Backtalk June 1, 2004

Is Bush a Sith Lord?

Although I completely agree with the premise of the article “Is Bush a Sith Lord?,” I am concerned that you claimed that child protective services framed parents to justify a large bureaucracy. I work in public social services. We are devoted public servants. I have never in my 40+ years of employment heard of anyone in child welfare services framing parents for anything. Read the history of child protection. It goes back to the late 1800s when child labor laws had to be instituted because parents and institutions for orphans took advantage of the children they were supposed to be responsible for. Most recently, child welfare services has been opposed by the right wing because some believe that no one should come into a man’s home and interfere with his authority, which really means he thinks he should be able to beat his wife, children, and pets as he wishes without repercussions. I wish we did not need child welfare services, but with the right wing in power and folks at the lower end of the economic scale becoming poorer and poorer, their poverty causes them to turn to desperate measures, including methamphetamines to self-medicate for bipolar behavior because there are few mental health services, etc. That does not mean that child abuse only occurs among the poor – it does not – but it tends to increase when folks are unemployed and desperate.

Do not blame us devoted public servants who serve the poor (this is just what the privatizers want). I personally work in a local welfare department supervising a unit that assists the homeless to get on the SSI program so they have a stable income. We try to get mental health and medical care services for the poor, but with the horrible cutbacks in medical care and mental health services to the poor means this is an uphill battle. My staff is devoted and committed to truly serving the poor. They work long hours and look at the increasingly large numbers of folks they cannot help.

~ Kathleen M. Pelley

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

It is difficult to imagine anyone being as uninformed as Ms. Pelley. Exposed frame-ups of parents and child care providers have been headline stories for years. Many books have documented frame-ups, including a recent one by Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Rabinowitz has exposed a number of frame-ups in the Wall Street Journal. I have written scores of articles exposing frame-ups, including 30 columns about the Wenatchee, Wash., child sex-abuse witch hunt that put 26 innocent adults in prison and 50 children out to adoption. My columns helped to instigate a state investigation, an innocence project by the University of Washington Law School, and a series of investigative reports by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Each of the 26 has been released from prison. There are numerous civil suits against the city. Ms. Pelley is as naive about CPS and the incentives the bureaucracy faces as Republican loyalists are about Bush and his neocons.

The Harvest of Messianic Foreign Policy: Anti-US Radical Islam

Ivan Eland is absolutely correct about the evangelical origins of an interventionist foreign policy. But wars to “Christianize” the heathen began before the Spanish-American War. Most of the radical abolitionists who supported the War Between the States were Northern evangelicals who, among other things, saw the war as an opportunity to civilize the “heathen” and “backward” southern states.

~ James Mathis

Ivan Eland replies:

I did say that evangelical Christianity began to infuse U.S. foreign policy after the Spanish-American War. The operative words were “foreign policy.”

What Mr. Mathis says about the abolitionists was certainly true as far as it goes. But then again, slavery was backward even for the times in the 1860s. Friends of liberty should not be so quick to defend a Confederacy that had one-party rule, press repression greater than even the North, the suspension of habeas corpus too, socialized industry, and of course the abominable institution of slavery. Even if slavery was not the only issue that caused the Civil War, it was the most prominent one. Although slavery might have been eliminated, albeit more slowly, without a monstrously bloody Civil War, the trends were not that positive toward its elimination.

In general, the devolution of governance to the state and local level is preferable to strong federal government because (1) it is harder for a person or persons to gain control over more diffuse and separate governments, (2) people have more control over governments that are closer to them than a far away federal government, and (3) state and local governments can innovate to make governance fit the local area. That said, the doctrine of “states rights” was merely the rights of state governments. Friends of liberty should be more concerned with individual freedom than the rights of states, especially when “states rights” are used to suppress individual rights (the case with slavery). I believe that the elimination of slavery should be the single most important issue for friends of liberty and criticisms of abolitionists should be tempered. (The U.S. government in the Philippine insurrection couldn’t even claim to be eliminating slavery; it was in a sense reducing Filipinos’ freedom by controlling their destiny. Of course, none of this justifies the oppressive military occupation of the South after the Civil War.) If you don’t have control over your body, what other freedoms could be more important (other than not being killed)? (The modern, but somewhat milder, forms of slavery are government encroachment on women’s control over their reproductive systems, conscription, and the illegality of drugs.)

Friends of liberty should not be so enamored with the rights of state governments that they put it above ending human bondage. Many friends of liberty have an excessive affinity for the Southern cause.


… [W]hy must I read quotes by warmongers like Ike and Ronald Reagan? Your editors would do better to stop begging for money every other week and spend some time checking this “content.”

~ John Douglas

Michael Austin replies:

Rest assured we are quite conscious of the fact that a small number of our Antiwar “Quotables” do indeed come from people who are more remembered for their pro-war actions or words than for being antiwar. We in no way propose that all of the originators of our quotes are people we endorse or who would endorse our beliefs. We generally select our quotes based on the merit of the quote itself, not the merit of its author, because we believe that this leads to the largest variety of clever, insightful and educational quotes. Further, we believe that the irony sometimes inherent in the conflict between a speakers’ known actions and beliefs and the particular quote we select sometimes adds to the power of the quote. In other cases, it is their actions or beliefs that put them in a unique position to let us learn from their quotes and avoid repeating their history, as in the case of the Goering quote “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders … tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” I choose this example to demonstrate that while we obviously do not endorse Goering’s actions in life, we can all learn from this particular quote and see parallels to it in our present world that we must be wary of, lest they lead to a repetition of Goering’s actions.

In any case, I hope this helps you to understand (if not agree with) the way we select our quotes, and at the very least this makes clear that we do indeed pay the utmost attention to the content we choose to post on our site.

Also, though I assume you were exaggerating to emphasize your point, I assure you, for you edification, that despite our extremely tight budget, so far we have never asked for money more often than four times a year – once every 12 weeks, as opposed to your estimation of “every other week.”

Thank you so much for your comments and for reading

Casualties in Iraq

I am still waiting for information (third request) on the number of U.S. casualties who have died since being returned to the U.S.

1,600 dead on the job, but how many afterwards as a result? How many in permanent pain/need of constant care?

And how many of those who can still speak would wish they were among the fatalities?

Over the whole Iraq disaster, the 1,600 figure is, well, another lie. It sanitizes the reality of how many have died. The actual figure is MUCH higher.

Do you have a link for this information?

~ Anthony C.

Eric Garris replies:

Unfortunately, these figures are not compiled. If a soldier dies after returning to the U.S. and is still on active duty, he or she is included in the Iraq casualties. However, if, as is more often the case, a soldier is discharged when returned as wounded, the soldier is now a “veteran.” The Pentagon no longer tracks what happens to him or her, and the VA does not release figures on deaths for vets.

Iraq Started the Iran/Iraq War?

Dear Mr. Wanniski,

I find your certainty that Iran started the war interesting. In your article, you mention that the Iraqi army stopped after advancing several dozen miles into Iranian territory. In fact, they were stopped by force. The inability of the Iraqi regiments to advance further was not due to the lack of intent. Many Iranians gave their lives to bring the original Iraqi advance to a halt. In addition, Saddam’s original plans had called for a rapid advance to Tehran. This has been well-documented. Saddam Hussein was not known for his timid war planning. He intended to invade and hold Iran, and clearly was of the opinion that he could. The invasion of Kuwait should have put any doubts about Iraqi intentions to rest.

With respect to the use of chemical weapons, the United Nations investigation of the matter clearly found Iraq began the use of chemical weapons early in the war. Iranian chemical response lagged by about a year after the failure of the international community to take any action to put a stop to Iraqi use of chemical weapons. A count of chemical weapon casualties on either side of the conflict will reveal Iran suffered to a much greater extent.

Finally, it is clear Iraq started the war. Even if your statement with regards to “escalating skirmishing” leading to open war were true (which it is not), Iraq should still be held responsible as they clearly started large-scale military operations and invaded Iranian territory.

I believe you are attempting to falsify history. Neither of the regimes involved in the Iran-Iraq could be supported from a moral standpoint. One was more brutal than the other. That however, is not the point. Over a million Iranians gave their lives to protect their country from invasion and the “international community” was clearly on the wrong side of that war by supporting the aggressors. This support did not waver, even after evidence of Iraqi use of chemical weapons against civilian targets surfaced.

Many people lost their lives during this horrible war. Revealing the truth is the best way to remember them. Your article was poorly researched and just plain wrong.

Get it right.

(I lived in Iran for the first four years of the Iran-Iraq war.)

~ Shahbaz Shamsai

The Pipeline From Hell

One fact about the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was missing from Justin’s article, a fact that would help confirm its main thesis. As the Globe & Mail article referenced below explains [“The Great Caspian Sea Adventure“], the geostrategic considerations were not only the main reason for the pipeline’s existence, they appear to be the only remaining reason. Economic justifications are going down the drain, as it turns out that the actual amount of oil in the Caspian basin is about 10 times smaller than the U.S. State Department claimed in order to get the pipeline built.

~ Mario B.

Pleasantries but No Change as Bush Greets Karzai

Great article. It shows us what a 21st century Quisling looks like. May be we should even dispense with calling traitors Quislings and rename them Karzais.

The very fact that he was going to call on America to relinquish command of its troops was totally idiotic and a nonstarter from the get-go. What will Karzai do next, ask the Americans to leave and give up the protection he receives from the Special Forces guarding him? He would not last a day and he knows it.

As for Bush, everyone calls him an idiot, but is this really so? He managed to frighten the whole Western world into believing that it is on the brink of total destruction, surrounded and thereby isolated Russia, and established bases all along the routes where the oil is flowing. Of course, what he did not count on was opposition.

But back to Afghanistan: Karzai was told in no uncertain terms what he can and cannot do. It looks like the only thing that is allowed for him is to say “how high” when Bush says jump.

Let’s face it, no self-respecting government would invite a foreign power into its own sovereign territory to run its affairs. Those governments used to be called vassal states.

In the meantime, both the Afghans and the Russians are biding their time. They know that sooner or later either the U.S. will tire of this game or will not be in an economic position to maintain its power bases. Ask any soldier who served in Afghanistan if he would like to have an extended term of duty in such a godforsaken place.

I cringe every time I hear the U.S. president paternalistically praising his satraps. I hope that at least Karzai in his heart of hearts realizes what he really is: probably not even equal to a private in the U.S. Army. He looks more like Noel Coward with that stupid cape wrapped around his shoulders than a president of a sovereign country…

~ Paul Fritz-Nemeth

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