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This guest post is by Jeremy Mack of The Evangelical Libertarian. For guest post opportunities, please see the Contact page.

If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then perhaps the United States’ foreign policy truly is insane. Let’s admit we have been wrong in Iraq and stop making the same mistake.

What is that mistake, you ask? It is to claim very vaguely that American interests are in danger (what those may be we are never told), and then to intervene militarily in the affairs of another nation. I realize that in Iraq’s case it will be difficult for us to walk away, since we are largely responsible for the current mess that the nation is in, but will further intervention ultimately bring the type of change that we want to see there? If modern history holds true, the answer is clearly no.

First, after decimating Iraq’s infrastructure twice in the last two and a half decades in expensive wars, they are no more free and stable now than they were under Saddam Hussein. They are arguably in even worse shape now than they were before the U.S. arrived. Twenty-three years of U.S. involvement in Iraq has given us what we are watching unfold on our television screens right now. Since 2003, we have spent 1.7 trillion dollars, lost over 4,000 U.S. service personnel in battle, and sent home over 35,000 wounded soldiers from Iraq. There are estimates that as many as half a million Iraqi civilians were killed between 2003 and 2014 as well. These have been destructive, expensive, bloody, and extremely sad years for both Iraq and America. While we bombed Iraq in the name of freedom over weapons of mass destruction that did not even exist, our government has removed precious liberty after precious liberty, spent us into the ground, and printed money into oblivion. America and Iraq are less secure and less stable due to our reckless disregard for the truth, human life, and the laws of economics. It is time for a change in U.S. foreign policy.

We need to become acquainted with the roots of our own liberty again. Liberty is not forged in a vacuum. Securing and maintaining liberty takes “eternal vigilance”. Liberty, in America specifically, and the West generally, was more than 2,500 years in the making, going back as far as Greece. Our understanding of liberty was forged in the fire of history, and we are still refining it. Constitutional republics are not instant pudding or microwaveable popcorn. They are not produced on a whim with few ingredients. The idea that we were going to waltz into Iraq, topple a dictator, write a constitution, erect voting booths, and have long-standing democracy was foolish and short sighted. The intentions may have been good, but good intentions are not enough. The Iraq War was naïve, and reflects a poor understanding of our own roots.

Iraq is also less safe for minorities now. Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world were in Iraq. For the most part those Christian communities had lived peacefully side by side with Muslims for centuries. But due to America’s interventionism, those communities have all but been destroyed. Why? When America stationed its troops in Iraq, Iraq became a lightening rod for Islamic extremists. Radical Muslims poured into Iraq to fight America on the ground. As radicals fought Americans, they killed Christians along the way. Before America arrived in Iraq there was not a single verifiable Al Qaeda cell in that country. Before the fall of Mosul and Tikrit to ISIS, Al Qaeda backed forces controlled about 20% of Iraq. Iraq went from a nation without Al Qaeda at all in 2003, to a nation faced with being controlled by Islamic radicals in just over a decade. This obviously bodes very badly for minorities in Iraq like Shiite Muslims and Christians.

Instead of stabilizing the region, American wars have destabilized it. Now there is the very real threat of Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria all being controlled by Sunni radicals at the same time. All these states were once secularized Muslim nations. They were once our friends. Now, due to America’s intervention in these nations, they all have fallen, or have nearly fallen, into the worst of hands. These places will now be safe havens for more and more terrorists to train, receive funding, and even gain state sponsorship.

I suggest at this point we take a step back, admit that America’s foreign policy of aggression in Iraq has been wrong, and seek a new way forward, one that promotes free markets and liberty, but does not involve the U.S. military. Let’s try friendship and becoming a beacon of peace and prosperity again. Perhaps we should secure our own borders, make citizenship and work visas easier to gain, and try trading with nations instead of invading them. Economic sanctions should be lifted from nations like Iran. Sanctions only serve to hurt the people of a nation and allow the real problem, dictatorial governments and thugs to use us as a scapegoat. Let’s get out of bed with every tin-pot dictator in the world. Let’s love freedom, let’s promote liberty, but let’s do it without violence. Liberty that is spread by the sword is not liberty at all. That was the problem with Iraq’s liberty all along, it wasn’t real. It was only an illusion, one that would be ill-fated to try and manufacture again.

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Mar Mattai monastery outside Mosul, continually inhabited by monks since the 4th century A.D. Chris De Bruyn / cc

Under Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq were not well-loved but they were tolerated. However, following the military adventurist campaigns of the United States and its allies, the situation for Iraqi Christians has become increasingly dire. A few days ago, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over the Iraqi city of Mosul (incidentally, this city was once called Nineveh) and displaced over 500,000 people including most of Iraq’s remaining Christian population.

Interventionism often escalates extremist activity, and the Iraq War has spawned a variety of spin-off terrorist groups. Many of these groups strike out at their own people, including Christians. ISIS, remarkably, was even renounced by al-Qaeda for being too brutal. Read More→

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Mar
01

Pray for Our Troops

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
(1 Timothy 2:1)

While driving recently on Maitland Boulevard in central Florida, I came upon a billboard with a simple message: “Pray for Our Troops.”

Although I am often very critical of the actions of U.S. troops, I do believe—in spite of what people may think—in prayer for our troops. This is because, as evidenced above, the Bible exhorts us to pray for all men, which includes U.S. troops.

The problem is not the idea of praying for the troops, but the usual prayers that are offered on their behalf. When the typical church-going, prayer-saying American Christian sees such a billboard or is enjoined in church to pray for our troops, he generally thinks:

  • Pray that our troops be kept out of harm’s way.
  • Pray that our troops defeat our enemies.
  • Pray that our troops defend our freedoms.
  • Pray that our troops keep us safe.
  • Pray that our troops find terrorists who want to do us harm.
  • Pray that our troops eliminate the threat of al Qaeda.
  • Pray that our troops rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Pray that our troops spread democracy and freedom.
  • Pray that our troops avenge 9/11.

Some Christians, if they were honest, would pray that our troops’ bombs, bullets, grenades, missiles, and mortars hit their targets. Or if they were really honest, a war prayer for the twenty-first century.

The problem with these prayers is that no thought is ever given to:

  • Where our troops go.
  • Why our troops go.
  • Whether our troops should go.
  • How long our troops should stay.
  • What our troops do when they are there.
  • How much it costs to keep our troops there.
  • How many innocent foreigners die because our troops went.
  • What physical and mental condition our troops will be in when they return.
  • Whether our troops are really defending our freedom.
  • Whether our troops are creating more terrorists because they went.
  • Whether our troops are actually a global force for good.
  • Whether whatever our troops accomplish is worth one drop of American blood.

None of these things matter. We are continually told to pray for the troops, thank the troops, and support the troops—and to do so unconditionally.

But because I have considered these questions about the activities of our troops, and pay attention to what really goes on in the military, I think we should instead:

  • Pray that our troops come home from overseas.
  • Pray that our troops stop fighting foreign wars.
  • Pray that our troops don’t kill foreign civilians.
  • Pray that our troops don’t rape foreign women.
  • Pray that our troops stop invading countries.
  • Pray that our troops stop occupying countries.
  • Pray that our troops get out of the military as soon as they can.
  • Pray that our troops don’t fire their weapons.
  • Pray that our troops don’t sexually assault military personnel.
  • Pray that our troops don’t frequent brothels.
  • Pray that our troops don’t commit suicide.
  • Pray that our troops don’t get addicted to drugs.
  • Pray that our troops stop helping to carry out an evil U.S. foreign policy.
  • Pray that our troops stop making drone strikes.
  • Pray that our troops stop making widows and orphans.
  • Pray that our troops are only used for genuinely defensive purposes.
  • Pray that our troops stop intervening in other countries.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die for a lie, like those who died fighting in Iraq.
  • Pray that our troops don’t die in vain, like those who died fighting in Afghanistan.
  • Pray that our troops think about the morality of their “service.”
  • Pray that our troops refuse to obey immoral orders.
  • Pray that our troops never become troops by saying no to the military recruiter.

One does not have to be religious to see that these prayers are noticeably different from the previous ones. Think about this the next time you see a billboard or church sign that says “Pray for Our Troops.”

Originally published on LewRockwell.com.

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Patriarch-Gregory-III-of-Syria

The Catholic Patriarch of Syria has recently stated that a United States attack on Syria would be a “criminal act,” highlighting how U.S. government interventionism not only affects millions of innocents negatively but also has a drastic effect upon the church in those countries.

Quoting Patriarch Gregory (from CNSNews.com):

“We must listen to the Pope’s appeal for peace in Syria,” said Patriarch Gregory III. “If Western countries want to create true democracy then they must build it on reconciliation, through dialogue between Christians and Muslims, not with weapons. This attack being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world’s trust in the West.”

Read More→

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Sep
10

Is Obama gutting the military?

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Obama_frown

I am not a fan of Barack Obama. But since there are a lot of things that could be said about the president—all of them bad—it was perplexing to me why some far-right conservative Christians would lie about him when expressing their displeasure. It was perplexing until I realized that their real agenda was honoring their true god—the U.S. military.

I think the only good thing that could be said for Obama is that he apparently loves his family. I have written on several occasions about his radical associations, his life spent in the service of racial preference, his aberrant Christianity, his warmongering, his welfare statism, his abominable heath care act, his economic ignorance, his disregard of the Constitution, his drug warring, his dangerous views on gun control, his destructive foreign policy, and his overall extreme left-wing views. I believe Obama to be one of the worst presidents in American history. He is almost as bad as George W. Bush.

I have seen it written by conservative Christians that Obama is gutting the military. Well, since the Bible says to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21), I think we need to take a look at some facts and figures to see if this is the case or if these conservative Christians are just polluting the air with lies about a man that an abundance of negative things could already be said about.

Obama was elected in 2008 and took office in January of 2009. He was reelected in 2012. During the first two years of his first term, the Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Democrats have controlled the Senate ever since; however, Republicans regained control of the House in the 2010 election, and have controlled it ever since. This means that every bill signed into law by Obama during the 112th Congress (2011-2013), and every bill that will be signed into law by Obama during the 113th Congress (2013-2015), was first passed, or will be passed, by the Republican-controlled House.

There are two major pieces of legislation passed by Congress every year that relate to the military: the National Defense Authorization Act and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Let’s look at the last three times that the Republican-controlled House passed these bills. It should be noted that the federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1 on ends on September 30 of the following year. This means that fiscal year 2014 begins on October 1, 2013.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.1960) was passed on June 14, 2013, by a vote of 315-108. The Republican vote was 212-18. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.2397) was passed on July 24, 2013, by a vote of 315-109. The Republican vote was 220-8. This latter bill authorizes $512.5 billion for

(1) military personnel; (2) operation and maintenance (O&M), including for the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, environmental restoration, overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid, former Soviet Union cooperative threat reduction, and the DOD Acquisition Workforce Development Fund; (3) procurement, including for aircraft, missile, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, ammunition, shipbuilding and conversion, and purchases under the Defense Production Act of 1950; (4) research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E); (5) Defense Working Capital Funds and the National Defense Sealift Fund; (6) the Defense Health Program; (7) chemical agents and munitions destruction; (8) drug interdiction and counter-drug activities; (9) the Office of the Inspector General; (10) the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund; (11) the Intelligence Community Management Account; and (12) overseas deployments and related activities, including military, reserve, and National Guard personnel, O&M, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, procurement, RDT&E, and the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund.

But according to the United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request Overview Book, President Obama requested $526.6 billion for these purposes. This means that House Republicans approved less spending on defense than Obama requested. Looks like it is House Republicans who are gutting the military.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.4310) was passed on December 20, 2012, by a vote of 315-107. The Republican vote was 205-30. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2013 (H.R.5856) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 326-90. The Republican vote was 225-11.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.1540) was passed on December 14, 2011, by a vote of 283-136. The Republican vote was 190-43. The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2012 (H.R.2219) was passed on July 19, 2012, by a vote of 336-87. The Republican vote was 224-12.

Whatever the amount of Obama’s two previous defense budgets, the fact is simply this: They could not have been set without the full support of the Republican-controlled House.

But, of course, neither Obama nor the Republicans are gutting the military at all. From the Overview Book, here are the figures for U.S. defense spending beginning with fiscal year 2001:

FY01, $287.4 billion
FY02, $328.2 billion
FY03, $364.9 billion
FY04, $376.5 billion
FY05, $400.1 billion
FY06, $410.6 billion
FY07, $431.5 billion
FY08, $479.0 billion
FY09, $513.2 billion
FY10, $527.9 billion
FY11, $528.2 billion
FY12, $529.9 billion
FY13, $527.5 billion

Obama’s first defense budget was fiscal year 2010. Rather than gutting the military, it sure looks like he is expanding the military. According to Treasury Department data: “Over the past ten fiscal years, inflation-adjusted Defense Department spending has increased by approximately 54 percent.”

What is even worse about Obama’s non-existent cuts to the military is that real defense spending, according to economist Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute, is “well in excess of $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes.” And according to defense analyst Winslow Wheeler, “The Pentagon’s budget has increased, over time, much more than the Defense Department tells Congress, and the public.”

But even if military spending were actually what it appears on paper to be, it is still too high. This is because the majority of U.S. military spending is for offense, not defense. The military should be gutted, as I have maintained in scores of articles on the military.

Military spending is basically a jobs program, as retired U.S. Army colonel Andrew Bacevich explains in his book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (Metropolitan Books, 2010):

Each year the Pentagon expends hundreds of billions of dollars to raise and support U.S. military forces. This money lubricates American politics, filling campaign coffers and providing a source of largesse – jobs and contracts – for distribution to constituents. It provides lucrative “second careers” for retired U.S. military officers hired by weapons manufacturers or by consulting firms appropriately known as “Beltway Bandits.”

So, why would conservative Christians—who consider lying to be a sin—lie about Obama gutting the military when, as I have maintained, hundreds of negative things could already be said about him?

The conclusion is inescapable: the god of some conservative Christians is the U.S. military. It is their “golden calf.” They are Christian warmongers. They are imperial Christians. They are guilty of military idolatry. Their childish devotion to the military has clouded their judgment. Lying about Obama is fine as long as it leads people to pity their gutted god.

Is Obama gutting the military? If only it were so.

Originally posted on LewRockwell.com on September 9, 2013.

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