Killing Us Softly

Over the years it’s become fashionable, on or about each April 19th, for “anti-government” writers to commemorate the murders of 76 innocent men, women and children near Waco, Texas on that day in 1993 by the federal government.

Such commemorations are certainly worthwhile. The massacre of the Branch Davidians was a particularly public and gruesome spectacle: A 51-day siege culminating in a fiery assault, complete with snipers positioned to gun down any who might escape the flames.

The massacre evokes the memory of the Nazis’ assault on the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943, the British army’s attempt to disarm unruly colonists in 1775, and the Crusaders’ firing of the Cathedral of St. Nazaire in Beziers in 1019 (the proximate event cited as inspiration for papal legate Arnaud Amalric’s dictate: “Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (“Kill them all; for the Lord knoweth them that are His”).

The unfortunate truth, however, is that the Waco massacre was small potatoes in the scheme of things. It was distinguished by its raw brutality, by the fact that it took place in the glare of media attention, and by the fact that its perpetrators found themselves publicly accused of their crimes and compelled to attempt to justify their actions.

In fact, the state kills far more than 76 innocent men, women and children every day, day in and day out, year after year — and those killings go, for the most part, not only unpunished but for all practical purposes unnoticed.

One single US government agency — the Food and Drug Administration — has certainly killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, and more likely millions.

The FDA kills with its power to keep lifesaving drugs off the market for years through its bureaucratic approval process, and with the higher prices resulting from the costs of putting a drug through that process.

Americans die when they’re not allowed to use a drug they need because FDA says “no.” Americans die when they can’t afford a drug they need because it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to get FDA to say “yes,” and that cost is passed on to the consumer. Americans die when drugs which would save their lives never make it out of the lab because the figures say that the costs of securing FDA approval would make it unprofitable to bring to market.

The FDA’s delays in approving — or, to put it a different way, the FDA’s prohibition against prescribing until they had approved — a single drug, propranolol, were responsible for at least 30,000, and possibly as many as 100,000, avoidable deaths from heart attack and stroke.

We’ll probably never know exactly how many Americans died unnecessarily of traumatic bleeds, ulcers and other treatable conditions during the 30-year period that FDA sat on approval of cyanoacrylates — “human body glues” — which had proven safe and effective on the battlefields of Vietnam, in numerous trials, in veterinary use in the US, and in general medical use in other countries.

The FDA, of course, is only one government agency. Take any three or four letters of the alphabet and you’ve got another such agency — and another raft of corpses to that agency’s credit.

Hundreds die each year (more than 500 in 2005) attempting to cross an imaginary line drawn on the ground — the US-Mexico border. They die by drowning. They die of heat stroke. They die of hypothermia. They die of dehydration. But these “causes of death” are really only symptoms. The real cause is death by government: Laws which prevent people from peacefully crossing the border in populated areas and force them instead into the wilderness where they are not only vulnerable to the environment, but hunted by armed government gangs.

Hundreds or thousands more die every year due to laws which prevent them from owning (or delay their acquisition of) the means of self-defense. Every time a mugger or rapist kills an unarmed victim, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is an accessory. A policy that says it’s better for a woman to die in an alley, strangled with her own pantyhose by her rapist, than for that woman to draw a pistol from her purse to defend her life is a policy of state-approved homicide.

The state kills millions, many of them “softly,” in ways that are noticed little or not at all. But those millions it kills are just as dead as the victims of the more spectacular massacre at Waco, just as worthy of mourning, and just as entitled to redress. The state kills. Don’t doubt it, and don’t forget it.

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