Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Must Have Worked for Money Power

Monday, April 09, 2012 – by Staff Report

Abraham Lincoln

New Tim Burton film features Abraham Lincoln, vampires … “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” to premiere in June 2012 … While sitting in the theater waiting for “The Hunger Games” to start, I witnessed the most fantastically ridiculous trailer I’ve seen in a long time. It began when a slender man of large stature with the token beard, chiseled chin and tall top hat appeared on the screen. It was evident that he was Abraham Lincoln. When the trailer began, it looked like this movie might be some interesting, slightly morbid take on our 16th president’s life. Or at least something that loosely follows documented history. But then the trailer cut to scenes of Honest Abe wielding an axe like he attended some brute weapons combat school. The slow-motion shot of Abe with his axe, though borderline cheesy, looked edgy. – Daily Wildcat

Dominant Social Theme: Abraham Lincoln − so great he even kills vampires.

Free-Market Analysis: The cult of Lincoln continues unabated. Now comes another movie glorifying the Great Emancipator − see excerpt above.

It is a “mash up” in which several genres are combined, fictionally. This mash up was initially fiction that combined the historical Lincoln with the vampire sub-genre.

The author was purposefully clever − or just lucky − to have featured Lincoln at a time when the powers-that-be are increasingly desperate for pro-government propaganda. We figure in this era of the Internet, Lincoln looks like a valuable figure to those who want to reinforce the primacy of government.

The dynastic families that apparently run central banks along with their enablers and associates are continually attempting to bolster statist heroes like Lincoln because these elites maintain control via mercantilism. They need government, the bigger the better, to efficaciously move toward a New World Order.

The power elite that wants to run the world is having a tough time of it these days. What we call the Internet Reformation is daily exposing the dominant social themes it uses to frighten people into giving up power and wealth to globalist institutions.

One of the biggest dominant social themes is the one of the “leader.” We are constantly bombarded, in the West, with the idea that good political leadership will lead to good political results.

In fact, the political process is entirely one of price-fixing. Real leadership is actually practiced within the private sector and is the result of Misesian human action, the only kind that counts.

The Invisible Hand of competition makes society work. The dead hand of legal authoritarianism causes economic problems, recessions, depressions and ultimately war.

The power elite has made Lincoln into a hero and the Civil War into an admirable exercise in freeing slaves. But the slavery economy would have ended anyway with the advent of the industrial revolution. It did in England without a war.

The Civil War − the War Between the States − was a terrible affair and probably hurt black people as well as helped them. The legacy of bitterness and hatred was overwhelming and is only gradually being overcome … if it actually is.

From our perspective, Lincoln is no hero. He set the South ablaze, killed innocents and virtually knocked down whole cities. Atlanta has never recovered.

He was also a statist politician who believed in the primacy of the state and was willing to arrest people without cause and trample the Constitution to pursue his goal of keeping the union together.

In this modern era, Lincoln has been made a hero by the neo-Greenbacker movement blossoming around the Internet, especially in the alternative press − led in part by Ellen Brown, author of the Web of Debt.

We believe more in private money and competitive money systems, including private clearinghouses, fractional reserve and anything else that someone wants to try. We believe within this context, silver and gold would find their place, as historical bimetallism always has.

Greenbackers, on the other hand, believe that government itself − if properly run “for the people” can issue fiat money and spend its way to prosperity.

Greenbackers make the case that Lincoln was a Greenbacker. And aficionados of “directed history” make the point that Lincoln, alone, stood against a power elite – European – plot to divide the US into two distinct countries to lessen its clout.

This perspective has made Lincoln a “hero” of sorts, even within the alternative media that should know better.

Politicians are not heroes nor can they be, given what they have to do and the alliances they have to make. Lincoln set in motion a war that murdered millions. He didn’t likely HAVE to start a war, but he did.

Lincoln was at the center of one of the most powerful countries on Earth. The idea that he was a “killer” of European banking bloodsuckers is an attractive one, but hardly the truth.

The Lincoln portrayed by neo-Greenbackers has been debunked by two Austrian-oriented free-market thinkers, historian Thomas DiLorenzo and economist Gary North.

Interestingly, they come to somewhat different conclusions about Lincoln’s statist affections. DiLorenzo believes that Lincoln was pro-central banking and perhaps supported by the New York banking establishment.

Dr. Gary North believes that Lincoln was supportive of gold and silver and disparaging of fiat generally, including Greenbacks.

Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that Lincoln basically suspended the US Constitution and prosecuted a bloody war that he might have been able to find an alternative to.

Bottom line: From our humble point of view, Lincoln was likely in the hip pocket of Money Power.

European Money Power wanted a US war and Lincoln gave it one. When it was over, the US Republican exception was finished. Imperium had arrived. Things have only grown worse since.

The power elite has NEVER started a war, or not for the past 300 years or so, without controlling BOTH sides of the conflict. That’s what directed history tells us. Hitler, Napoleon, the Kaiser (WWI) − in each case, Money Power seemingly controlled and funded the “enemy.”

Why on Earth are we to believe that Lincoln − above all − was somehow immune to this formula? Most likely he was not.

No, he must have prosecuted a war at the bequest of Money Power and when it was done, they threw him over.

It really doesn’t matter whether Lincoln was pro- or anti-Greenbacks. First of all, Greenbackerism doesn’t work in the long run. Governments always print too much money when they have the chance and thus debase the currency.

That’s why fiat schemes eventually wither − just as the dollar reserve system is withering. It doesn’t matter who does the printing. It’s the monopoly that matters.

But secondly and more important, Lincoln was evidently and obviously trapped in the elite dialectic − as all others have been in the modern era. To argue otherwise is surely naïve.

To argue that his death was specifically as a result of the intention to create more Greenbacks is equally naïve. He was part of the Money Power that he was supposedly confronting.

He wasn’t standing alone, heroically, against Money Power. He was a creature of it. He must have been.

Understand this and the Civil War − and his crazed actions − suddenly snap into focus. It was more directed history, and Lincoln was one more puppet. The result of the war, as planned, was the collapse of American exceptionalism and the rise of Leviathan.

Lincoln, with his profound and absurd veneration for a “nation” (see the Gettysburg address) played his role with greater or lesser enthusiasm. Perhaps he knew his fate would be death; perhaps not.

He needed to justify his actions by using the rhetoric of nation-hood, even though a “nation” is an artificial construct. In the deepest sense there are no nations, for nations are constructs of culture. Those who use the term, like Lincoln, are creating an artifical concept to justify a kind of rhetorical cover.

John Kennedy was not assassinated because he signed an executive order for the issuance of Silver Certificates. Alternative historians have written on this folk theory extensively and proved it to be a modern myth. Lincoln was probably not assassinated simply because he somehow stood up against Money Power … elites that, in fact, had likely helped place him where he was.

What we CAN draw from ongoing Greenbacker speculation is that the world is not as simple a place as “Neo-Gs” would like to make out.

In this case, it is most interesting − especially given the upcoming Lincoln movie.

Conclusion: All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players / They have their exits and their entrances / And one man in his time plays many parts … − William Shakespeare

Ed Note: This article was inspired in part by a dialogue over at an Alex Jones website that posted an article of ours, “Elite Meme: Anything Is Better Than Gold.” A friend alerted us to the thread and his comments.

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Another Court Historian’s False Tariff History

Jefferson Davis President 1861–1865

Image via Wikipedia

 

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: The Latest New York Times Nonsense About Lincoln

The only thing worse than a historian who calls himself a “Lincoln scholar” is a sociologist who does the same. This truth was on display recently in a January 9 Washington Post article entitled “Five Myths about Why the South Seceded” by one James W. Loewen.

In discussing the role of federal tariff policy in precipitating the War to Prevent Southern Independence Loewen is either grossly ignorant, or he is dishonest. He begins by referring to the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, which led to South Carolina’s Ordinance of Nullification, whereby the state rightly condemned the 48 percent average tariff rate as a blatant act of plunder (mostly at the South’s expense) and refused to collect it at Charleston Harbor. Loewen writes that “when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede to protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force.” That much is true. “No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down,” Loewen then writes. This is all false. It is not true that “no state joined the movement.” As historian Chauncy Boucher wrote in The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama joined South Carolina in publicly denouncing the Tariff of Abominations, while the Yankee bastions of Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana, and New York responded with their own resolutions in support of political plunder through extortionate tariff rates.

Nor is it true to say that “South Carolina backed down.” South Carolina and the Jackson administration reached acompromise in 1833: Jackson “backed down” by not following through with his threats to use force to collect the tariff, and South Carolina agreed to collect tariffs at a much lower rate. Jackson “backed down” as much (or more) as South Carolina did, but the Official Court Historian’s History of the War, as expressed by Loewen, holds that only South Carolina retreated. The reason for this distortion of history is to spread the lie that tax protesters such as the South Carolina nullifiers, or the Whiskey Rebels of an earlier generation, have never successfully challenged the federal government’s taxing “authority.” But of course they have succeeded; The Whiskey Rebels ended up not paying the federal whisky tax, and the Tariff of Abominations was sharply reduced over a ten-year period.

Loewen next spreads an egregious falsehood about the tariff: “Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them,” he writes. “Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.” Every bit of this narrative is false.

Tariffs certainly were an issue in 1860. Lincoln’s official campaign poster featuredmug shots of himself and vice presidential candidate Hannibal Hamlin, above thecampaign slogan, “Protection for Home Industry.” (That is, high tariff rates to “protect home industry” from international competition). In a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (“Steeltown, U.S.A.”), a hotbed of protectionist sentiment, Lincoln announced that no other issue was as important as raising the tariff rate. It is well known that Lincoln made skillful use of his lifelong protectionist credentials to win the support of the Pennsylvania delegation at the Republican convention of 1860, and he did sign ten tariff-increasing bills while in office. When he announced a naval blockade of the Southern ports during the first months of the war, he gave only one reason for the blockade: tariff collection.

As I have written numerous times, in his first inaugural address Lincoln announced that it was his duty “to collect the duties and imposts,” and then threatened “force,” “invasion” and “bloodshed” (his exact words) in any state that refused to collect the federal tariff, the average rate of which had just been doubled two days earlier. He was not going to “back down” to tax protesters in South Carolina or anywhere else, as Andrew Jackson had done.

The most egregious falsehood spread by Loewen is to say that the tariff that was in existence in 1860 was the 1857 tariff rate, which was in fact the lowest tariff rate of the entire nineteenth century. In his famous Tariff History of the United Stateseconomist Frank Taussig called the 1857 tariff the high water mark of free trade during that century. The Big Lie here is that Loewen makes no mention at all of the fact that the notorious Morrill Tariff, which more than doubled the average tariff rate (from 15% to 32.6% initially), was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1859–60 session of Congress, and was the cornerstone of the Republican Party’s economic policy. It then passed the U.S. Senate, and was signed into law by President James Buchanan on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln’s inauguration, where he threatened war on any state that failed to collect the new tax. At the time, the tariff accounted for at least 90 percent of all federal tax revenues. The Morrill Tariff therefore represented a more than doubling of the rate of federal taxation!

This threat to use “force” and “invasion” against sovereign states, by the way, was a threat to commit treason. Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason as follows: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” (emphasis added). Lincoln followed through with his threat; his invasion of the Southern states was the very definition of treason under the Constitution.

The words “Morrill Tariff” do not appear anywhere in Loewen’s Washington Post article despite the fact that he portrays himself as some kind of “Keeper of The Truth” regarding “Civil War” history. (And where were the Washington Post’s “fact checkers?!) It was the Morrill Tariff that Lincoln referred to in his first inaugural address, not the much lower 1857 tariff, as Loewen falsely claims.

Abraham Lincoln was not the only American president who believed that the tariff was an important political issue in 1860. Contrary to Loewen’s false claims, Jefferson Davis, like Lincoln, highlighted the tariff issue in his February 18, 1861 inaugural address, delivered in Montgomery, Alabama (From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, vol. 7, pp. 45–51). After announcing that the Confederate government was “anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with all nations” Davis said the following:

An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade, which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest, and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency . . .

Thus, Loewen’s statement that the Southern states said “nothing” about tariff policy is unequivocally false. Jefferson Davis proclaimed here that the economy of the Confederacy would be based on free trade. Indeed, the Confederate Constitution of 1861 outlawed protectionist tariffs altogether, and only allowed for a modest “revenue tariff.”

When Davis spoke of a “passion or the lust for dominion,” he was referring to the constant attempts, for some seventy years, of the Northern Whig and Republican parties to plunder the South with the instrument of protectionist tariffs, as was attempted with the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. In other words, he declared here that, in his opinion, Lincoln was deadly serious (pun intended) about enforcing the newly-doubled rate of federal tariff taxation with a military invasion of the Southern states, and was preparing for war as a result. Contrary to Loewen’s ignorant diatribe, both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis announced to the world in 1861 that tariff policy was indeed a paramount political issue: In their respective inaugural addresses, Lincoln threatened “invasion” of any state(s) that failed to collect his tariff, while Davis promised to defend against any such invasion.

Before the war, Northern newspapers associated with the Republican Party were editorializing in favor of naval bombardments of the Southern ports because they knew that the South was adopting free trade, while the North was moving in the direction of a 50% average tariff rate (which did in fact exist, more or less, from 1863 to 1913, when the federal income tax was adopted). These Republican party propagandists correctly understood that much of the trade of the world would enter the U.S. through Southern ports under such a scenario. Rather than adopting reasonable tariff rates themselves, they agitated for war on the South.

The tariff controversy was not the only cause of the war, and I have never argued that it was (despite lies to the contrary told about me by such people as historian Jeffrey Hummel). But it was obviously an important cause of the decades-long conflict between North and South.

The rest of Loewen’s Washington Post article is about as accurate as his uninformed rantings about tariff policy. This was thePost’s second attempt to “correct the record” of the “Civil War,” which began 150 years ago this year, in the first nine days of 2011. The government’s company newspaper is apparently terrified that the public will get wind of the truth and begin questioning the foundational myth of the federal Leviathan state.

Sorce: http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo199.html

January 18, 2011

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mailis professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

The Best of Thomas DiLorenzo at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

 


The Latest New York Times Nonsense About Lincoln

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: The Most Cynical and Hypocritical Speech Ever Delivered

At the outset of the War to Prevent Southern Independence both Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress declared publicly that the sole purpose of the war was to save the union and not to interfere with Southern slavery. Lincoln himself stated this very clearly in his first inaugural address and in many other places. This fact bothers the court historians of the Lincoln cult who have in the past forty years rewritten American history to suggest that slavery was the sole cause of the war. (A generation ago, if one took a college course on “the Civil War” it was likely that one would have read The Causes of the Civil Warby Kenneth Stampp, a former president of the American Historical Association.)

The latest attempt to rewrite or whitewash history comes from one Richard Striner in a December 13 New York Times article entitled “How Lincoln Undid the Union.” The gist of Striner’s argument is that: 1) a compromise to save the union was in the works in Washington in December of 1860; but 2) Lincoln persuaded key members of the Republican Party to oppose it because it might not have prohibited the extension of slavery into the new territories, a key feature of the 1860 Republican Party platform. Lincoln wanted to save the union, says Striner, but he wanted a union that would put slavery “on the path to extinction.”

What rubbish. The notion that prohibiting the extension of slavery would somehow magically cause the end of Southern slavery has always been totally nonsensical. As University of Virginia Historian Michael Holt wrote in his book, Fate of Their Country(p. 27), “Modern economic historians have demonstrated that this assumption was false.” It is every bit as nonsensical as Lincoln’s crazy assertion that the extension of slavery into the Territories would have somehow led to the re-introduction of slavery into Maine, Massachusetts, and other states that had legally abolished slavery! (He ludicrously said that a nation “could not exist” half slave and half free). It is hard to believe that rational human beings ever believed such things. It is unlikely that many Americans of Lincoln’s time did.

Striner pretends to be able to read Lincoln’s mind when he speculates that his motivation was to put slavery “on the road to extinction.” He does not quote Lincoln himself as saying that this was his motivation; he merely speculates and fabricates a story. But Lincoln and other prominent Republicans did in fact state very clearly what their motivation was. There is no need to speculate. As Professor Holt, the history profession’s preeminent expert on the politics of the antebellum era wrote: “Many northern whites also wanted to keep slaves out of the West in order to keep blacks out. The North was a pervasively racist society where free blacks suffered social, economic, and political discrimination . . . . Bigots, they sought to bar African-American slaves from the West.” Lincoln himself clearly stated that “we” want the Territories “for free white labor.”

Thus, part of Lincoln’s motivation for opposing the extension of slavery – but making an ironclad defense of Southern slavery in his first inaugural address – was pandering to northern white supremacist voters (like himself) who did not want any blacks – free or slave – living among them. There was also a protectionist motivation, as the Republican Party wanted to prohibit competition for jobs from all blacks, free or slave. Illinois – Land of Lincoln – even amended its Constitution in 1848 to prohibit the emigration of black people into the state, a position that was endorsed by Lincoln. (Lincoln was also a “manager” of the Illinois Colonization Society, which sought to usestate tax funds to deport the small number of free blacks who resided in the state.)

A third motivation for Lincoln’s opposition to slavery extension was purely political. If slaves entered the Territories, they would inflate the congressional representation of the Democratic Party when the Territories became states because of the Three-Fifths Clause of the Constitution. That in turn – and most importantly – would block the Republican Party’s economic agenda. Professor Holt quotes Ohio Congressman Joshua R. Giddings (p. 28) on this point: “To give the south the preponderance of political power would be itself a surrender of our tariff, our internal improvements, our distribution of proceeds of public lands . . . . It is the most abominable proposition with which a free people were ever insulted.” It would destroy everything the Republican Party claimed to stand for, in other words, i.e., mercantilist economics. This is the real reason why Lincoln was so adamant about opposing the extension of slavery into the territories.

Besides his demonstrably false, speculative fantasies about Lincoln’s supposedly saintly motivations, Striner presents a very distorted and misleading account of the events of late 1860–early 1861. He quotes a private letter from Lincoln expressing his opposition to the particular compromise to save the union that was being sponsored by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky at the time, but makes no mention of Lincoln’s own “compromise” that was also in the works. The high priestess of the Lincoln Cult, Doris Kearns-Goodwin, describes Lincoln’s compromise on page 296 of her book, Team of Rivals. As soon as he was elected, Lincoln “instructed [William] Seward to introduce [the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution] in the Senate Committee of Thirteen without indicating they issued from Springfield.” The Corwin Amendment, which did pass the House and Senate, would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery. As Goodwin writes, Lincoln instructed Seward to make sure that the amendment said that “the Constitution should never be altered so as to authorize Congress to abolish or interfere with slavery in the states” where it existed. In addition, writes Goodwin, Lincoln instructed Seward, who would become his Secretary of State, to get a federal law introduced that would have made various personal liberty laws that existed in some Northern states illegal. These state laws were meant to nullify the federal Fugitive Slave Act, an act that Lincoln very strongly supported. Far from putting slavery “on the path to extinction,” these actions of Lincoln’s would have granted it more powerful government support than ever. Thus, Lincoln’s actions in late 1860–early 1861 were exactly the opposite of how Professor Striner portrays them as being with regard to the issue of slavery.

The white supremacists of the North were very pleased indeed with Lincoln’s assurances that he would do all that he could to prohibit black people from ever living among them, first by keeping them out of the Territories, and second by enshrining Southern slavery explicitly in the Constitution. He effectively promised to keep black people far away from such places as Boston, Massachusetts. Goodwin writes that when Seward went public and announced these actions to a Boston audience he was met with “thunderous applause.”

On March 4, 1861, Lincoln praised the Corwin Amendment in his first inaugural address, offered his support of it, and said that while he believed slavery to already be constitutional, he had no reservations about making it “express and irrevocable” in the text of the U.S. Constitution.

These actual historical facts paint a very different picture of Lincoln’s machinations from the one based on Professor Striner’s baseless speculations and historical distortions. More disturbingly, Professor Striner, like all other Lincoln cultists, makes no mention at all of the fact that Lincoln’s actions led to the mass murder of some 350,000 fellow American citizens, including more than 50,000 Southern civilians, along with an equivalent number of Northern war deaths. While virtually all the rest of the world had ended – or was in the process of ending – slavery peacefully, Lincoln cultists actually praise Lincoln for eschewing that well-charted peaceful route to emancipation while plunging his country into the bloodiest war in human history up to that point to supposedly “save the union.” There is something awfully sick (and sickening) about this.

 

December 16, 2010

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mailis professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America.His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.

Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

The Best of Thomas DiLorenzo at LRC

Thomas DiLorenzo Archives at Mises.org

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Kept Until Now So You Wouldn’t Barf Up Your Turkey and Stuffing Over Thanksgiving

The Most Cynical and Hypocritical Speech Ever Delivered

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
by Thomas J. DiLorenzo
Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: The Real Jefferson

Over the Thanksgiving holiday (decreed by Lincoln in 1863) one neocon Tabloid, National Review, reprinted Lincoln’s October 3, 1863 proclamation, highlighting Abe’s cynical reference to “the Most High God . . .” Another neocon Tabloid, The American Spectator, published the typical sappy, a-historical, fact-free, rhetorical mumbo jumbo about “Father Abraham” that Harry Jaffa and his fellow Lincoln cultists are known for.

The references to God in Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation, like all other such references in his political speeches, are breathtakingly cynical because of the fact that Lincoln never became a Christian (according to his wife and his closest friend and law partner, William Herndon); he never joined a church; rarely ever stepped foot into one; as a young man wrote an entire book that disputed Scripture; and was famous for his vulgar stories and language. But he studied the Bible as a political tool, just as today’s politicians study opinion polls.

Prior to 1863 Lincoln’s references to God and the Bible in his political speeches were mostly catch phrases and buzz words (“a house divided cannot stand”). But as more and more fellow American citizens were murdered by the thousands by his army, and as the war crimes mounted, Abe stepped up his Biblical lingo. By the time of his second inaugural he wrote a speech in which he absolved himself of all blame for the war (“the war [just] came,” he said), blaming the whole bloody mess on God. Presuming to know what was in the mind of God, he theorized that the Lord was punishing all Americans, North and South, for the sin of slavery. He did not theorize on why God would not also punish the British, French, Spanish, and others who were responsible for bringing 95% of all the slaves to the Western Hemisphere. In other words, his Biblical language was always a diversion and a cover-up for the war crimes against American civilians (among other atrocities) that he was micromanaging.

The first sentence of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation is a real howler. The year 1863, he said, “has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.” What? Healthful skies?! As of the fall of 1863 there had been several hundred thousand battlefield casualties, including thousands of men in both armies who died of yellow fever and other dreaded diseases. There were more than 50,000 casualties in the Battle of Gettysburg alone, just three months earlier.

In the second sentence, Lincoln the non-Christian claimed that “we” are “prone to forget” that all of those “healthful skies” come from “the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” Speak for yourself, Abe!

This is followed by another howler, claiming that “peace has been preserved with all nations.” He apparently forgot about the Confederate States of America that he was waging total war against.

It gets worse (and funnier). The next thing he says is that “order has been maintained.” Stalin said the same thing about the Soviet Union. By that time Lincoln had imprisoned thousands of Northern political dissenters without due process since he illegally suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus. He had shut down hundreds of “unorderly” opposition newspapers, and deported poor old Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Dayton, Ohio, his most outspoken critic in Congress.

As Dean Sprague wrote in Freedom Under Lincoln (p. 299), under Lincoln’s “policy of oppression,” the “entire judicial system was set aside” as “the laws were silent, indictments were not found, testimony was not taken, judges did not sit, juries were not impaneled, convictions were not obtained and sentences were not pronounced. The Anglo-Saxon concept of due process, perhaps the greatest political triumph of the ages and the best guardian of freedom, was abandoned.”

Three months earlier there had been draft riots in New York City that one could hardly describe as “orderly.” An eye witness to the riots was Colonel Arthur Fremantle of the British Army, who wrote the following about the New York City draft riots in his book, Three Months in the Southern States (p. 302):

The reports of outrages, hangings, and murder, were now most alarming, the terror and anxiety were universal. All shops were shut; all carriages and omnibuses had ceased running. No colored man or woman was visible or safe in the streets or even in his own dwelling. Telegraphs were cut, and railroad tracks torn up.

Lincolnian “order” was restored when Abe sent 15,000 troops to New York from the just-concluded Battle of Gettysburg. The troops fired indiscriminately into the draft protesters, killing hundreds, more likely thousands, of them according to Iver Bernstein, author of The New York City Draft Riots. (This scene was portrayed in the movie Gangs of New York, where Bernstein worked as an historical consultant to director Martin Scorcese).

But let’s not let historical facts get in our way. Let’s follow the neocon lead and swoon and weep and get chills up our legs over Abe’s Big Lie that “harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict.”

The notion that there was “harmony” and “unity” in the Northern states during the war is one of the most outrageous lies in American history. Historian Ella Lonn described how Lincoln created “harmony” within the U.S. Army in the face of massive desertions by literally hundreds of thousands of Northern men in her book, Desertion During the Civil War. Draftees “were held like veritable prisoners” and Lincoln’s government “had no compunctions about shooting or hanging deserters,” wrote Lonn. The murder of deserters achieved Nazi-like efficiency: “A gallows and shooting ground were provided in each corps and scarcely a Friday passed during the winter of 1863–64 that some wretched deserter did not suffer the death penalty in the Army of the Potomac. . . . The death penalty was so unsparingly used that executions were almost daily occurrences. . .” The “method of execution” was “generally shooting but hanging seems to have been used occasionally.”

The Thanksgiving speech gets even worse. The very next uttering of Abe’s is that “the laws have been respected and obeyed.” Well, not by Abraham Lincoln, certainly. Even his own attorney general, Robert Bates, stated that his suspension of Habeas Corpus was illegal and unconstitutional, as was the suppression of free speech throughout the North. West Virginia was illegally carved out of Virginia to form a new slave state as part of the union. And where in the Constitution is the president permitted to order soldiers to imprison and deport an opposition member of Congress without any due process? Or rig national elections and imprison duly-elected members of the Maryland state assembly without due process? Doesn’t the Constitution require presidents to see to it that the states have republican forms of government?

Indeed, Lincoln’s invasion of the Southern states was the very definition of treason under the U.S. Constitution. Article 3, Section 3 proclaims that: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or adhering to theirEnemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” (emphasis added). Treason under the U.S. Constitution consists “only” in waging war against “them,” namely, the free, independent and sovereign states, plural. Lincoln redefined treason to mean any criticism by anyone of him or his administration. In fact, he even said that a man who stands by and says nothing while the war was being discussed was guilty of “treason.”

Lincoln also violated international law and his own military code by intentionally waging war on American civilians for four years, killing more than 50,000 of them according to historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. Even pro-Sherman biographer Lee Kennett wrote in his book, Marching Through Georgia (p. 286), that “had the Confederates somehow won, had their victory put them in position to bring their chief opponents before some sort of tribunal, they would have found themselves justified (as victors generally do) in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violation of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants.”

All the “great things” that had happened since he became president, said Abe, were “the gracious gifts of the Most High God . . .” Therefore, he said, “we” should celebrate as “the whole American People” to give thanks to God with a national holiday. This was another very large contradiction: Lincoln never admitted that secession was legal, therefore, he always considered Southerners to be a part of “the whole American people” for political purposes. It is doubtful that a single Southerner, in 1863, would have heeded Abe’s advice and given thanks for all that he had done for them.

Lincoln concluded his Thanksgiving propaganda speech with more religious lingo, thanking the Lord for “the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility,” and, get this – Union. The Union – always spelled with a capital “U” – was not just a practical political arrangement created by the founding generation mostly for foreign policy purposes, as Thomas Jefferson said it was. It was supposedly divine, the work of God. Lincoln the non-Christian knew this for sure. It’s what created The Divine Right of Lincoln, similar to The Divine Right of Kings during the Middle Ages.

This deification of the state echoed the words of the fanatical New England Unitarian preacher Henry W. Bellows, who worked in the Lincoln administration as its Sanitary Commissioner and whose son, Russell, was Robert Todd Lincoln’s Harvard classmate and best friend. (Lincoln’s son Robert spent the war years “fighting” for good grades at Harvard). Bellows authored a creepy, totalitarian-sounding book in 1863 entitled Unconditional Loyalty which declared that “the state is indeed divine, as being the great incarnation of a nation’s rights, privileges, honor and life” itself.” Moreover, “the first and most sacred duty of loyal citizens” was “to rally round the president – without question or dispute.”

In his new book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and Slavery (p. 265), Lincoln cultist Eric Foner informs us that “it is not surprising that Lincoln seemed to share this outlook.” This “outlook” would have caused George Washington to reach for his sword and lead another Revolution against another despotic and dictatorial regime.

 

November 30, 2010

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mailis professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America.His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.

Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Why Libertarians Oppose War

Joint forcible entry exercise

by Jacob H. Huebert

This article is excerpted from Libertarianism Today, by Jacob H. Huebert.

Libertarianism and war are not compatible. One reason why should be obvious: In war, governments commit legalized mass-murder. In modern warfare especially, war is not just waged among voluntary combatants, but kills, maims, and otherwise harms innocent people. Then, of course, wars must be funded through taxes, which are extracted from U.S. citizens by force – a form of legalized theft, as far as libertarians are concerned. And, historically, the U.S. has used conscription – legalized slavery – to force people to fight and die. In addition, an interventionist foreign policy makes civilians targets for retaliation, so governments indirectly cause more violence against their own people when they become involved in other countries’ affairs. Plus, war is always accompanied by many other new restrictions on liberty, many of which are sold as supposedly temporary wartime measures but then never go away.

War Involves Mass Murder

Today, people mostly accept that innocent civilians die in wars, and it doesn’t seem to bother them too much as long as it’s happening to other people on the other side of the world. The military calls this “collateral damage,” and the American media mostly ignores it, but libertarians call attention to it and call it what it is: mass murder.

Historically, war didn’t necessarily involve killing innocents on a large scale. War was always terrible and undesirable, but by the eighteenth century, Europe had developed rules of “civilized warfare,” and wars were generally fought only between armies, with civilians off-limits. From the libertarian perspective, this type of war is not so much of a problem; if people choose to engage in mortal combat with each other, that may be foolish, self-destructive, and even immoral, but it’s not aggression in the libertarian sense. (Of course, those wars still have objectionable ends – generally, the right to dominate a particular territory – but at least the means aren’t so offensive.)

Modern warfare is another story. Modern governments, including but not limited to democracies, claim to represent “the people,” so modern wars are seen as being fought, not just between rulers, but between whole peoples. By this way of thinking, it’s not two governments fighting; it’s “all of us versus all of them.” This is how politicians and some conservative pundits talk: either you are rooting “for America” or you “want America to lose” – they don’t distinguish between the country’s government and its citizens. If their view is correct – if governments really do represent the people – then it follows (more easily) that the people are fair game in war.


Of course, libertarians reject this view of government and democracy. Governments don’t actually represent their people – they prey upon their people. Many people in any given country, democratic or otherwise, don’t support all of their government’s policies, and don’t deserve to be punished, let alone killed, for what their government does. But many are unwillingly implicated in their government’s crimes through taxation, conscription, and other ways in which they’re forced to directly and indirectly support the war effort.

The United States led the way in destroying the historic prohibition on targeting civilians. In the Civil War, with Abraham Lincoln‘s approval, General William Tecumseh Sherman unleashed “total war” in the South, burning cities and towns to the ground and destroying huge amounts of civilian property – food, housing, tools – mostly for no reason except to terrorize the “enemy” population.

Britain also played its part, thanks to Winston Churchill. In World War I, as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill implemented a blockade that caused about 750,000 German civilians to die of hunger or malnutrition. In World War II, Churchill urged the deliberate bombing of civilians in German cities, which killed 600,000 people and severely injured some 800,000 more.

President Harry S. Truman contributed as well, killing more than 200,000 people with the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the first and so far only nuclear attacks by any country. The U.S. also killed over 100,000 more civilians in raids on Tokyo, including one major raid that took place after the atomic bombs had been dropped and Japan had indicated its willingness to surrender. Libertarians would consider the killing of all those civilians to be an unjustifiable war crime in any event, but libertarian historian Ralph Raico has argued that, contrary to popular belief, the atomic bombs weren’t even necessary to save American soldiers’ lives or win the war.

In the Cold War, the U.S. (and the Soviets) continued to produce and accumulate nuclear weapons, which, if used, would destroy enormous civilian populations. Even now, as it condemns other countries for wanting even one nuclear weapon, the U.S. maintains a huge nuclear arsenal, with nearly 4,000 nuclear missiles ready to use. Unlike guns and other traditional weapons, nuclear weapons have no legitimate defensive purpose; they can’t even theoretically be limited to target only enemy combatants. True, they serve as a “deterrent” without being detonated, but this provides little comfort, since it assumes that the President of the United States is, in fact, ready, willing, and able to bring a nuclear holocaust upon millions of people if put to the test. For these reasons, libertarianism calls for immediate, total nuclear disarmament. Libertarians might also point out that the very existence of nuclear weapons provides a powerful argument against large governments. Without big government, there is no reason why these weapons, which have the potential to destroy the entire human race, would exist.


Sometimes the U.S. foreign policy kills people indirectly. For example, from 1990 through March 1998, sanctions against Iraq kept food and medicine out of that country and caused at least 350,000 excess deaths of Iraqi children under the age of five (“excess deaths” meaning deaths above the normal death rate). In 1996, when asked on 60 Minutes whether it was worth allowing hundreds of thousands of children to die to achieve U.S. foreign policy goals, Madeline Albright (the future Secretary of State, who was then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) infamously said, “We think the price is worth it.”

The Iraq war itself has also killed many thousands of people, causing at least 90,000 documented Iraqi civilian deaths by October 2009. Other estimates put the figure much higher, such as an October 2006 study from the medical journal The Lancet, which estimated that the war had caused, directly and indirectly, more than 650,000 excess Iraqi deaths. For perspective, one might recall that the September 11 attacks that led – quite indirectly – to the Iraq war killed 2,976 Americans.

War Is Anti-Market

Many on the right see no contradiction between their (nominal) support for capitalism and their support for war. Many on the left believe capitalism and militarism go hand in hand. Libertarians say they’re both wrong because war interferes with the free market.

War and the Economy

War disrupts the market by directing society’s resources away from productive uses and toward destructive uses, or at least toward things that people didn’t voluntarily demand. Nonetheless, the myth persists that war is good for the economy. For example, many people still insist that World War II ended the Great Depression, but libertarians have pointed out why this is false.


The idea that war makes for prosperity is an instance of the “broken window fallacy” that the great libertarian economist Frédéric Bastiat identified in the nineteenth century. We mentioned this concept briefly in chapter one: if a window breaks, this “creates jobs” for the people who make and install windows. But if the window hadn’t broken, the window’s owner could have spent his or her money on something else instead – and society would be wealthier because we would have not only the unbroken window, but also the additional goods and services produced.

War is nothing but “breaking windows” on a massive scale. It creates jobs for the people doing the breaking, and for the people who do the cleanup – but if there were no war jobs, those people would do something else that would be creative instead of destructive. Yes, unemployment plummeted during World War II, but ending unemployment is easy if you draft millions of people into the military. Slavery is indeed a “full employment” program, but not a very desirable one, especially when it can get you killed. And it’s difficult to see how American soldiers were economically better off for being sent into the line of fire, or how their families were made better off by having fathers and sons sent away, possibly never to return.

Merchants of Death

Wars are not good for the economy, but they are good for some businesses: those that produce military equipment and weaponry, such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman; those that provide “infrastructure” in occupied territory, such as Halliburton and KBR; and those that provide “private” military services, such as Blackwater. These “merchants of death” are not “free-market” entities; without a government buying their goods and services to wage war, they would not exist as we know them. They are economic parasites, who take society’s resources but do not produce anything for civilian use in return. Libertarians have consistently echoed President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex” – a warning that Republican and Democrat politicians have almost universally ignored as the war profiteers successfully lobby them year after year.

Read the rest of this chapter in Libertarianism Today.

September 15, 2010

Jacob H. Huebert [send him mail] is the author of Libertarianism Today (Praeger, 2010). He is also an attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University College of Law, and an Adjunct Scholar of the Mises Institute. Visit his website.

Copyright © 2010 Jacob H. Huebert. Reproduced with permission of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

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The American War and Afghanistan’s Civilians

By Nick Turse

With the arrival of General David Petraeus as Afghan War commander, there has been ever more talk about the meaning of “success” in Afghanistan.  At the end of July, USA Today ran an article titled, “In Afghanistan, Success Measured a Step at a Time.” Days later, Stephen Biddle, a Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, held a conference call with the media to speak about “Defining Success in Afghanistan.”  A mid-August editorial in the Washington Post was titled: “Making the Case for Success in Afghanistan.”  And earlier this month, an Associated Press article appeared under the headline, “Petraeus Talks Up Success in Afghan War.”

Unlike victory, success turns out to be a slippery term.  As the United States approaches the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, pundits have been chewing over just what “success” in Afghanistan might mean for Washington.  What success might mean for ordinary Afghans hasn’t, however, been a major topic of conversation, even though U.S. officials have regularly promised them far better lives and trumpeted American efforts to reconstruct that war-torn land.

Between 2001 and 2009, according to the Afghan government, the country has received $36 billion in grants and loans from donor nations, with the United States disbursing some $23 billion of it.  U.S. taxpayers have anted up another $338 billion to fund the war and occupation.  Yet from poverty indexes to risk-of-rape assessments, from childhood mortality figures to drug-use stats, just about every available measure of Afghan well-being paints a grim picture of a country in a persistent state of humanitarian crisis, often involving reconstruction and military failures on an epic scale.  Pick a measurement affecting ordinary Afghans and the record since November 2001 when Kabul fell to Allied forces is likely to show stagnation or setbacks and, almost invariably, suffering.

Almost a decade after the U.S. invasion, life for Afghan civilians is not a subject Americans care much about and so, not surprisingly, it plays little role in Washington’s discussions of “success.”  Have a significant number of Afghans found the years of occupation and war “successful”?  Has there been a payoff in everyday life for the indignities of the American years – the cars stopped or sometimes shot up at road checkpoints, the American patrols trooping through fields and searching homes, the terrifying night raids, the imprisonments without trial, or the way so many Afghans continue to be treated like foreigners, if not criminal suspects, in their own country?

For years, American leaders have hailed the way Afghans are supposedly benefiting from the U.S. role in their country.  But are they?

The promises began early. In April 2002, for instance, speaking at the Virginia Military Institute, President George W. Bush proclaimed that in Afghanistan “peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.”  He added, “We’re working hard in Afghanistan: We’re clearing mine fields. We’re rebuilding roads. We’re improving medical care. And we will work to help Afghanistan to develop an economy that can feed its people without feeding the world’s demand for drugs.”

When, on May 1, 2003, President Bush strode across the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to deliver his “mission accomplished” speech, declaring an end to “major combat operations in Iraq,” he also spoke of triumph in the other war and once again offered a rosy picture of Afghan developments.  “We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children,” he said.  Five years later, he was still touting American aid to Afghans, noting that the U.S. was “working to ensure that our military progress is accompanied by the political and economic gains that are critical to the success of a free Afghanistan.”

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama seemed to suggest that efforts to promote Afghan well-being had indeed been a success: “There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years – in education, in health care and economic development, as I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed – lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”

So, almost 10 years on, just what are the lives of ordinary Afghans like?  Has childhood mortality markedly improved?  Are women, if not equal in terms of civil rights, at least secure in the knowledge that men are not able to rape them with impunity?  Have all Afghan children – or even most – started on the road to a decent education?

Or how about a more basic question?  After almost a decade of war and tens of billions in international aid, do Afghans have enough to eat?  I recently posed that question to Challiss McDonough of the United Nation’s World Food Program in Afghanistan.

Food Insecurity

In October 2001, the BBC reported that more than seven million people were “at risk of malnutrition or food shortages across Afghanistan.”  In an email, McDonough updated that estimate:  “The most recent data on food insecurity comes from the last National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (NRVA), which was conducted in 2007/2008 and released in late October 2009.  It found that about 7.4 million people are food-insecure, roughly 31 percent of the estimated population.  Another 37 percent are considered to be on the borderline of food insecurity, and could be pushed over the edge by shocks such as floods, drought, or conflict-related displacement.”

Food insecurity indicators, McDonough pointed out, are heading in the wrong direction.  “The NRVA of 2007/08 showed that the food security had deteriorated in 25 out of the 34 provinces compared to the 2005 NRVA.  This was the result of a combination of factors, including high food prices, rising insecurity and recurring natural disasters.”  As she also pointed out, “About 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford basic necessities.  Staple food prices remain higher than they are in neighboring countries, and higher than they were before the global high-food-price crisis began in 2007.”

Recently, the international risk management firm Maplecroft put together a food security index – using 12 criteria developed with the United Nations’ World Food Program – to evaluate the threat to supplies of basic food staples in 163 countries.  Afghanistan ranked dead last and was the only non-African nation among the 10 most food-insecure countries on the planet.

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons

During the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and the grim years of Taliban rule in the later 1990s, millions of Afghans fled their country.  While many returned after 2001, large numbers have continued to live abroad.  More than one million registered Afghans reportedly live in Iran.  Another 1.5 million or more undocumented, unregistered Afghan refugees may also reside in that country.  Some 1.7 million or more Afghan refugees currently live in Pakistan – 1.5 million of them in recently flood-ravaged provinces, according to Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N.’s refugee agency.

Many Afghans who still remain in their country cannot return home either.  According to a 2008 report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), there were 235,833 internally displaced persons nationwide.  As of the middle of this year, the numbers had reportedly increased to more than 328,000.

Children’s Well-Being

In 2000, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), mortality for children under five years of age stood at 257 per 1,000.  In 2008, the last year for which data was available, that number had not budged.  It had, in fact, only slightly improved since 1990, when after almost a decade of Soviet occupation and brutal warfare, the numbers stood at 260 per 1,000.  The figures were similar for infant mortality – 168 per 1,000 in 1990, 165 per 1,000 in 2008.

In 2002, according to the U.N., about 50% of Afghan children were chronically malnourished.  The most recent comprehensive national survey, done two years into the U.S. occupation, found (according to the World Food Program’s McDonough) about 60% of children under five chronically malnourished.

Childhood education is a rare area of genuine improvement.  Afghan government statistics show steady growth – from 3,083,434 children in primary school in 2002 to 4,788,366 enrolled in 2008.  Still, there are more young children outside than in the classroom, according to 2010 UNICEF numbers, which indicate that approximately five million Afghan children do not attend school – most of them girls.

Many youngsters find themselves on the streets.  Reuters recently reported that there are no fewer than 600,000 street children in Afghanistan.  Shafiqa Zaher, a social worker with Aschiana, a children’s aid group receiving U.S. funds, told reporter Andrew Hammond that most have a home, even if only a crumbling shell of a building, but their caregivers are often disabled and unemployed.  Many are, therefore, forced into child labor.  “Poverty is getting worse in Afghanistan and children are forced to find work,” said Zaher.

In 2002, the U.N. reported that there were more than one million children in Afghanistan who had lost one or both parents.  Not much appears to have changed in the intervening years.I have seen estimates that there are over one million Afghan children whose father or mother is deceased,” Mike Whipple, the Chairman and CEO of International Orphan Care, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization that operates schools and medical clinics in Afghanistan, told me by email recently.

Increasingly, even Afghan youngsters with families are desperate enough to abandon their homeland and attempt a treacherous overland journey to Europe and possible asylum.  This year, UNHCR reported that ever more Afghan children are fleeing their country alone.  Almost 6,000 of them, mostly boys, sought asylum in European countries in 2009, compared to about 3,400 a year earlier.

Women’s Rights

In his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush told Congress: “The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free and are part of Afghanistan’s new government.”  Last year, when asked about a new Afghan law sanctioning the oppression of women, President Obama asserted that there were “certain basic principles that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principle.”

Recently, the plight of women in Afghanistan again made U.S. headlines thanks to a shocking TIME magazine cover image of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan whose ears and nose were sliced off after she ran away from her husband’s house.  “What Happens When We Leave Afghanistan” was TIME‘s headline, but reporter Ann Jones, who has worked closely with women in Afghanistan and talked to Bibi Aisha, took issue with the TIME cover in the Nation magazine, pointing out that it was evidently not the Taliban who mutilated Aisha and that the brutal assault took place eight years into the U.S. occupation.  Life for women in Afghanistan has not been the bed of roses promised by Bush nor typified by the basic rights proffered by Obama, as Jones noted:

“Consider the creeping Talibanization of Afghan life under the Karzai government. Restrictions on women’s freedom of movement, access to work and rights within the family have steadily tightened as the result of a confluence of factors, including the neglect of legal and judicial reform and the obligations of international human rights conventions; legislation typified by the infamous Shia Personal Status Law (SPSL), gazetted in 2009 by President Karzai himself despite women’s protests and international furor; intimidation; and violence.”

Her observations are echoed in a recent report by Medica Mondiale, a German non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls in war and crisis zones around the world.  As its blunt briefing began, “Nine years after 11 September and the start of the operation ‘Enduring Freedom,’ which justified its commitment not only with the hunt for terrorists, but also with the fight for women’s rights, the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan still is catastrophic.”  Medica Mondiale reported that 80% of all Afghan marriages are still “concluded under compulsion.”

The basic safety of women in Afghanistan in, and well beyond, Taliban-controlled areas has in recent years proven a dismal subject even though the Americans haven’t left.  According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), for instance, 87% of women are subject to domestic abuse.  A 2009 report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found that rape “is an everyday occurrence in all parts of the country” and called it a “human rights problem of profound proportions.”  That report continued:

“Women and girls are at risk of rape in their homes and in their communities, in detention facilities and as a result of traditional harmful practices to resolve feuds within the family or community… In the northern region for example, 39 percent of the cases analyzed by UNAMA Human Rights, found that perpetrators were directly linked to power brokers who are, effectively, above the law and enjoy immunity from arrest as well as immunity from social condemnation.”

Afghan women are reportedly turning to suicide as their only solution.

A June report by Sudabah Afzali of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting noted that, according to officials in Herat Province, “cases of suicide amongst women… have increased by 50 per cent over the last year.”  Sayed Naim Alemi, the director of the regional hospital in Herat, noted that 85 cases of attempted suicide recorded in the previous six months had involved women setting themselves on fire or ingesting poison.  In 57 of the cases, the women had died.

A study conducted by former Afghan Deputy Health Minister Faizullah Kakar and released in August gave a sense of the breadth of the problem.  Using Afghan Health Ministry records and hospital reports, Kakar found that an estimated 2,300 women or girls were attempting suicide each year.  Domestic violence, bitter hardships, and mental illness were the leading factors in their decisions. “This is a several-fold increase on three decades ago,” said Kakar.  In addition, he found that about 1.8 million Afghan women and girls between the ages of 15 and 40 are suffering from “severe depression.”

Drug Use

Rampant depression, among both men and women, has led to self-medication.  While opium-poppy cultivation on an almost unimaginable scale in the planet’s leading narco-state has garnered headlines since 2001, little attention has been paid to drug use by ordinary Afghans, even though it has been on a steep upward trajectory.

In 2003, according to Afghanistan’s Public Health Minister Amin Fatimie, there were approximately 7,000 heroin addicts in the capital city, Kabul.  In 2007, that number was estimated to have doubled.  By 2009, UNAMA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) estimated that the city was home to up to 20,000 heroin users and another 20,000 to 25,000 opium users.

Unfortunately, Kabul has no monopoly on the problem.  “Three decades of war-related trauma, unlimited availability of cheap narcotics, and limited access to treatment have created a major, and growing, addiction problem in Afghanistan,” says Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of UNDOC.  Since 2005, the number of Afghan opium users nationwide has jumped by 53%, while heroin users have skyrocketed by 140%.  According to UNODC’s survey, Drug Use in Afghanistan, approximately one million Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 are addicted to drugs.  That adds up to about 8% of the population and twice the global average.

AIDs and Sex Work

Since the U.S. occupation began, AIDS and HIV, the virus that causes the disease, have reportedly also been on the rise.  In 2002, only eight people tested positive for HIV.  In 2007, Public Health Minister Fatimie reported 61 confirmed cases of AIDS and 2,000 more suspected cases.

Fatamie blamed intravenous drug use for half the cases and the NGO Médecins du Monde, which works with intravenous drug users in Kabul, found that HIV prevalence among such users in the cities of Kabul, Herat, and Mazar had risen from 3% to 7% between 2006 and 2009.  A 2010 report by the Public Health Ministry revealed that knowledge about HIV among intravenous drug users was astonishingly low, that few had ever been tested for the virus, and that of those who admitted to purchasing sex within the previous six months, most confessed to not having used a condom.

This last fact is hardly surprising, given the findings from a recent study by Catherine Todd and colleagues of 520 female sex workers, almost all mothers, in the Afghan cities of Jalalabad, Kabul, and Mazar-i-Sharif.  Only about 30% of the women surveyed reported clients had ever used a condom with them and about 50% had received treatment for a sexually transmitted infection in the three months prior to being interviewed.

The same study also sheds light on the intersection between high-risk behaviors, socio-economic conditions, and the freedom and opportunities promised to Afghan women by Presidents Bush and Obama.  The most common reasons Afghan women engaged in sex work, Todd and colleagues found, were the need to support themselves (50%) or their families (32.4%).  Almost 9% reported being forced into sex work by their families.  Just over 5% turned to prostitution after being widowed, and 1.5% were forced into the profession after they were sexually assaulted and, consequently, found themselves unable to marry.

A Decade of Progress?

In the near-decade since Kabul fell in November 2001, a sizeable majority of Afghans have continued to live in poverty and privation.  Measuring such misery may be impossible, but the United Nations has tried to find a comprehensive way to do so nonetheless.  Using a Human Poverty Index which “focuses on the proportion of people below certain threshold[s] in regard to a long and healthy life, having access to education, and a decent standard of living,” the U.N. found that, comparatively speaking, it doesn’t get worse than life in Afghanistan.  The nation ranks dead last in its listing, number 135 out of 135 countries.  This is what “success” means today in Afghanistan.

The United Nations also ranks countries via a Human Development Index which includes such indicators of well-being as life expectancy, educational attainment, and income.  In 2004, the U.N. and the Afghan government issued the first National Human Development Report.  In its foreword, the publication cautioned:

“As was expected, the report has painted a gloomy picture of the status of human development in the country after two decades of war and destruction. The Human Development Index (HDI) value calculated nationally puts Afghanistan at the dismal ranking of 173 out of 178 countries worldwide. Yet the HDI also presents us with a benchmark against which progress can be measured in the future.”

The only place to go, it seemed, was up.  And yet, in 2009, when the U.N. issued a new Human Development Report, Afghanistan was in even worse shape, ranking number 181 of 182 nations, higher only than Niger.

Almost 10 years of U.S. and allied occupation, development, mentoring, reconstruction aid, and assistance has taken the country from unbearably dismal to something markedly poorer.  And yet even worse is still possible for the long-suffering men, women, and children of Afghanistan.  As the U.S. war and occupation drags on without serious debate about withdrawal on the Washington agenda, questions need to be asked about the fate of Afghan civilians.  Chief among them: How many more years of “progress” can they endure, and if the U.S. stays, how much more “success” can they stand?

September 14, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Nick Turse


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