Backtalk November 27, 2006

Who Is ‘We’?

Valid and valued argument in general, but I’m afraid that it becomes slightly irrelevant, considering that 50 percent-plus (of voting American individuals) returned Mr. Bush to the White House barely two years ago – are they “innocent victims”?

~ Etienne Marais, Cape Town, South Africa

David R. Henderson replies:

Dear Mr. Marais,

Thank you for your letter. In asking whether the people who voted for George W. Bush are innocent victims, you did not specify of what. I don’t know how to judge whether someone is an innocent victim without knowing the action that they are victimized by.

You seem to be suggesting that people who voted for Bush are not innocent victims of some unspecified act but, in fact, are guilty victims. But if so, you could just as easily say that people who voted for Kerry are guilty victims. As you may recall, Kerry was an advocate of the war who “voted against it before he voted for it.” And when given a chance during the debate with Bush to forswear the war on Iraq, Kerry refused.

The bigger picture, though, is that the vast majority of people who vote are “rationally ignorant.” That is, they don’t know what they’re voting for or against because they have little incentive to know: their vote has essentially a zero probability of determining the winner. So to ascribe substantial guilt to them is a stretch. That said, I think that anyone who votes for anything bears some responsibility. But to claim that anything that happens to them as a result of a vote is fair game is monstrous. If one held that position consistently, one could certainly advocate killing everyone who voted for Clinton, whose administration, you may recall, murdered a number of innocent people in Waco.

Conflict in the Caucasus

Your article repeats exactly the same surface analysis you accuse U.S. officials of making, and conflates two different and serious problems: the building of viable democratic institutions with an inherited conflict left over from Soviet times. If you’ve never been there, and you haven’t done anything but Wikipedia various names and dates, then you have no idea. Nowhere else on earth do Western intellectuals think to let a former colonizer (in this case, Russia) continue to dictate the politics of its former colonies. It’s absurd to say that “antiwar” means accepting the status quo of slow encroachment, slow economic re-colonization of territories.

When the de facto government of Abkhazia allows the return of the internally displaced persons from Abkhazia, all 300,000 of them, only then will any referendum on independence be legitimate. The same is true for South Ossetia. In the meantime, pseudo peace movements should look for legitimate approaches to resolving conflict, instead of a knee-jerk opposition to whatever the Americans say.

~ E. Enders

In the case of South Ossetia, which recently voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in favor of independence, the ethnic Russians who make up the majority population of this region want reunification with Russia.”

Here is what the BBC says regarding the population of South Ossetia:

“South Ossetia is inhabited mostly by ethnic Ossetians who speak a language remotely related to Farsi. Georgians account for less than one-third of the population.”

What seems to be the case is that the administrative language in South Ossetia at present is Russian, indicating that most Ossetians may be bilingual and some Ossetians may even have lost the ability to speak their native language but that does not mean they consider themselves ethnic Russians.

~ Thomas Walsh

Teens Frustrate Military Recruiter’s ASVAB Scam


I deeply applaud the actions of the Pepperell High School juniors who chose to oppose the administration of the military aptitude test in their high school. When I was a junior in high school in 1987, a few years prior to the first Desert Storm, the military came to my high school to administer the test. We were given no forewarning.

One morning I arrived at school and our class was informed that we would be taking a test administered by the military in order to assess what kinds of career opportunities we were best suited for. I was very upset when informed about this. At the time, my mom worked for the Unitarian Universalist Peace Network in an office that shared space with SANE/Freeze. Upon hearing that it would be mandatory for us to take the military aptitude test, I immediately requested to be excused from the classroom so that I could go to the main office and call my mom at work. I don’t think my teacher was very happy about that request, but he did grant it to me. I called my mom at work and asked her whether or not I had to take the test. She was supportive and told me that I could do what I thought was best, but she consulted with the people working for SANE/Freeze and they informed her that I should sit down with the rest of the students in class and wait for all of the students to be handed the exam. Once everybody was handed the exam and the proctor (a very young representative from the military – I believe the Army) was about to inform us to begin I was to stand up, walk to the front of the room, face the proctor, rip the exam in half, hand it to him, and then leave the classroom. I did exactly what I was told I could do and waited out in the hall until we were allowed to continue with the rest of our normal day. My teachers didn’t understand me, and many of my peers thought I was at the minimum nuts and at the most a traitor.

I am envious of the students from Pepperell High School. They seem to be more informed about the world than most of the students that I went to high school with and they have an advantage of communication – using the Internet, MySpace, chat, text messaging, cell phones – that was nonexistent when I was in high school. I would encourage them and any other high school students who may face the prospect of taking this exam in the future to search their conscience and determine whether they should be taking such an exam in their public high schools. If they do not believe they should, I would then encourage them strongly to do what I did on my own almost 20 years ago, and that is to look the military proctor in the eye, rip up the exam, and hand it back to the proctor politely. In doing so, they as individuals make their opposition abundantly clear while facing it head on.

In conclusion, I again applaud the students of Pepperell High School and hope that their actions inspire more students to respond in a similar manner when informed they have no choice but to partake in activities that they may find unconscionable.

~ Bruce Boucek

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Because of men like Justin Raimondo and Charlie Reese, both of whose writings are brave and make good sense, I am sending a $500 contribution by PayPal to I’m a retired, disabled old stage and film actor who lives quietly on a fixed income, but, hey, like the play says, “You Can’t Take it With You.” Thanks, fellas, and keep up the good work.

~ James Deuter

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