Thank you Ken, & thank you my fellow liberty minded peace activists both here & online.
Focus on Peace is an inclusive peace movement, one that people of all political persuasions can join in good conscience. The idea has been around for a while, but it has been all rhetoric until now.
For example, the International Action Center (IAC) had a conference last November named the "Regional ANTIWAR Conference and a National meeting to STOP FBI Repression", they hailed it as "…a discussion of a new kind of unified & inclusive antiwar movement that can challenge the wars abroad and at home". As is usually the case with left wing antiwar organizations this one too comes with their social agenda as part of the package. On their website they state that part of the discussion is to be about "…a massive movement to bring the war $$, troops, and mercenaries home now, rebuilding our cities, providing jobs, schools and health care that we all have a right to". Bringing the troops and mercenaries home sounds great. It is the part about then using the money saved to finance the government’s spending on social programs the is a problem for the liberty minded. Given these realities the question has to be asked, is this really an inclusive antiwar movement?
No doubt that by now progressive listeners are rolling their eyes wondering how this crazy libertarian can be against spending money on health care and education. This isn’t the time or place to engage in a debate about these subjects, we can do that later after we end the wars. Now is the time to agree to disagree on some things and unite to stop the wars and oppression.
Libertarians are reaching out to the left to stand together for peace. I approached the organizers of the October 16 peace rally in Philadelphia last year at their planning meeting a few days before the event. There I was politely, but firmly, told that they were completely unwilling to change their left wing agenda for future rallies to accommodate other points of view.
Earlier this year there was a meeting in Philly leading up to the big peace rally of April 9th in NY. There Joe Lombardo of the United National Antiwar Committee specifically said that the anti war movement can not be politically neutral. He said it must take up causes like social justice, the environment, & the Palestinians in order to be effective.
Then there was the Declare Peace Fair that the Brandywine Peace Community had over the 4th of July weekend at Independence Hall. There a couple of the hard line socialists stood in front of the Focus on Peace table directly & rudely contradicting our message of unity in the peace movement.
Lastly, there is the strange reference on the One People’s Project website to “crackpot libertarians” latching on to the peace movement to advance their agenda. Hmmm….good thing the left doesn’t do that!
When the left tacks on a social agenda to their antiwar coalitions that others can not endorse they tell us we’re not welcome. We’re not asking any of the organizations and individuals that are part of IAC or similar groups to change their advocacy. Their speakers can advocate all the same things they have before. Same with the signs they carry. All we ask is that the antiwar coalitions themselves be politically neutral so we can all join them in good conscience.
Fortunately, not everyone one the left is against unity. Several Greens, Naderites, & progressive Democrats have said they support a united peace movement. Veronica Nunn of Brooklyn for Peace wrote in an email "I looked at your website and I really like what the group is doing. There are quite a few people that are very turned off by the extreme left approach to peace.".
Joan Wile of Grandmothers Against the War wrote a reply to a comment I made to an article she wrote stating her support for the Focus on Peace concept, “I totally agree, Darren. I get so frustrated when at a rally, for instance, speakers bring up unconnected controversial issues that turn people off who otherwise are dedicated to ending the wars. It's certainly a problem, and I'm appreciative that you brought it up.”
Also, Bob Small, a local Green Party leader wrote on a mailing list:
One of my Leftist Friends questioned how to bring in
people from other political persuasions to the
Anti-war movement because "they don't agree with us
on other issues". My feeling is that is why the anti-war movement
has had thirty years of fragmentation, marginalization,
and dissolution. The last March on Washington
I attended featured fifteen other issues, including a few I
disagreed with. That was over five years ago.
I decided they could stop the war without me.
All of us who think that way need to come together. One obstacle that I’ve run into is people on the left claiming that to achieve peace we have to work on the big picture, which includes social & economy justice. I certainly agree that there is a big picture though it is not the one they talk about. When the left decries the government’s diversion of its resources from human needs to the military it is on to something. War does impoverish us. What the left needs to understand is that a government with the resources to build schools also has the resources to build drones, a government with the resources to build roads also has the resources to build jet fighters, and a government with the power to tax and create money has the resources to pay for the weapons mentioned above and to wage war.
And wage war it will, for as the progressive commentator Randolph Bourne wrote "War Is the Health of the State". Giving the state resources only feeds the war machine. Welfare at home and warfare abroad are just flip sides of the same coin. We can not give the government the tools it needs to wage war and expect it not to do so. I’m not talking about weapons here. It’s not enough to advocate that they not buy weapons. We must take away the tools they use to acquire them. This means that we must end the Federal Reserve System, the income tax, the federal government’s social spending, its regulatory role, and its police powers. Peace will only come when the government is powerless to commit evil acts both at home and abroad.
That’s a libertarian view. I’m not saying that everyone has to agree with it to stand with us against the wars, far from it we welcome people with other political views. All we ask is for the same consideration in return. Imagine the strength of a truly united and inclusive peace movement. We can do it. All it takes is a little tolerance and understanding.
A quick word about Focus on Peace. Our purpose is to have a peace movement that welcomes people of all ideologies, creeds, and beliefs. One that makes everyone feel not only comfortable but a part of the movement. No one should feel that they are endorsing someone else's political agenda when standing up for peace. To this end we have only one focus: ending the wars abroad. Now that the summer is over we will be getting back to our popular sign waves again. Stay tuned for those. More important is that we’re organizing what will hopefully be the first annual Philadelphia Peace Fair, modeled on the annual Brooklyn Peace Fair. There will be exhibitor’s tables, workshops, & well-known speakers, details to be announced soon. The date is Saturday, April 7th of next year at the Friends Meetinghouse at 4th & Arch Sts in Philadelphia, don’t miss it. If you or your group would like to take part you can rent a table &/or place an ad in the program. Don’t hesitate to contact me about this.
There is a sister group with the same goals that deserves to be mentioned. That is Come Home America. Their website is ComeHomeAmerica.US. The basis of this group is a book titled ComeHomeAmerica.US it’s a compilation of essays resulting from a gathering of unlike-minded people who are nevertheless united in their alarm about the destructive consequences of our country’s runaway militarism. The meeting held in February of last year included people from the right, left and radical center, from progressives and conservatives, and liberals and libertarians. It reflects the views of many Americans that are not represented in the political dialogue in Congress, the White House, or the mainstream media.
This group too deserves your support.
Let me touch on one of the mainstream views of why the US needs to intervene over seas. The idea that the US is fighting defensively overseas to keep the Muslim hoards from taking us over is so ridiculous that it needs no debunking. The idea that we’re promoting democracy is made an obvious lie by just looking at the dictatorships, past & present, that the US supports. Let’s put aside the media clown’s & politician’s babbling. A much more serious reason to intervene around the world is the protection of international trade. The argument is that since the US is dependent on global trade we have to control the seas to assure our continued prosperity. If we don’t control the seas another power that does could cut us off from our overseas markets badly hurting our economy. Certainly there is some logic to this argument.
One advocate of this view is George Friedman, the founder & CEO of Stratfor, which stands for Strategic Forecasting. It is a private global intelligence company giving non-ideological analysis. He wrote a great book earlier this year titled “The Next Decade”, talking about the geopolitical realities in the world for the coming 10 years. While I can’t agree with his pro intervention conclusions, Mr. Friedman makes good points that few Americans are willing to face. The major one being that the US has become an unintended empire. That’s important to bear in mind when talking about controlling the shipping lanes around the world. The great empires have always been about trade as much as about military control, sometimes more so. We’re no different.
To get to debunking the pro empire trade argument, every benefit must be balanced against its cost & the cost of maintaining an empire goes well beyond just the federal govt’s defense budget, which sure is a huge cost greatly slowing our economy, not stimulating it as some claim. Taking our cues from the wisdom of the French Classical Liberal economist Frederic Bastiat who in his essay “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen” tells us that we have to look deeper than just the obvious that’s right in front of our noses. The benefits of empire would seem to be the trade & relative prosperity that we enjoyed until this recession started. Should I say “End the Fed” now? The cost of empire is also in what is not produced because of the kind of govt it imposes, & the economic & social policies such a govt implements. Earlier I touched on how welfare & warfare go hand in hand. To get the populace to tolerate the cost of empire & support the govt those costs must be hidden & the people must be bought by means of a welfare state. I’d like to add to that the regulatory state. Intervention abroad requires intervention domestically. In order to be strong enough to project power overseas the govt has to tighten its grip domestically if only to acquire the resources to do so, doing many harms in the process. I’m talking about how taxes, regulation, & welfare drain the economy & severely limit growth. Just one example, Social Security, is conservatively estimated to cost us 5% GDP growth every year. Taxes & regulation only add to the destroying of our wealth. When anyone says that losing our overseas markets will make us poorer the answer is to point out that the empire has already done that.
I haven’t even touched on the destruction of our civil liberties under the kind of militarist democracy we live under. We just heard about how the Transportation Security Admin is trampling our rights. Soon you’re going to hear a talk about how the US has become a police state & another talk about opposing curfews so I won’t go into much detail now. Suffice it to say that what seems obvious to us in the liberty movement isn’t always obvious to the rest. One argument I hear a lot is that we’re way free compared to the way they lived under the Nazis so everything is just fine here. I disagree, we may not be suffering as much as the unfortunates who lived under Hitler’s govt, but that doesn’t mean we have the liberties we should have either. The process should be obvious to all by now, the illusion of liberty must be maintained. It is as Thomas Paine warned in "The Rights of Man":
…the portion of liberty enjoyed in England is just enough to enslave a country more productively than by despotism, and that as the real object of all despotism is revenue, a government so formed obtains more than it could do either by direct despotism, or in a full state of freedom, and is, therefore on the ground of interest, opposed to both. They account also for the readiness which always appears in such governments for engaging in wars by remarking on the different motives which produced them. In despotic governments wars are the effect of pride; but in those governments in which they become the means of taxation, they acquire thereby a more permanent promptitude.
One reason I decided to stop picking on the left & move to the mainstream is that we need to expand the peace movement. If it remains a matter of the radical left on one side & the libertarians on another it will keep getting the same dismal results it has up until now. In between these 2 sides is the great middle. You know the famous Joe & Jane Sixpack. Their not radicals. They may be Democrats Republicans, or independents. They may also be anti war, but where have they been able to turn? Until now we’ve left them out of the peace movement. Now, though, with groups like Focus on Peace they have a place to go to engage in peace activism.
Getting back to the intellectual I most love to debunk, George Friedman, also in "The Next Decade" states that he passionately wants the American republic to survive the empire it has acquired. Long live the unintended empire! That means the republic is dead though. He rightly points out that the Roman republic was overwhelmed by its empire & doesn’t want to see that happen here. Unfortunately, it has already happened here. We’re not about to have an emperor a la Caesar, but the form of the republic lives on long after the reality of it has died. Patrick Henry told us long ago that we can't be both a republic & an empire at the same time in his speech "Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?":
But now, sir, the American spirit, assisted by the ropes and chains of consolidation, is about to convert this country into a powerful and mighty empire.... Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government. What can avail your specious, imaginary balances, your rope-dancing, chain-rattling, ridiculous ideal checks and contrivances? But, sir, "we are not feared by foreigners; we do not make nations tremble." Would this constitute happiness or secure liberty? I trust, sir, our political hemisphere will ever direct their operations to the security of those objects.
Today the world trembles before the American government's might. That includes the Americans themselves who are increasingly victimized by it. Patrick Henry's prophetic words come back to haunt us. I know where I stand when it comes to the question of "Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?". I say liberty, always & forever! Anyone else here feel that way? Whether you’re on the left or the right join us in standing for liberty by standing with us against the greatest destroyers of it there are, war & empire.
You can check out our website, fopeace.com, for updates on what we’re doing. Those of you here in this room please sign up for our email updates too. Thank you, & let me say goodbye by wishing you all peace & prosperity.