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Empire of Lies
By L. Neil Smith
Presented to the Libertarian Party of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 15, 2003
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Children of the American Revolution, the great libertarian author and teacher Robert LeFevre once told me that the first money the United States government ever spent was a $20,000 check from a Dutch bank, drawn on an account that didn't exist.
Hence the expression, "You low-down, no-account bast... " whatever.
Apparently this piece of financial chicanery was the doing of one Alexander Hamilton, a literal bastwhatever, who also favored deficit spending and maintaining a handsome national debt because he reasoned that if the government owed people money, they'd have an interest in making sure it survived.
Thus the American Empire was born in the shadow of a lie.
It's often been observed that the first casualty of war is the truth. But that's a lie, too, in its way. The reality is that, for most wars to begin, the truth has to have been sacrificed a long time in advance.
Take the Civil Warthe name itself is a lie. A civil war is what happens when two groups compete violently for control of the same government. That's not what happened in America in the 1860s. Whatever its other faults, the South had no interest at all in taking over and ruling the North. What happened in America in the 1860s was a war of secession, a war of independence, no different in principle from what happened in America in the 1770s and 1780s.
What makes it different in some people's minds is that one side in the War between the States was fighting to end slavery, and the other side, perversely, to preserve it. The trouble with that is that what goes on in some people's minds is often the result of a lie, and this is one of those instances.
Both sides in the American Revolution held and used slavesdoes that somehow make American independence illegitimate? There are those prepared to say it does.
But the War between the States was not about slavery, at all. It was about discriminatory taxationthe South was paying 80 percent at the timeand the centralization of authority. The best evidence that it was not about slavery lies in the writings of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, who demanded, rather late in the war, that it be made to be about slavery. He would not have demanded that if it were already so, now would he?
If the War for Southern Independence was about slavery, why did slavery remain a healthy institution in the North? Why did the Union army take slaves away from Southerners, not to free them, but to use their labor in their war against the South? Why were slaves kept busy, all through the war, rebuilding the capitol building in Washington, D.C., to Abraham Lincoln's imperial taste?
Perhaps the greatest lie about the War between the States is that Lincoln was "the Great Emancipator". Lincoln emancipated nobody. The man freed not a single slave. His celebrated Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to the Norththat might have offended too many fat Republican industrial mercantilists who owned their own black slaves. Neither did the Emancipation Proclamation apply to the border states, who might have been offended enough by it to secede, along with their Southern neighbors.
The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to the South, to those states Lincoln did not control. As a result, it freed no one. It was nothing but propaganda, which is perhaps the fanciest euphemism ever cooked up for a plain, simple lie.
The horrible truth about the War between the States is that it ended with many more individuals enslaved than when it began. Before the war, most Americans were free. They owned their own lives. But by the time it ended, everybody was the property of the state. Men were nothing but replaceable parts in the machinery of war. Women were nothing but factories to replace them. And the government could take your lifeor anything else it wantedany time it wanted, for any reason it cared to offer.
Lincoln set all of the precedents for the monsters and for the monstrous regimes that followed after him. Even today, his example is being used by the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as an excuse to enslave and murder Chechens.
Now I wrote about all of this, and more, several years ago, in an article I called "The American Lenin", and, as such, it circulated on the Internet for quite a while. Believe me, there was nothing even slightly controversial, historically speaking, in that article. All of my facts came from sources favorable to "Honest Abe", historians who approved of the way that he undid the American Revolution and ravaged the Constitution and the Bill of Rights just as his generals undid civilized decency and ravaged the South.
When my friend Vin Suprynowicz published "The American Lenin" in the Las Vegas Review Journal, though, it stirred up an even greater storm of excrement than when I'd defended the rights of smokers. I was called everything any columnist has ever been called, including the author of "the single worst piece of tripe ever published in an American newspaper". I was proud of that one, and I wore it as a .sig line in my e-mail for months.
The really fun part came when a retired history professor from UNLV wrote to the RJ to say, "I hate to tell you folks, but Smith got every bit about Lincoln and his war right, and them some." To my eternal regret, the paper didn't choose to print his letter, but it gave me satisfaction, and I felt vindicated when some time later, Thomas diLorenzo published his monumental The Real Lincoln, which was everything my little article wasn't: scholarly, respectable, and full of footnots and fresh information.
He showed me, to my surprise, that I'd been entirely too kind to a man I'd merely called a mass-murdering megalomaniac. Of course he got exactly the same excrement piled on his head that I had, but this is his field, and he's better preparedin fact, he's an academic pit bullto deal with the aggravation.
The point here is that I hadn't come up with any new information. Just exactly as I'm doing in this speech, today, I'd simply assembled a collection of facts that everybody already knewfor example that Lincoln had illegally arrested 15,000 Northerners for disagreeing with him about the war. I then cast it in a bright enough moral lightthat's my specialtyso that everybody, whether they wanted to or not, must see it for what it was. I could have called it "The American Hitler", or "The American Stalin", because the only real limit to the atrocities Lincoln and his henchmen committed was the technology of the time.
Allow me to repeat something important. Nothing I'm saying to you today is any great secret. Most of it comes from sources friendly to the individuals and policies I criticize. If you doubt me, look it up yourself. This speech will be posted on my site at www.lneilsmith.com. Put anything you wonder about in your browser and see what happens. But be prepared to feel differently about American history. The people of this country are kind and good for the most part, hardworking and productive. The ideas around which this country was created are the best that ever were. It is those who would lead uswhether we want to be led or notand their policies that have brought all of it close to ruin.
In any case, the War of Northern Aggression certainly wasn't the first conflagration kindled by a handful of lies, nor was it by any means to be the last.
Remember the Maine? In 1898, a U.S. Navy warship blew up in Havana, almost certainly due to poor boiler maintenance. But William Randolph Hearst, an evil newspaper publisher who wanted the excitement of a war to report in his chain of newspapersremember folks, "If it bleeds it leads"and William McKinley, a President who talked to fairies at the bottom of his garden, made sure that the frailest, most poverty-stricken Old World nation this side of Turkey got the blame for it.
Thus the Spanish American War began with a lie. In the middle was Teddy Roosevelt's mythical cavalry charge up San Juan Hillwhich was actually made on foot against a tiny band of incredibly courageous Spanish riflemen. The war finally ended with a lie when the Moros, people of the Philippines, whom we'd talked into fighting on our side with promises of independence, learned that they'd simply traded one master for another. They objected to this, so we killed as many as we could.
But that war was merely a warm-up for what was to come in 1917, after Woodrow Wilson had gotten himself reelected by falsely promising American parents that their sons would never be sent to fight in a foreign war. There happened to be a dandy one going on in Europe at the time.
A quick perusal of the Internet reveals that there are still defenders of the statist quo (to snatch a phrase from my friend Scott Bieser) who want the infamous Zimmerman telegram to have been the real thing. Americans became outraged when, supposedly, Germany told Mexico that if it came into the War to End All Wars (another lie, of course) on their side, they could have everything backTexas, Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California, Clevelandthat they had lost to the gringos since 1846.
Today many historiansthose not subsisting on federal grantsbelieve that the Zimmerman telegram was a hoax cooked up between the American State Department and the British government to help bring us into what Wilson proclaimed was "the War to Make the World Safe for Democracy".
Of course the statists claim that that's a hoax.
Then there's Lusitania, that innocent, defenseless British passenger liner with 1500 sweet, unsuspecting American tourists aboard, cruelly set upon and sent to Davy Jones' locker by that evil, sneaky, underhanded German Weapon of Mass Destruction, the submarine (which happens to have been invented and first used by an American during the Revolutionary War).
There's a big problem with the conventional interpretation of these events, one that the British government tried to conceal for decades, even threatening deadly military force against the folks who refound the Titanic, when they got too close to doing the same thing with the Lusitania. What underwater explorers were not permitted to discover, explorers of paperwork eventually did. Under international law, the Lusitaniawhich was equipped with deck guns, hidden under canvas, and was burdened with a hold full of military munitionswas legally a ship of war.
And, therefore, fair game.
Step forward a generation. If you study the domestic policies of the Herbert Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administrations, and compare them with the policies of Adolf Hitler and his mentor, Benito Mussolini, you will eventually comehowever reluctantlyto the conclusion that World War II was not a conflict between fascism and something else, as advertised, but a conflict between competing brands of fascism.
The catchphrase of the day was that Mussolini had managed to make Italian trains run on time. And this countrywhatever country it happened to be, America, Britain, Germanyneeded better discipline. You still hear talk like that today, from terminally self-impressed bucketheads, incapable of learning from history or from other people's experience, like William Bennet and John Ashcroft. Today, as it has been since the late 1950s, the menace consists of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.
Back in the 30s, it was, well, sex againand alcohol and jazz. Prohibition had laid an egg, you were expected to believe, not because it was one of the butt-stupidest political ideas in the history of mankind, but because people had stubbornly and upatriotically refused to give up their individuality and the choices that naturally come with it.
Even worse, Roosevelt's version of collectivism had failed as badly as Vladimir Ilich Lenin's. With the exception of those being illegally kept busy making war preparations when we were at peace, more Americans were unemployed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, than had been when Roosevelt was elected on his promises to end the Depression.
Oh well, a good warand maybe nationalizing industrywould change all that. And there just happened to be a great war brewing once again on the next continent over. Another catch phrase sprang (or possibly oozed) into being: "There's a war on, over there, and America's going to be in it!"
For the Roosevelt administration, the question was how. The answer turned out to be, "Intrepid", a codename for a secret project under which the British government could run a spy ring on American soil, disguised as an import company and headquartered in plush Rockefeller Center offices, assassinate German and Japanese agentsor simply those individuals they didn't approve ofand answer no questions about it.
At the same time, the administration was doing everything it could to stir up trouble with Japan. Roosevelt himself made radio speeches in which he referred to them as "Japs" or "Nips"if I were to use equivalent expressions in this speech, for black or Hispanic people, I might not leave this room uninjured, and I'd certainly never be asked to speak publicly again.
Again, illegally, Roosevelt shut off Japan's supply of imported oil which forced them to invade other places to get it. That brought out the very worst in the Japanese character, which was exactly what Roosevelt needed and wanted.
Finally, after a lot of diplomatic wrangling designed to frustrate and anger the Japanesesilencing those among them who wanted peaceRoosevelt bottled up the most obsolete components of the Pacific Fleet in a harbor with a narrow, shallow mouth, put out the word that no warnings from American ships in the Pacific or the new radar just installed above the harbor were to reach Washington, and let the Japanese do as they wanted, which, with enough goading and insulting, they eventually did.
You can read part of this story in John Toland's Infamy [hardback or paperback]. When it came out, I discussed it with my book editor at Random House, a Soviet affairs expert, so-called, who had dismissed a prediction in my fourth novel, that the USSR was about to collapse, as "wishful thinking". He also dismissed Toland's book, pointing out that a critical witness Toland mentions, one "Seaman Z" had never come forward. Unfortunately for my editor, Seaman Z did come forward shortly after that, although my editor never acknowledged afterward that I'd been right and he'd been wrong in both cases.
So much for experts.
World War II ended in ... if not a lie, then certainly one of the blackest deeds any government ever committed. The lie is of omissionthe fact they never told you about this in public school. Under an agreement Roosevelt made with Joseph Stalin at the Yalta conference, toward the end of the war, American and British troops conducted "Operation Keelhaul", in which they rounded up hundreds of thousands of Russian refugees (Robert LeFevre told me two million), mostly in France, people who had taken advantage of the chaos of the war to flee Communist tyranny. American soldiersI know the son of one suchloaded them on boxcars exactly as the Nazis had done with the Jews, and shipped them back to Mother Russia where, within hours, they were all shot to death.
Turn the page. It's hard to decide which part of what's sometimes called the Korean conflictwhich consisted almost entirely of liesconstituted the biggest lie. Me, I'm stuck between the Harry Truman Administration's idiotic insistence that it wasn't a war, but a "Police Action", and the idea that the GIs over there would have tolerated somebody like Alan Alda for more than thirty seconds without fragging him.
But we come now to "my generation's war", fully as undeclared as the one in Korea, although nobody ever quite had the gumption to call it a police action. The Vietnam war began (here's another liewe had thousands of military people there already as "advisors") is said to have begun with an "incident" in which North Vietnamese gunboats attacked an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin. The amazing thing is that nobody at the time ever bothered to look at a map and ask what the hell an American warship was doing in the Gulf of Tonkin to begin with!
Be that as it may, Lyndon Baines Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, as it came to be called, as an excuse to ask Congress (yes, they did that in those days) to send hundreds of thousands of American troops to Vietnam and to escalate what was going on there into a war in which we dropped more bombs on that one tiny country than had been dropped by all sides in World War II.
It's hard to tell what the War in Vietnam cost. Almost everybody on both sides lied. Exaggerated "body counts"in which dead chickens and pigs were reported as enemy fatalitieswere the order of the day. I had a friend on a river patrol boat who used to call in imaginary firefights on the radio while he and his buddies smoked dope. About 65,000 Americans died, and perhaps as many as two million Vietnamese.
I did learn to see through government lies"as through a glass darkly"by taking the number of American B52 bombers the North Vietnamese claimed they had shot down every month, and the smaller number the American government admitted to, and averaging them. After the war, it turned out that my method was correct, within one or two percent.
After the war, we learned something else, too. The Gulf of Tonkin Incidentthe reason offered by the government for destroying so many lives and scarring so many morehad never happened. There had been no Gulf of Tonkin Incident. It had been made up, out of whole cloth.
Oddly enough, what's happening now in the Middle East, began with a bit of unintended truth, when United States Ambassador April Glasby told Saddam Hussein that the American government knew that Kuwait was historically a province of Iraq, and that the Kuwaitis were illegally slant-drilling into the vast ocean of oil under his country. It was perfectly okay with the George H.W. Bush Administration, she told him, if he were to invade Kuwait. And of course it was, to our government, threatened with an end to the Cold War it had neither predicted nor prepared for, and therefore an end to about 98 percent of its excuse for existing.
The Iraqui military was made by the whorish media to look powerful and fierce. Saddamwho had been invented and placed in power by American interestsdid his part by promising us "the mother of all battles". But after a long buildup, the actual fighting was over in a matter of days, Bush quickly lost any popularity it had gained him, and we got stuck with Bill and Hillary Clinton for eight endless miserable years.
You know, aside from the little things like Waco, bombing aspirin factories, or grabbing off mineral lands in the West for the benefit of his Asian campaign contributors, I never could quite decide why I disliked Bill Clinton so much. Maybe, I thought, it was his bouffant 1950s hairdo, his cruel and crooked upper lip, his sleepy killer's eyes, his southern accentwhy the guy was a pathological Elvis impersonator!
However as I began to write this speech, I realized what it was. It wasn't that William Jefferson Blythe Clinton was any less truthful than his predecessors and colleagues. No, indeed. Remember the verse, "Jimmy Carter never lies, he always tells the truth. 'Cause every time that Jimmy lies, he grows another tooth." But, compared to individuals like Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Vladimir Putin, William Randolph Hearst, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, William Bennet, John Ashcroft, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, "The Man Called 'Intrepid'", Joseph Stalin, Harry Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, April Glasby, Saddam Hussein, George H.W. Bush, and Alan Alda, Clinton was just such a bad liar!
But as usual, I have digressed.
Today, human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies. We are expected, for example, to believe that the awful events of September 11, 2001 happened, not because we've been murdering people's children and distorting the survivors' lives in the Middle East for almost a century, but because they're all evil over there and envy our freedomas if we had that much left to envy.
Human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies. We are expected to believe that anyone who objects to the Department of Homeland Security or the USA Patriot Act is a terrorist, and that the only way to preserve our freedom is to hand it over to the government for safekeeping.
Human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies. We're expected to overlook the fact that, although the majority of the hijackers on September 11 were Saudis, this government chose to invade Afghanistanwhich just happens to lie in the path of an oil pipeline George W. Bush and his friends have been planning to build for more than a decade.
Human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies. We're expected not to notice that neither Osama bin Laden nor Saddam Hussein (again) has been captured or their bodies found or even accounted for. It's quite sobering to think that if the Truman Administration had only taken the same wise precaution with Adolf Hitler, and not let the Russians find his body, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, and neither of the Gulf Wars would have been necessarybecause we'd still be fighting World War II!
Human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies. We're expected not to ask how come they haven't found any of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I'll predict to you right now that the only weapons of mass destruction that ever will be found in Iraq will be those weapons of mass destruction the US government has imported.
We are all drowning in a sea of lies. During the Vietnam War, statists in academia and the media asserted that government has a rightperhaps even a dutyto lie in order to preserve itself. And without a doubt, if you could go back in time and remove each and every lie the government has ever told, the United States of Americaat least as we know itwould cease to exist. I'll remind you all, however, that for government, existence is a privilege, not a right. And it is a privilege that, according to Thomas Jefferson, may be revoked at any time.
Or should be revoked at regular intervals.
Short of that, so that we don't drown altogether, I'd like to propose a project for the Libertarian Party vastly more important than running somebody for President, or for any other office. It's a project that could, in fact, make the election of a Libertarian President possible, by putting more people on our side than anything else we've ever done.
And we wouldn't even have to succeedjust make a big, happy, noisy, credible attempt.
I propose a Constitutional Amendment providing that, if any public official, elected or appointed, at any level of government, is caught lying to any member of the public for any reason, the punishment shall be death by public hanging.
I suggest we make this amendment our own, promote it constantly, everywhere and anywhere we go. I suggest that we corner politicians in publicand, even more importantly, candidatesand ask if they'll support this amendment. We must demand an answer and keep on demanding it until we get one.
And then we must askpubliclywhy these Republicans and Democrats think they have a right to lie to the people who not only pay their hyperinflated salaries, but who are supposed to be running this country.
Take another step. The lie and the secret are two sides of the same coin. The secret and the lie. The same amendment must make it a hanging offensein public, and without any tasteful Lincolnian bag over the head to hide the bulging eyeballs and swelling purple tonguesfor any member of the government to keep secrets of any kind from voters and taxpayers, that is to say again, from those who are forced at bayonet-point to pay for government and who are so widely and loudly acclaimed by the apologists for democracywhich is another great lieto be its masters.
Our motto, which must be as widely heard and understood as "Remember the Alamo" or "We shall overcome" must be, "No more secrets, no more lies".
I repeat, no more secrets, no more lies.
As I said earlier this morning, the truth is not "the first casualty of war". The truth has to be slaughtered long before a war can begin. Therefore, if you would have peace: no more secrets, no more lies.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Children of the American Revolution, for some time, now, our political system has selected exclusively for evil, stupid, and crazy bastards who can't draw a breath without telling a lie.
I say, no more secrets, no more lies.
So now we will either find out if they can tell the truth to save their lives, or they'll publicly insist on continuing to lie, making it clearer to the voters than ever what they areand by contrast, what we are.
No more secrets, no more lies.
It might just turn out to be a better slogan than "The Party of Principle". Even individuals brought up by the public schools and the mass media will understand itthey never seem to have understood what a principle is. And it might just help us to stay the party of principle, as well.
No more secrets, no more lies.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Children of the American Revolution, I thank you.
This essay has been read about times since June 17, 2003.