THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 347, December 11, 2005

"So You Actually Have to be Able to Think"

The Murder of Freedom
by Kevin S. Van Horn
kevin@ksvanhorn.com

Exclusive to TLE

"How should you understand reasons of State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny."
—the queen of Charn, in The Magician's Nephew, by C. S. Lewis.

Why has it been so hard for the American freedom movement to achieve any lasting, meaningful victories? Is it because our enemies are so powerful? Is it because so few really desire freedom? Or is it just possible that the seeds of failure lie within the activists themselves?

The battlefield on which we are fighting is the human mind. The State's power rests primarily on the voluntary submission of its victims, and only secondarily on its guns. If any sizable minority of the American populace had a clear understanding of the principles of liberty and a firm resolve not to submit to unjust "laws," their freedom could not be taken away. So the first order of business for the freedom movement must be to reclaim the territory of our own minds from the enemy.

How can the freedom movement ever have a hope of success so long as State worship maintains a grip on the minds of so many freedom activists?

The essence of State worship lies in a double standard: there is one set of legal and moral standards for judging us, the peasantry, and another, much looser, set of legal and moral standards for judging acts carried out in the name of the holy State. The activities of the State are of such a lofty, noble, and quasi-divine character that they must be exempted from the petty moral standards that apply to mere mortals.

Nowhere is this double standard more evident than in the reverential attitude many display toward the State's hired killers, as exemplified by Lady Liberty's article, "The Devaluation of Freedom," published in TLE a few weeks ago. She writes of the U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq,

"I personally left a thank you note with those on the Wall. Although I'm not proud of the reasoning behind the war in Iraq, I remain grateful for those who go such places and who brave such dangers in the name of freedom."

This is one of the most bizarre statements I have yet seen written by someone purporting to be a freedom activist. What in the world did the U.S. invasion and conquest of Iraq have to do with American freedom? To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, "You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Was Saddam's government trying to conquer and rule America? Of course not. Even if they had tried, was there the slightest possibility of them succeeding? Of course not. Had Saddam's government attacked American territory? Of course not.

The invasion of Iraq was simply an act of naked aggression, on par with Hitler's invasion of Poland. It was an unquestionably evil act. The U.S. invaders killed many thousands of Iraqis, both soldiers and civilians, and U.S. occupation forces have killed many thousands more since then. By the standards that would be applied to any of us peasants—that killing another can only be justified in self-defense, and only the aggressor himself may be harmed—the invasion was, in fact, a hideous act of mass murder.

There is no honor in participating in such a crime. There is nothing noble about bravery when it is displayed in the commission of an atrocity. Suicide bombers show great bravery—indeed, they make the ultimate sacrifice—but they do not earn our praise.

If a young man gets killed participating in one street gang's assault on another gang, we do not praise his bravery in facing a dangerous enemy. We do not gush on about how grateful we are for his "sacrifice." His actions are a cause of shame to his parents, not a cause for pride. At best, depending on the circumstances, we may express our sadness and grief that an otherwise good kid came under evil influences that led him to participate in a grave crime.

Suppose, now, that the casualties don't just include gang members. Suppose that many people who simply happened to live in, or be passing through, the rival gang's neighborhood are killed. Suppose that many homes throughout their neighborhood are bombed. (The U.S. bombed Iraq for ten years prior to the war. During the war the U.S. dropped powerful bombs with a blast radius of greater than 300 yards into urban areas—circumstances that virtually guaranteed massive civilian deaths.) In this case the outrage would be so fierce that only the young man's family and closest friends would mourn his passing.

We don't eulogize criminals who die while committing their crimes. None of us praised the bravery of the ATF agents who died assaulting the Branch Davidians at Waco. Why do the armed federal employees who have died in the conquest of Iraq deserve any more respect?

Some will object that U.S. soldiers are just following orders; they cannot be held responsible for the wrong choices of their superiors. But no man can escape moral responsibility for his own actions. Would you hold an AT&T, McDonald's, or Walmart employee guiltless if his boss ordered him to murder someone, and he did so? There is nothing praiseworthy in blindly following another's orders without regard to right and wrong. Indeed, this is the most contemptible sort of moral cowardice.

It's high time that freedom activists stopped making excuses for those who commit crimes in the name of the State. It's time we took the State and its enforcers off their pedestal. It's time we uprooted any latent State worship from our minds. Only then will we have a shot at winning our freedom.


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