We knew the full-body scanners didn’t work before they were even installed. Not long after the Underwear Bomber incident, all TSA officers at O’Hare were informed that training for the Rapiscan Systems full-body scanners would soon begin. The machines cost about $150,000 a pop.
Our instructor was a balding middle-aged man who shrugged his shoulders after everything he said, as though in apology. At the conclusion of our crash course, one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines.
“They’re shit,” he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.
We quickly found out the trainer was not kidding: Officers discovered that the machines were good at detecting just about everything besides cleverly hidden explosives and guns. The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone.
But the only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.
Here’s an fascinating little story from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (available in paperback, kindle, and audible). It’s from pages 777-8.
And then suddenly Goering made his second tactical error, this one comparable in its consequences to Hitler’s calling off the armored attack on Dunkirk on May 24. It saved the battered, reeling R.A.F. and marked one of the major turning points of history’s first great battle in the air.
With the British fighter defense suffering losses in the air and on the ground which it could not for long sustain, the Luftwaffe switched its attack on September 7 to massive night bombings of London. The R.A.F. fighters were reprieved.
What had bappened in the German camp to cause this change in tactics which was destined to prove so fatal to the ambitions of Hitler and Goering?
The answer is full of irony.
To begin with, there was a minor navigational error by the pilots of a dozen German bombers on the night of August 23. Directed to drop their loads on aircraft factories and oil tanks on the outskirts of London, they missed their mark and dropped bombs on the center of the capital, blowing up some homes and killing some civilians. The British thought it was deliberate and as retaliation bombed Berlin the next evening.
It didn’t amount to much. There was a dense cloud cover over Berlin that night and only about half of the eighty-one R.A.F. bombers dispatched found the target. Material damage was negligible. But the effect on German morale was tremendous. For this was the first time that bombs had ever fallen on Berlin.
The Berliners are stunned [I wrote in my diary the next day, August 26]. They did not think it could ever happen. When this war began, Goering assured them it couldn’t … They believed him. Their disillusionment today therefore is all the greater. You have to see their faces to measure it.
Berlin was well defended by two great rings of antiaircraft and for three hours while the visiting bombers droned above the clouds, which prevented the hundreds of searchlight batteries from picking them up, the flak fire was the most intense I had ever seen. But not a single plane was brought down. The British also dropped a few leaflets saying that “the war which Hitler started will go on, and it will last as long as Hitler does.”
This was good propaganda, but the thud of exploding bombs was better. The R.A.F. came over in greater force on the night of August 28-29 and, as I noted in my diary, “for the first time killed Germans in the capital of the Reich.” The official count was ten killed and twenty-nine wounded. The Nazi bigwigs were outraged. Goebbels, who had ordered the press to publish only a few lines on the first attack, now gave instructions to cry out at the “brutality” of the British flyers in attacking the defenseless women and children of Berlin. Most of the capital’s dailies carried the same headline: COWARDLY BRITISH ATTACK. Two nights later, after the third raid, the headlines read: BRITISH AIR PIRATES OVER BERLIN!
The main effect of a week of constant British night bombings [I wrote in my diary on September 1] has been to spread great disillusionment among the people and sow doubt in their minds … Actually the bombings have not been very deadly.
That story, of course, made me think of John Lewis’ excellent book, Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, available in hardcover and kindle.
In this video, Ron Paul talks about Israel and Gaza:
First, it’s appalling that he’d speak to the state-controlled Iranian television at all. By doing that, he sanctions a repressive dictatorship and avowed enemy of the United States.
Second, he’s not just saying that we shouldn’t be meddling in Israel’s problems but instead leave her to manage her own self-defense as she sees fit. He explicitly criticizes Israel on moral grounds, citing her as the aggressor in the conflict, and he sides with the Palestinian terrorists.
Recently, I spent some time watching videos of Ron Paul speaking on foreign policy, particularly Iran. Ever since my webcast discussion of his views, I’ve wanted take a closer look, because my sense is that his views are not merely mistaken, but reveal some deep error in his principles.
Ron Paul’s efforts on behalf of Iran’s right to the status of misunderstood victim continued apace. On the Hannity show following the debate, Dr. Paul urged the host to understand that Iran’s leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had never mentioned any intention of wiping Israel off the map. It was all a mistranslation, he explained. What about Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust? A short silence ensued as the candidate stared into space. He moved quickly on to a more secure subject. “They’re just defending themselves,” he declared.
So is that a fair recap of his views? Well, you can see for yourself in the following videos.
So what do I think of all that? Oy, that’s a bit hard to untangle. Mostly, however, I see deep-rooted moral equivalence.
Ron Paul flatly refuses to draw any distinction between (mostly) free countries like the US and Israel and repressive dictatorial theocracies like Iran. He seems to think that every government is legitimate, including governments run by batshit-crazy terrorists who repress their own citizens and threaten their own neighbors. Hence, he supposes, every regime is entitled to defend itself against its perceived enemies, including with nuclear weapons.
That basic view — that moral equivalence between nations — is why Ron Paul repeatedly stresses the sheer number of nukes possessed by various countries — without any regard for the principles, policies, or even sanity of the regime. That’s also why he regards Iran has having just as much right to the “respect” afforded to nuclear regimes as does Israel. Perhaps worse, he can’t even fathom that Iran might be allah-crazy enough use nuclear weapons offensively against other nations (i.e. Israel, then America). He’s not just ignorant of that possibility: he’s willfully blind to it.
Ultimately, the serious threat posed by Iran and other totalitarian Islamic regimes could easily become reality under any Ron Paul presidency. He would open the door to the slew of state-sponsored terrorist groups seeking to destroy America and establish a global caliphate. As I said in my webcast discussion, if you think that Obama can destroy the economy with more controls, you’re right… but just think about the economic devastation inflicted by a nuke in Manhattan. Iran doesn’t need a land army to do that — just the nuclear weapons that Ron Paul urges us to permit Iran to develop.
Contrary to Ron Paul’s moral equivance in foreign policy, other nations ought to be judged based on their respect for rights. A nation that respects rights is not a threat to other free nations — and likely would be an ally. Dictatorial nations must be clearly identified as such, then monitored for threats. Serious threats should be swiftly and decisively eliminated. Ron Paul will not do that, not because the threats don’t exist, but because he refuses to see them.
Even when military action would not be proper, dictatorial regimes should be identified as morally illegitimate, clearly and forthrightly. Any American president with a shred of love for liberty ought to say to despots, “Your regime is despotic and vicious. Your power is unjustly obtained and unjustly exercised. Your citizens, if they value their lives, ought to rise up in revolt, then establish a constitutional government based on the principles of individual rights.” Ron Paul won’t do that, not even to Iran, because he doesn’t draw moral distinctions between nations.
What will Ron Paul do instead? He suggests that America befriend Iran, a barbaric theocracy openly seeking to destroy us. After all, he says, we used diplomacy with the USSR and China, so why not use it with Iran? Basically, he wants America to adopt a stance of weakness and cowardice — even now, while the threat is merely potential and could be defused at minimal risk to American lives.
Ron Paul’s views on these matters are so fantastically twisted that I can’t even regard them as any kind of “foreign policy.” He’s willfully blind to the proper moral principles and to the basic facts — and hence, he would be the best possible ally of our sworn enemies. Although I’m far more concerned about domestic than foreign policy in this election, Ron Paul’s foreign policy is so bad as to disqualify him, in my view. America would not survive four years with him at the helm, I don’t think.
In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I took an early look at the 2012 election, then surveyed four GOP candidates — Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson. I’ve posted all five questions as videos, and so here they are!
The first question was:
What’s your view of the upcoming 2012 election? By what standards do you judge the presidential candidates?
My answer, in brief:
In a presidential candidate, I’m not looking for either John Galt or “Anyone But Obama.” I’m looking for someone who will do more good than harm to the cause of liberty in America.
Should I support Mitt Romney for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Romney deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
My answer, in brief:
Mitt Romney is a smooth talker, but his proposal reveal that he has no understanding of individual rights or the economic problems facing America. He’s no better than Obama – and likely worse, because the opposition will vanish. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.
Should I support Newt Gingrinch for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Gingrinch deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
My answer, in brief:
Newt Gingrich is explicitly theocratic, and a major threat to the separation of church and state. He advocates and practices “active governance,” meaning right-wing social engineering, not liberty. Like Obama, he is enamored of bold transformative ideas, which could be okay or horrible for liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.
Should I support Ron Paul for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Paul deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election?
My answer, in brief:
Ron Paul is not even libertarian, but a neo-confederate conservative Christian, albeit with some grasp of basic economics. He’s a rationalist, driven by ideology, and not open to facts. He would be very dangerous to elect as president, not just for actual policies, but as a supposed advocate of liberty. I cannot recommend voting for him in the primary or the general election.
Should I support Gary Johnson for US President? What’s the proper evaluation of his principles and record on the budget and the debt, health care, foreign policy, immigration, the drug war, abortion, and gay marriage? Does Johnson deserve the vote of advocates of individual rights in the primary or the general election? Also, should supporters of Gary Johnson vote for him on a Libertarian Party ticket?
My answer, in brief:
Gary Johnson is not John Galt. However, he’s fundamentally oriented toward facts, plus he has good basic principles about liberty. Alas, he was shut out from the race by the media and the establishment GOP. I recommend voting for him in the primary, as well as in the general election, if he runs as the Libertarian Party candidate. I still reject the Libertarian Party, but a protest vote can be delimited to endorse him and not the party.
Is it moral to torture criminals and/or terrorists? We supposedly were able to track down Osama Bin Laden with information obtained by torturing captured Al Qaeda prisoners. Is it moral to torture criminals, terrorists or other evildoers to gain useful information to fight crime or help win a war? If so, should there be any limits on when and how torture should be used by the government?
I was just listening to your Rationally Selfish Webcast that I missed last weekend. I’m not an expert in the law of treason, but I do know a little bit about it. Treason does not actually require a formal state of war or aid to a declared enemy in war.
Black’s Law Dictionary, which is probably the most widely used legal dictionary, defines treason as “the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which one owes allegiance, either by making war against the state or by materially supporting its enemies.”
The current federal statute criminalizing treason is 18 U.S.C. section 2381, and it reads, “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason . . . .”
Prosecution for things like espionage, terrorist acts, arson, sabotage, and conspiracy are much more common than for treason, though, even if the acts committed are technically within the definition of treason.
A person can commit treason by making war against the state in the absence of a pre-existing war. If you act to overthrow the government, that counts as treason. This idea was behind the actions taken against communists in the U.S. during the 1950s.
Confederate soldiers and government officials also committed treason against the United States even though it was not a declared war. The Confederacy took the legal position that secession was permitted and they were not treasonous because they no longer owed allegiance to the United States. The Union took the legal position that secession was not permitted and the military action was about restoring the union and putting down an illegal rebellion. After reunification, the Confederate soldiers and officials were considered to have committed treason, though the vast majority of them were pardoned.
Right now, America has many undeclared enemies, thanks to its weak and appeasing foreign policy. As a result, many actions that should be prosecuted as treasonous, such as inviting the heads of terrorist states to speak at universities — are not subject to any kind of legal action. However, my question would be how “enemies” should be defined, given a proper foreign policy. Clearly, the category would include any states with which we’re at war. As Hanah notes, people or groups attempting to wage war from within (or without) are also properly considered “enemies.” Beyond that, I could only see that the term should apply to states that a reasonable person would understand to be committed to overthrowing the US government. For various reasons, it might not be worth waging war on such states — perhaps they’re so poor as to be unable to inflict damage and/or our military is occupied with a serious threat elsewhere. Nonetheless, it would be treason to assist their efforts.
Craig Biddle explains the crucial importance of recognizing that we are at war with a deadly enemy — and the importance of defending America based on the principles of individual rights and the rue of law.
One key quote:
If we want to protect civilized society, we must unwaveringly uphold the principles of civilized society — no matter how justifiably outraged we may become about the irrationalities and injustices perpetrated by our enemies. If, in an effort to stop Muslims from destroying America, we trample individual rights and the rule of law, we will have surrendered the very thing we were supposed to be fighting to protect.
Thank you, Craig, for a well-written and well-reasoned piece!
This video of Brigitte Gabriel discussing the barbarity of Islam has been making the rounds on blogs and social media recently:
(Note: This is a multi-part video series.)
Diana and I heard Brigitte Gabriel speak at the same LPR 2009 conference that Yaron Brook spoke at. She is a staunch Christian who took an uncompromising stand against the Islamic threat to America. She told some heart-rending stories of life as a Christian under Islamist rule in Lebanon. She made a compelling case that the Islamists want destroy America. And she had the mostly-conservative crowd eating out of her hand.
And she’s just one of many eloquent Christian conservatives out there on the lecture circuit making their case against the Islamic threat — and arguing that the only solution is for this country to recommit to Christian values.
For this reason, I regard her and her allies as a serious long-term danger to America, even though her criticisms of the barbarity of Islam are correct. She correctly identifies the current problem, but she also offers the wrong solution.
Let me explain why I regard the Christians as the greater long-term danger to America — even while I also agree that the Islamists are the greater immediate short-term threat to this country.
Based on my reading of American culture and sense of life, I personally don’t think this country can actually be conquered by the Islamists. Yes, the Islamists will try as hard as they can. And yes, they could do a tremendous amount of damage (with more 9/11-style attacks or worse). And yes, they could kill many Americans in the process. But they couldn’t actually take over and impose Sharia law on us.
There’s still a general “ornery streak” alive and well amongst many Americans that would reject any such an attempt to subjugate us to Sharia law. Many Americans would fight back by any means necessary — especially in the much-maligned “Red states” where that ornery streak runs deep and where the populace is well-armed.
(This is in contrast to Europe, where I think many of those countries could fall under Sharia law due to their internal weaknesses).
But I do think that if the Islamists successfully committed more major terrorist attacks on US soil, it would arouse a backlash by decent Americans seeking some kind of forceful response. Conservatives like Brigitte Gabriel would exploit this and use pro-American rhetoric to rouse Americans against the Islamists. And this breed of conservatives might even implement a somewhat better foreign policy, at least for a while.
But they also would couple that with appeals to Christianity, sacrifice, faith, etc. — all in the name of being “pro-America”. Those are the sorts of appeals that the neocons, John McCain, and other bad conservatives have been making for many years — and which would strike a renewed chord in an America shaken up by a string of deadly attacks at home and abroad. Americans would likely reject our current policy of appeasement (correctly seeing it as having weakened this country), but would instead embrace an even worse nationalism. And without a firm commitment to individual rights, any new conservative nationalist government would very likely impose a variety of “emergency” measures that might be superficially reasonable (and might even be appropriate in short-term wartime settings), but would somehow never be repealed.
If dictatorship ever comes to America, it won’t be an Islamist one. Instead, it will more likely be a Christian one, but one which would arise as a direct result of our current weak approach to the real and immediate Islamist threats. Furthermore, such a Christianist regime could gain traction here in a way that an Islamist regime never could because the Christianist regime would have a superficially “pro-American” veneer.
Tellingly, polls taken in the past few years show the following:
Given these facts, I think a Christian dictatorship could appeal to many Americans in a time of crisis, especially if it came to power on a platform of fighting back against the Islamists — and if it were viewed as the only moral alternative to the policies of appeasement and secularism that allowed such attacks to happen in the first place.
Hence, it’s critical to both oppose the immediate and serious Islamist danger, but also be alert to the Christian totalitarian threat.
Back in 1980, many Americans (correctly) recognized the USSR as a threat, but also thought that we could use the Islamist mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan as allies against the communists. Of course today the USSR is no more, but the Islamists are now a real danger to us in a way that few (myself included) anticipated 30 years ago.
But as more conservatives start speaking out against Islam, I want to highlight the importance of closely examining what they stand for in addition to what they are against.
And on a positive note, I also wanted to highlight the importance of offering Americans an alternative principled self-interested approach to foreign policy that doesn’t rely on appeals to faith, altruism, and sacrifice. Fortunately, we have such an approach to offer. Let’s hope our message reaches enough Americans before it’s too late.
My theme is the NYC Mosque would become a non-issue if the US would adopt a proper foreign policy, explicit identify our enemy, and take the necessary action against Islamic Totalitarianism and its primary state sponsor Iran.
All the energy devoted to this issue of the Ground Zero Mosque is distracting us from the far more serious problem of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. If this more fundamental problem is properly addressed, then the NYC mosque issue will become irrelevant. Conversely, if America doesn’t deal with this more fundamental problem, then any legal or political maneuvers to stop the NYC mosque — even if successful — will make little difference in the long run.
Opponents of the mosque argue that allowing its construction near the ruins of the World Trade Center would symbolize America’s weakness and would embolden anti-American, anti-Western Islamists around the world. While true, the reason why America is perceived as weak against the Islamists is because we are. And nothing illustrates this more than our current policy (or lack thereof) toward Iran’s nuclear program…
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