“And believe it or not, entertainment is part of our American diplomacy. It’s part of what makes us exceptional, part of what makes us such a world power.” – US President Barack Obama at the DreamWorks Animation facility, November 2013.

As sensational as that pronouncement was, at least it shed light on how the people of the United States have been sucked into accepting another war in Iraq, and possibly one in Syria, too.

And in a larger context, American’s infatuation with Hollywood-like fantasy helps explain how so many people still believe that Obama and the Democratic Party are less egregious than the Republican Party on issues of foreign policy, civil liberties, the environment and much more.

We’ve seen this movie before

Hollywood is notorious for telling the same story over and over – just packaged with different titles, villains and celebrity heroes. Washington does the same.

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations told the American public that the US was simply sending "advisers" to Vietnam, but the alleged threat posed by Communism had to be resolved by Vietnamese themselves.

"In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it," Kennedy stated in 1963. Sound familiar?

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If anyone wants to know what Afghanistan will look like whenever the United States finally gives up its meaningless occupation, take one look at Iraq. After 24 years of perpetual American war in Iraq – an invasion, a decade long no-fly zone, international sanctions, a second invasion, an occupation, the overthrow of a dictator and the installation of a puppet democracy – Iraq is anything but stable. Is this really any surprise? Over the past few months the international community has watched a group of Islamic thugs (ISIS) completely overrun the artificial Baghdad government, take possession of millions of dollars’ worth of American-made war material, and stage a number of gruesome public executions. The fact that there are people in the world who behave in such ways is a disgusting tragedy, but the chain of events that has led to such an outcome got a running start with the perpetual meddling in the region. The same recipe has been brewing in Afghanistan for the last 13 years and I expect that whenever the United States finally turns over the country to its inhabitants, parallel chaos will not be far behind it.

When you step off the plane at Bagram Air Base in Northern Afghanistan the first thing you notice (besides the mountains) are the sheer numbers of permanent structures, the hundreds of tons of concrete, and the immense inventory of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that now litter the ground. Tent city and many of the plywood basic huts have long been replaced by rows of three-story steel buildings and permanent structures – what a difference a decade makes! Without question, the present situation is night and day from that of the horse soldiers whose original intent was at least morally justifiable – capture the man allegedly behind September 11th – Osama Bin Laden. Although the second invasion of Iraq sidelined the search for half a decade, it has now been more than three years since Bin Laden was executed and the continued American presence makes one wonder when the referendum on making Afghanistan the 51st state will be. So why hasn’t the United States left and what happens if the United States government ever does decide to come home?

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The Ferguson community is rightly outraged over the fatal police-shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the broader problem it represents: how American blacks are treated like a subject population under military occupation. They are also right to be doubly outraged at how the police state that dominates them has been baring its fangs and pushing them around with a fully militarized response to their protest.

It is good that they want justice for Mike Brown and the mitigation of police impunity. It is also good that the public is now finally aware of and deeply concerned about the militarization of the police. But this has been a decades-long, losing struggle. By now, it should be obvious that the police state, and especially its treatment of blacks, will never be fundamentally reformed.

You might ask, “Well, what else can we do but keep trying?” My answer may seem extreme, but hear me out. Abolish, or secede from, the police, at least in Ferguson and any other black community that has had enough.

The notion of doing without police may seem as outlandish as abolishing parenthood or outlawing air. But police forces are not some timeless, sacred feature of human society. In its modern form, policing was actually only developed in the past couple of centuries. And tellingly, it originated directly out of imperial domination. As Will Grigg puts it, modern police forces have from the beginning been:

“…paramilitary bodies designed to operate as occupation forces, rather than as a protective service. In creating his London Metropolitan Police, Robert Peel adapted the model he had employed in creating the “Peace Preservation Force,” a specialized unit within the 20,000-man military contingent Peel had commanded as military governor of occupied Ireland.”

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In the recent film X-men: Days of Future Past, the “Sentinels” are robots programmed by non-mutant humans in the government to hunt and keep down the feared and marginalized population of “mutants.” Eventually, however, their programming undergoes major “mission creep,” and according to Wikipedia, the Sentinels, “expand their targets beyond mutants to baseline humans based on the logic that they have the potential to produce mutant descendants, culminating in a dystopian future where most of humanity and mutantkind have been wiped out.” This is an apt parable for the police state, which is also used against the marginalized, but which also eventually will turn on its creators and enablers.

Pre-mission-creep.

Post-mission-creep.

The late scholar Chalmers Johnson used to say, “Either give up your empire, or live under it,” referring to the truth that foreign empires tend to foster domestic police states. American experience, especially in past years, has shown just how prescient this unheeded warning was. The September 11, 2001 terrorist blowback from U.S. imperialism in the Middle East excused a massive swelling of the “homeland” security state, as well as an imperialist double-down in the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. These foreign wars, in turn, engorged our police state even further, as a torrent of surplus military gear streamed into our local police and sheriff’s departments, ramping up an already long-running militarization of the police in America.

Chief Ken Geddes poses with the Preston, Idaho police department’s new MRAP.

This militarization has been largely under the radar, in spite of efforts to publicize it by prolific libertarian writers like Will Grigg and Radley Balko. The issue has finally broken into public consciousness and mainstream media coverage after police responded to protests and unrest (over the police shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown) in Ferguson, Missouri with militarized full-spectrum dominance, putting all their new toys from the Pentagon to use and on display.

And yet, even with their news and social media feeds bombarded by images of an American town that are indistinguishable from images of occupied Iraq, many conservatives are still clinging to a “Support Your Local Police” attitude toward the matter. They don’t see the images as indicative of the tyranny of empire “coming home.”

Wall of high beams facing anyone approaching Ferguson, Missouri.

This in part is due to identity politics, which currently dominates judgments concerning public affairs, at the expense of principled concerns for justice and individual rights. These generally non-black, middle-class “law and order” conservatives identify with “black neighborhood” blacks in Ferguson about as little as they identify with Arab townsfolk or bedouins. To many of them, it is not a truly American town that is being militarily occupied, or true Americans being tear gassed. In X-men argot, they’re not “baseline humans,” so it is deemed okay if the “Sentinels” get rough with them.
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Ron Paul is 79 today

Libertarians owe him a great debt, one which can never be repaid. Without him, it’s more than likely that our movement would’ve either gone off the rails, succumbing to opportunism of the worst sort, or else slipped into obscurity, never to be seen or heard from again. Thanks to him,  neither of those dreadful scenarios occurred.

What happened instead was the almost miraculous growth and development of libertarianism into a viable national movement, with “mainstream” media forced to sit up and take notice. Now we are told we may be approaching the “libertarian moment” — by the New York Times, no less! — and 90 percent of the credit (maybe more!) goes to Ron  and the movement he inspired.

But it wasn’t easy. Three presidential campaigns, one under the Libertarian Party banner and two in the GOP primaries, with him travelling all over the country non-stop — a heroic effort for a man of his years. And he looks fabulous: I should only look that good at 79!

His career limns the upward trajectory of the rising libertarian movement, spanning the years when libertarians were totally unknown to the general public — I recall hearing, after telling someone that I was a libertarian, “I didn’t know the librarians had their own party!” — to our present Libertarian Moment. Without him, we may have reached it, eventually — but surely not as soon. And I know many of my readers will agree with me when I say it has come not a moment too soon.

To readers of this web site who may not be libertarians — and there are many — what’s important about Ron and the movement he spawned is the awareness he has brought to the public of the dangers inherent in our interventionist foreign policy. He has stood like a rock, even in the darkest days of the post-9/11 era, when even the staunchest peace advocates hesitated to raise their voices and the War Party was on the march. He stood up to the bully Rudy Giuliani, the has-been NY mayor and failed GOP presidential candidate, who was riding high at the time: he stood firm even as the know-nothings booed him and he told the truth about the gross stupidity and immorality of a foreign policy that has reaped such a whirlwind in the years since that moment. He stood up to the smears  of the War Party — and they’re still attacking him. Yet his stature, far from being diminished, only grows. At the age of 79, he is still speaking truth to power.

I have to tell a little story about Ron that underscores his sterling personal qualities as well as his ideological virtues. In my fiery youth, not even Ron Paul was radical enough for my tastes and I remember penning (yes, it was so long ago that we had pens in those days!) an article attacking him for “selling out.” It was a long diatribe, which was published in a long-defunct journal of which I was the editor. Not long after, I was surprised to receive a letter from him which was as gracious as can be, pointing out that “I don’t believe we are as far apart as you believe” and warmly inviting me to visit with him when I came to Washington. I published the letter in our paper, and came across it the other day as I was going through my old files.

Personally and politically, the man is a saint.

One last thing: I’ve been a Ron Paul-watcher for many years, and what I’ve seen of his long career is unusual in the sense that most people get more conservative as they get older: Ron, on the other hand, only got more radical. Radicalism is often thought of as the exclusive province of youth but in Ron’s case just the opposite pattern occurred. Through some alchemy of spirit, he’s just gotten younger over the years — which is perhaps part of the reason why he has inspired a vital and growing youth movement that has no equivalent on the left or the right.  Thanks in large part to Ron, the future of the libertarian movement is bright indeed — and how can you thank a man for fulfilling the dreams of your youth? You can’t, really — you can only try.

Somewhat lost in the first-hand account of last week’s helicopter crash by NY Times reporter Alissa Rubin, who was injured in the incident, was a potentially important revelation about the attacks on the Iraqi Yazidi minority.

The pilot really made a big impression. You know, the Yazidis feel so betrayed by the Arab neighbors they had lived among for so many years; they all turned on the Yazidis when ISIS came. Many of the atrocities were carried out not by the militants but by their own neighbors.

The focus in the story is on the pilot, himself a Sunni Arab from the region, trying to save his neighbor Yazidis even as others had turned on them. That’s important, without a doubt, but ignores the more important point, that ISIS didn’t actually carry out many of the attacks on the Yazidis.

So to sum up, President Obama started a war to save 40,000 trapped Yazidis from ISIS, and there weren’t 40,000 of them, and they weren’t trapped, and now it turns out ISIS also wasn’t nearly so involved as previously indicated. America was lied into the first Iraq War in 2003 on some mightly flimsy pretexts, but it seems the administration didn’t learn any of the lessons, even bad lessons like keeping your lies less transparent, and the whole pretext collapsed in just over a week. The war, however, will go on much, much longer.