Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is Islam an Abrahamic Religion?

It’s a fundamental precept of Islam that Islam is an Abrahamic tradition in the same vein as Judaism and Christianity.  This fiction serves to legitimize Islam and raise it to equivalency with the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Muslims believe that Muhammad was a descendant of Abraham through Ishmael.  In Islamic tradition, Adam built the original Ka’aba in Mecca.  When Hagar and Ishmael were turned out into the desert of Paran by Abraham, they wandered the desert and were on the verge of death when Hagar discovered the well of zam-zam, which saved their life.  Later, Ishmael and Abraham were to have gone to Mecca to rebuild the Ka’aba.

Abrahamic Descent
Of the descendants of Ishmael, we are told that they will be too many to count, and that his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him (Genesis 16).  The claim of Abrahamic descent through Ishmael may very well be valid, but without any evidence to support it.  Such a claim would not have any weight in a court of inheritance law, given that there is no documented chain of descent.  There are no records of Mecca or the Meccans that predate Islam.  There is a rich, detailed, continuous tradition and genealogy of the descendants of Isaac documented in the Old Testament, but nothing but roaring silence regarding those of Ishmael throughout the entire 2000 years that the old testament covers between Abraham and Christ.  Nothing is known of these people, what trials they endured, what victories they celebrated, what gods they worshiped for 2 millennia. Without any documentary evidence to substantiate it, Islamic claims to Abrahamic blood descent are circumstantial at best, and more likely completely specious.

Islam claims that the covenant of Abraham belongs to the heirs of Ishmael, not the heirs of Isaac.  Ishmael was indeed the firstborn, but was only a recognized heir in Isaac’s absence, since Isaac was the firstborn legitimate heir.  God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 was by implication to him and his children through his wife Sarah.  Since Sarah was childless, they became impatient for God to fulfill his promise, and Sarah offered her Egyptian servant Hagar as a surrogate.  When Hagar became pregnant, she began to deem herself superior for being able to provide an heir.  Sarah realized her mistake and banished Hagar. Hagar returned and submitted to Sarah.  When Isaac was born it became clear that the presence of Ishmael and Hagar would be a potential threat to Isaac, because his legitimacy usurped the illegitimate Ishmael’s claim to be heir to Abraham.  They were banished again, this time permanently.  This banishment, never disputed in Islamic scripture, clearly demonstrates Ishmael’s inferior claim to be the heir of Abraham.  This inferiority is confirmed, as Ishmael’s descendants failed to record their history, and effectively disappeared from history until Muhammad resurrected them for his own purposes.

The Life of Ishmael
According to Islamic sources, Hagar was turned out into the desert of Paran, with the suckling Ishmael at her breast.  Accounts differ whether she was on her own or accompanied by Abraham to Mecca.  Regardless, she was left alone near Mecca, and in desperation for her child dying of thirst she ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwan seven times.  Allah took pity on her and sent an angel to dig the well of zam-zam with his heel.  The water allowed her to live in Mecca, and she was joined by a tribe of Jurhum.  Ishmael grew up there and learned Arabic. Later, he married a Jurham woman.  Abraham visited him, and advised him to put his Jurham wife away.  He did so, and married another one.  Abraham came back, approved of the second wife, and together he and Ishmael built, or re-built, the Ka’aba.

There are some practical problems with this story.  The most obvious is that Mecca is in a basically uninhabitable valley, in the middle of a sun blasted desert, a thousand miles from the promised land where Abraham lived.  A thousand miles through the Arabian desert is not something to take lightly, and not something to be done without a very good reason.  Given that there would be no sustenance for any pack animals used, everything must be carried on such a trek.  It would take at least two months of hard, constant travel to make this trip, assuming you had a good idea of where you were going and how to get there.  There is no practical reason why Abraham would travel so far, nor is there any evidence or indication that he ever did so.  Abraham was a herdsman, and the only times when he is depicted in the Bible as being away from his herds for any length of time is when he was on a military campaign, which this obviously wasn’t.  Moreover, it has him making this trip not once, but at least twice, and perhaps more.

Ibn Ishaq records that when Muhammad helped restore the Ka’aba, it was barely head-high, and had no roof.  Much was made of putting a roof on the Ka’aba during Muhammad’s time, using timber from a shipwreck discovered near Jedda, because some offerings had been pilfered from the unprotected shrine.  The account details placing of stones, and no mention is made of mortar.  So we are to believe that Abraham made a four-month round trip journey through trackless desert wastes in order to build a head high pile of rocks and call it a shrine?

Sorry, I don’t get it.

Muslims would be quick to point out that Abraham obviously made this trip because Mecca is a holy place.  My question is then why didn’t he stay there?  Surely a man of Abraham’s obvious devotion to God would want to reside close to the holiest place on Earth.  Further, if Mecca is so holy, why didn’t Moses lead his people there after they left Egypt?  Why were the ten commandments delivered on Mt Sinai, instead of at Mecca?

Genesis Chapter 21 details Hagar’s exile to the desert.  This is done shortly after Isaac’s birth.  Genesis 16:16 tells us that Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born, and 21:5 states he was 100 when Isaac was born.  If Ishmael was a suckling babe at the age of 14 as Islam has us believe, it’s no wonder that Abraham cast him out!

Genesis 21:21 tells us that Ishmael was raised in Paran, and took an Egyptian wife.  This makes sense, since Paran is the desert area just south of Judah, and north of Midian.  Genesis 16:1 tells us that Hagar was an Egyptian, so she would have naturally sought one of her people for a daughter in law.

Further, we know that Ishmael lived and settled not far from Hebron, where Abraham and Sarah were buried, because in Genesis 25:9 he helps Isaac bury Abraham.  At this time Isaac was 75 years old, and Ishmael was 90.  (Genesis 25:7-9).

Ishmael’s descendants lived not far from the promised land, either, for we find in Gen 28:9 that Isaac’s son Esau was forbidden to take a wife from among the Canaanite women, and married one of Ishmael’s daughters, Mahalath.

None of these would have been possible if Ishmael’s base of operations was Mecca, which was a thousand miles from the Hebron valley.  There is no case in history of non-seafaring peoples carrying on social and economic intercourse at a distance of a thousand miles that early in history.  This is pure fantasy on behalf of Muhammad and his credulous followers.

Islam claims that Abraham was a Muslim.  What does it mean to be a Muslim?  The common definition of a Muslim is “One who submits.”  Abraham had a close relationship with God, in fact he frequently demonstrated through sacrifice that nothing was more important in his life than God.  But this was not blind submission as a slave, as Muslims understand the word.  Abraham frequently questioned God, and in fact boldly negotiated with him regarding the fate of Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 18:23-32).

The statement of conversion, the Shahada, requires that for one to become a Muslim, one to state that “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” How could a person who lived before Muhammad be a Muslim, since the Shahada would have been nonsense beforehand?

The hallmarks of Islam can be found in the five pillars of Islam: Monotheism, observance of Ramadan, daily prostration in prayer, paying the Zakat, and the Hajj.  Of these, only monotheism was practiced by Abraham.  He observed no holy months, he paid no temple tax, because there was no temple.  I have already demonstrated that he never made the hajj, for there was no reason to before the Ka’aba was built, and no reason to suggest that Abraham built the Ka’aba and then for some reason returned to Hebron.  He prayed constantly, but did so in reverence, only prostrating himself when overwhelmed by the presence of God.  There is no record that he prayed in any particular direction.

If any of these things were part of Abraham’s theology, there would have been some mention of them in Judeo-Christian scripture.  There would have been some remnant of these observances left over and continued.  Moses, who was given a very detailed and precise set of laws filled with exhaustive minutiae, has no record or even trace of four of the five pillars of Islam.

We know from Biblical history that the ancient Israelites were very susceptible to seduction by other forms of worship, and pagan belief systems.  Only reference to the written scripture was able to draw them back to God in many cases.  There are many records in Hebrew scripture that detail how difficult it was for the Hebrews to keep faithful to the God of Abraham.  What is the possibility that the Meccans could have done so with no scripture with which to guide them, no written tradition, no record of any prophets, judges or Kings?

Islamic scripture is very clear that Meccans were polytheist worshipers of a moon god cult which was prevalent throughout Arabia in the 7th century.  It was common practice in Arabia at the time to worship stones, particularly unusual stones.  The rare iron meteorite would be thought to have particularly special religious significance.  The Ka’aba was a shrine to the rock idols and moon God, not unlike many similar ones found throughout Arabia and Yemen.  The chief deity of the Meccan Ka’aba was Allah, long before Muhammad came along. Circumambulation of a holy structure was a common form of worship in this cult, not unique to Mecca.  There is no similar form of worship anywhere else in Judeo-Christian tradition.

Islam’s claim to Abraham has no basis in scripture, and defies common sense.  There is no evidence or rational reason to place Abraham within 800 miles of Mecca at any time in his life.  Many of the stories of early Mecca may have some root in legend of early Arabian settlers of the area, and Muhammad changed the names to coincide with Biblical characters.  This sort of adoption of Biblical figures is common in unlettered communicants of early Christianity - witness the local legends of Jesus having visited Cornwall in England before he started his ministry in Palestine.  Muhammad’s claims of Abrahamic descent were designed specifically to lend him legitimacy as a messiah to the Jewish population of Medina.  He routinely adopted Jewish scripture wholesale, and made it part of his Koran.  The problem is that he did not understand the underlying themes of the Jewish scripture, and adopted only the stories, never the meanings.  The Jews, comparing his tortured rendering of their stories to their actual written accounts, recognized that he was a poseur, and rejected him as relevant to their belief system.

The fundamental problem that all Muslims face with this and many other claims is that the Koran is a record of memorized verse.  The written word will trump oral tradition every time.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fundamental Assumptions I: The Zero-Sum Game.

I don’t have to point out to anyone that the dialogue between the left and the right has pretty much completely broken down in this country, to the point where the two sides simply aren’t talking to one another.  When they do talk, they talk past one another, not to one another.  Each sides talk to the positions that they accuse the other side of having, which may or may not have anything to do with the positions actually held.

I don’t think this serves either side very well, because politically we have begun to find it acceptable to compromise our positions in order to prevent the “other” guys from getting into power. 

I’ve been scratching my head, trying to figure out why otherwise intelligent, rational people have such disparate ideas about how things should be run.  The only thing that I can come up with is that liberals and conservatives must be operating under completely different underlying assumptions, and aren’t aware that the other side does not share those assumptions.  Some things seem so obvious that they don’t seem worth mentioning, so when someone says something that is plainly contrary to a core assumption, our first reaction is to brand that person as an idiot.

This theory bears itself out in conversations with liberals, which I have a seemingly infinite supply of, living near Portland, Oregon.  When I have stepped back from issues that we disagree vehemently on, and questioned the assumptions which lead to these disagreements, I have invariably found that the other side has a completely different set of assumptions.  This has the potential to turn into a huge discussion, so I’m only going deal with one assumption here and save others for future installments.

The Myth of the Zero Sum Game.

One day a few years back, after martial arts practice, I was having a couple of beers with fellow martial artists.  They were all considerably younger than I was and all liberal.  I proposed the question; “Is the economy a zero sum game?”

The unanimous response was “Huh?”

Okay, if I earn a ton of money and get rich, does somebody else automatically get poorer as a result? 

There was some shuffling of feet and intent peering into half-empty beer glasses.  Those who knew me knew that I had just laid a trap.  They weren’t sure how, but they were loathe to step into it.  One brightly androgynous  young lady, confident in her idealism and confident that she had strength of numbers on her side, announced “Of course!  How could it be any other way?”

And that, boys and girls, is a fundamental postulate, one that is taken as gospel by many on the left, and one that is considered patently absurd by the right.  It is so fundamental that no one ever thinks to question it from either side.

The funny thing is that there is precedent for both sides being right.

Let’s consider basic economics.  The foundation of economics is production.  Workers produce goods, and then trade those goods for other goods or services.  Note that I started with producers of goods, not providers of services.  Service providers, although they play a valuable role, cannot exist without goods producers.  Goods producers can do just fine without service providers.

The most fundamental good of all to produce is food.  The producers of food must produce enough food so that the entire population – producer and providers and those who do neither – can eat.  Failure to do so means people die.  Let’s remember this, because we’re going to come back to it in a moment.

There are two types of goods that can be produced:  Durable and perishable.  Durable goods keep their value.  They can be traded, hoarded, and traded again.  When durable goods are consumed, the result of their consumption is other, hopefully more valuable, durable goods.  Perishable goods have a shelf life, after which they are either consumed or have no value.  Consumption of perishable goods yields nothing of value, or value that is transitory.  Consume firewood, and the resulting heat is valuable, but doesn’t last.  Consume gasoline, and the resulting motion has no lasting value.  Consume food, and the result actually costs money to dispose of.  Consume pig iron, and the result is probably a product which has value, hopefully more value than the original pig iron.  Food is perishable, pig iron is durable.

 The wealth of any community large or small may be measured in terms of the amount of goods it is capable of producing.  Now let’s back up 500  or 600 years and examine the sorts of economies extant up to that time.  Before the industrial revolution, all production was done by muscle power.  If a man or animal did not do some sort of work, nothing was produced.

Because of the phenomenal expenditure of muscle power necessary for any sorts of production, pre-industrial economies were dominated by food production.  This is where the majority of the workforce was employed, and what consumed  most of the productive capacity available.  Artisans and skilled producers of durable goods were highly valued, and ensured they kept their value by associating in exclusive guilds which jealously hoarded the secrets of their production.

Think about this for a second:  Most of the productivity of a community is going to disappear within one year, either consumed for sustenance or spoiled. 

How can anyone get rich in such an economy?  The answer is easy:  you steal it.  You can either set yourself up as some sort of government, which has the right to help itself to the food production of all the populace, or you can go as far as claiming ownership of the very means of production – the people who do the producing.  The guy actually doing the production has no chance to get rich, because he simply can’t produce enough by the sweat of his brow to accumulate enough to be able to pay someone else to do it.  Those in the service industries do have a chance to get rich, if they can manage a way to market their services to enough producers to take advantage of economies of scale.  Their success is closely tied to that of the producers, and in a horse-drawn economy, economies of scale are difficult to come by.   Those in political power have the best chance of getting rich, because they have no need to give any sort of value for that which they take, and can do so by fiat and force of arms.  Often it’s politically safer if you’re in political power to go abroad and steal from someone else, so you don’t live in fear of your own people, and in fact you can buy their loyalty by paying them with plunder. 

This sort of situation gives rise to heroes like Robin Hood, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.  This was not deemed immoral, because in this sort of economy the rich probably got that way by robbing in one form or another from those who did the production.  Good kings were those who laid the whip of taxation lightly, and who provided service for their income, in the form of protection and justice. 

Wealth in this system is based on the quantity of recent production – typically the production of the previous year, which will be worthless within a year.  The amount of wealth in a community is therefore relatively fixed at any given period of time, and subject to consumption that usually equaled or exceeded the ability to produce.  While not precisely a zero-sum game, this agrarian based economy is close enough to a zero-sum game that the principle effectively holds:  If you’re rich, chances are you stole it from someone else.  In this economy, money is the root of all evil; or rather, the love of money is the root of all evil.  An entirely just system would punish the robbers by redistributing the wealth to ensure that the producers shared in the fruits of their labor.  This way of thinking was deeply ingrained in the justice systems developed over the centuries, and Karl Marx attempted to adapt its dynamic to the industrial revolution.

Economics changed dramatically with the industrial revolution.  The development of machinery which did not base its power on muscle power greatly magnified the productive capacity of the individual.  For the first time in history, durable goods composed the greater part of the productive capacity of a population.  As machinery became more sophisticated, and the productive power available became amplified, production of perishable goods became a relatively insignificant part of the economy. 

Now think about this: Most of the productivity of a single person may be hoarded by that person, and traded for the productivity of others.  It never disappears, it never spoils. 

The efficiency that a single person can achieve, and that person’s ability to literally reach a global marketplace, means that the producer himself can now gather wealth and become rich.  This is not simply because people have the power to produce more.  Because a person can trade their surplus production for someone else’s surplus, Efficiencies of specialization are realized.  The wealthy person does not need to steal from other people to get rich.  His productivity is such that he is capable of living a very comfortable life purely on the basis of his own production. 

The truly wealthy in this economy are not robbers, they are people who have developed ways of producing something of value to the community on a vast scale, with the most efficiency.  Because one person cannot do this alone, this person often employs other people to produce under his direction.  The ability of a person to produce for his or her employer is rewarded by the employer.  If the employee feels his compensation isn’t commensurate with his productivity, he’s free to shop his productive abilities to other employers who may value his abilities more.

In this economy, Robin Hood is not a hero, he has become an evil villain.  In this economy, wealthy people are enjoying the fruits of their own productivity, and doing so as much by trade as by production.  To take from such a person is to steal the from the best of the people who Robin Hood formerly championed.

Because the economy is predominantly durable goods, production has lasting value.  Consumption is relatively minor compared to production, so the total wealth of a community is constantly expanding.  It is not a zero-sum game.  If one person gets rich, he does so because he has mastered efficient, valuable production.  He has not taken anything from other people.  The liberal may argue that he has achieved his wealth from the production of other people who are in his employment.  This is true, and those people were compensated accordingly, in a mutually agreed upon employment contract.  The employer is obligated to compensate his employees commensurate with the value they provide for him, or they will defect to another employer who appreciates their value more.

And herein lies the fallacy of the liberal propensity to try to equalize the wealth disparity.  The urge to be Robin Hood denies the fact that industrial capitalism has a perfect mechanism for rewarding those who contribute the most to society, and penalizing those who contribute least.  The intelligent liberal should seek not to redistribute wealth by force of arms, but to work to level the field of opportunity for everyone to realize their full productive potential.  This cannot be done when non-productivity is rewarded, and the most productive are punished.

There is much more to be said on this subject, and others have said it better than I can.  Please read a critical excerpt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Take the time to read the whole passage and understand it, for in today’s economy, money is the root of all good.  To deny this is to invite certain catastrophe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Whose Economic Policies are at Fault Again?

Obama asks US voters to “turn the page” on Bush’s economic policies.

Barack Obama would have you believe that the Democrats have the solution for the economy, if only those rascally Republicans would stop getting into office and messing everything up.

Now just a cotton-pickin’ minute here! Let’s just review some basic economic facts before we start pointing fingers. I know a bunch of people voting today really don’t remember the 1970’s,   so hang on, kids, it’s time for a history and economics lesson.

In the last 40 years, we’ve had economic ups and downs. The seventies were marked by an astonishingly bad economy – bad enough that the present crisis looks like a spectacularly good day. The Democrats controlled congress, and President Nixon was a social liberal. Wage freezes were in effect (Can you imagine? The Federal Government making it against the law to give someone a raise?). Oil prices were causing lines at the gas pumps that were miles long at times.

Enter Jimmy Carter, and things got worse. A lot worse. Carter raised taxes and increased social security benefits. The Dow lost 25% of its value in the first two years of his presidency, and we were introduced to a term called stagflation – double digit interest rates, coupled with double-digit inflation. Economists assured us this was impossible, except it was happening! The media coined a new term, called the misery index, which coupled the unemployment rate to the inflation rate.

Carter did one thing of particular note during his presidency. In 1977 he signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act. This gave incentives to banks to help low-income borrowers get a home. Not a bad idea. Remember this, we’re going to come back to it.

Because of the dismal economy at home and a general indecisiveness abroad (remember the Iranian hostage crisis?), Carter lost his job to Reagan after one term. Reagan proceeded to slash corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, and the marginal tax rate. Nay sayers scoffed at “Reaganomics”, and “Trickle-down economics.” They still do, in spite of the overwhelmingly positive results.

You see, Reagan was a visionary who implicitly understood that the way to build the country’s wealth was to let the people who were wealthy create more wealth! Wealthy people don’t store their wealth in a shoe or under the mattress, they invest it! They use it to buy things. They use it to employ people! In short, they put their money to work making more money! If you don’t believe this would have a positive effect on the economy and put the nation back to work, then just answer one question: When was the last time you drew a paycheck from a poor person?

The economy started grinding ahead under Reagan. It was a slow recovery, but it was sustainable. By the end of Reagan’s first term, the Dow had more than doubled its value. There was a huge hiccup in October of 1987, which was not so much a case of weakness of the economy, except a literal financial fumble. New computerized trading systems had no safeguards, and a sudden sharp sell off created a computer-driven panic that crashed the market 20% in a single day. Stop orders were tripping, causing computerized sell orders, which drove the market down and caused more stop orders to trigger. The wheels fell off, and no one could do anything, because they couldn’t get in front of the computers. The panic was short-lived, and by the end of the month, the market had resumed it’s steady climb upward, albeit from a more subdued starting point.

The Bush administration was unremarkable. The Iraq invasion of Kuwait caused the market to react negatively, but as Bush got control of the situation, the market recoverd quite nicely.

All the while, under the hood of the economy where no one could see, some things were happening.

  • First, Reaganomics were still at work. The money that companies saved under the Reagan tax cuts was going to work. Infrastructure was being laid, buildings and factories were being built. The machines that would make the machines which would make the goods of the nineties were being designed and built. All of this took money – money made available by Reagan leaving it in the hands of the very people who knew how best to use it.
  • Second, we had won the Cold War. Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II had rocked the Communist monolith and discovered it was a house of cards. The vast sums of money that was essentially flushed down the economic toilet to maintain military parity with the Communist block were cut back to a trickle, and the resulting proceeds became available for reinvestment into growing the economy. Call it a Peace Dividend.
  • Third, a strange new technology called the microprocessor was about to revolutionize the economy of the USA. This technology would become a gigantic force multiplier for the US worker, and to feed the huge demand for it, whole new industries were laying down foundations. This technology would create a huge vacuum full of unexplored opportunity in just about any field of endeavor you could imagine.
When Bill Clinton took office, these three things were set to explode and carry the economy forward on a literal tidal wave of prosperity. And Clinton, in his usual style, surfed this tidal wave of prosperity and claimed credit for every bit of it, even though he had nothing to do with it (of course he did have the creator of the internet as his vice president. . .).

During the economic boom of the Nineties, set off by a triple fuse that Reagan had lit ten years earlier, Clinton could pretty much do what he wanted and could do no wrong economically. One thing he did do was to revamp the regulations regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (remember that?). Under new regulations, banks faced stifling penalties if they did not expand their role in lending money to borrowers with low down or no down payments. Banks were basically forced to issue $1 trillion in new “subprime” loans to people that they would not have loaned to in a free market, because these people were credit risks. Failure to do so would be noted when the banking regulators reviewed applications to branch and grow.

During March 1995 congressional hearings William A. Niskanen, chair of the Cato Institute, criticized the proposals for political favoritism in allocating credit and micromanagement by regulators, and that there was no assurance that banks would not be expected to operate at a loss. He predicted they would be very costly to the economy and banking system, and that the primary long term effect would be to contract the banking system. He recommended Congress repeal the Act.

The banks swallowed this poison pill and smiled, because what the hell, the economy was doing great, so the risk was theoretically still manageable, right?

This created subprime mortgage securities. Bear Stearns was the first to do it. Mortgage underwriter Fannie Mae added fuel to the fire, and subprime mortgages started to grow.

Okay, here’s where it starts getting a little tricky, so stay with me here. More money made available for loans to buy homes increases competition for those homes. House prices rise. Market speculators see this and start buying homes as short term investments, further fueling the pressure for prices to rise.

Banks see this trend, and are under pressure to make a profit. They begin developing designer loan packages, with outrageous variable interest rate schemes. The idea is that the investor could get a low introductory rate which would eventually reset to a usuriously high rate. This didn’t concern the investor, because his plan was to sell into the hot market and catch a quick profit and flip the house before the interest rate reset. He’s like the family who always uses a credit card, and doesn’t worry about the interest rate, because he pays off at the end of the month – always.

The gun was cocked and aimed at the economy’s head. And it was Democrat legislation that cocked it.
George Bush took office at the beginnings of an economic decline. Clinton had steered the booming economy perilously close to the rocks, and handed the wheel to Bush just before it hit. The economic downturn actually had begun to be felt in October of 2000, a mere month before the election. Bush took immediate action to right the course and steer the economy back on track. He cut taxes, which quit putting a brake on the economy, and allowed the productivity that had begun to falter under Clinton to begin regaining speed.

Then 9/11 happened. International terrorism struck right at the heart of our financial system. Fortunately, the terrorists didn’t understand that Wall Street is just a reflection of the economy. The real wealth is made in the factories, not on Wall Street. Under the Bush tax plan, the economy shrugged off the damage and surged forward once again.

Meanwhile house prices (yes, we’re revisiting the growth of the mortgage bubble) were accelerating. For the first time in history, house price appreciation was no longer tracking the Consumer Price Index, but was surging way ahead of it. Responsible politicians began to get alarmed.

In 2003, the Bush administration recommended the housing finance industry be overhauled. But the democrats stopped it: “Supporters of the companies said efforts to regulate the lenders tightly under those agencies might diminish their ability to finance loans for lower-income families.”

 “The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” – Barney Frank (D-MA)

 “…And in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing, “–   Melvin Watt (D-NC)

In 2005, John McCain warned of mortgage collapse and he co-sponsored “The Housing Enterprise Regulatory Act Of 2005”. Democratic opposition ensured it never got out of committee. There might be thousands of reasons for this. But something smells bad: the top three recipients of campaign finance contributions from mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for the last 20 years?

  • Christopher Dodd, (D-CT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. 
  • Barack Obama, (D-IL)
  • John Kerry, (D-MA)
I don’t know, I’m just sayin’. . .

So in spite of the Bush administration and John McCain’s efforts to disarm the financial gun that was pointed at the economy’s head, the Democrats earned their money by keeping things as they were.

Then something else happened, something that neither Democrat or Republican had any control over.
There are a billion Chinese in China. And a billion Indians in India. And all these people started exhibiting an unusual behavior. You see, they were working, too. A lot of their work was building things to sell to America to support its booming economy. And all these workers were making money, and then they were spending that money to buy . . . cars.

And cars need gas.

And gas needs oil.

Except that the oil producing cartels weren’t opening the spigots to meet demand. And oil prices went up. This is economics 101: Supply and demand. Even a Democrat can understand this. Oil is a fungible commodity: The consumer doesn’t really care about where it comes from, and the supplier doesn’t really care who buys it. Basically suppliers sell their oil into the world market, and consumers buy it off the world market. To try to regulate oil prices for domestic oil companies merely punishes them and prevents them from competing in the global market.

So gas prices started rising. And that affects everything. It takes oil to produce food. It takes oil to get the food to market. It takes oil to move goods from factory to consumer. All these things cost more, and the prices get passed on to the consumer, putting a brake on personal income just as bad if not worse than raising taxes.

Now, suddenly, the guys who never should have gotten a loan in the first place could no longer make payments and keep gas in their cars and buy food. Mortgage defaults began to rise. As foreclosures become more common, the housing industry faltered. House prices flattened out and began to fall in some places. The investors looking for a quick flip watched in horror as their equity evaporated, and their adjustable rate mortgages started to reset to fantastically higher rates – rates that couldn’t be sustained. The investors started lose money, and either dumped their houses for what they could salvage, or rode them down to foreclosure.

Banks had been forced by regulatory requirements to give out risky loans by Democratic legislation, supported by Democratic stonewalling against reform. Those loans were now defaulting, and the banks were collecting collateral that was no longer worth the money which had been loaned.  The trigger had been pulled.

The free market had not failed, because it hadn’t been free.

To quote a Chicago pastor, “Them chickens have come home to roost!”

Failure of banks is not a good thing. It smacks too much of the Depression. But government money to bail them out, without reforming the very artificial condition that led to this mess is like fighting a fire with gasoline.

Economics is not hard, but the Democrats want you to think it’s hard so they can confuse you. The architects of this mess want your vote this November. Vote for free markets. Vote for lower taxes. Vote for economic prosperity. History shows which party has been the champion of these.
If you haven't seen it, there's a video that describes some of this in more detail, without the overall economic framework.  Here's a transcript of the video.

Monday, October 27, 2008

You should be very careful when voting your conscience

“I’m voting my conscience!”

Yeah, been there, done that. And as a result I can shamefully lower my head and admit that I helped put Bill Clinton in office in 1992, because I helped split the conservative vote. I thought this issue was dead, but I just had a conversation with a dear friend who declared he was voting Libertarian.

Look, sports fans, I’m in your boat. Of the Republican field, John McCain is pretty much the last candidate I would have picked. He’s consistently ticked me off as a senator by siding with the Democrats, to the point that I branded him a RINO (Republican In Name Only). I listened in real time as he self-destructed on Michael Reagan’s evening talk show in the 2000 campaign.

I used to really like the guy when he was a junior senator. He was young, fresh looking, articulate, a bona fide war hero, and what he said actually made sense! But his years in the senate have tarnished him and distanced him from the mindset that he originally brought to the senate.

It makes sense to vote your conscience. But you need to temper this with responsibility. Four years ago when Christine Gregoire ballot counted her way into the Governor’s seat in Washington state, the final total difference between her and Dino Rossi was less than the total number of votes cast for the Libertarian candidate. Libertarians voting their conscience ensured the election of the candidate who least reflected their values.

The government is severely screwed up. It’s been this way for nigh on forty years now, as the disconnect between spending and revenue widens. The halls of congress seem like some surreal fantasyland where cause and effect don’t seem connected. The problem with a lot of conservatives today is that we want it fixed and cleaned up, and we want it right now!

Well, friends, it took sixty years to mess it up this bad. It’s going to take some time to put it right. The very first thing we need to do is to wrest the controls from the lunatics who are driving the bus! And we’re not going to do this by splitting our forces arguing about who the driver ought to be. The idea that anyone is going to get elected by advocating sweeping reform back to conservative ideals is a pipe dream. Take a lesson from the Democrats: Incrementalism works! You need to reform the system one step at a time. That’s how it got messed up and how it’s going to be set right.

If you take your marbles and leave if you can’t get your way, you are not only disenfranchising yourself , you are ensuring the victory of a candidate who will be the antithesis of everything you value in government. You need to realize that government is compromise and coalition building. The guy you vote for might not hold all the values you do, but half a loaf is better than none. Would you rather have a leader who shares some of your values, or ones that shares none of your values? Split the conservative vote, and the liberals take office. You will be governed by the one candidate who least represents your views. If this is your desire, then by all means, stand on your principles and vote Libertarian. Just keep your mouth shut for the next fours years afterward, because when Obama takes office, you will be the one who helped put him there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

America’s Greatest Hits - Lies, Misrepresentations & Omissions

There’s a list that seems to be quite popular among the left and other America Haters taken from the book by Kenny Anderson called Land of Hypocrisy.  This list of lies, misrepresentations and omissions is outrageous enough to be worthy of Noam Chomsky.  Indeed, when I first encountered it, I thought it was something Chomsky had written.  The problem is that too many people are sufficiently ignorant of history, and accept this list at face value. It’s become a foundation of ad hominum attacks by the Muslim community as some sort of refutation when the link between Terrorism and Islam is pointed out.   
The website is down, but there are plenty of copies around the internet. 
The figures used in Mr. Anderson’s list are questionable at best and totally specious for the most part.  Given a probability distribution of estimated casualties in any given conflict from a variety of sources, he invariably took the absolute worst case figure, no matter how outrageous it was compared to the mean estimates.   What can you do when someone looks you in the face and tells you an outright lie?  Moreover, both of you know it’s a lie!  The outrageousness of these claims leaves one gasping in disbelief that anyone would be so brazen as to represent this as a legitimate argument.  The bulk of what follows here is a point by point refutation of Mr. Anderson’s accusations.  Before we dive into that, I want to make my concluding comments here, because you’re going to be brain fried by the time you reach the end of this article.  The United States stands for freedom and liberty throughout the world.  It was once observed to me by a Filipino municipal leader that “The world is circled with the graves of Americans who died to set other people free.”  The use of force is always a last resort, because inevitably innocent people get hurt.  But when the enemies of freedom and justice choose to use force to achieve their ends, the sad fact is that force is often the only way to stop them.  In the post WWII world all too often those enemies do not wear a uniform, swear allegiance to no government, and exhibit a shocking disregard for life to achieve their ends.  This places innocents at even greater risk.  For the West to hang fire because innocent people might get hurt means surrendering the battlefield to the enemy, and inevitably history has shown us that this leads to even greater suffering and loss of life.

Whenever a disaster occurs, the United States is often the first one the scene with the most to offer.  The United States is the only country in history which has publicly prosecuted and convicted its own soldiers for war crimes.  In the last 70 years the United Sates has militarily conquered more territory than any other power in history – and we have returned all of it back to its rightful owners, keeping only small pieces on which to bury our honored dead. Mr. Anderson would have you believe that the world would be better off without America.  I invite Mr. Anderson to relocate to the socialist paradise of North Korea.  

History shows that without America to set the example, to provide the gold standard upon which all other free countries measure themselves, the convulsion of violence of the twentieth century would have plunged the  world into a savage dark age of tyranny, slavery and bloodshed from which it may never have emerged.
Before I address each of these items in detail, let’s just set the stage on which most of these accusations took place.  In 1945 we concluded the bloodiest nine years of warfare the world has ever seen.  We had just witnessed the deaths of 21 million Russians in combat, up to 60 million more Russians to purges and pogroms by their own government, 12 million people had been gassed by Nazi Germany in concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka.  In all, an estimated 48 million souls perished as a direct result of the aggression of Fascist Germany, Japan and Italy.  In the next 10 years the world witnessed an additional 60 million deaths in China’s Cultural Revolution.  Millions more had lost their freedom and were suffering under Soviet dictatorship in puppet communist regimes set up by the occupiers behind the iron and bamboo curtains.  

Claim 1:    3,000,000 Vietnamese People murdered over 30 years of US Aggression  
I could write thousands of words concerning the Vietnam War, but I will address Mr. Anderson’s charge without getting into even a sketchy history. 
In the first place the charge of 30 years of US aggression is plainly false.  The United States did not get directly involved – and in fact deliberately avoided involvement – until the early 1960’s, and did not get involved in earnest until 1965.  The total period of heavy involvement lasted eight years – a far cry from 30 years. Prior to the 1960’s the Vietnamese fought the French.  The USA refused to support the French defense at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 when France asked for air support. 
The Vietnamese war was a civil war, and as such was waged with a passion that exceeds that normally seen on a battlefield.  Guerrilla warfare made everyone a potential enemy.  The methods used by the Communist Vietnamese to intimidate the population into submission were animalistic.  Peace Corps volunteers operated traveling clinics to treat illness and immunize children in rural villages.  After the Peace Corps left, Communist Guerrillas would enter those same villages and hack off the arms of the children who were immunized.  Village leaders who did not cooperate with the Viet Cong were made to watch while their wives and daughters were publicly raped and killed.  Communist ideology in Vietnam was based on agrarian collectivism similar to that instituted in China.  This ideology was attractive to the poorly educated farm class, who stood to gain the most in terms of power and prestige under this system.  It considered the educated class as an unproductive liability, and deliberately targeted doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen for execution or re-education.  During the 26 days that the Viet Cong held the southern city of Hue in the Tet offensive of 1968, more than 5,000 civilians were executed by communist death squads who combed the city with lists of targeted community leaders, intellectuals, and even anyone who wore glasses (doing so was deemed to be the mark of an intellectual).
The United States air offensive in North Vietnam pitted US air power against the most sophisticated air defense network in the world at the time.  In order to avoid collateral damage, US forces operated under restrictive rules of engagement that ceded the advantage to the enemy and resulted in losses to US forces that would have been avoided had we used unrestricted warfare on North Vietnam.  The North Vietnamese deliberately located key air defense installations in population centers and near schools and hospitals, both for protection and propaganda purposes if they were hit. Civilians were issued weapons with instructions to go outside and shoot straight in the air during an air raid.  These policies resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths among the North Vietnamese civilian population.
The final justification for the Vietnam War came after the war when Communist Vietnam could no longer support the millions of people who refused to accept communist party ideology and told them to leave.  1.5 million people risked their lives to take advantage of this, and more than 600,000 died trying.  The United States’ role in this tragedy was to use our navy to rescue as many people as we could from the south China sea as they fled the brutal tyranny of the regime that Mr. Anderson would have you believe was a victim. This is the fate that 58,000 American soldiers gave their lives to prevent in Vietnam.  This was no war of aggression on the part of America.  It was a defensive war, fought to keep a freedom loving people free, against a brutal, homicidal enemy who was devoid of morality. 
Claim 2: Well over 300,000 Japanese massacred when the US dropped nuclear bombs on the urban civilian areas of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and firebombed Tokyo.   
Let’s be clear: the Pacific campaign of WWII was a war of aggression on the part of Imperial Japan.  It started with an invasion of China, and exploded into the strategic naval struggle when the USA cut off oil shipments to Japan in protest of Japan’s aggression in China.  Because of such actions as the rape of Nanking in which as many as 340,000 Chinese civilians were killed, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor before war was officially declared, Japanese refusal to surrender or take prisoners on the field of battle and the Kamikaze suicide attackers, the USA adopted a policy of unconditional surrender as the only means to end the war with Imperial Japan.
In the 82 day campaign on Okinawa in April, 1945, 142,000 civilians were killed out of a total population of 338,000.  The casualty rate on mainland Japan was expected to be higher, as it was understood that the civilian population was being armed and interleaved with the military, that there would be no noncombatant Japanese in a country of 72 million.  Even using the ratios  from the Okinawan campaign, Japanese civilian casualties could be expected to reach as high as 30 million when the USA invaded Japan proper.  US casualties were expected to be as high as 1.5 million.  The country of Japan would have been devastated. The use of nuclear weapons to end WWII in the Pacific was horrible, but in the long run saved a hundred times more lives, and countless suffering.  It’s an axiom of warfare that a brief, shockingly violent, decisive action is far less costly for all concerned in the long run than a drawn out campaign that lacks resolve.

Claim 3: More than 4,000 innocent civilians killed in Panama during the US invasion in 1989.   
The US invaded Panama in 1989 to depose and capture the Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega on international drug trafficking charges.  Noriega’s power in Panama was held by force of arms, having been defeated in a democratic election by a 3-1 margin by Guillermo Endara the previous May.  This was not an invasion of aggression, but to support the popular will of the Panamanian people and enforce international law.

This number is derived from a controversial shock journalism piece that the news show 60 Minutes aired on Sept 23, 1990.  Not known for its journalistic integrity or objectivity, 60 Minutes interviewed obviously biased Panamanian officials who made outrageous claims without any substantiation, and then presented those claims as undisputed fact.  The actual tally ranges from 202 to 700 civilian deaths during the invasion.  Residents of the densely populated El Chorillo barrio area near Manuel Noreiga’s palace stated that the fires which took a majority of the lives were started by Noreiga forces.

Claim 4: Over 500,000 people were killed in Laos when America subjected civilians to "secret bombing" from 1964 to 1973, dropping over two million tons of bombs on the country.  Over one fourth of the population also became refugees.  
In spite of the publicity that Vietnam garnered in Indochina during the 1960’s, the communist insurgency in Laos represented the key conflict to the whole region.  Communist Pathet Lao forces, supported by China and North Vietnam, waged unrestricted warfare on the peace and freedom loving Hmong people of the Plaines des Jarres region. Whereas Vietnam was a civil war among an ethnically and culturally homogeneous people, the Laotian conflict was an outright war of genocide against the Hmong.  US air operations over Laos took two forms.    Low technology tactical air cover was provided to Hmong military units, flown by a combination of Hmong pilots, CIA contractors and regular USAF with Hmong or CIA tactical control.  In the relatively uninhabited southeastern panhandle area, an extensive air campaign was waged to interdict supplies from North Vietnam to the south, bypassing the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone of Vietnam.

Most of the casualties suffered in Mr. Anderson’s highly speculative and inflated figure were North Vietnamese regular army soldiers ferrying supplies down the network of roads and paths known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  These were de facto invaders of Laos by international law.
The one fourth of the population who became refugees that Mr. Anderson quotes were the US allied Hmong peoples who lost their ancestral lands to the communist Pathet Lao and resettled in . . . you guessed it, the United States of America.  I know and often work daily with some of these people.

Claim 5: 100,000 people were murdered in South Korea prior to the Korean War by a brutal repression supported by US forces in 1945. This includes between 30,000 and 40,000 killed during the suppression of a peasant revolt on Cheju Island.  
Mr. Anderson’s “brutal repression” was a counterinsurgency effort on the part of the South Korean government to quell a revolution sponsored by the Soviet government.  This was an effort to destabilize the government of South Korea and open the way for a communist takeover.  Those “innocents” murdered were armed revolutionaries attempting to overthrow the legitimate government of South Korea by force.  No attempt was made by these communist insurgents to negotiate or have a say in the government of South Korea. Their goal, dictated from Moscow, was the total subjugation of Korea under a communist regime, securing an additional jewel in the crown of Soviet Hegemony.

When this insurgency failed to accomplish its goals, communist North Korea invaded South Korea and attempted to establish a communist dictatorship by conventional warfare.
Claim 6: Up to 4,500,000 Koreans were killed from 1951 to 1953 during America's massive slaughter in the Korean War.  
“America’s massive Slaughter???”  Not Russia’s Slaughter?  Not China’s slaughter?
In July of 1951, North Korean forces attacked across the 38th parallel in the most blatant act of aggression since Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.  United Nations forces – primarily South Korean and American – were forced back to a tiny perimeter around the city of Pusan.  Whose slaughter was it?  I find it amazing that a defensive action against an unprovoked attack makes America at fault for this. 

After the defeat of the North Korean forces in the south, South Korean and United Nations units pursued the remaining North Korean army deep into the mountains of North Korea.  In the winter of 1951-52, China committed millions of soldiers across the Yalu River in a second act of unlawful aggression to re-establish a communist dictatorship in Korea.  Many of the deaths Mr. Anderson cites were not Korean, but Chinese, because the Chinese were poorly equipped, poorly trained and poorly led.  They relied on human wave attacks in combat, with astonishing casualties. 

In a way, Mr. Anderson is correct.  We could have avoided the deaths of so many by just admitting that communism was better for Korea.  In Mr. Anderson’s world, I’m sure this is true.  Of course, had that happened, Korea wouldn’t be the powerhouse economy it is today.  It would be suffering the same fate as North Korea, which is one of the poorest countries on the planet and suffers from nearly constant famine.  The true disparity between these countries is highlighted by a night time photograph from space.  Perhaps if Mr. Anderson hates the USA so much he should go live in the socialist paradise of North Korea.  I’m sure everyone involved would be happier if he did.
Claim 7: 200,000 were murdered when the Philippines were conquered by American forces. This took place just over 100 years ago.  
In 1984 historian John M. Gates concluded that the maximum wartime death toll was 234,000, of which up to 200,000 resulted from a cholera epidemic largely unrelated to the war.

"When I next realized that the Philippines had dropped into our laps I confess I did not know what to do with them... And one night late it came to me this way... 1) That we could not give them back to Spain- that would be cowardly and dishonorable; 2) that we could not turn them over to France and Germany - our commercial rivals in the Orient - that would be bad business and discreditable; 3) that we not leave them to themselves - they are unfit for self-government - and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's wars; and 4) that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died."—U.S. President William McKinley

McKinley was absolutely right in this regard.  The Philippines was not at that time prepared to be independent.  To really appreciate this, you must be familiar with the Philippines.  The country is one of the most balkanized in the world.  The inhabitants speak no less than 70 different languages.  When the country was ceded to the US by Spain, there were still active head hunter tribes in the rural areas – My own father-in-law was one of those head hunters!
Had the US granted Aguinaldo immediate independence, the result of trying to unify the Filipino people under a single government would have been a civil war with casualties and brutalities that would have made the Philippine-American war seem like a tea party.  You are dealing with a culture of passionate people with no sense of fair play in the western understanding of the term for whom violence lurks just below the surface.  The decision to administer the Philippines in order to prevent a genocidal bloodbath is mirrored in the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq, where the bulk of deaths are caused in Iraqi-on-Iraqi conflicts.

Under the Tydings-McDuffie Act the Philippines was made a transitional commonwealth in preparation for Philippine independence, which was granted on schedule in spite of the disruption of the transition caused by WWII and Japanese occupation.  The USA built roads, schools, government buildings and civic works on behalf of the Filipino people in order to better prepare them for independence.  To this day the Philippines and the United States share a very close relationship
Claim 8: 23,000 people were slaughtered in Taiwan by US-backed, trained, equipped, and funded forces (Chiang's Nationalist army) during the late 1940s.  
Taken in a vacuum, Mr. Anderson would have you believe that the USA trained, backed and funded the Kuomintang Army for the express purpose of subjugating Taiwan.  The fact is that this occurred during WWII, when China was an American ally and the primary front against Japanese aggression.  The bulk of the Japanese army spent WWII fighting in China.  The USA supplied and trained Chinese soldiers, the same as it supplied the Soviet Union to assist in the defeat of Germany.

The United States had no hand in the administration of post-war Taiwan, and cannot be held responsible in any way for any wrongdoing there at the end of the war.  It’s disingenuous for Mr. Anderson to make these sorts of accusations without explaining what the USA should have done differently.  Should the USA have refrained from supporting the KMT during WWII, ensuring a Japanese victory on the mainland, and subsequent ability to resist the US advance through the Pacific?  How exactly, in Mr. Anderson’s opinion, was the USA to have foreseen the abuses in Taiwan as a result of aiding its ally?

Claim 9:  700,000 Indonesians (mostly landless peasants) were murdered in 1965 when the US armed and supported General Suharto.  
The United States supported the Suharto government with arms and aid as part of the general campaign to contain communism.  The US recognized the abuses perpetrated by Suharto, but was essentially powerless to affect Indonesian policy.  The US had learned through its experiences in Vietnam.  The struggle for power in southeast Asia after WWII had less to do with ideology than expediency.  In 1945, the US had the opportunity to support Ho Chi Minh in his quest for Vietnamese independence.  Failing to secure US support, he easily went to Russia and China.  The USA did not want to see that replayed in strategically critical Indonesia.  Likewise, US interference in the perceived abuses by Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem resulted in even worse abuses by his successors, as well as fomenting chaos in the government in the middle of a communist insurgency. 

In short, the Realpolitik of the situation was that Suharto was a bad man, but he was our bad man.  This is a critical distinction since Indonesia sits astride critical waterways, including the strategic petroleum lifeline to Japan and Korea.  As much as the United States deplored the domestic policies of Suharto, there was simply very little that could be done that would not risk alienating Suharto.  A communist dictatorship in Indonesia would have been a disaster, both in terms of human costs and strategically for the free world.  It’s interesting when Muslims use Mr. Anderson’s list to defame the USA, since Suharto was a Muslim leader of a Muslim dominated country.

Claim 10:  200,000 were slaughtered in East Timor in 1975 by General Suharto with US support.  
This claim is in error.  There was no specific US support, contrary to what some left wing blogs allege.  The US state department adopted a policy of silence regarding the invasion of East Timor, because it deplored the act and yet was not prepared to alienate one of the biggest American allies in the region after the collapse of Vietnam.  Mr. Anderson likes to have his cake and eat it, too.  If the United States does not intervene, an atrocity is our fault for allowing it.  If the US does intervene, subsequent violence is our fault for being involved.  Mr. Anderson gets to denigrate the USA no matter what happens. 
Claim 11: 600,000 civilians in Cambodia killed by US bombing 1969-1975.  
The 600,000 figure has often been mis-attributed to the US bombing exclusively, when it is the commonly accepted figure for total Cambodian deaths from the Cambodian civil war that took place during this same time period.  One can only hold the USA responsible for war deaths in this civil war if the Soviet Union and China accept an equivalent share of blame for logistically supplying the communist side in this conflict.
There is simply no way of reliably estimating the numbers of civilian dead from the US bombing campaign in Cambodia.  Reliable estimates range from 30,000 to 800,000.  The murderous excesses of the Khmer Rouge regime eclipsed the tragedy of the US bombing campaigns, and make any form of estimation nothing but a wild guess.  Most of the areas bombed were non-agricultural jungle.  Population centers were deliberately avoided.  It’s hard to see how the figures quoted can be justified without bombing major population centers with an effectiveness that exceeded that of WWII.
During the Vietnam War, Vietnamese communist units staged and operated out of sanctuaries in Cambodia, secure in the belief that the USA would observe the national boundary – a boundary which was not recognized by any of the indigenous combatants.  Vietnamese combatants were easily misidentified as civilians, because they did not wear a uniform, making them either spies or criminals under the Geneva Convention.  The ill-advised decision to bomb Cambodia was the brain child of the Nixon/Kissinger team, and was not supported by the American people or the US Congress.  Nixon, knowing such support did not exist, kept the campaign a secret. 
Claim 12:  750,000 civilians were driven from their homes in East Timor by Indonesian forces in 1999 and 10,000 were killed.  
I’m sorry, I thought this list was of deaths caused by America or American sponsorship.  The genocidal anti-Christian campaign against separatist East Timor by the Muslim government of Indonesia was in no way supported by or condoned by the USA.  The USA pressured the Indonesian government to withdraw from East Timor by threatening to withdraw IMF loans.
Mr. Anderson wants to have his cake and eat it, too.  The United States’ reluctance to engage militarily in East Timor implies to him that the USA supported Indonesia, yet had the USA intervened in East Timor, I’m sure this list would contain an accounting of Indonesian deaths. 

This twisted logic results in the sort of list you see here, where any event can and is twisted to portray the USA in a bad light.

Claim 13: Over 1,700,000 Iraqis have been killed by US bombings and sanctions, mostly women and children. Non-combat casualties from bombing are considered collateral damage.  By any measure, the collateral damage from the US use of air power in Iraq has been extremely low.  What there has been has been a result of Iraq taking a lesson from Vietnam and placing high value targets in close proximity to population centers, to maximize the propaganda potential if the targets are hit.  I personally have no sympathy for some of the civilian casualties.  If a known terrorist leader makes himself a guest in your house, he is inviting a retaliatory strike into your home as well.  Consider that before you let him in.

After the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was ordered to comply with terms of the surrender, or face crippling sanctions.  This was done in the mistaken assumption that the leader of Iraq felt responsibility towards his country and was answerable to its population.  When it became clear that the sanctions were not having the desired effect on the Iraqi leadership, the oil for food program was instituted.  This program was implemented without adequate oversight and review, and made it possible to divert funds from the program to line the pockets of both Iraqi and UN officials alike, at the expense of the Iraqi people.

The assumption was that the stress of sanctions would spur the Iraqi people to revolt against Saddam and get rid of him.  This assumption neglected to account for just how brutally effective a totalitarian regime is at maintaining order, in spite of the example of Cuba.  The Iraqi people chose their fate through inaction, and Saddam was complicit by playing chicken with the West with the stakes being his starving population.  Turns out the West and America cared more for his people than he did.
Claim 14: Over 1,000,000 lives were lost during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s in which the US used direct force and supported Hussein and Iraq.  
The United States did not use any direct force in the Iran-Iraq war. This claim is an outright lie.  The United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein at no discount, which prevented the collapse of Iraq and a greater Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.  Selling a combatant weapons at market prices does not imply sponsorship.  Iraq also bought arms from France, Russia and even Israel.  Do these countries share the blame for supporting Hussein?
Claim 15: 45,000 people were killed in South Lebanon since 1982 by Israel, always armed and supported by the US.  
So if I am to understand this, Israel unilaterally attacks its neighbors without provocation, seeking to expand its Jewish empire.  Innocent Muslims and Arabs flee in terror and bleed under the crushing boot of Israeli tyranny.  I guess Mr. Anderson must have received his degree in history from Hezbollah University.

The fact that Lebanon was and remains a sanctuary for terrorists seeking to attack Israel, both with terrorist infiltration, and more directly as a base for rocket attacks into Israel.  According to Mr. Anderson, this has nothing to do with Israel’s pre-emptive actions to restore order to what is essentially a lawless region of Lebanon.

In the 1980’s competing factions, ethnic groups and ideologies made Lebanon into a country defined more by its neighbors than an internal cohesion.  Syrian army forces occupied Lebanon, as well as Palestinians who made southern Lebanon a country within a country. The United States deployed marines to Lebanon as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, essentially to keep the Israelis in check.  The response to this was a suicide attack on a marine compound which killed 168 marines – an attack by the very people that the marines were there to protect.

Claim 16: Thousands have been killed in Palestine and millions (in both Palestine and Lebanon) were made refugees by US and Britain-backed Israel.  
The Israeli struggle to establish a non-Muslim state in the holy land started without US government assistance.  In 1956, the United States sided with Arab countries to force a cease-fire on Britain, France and Israel when they attacked Egypt for nationalizing the Suez canal.

Since then, the realities of the politics in the area have led the US to support Israel against repeated aggression.  The fact is, that whether you agree that Israel was legitimately established or not, it is here to stay.  Palestinians today yearn for a “homeland” that most of their people have never even seen.  The United Nations has recognized Israel as a country by providing it a seat in the general Assembly.  Israel has a right to exist, and to defend itself against foreign attacks.  Since its inception, Israel had been engaged in no less than 4 major wars, numerous minor conflicts, and an almost continuous terror campaign waged by its enemies.  All of these were defensive in nature.  Israel’s acquisition of territory in these wars was solely to provide buffer zones between the country’s small, densely packed population centers and a group of enemies whose expressed goal is the destruction of Israel. 
Claim 17: Over 75,000 civilians were killed and over one million refugees were created in El Salvador from 1980 to 1994 when the US intensely supported the efforts of a brutal regime and its death squads to eliminate a popular uprisin
Claim 18: 40,000 civilians were killed by the US-backed National Guard in Nicaragua over the course of almost 50 years
Claim 19: 30,000 lives were killed by the US Contras in Nicaragua from 1979 to 1989  
These three claims can be taken together.  The siren song of socialism plays strong to the impoverished countries of Latin America. The less productive the populace is, the more it seems that socialism should level the playing field between the rich and the poor.  Hopeless people who don’t see any hope of making a better life for themselves are inclined to move to seize a better life through government fiat.  Those who dream of bettering themselves resist this, since they see that someday their production would be seized by those who cannot produce.

Consider the passionate Latin temperament, where revenge is obligatory, and blood feuds are normal.  Throw some Kalashnikovs into these conditions, and you have everything you need for an old-fashioned socialist purge. 

The United States funded anti-communist forces in Central America in the 1980’s to balance the aid the communist forces were receiving from Cuba and the Soviet Union.  The United States position is that the solution to the poverty was not to drag everyone down to the same level of poverty, but to sponsor investment which would raise conditions and provide opportunity for everyone.
The excesses  of the anti-communist forces were and are an embarrassment to the United States.  But to hold the United States responsible for these excesses is to suggest that the United States surrender Central America to Communism.  We would have preferred to accomplish this from the moral high ground, but there is no way to give a free man a gun and dictate the rules of engagement under which is to use it.  The US simply did not have any leverage on how the anti-communist forces in Central America were to behave. Withholding support and weapons would have just ensured a communist victory.  Given the track record of communism where it has been tried elsewhere, the body count and level of human misery would have no doubt been just as high, if not higher, under a communist regime.  Further, the presence of regimes friendly to the Soviet Union so close to the strategically critical Panama Canal was unacceptable during the Cold War.
Claim 20: 200,000 Guatemalans were slaughtered from 1960-1990s by a military apparatus trained, armed, funded, and assisted by America.  
Political scientist Michael Radu, in an editorial on the website of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, writes that before 1977 the US only provided a very small amount of military aid. Between 1962, when the Marxist insurgency began, and 1977, the country received $2 million per year, or about $30 million in military aid. After 1977 military aid was stopped and Guatemala was even denied the right to buy parts for American military equipment previously provided or sold. When Romeo Lucas Garcia and Efrain Rios Montt broke the communist insurgency's back and killed the largest number of people during the Civil War, they did so without US military aid. The CIA was no doubt aware of the human rights violations, but since aid was nonexistent the US had no leverage within the Guatemalan military.

Claim 21: Over 35,000 Colombian civilians have been killed during the US-supported Columbian war against left-wing rebels.  
Colombia is the primary source of a good deal of the cocaine that is inundating the United States and poisoning our streets.  The Colombian government has joined with the USA to end the drug trade, and requires US military aid to engage the well-funded and well-armed Colombian drug lords.  The need for this aid is compounded by Venezuelan and Ecuadorian sponsorship of socialist rebel groups in Colombia.  What Mr. Anderson doesn’t tell you is that most of the dead that he cites died at the hands of rebels who make a point of exterminating whole villages to demonstrate the consequences of cooperating with the government.  Since the rebels and drug lords and gang members are not uniformed combatants, I suppose they qualify under Mr. Anderson’s definition as civilians, and are counted in the death toll that they themselves ignited against the forces of liberty and freedom.
Claim 22: Over 3,000 were killed and countless others injured by US interventions in Cuba. 
 Intervention.  Singular.  In 1961, a US equipped force of Cuban expatriates landed on the southern coast of Cuba with the intention of returning democracy to Cuba.  This action was supported by American naval and air power, but was comprised entirely of Cubans on the ground. Mr. Andersons figure is off by an order of magnitude, as only 300 people died in the Bay of Pigs.   
In contrast the Cuba Archive project, headed by scholars Maria Werlau and Armando Lago, puts the death toll from Castro's regime, including deaths at sea and the desperate anti-Communist insurgency of the early '60s, at 102,000. 125,000 Cubans voluntarily left the Socialist paradise of Cuba bound for the evil United States over a six month period in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift. But I guess people killed in the effort to promote global socialism don’t bother Mr. Anderson.
Claim 23: Up to 10,000 more Somalians were killed by US troops during America's "humanitarian mission" in 1993  
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis were dying of starvation in refugee camps.  Somali warlords were preventing supplies from being delivered to these people to maintain their lives.  The United States mission was to protect the delivery of these supplies, and avoid a catastrophe.  No doubt Mr. Anderson would be just as roundly condemning the United States for not taking action to get these supplies through, and hold the USA responsible for even more deaths through neglect.
Mr. Anderson occupies an enviable position where the target of his vitriol can be held to blame regardless of what it does.  He somehow expects the United States to be superman, meeting and defeating evil the world over without actually hurting anybody, and in the process preventing anyone from hurting anyone else.  Unfortunately, his utopian world does not exist, and our leaders are often faced with engaging in a policy that will result in a certain number of deaths in order to prevent a far greater death toll.  By neglecting to acknowledge the alternatives to each action on this list, Mr. Anderson is engaging in intellectual dishonesty of the worst sort.
Claim 24:  1,500,000 were killed between 1980 and 1988 in southern Africa by the US-armed South Africa.  
Mr. Anderson has moved from misrepresentation to pure fantasy with this accusation.  An international arms embargo was placed on South Africa in 1977 with the full backing of the USA.  The USA did not approve of the apartheid policies of South Africa at any time.
Prior to 1977, South Africa was the world’s leading supplier in many mineral resources, including the majority of the world’s chromium supply.  Some of the revenue from this export went towards the purchase of military hardware, some of which was purchased from the United States.  Had The United States declined to sell such hardware to South Africa, they could have bought it from France or the Soviet Union.  South Africa also purchased manufacturing hardware that allowed it to produce its own weapons.  Such hardware has generic applicability and can be used to manufacture many things besides weaponry.   By Mr. Anderson's logic, we should not only prosecute the gun store who sold the gun which was used to commit the crime, but also the gun manufacturer and the manufacturer of the machine that was used to manufacture the gun.
Many thanks to Alba de Veritas for her help in preparing this article.