Goodbye, Charley Reese

Deonandia has long been fond of quoting one eloquent old curmudgeon named Charley Reese. The man is sort of a Libertarian, sort of a paleo-conservative, but most of all a fellow who’s lived long enough and grouched about so much that he no longer allows labels to define his viewpoints. I haven’t agreed with everything he’s written, but much of it. Over the years, I’ve shared many of his nuggets with readers of this space. Now, Mr Reese is retiring. His final column is here, and some of his archives are here.

Here is a sample of some of the quotes I have lifted from his articles. Reese is (was?) important because he was one of the few self-proclaimed “conservative” American pundits who had not drunk the kool-aid, a man who voted for Bush then slapped himself on the forehead afterwards, a pro-gun Southerner who nonetheless understands the duplicity of the American empire and the needlessness of its foreign pugilistic ambitions. Thomas Payne would have been proud of Mr. Reese. (#23 is my favourite, but I think #18 will prove to be the most poignant in the long term.)

[1] “…the U.S. has fought only one justified war in this and the past century. That was World War II. Putting aside the fact that the U.S. government provoked Japan into attacking, attack it did, and the U.S. had a right to respond. We were not attacked, however, in Korea, Vietnam, Libya, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Iraq.”

[2] “The government should not regulate people’s private lives at all. It should protect them from force, fraud, usury, foreign attacks and the rape of our share of the planet. Other than those, if some people wish to self-destruct, it’s nobody else’s business, least of all the government’s.”

[3] “Terrorists should be considered criminals, and their acts as ordinary crimes. Physically dealing with terrorists is properly ordinary police work. There is no war involved.”

[4] “Oh, yes, collective punishment against innocent civilians is a war crime, and it is an Israeli specialty.”

[5] “The fact is, the Bush administration has created a gulag, as Amnesty International recently charged. Certainly it is not on the scale of Stalin’s, but a series of prisons in Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and in other, hidden places where people are held indefinitely without charges and without access to even humanitarian organizations can be fairly called gulags.”

[6] “What we are witnessing is the beginning of the end of Euro-American domination of the planet. When the emperors start being idiots, the empire is on the way to the ash heap of history. If you have any grandchildren, you might suggest that they study Chinese.”

[7] “The so-called war against terrorism is unwinnable… The analogy of war is a false one. The proper analogy is simply dealing with individual criminals and a few criminal gangs.”

[8] “…The only prevailing morality in the country is greed. Greed has corrupted politics, law, science, medicine, education and even the church.”

[9] “We are, I believe, living in the twilight of Euro-American domination. We are like a former world champion gone to seed from luxurious living.”

[10] “The Iranians are just as sensible and levelheaded as anyone else. Don’t buy the propaganda that they are all a bunch of crazies. They’ve been around a lot longer than we have. I would trust them with nuclear weapons as much as –perhaps even a hair more than– I trust Bush. Americans must stop allowing politicians and propagandists to scare them into reckless behavior.”

[11] “When they finally hang Saddam Hussein, we’ll probably miss him.”

[12] “Those who opposed this [Iraq] war have been proven right, and those who advocated it have been proven wrong.”

[13] “[The USA is] the only country in the world that has military forces permanently stationed all over the Earth. All imperialism, even the American form, is ultimately based on social Darwinism, a belief not openly stated these days that we are a superior people and therefore must inevitably rule in one way or another the inferior others…. The code word we use for superiority these days is ‘democracy.’ It is democracy that is superior to all other forms of government, and therefore we are doing people a favor to spread it.”

[14] “If you cannot condemn the flagrant abuses of Palestinians by the Israeli government, then you are undoubtedly a bigot, the worst kind of racist pig who believes that Palestinians are some kind of subspecies of the human race. If you do condemn in your heart these terrible abuses, but are afraid to speak out about them, then you are a damned coward.”

[15] “All we have to do is cut the apron strings from Israel and pull our troops out of the Middle East, where they have no business being anyway, and Middle East terrorism directed toward us would evaporate overnight. We have no natural conflict with the Arab world or it with us, and most assuredly Islam is not our enemy.”

[16] “Times are a-changing, and the world is not about to let America impose its will on everyone else without resistance.”

[17] “The probability is high that [the Iraqi people] will drive us out and Overthrow whatever puppet government we leave behind. The question is how many billions of dollars and how many American lives we want to spend teaching George Bush a lesson he should have learned at the library.”

[18] “There is a definitely a whiff of anti-intellectualism – so characteristic of fascist states – in the air. Beware of bully boys who worship the military and scoff at museums and libraries. Beware of people whose limited brains see everyone as either an ally or an enemy. Beware of people who can’t tell the difference between patriotism and military conquest. Beware of people so stupid and ignorant that they accept anything and everything the political and the media demagogues tell them.”

[19] “I’m afraid electing Bush president was like handing a loaded gun to a 6-year-old.”

[20] “If we allow our government to pursue perpetual war, then we will lose our freedom altogether. It might be true that the first casualty of war is truth, but the second is individual freedom – especially the freedom to dissent from the war government’s policies. That’s why we must elect people who will eliminate terrorism the only way it can be eliminated – by correcting the injustices that cause it.”

[21] “Our American service people take an oath to defend the United States, not to serve as legionnaires on the outposts of a global corporate empire.”

[22] “…in every democracy in the world, including ours: the slow slide toward authoritarianism. Democracy has always had a short life span.”

[23] “Most Americans grossly underestimate how very dangerous stupid people can be.”

[24] “God, has no one in the Bush family ever read the Constitution?”

[25] “A good start [to reducing global poverty and population] would be to stop selling armaments to governments. Armaments are a negative investment. They don’t create wealth. If they are used, they destroy it. A million dollars sitting in a tank is a million dollars unavailable for food, medicine and education. A lot of poverty is a direct result of military expenditures and wars for power and loot.”

[26] “What is the difference between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland and Bush’s invasion of Iraq? There is no difference. Both were unprovoked attacks in violation of international law. Both were blatant attempts to achieve political objectives by force – in Hitler’s case, the annexation of Poland; in Bush’s case, regime change. Morally, there is not a thread’s difference between the bombing of Warsaw and the bombing of Baghdad.”

[27]
“The Bush policy in regard to Iraq has been a fraud from the beginning, and it remains a fraud with the appointment of an old CIA leech as prime minister to oversee the rape of Iraq by the favored corporate pirates. The Iraqi people know the score. The question is, Do the American people?”

[28] “The Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Started by Great Britain and France at the end of World War I. The Kurdish conflict? Ditto. In fact, the modern Middle East was created by a Frenchman and an Englishman without the slightest reference to the wishes of the native people or any natural borders… And while we still struggle to undo mischief begun in the past century, our leaders are creating mischief that might well occupy our posterity. Here again, what they are doing appears plain stupid on its face.”

[29] “[Bush is] the only president in my lifetime who has liked to boast about how little he reads. He needn’t boast. It’s quite evident. I don’t say he is dumb, but he is without a doubt the most willfully ignorant man who has occupied the White House in recent years.”

[30] “I have often said that history is a lot scarier than Stephen King’s horror stories. I get scared every time I hear Bush talk — or try to talk.”

[31] “Two American political myths are about to collide with reality. One myth is that economies can continue to grow indefinitely. The other is that we can find a substitute for petroleum.”

[32] “The human race consists mostly of idiots, with a scattering of wise people. The problem with political systems is that most make it difficult to put the wise few in the positions of power. Thus, for the most part, in every generation the world is ruled by idiots, some of whom have criminal minds.”

[33] “And for God’s sake, folks, why would anyone believe that if we are willing to shoot, bomb, burn and dismember Iraqis and destroy their country, we would hesitate to employ torture? The United States is without a doubt the most self-deluded nation on Earth, and that nest of liars who occupy Washington work full time to maintain the delusions.”

[34] “This entire glorification of war – as if the whole and only purpose of the government and the country were to fight wars – smells of fascism. The news media glorify the war and militarism; we get the same dose on television, in the movies and in video games. If the American people aren’t careful, they will wake up one day to find out they’ve become a nation of mindless heel-clickers.”

[35] “The Arab world sees us – correctly – as an accessory before and after the fact to all the crimes Israel commits against the Palestinians and other Arabs in the area. We cannot load Israel down with modern weapons, with gifts of more than $90 billion of American tax dollars, with absolute protection from all attempts to hold it accountable under international law, and then pretend we are innocent. We are guilty by proxy of murder, land theft, destruction of property and all the other human misery that Israel has caused in the region.”