Available Now! (click cover)

America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Revisionist History Day, 2017



Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling below) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and don't forget to listen to the Scott Horton Show) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

The state inculcates an unquestioning faith in its war-making by associating it with patriotism, heroism, and the defense of "our freedoms." This strategy builds in its own defense against any criticism of the government's policies. Anyone who questions the morality of a war is automatically suspected of being unpatriotic, unappreciative of the bravery that has "kept us free," and disrespectful of "our troops," in a word, un-American.

To counter this common outlook, which people are indoctrinated in from birth and which is shared by conservatives and progressives alike, we should do what we can to teach others that the government's version of its wars is always self-serving and threatening to life, liberty, and decency.

In that spirit, I quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]

Here's an all-too-incomplete list of books in no particular order (some of which I've read, some of which I intend to read):
  • We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods Jr.
  • The Failure of America's Foreign Wars, edited by Richard M. Ebeling and Jacob G. Hornberger
  • America's Second Crusade, by William Henry Chamberlin
  • Great Wars and Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by Ralph Raico
  • Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism, by Jeff Riggenbach
  • War Is a Lie, by David Swanson
  • War Is a Racket, by Smedley D. Butler
  • WartimeUnderstanding and Behavior in the Second World War, by Paul Fussell
  • Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
  • The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, by William Appleman Williams
  • Empire as a Way of Life, by William Appleman Williams
  • The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition, by Arthur Ekirch
  • The Politics of War: The Story of Two Wars which Altered Forever the Political Life of the American Republic, 1890-1920, by Walter Karp
  • The Costs of War, edited by John Denson
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, by Stephen Kinzer
  • All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, by Chalmers Johnson
  • The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, by Chalmers Johnson
  • War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
  • A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, by David Fromkin (This book has serious flaws, but it nonetheless shows the cynicism of the European imperialists.)
  • The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
  • Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations, 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi
  • Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, by Max Blumenthal
  • Genesis: Truman, Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, by John B. Judis
  • The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination, by Jeremy R. Hammond
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe
  • The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
  • Assault on the Liberty, by James N. Ennes Jr.
  • Wilson's War: How Woodrow Wilson's Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II, by Jim Powell
  • American Empire: Before the Fall, by Bruce Fein
  • Endless Enemies: The Making of an Unfriendly World, by Jonathan Kwitny
  • The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at All Costs, by David C. Unger
  • The War State: The Cold War Origins Of The Military-Industrial Complex And The Power Elite, 1945-1963, by Michael Swanson
  • Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, by Nicholson Baker
  • Pearl Harbor: The Seeds and Fruits of Infamy, by Percy Greaves
  • Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, by John Toland
  • Day of Deceit: The Truth about  FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert Stinnett
  • Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, by Daniel Ellsberg
  • The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, by Nick Turse
  • Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, by Nick Turse  
  • "War is the Health of the State," by Randolph Bourne
  • War, Peace, and the State, by Murray Rothbard
  • “‘Ancient History’: U.S. Conduct in the Middle East Since World War II and the Folly of Intervention,” by Sheldon Richman
  • "War's Still a Racket," by Sheldon Richman
  • "The American Disease," by Sheldon Richman
By the way, if you can't help but think of this day as "memorial day," then at least spend part of it remembering how the U.S. government has caused the deaths of so many people.

Friday, May 26, 2017

TGIF: Trump’s Mideast Mission Impossible

By now, comparing someone to the underwear gnomes of South Park fame is trite. Were it not for Donald Trump, I wouldn’t go near it. But I cannot resist because it’s a salient feature of his way of “thinking” — although posing would be the better word here.

Behold: “If Israeli and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East,” he said, adding, with his characteristic precision, that “would be an amazing accomplishment.”

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Who Cares if Trump Went to the Western Wall?

Why all the hoopla about Donald Trump's being the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem? It's considered one of the holy sites in Judaism, but classical Reform Judaism regarded the adoration of objects and soil, even a temple wall. as idolatry, a counterfeit form of Judaism that violated the spirit of the prophets. Moreover, the wall was not actually a wall from the temple, which was built by the Roman agent Herod the Great, but "part of a perimeter retaining wall" that Herod also built.

Finally, in 2007 Israeli archaeologists found evidence that, in the words of Ehud Nesher of the Authority, "the site was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves." The first temple, Solomon's Temple, was also built with slave labor.

Friday, May 19, 2017

TGIF: The Real Danger from Trump Is Ignored

While the chattering classes spend all their time rehashing Donald Trump’s alleged — there’s a word you don’t much see in the media anymore — coordination with Russians over their alleged — there it is again — hacking of the Democrats’ email, a story with far more ominous implications is being ignored. I refer to Trump’s trip, beginning today, to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Who Wrote the Book on Election Meddling?

The United States, of course -- including Russian elections. Writes Markar Melkonian:
Does the USA meddle in the presidential elections of other countries?
Our friends in South America might have insights here—hundreds of cases of economic and military blackmail, election fraud, assassination, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected leaders. So too in Europe (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Georgia, Ukraine, etc.), east Asia (Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, etc.), north Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco), and dozens of other countries on five of the six inhabited continents. (Joshua Keating, “Election Meddling Is Surprisingly Common,” Slate.com, 4 Jan., 2017; Tim Weiner, CIA: Legacy of Ashes, 2008; Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy, 1992, 2006.)... 
In the welter of red-faced indignation, the torrents of denunciations from Senate hearings and press conferences, talk shows and podcasts, one might have expected someone to pose the rather obvious question whether American agencies have ever meddled in Russian presidential elections. And yet (surprise surprise!) America’s corporate-owned press of record, an institution that constantly flaunts its “objectivity,” has failed to raise that straightforward question. 
So, let us raise it here: Has the USA engaged in this sort of meddling? And if so, what effect has it had on Russia? 
The answer to the first question, of course, is a resounding Yes. [Emphasis in original.]
This all brings to mind Tom Lehrer's musical analysis from the 1960s, "Send the Marines":
For might makes right,
And till they've seen the light,
They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Till somebody we like can be elected.
Americans will live in a perpetual war state as long as they remain historically illiterate about the state they labor under.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Nakba Day 2017

Palestinian_refugees

Yesterday was Nakba Day, the day set aside to remember the catastrophe that befell the Palestinian Arabs in 1948 in connection with the creation of the “Jewish State” of Israel. Over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and villages, and many massacred, in an ethnic-cleansing operation that should shock the conscience. Hundreds of villages were erased and replaced by Jewish towns. The Arabs who remained in the Israeli state that was imposed on them by Zionist military forces have been second-class citizens, at best, from that time.

Since 1967 the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of whom were refugees from the 1948 catastrophe, have lived under the boot of the Israeli government. Their day-to-day lives are under the arbitrary control of the Israeli government. Gaza is an open-air blockaded prison camp subject to periodic military onslaughts (the latest was last year), while the West Bank is relentlessly gobbled up by Jewish-only settlements and violated by a wall that surrounds Palestinian towns and cuts people’s homes off from their farms. For the Israeli ruling elite, the so-called peace process is a sham. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now embarking on an unprecedented fourth term as prime minister, rejects any realistic plan to let the Palestinians go -- that is, have their own country on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He insists that they must recognize Israel as the Jewish state, that is, as the state of Jews everywhere, even though it sits largely on stolen property (PDF) -- which raises an interesting question: Is subjugation of the Palestinians an instantiation of Jewish values or is it not? If it is (as apparently most of its supporters believe), then what does that say for Jewish values? If it is not, then what does that say for Israel's purported status as the Jewish State?

Again, I note that the best short introduction to the catastrophe is Jeremy Hammond’s The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. Further, Hammond debunks the myth that the United Nations created the state of Israel.

Hammond

Additional reading: "Why the Inconvenient Truths of the Nakba Must Be Recognized," by Tom Pessah; "The Anti-Semite's Best Friend," by Jonathan Cook;  "Israel Must Recognize Its Responsibility for the Nakba, the Palestinian Tragedy," by Saeb Erekat; and "The sacking of Jaffa during the Palestinian Nakba, as narrated by three Omars," by Allison Deger.

(Another version of this post appeared previously.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

TGIF: The Debate Over Taxation Cannot Be Value-Free

Lenin reportedly said, "The best way to destroy the capitalist system [is] to debauch the currency." If by "capitalist system" we mean only what Adam Smith called "the obvious and simple system of natural liberty," we could improve on the quote: the best way to destroy it is to debauch the currency of thought and communication, language. Orwell understood this and made it the centerpiece of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Separate State and State!

The tricky thing about separating church and state is that the state is a kind of church. Other churches are allowed to exist as long as they do not pose serious competition to the official one.

Friday, May 05, 2017

TGIF: The War Party Talks Nonsense on Korea

The Really Serious People — you know, the politicians and pundits who have been wrong on every call on foreign policy in recent memory — think that talking to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un would be foolish because it would “legitimate” him and his brutal regime. This war caucus is ably represented by retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, formerly the mouthpiece for the Obama administration’s Pentagon and State Department and now a CNN contributor.

But I call that the Really Stupid Argument against seeking a peaceful resolution of this unnecessary standoff and finally bringing an end to the 67-year American war against Korea.

Read TGIF at The Libertarian Institute.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears on Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is executive editor of The Libertarian Institute. He is also a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Trump and Nearly Everyone Else Are Wrong about the Civil War

Memo to just about everyone: secession does not equal war. The Lower South of the United States seceded over slavery, but Lincoln's war was about holding the Union together no matter how many deaths it took. He said that he had no legal authority to end slavery and that if keeping the Union intact required the freeing no slaves, that's what he would do.

Thus had the Lower South been allowed to leave, no war would have followed. Logically, then, the Civil War was not about slavery, as everyone on TV is saying. It was about compulsory perpetual union. (For details see Jeffrey Rogers Hummel's Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.)

Slavery was abolished in many places peacefully. How many times was a national union preserved peacefully?

It's so funny to listen to the ignorant lecturing the ignorant.

The Biggest Gaffe at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

During his monologue At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, comedian Hasan Minhaj criticized Donald Trump for not understanding the First Amendment -- and in doing so, showed he -- Minhaj -- does not understand the First Amendment. He said:

“The man who tweets everything the enters his head, refuses to acknowledge the amendment that allows him to do it.”

No, the amendment does not allow him or us to do anything. In theory it does nothing more than recognize a natural right to freedom that exists independent of the Constitution and of the state.

I've yet to hear that anyone in the media, which so reveres the First Amendment, corrected Minjah.