This is interview #7 in JohnsonForAmerica.com’s “Important Voices” series, where we talk with key figures, such as elected officials, candidates, authors, commentators, and policy experts, about the issues of the day. A new interview is released every Monday and every Thursday, so check back often!
Our guest for today’s Important Voices interview is Scott Horton. Scott is the host of Antiwar Radio for KAOS Radio 95.9 FM in Austin, Texas, KUCR 88.3 FM in Riverside, California, and Antiwar.com, where he is also assistant editor. Scott has interviewed such figures as Ron Paul, John Cusack, Pat Buchanan, Noam Chomsky, Lew Rockwell, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Pape, and recently, Gary Johnson. Scott won the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of Austin” award in “Best Iraq War Insight and Play by Play” in 2007. In 2004, he served as foreign policy adviser to Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik.
Josiah Schmidt: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us, Scott! To start off, how did you come to hold such a liberty-oriented philosophy?
Scott Horton: I either chose it with my free will or was causally determined to believe in it–not sure which. I never did take too kindly to authority ever since I was a kid, and I suppose growing up in Austin meant I had access to all sorts of ideas from the right and the left. While many grow up to adopt the very worst theories of either, becoming “moderates” who support every horrible thing government wants to do, I took the best of each main school of opinion (such as they are) and became very libertarian early on. I credit George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Chuck D, along with early learning about Vietnam and other wars, Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, CIA drug running, secret wars in Latin America, central banking, imperialism and so forth with inoculating me at a young age against the most accepted “truths” of that era, preventing me from ever identifying as a liberal or conservative of any kind (which would have required me to be horrible on at least some issues). The distance between my minarchism and admittedly reluctant anarchism was closed by talking with the likes of Harry Browne, Hans Hoppe and Anthony Gregory on the show and reading my Murray Rothbard. It turns out the state is not a necessary evil, but an unnecessary one.
Josiah Schmidt: You’ve had the privilege to interview a lot of important voices on your Antiwar.com radio show. What is one of your most memorable interviews?
Scott Horton: The first time I interviewed Ron Paul was in person at the Libertarian Party convention in Atlanta in 2004. That was a pretty big deal to me.
Josiah Schmidt: In 2008, Ron Paul received stronger support from men and women in the armed forces than any other presidential candidate. Why do you think this was?
Scott Horton: He gave them the opportunity to oppose our imperial foreign policy and their own multiple tours on illegitimate missions and still consider themselves and present themselves as conservatives when so much of the peace movement is falsely characterized as some sort of marginal “far left” extreme. These young men and women are the betrayed. They are the ones being sent out to die in vain. They sign up to defend their country, trusting that the American democracy will only put them in harm’s way when there is no other option. When they find out it’s all a lie, they rebel and speak out in whatever ways they can. In this case they found that contributing to the peace candidates was a safe way around military restrictions on their rights of free speech. And perhaps they admired Paul’s courage in standing by his principles and refusing to concede a single false “fact” or premise to the blatantly fascist and ignorant politicians he was competing with in the Republican presidential race.
Josiah Schmidt: What is it about government that makes it thrive on war, in your opinion?
Scott Horton: At its essence, the state is the war power. It is their true calling and excuse for being. As we can see all around us, as long as people believe that the state is protecting them from greater harm, they will tolerate just about anything, including torture, aggressive war against civilian populations, prison without trial, putting their kids through scanners and searches at the airports, warrantless spying on phone and financial records, unimaginable amounts of welfare for billionaires in the banking, weapons and security industries, local sheriff’s deputies marching in their streets dressed like the robots in Ice Pirates and using their tazers on helpless old women while they’re at it. Without a bogus foreign threat, who needs ’em? With only bogus foreign threats…
Josiah Schmidt: Do you see a link between war and central banking (i.e. the Federal Reserve system)?
Scott Horton: Yes. For example, George W. Bush not only cut taxes, but actually sent people stimulus checks in the mail, all while spending more dollars a day than there are stars in the sky on Paul Wolfowitz’s war abroad and Ted Kennedy’s agenda at home. This was possible because the central banking system was inflating the currency. Not only do they directly monetize the government’s debts, which debases the value of the currency, but they also arrange with foreign states like China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to return the inflated dollars we export by way of the gas pump and trade deficits by purchasing U.S. government debt. Along with all this is the fake prosperity that comes with inflationary bubbles and the acquiescence that creature comforts buy. The true cost of all this hidden taxation is paid later in the form of our unemployed masses, who rarely see the connection between the policies they cheered years before and the poverty they exist in now. However, thanks to the efforts of people like Ron Paul, that last sad statement is becoming less true every day.
Josiah Schmidt: Research has shown that suicide terrorists are largely middle-class, well-educated, mentally stable individuals. What causes these kinds of normal people to hate America so much that they would be willing to die in their fight against it?
Scott Horton: The answer is clear: American support for the permanent Israeli occupation of Palestine and repeated invasions of Lebanon, support for dictatorships across the Muslim world, military bases in Arabia, the “land of the two holy places,” Mecca and Medina, and now worse: our permanent military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and horror stories of torture of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans and others at the hands of the CIA and American military. As Michael Scheuer, former head analyst at the CIA’s bin Laden unit and author of “Imperial Hubris,” says, modern anti-American terrorism amounts to an insurgency against American domination of the Middle East, which of course preceded our war against the reaction to it by a great many years.
Osama bin Laden issued his first declaration of war against the United States shortly after the Israeli massacre at Qana in southern Lebanon in 1996, and cited the massacre as the final straw. Lawrence Wright reports in “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” that soon-to-be lead hijacker Mohammed Atta filled out his will the next day. In “Perfect Soldiers,” Terry McDermott’s biography of the Hamburg cell of the lead 9/11 hijackers, he says they would sit around in their apartment watching the news about Israel in Palestine and Lebanon and blame the United States for it all. Just in the last two weeks we’ve heard from the families of the Jordanian double agent suicide bomber who killed 7 CIA agents in Afghanistan and the patsy who tried to bomb the airliner over Detroit on Christmas. In both cases it is said that they were radicalized by Israel’s slaughter of innocents in Operation Cast Lead (AKA Olmert’s Attica Massacre) a year ago in the Gaza strip.
Check the news this week: we bomb Pakistan, Pakistanis get angry and radicalized, we bomb Somalia, Somalis get angry and radicalized, we bomb Yemen, Yemenis get angry and radicalized. Remember after 9/11? The Americans got angry and radicalized. What most Americans still don’t understand is that we started it.
In the case of the hijackers, virtually all of them were from Egypt and Saudi Arabia–along with I think a Yemeni and a Lebanese who’d been raised in Saudi Arabia. These are of course countries with loyal American-backed autocrats in charge, while none of them came from the “Axis of Evil” countries: Iraq, Iran or Syria. The vast majority were from Saudi Arabia, where the U.S. Army and Air Force maintained a permanent occupation from which to regularly bomb Iraq since shortly after their invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990.
As Robert A. Pape has shown in his book “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” virtually all suicide bombing is carried out by people whose countries are occupied by foreign armies. The greater the difference in skin color, language and religion between the occupied and the occupiers, the more likely it is that the occupied will resort to such desperate action, as they are made to fear not only death for themselves but for their very way of life. In Sri Lanka, where no side is any sort of Muslim, there was a long term campaign of suicide bombing by the rebels, while in the Darfur region of Sudan, where all sides are Sunni Muslims and varying degrees of “Arab,” and where there has been worst nightmare-level violence for years, there has never been a suicide bombing. Iraq had never seen a suicide bombing until the U.S. invaded and stayed.
Both World Trade Center bombers, Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Kahlid Sheik Mohammed have made it as plain as day that that were motivated by American support for Israel and aggression against Iraq. The same goes for Zacharias Moussoui and the shoe bomber Richard Reid.
Former U.S. Army interrogator Michael Alexander says virtually every insurgent he questioned in Iraq explained that they came to fight in defense of those being tortured in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. In 2005, Saudi and Israeli studies of the foreigners who traveled to Iraq to fight in the insurgency against America found that they were young, new fighters who had been radicalized by the war itself, rather than old veterans of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s.
This is also the consensus of all 16 American intelligence agencies in the National Intelligence Council’s National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism from 2007, a study by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in England, and the FBI agents who testified before the 9/11 commission.
There’s nothing in any actual journalism or scholarship on this issue about their hating freedom, or promises of virgins in heaven–even as side issues of any kind. Why did Japanese pilots wage Kamikaze warfare in World War II? Why did the Ancient Hebrews carry out suicide attacks against the Romans–radical Islam? Nope. They were resisting the occupation of their land by a foreign power.
To be perfectly clear, these are the reasons why we and others were attacked, not excuses for the attackers. For al Qaeda to adopt the morality of the Republicans and Democrats and claim that killing innocent people is perfectly fine and that they can be written off as “collateral damage” as long as the killer is on some mission of “defense” is certainly the very measure of evil.
Josiah Schmidt: What do you think, realistically, is the future of the US government’s wars in the Middle East?
Scott Horton: More dead innocents. Bankruptcy.
Josiah Schmidt: Do you see the possibility for US military involvement in more places, outside of the Muslim world?
Scott Horton: Certainly. If I was living in southern Sudan or Nigeria, I might take the opportunity to run like hell right about now, for help is on its way. (There are many Muslims in Nigeria, but the war will be against the tribesmen who live on top of Shell’s oil in the Niger Delta, and they are not Muslim.)
Josiah Schmidt: What can we do as private citizens to bring these wars to an end?
Scott Horton: I think people should take whatever time they might need to figure out that since all politicians lie about everything, all the time, this could be a strong indicator that the next million things they say will all be lies too. And then comes the big step: Don’t believe them or in them any more. Perhaps when we stop believing those who run the government, we will be a little bit less likely to let them take our freedoms, families and money from us? I recognize I could be asking for a bit much.
Josiah Schmidt: Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Scott Horton: People know that America is “headed in the wrong direction,” as they say in the polls. Well, the name of our problem is empire. It is killing innocent people, destroying the Bill of Rights, centralizing power, creating enemies who want to kill us in large numbers and impoverishing this society. It also corrupts the minds of those who side with the war party, leading them to justify heinous violations of our formerly most sacred principles: encouraging them to embrace permanent war and prison without trial as a way of life, the willingness to torture people as a test of patriotism, and the worst forms of national and racial collectivism in order to deny the humanity of those on the receiving end of our government’s violence. It does not have to be this way. It is not supposed to be this way. It can change, but only if people are willing to hate injustice enough and get their priorities straight enough to demand freedom and peace from all of their so-called leaders in political and public life and ultimately deny them the illegitimate authority they have thus far been able to claim at our, and the rest of the world’s, expense.
Josiah Schmidt: Thanks so much for sharing your opinions with us, Scott. I’d like to remind our readers to listen to the Antiwar.com radio show to hear more from Scott and other peace-minded thinkers.