so forth — engage in murder and terror against their own citizens. But the reality that this is where the road to serfdom has brought the U.S. is still too nightmarish for the average American to accept. His mind simply will not assimilate and process the data.

The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service recently appeared on television and said that America’s income-tax system was voluntary. The average American nodded his head and said, “She’s right. I’m glad I don’t live under communism, where taxation is involuntary.” The rest of us immediately saw the commissioner’s statement for the lie it was. Every day, IRS agents levy liens on homes, bank accounts, and businesses; they confiscate cars, furniture, boats, and other personal property without the constitutional protections of notice, hearing, and due process. If a person forcibly resists, government agents kill him for “resisting arrest.”

Or take the war on drugs. The average American says, “The war on drugs has been beneficial.” The rest of us see reality. This war has destroyed thousands of Americans. It is also a pretext for government agents to rob innocent people in airports and on the highways — they seize and confiscate large amounts of cash and say to their victims: “Sue us if you don’t like it.” And more and more judges, politicians, intelligence agents, and law-enforcement officers are on the take — as dependent on the drug-war largess as the drug lords themselves.

Yes, there are two mind-sets in America — one that sees the U.S. government’s failed wars as “freedom” and “free enterprise” — and the other that sees them for the evil and tyranny that they are.

The cancer that threatens our body politic is the life of the lie — the life of the indoctrinated mind — that still afflicts our fellow Americans. Herein lies the reason that, while they can feel anger and outrage over Oklahoma City, they are totally befuddled over the anger and outrage that we also feel over Waco and Ruby Ridge. Our fellow Americans oppose private and foreign-government terrorism with all of their hearts. But they cannot yet bring themselves to recognize and oppose the public terrorism that their own government is engaged in.

Did the U.S. government engage in murder or manslaughter at Waco and Ruby Ridge? The evidence is convincing. (See “The Nazi Mind-set in America” by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily , August-September 1994.)

But President Clinton says that the Branch Davidians instead killed themselves. How does he arrive at this conclusion? Clinton told the accused killers and terrorists — Attorney General Janet Reno, the BATF, and the FBI — to investigate themselves. Their report: “Mr. President, we investigated, and we determined that we did nothing wrong.”

Suppose the federal judge in Oklahoma says to Mr. McVeigh: “Sir, I want you to investigate whether you have done anything wrong.” Mr. McVeigh returns to court and says, “Your honor, I investigated, and I determined that I did nothing wrong.” Would you be happy if the judge released him? Would you say that justice had been done?

The situation is similar to the instances when Adolf Hitler would receive a report that the Gestapo was abusing the German citizenry. He would order Gestapo leaders to investigate the matter. They would return with: “My Führer, we investigated, and we determined that we did nothing wrong.” Hitler would reassure the German people.

The core issue facing the American people is this: Have the guardians become the terrorists? If they have, then isn’t it rational for people to fear the guardians —especially when their congressional representatives themselves fear ordering an independent investigation into Waco and Ruby Ridge ? (It is difficult for congressmen and presidents to forget the threats of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover: Don’t mess with the FBI, or we will disclose the files we have on you.)

Isn’t it rational for Americans across the country to arm themselves and to unite in large groups — just in case they themselves become the guardians’ next target? If the guardians have become the murderers, and if elected representatives will do nothing about it, then what are the people supposed to do — permit themselves to be killed or forcibly defend themselves?

In Nazi Germany, the guardians became the murderers. But German public officials, including schoolteachers, repeatedly said: “Good citizenship means obedience to law and order.” Those who spoke out were called unpatriotic troublemakers — they were monitored by the Gestapo for counterterrorist propensities. The Jew was considered a model citizen because he obeyed the law by going to the ovens without resistance. When a small number of Jews forcibly resisted arrest — by shooting back at the police — Hitler and German officials were outraged. “The law is the law. How dare you violate it?”

But Americans are different from the German Jews. We come from a long history of resistance to tyranny. Americans will not be killed — they will not permit their wives and children and friends and neighbors to be killed — without resistance. Americans may go down at the hands of their guardians, but they will go down fighting.

If government officials did, in fact, murder our fellow Americans at Waco and Ruby Ridge, does this mean that individuals had a right to exact revenge by bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City? No! One has the right to defend himself when the guardians become the murderers. But self-defense when one is under attack is different from killing government officials when one is not under attack. For once, President Clinton was right: It is evil for terrorists to kill innocent people — whether at Oklahoma City, Waco, or Ruby Ridge.

Unfortunately, President Clinton refuses to focus on the government’s own wrongdoing. Instead, he blames the Oklahoma City bombing on talk-show hosts and critics of government misconduct who have had the courage to expose the wrongdoing. Rather than end the government’s wrongful conduct, the president wants it kept quiet.

The president — and the American people — must ultimately face an uncomfortable fact: The terroristic conduct of the U.S. government — both foreign and domestic — has produced thousands of potential terrorists all over the world who have a reason to exact revenge against the U.S.

The best way to end private terrorism is to end the U.S. government’s public terrorism. This would mean the end of both foreign and domestic wars, including the wars on poverty, drugs, and guns, that the U.S. government has waged for most of this century. And it would mean the dismantling, not the reform, of such terroristic agencies as the BATF, the DEA, the CIA, and the IRS.

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    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.