Politics and Violence Go Hand in Hand

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels
Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

“[W]e currently have an inferno of political violence to which the president of the United States adds fuel,” Jennifer Rubin thunders from her bully pulpit at the Washington Post. “[I]t is time for bipartisan voices, local and state leaders, police and other first responders, civic and religious leaders, and all responsible media outlets to try to quench the flames of violence.”

Rubin is no lone voice in the wilderness. As America’s latest long hot summer drags into autumn, politicians and pundits are getting louder and more shrill in their denunciations of political violence.

Considering the sources, those denunciations smack of hypocrisy.

In another Post column published the very same day as her rant against political violence, Rubin tells us US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) should be “revered and thanked for her courage and service to the country.”  Duckworth lost her legs co-piloting a helicopter during the US occupation of Iraq. That is, engaging in unambiguously political violence on behalf of the US government.

Rubin denounces political violence out of one side of her mouth while lionizing it out of the other.

Politics as we know it today is entirely based on violence and the threat of violence.

That’s most obvious in the case of war, in which governments settle their political conflicts by sending forth their armed servants in large numbers to murder one another (and anyone else with the bad luck to get in the way), but don’t be fooled: Every government edict, at home and abroad, is backed by the credible threat of violence.

According to the Declaration of Independence, government exists to protect our rights. It may only legitimately use force to do so, and to bring to justice those who violate those rights.

If government accomplished that mission and went no further, it might be an acceptable, even worthwhile institution. But it doesn’t accomplish that mission very well, and it inevitably turns the inch it’s given into miles.

Why? Because the problem with power, as Lord Acton noted, is that it corrupts. Governments, and those who run and rely on them, always turn from the task of protecting our rights to increasing their power.

At the far, not always visible, end of every government demand — a speed limit, a tax code, a drug prohibition, what have you — stand men and women with guns, waiting to cage or kill you for non-compliance or defiance.

As for democracy, as currently practiced it’s merely a contest to see who gives armed enforcers their marching orders. America’s two “major” political parties don’t want to end political violence; they merely want control of those they deem its “legitimate” combatants.

The present conflagration — marches in the streets, clashes between protesters and police, cities on fire — shouldn’t surprise us.

Sometimes the state’s victims fight back. And then the state pours on even more force, because that’s its nature. It’s a cycle that can only be broken by abolishing the state itself. Which means that only anarchists enjoy moral standing to denounce political violence.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Trump regime vs. the ICC: The Wrong Side of “Sovereignty”

International Criminal Court logo
In June, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order providing for sanctions against persons who “have directly engaged in any effort by the [International Criminal Court] to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States.”

On September 2, The US regime imposed such sanctions on two ICC officials: Fatou Bensouda, the court’s chief prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochchoko, head of its Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division.”

Their offense? Investigating allegations of US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Such investigations, says White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thunders that the US regime “will not tolerate [the ICC’s] illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”

There certainly are questions of sovereignty and jurisdiction here, but Pompeo and Company are on the wrong side of those questions.

Afghanistan’s US-installed,  US-allied regime ratified the Rome Statute in 2003, thereby placing war crimes committed on its territory, and the persons accused of committing those crimes, under the court’s jurisdiction.

Like it or not, that assignment of jurisdiction is an exercise of Afghan sovereignty.

Mike Pompeo wouldn’t object to a Czech police officer arresting an American driver accused of running a red light and hitting a pedestrian in Prague, or to a Czech court trying the case.

Donald Trump wouldn’t sign an executive order sanctioning Thailand’s Revenue Department or Central Tax Court for charging and trying an American who resides in Bangkok for evasion of that regime’s taxes.

The basis of the modern Westphalian Model nation-state is the notion of each state’s sovereignty within its borders. That sovereignty includes the power to assign jurisdiction to courts to investigate and try crimes committed within those borders.

Refusal to cooperate with the ICC’s investigations, or to extradite Americans charged with war crimes, absent US ratification of the Rome Statute, are also problematic. Protecting accused war criminals and denying victims their day in court just isn’t a very good look on any regime.

But at least those positions would be arguable from a sovereignty standpoint. This isn’t. Sanctioning the court’s officials for exercising their assigned jurisdiction is a violation of Afghan sovereignty, not an exercise of US sovereignty.

Of course,  the US government could avoid entanglements with the ICC simply and easily, by ending its practice of invading countries halfway around the world, occupying those countries for decades at a time, and covering the world with military bases and troops to staff them.

If Trump and Pompeo don’t want US military personnel to do the time, they should stop sending US military personnel abroad to do the crimes.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Voters Can’t Get Mad Enough to Get Happy

Computer printout from the MAD compiler at the University of Michigan showing a character drawing of MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and the phrase “What Me Worry” following an error, c. 1960. Public domain.

Larry Penner vouches that “the Democrats could run Mad magazine’s ‘What, Me Worry?’ Alfred E. Neuman for president and still carry the Empire State by a wide margin” (“True blue New York,” Queens Chronicle, August 27). That’s a harsh assessment … of Neuman. Unlike Democratic politicians in solidly blue states, or Republicans in their red-state counterparts, he had real rivals to contend with.

For decades, the dimwitted mascot of the irreverent humor institution risked losing customers to comparably foolish competitors, like Cracked magazine’s Sylvester P. Smythe and Sick magazine’s Huckleberry Fink. “Mad‘s Maddest Artist” Don Martin found gainful employment in becoming “Cracked‘s Crackedest Artist.” Fink’s “Why Try Harder?” is a more fitting slogan for political machines that have minimal incentive to serve their electors than the “What, Me Worry?” which obviously inspired it.

Cracked may have cracked jokes about how it had “a fan base primarily comprised of people who got to the store after MAD sold out.” Yet while it competed with Mad for the same pool of pocket money, customers who picked both, neither, yet another funnybook, or candy would get their choice. If they wound up wasting their time (and money), it would not be due to having to settle for a lesser-evil imposition.

Only reader loyalty could ensure the permanence of such perennial Mad features as the Fold-In or Spy vs. Spy (which long outlived the Cold War it originally satirized). Even a feature as mild as Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side Of …” did more to keep up with the times than politicians who yearn for a return to the staidness of the 1950s (minus such upstarts as the early Mad to skewer it).

Alfred E. Neuman For President mock campaigns have always had self-deprecating slogans like “He’ll keep all his promises because he promises nothing!” and “At least he’s honest about his idiocy!” But moving more of the scope of social interaction to the realm of free association and voluntary choice — and not only, but especially, activities far more serious and consequential than gag magazines — would be a very smart thing to do.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.