Backtalk, April 16, 2005

The Teetering Empire

Good article, but yet again, not mentioning the WHOLE truth. The truth is simple: a military industrial complex has taken over the U.S. government and is waging wars for the pure and simple reason that wars make money. Not to change countries or to secure oil. Well OK, those are reasons number 2 and 3. By securing the oil and, more important, making the rest of the world buy that oil with dollars and NOT another currency the USA is making sure they will stay powerful economically for decades. And, NO, I don’t need to be a professor to know this. It is easy enough to figure out. If you’ve got the brains, that is.

~ P.

Scott Horton replies:


You’re right, of course that the financial influence of the Military Industrial Complex weighs tremendously in our government’s foreign policy. In his book Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic, Johnson covers this in great detail. As he said in the interview, perhaps exaggerating slightly, Boeing makes sure that if they make a bomber, at least one part is made in each of the fifty states in order to keep Congress in line.

The truth is that like with the “bootleggers and Baptists,” of the temperance movement, there are separate interests which converge in the interest of a permanent state of war: The Military Industrial Complex gets access to the Treasury vaults, Likudniks get their “road to Damascus,” the “Grand Chessboard” types get to plot their strategy, the oilmen get their “stability,” bond holders collect interest, the rapturists get closer to Heaven, the TV news gets good ratings, the military commanders have new reasons for their existence, and on it goes. America may still be pluralistic enough that the MIC couldn’t do all this by themselves, but unfortunately, they have plenty of help.

Wars do make money for those dependent on military spending, whether Lockheed or local economies near bases, be we should remember that all the money spent by government on war would have been spent on something creative if it hadn’t been taxed and wasted on destructive power.

This article is brilliant and exactly right. Now let us get the number one a-hole in the White House to understand it or we are doomed, as Scott has written.

~ Molise

Scott Horton replies:

Does George W. Bush read


First of all, stop pretending you’re from Texas, you’re making us look bad, and we’re tired of saying “sorry” for you.

Second, have one of your handlers read the Constitution to you. Recall your oath.

Third, We Cannot Afford Empire.

Fourth, fire your cabinet, apologize for all the people you murdered, then resign. It is the only way to begin to salvage your legacy.

How Many Divisions Does the Pope Have?

I think it’s very naïve to argue that the Pope has “genuine moral authority,” as Robert Higgs argues in his article. I am Polish (although I have lived in the States for over 20 years) and I happen to know Polish Catholics and the Pope from more than just an academic perspective. The Pope was not beyond sacrificing moral principles for political reasons: consider, for instance, his immoral suppression of liberal theology. His hypocrisy is apparent to those who have more than just an academic interest in his conservative Catholic views. Bush and other hypocrites who went to Rome have a reason other than that you say they do to attend the funeral. It’s called “political expediency.”

And what is so “moral” about the Pope working secretly with Opus Dei? And isn’t it just plain stupid and immoral to travel around the world and tell people that contraception is wrong?

It’s very disappointing that Higgs’ half-cooked, irresponsible ideas ended up being published by

~ Kaz Dziamka, PhD, Editor, The American Rationalist

Laowai and Zibenren

I have been a Laowai myself for just about three years and two months, and I can say that even though my stomach has adjusted to the vegetables and fruit, late night snacks, and water, and my lungs to the air-pollution that is Chengdu, one trouble I have yet to learn to appropriately deal with is the “laowai” phenomenon.

This past week I began a new course, English for non-majors at UESTC (University of Electronic Science and Technology of Chengdu), in which I teach a variety of students from different technical and language fields. This week being the third week of a particular set of courses, we are still in the process of asking questions, getting to know each other more personally. One of my students asked me how I felt about teaching here, about teaching in Chengdu, and therefore implying my mood towards China in general. I went on about my respect and interest in the cultures and societies that build this nation from the ground up, the old and middle-aged men that squander in the sun day after day to build an overpass for what in old fashion speech we could call a shilling, not much. But my greater concern was my inability to grasp hearing the word “laowai” at least ten or more times on the way to school in the five minutes it takes me to get there. Imagine the barrage between noon and half-past two. It is a spectacle, and one you think you can get over, but as the author states in the beginning of the article, the reality of its meaning – “n*gger” – cannot be avoided. I told my students about how uncomfortable it made me feel, how overwhelming it was that people categorized and made up so much of whatever they wanted about your life right before you, claiming that you make 20,000 rmb a month (an astronomical amount compared to the 3,000 it actually is), that you cannot handle things like learning Chinese or possibly being able to share a human element with anyone else that happens to be Chinese. I told them that it felt like being in a cage all of the time. And to my surprise, the class of 20 year-old university second and third year students all burst into laughter – and a laughter that stood for at least a minute (a minute being a long strain of laughter). I could not possibly fathom the reasoning behind the laughter and asked them why they thought it was so funny. The laughter grew, the laughter built. I decided to move on from my questions despite my discomfort.

How does one begin to understand the “outsider” phenomenon in any scenario, in any culture? Recently I spent some time with my mother here in China and she was telling me about my grandmother who was constantly heckled for having dark curly hair and obviously the blood of “black demon” in her veins. I thought of the circumstances and the long-term effects this has on any individual or group of people. I thought about how I have been laughed at myself for looking “black” in Cleveland, Ohio. Is this also a form of “laowai,” of being an outsider?

Humanity will never be clear of this categorical imperative of self-protection, of identifying with what is “our own,” but it sure makes the case more apparent when it drives you to the point of not being able to penetrate the subconscious differentiation that keeps this world at war, at the edge of a knife, on the verge of calamity. So, I walk through my days knowing that there are a few people that do see me as more human than a product of some nationality; however, the reality will always hang over my head that the conflict and calamity of being alive is inevitable regardless of how you intend to see it.

I am very pleased to see this article by Mr. Matuszak. Thank you very much for spreading the word.

~ Joshua Carl Love, The Office for International Cooperation and Exchange, The University of Electronic Science and Technology of China

The Real Iraqi Election

I lived in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, during all of the German occupation. When I had read your report of what Baghdad looks like today I was absolutely stunned. Except for the days of the February strike of 1942 and the few “Razzias” for arresting Jewish people Amsterdam hardly looked like an occupied city. There were no roadblocks, no concrete bunkers. Yes, there was a Jewish ghetto, but it was not cordoned off. There was no extended “Green Zone.” The German Army had commandeered several elementary schools (and, incidentally, the Portuguese Synagogue which was used as a stable for horses) in which the soldiers lived. For the purpose of exercise they would march (in formation of course) through the neighborhood. I guess that the big difference with Baghdad was that we understood then in Amsterdam that self-liberation was out of the question….

~ Dieter Heymann


Dr. Whitehurst,

I understand your point of view on recruiters and I share your feelings about Iraq and the military in general but I have to say that in this issue, as in many others, parents reap what they sow. If they have parroted their country’s claptrap about the honor of the military, the glory of war, and all the other pious lies spoon fed the American public by their “leaders” then they have something to worry about. As ye sow, so shall ye reap. If, on the other hand you have brought your kids up right with a proper skepticism toward authority, the military, and war, then you will not have to worry about them falling for military lies. They will have developed minds of their own and you won’t have to worry about transparent attempts to recruit them with misinformation and bait and switch BS. My own children would never consider joining the military. My younger daughter has received two mailings full of visually interesting brochures from the military – one of them from the Marine Corps even. Her reaction: a snort and into the waste basket it went. This is really no different than any other question of values transmission. For the most part your kids will follow your example and wisdom if it is sincerely and lovingly presented. It is only when you attempt to teach them with values insincerely held and hypocritically try to stay “on message” with society’s big lies that you have to worry about them going astray.

Sadly, parental misgivings are the result of going along with the hypocrisy while it was easy and “politically correct” to wallow in militarism and bloodthirsty glorification of war. Now the chickens have come home to roost. I wonder how many of these parents who are so avid to protect their children from military recruiters were as avid to protect Iraqi children while the nation thought Iraq would be a cakewalk. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

~ Stephen Gardner

How to Protect Your Child from the Coming Draft

“Fighting should be reserved for genuine self-defense in the face of imminent attack, when no other help is available. Preemptive strikes and aggression disguised as self-defense won’t pass muster under the Golden Rule.”

Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family

Not a comment on the article. You write great articles. I was just amazed at the above quote. I have never found anything like this in the Gospels, that Jesus advocates self-defense. He does just the opposite. No justification for self-defense can be found coming from Jesus. In fact, when he himself could most justifiably use it, he did not. He even rebuked Peter for trying to protect him, the innocent, with violence.

~ Ray Shiffer

Is Iran Next?

There are ominous signs from the British government on this subject. No one seems to have made the connection with Blair’s bizarre announcement about planning to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. I realize that this announcement was contingent on progress in Iraq, and the proximity to an election makes all his words even more suspect than usual. Nevertheless, why suggest moving troops from one “success story” to another?

My suspicion is that Blair seeking a troop swap, where Britain will take over the U.S. role in Afghanistan and the U.S. will largely take over Britain’s role in Iraq. That he wishes to get British troops out of Iraq before the U.S. and Israel start their war with Iran. As early as last November Jack Straw publicly ruled out even air attacks on Iran. The worry is that if such attacks take place the Shi’ite south of Iraq will explode in violence against the occupiers and in the comparatively peaceful south where coalition is spread much more thinly they could take severe casualties.

Blair may not be in the loop, but he will have far better information on the subject than you or I, so his plans and posturing does warrant careful attention.

It will be especially interesting to look for any sudden changes in policy in the second week in May. Blair may not be able to prevent Bush taking any particular course of action, but Bush is likely to delay any development that would damage his key ally’s electoral chances until after the election.

You are right that “our rulers can be difficult to read.” I could be completely wrong about this. However I found Blair’s announcement worrying.

~ Ian Miller, UK

About a Boy

This is a heartbreaking story. Clearly, the pressure to increase enlistment is running into the former concept of the all volunteer military, in which it was seen as a career and not an emergency necessity to the nation.

I share the premise of that we have no business waging war in the Middle East. I am sure that empire-builders are getting their way, with propaganda aimed at the busy and the stupid among us.

Most of my well-educated relatives barely question the assumptions they have been fed by the media. This time, I fault them for being asleep. In fact I reexamine my relationship with them every day. They “know” that our politicians are doing their best, while I have seen evidence that they are creating a situation in which they may rule us, not just govern. Talk about the blank check.

For all the other Jasons out there, I wish they could read your column. Hearing the recent news about young men killing innocent civilians in Iraq and about the many who are maimed (the cameras have a lot of time for Terri Schiavo and the Pope, very little for these casualties) it is horrible to contemplate that Jason may have gotten off easily, though I grieve for his parents who could do so little to respond to him.

~ Dianne Foster

Who’s Better Off?

Dear Mr. Paul,

Your article brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for being a sorely needed voice of reason in the current mob-think atmosphere: approving of the Iraq war, irresponsible budgetary overspending, the reckless breaking of our armed forces, cutting veteran funding and more. The current military emphasis by our “leader” Mr. Bush and his “mandate” is evidently not becoming reality – recruiters are having a very hard time finding enough willing “cannon fodder” who will join in Mr. Bush’s hypocrisy and inability to admit his mistakes.

Our armed forces have been putting their lives on the line based on lies, lack of facts, misleading contracts, and unwarranted “stop-loss”/backdoor drafts. The soldiers honored their contracts, but the government did not do the same. It’s time for the war to end. And we really have no need (or resources!) to begin yet another ill-conceived military endeavor.

Again, thank you Mr. Paul, for your well articulated summary of our current position.

~ L. Johnson (fiancée of soldier forced by stop-loss to go to Iraq, after 20 years of service. He’s still there now.)

In Defense of John Paul II, Peacemaker

The Holy Father would have seen your goodness even if you are a “sinful unbeliever” and “exuberantly pagan.” He loved God and loved his neighbor as himself as all Christians are commanded to do. In so doing he presented a spectacular and unfortunately rare example of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The world loves him for it.

Thank you for defending the truth of what Pope John Paul II stood for and reminding us of those who not so nicely opposed his good will and works while on this earth.

~ Kerri Jones, Portland, OR


Interesting that the Defense Language Institute is hiring foreign language translators. Notice the concentration on Central Asian languages (Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkoman, Tajik) and you have a good “Imperial leading indicator” of where the military’s focus will be.

~ C. Shearer

Previous Backtalk