Liberty & Power: Group Blog
A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
Lindsay Perigo, editor of The Free Radical, a New Zealand-based libertarian and Objectivist magazine, wrote a piece condemning"Saddam's Succours" to which I respond in the current issue. In" A Question of Loyalty: A 'Saddamite' Responds to Perigo," I reply to Perigo's criticisms of many who opposed the war in Iraq. Lindsay is a great pal and colleague of mine—I'm even Assistant Editor to the magazine (and you can start here for pics of his recent visit to Brooklyn)—but it doesn't stop us from disagreeing on so many issues. Here's some of what I have to say:
The long-term consequences of the Iraq war are slowly coming into focus. The most recent Bush request for another $87 billion—on top of the $45 billion already spent for military preparation and invasion—is more than double what the US is spending on “homeland security.” The war has contributed to a ballooning deficit that will be in excess of $500 billion next year, “but could reach a cumulative total of $5.8 trillion by 2013” ... The federal debt increases exponentially, even as the US aims to pay off Iraq’s $350 billion foreign debt, not to mention resettlement and reconstruction costs, estimated at another $200 billion over the next decade. And for those who thought Iraqi oil reserves would pay for this: Nice try. Oil revenues from a devastated Iraqi oil industry might rise to $20 billion annually by 2006. ...
Meanwhile, the threat to domestic liberties from a variety of euphemistically named “Patriot Acts” is growing too, as the Bush administration uses the provisions of these acts in criminal investigations that have nothing to do with terrorism—prosecuting everyone from drug traffickers to suspect Internet users ... And while the thousands of wounded are nowhere near the number of casualties from previous wars, the US has now lost more troops in the occupation—an occupation with no end in sight, costing an additional billion dollars per week—than in all of its combat operations. Worse yet, if Iraq actually had WMDs—they were not used in the war and they have not yet been found—then the invasion has most likely brought about the very condition the US feared: their dispersal in chaotic social conditions among hostile terrorist groups. Fanatics are picking off US troops daily, as Iraq becomes a magnet for terrorists from all over the Muslim world.
Moreover, the US is facing massive ethnic conflict within Iraq, as each group vies for a different part of the “democratic” pie, with no history of knowing how to “share” the pie, let alone eat of it. This is not unusual in the period after the fall of a despotic regime. When the Soviet Union fell, many were astonished at how ethnic warfare re-emerged as if unaltered from 70+ years of Communism. Democratic nation-building presupposes that there is a nation upon which to build democracy. But as columnist George Will has observed, Iraq—like the Soviet Union—is not a nation. Iraq was a makeshift by-product of British colonialism. So if the US is trying to bring “democracy” to Iraq, the question remains: Which Iraq? Sunni Iraq? Kurdish Iraq? Shiite Iraq? (Which Shiites?)
This is not to say that the world was better off with the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein in place. Good riddance! Those regimes exercised monopoly control over the instruments of oppression in brutalizing their populations. In the absence of a monopoly terrorist regime, however, and in the absence of any culture of individualism, the only “democracy” that is emerging in Iraq is an anarchic “democratization” of the means of terror: a war of all against all, instead of one against all. Not quite the Wilsonian democracy envisioned by US policy-makers. ...
And throughout this whole “War on Terror,” the poisonous soil from which Bin Laden emerged—Saudi Arabia—remains untouched. While the US is busy fighting in Iraq, it sleeps with the Saudis, continuing a 60+ year-affair that most likely led the Bush administration to blot out 28 pages from a report on the failure of 9/11 intelligence, which might have embarrassed its Saudi “allies.” US corporations engage in joint business ventures with the Saudi government—from petroleum to arms deals—utilizing a whole panoply of statist mechanisms, including the Export-Import Bank. The US is Saudi Arabia’s largest investor and trading partner. Historically, the House of Sa’ud’s alliance with—and exportation of—intolerant, fanatical Wahhabism has been strengthened by the US-Saudi government partnership with Western oil companies, especially the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), a merger of Esso, Texaco, and Mobil. This is precisely the kind of “pull-peddling” that Rand condemned as “the New Fascism”—a US-Saudi-Big Oil Unholy Trinity that sustains the undemocratic Saudi regime.
And so, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will ever be touched significantly in the “War on Terror,” even if 15 of the 19 people who rammed those planes into US targets were Saudi. So close is the US-Saudi relationship that the US government worked with the Saudi embassy to facilitate, by private jet, the evacuation from the US of 140 prominent Saudis, among them members of the Bin Laden family, in the days after 9/11.
Within the Saudi cultural climate, however, anti-US sentiment is on the rise. Some terrorists gain the sanction of Saudi government officials, who talk out of both sides of their duplicitous mouths. Other terrorists flourish in reaction to the despotism of the Saudi regime and to its US alliance. It is a regime that depends upon a barbaric network of secret police and sub-human prisons, using the kinds of torture tactics that would have made Saddam proud: routine floggings, rotisserie hangings, amputations, penis blocking, and anal molestations. Such is the “pragmatic” nature of official US government policy, which goes to war for “human rights” in Iraq, while tacitly sanctioning their eradication in Saudi Arabia.
It’s this kind of pragmatism that has been the midwife to anti-American terrorism—from US support of the Shah of Iran that led to the establishment of an anti-American Islamic theocracy to US support of the Afghani mujahideen that led to the establishment of an anti-American Taliban. It is not a question of loyalty to one’s “friend,” therefore, when that “friend”—the US government—appears to be more loyal to its autocratic allies than to its own citizens.
Dante may have reserved the Ninth Circle of Hell for those who, like Satan, Judas, Brutus and Cassius, are treacherous to kindred, country, party, lords, superiors, and benefactors. But loyalty is of no ethical import unless it is loyalty to an idea. And, in this instance, it is the idea of America to which I owe my loyalty. It is to the rational individualist and libertarian ideas of Western civilization to which I owe my loyalty—ideas that the United States of America embraced in its infancy, and that have faced extinction over the past two centuries.
As Ayn Rand once wrote: “Loyalty can be maintained in only one of two ways: by terrorism—or by dedication to ideas," ... by fear or by conviction. I owe no loyalty to any group, party, class, or Commander-in-Chief, when such adherence undermines loyalty to moral principles. And it is only those principles that will save my country—and the rest of the world—from utter destruction.
Again, read the whole essay here.