L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 276, June 20, 2004
The Kaptain's Log
Exclusive to TLE
Recently we have been subjected to a bombardment of excuses for the "abuse" of prisoners of the US military. "We're fighting a new kind of war," and "It's for the protection of the American people," and "The Geneva Convention doesn't apply to them because they don't wear uniforms and fight 'fair'," and other, equally disingenuous nonsense has been fired out of the agitprop cannon of the embedded, government-licensed media's "news". It's all lies, as always.
There's nothing new about a war in which both sides violate the rights of innocent noncombatants; that is as old as war itself. Calling the opposition "terrorists" while doing everything possible to terrorise entire civilian populations is a relatively recent development, of coursethe Nazis and the Soviets spouted this nonsense long before Bush and the neocons took over the US empire.
Torture doesn't protect the American people, either; rather it mass produces people so angry and desperate that they wage war on civilians, too. And the Geneva Convention does, in fact, protect all who are rounded up by occupying armies. Even if it didn't, basic humanity deplores torture and condemns those who practice it. Torturers are in no ethical position to moan about "unfair" guerrilla warfare tactics, anyway; they aren't broadcasting from moral high ground.
Torture of "enemies" is accepted by most people, however, as they endorse the underlying principle that "the ends justify the means." All that warmongers have to do is create a rosy picture of the Bright Dawn of a New World Order or some such nonsense, and the average Joe and Jane go on watching TV, never bothering to ask themselves "Who would Christ torture?"
The reason this works is that most people believe that they or "their" leaders have the right to coerce othersalways in a "good" cause, of course. I don't think I know many people who don't advocate coercion by force or fraud in the name of their sacred cows. Some good friends of mine, for example, believe that they have the right to endorse the welfare state's taxation for the purpose of preventing a nightmarish, Darwinian "law of the jungle" society in which the weak will inevitably be destroyed by the evil of an unfettered market.
Others feel that the State must use our confiscated earnings to enforce their "morality" on their neighbours. Elsewise, they argue, we would be awash in sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll garnished with endemic "wild west" violence and maybe even torture, who knows...
Some of my friends believe that the State has the right to prevent peaceful people from moving freely across the artificial borders of nation states. This, they feel, will protect them from invading hordes of welfare-seeking People Who Are Not Like Us.
Let's presume, for the sake of hilarity, that any or all of these paranoid views of an ungoverned society were to come to pass. It still doesn't justify forcing others to be "moral" or "charitable" or just elsewhere. It doesn't justify forcibly confiscating peoples' earnings (taxation) in order to finance the armies of bureaucrats and police bullies necessary to these "wars" on drugs, poverty and peaceful immigration. There is no justification for forcibly imposing your will on others who are in no way violating your Liberty. It's wrong, just as torture is wrong, and for the same reason: evil actions never achieve good ends, specious claims to the contrary.
All of these good friends of mine are, in most ways, kindhearted, generous and charitable in their personal interactions with others. They all teach their children that it is wrong to lie to (and about) others, to try to trick others for personal gain, and to use force to get others to do what they want. Yet they also teach them that it is good when the State does these things, because it's "for the greater good of the majority." They're wrong on two counts: there's no justification for a majority coercing a minority (which is just a form of slavery), and it doesn't really do anyone any good in the long run.
For, a society which is governed by force is an evil society. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," as we all know, and the reason that Satan chose those flagstones for his highway to Corruption is this: coercion corrupts both those who use force and those who submit to it. And my friends all know it. They complain of excessive use of force by the State, God bless them, especially when it affects them directly. Still, they think that the problem is just one of getting the State to realise that it needn't abuse me and interfere with my rights. The problem, apparently, lies not in the systematic use of coercion, it's just that I don't want it applied to me and mine. Sometimes I wonder how altruistic we really are at heart.
It reminds me of the Protestant minister who explained his presence in a Nazi concentration camp by saying, "First, they came for the socialists, but I was not a socialist, so I said nothing. Then, they came for..." et cetera. Until people can actually grasp the fact that coercion is always wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom and no matter what the excuse for it, we are all potentially in danger of the torturers, murderers and thieves of "our" governments. Until people realise that the only morally acceptable way to encourage moral behaviour is by persuasion, not coercion, we will continue to be predated upon by the blow-dried talking head politicians, generals, and "independent contractors". Until people learn that there are no exceptions to the fact that the ends are the means, we will continue to live, and die, with the worst of human disasters, that ugly institution that is responsible for mass production of all the most inhuman activities, Statism.
I don't know what more to say, except this: persuasion, not coercion is the cornerstone of...
Peace and Liberty.
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