The exact point at which we lost America is difficult to pinpoint. Things were different in the 1990s. The economy was booming, people felt good about life and the worst we had to worry about was the President disregarding his marital vows from behind the desk of the Oval Office. Since the turn of the century and specifically after 9/11, America has taken a turn for the worse with the potential for anyone and everyone to be named a “terrorist” and thusly eliminating the possibility to find common ground. We seem to have forgotten that America was founded on rebellion to tyranny — tyranny, in the form of taxation without representation — and that our forefathers, especially George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin and others, would have been labeled as terrorists by the (British) authorities, not freedom-fighters, if the rebellion were to happen today. This process of labeling, rather than seeking to understand and then to be understood, infects our society with an ignorance that leads us away from an informed democratic electorate and into the hands of those who would manipulate the public for their own advantage. To reclaim America, we must confront fear and seek to understand the rules of the game: how nations interact on the international stage through the prism of the Utilitarian and Rational Actor theories which guide geopolitics; the concepts of liberty and due process, without which we are no better than the totalitarian dictatorships that we seek to oppose; and how to enhance our general awareness by learning to derive truth from deceit. The neo-conservative agenda detailed in the Project For a New American Century, now 21 years in the making, has national security objectives at the core of the plan. While their intentions may be good; the process by which they seek to secure American hegemony for another 100 years — at the expense of American lives and liberty — is not. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; It is our task to propose a middle path to enhance American influence abroad while also securing liberty, not dominance, for all Americans everywhere, for in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”
Definitions, Before & After 9/11
My military superiors frequently reminded me that, “Words mean things;” that I should mind my language in order to precisely communicate so as to bring about the desired effect of my words. When words lose meaning or when their meanings change over time, deliberately or otherwise, the effects will likewise change. Even seemingly small adjustments to the meaning of words can have outsized effects. Just as we understand that 2+2=4, a reference to 1984 by George Orwell, any attempt to change the definition is really an attempt to manipulate our perspective. Once our perspective is firmly rooted in the new definition, reality shifts as do the moral justifications for effects. To that end, let us examine the definition of terrorism as defined both before and after 9/11.
Terrorism, Pre-9/11 definition:
“The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
Terrorism, Post-9/11, as defined by the FBI:
“Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with U.S.-based movements…designated foreign terrorist organizations or nation-states…that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”
Violence and intimidation are not even mentioned in the Post-9/11 definition. Mere thought is enough to earn the terrorist label. Since the term “extremist” is a relative concept, any person, thought or action, can be considered extreme in the appropriate context. The target, public opinion through the civilian populace, and political objective are completely removed from the definition. Hence, we have a catch-all for anyone who disagrees with US propaganda and shares his or her opinion on any topic of political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature. By this definition, the FBI retains sole discretion to determine who is and who is not a terrorist. The seemingly insignificant shift from an objective to subjective definition can cause calamitous effects with regard to individual liberty and the American experiment. Galileo, who affirmed that the Earth revolves around the Sun despite church scripture dictating otherwise, was tried by the Inquisition, convicted of heresy, and sentenced to life under house arrest. In other words, he published an extreme perspective of political, religious and environmental nature, as defined by the FBI, and was tried and convicted for it; Galileo of today would qualify as a terrorist, subject to FBI discretion. Similarly, according to the definition, you or I might also be labeled as a terrorist for exposing how the subtleties of language can lead to profound, and in this case, perverse changes for society.
In such a state, it is the duty of the liberty-minded patriot, those officers of our nation who have pledged their lives to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” as I, too, have pledged, to challenge the law in defense of our Freedom of Speech. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” When the government is afforded the subjective right to determine the appropriateness of speech, as is the case with the FBI today, speech is no longer free, and power is absolute. Our Declaration of Independence states that, “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,” the individual rights claimed in our Declaration, “…it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it;” and we, as sworn officers of the United States, have a duty to challenge the FBI definition of terrorism to protect our Constitutional rights. This condition, the gradual erosion of individual rights, which are explicitly enumerated within our Constitution, is the path that leads to oppressive government. Founding Father and President Thomas Jefferson warns us of the same, “I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”
The Rules of the Game
Utilitarian theory can be defined as justifying the means of achieving the end by the value of the end itself; the morality of an action depends on the outcome produced by that action. In a society ruled solely by utilitarian thought, lives become expendable, morality no longer acts as a guidepost, and managing society becomes a numbers game. Just as we counted casualties of enemy combatants against American lives lost in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; the ratio and measure of lives lost is not always indicative of success in war. The same can be said of utilitarian metrics in managing society: the 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001 and the blood shed by our armed forces in their defense are given in vain if we lose the essence of America in the process. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not to be sacrificed under any circumstance. It is our role as members of the armed forces, intelligence personnel, elected and appointed political leaders, and general citizenry to ensure that the process by which we seek to maintain American influence remains within Constitutional bounds, lest we lose America herself. Quite simply: if black lives matter, and they do; whether black, white, brown, yellow, purple, red, green and blue — lives matter — and our commitment to the process of securing liberty is what keeps us safe. Failure to give proper regard to the process is a failure of effort and care to produce a plan that attains the desired results while adhering to American values. We have already begun to see what happens when we disregard process; the politics of fear and division set in; beset with false choices, we believe that we must choose either black lives or police lives, jobs here or jobs there, liberty or security. Recognizing these false choices as such by confronting and rejecting fear is the first step to preserving America.
The Rational Actor theory is similarly easy to comprehend: as I mentioned in Part I, any of us would do just about anything to safeguard our lives and those of our family. With regard to international politics, the Rational Actor theory stipulates that nation-states, and the administrations that lead them, will always act in their own interest of self-preservation. This is the measure by which we can derive truth from lies, with one caveat: we must also set aside personal prejudices and give the benefit of the doubt to the subject of observation in order to produce a complete set of options — and logical conclusions — from the perspective of the observed, not the observer. As such, neither President Bashar al-Assad nor President Saddam Hussein, neither leader of their respective nations, had self-interest in gassing his own people. To the contrary, doing so provided America with the pretense to invade. An examination of the record shows that Assad is accused of gassing his people on the first anniversary of President Obama’s “red line” speech in which President Obama declared the use of chemical weapons by President Assad against his own people as an event that would justify the use of American force in Syria, ostensibly to protect the innocent. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell argued the same case to justify the American invasion of Iraq after 2001. Likewise, attacking America on September 11th produced effects that ran contrary to the interests of the lightly armed Afghani militants, whereas the attacks shifted American public opinion to a war footing, providing the impetus to move a democratic society to war in order to open the purse strings of America to update our military weaponry, and maximize our military advantage on the global stage. Could it be that September 11th was the “new Pearl Harbor” that was described as needed to achieve the same ends as we have now come to realize? Our military is vastly improved from the Vietnam-era state of affairs going into the second Iraq war and we have expanded our strategic footprint to safeguard valuable oil, gas and rare earth minerals, at the least.
We raise our children to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, so that we become adults who willfully believe in religious mythology, the mystery story of Satoshi Nakamoto, and the absurd idea that cavemen from Afghanistan concurrently hijacked multiple planes in order to turn them into missiles destined for the most heavily guarded buildings on the planet: Pentagon, the White House, and the Twin Towers. For the record, I’m no bah-humbug. I love to play Santa for my nephews, but that does not exempt me from being complicit in a lie to my nephews about the idea of a jolly fat man going from house to house in a single night to give gifts to all the little girls and boys. Just as we play the roles of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy for our children, we are also unwittingly complicit in the crime of the century that was 9/11, and the erosion of our liberty thereof, through our own lack of self awareness. Likewise, with awareness, we can play an active role in reclaiming our country.
Read: Hijacking America: Part IV.
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