Backtalk, October 3, 2004

Putin, the Patriot

Mr. Raimondo: Very telling and interesting article indeed. Another interesting fact I found about the involvement of the U.S. neocon cabal in the Chechen conflict and their desire to weaken and isolate Russia through the Chechen rebels, arises from the fact that:

"The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline project is aimed exclusively at the United States," Viktor Kalyuzhny, Russia’s special envoy for Caspian issues and deputy foreign minister, told the press in Baku on Thursday.

"BTC oil will only go to the American market. For economic reasons the oil will not go to Europe," he said.

Also ("US helps Georgia, angers Russia"),

The US has been pushing for the new pipeline in order to diversify transport routes and reduce its dependence on Mideast oil. Georgia has said its U.S.-trained special forces troops could be used to protect the pipeline, a promise that helped secure investment in the pipeline. While economic and strategic interests between the US and Russia have clashed in Georgia, all three countries have a common goal in enforcing order in the Pankisi Gorge. But Georgia has concerns that will complicate any action taken in the area. The Pankisi Gorge is home to an estimated 9,000 ethnic Chechens, the Kists.

Russia still has plenty of its own interests in the region. One of the biggest issues is the transport of the Caspian Sea’s rich reserves of oil. Against Russia’s wishes, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project is now set to go, and Caspian oil will eventually be transported not just via Russia but also through Georgia, cutting into Russia’s profit potential.

There you have it. Another regional war for control of oil.

~ E. Patricia Grady

I was puzzled to see Justin’s defense of Putin. The gist of this seems to be that a strong Putin (and unified Greater Russia) is a bulwark against US hegemony in foreign policy matters. Also, that various neocons or imperialists have an unusual interest in the Chechen independence cause, which makes it suspect. Justin also claims there is no real evidence for the theory that Putin and the FSB deliberately bombed apartments near Moscow in 1999 and tried to pin it on the Chechens. It was this act which is largely responsible for the latest round of Russian involvement there.

As to the latter, there is considerable evidence for this theory, including reports of captured FSB agents foiled in at least one attempt. Sorting out the truth here is murky at best, but what I have read seemed compelling. It is difficult to accept that a leader would deliberately do such a thing. But who doubts the ruthlessness of the ex-KGB colonel Putin? How many civilians have been bombed in Grozny and elsewhere in Chechnya?

As to the neocon group critical of Putin, this was news to me but doesn’t necessarily mean that Justin or his readers need to automatically favor Putin. They may have their own hidden motives for this, such as taking this matter off the table for radical Islamists. Remember their motives for Bosnia?

As to the counterbalance theory, this seems a kind of reverse Kissingerism. There is no reason to cheerlead an artificially inflated Greater Russia (or China, for that matter) merely to posit some hypothetical counterweight to the US. Chechnya and similar smaller regions in the vicinity have never been culturally or even politically Russian and these areas have good and plenty historical reasons (such as genocide) to oppose artificial Russification. The Greater Russia view is Tsarist and Leninist/ Stalinist, not some type of natural homeland based on shared culture, language and history.

Justin, as a self-proclaimed Rothbardian, I don’t see how you can abandon the Rothbardian doctrine of small-scale self-determination of peoples in this instance merely to wish for some geopolitical counterweight to the US. At best this is merely cynical. At worst it is betrayal of principle. Not to mention hopelessly unrealistic.

There is no reason (other than Putin’s USSR restoration fantasy) to think that a colonized Chechnya somehow makes Russia a stronger nation. Quite the contrary. His rise to power was largely based on his ruthless catering to the nostalgic imperial feelings of post-Soviet Russians. Unfortunately, Putin’s total bungling of the Chechen issue has proven Russia to be a military and political ghost. The Chechen resistance has borrowed the foreign cloak of radical fundamentalist Islam merely to gain support in a difficult cause. Like similar effects of US military interventionism, this action has pushed them to the direction of hate-filled Wahhabism filtered through an al-Qaeda-type lens. Justin, it works the same way for the Russians. It is classic blowback.

Finally, while you seem to believe that Putin might prove to be some independent political force against US imperialism, there is little evidence for that. Putin has used his self-created Chechen problem to cheerlead for the US worldwide terror war, much as the Chinese are doing in the wake of their western provincial unrest. Strengthening the Greater Russian fantasy merely validates the use of military force to create imperial hegemony. Strong unchecked imperialist Russia, China and the USA end up fulfilling the Orwellian vision of 1984.

While we can all shudder and denounce the ruthless terror of certain Chechen revolutionary actions against civilians, this hardly tells the whole story. You daily and correctly denounce the carnage on civilians in Iraq inflicted by the US military. Why the double standard for Russia, which has been doing the same and worse for over a decade in tiny Chechnya? Both Bush in Iraq and Putin in Chechnya seem to think liquidating dissidents and anti-imperialists (and killing thousands of noncombatants in the process) will solve their political problems. Both are wrong.

Murray Rothbard consistently supported the breakdown of huge artificial nation states. As you recall, among his final thoughts were those cheering the breakup of Yugoslavia. I can think of no circumstance where he didn’t support the nationalist revolutionary insurgents – if for nothing else this weakened the grip of hegemonic empires. …

~ Mike Holmes, CPA

Dear Mr. Raimondo: I am usually pleased with how well you tie in our own foreign policy to the problem of al-Qaeda. However, in your assessment of the Chechens you seem to leave out entirely the real and horrendous history of mass murder and deportation by the Russians in the North Caucasus, going back as far as the 19th century. Basayev and his ilk are monsters largely spawned by Wahhabi funds and ideology, but the Chechen grievances are terribly real and should not be placed in ironic quotes. The history of Chechen resistance, until only recently with the advent of Wahhabist tendencies in the region, has been in the main a noble one.

Putin is as bad as Sharon, and could get much worse. The Chechens have not suffered less than the Palestinians, a fact not erased by the acts of the nihilists.

Still, I am an admirer of your website. Keep up the good work.

~ Caner Dagli, Istanbul (PhD candidate in the Princeton Univ. Department of Near Eastern Studies)

Well, when you agree with someone 99% of the time, there comes this one time when you actually disagree. Putin is a patriot, no doubt about it. But his patriotism is Soviet-style. I do not know him personally, but we walked the same corridors of Leningrad State and we have mutual friends and acquaintances, like famous late St. Petersburg mayor Anatoli Sobchak. Putin, long before he became a president, saved the life of a good friend of mine with his personal courage and resolve. But being a good man and being a good president are not the same thing. Putin is too "Soviet," too "KGB," too "one-party."

Beslan was a terrible tragedy, there is no excuse for anything like that. But there is also no excuse for more than 200,000 dead civilians in Chechen lands, including more than 40,000 children. Have you, Mr. Raimondo, ever raised your voice in horror at these killings? The world has to understand that people whose children, wives, parents, friends are killed in their houses, are not like us anymore. Their life means nothing to them and revenge means everything. It is our generally safe lives that make us judge them so harshly. The absolute majority of us did not see our 9-year-old daughters raped and our sons pinned to the walls by bayonets, so for us these are just terrible words. Now look at your kid and be man enough to imagine his body charred with a flame-thrower. Do not flinch – if you judge these people before you judge the regular army that did it, have the courage to IMAGINE what they actually experienced. Imagine that happening all over your land for years. And ask yourself what would you do. My answer: I do not want to know. But I will definitely judge more harshly the regular army and people who give orders to erase villages from the face of the earth by artillery, air strikes and flame-throwers than I will judge a band of vigilantes. I have the same attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian situation. If you fire rockets into streets full of civilians do not be much surprised when a person whose life you destroyed throws this life away in a blast of C4.

Certainly neocons love this – everything that ties more countries into the "war on terror" is what they want. So they do it two-prong: Sharon supports Putin’s harsh (and futile) efforts and neocons support the Chechens, because the Chechens weaken Russia and make Russia do things that make Israel look innocent in comparison. They also know that Putin would never allow a Russian version of the neocon cabal in the Kremlin. And this is what they want. Seriously, why not? If they were so successful in doing it here, why not other places?

~ Alex Chaihorsky, Reno, NV

I feel like I’m starting to get a general handle on things with this view: extremists in the US administration want to polarize the world so that W.W.IV dominates all aspects of life (increasing their power and ensuring future riches); Islamist extremists want to polarize the world so that all Muslims have no choice but to participate in their jihad (increasing their present power and securing an immortality). If both extremes are working for the same goal, I think a lot of things make sense. I thank for that (and I’m sorry if that’s not the correct message).

With respect to Chechnya, however, I still have no way out of my confusion. I liked both Raimondo’s article on Putin and Pilger’s article about state-sponsored terrorism (both published Sept. 17), but the authors don’t seem to agree at all. Could you publish a dialogue between the two or some commentary about points of contact in the two pieces? I would like to see each critique the other’s position.

~ Steve Latham

While I am a loyal reader of Raimondo and a donation-contributor to, I wholeheartedly disagree with his views on Zakayev, Mashkadov, and the war in Chechnya. Placing Akhmed Zakayev on the same moral playing field as al-Zarqawi is as illogical as saying Saddam is the modern equivalent of Hitler. Zakayev was a military leader (he led multiple militias against Russian troops) during the first outbreak of the Chechen war (from 1994-96). He is not an Islamic fundamentalist, and is not a supporter of Sharia law. He is a Chechen patriot who fought, and still fights (diplomatically) for an independent Chechnya. The roots of the current Chechen war stem back to their declaration of independence on November 27, 1991. Far from being an Islamic state, "The Constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria makes it clear that Chechnya is meant to be a secular national state, which explicitly guaranteed the rights of minorities and religious freedom in its Constitution." The Chechen nationalist movement had nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, when the Taliban recognized Chechen independence, Mashkadov rejected the Taliban’s recognition because he did not believe they were the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

Today, though, the situation has changed. Because of relentless Russian bombings and unspeakable atrocities committed by Russian soldiers, some (still a very small minority) Chechens have taken to Wahhabism and have begun using the despicable tactics (suicide bombing) of a desperate and brainwashed people. A man like Basayev, who was once a fringe military leader with no political credibility, has, because of the financial contributions of Wahhabi Arab charities, become the main force in the fight against Russia. Men like Basayev and his financial coconspirators have to be reigned in, but the only way to do it is for Russia to begin negotiations with a moderate and popular leader who will be seen as the legitimate voice of the Chechen people. Putin knows that the only man who could do this is Aslan Mashkadov, but he also knows that the reason he was elected for office in 1999 was his promise to destroy all the Chechen rebels including Mashkadov. Putin needs to sit down and ask himself whether political concerns are worth turning Russia into a 6.6 million square mile version of Israel.

Finally, much of Raimondo’s article, in fact the whole reason it was even written in my opinion, rests on the fact that many neocons favor a diplomatic solution to the war in Chechnya. The claim that the neocons are using a double-standard by being the leading proponents in the nonsensical "war on terror" (read Muslim terrorists), while belonging to the ACPC, is simply an ad hominem attack. Just because neocons hold one false belief does not preclude them from having other beliefs that are true. …

Some links for you:

Zakayev condemns school taking: "Zakayev warns west over Chechnya"

Zakayev peace (theater siege): "Zakayev Welcomes Deportation Trial" …

~ Kenan Atli

Justin Raimondo replies:

The neocons don’t have "beliefs" – only strategies to destroy their enemies. And this is one of them: destroy Russia, reduce it to easily controllable mini-"states," and insert the U.S.-NATO armies into the Caucasus.

You wrote another great article highlighting the hypocrisy of the EU and the Bush Administration in their dealings with Putin. But frankly, I’m surprised you endorsed that KGB mass-murderer.

What the Chechen terrorists did in Beslan was repugnant and morally inexcusable, though I find it odd that you chose to ignore the legendary brutality of the Russian army in the Caucasus.

Chechnya was conquered in the mid-19th century by the czar, and received worse treatment than other areas of the Russian empire because it was predominantly Muslim. The trend continued in Communist times. The Chechens have repeatedly tried to free themselves from Russia but have been unsuccessful.

You write: "Never mind that Chechen ‘rebels’ routinely pour into neighboring regions, such as Dagestan, looting, killing, and kidnapping."

Your sarcasm surrounding the word "rebel" almost makes you sound like the neocons when they talk about Iraq. I find it surprising that you are willing to put part of the blame on Israeli policies for Hamas’ suicide bombings but change the standard on Russia.

As far as mass murder and rape are concerned, the Russian army pretty much wrote the book on it in the Caucasus. In fact, many "Black Widows" are often driven by despair or a desire for revenge after being raped by Russian soldiers.

Russia’s destruction of Grozny has made it the kidnapping capital of the world and the state is in tatters after repeated invasions and the installment of puppet regimes. (This should sound familiar. It’s called colonial rule.) …

~ Fahad K.

Justin Raimondo replies:

My piece on Putin was written primarily to point out the curious fact that the neocons, who would not normally support a Muslim "liberation" struggle, are front and center on Chechnya, and have a special animus for Putin. I think this points to their larger agenda: breaking up any large states that might pose a threat to U.S. hegemony.

The example of Hamas suicide bombers might best be applied to the neocons: in Israel, they point to this as evidence of Palestinian savagery. In Chechnya, suddenly the same tactic is all too explicable.

Deconstructing the Neocons

America Alone is the most penetrating analysis and scathing indictment of the neocons and the Bush Iraq policy that I’ve ever read. How in the hell can you let Alan Bock neuter a critique like this with his spineless review? Has anybody else there read America Alone? Do you have any idea how Bock has dishonored your mission? …

~ Gary Boatwright

Alan Bock replies:

Gee whiz, I might not have done it justice, but I thought that was a pretty favorable review. If anyone is in doubt, let me make it clear: America Alone is a terrific book that skewers the neoconservatives and the Bush administration policy on Iraq rather thoroughly and credibly, and I would recommend highly that everybody read it.

21 US Soldiers Killed in Iraq This Week

The DOD releases the names of all service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan after their next of kin have been notified. This is sometimes not a short period of time. The names of all casualties are released via press release on

There is no conspiracy or cover-up, just bureaucracy.

~ David Edwards

Michael Ewens replies:

I know this, I check that site every day and receive press releases via email. The point was they are not releasing their deaths until after the next of kin are notified. Up until the RNC convention, CentCom or some other military source would tell the AP, something like:

"Three US soldiers were killed in Iraq today. Names will be released after next of kin notification."

Then a wire report would go out and could be found on all the major news sites. This is what has changed. Now the press only finds out days after the actual death, essentially downgrading its "newsworthiness." Have you seen any wire reports on deaths lately? 50+ have been killed this month alone.

Behind Enemy Lines: Fact or Fiction?

Dear Stella: Do you believe that the Serbs (Serbian, Bosnian or Croatian Serbs) have been fighting fundamental Muslims for over 10 years? Bosnian Muslims, prior to the ’90s war, were mostly secular, pork-eating, slivovitz-drinking regulars of Yugoslav society. It is the Serbian war machine that can thank itself for turning elements of its society towards fundamentalism.

I can see from your writing that you have Serbian sympathies. That’s fine, your politics are your own.

I have no hatred against the Serbs. But I’m also here to tell you that you have no idea. What the various Serbian armies did during the ’90s in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosova was pure evil.

In regards to the film Behind Enemy Lines, I admit that it was complete dross. But the film portrayed Serbian soldiers (paramilitaries, irregular troops and ex-JNA elements incorporated into a Bosnian Serb army), not Serbian civilians. And that portrayal was accurate.

I am not trying to imply that sections of Muslim and Croatian forces did not perpetrate evils, we all know they did.

However, the Serbian war machine has everything to answer to. Sometimes there are bad guys – and the Serbian armies were it.

~ Mark Kram Bucak

Stella Jatras replies:

Mark: Not only do I believe that the Serbs have been "fighting fundamental Muslims for over 10 years," I KNOW so! Apparently, you do not consider the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, where 75,000 Serbs died in one day defending Christianity against the Turkish Islamic hordes, as proof that Muslims have been trying to destroy the Serbs for hundreds of years. You say that Bosnian Muslims, prior to the ’90s war, may have been secular, pork-eating, slivovitz-drinking regulars in Yugoslav society, but that certainly has changed since 20,000 mujahedin were sent in from Iran to fight the Serbs with the approval of the Clinton administration. What was once Bosnia’s true secular society (remember the Olympics at Sarajevo?), women today are wearing Islamic dress as a result of 20,000 mujahedin marrying Bosnian women, many against their will. Many street signs are now in Arabic. (What are Arabs doing there in the first place? Bosnian Muslims are not Arabs.)

Are my sympathies with the Serbs? You bet! I don’t like being lied to, which was what happened when the biggest con artist this nation has ever seen, William Jefferson Clinton, with a complying media, lied about just about everything having to do with our intervention in the Balkans. At the beginning of the war, I remember when CNN, i.e. Christian Amanpour (whose father is Iranian and certainly DID have a dog in this fight), showed every hour on the hour the Muslim babies on a bus that CNN alleged had been killed by Serb snipers, when it was Muslim snipers who had killed Serbian babies. If I had not been watching French TV, I would never have known the truth; when they showed the funeral of these innocent SERBIAN babies being officiated by a SERBIAN Orthodox priest. However, for American consumption the priest had been cropped from the film so that Americans would continue to believe that Serbs had murdered the babies. Not only is this reporting disgraceful and disgusting, it is evil. …

On one hand, Mark, you say, "However, the Serbian war machine has everything to answer to. Sometimes there are bad guys – and the Serbian armies were it," and on the other hand you say, "I am not trying to imply that sections of Muslim and Croatian forces did not perpetrate evils, we all know they did." Well, which is it? According to the anti-Serb media and certain pro-Bosnian members of Congress, you wouldn’t think that all sides had done bad things. According to them, all Serbs wore black hats and all Croats, Bosnian Muslims and even the Kosovo Liberation Army, many of whom were trained in Osama bin Laden camps, wore white hats! Perhaps if the media had been the least bit fair, and if Bill Clinton had not intervened on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims for political reasons, thousands of people would have been spared suffering and death.

And isn’t it amazing! The people who now demand to know where the weapons of mass destruction are and who say, "What have the Iraqi people ever done to us?" are the same people who were right behind (and applauded) their wag-the-dog president when he bombed Yugoslavia for 78 unmerciful days.

As for Scott O’Grady, he was used. Clinton needed a hero, and O’Grady was it.

Back to Indirect Occupation?

You miss the point, like most on the radical left (who would have Israel retreat to indefensible borders) do: there will never be an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-June 1967 borders. If you want peace, accept this fact. There may be a full withdrawal from Gaza, and there may be a partial withdrawal from the territories you call the "West Bank," but it is no secret that some of the land you refer to as the West Bank will be incorporated into Israel proper. When this happens, if the "Palestinian" Arabs want to form another Palestinian state on what is left for them (the first being Jordan), so be it, but who cares. At that point there will no longer be an occupation, either direct or indirect, and the Palestinians will be left on their own, to contemplate all their missed opportunities.

~ Jonathan Grauman

Ran HaCohen replies:

Thank you very much for this excellent formulation of Israeli rejectionism. You prove my point: there is no peace because Israel – and people like you – refuse to withdraw from Palestinian land occupied by force and held contrary to international law and justice. Just don’t complain later that there is no peace: it’s your own fault.

Your map is out of date. Israel has withdrawn from South Lebanon.

Another quibble: The caption on your map refers to "areas occupied by Israel since 1948." That seems to imply that all of Palestine is under occupation. Isn’t that the official position of Hamas?

~ Jonathan Joseph

Ran HaCohen replies:

Israel had withdrawn from Sinai as well, even before it invaded Lebanon. Therefore the map is not out of date, it’s simply a historical map, depicting areas occupied at different times. It doesn’t depict Palestinian Authority areas nor Israeli settlements either. I think it illustrates nicely the fact that no country neighboring Israel hasn’t had its land occupied by Israel at some point.

By the way, I believe the Lebanese tortured in Israel’s notorious Al-Khayam prison still suffer physically and psychologically from the occupation you want to forget so quickly.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "occupy" as, among other things, "take control by military conquest" – which is precisely what happened in 1948. But then again, maybe the OED too is a Hamas conspiracy.

"It’s quite simple: the Arab states and the Palestinians have in fact acknowledged Israel’s right to exist in peace, if it withdraws from the occupied Palestinian territories taken in 1967; whereas Israel wants to keep these territories, though it doesn’t quite know how. The conflict is as simple as that."

Really? I agree the conflict is quite simple, but the author’s facts are completely false.

Fact: Every poll taken of Israelis shows that the majority would be quite happy to let the Palestinians have the majority of the West Bank and Gaza Strip if there was real peace.

Fact: The Palestinians would have pretty much the entire West Bank, the Gaza Strip, compensation for "refugees," and more – except for the "right of return" – had Arafat not walked away from the table in 2000.

Fact: Every poll of Palestinians shows that the majority support the goal of a Palestinian state – encompassing all of Israel. Take a look at the Palestinian media to see what the real attitudes are. Look for yourselves:

Maybe the author has missed the scenes of celebration in the Palestinian streets every time a Palestinian terrorist kills innocents.

Fact: Other than the Arab countries of Egypt and Jordan, the remainder, specifically Syria and Iran, are dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Is the author really so naive as to believe that if Israel withdrew to the ’67 Armistice lines that the hatred emanating from these countries towards Israel, and specifically Jews, would somehow magically disappear?

The majority of Israelis support land for peace. The majority of Palestinians support Israel’s destruction through terrorism or demographic means. There won’t be any peace until this culture of hate is gone.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

~ Robert Spector

Casualties in Iraq

Dear Mr. Ewens: For a number of months I have been pondering the accuracy of the official count of military deaths in Iraq. I have been wondering what happens to those soldiers who are sent to hospitals as a result of wounds and subsequently die. Having seen very few reports of this nature and my attempts to get additional information encountering stone walls, I decided to take a look at the DoD names on your website.

A quick count this evening indicated that of the 155 deaths listed, only 3 indicated that the soldier died as a result of wounds on a date other than the date of the wounds. In each instance the hospital was named.

This quick survey indicates to me that most of the deaths subsequent to injury go unreported and therefore constitute a cover-up of significant proportion. Officially over 7000 military have been wounded in Iraq. Are we to conclude that approximately 2% (3/155) or only 140 soldiers succumbed to combat and other injuries? I’m certain that such a proportion would make headline news, if true.

Can you help with additional information?

~ Herbert J. Hoffman

Michael Ewens replies:

There have been 20 such deaths. Just use the "Place of death" filter here:

As I have told countless readers, it would be very very hard for the government to cover up deaths from wounds of soldiers in Iraq. It would require silencing the families and friends of the soldiers who die and any local media that receives the news from them. Moreover, I have spoken to the Department of Defense and understand that they are mandated to report all deaths in Iraq. They are extremely forthcoming about the numbers of dead and wounded. Give them a call some time: (703) 697-5131.

I am as skeptical of the government as anyone else, but in this case, they are being honest.

Could you please keep a running tally of the number of American men killed in Iraq, and a separate running tally of the number of American women killed in Iraq? I’m for equality. Really! However, I’m hearing more and more often about "our men and women" in Iraq – with equal billing. Somehow, this isn’t quite accurate. Regardless of a person’s politics, the truth should play a leading role. So, when we say "men and women" what exactly are we saying?

~ Joe Natalino

Michael Ewens replies:

They have a gender filter on this site:

I have noticed that every site I research concerning the body count in Iraq/ Afghanistan only lists combat and non-combat deaths. All these counts seem to record numbers from deaths that occur in their theater. My question: are there other deaths not being reported (i.e., deaths resulting from wounds/ accidents where the death occurs after removal from active duty)?

Each time I see a new death reported it seems to come from the local area of combat. Are there wounded soldiers being treated and evacuated and later dying that are not being reported as deaths in Iraq/ Afghanistan?

Are we getting all the numbers or are post-combat deaths being under-reported?

~ Dale Edwards

Michael Ewens replies:

Man, do we get this question all the time. Yes, the military counts death from injuries. I don’t know about the removal from active duty, though. However, I would suspect that if an individual did die after being released from duty, the media would still find out about it somehow. Use the Place of Death filter here to see how many have died from wounds elsewhere:

Rob Causey: I’m just wondering why exactly you emphasize that so many people are being killed in Iraq. If you actually take the time to read why some of these people were killed or died, you will see that about 10% are from training accidents, vehicle accidents, midair collisions – in essence things that happen while people are at home station. …

Michael Ewens: Are you serious?

Combat to non-combat deaths have increased dramatically since the "end" of the war. Out of the 1048 soldiers killed in Iraq 800 died in combat (in fact, more than 10%). To you, that is insubstantial. No matter, all the deaths are unwarranted, be they forklift accidents of mortar attacks: the war was unnecessary.

RC: It’s wonderful that you took the time to make everything seem grim, but you are padding the numbers a bit, don’t you think.

ME: Things ARE grim. Americans are dying needlessly. They invaded a nation that posed no threat to the US, they are occupying a nation that doesn’t want us there, the threat of terrorism has not subsided and the war is costing American taxpayers $1 billion a day. …

RC: So, you are saying that we should just stand by … and should have let Saddam Hussein slaughter thousands upon thousands of Kurds. I’m guessing that freeing the Jewish people who were being slaughtered wasn’t really justified as well. Sucks to be them, huh?

ME: Yes, I am saying that. Here’s the deal. You have two choices when it comes to the use of the US military:

1. Defense
2. Humanitarian and Defense

My position is that on pragmatic, political, moral and Constitutional grounds, the US military should only conduct 1.


All government action has unintended consequences. Try to give me a scenario where it isn’t the case. Namely, we intervene in W.W.I, leaving Germany punished beyond belief. This leads (eventually) to the rise of Hitler. We aid the Afghans in their "freedom fighting" against the Soviets. We give arms/ money to men like Osama. ‘Nuff said. We invade Iraq in the ’90s, leaving a "responsibility" to guard Saudi Arabia. This requires US troops on holy soil. This pisses the hell out of radical Arabs. Said radical Arabs conduct 9/11. On and on and on and on.


One word: sovereignty. As soon as the US decides it may unilaterally deem one nation’s laws "insufficient" and thus "invade" or "liberate" said nation, it has ultimately negated the sovereignty of all nations. If Iran was the most powerful country in the world, democracy would be radical and they could use the same arguments to defend attacking the liberal West.


The ends never, never, never justify the means. Namely, "liberating" the world will inevitably require the use of force against those who have not attacked us. I hold the simple belief that force is only justified in self-defense. (No, I am not a pacifist.) So you may "free Iraqis," but by some estimates you have killed 25,000 Iraqis to do so. In a sense you have made the arbitrary calculation: these 25,000 Iraqis have no right to life, because there are others in the future that I may save. That is playing God, pure and simple.


Simply, the US Constitution – if it is still worth something – says that war must be declared by Congress. This is a great impediment to "executive actions" such as Kosovo and Iraq. This rule was put in place to make sure that the burdens of war – taxes, death, etc.– were placed on those in Congress who approved of such actions.


You suggest that US inaction "lets" Saddam kill Kurds. Such a statement implies that the US has a responsibility to help all in need. This is just false. The only responsibility I have is to myself. I may have a moral duty to protect those that I can, but I cannot be forced to do so.

Of course, all individuals have a right to be humanitarians. If you feel a need to save Iraqis, you have every right to do so. But you cannot knock on my door and demand 10% of my income to finance such a venture. (What the US government essentially does.) In the current state of the world, it is OK for the government to demand money while it is fulfilling its duty to protect me from threats. States do not have the right to force their citizens to be humanitarians. Just as much as I am against welfare and corporate subsidies, I am against the use of my tax-dollars (in my name) for a "just" cause as determined by the government.

Let me ask you this: Do you advocate a large welfare state? Your position above suggests that you do. …

I‘m unable to find on your website the number of American civilians killed or wounded while working/ living in Iraq. There have been many Americans or other "coalition" people kidnapped/ killed or simply in the wrong place (car bombs, etc.) Most of these people are hired by independent contractors.

~ C. Major

Michael Ewens replies:

That is difficult to track, but there is a link, "American Civilian Casualties," on the main page.

I hear that the percent of wounded that are amputees is very high. Is there any way to get that number and if so why not put it on your site?

I know someone who visited a friend at Walter Reed and was astounded by the number of amputees. There are so many of those poor guys that they have to house them in hallways.

~ John D. Diamond

Michael Ewens replies:

No idea how to get that number. Sorry.

Libertarians and Republicans

This the first time I have visited this site, so I would like to ask what to some here might seem basic questions.

Our Australian political terminology and semantics are different to yours in the U.S.; our terms are more like those in the UK. So my question is: what are the major differences between Libertarians and Republicans in the US? I was under the impression that they were much the same.

Aren’t libertarians mainly concerned with economics rather than politics? And isn’t this economic theory based on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and classical liberalism? Therefore, if free trade is your cause as it is for classical liberals, then why would you be against President Bush because he is attempting to force US free trade and culture on the rest of the world? Isn’t this what you people also want? Also, are you agreeable to the Mont Pelerin Society and economists like Friedrich Hayek? If so I can’t possibly understand how you could be anti-Republican because Republicans in the U.S. also follow these kinds of neo–Adam Smith–style economists. Any responses to clear up this confusion would be appreciated.

~ Jon, Australia

Eric Garris replies:

Libertarianism is a political philosophy. There is also a small political party in the US that is called the Libertarian Party, but many libertarians are not in the LP. I am personally registered in the Republican Party. US parties, contrary to what the media likes to portray, are not ideological. They are essentially coalitions.

Libertarians are very concerned with politics, especially foreign affairs. We are non-interventionists, but not isolationists – we favor free trade and fairly open borders. This is totally consistent with the Adam Smith/ Hayek economic position (free trade = peace).

We are not anti-Republican. I am an official in the local Republican Party. We are anti–big government Republican, as represented by George Bush. Bush is the biggest-spending president the US has seen in 40 years. He is no conservative. He talks about free markets and capitalism, but he has just set the US up with a trillion-dollar deficit.

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