The Worst Mistake in U.S. History

Hits: 671

The worst mistake in U.S. history was the conversion after World War II of the U.S. government from a constitutional, limited-government republic to a national-security state. Nothing has done more to warp and distort the conscience, principles, and values of the American people, including those who serve in the U.S. military.

A good example of how the national-security state has adversely affected the thinking of U.S. soldiers was reflected in an op-ed entitled “What We’re Fighting For” that appeared in the February 10, 2017, issue of the New York Times. Authored by an Iraq War veteran named Phil Klay, the article demonstrates perfectly what the national-security state has done to soldiers and others and why it is so imperative for the American people to restore a constitutional republic to our land.

Klay begins his op-ed by extolling the exploits of another U.S. Marine, First Lt. Brian Chontosh, who, displaying great bravery, succeeded in killing approximately two dozen Iraqis in a fierce firefight during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Klay writes,

When I was a new Marine, just entering the Corps, this story from the Iraq invasion defined heroism for me. It’s a perfect image of war for inspiring new officer candidates, right in line with youthful notions of what war is and what kind of courage it takes — physical courage, full stop.

Klay then proceeds to tell a story about an event he witnessed when he was deployed to Iraq in 2007. After doctors failed to save the life of a Marine who had been shot by an Iraqi sniper, those same doctors proceeded to treat and save the life of the sniper, who himself had been shot by U.S. troops. Klay used the story to point out the virtuous manner in which U.S. forces carried out their military mission in Iraq.

Well, except perhaps, Klay observes, for Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison in which Saddam Hussein’s government had tortured and abused countless Iraqis and which the U.S. military turned into its own torture and abuse center for Iraqis captured during the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country. Klay tells the story of a defense contractor named Eric Fair, who tortured an Iraqi prisoner into divulging information about a car-bomb factory. Encouraged by that successful use of torture, Fair proceeded to employ it against many other Iraqis, none of whom had any incriminating evidence to provide.

Klay points out that both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were major turning points in the Iraq War because prisoner abuse at both camps became a driving force for Iraqis to join the insurgency in Iraq. Thus, while Fair may have saved lives through his successful use of torture, he and other U.S. personnel who tortured and abused people at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay may well have cost the lives of many more U.S. soldiers in the long term.

Klay, however, suggests that none of that was really Fair’s fault. While he might have crossed some moral lines, everything he did, Klay suggests, was in accordance with legal rules and regulations. Klay writes,

And Eric did what our nation asked of him, used techniques that were vetted and approved and passed down to intelligence operatives and contractors like himself. Lawyers at the highest levels of government had been consulted, asked to bring us to the furthest edge of what the law might allow. To do what it takes, regardless of whether such actions will secure the “attachment of all good men,” or live up to that oath we swear to support and defend the Constitution.

Klay refers to the oath that U.S. soldiers take to support and defend the Constitution. Clearly patting himself and other members of the U.S. military on the back, he says U.S. soldiers fight with honor to defend a “set of principles” that are reflected in the Constitution and that define America.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a life of the lie than that of Phil Klay. He provides an absolutely perfect demonstration of what a national-security state does to soldiers’ minds and why the Founding Fathers were so opposed to that type of governmental structure.

The rights of invaders

Notice one big omission from Klay’s self-aggrandizing article: Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Instead, it was the U.S government, operating through its troops, that was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War. Wars of aggression — i.e., attacking, invading, and occupying other countries — were among the crimes of which the defendants at Nuremburg were convicted.

It is absolutely fascinating that that critically important point seems to escape Klay so completely. It’s as if it just doesn’t exist or just doesn’t count. His mindset simply begins with the fact that U.S. troops are engaged in war and then it proceeds from there to focus on the courage and humanity of the troops, how their bravery in battle inspired him, and how they treated the enemy humanely. It never occurs to him to ask the vital question: Did U.S. troops have any legal or moral right to be in Iraq and to kill anyone there, including Iraqi soldiers, insurgents, civilians, and civil servants working for the Iraqi government?

Many years ago, I posed a question about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to a libertarian friend of mine who was a Catholic priest. I asked him, If a U.S. soldier is placed in Iraq in a kill-or-be-killed situation, does he have a right to fire back at an Iraqi who is shooting at him?

My friend’s answer was unequivocal: Absolutely not, he responded. Since he has no legitimate right to be in Iraq, given that he is part of the aggressor force that initiated the war, under God’s laws he cannot kill anyone, not even by convincing himself that he is only acting in “self-defense.”

I responded, “Are you saying that his only choice is to run away or permit himself to be killed”? He responded, “That is precisely what I am saying. Under the laws of God, he cannot kill anyone in Iraq because he has no right to be there.”

Suppose a burglar enters a person’s home in the dead of night. The homeowner wakes up, discovers the intruder, and begins firing at him. The burglar fires back and kills the homeowner.

The burglar appears in court and explains that he never had any intention of killing the homeowner and that he was simply firing back in self-defense. He might even explain to the judge how bravely he reacted under fire and detail the clever manner in which he outmaneuvered and shot the homeowner.

The judge, however, would reject any claim of self-defense on the part of the burglar. Why? Because the burglar had no right to be in the homeowner’s house. Like the U.S. soldier in Iraq, when the homeowner began firing the burglar had only two legal and moral options: run away or be killed.

That’s what my Catholic priest friend was pointing out about U.S. soldiers in Iraq. They had no right to be there. They invaded a poor, Third World country whose government had never attacked the United States and they were killing, torturing, and abusing people whom they had no right to kill, torture, or abuse.

That’s what Klay as well as most other members of the U.S. military and, for that matter, many Americans still don’t get: that the Iraqi people were the ones who wielded the right of self-defense against an illegal invasion by a foreign power and that U.S. forces, as the aggressor power in the war, had no legal or moral right to kill any Iraqi, not even in “self-defense.”

Klay waxes eloquent about the U.S. Constitution and the oath that soldiers take to support and defend it, but it’s really just another perfect demonstration of the life of the lie that he and so many other U.S. soldiers live. The reality is that when U.S. soldiers vow to support and defend the Constitution, as a practical matter they are vowing to loyally obey the orders and commands of the president, who is their military commander in chief.

There is no better example of this phenomenon than what happened in Iraq. The U.S. Constitution is clear: The president is prohibited from waging war without a declaration of war from Congress. No declaration, no war. Every U.S. soldier ordered to invade Iraq knew that or should have known that.

Everyone, including the troops, also knew that Congress had not declared war on Iraq. Yet, not a single soldier supported or defended the Constitution by refusing George Bush’s order to attack and invade Iraq. Every one of them loyally obeyed his order to attack and invade, knowing full well that it would mean killing people in Iraq — killing people who had never attacked the United States. And they all convinced themselves that by following the president’s orders to invade Iraq and kill Iraqis, they were supporting and defending the Constitution.

How do U.S. soldiers reconcile that? They convince themselves that they are supporting and defending the Constitution by obeying the orders of the president, who has been democratically elected by the citizenry. It’s not their job, they tell themselves, to determine what is constitutional and what isn’t. Their job, they believe, is simply to do what the president, operating through his subordinates, orders them to do. In their minds, they are supporting and defending the Constitution whenever they loyally and obediently carry out the orders of the president.

That means, then, that the standing army is nothing more than the president’s private army. As a practical matter, soldiers are going to do whatever they are ordered to do. If they don’t, they are quickly shot or simply replaced, which provides a good incentive for others to do as they are told. That’s why soldiers invaded Iraq, which had never attacked the United States, and killed people who were defending their country against an unlawful invasion. That’s also why soldiers and defense contractors tortured and abused people at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. They all believed they were carrying out the orders of their superiors, from the president on down, and that they were supporting and defending the Constitution in the process.

As people throughout history have learned, that is also why a standing army constitutes such a grave threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry. It is the means by which a tyrant imposes and enforces his will on the citizenry. Just ask the people of Chile, where the troops of a military regime installed into power by the U.S. national-security establishment rounded up tens of thousands of innocent people and incarcerated, tortured, raped, abused, or executed them, all without due process of law and with the support of the U.S. government.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I read that some Catholic soldiers were deeply troubled by the prospect of killing people in a war that the U.S. government was initiating. I was stunned to read that a U.S. military chaplain told them that they had the right under God’s laws to obey the president’s order to invade Iraq and kill Iraqis. God would not hold it against them, he said, if they killed people in the process of following orders.

Really? Are God’s laws really nullified by the orders of a government’s military commander? If that were the case, don’t you think God’s commandment would have read: “Thou shalt not kill, unless your ruler orders you to do so in a war of aggression against another nation”?

To this day, there are those who claim that George W. Bush simply made an honest mistake in claiming that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s dictator, was maintaining weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that U.S. soldiers were justified in trusting him by loyally obeying his orders to invade and occupy Iraq to “disarm Saddam.”

They ignore three important points: it was a distinct possibility that Bush and his people were simply lying. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a president had lied in order to garner support for a war. Lyndon Johnson’s lies regarding a supposed North Vietnamese attack on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam come to mind. Two, Bush didn’t secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, most likely because he knew that congressional hearings on the issue would expose his WMD scare for the lie it was. And three, only the UN, not the U.S. government, was entitled to enforce its resolutions regarding Iraq’s WMDs.

Moreover, the circumstantial evidence establishes that Bush was lying and that the WMD scare was entirely bogus. Many people forget that throughout the 1990s the U.S. government was hell-bent on regime change in Iraq. That’s what the brutal sanctions were all about, which contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright was asked on Sixty Minutes whether the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” she responded that such deaths were “worth it.” By “it,” she was referring to regime change.

That desire for regime change in Iraq grew with each passing year in the 1990s, both among liberals and conservatives. Demands were ever growing to get rid of Saddam. Therefore, when Bush started coming up with his WMD scare after the 9/11 attacks, everyone should have been wary because it had all the earmarks of an excuse to invade Iraq after more than 10 years of sanctions had failed to achieve the job.

The best circumstantial evidence that Bush lied about the WMD scare appeared after it was determined that there were no WMDs in Iraq. At that point, if Bush had been telling the truth, he could have said, “I’m very sorry. I have made a grave mistake and my army has killed multitudes of people as a consequence of my mistake. I am hereby ordering all U.S. troops home and I hereby announce my resignation as president.”

Bush didn’t do that. In fact, he expressed not one iota of remorse or regret over the loss of life for what supposedly had been the result of a mistake. He knew that he had achieved what the U.S. national-security state had been trying to achieve for more than a decade with its brutal sanctions — regime change in Iraq — and he had used the bogus WMD scare to garner support for his invasion. And significantly, the troops were kept occupying Iraq for several more years, during which they killed more tens of thousands of Iraqis.

One thing is for sure: By the time Phil Klay arrived in Iraq in 2007, he knew full well that there had been no WMDs in Iraq. He also knew that Iraq had never attacked the United States. By that time, he knew full well that the U.S. government had invaded a country under false or, at the very least, mistaken pretenses. He knew there had been no congressional declaration of war. He knew that there was no legal or moral foundation for a military occupation that was continuing to kill people in an impoverished Third World country whose worst “crime” was simply trying to rid their country of an illegal occupier.

Yet, reinforced by people who were thanking them for “their service in Iraq,” Klay, like other U.S. troops, convinced himself that their “service” in Iraq was a grand and glorious sacrifice for his nation, that they were defending Americans’ rights and freedoms, and that they were keeping us safe. It was a classic life of the lie because our nation, our rights and freedoms, and our safety were never threatened by anyone in Iraq, including the millions of Iraqis who were killed, maimed, injured, tortured, abused, or exiled, or whose homes, businesses, or infrastructure were destroyed by bombs, missiles, bullets, and tanks.

In fact, the entity that actually threatened the rights and freedoms of the American people was the U.S. government, given the totalitarian-like powers that it assumed as part of its effort to keep us safe from the enemies its interventionist policies were producing. Coming to mind are the totalitarian-like power to assassinate Americans, secret mass surveillance, and the incarceration and torture of American citizens as suspected terrorists — all without due process of law and without trial by jury.

This is what a national-security state does to people — it warps, damages, or destroys their conscience, principles, and values; induces them to subscribe to false bromides; and nurtures all sorts of mental contortions to enable people to avoid confronting reality.

Many years after Brian Chontosh’s exploits in Iraq, Phil Klay was surprised to learn that Chontosh was experiencing some ambivalence about what he had done. “It’s ugly, it’s violent, it’s disgusting. I wish it wasn’t part of what we had to do,” Chontosh later wrote.

Perhaps that’s because conscience was beginning to stir within him. That’s a good sign. Maybe it will begin to stir in Phil Klay too. And other members of the military as well.


Originally published on 2017-09-20

About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch.

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

Source: The Future of Freedom Foundation

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
Paving the Road to the End of NATO
It's no secret that President Trump believes NATO is an anachronism. It's also no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron wants a Grand Army of the EU and a single EU Finance Minister to further integration of the EU into the United States of Europe. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been championing these two things since the day after Macron took office. They are both pushing hard for the EU to conduct independent foreign policy, framing Trump's belligerence as the catalyst for its need now. So, I’m not surprised in the wake of Merkel’s garden summit with Russian President Vladimir ...
READ MORE
Hitler Was Financed by the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England
 The recent resolution of the parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE fully equalizes the role of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany at the outbreak of the Second World War, except that it had the purely pragmatic purpose of extorting money from Russia on the contents of some of the bankrupt economies, intended to demonize Russia as the successor state to the USSR, and to prepare the legal ground for the deprivation of her right to speak out against revision of results of war. But if we approach the problem of responsibility for the war, then you first need to answer the ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Violations of the “Just War” Principles in 1999
The current political process of acceptance of the quasi-independent state of Kosovo to the full UN’s UNESCO’s membership opened once again a question of NATO’s military intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the FRY) in March−June 1999 as a foundation for Kosovo’s secession from Serbia and its unilateral proclamation of a quasi-independence in February 2008. Kosovo became the first and only European state up today that is ruled by the terrorist warlords as a party’s possession – the (Albanian) Kosovo Liberation Army (the KLA). The aim of this article is to investigate the nature of NATO’s war on Yugoslavia ...
READ MORE
“Putinism” in American History
Many articles in the US press have speculated at length in an attempt to define a new ideology called “Putinism.” The pieces serve as an attempt to fit Putin into an outdated Cold War narrative, as if some new ideology in the Russian Federation is playing the role that Marxism-Leninism once played in the Soviet Union, though the current Russian constitution forbids this.The notable leaders of history are rarely ideologues. History judges people mainly by what they achieve, not what they write or say. As Chinese President Xi Jinping recently put it: “The worth of any plan is in its ...
READ MORE
Libya: From Africa’s Richest State under Gaddafi, to Failed State after NATO Intervention
This article was first published on October 19, 2014This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Western-backed assassination of Libya’s former president, Muammar Gaddafi, and the fall of one of Africa’s greatest nations.In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa; however, by the time he was assassinated, Gaddafi had turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation. Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.After NATO’s intervention in 2011, Libya is now a failed state and its economy is in shambles. As ...
READ MORE
Countering NATO Propaganda on Russia: NATO Intervention in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya, Ukraine
Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part VA follow-up of Professor Vladimir Kozin’s comments on NATO’s Fact Sheet about relations with Russia published in December 2014. The topics to be covered in this part:NATO’s operation in Afghanistan was a failure;The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan failed to stop the Afghan drugs trade;NATO’s operation over Libya was illegitimate;NATO’s operation over Kosovo was illegitimate;The cases of Kosovo and Crimea are identical;Russia’s annexation of Crimea was justified;The Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate.NATO’s operation in Afghanistan was a failureNATO claim: NATO took over the command of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan ...
READ MORE
The Emergence of “Balkan Jihad” and Its Progress in the Region
Two Kosovo Albanian Muslim muhajedeens (with the passports of Republic of Kosovo) as members of ISIL in Syria in 2015 (Official ISIL’s video material)After the 9/11, a worldwide “War on terror” begun in order to disband and neutralize Islamic terrorist networks across the globe. The main focus of the largest anti-terrorist campaign in history is focused in the Middle East area, as well as in Afghanistan.The Balkan Peninsula is the European area where this campaign has also taken place, with numerous arrests and a continuous effort into riding the fundamentalist out of the area. The question arising though, is how ...
READ MORE
Those Who have Erected the Monument to Bill Clinton Now Flee From the Valley of Tears
Former slogan that has been so thunderously shouted within  pre-election debates, and that was the last glimmer of declarative patriotism, dear both to politicians and football fans, by the development of the situation these days gets quite a different meaning. Kosovo is Serbia sometimes means that the Serbs, if not otherwise, at least in their souls will not give up the holy Serbian land. However, it might sound completely different today.  Columns of Albanians from Kosovo carrying everything they own, leave Kosovo, pushing to catch last buses for a better life, moving towards Subotica, in order to try to reach some ...
READ MORE
America’s Myth of a Peaceful Nation
"We are a peaceful nation," claimed Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in an interview with Katie Couric late last year.Carson voiced a view that is held by many in our society. Like most people around the world, we naturally like to think of ourselves as a peace loving country.Unfortunately, the record does not bear this out. It, in fact, indicates something quite opposite: The United States has had a long and bloody history of aggression and war making.A survey of history shows that America has either been involved in armed conflict or conducted some form of military operations during 223 ...
READ MORE
De-Recognition of Kosovo: US Tries to Stem the Tide
The international community is accustomed to the so-called “checkbook diplomacy” that has been used by China and Taiwan to pilfer each other’s diplomatic allies by exchanging diplomatic recognition for generous financial assistance packages. However, this same battle for diplomatic recognition and de-recognition is being played out between Serbia and its breakaway province of Kosovo. The United States and much of NATO has not only granted Kosovo diplomatic recognition over the objection of Serbia but has also pressured other countries to recognize Kosovo’s independence. This process has hit a major stumbling block amid charges from various parties that fake diplomatic letters ...
READ MORE
US Switching to Ukraine as Location to Start World War III Against Russia
The United States Government is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, and on September 27th donated to Ukraine two warships for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that the US is switching to Ukraine as the locale to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia, which borders Ukraine. Here is why Syria is no longer the US alliance’s preferred choice as a place to start WW III: On September 4th, US President Donald Trump publicly threatened Syria, Iran and Russia that if they exterminated the jihadists in Syria’s only remaining jihadist-controlled ...
READ MORE
Linguistic Nationalism in Belgium and the Walloon-Flemish Cleavage
PrefaceIn the area where the multilingual state of Belgium is located, the main political mark today is the general openness for the expression of different attitudes and policies. Therefore, there are almost unlimited options in drawing political boundaries. That is unlike, for example, as well as with multilingual Switzerland, where the mountains create natural areas for the four different language districts and many political-administrative cantons. The physical openness of the area also causes Belgium to be more open for influences from outside and therefore sensitive to changes in the European policies.One way to look at the situation in Belgium is ...
READ MORE