National Security is the Last Refuge of Scoundrels

At National Review Online (“WikiLeaks What-Ifs,” Dec. 17),  Deroy Murdock once again illustrates the tendency of statists to compartmentalize the criminal activities of the state into a separate category of things that aren’t crimes because the state is doing them.

Murdock starts out with a rather clueless analogy to the Revolutionary War. He suggests that Bradley Manning, had he been alive back then, might have forwarded Washington’s battle plans for Trenton to Julian Assange, who in turn would have galloped through the streets of Trenton hollering “The Yankees are coming!” Well, that’s a great analogy, except for a few little quibbles:

First, George Washington was a traitor who’d violated his sworn oath to the crown as a British officer.

Second, Washington’s army was fighting to overthrow their own legal governments, under the terms of assorted colonial charters. 

And third, they were fighting a war against a global colonial empire and the greatest military power in the world, to stop it from intervening in our local affairs.

In short, Washington was at war with the United States government of his day.

Murdock complains that “WikiLeaks will snuff out innocent lives, if it has not already,” and calls for Manning and Assange to face the firing squad (after a fair trial) in order to “persuade Americans to stop flapping their gums about things that will enable murderers.”

Interesting. Consider the hundreds of thousands — no, the millions — of innocent lives snuffed out by the U.S. government since WWII, by U.S.-trained death squads, military dictators installed in CIA-backed coups, and the like. It’s Murdock who’s flapping his gums to enable murderers. If you want to take the red pill and see how far down the rabbit hole goes, if you want to confront all the lies you heard in civics class about the generosity and benevolence of U.S. foreign policy, just read “Killing Hope:  U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII,” by William Blum. It’s a heavily footnoted prosecutor’s brief, organized country by country, of all the utterly filthy things the U.S. national security state has done around the world.

Oh, but wait — none of that counts as murder because it’s the government doing it. And because it’s the U.S. government, by definition it’s doing it to “protect our freedoms” — no matter how many union organizers or landless peasants it has to butcher (cough cough United Fruit Company cough).

Murdock also bloviates a lot about “our enemies,” implicitly assuming (oddly enough for someone who  professes to fear big government) that the U.S. government’s interests and ours are one when it acts outside American borders.  Apparently when government officials make foreign policy they transform into those “angels” that Madison wrote about in The Federalist, never promoting corrupt interests or aggrandizing their own power.

But from the standpoint of the American state and its ideological water-carriers, “our enemies” include the American people. The American national security state’s functionaries, for all their public rhetoric about “democracy,” really want a free hand to do things the way they want without popular interference gumming up the works. And the real enemy, the American people, are potentially a far greater threat to their power than any foreign government.

Back in 2004, Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said of the growing unpopularity of Bush’s war in Iraq:  “We have too much at stake in Iraq to lose the American people.” That really says it all. Next time some liberal goo-goo tells you “the government is just us,” quote Berger to them.

“National security” is the last refuge of scoundrels. Licensing government to decide what we do or don’t need to know, based on the “national security,” is trusting the fox to decide how much we need to know about what’s going on in the henhouse.  If government could be trusted, there would be no need for transparency. If you trust the government — the government over which we’re supposedly expected to exercise popular vigilance — to decide what we’re allowed to know about its actions, why even bother with all that pretense about a Constitution?

When government officials are allowed to decide, in the name of “national security,” what the allegedly sovereign citizenry can know about its actions, don’t be surprised when information that sheds light on government malfeasance and corruption or on the falsehood of government’s justifications for its policies wind up being classified for reasons of “National Security.”

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