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James Bovard

America’s Benevolent Bombing of Serbia

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Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton commenced bombing Serbia in the name of human rights, justice, and ethnic tolerance. Approximately 1,500 Serb civilians were killed by NATO bombing in one of the biggest sham morality plays of the modern era. As British professor Philip Hammond recently noted, the 78-day bombing campaign “was not a purely military operation: NATO also destroyed what it called ‘dual-use’ targets, such as factories, city bridges, and even the main television building in downtown Belgrade, in an attempt to terrorise the country into surrender.”
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Washington’s Biggest Fairy Tale: 'Truth Will Out'

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The arrest of Julian Assange has produced rapturous cheering from the American political elite. Hillary Clinton declared that Assange “must answer for what he has done.” Unfortunately, Assange’s arrest will do nothing to prevent the vast majority of conniving politicians and bureaucrats from paying no price for deceiving the American public.

“Truth will out” is a phrase that is routinely recited to keep Americans paying and obeying. Politicians and editorial writers toss this phrase out to simmer down any fears that the government might be conspiring against the people. Actually, “truth will out” is the biggest fairy tale in Washington.

The phrase “truth will out” is first recorded in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Often in Shakespeare’s plays, truths come out only after almost everyone has been conned, stabbed, or screwed. It’s not much better nowadays.

When it comes to politics, “truth will out” should be confined to sarcasm and satire, not to serious pontificating.
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20 Years Ago: Bill Clinton Bombs Serbia, Killing Hundreds of Civilians

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Twenty years ago, President Clinton commenced bombing Serbia for no good reason. Up to 1500 Serb civilians were killed by NATO bombing in one of the biggest BS morality plays of the modern era. Clinton sold the bombing as a humanitarian mission, but the resulting carnage resulted in the takeover of Kosovo by a vicious clique that was later condemned for murdering Serbs and selling their kidneys, livers, and other body parts.

But Clinton remains a hero in Kosovo; here is a statue of him erected in the capitol, Pristina. It would have been a more accurate representation if Clinton was shown standing on the corpses of the women, children, and others killed in the US bombing campaign.

The US bombing of Serbia was a crime and an outrage from the start. Editors were chary of articles bashing the bombing campaign so much of my venting occurred in my journal...
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Iraq War Anniversary: Ron Paul’s Opposition Scored the Szasz Award for Civil Liberties

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This week marked the 16th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Plenty of Bush apologists have been rewriting history on Twitter. But Ron Paul was one member of Congress who had nothing to apologize in the run-up to the war. He was outspoken throughout 2002 and beyond, exposing the folly of starting a major war in the Middle East and trouncing the shabby evidence the Bush administration offered.

His valiant fight against the war resulted in his receiving the Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to Civil Liberties in November 2002. He was the only politician to ever win the award named after the legendary psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, one of the great heroes of modern liberty. In the spiel below, I praised Ron Paul as someone who “speaks truth to power;” for the record, that was long before the same accolade was used to burnish our current CIA director. Here are the comments I made at the award ceremony in November 2002 in Washington...
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John McCain’s Disastrous Militaristic Legacy

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When Sen. John McCain passed away last August, he was lauded far and wide for his long career of public service. Rep. John Lewis, the famous civil-rights activist, hailed McCain as a “warrior for peace.” In reality, McCain embodied a toxic mix of moralism and militarism that worked out disastrously for America and the world.

In his funeral eulogies, McCain was portrayed as a hero and a visionary. But early in his congressional career, he barely avoided indictment as part of the Keating Five Savings and Loan bribery scandal that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. McCain repaired his image by becoming a champion of campaign-finance reform and new restrictions on political contributions. In 2002, Congress enacted the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which proved more effective at suppressing criticism than at reforming political life. The McCain-Feingold Act authorized harsh penalties for private citizens who accused their rulers of abusing their power. It prohibited most issue ads by private groups on television or radio in the months before a presidential or congressional election.

In 2003, the Supreme Court (by a 5-4 margin) upheld the new law in response to activities with “a significant risk of actual and apparent corruption.” Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a dissent to the decision upholding the law, that the McCain-Feingold act “cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.” But that was fine with McCain, since he declared that if he had the power, he would outlaw all negative political ads. He declared, “I detest the negative advertising. I think it is one of the worst things that has ever happened in American politics.” Banning negative ads but not political lies was McCain’s notion of a level playing field.
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Ethiopia Crash of Boeing 737 Max Might be Latest Example of Backfiring Safety Efforts

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Another Boeing 737 crashed Sunday in Ethiopia, killing all 157 aboard. This is the second crash of the new Boeing model Max 8 since October. Investigators have only begun sorting out this tragedy but some experts suggest that the plane’s automated safety software may have prevented the pilot from preventing the fatal plunge.

If software and sensors designed to prevent crashes actually increased the risk of catastrophe, then the Boeing accidents are another reminder that safety policies can have unintended fatal consequences.

Unfortunately, policymakers routinely ignore the unforeseen costs of well-intended safety efforts. For instance, the Transportation Security Administration, seeking to make air travel perfectly safe from terrorists in the months after 9/11, spawned airport checkpoint regimes that are so intrusive that many Americans choose to drive instead. A Cornell University study estimated that TSA’s heavy-handed policies helped boost traffic fatalities by at least 1,200 additional deaths.
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Trump's Absurd Claim that Americans Are Free from Government Coercion

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In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump received rapturous applause from Republicans for his declaration: “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.” But this uplifting sentiment cannot survive even a brief glance at the federal statute book or the heavy-handed enforcement tactics by federal, state, and local bureaucracies across the nation.

In reality, the threat of government punishment permeates Americans’ daily lives more than ever before:

The number of federal crimes has increased from 3 in 1789 to more than 4000 today. Congress has criminalized “transporting alligator grass across a state line; unauthorized use of the slogan 'Give a hoot, don't pollute'; and pretending to be a 4-H club member with intent to defraud," as the Buffalo Criminal Law Review noted.

Law enforcement agencies arrested over 10 million people in 2017— roughly three percent of the population. Trump momentarily noticed the existence of government coercion last month when he complained about the FBI using “29 people” and “armored vehicles” for the arrest of Roger Stone. But SWAT teams conduct up to 80,000 raids a year, according to the ACLU, mostly for drug arrests or search warrants. Many innocent people have been killed in such raids.
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Julian Assange Deserves a Medal of Freedom, Not a Secret Indictment

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been secretly indicted by the Trump administration’s Justice Department, “a drastic escalation” of the feds’ efforts against him, the New York Times reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and labeled Assange a “fraud,” “coward,” and “enemy.” But rather than a federal indictment, Assange deserves a tweaked version of one of Washington’s hottest honorifics.
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Beltway BS on 'Speaking Truth to Power'

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Lying and piety go together in Washington like ham and eggs. After 9/11, a profusion of government falsehoods on Iraq and other topics ravaged official credibility. The political class responded with an endless profusion of promises to “speak truth to power.” Unfortunately, there are far more Washingtonians praising honesty than there are honest politicians.

According to Wikipedia, “Speaking truth to power is a nonviolent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive or authoritarian.” Ironically, that phrase has become one of the favorite accolades in the least trusted city in America.

When seven-term congressman and low-watt Republican functionary Porter Goss was nominated in 2004 to become CIA chief, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) endorsed him after he promised to “always speak truth to power.” Fat chance: after he was confirmed, Goss speedily sent a memo to CIA employees muzzling them, declaring that their job was to “support the administration and its policies in our work.” Goss bungled the CIA so badly that the Bush administration heaved him out less than two years later. Columnist Walter Shapiro observed, “Normally under Bush, promoted-above-your-abilities incompetence is not a firing offense unless, of course, you drown an entire city.”
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