When free speech laws ignore words directly correlated to the fate of millions, while aggressively prosecuting even the most vapid Internet dialogue, we have a world when teenagers are jailed and neoconservative writers are printed in respected newspapers. If Christopher Hitchens can make a logical case regarding Henry Kissinger being a war criminal, then someone should investigate the possibility that similar intellectuals might also be criminally liable for their foreign policy advocacy.
In 2013, a Texas 18-year-old made three comments online and today faces a decade in jail. His life, because of an unwise expression of emotion on the Internet, has turned into a living hell. He spent four months in jail and his attorney says he was beaten and sexually assaulted while in custody. If that wasn't enough punishment for words typed in an online chat room, his bail was set at half a million dollars. According to a February 13, 2014 Washington Post article, Justin Carter has experienced horrific repercussions for statements that haven't affected a soul on this planet aside from him:
Approximately one hour after Justin Carter posted a sarcastic comment on a Facebook thread, his life began to unravel.
Carter's comments were part of a duel between dorks, and may have had something to do with a game with strong dork appeal called League of Legends...Prosecutors say they don't have the entire thread -- instead, they have three comments on a cell-phone screenshot . . .
[S]omeone in Canada -- an individual as yet unidentified in court records -- notified local authorities..."This man, Justin Carter, made a number of threats on Facebook to shoot up a class of kindergartners...He also made numerous comments telling people to go shoot themselves in the face and drink bleach. The threats to shoot the children were made approximately an hour ago."
Based on a Travis County prosecutor's belief that there was probable cause to charge Carter with a third-degree terroristic threat -- which carries a penalty of two to 10 years -- a judge issued an arrest warrant.
According to Carter's attorney, Don Flanary, the 18-year-old suffered brutal attacks in the Comal County Jail during the four months he was held there.
Carter's attorney is quoted in the Houston Press as saying, "They found no guns in his house...They found no bomb-making materials." When it comes to protecting the country from terrorism, it's safe to say that Justin Carter is a victim of a paranoid society. When dialogue among "dorks" playing League of Legends is correlated to an anti-terrorism legislation, an irrational precedent for dangerous speech has been set by our post 9/11 nation.
However, when alleged international relations scholars (often times labeled as neoconservatives) advocate foreign policy decisions that lead directly to bloody civil wars, increased terror attacks in other countries, counterinsurgency conflicts and preemptive wars of choice, then nobody calls the authorities in Texas. While Justin Carter never hurt anyone with his online comments, there are volumes of failed prognostications and horrifyingly false predictions attributed to neoconservatives. These statements -- like calls to preemptively invade Iraq and engage in nation building -- have not only failed miserably. They've had a direct impact upon the lives of millions of Americans and tens of millions of people in Iraq and around the world.
Robert Kagan and William Kristol aren't the only men to advocate the Iraq War or predict a rosy future for America after toppling Saddam Hussein. However, a 1998 article in the New York Times highlights how words correlate directly to the fate of millions of lives. In their article, Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough, Kagan and Kristol overtly state their desire for this country to engage in one of the biggest mistakes in U.S. history:
We can do this job. Mr. Hussein's army is much weaker than before the Persian Gulf war. He has no political support beyond his own bodyguards and generals. An effective military campaign combined with a political strategy to support the broad opposition forces in Iraq could well bring his regime down faster than many imagine...
Does the United States really have to bear this burden? Yes. Unless we act, Saddam Hussein will prevail, the Middle East will be destabilized, other aggressors around the world will follow his example, and American soldiers will have to pay a far heavier price when the international peace sustained by American leadership begins to collapse.
If Mr. Clinton is serious about protecting us and our allies from Iraqi biological and chemical weapons, he will order ground forces to the gulf. Four heavy divisions and two airborne divisions are available for deployment. The President should act, and Congress should support him in the only policy that can succeed.
These words by Kagan and Kristol, as well as the statements and advocacy of similar neocons, should be read alongside today's headlines of ISIS in Iraq and similar headlines of the past decade. Also, compare these words with the impulsive online threats of a 19-year-old in Texas. The words, "Unless we act, Saddam Hussein will prevail, the Middle East will be destabilized," are especially egregious and should be at least scrutinized by our society from a legal perspective. If Justin Carter is accused of being a terror threat when nobody on the planet has suffered from his writing, then a tally should be made of the lives affected by articles similar to Bombing Iraq Isn't Enough.
How many lives were lost as a result of the words of neoconservative writers? Can their words be more easily correlated to terror than the online rantings of an 18-year-old playing League of Legends? If Bowe Bergdahl caused the death of the men who went searching for him, how many deaths were caused by the phrase, "The President should act, and Congress should support him," in regards to overthrowing Saddam Hussein?
When calls to invade Iraq took place by writers long before 9/11, then a case can be made that such advocacy was self-serving. An inquiry should be made as to whether or not neoconservative articles and speeches can be linked to soldiers who died in Humvees without adequate armor, or PTSD cases that caused suicides (in a war that we couldn't wage with a volunteer army) from multiple tours of duty and longer time in combat than any war in U.S. history. If there can be an argument made that neoconservative rhetoric directly led to the downward spiral of American and Iraqi lives, as well as the decline of our country, then a court somewhere in the U.S. should look into a criminal case.
If Justin Carter is a criminal and a terror threat to our nation, and his words affected nobody on the planet, then the vehement advocacy and failed predictions of certain writers should be scrutinized from the legal precedents of existing terror laws. If as early as 1998, with a different president and before the war on terror, neocons pushed for dangerous and misguided military interventions that killed, maimed, and altered the lives of millions, then the legal system should address this hazardous behavior. Clinton might not have listened, but George Bush did and today we face the consequences.
The day that international relations scholars know that their predictions will potentially be subject to legal scrutiny, then we'll have a more subdued dialogue for future wars and military interventions. When someone bets on a horse or football game and loses, they pay their debt. When writers advocate wars that fail, they too should be liable, at least in some legal manner if their words directly influence the fate of millions.