Free people should think for themselves…

Published in Expansión

…or otherwise they will soon cease to be free. People, let’s get a move on. If we want to be free citizens living in free countries we have to start thinking for ourselves, as adults, without believing blindly everything we read, hear or see as if we were not equipped with common sense or the ability to reason. It is essential that we preserve our skepticism, our “chastity of the intellect” as Santayana would put it, particularly if the information concerns those who hold power. We have a century of experience in the massive use of propaganda by rulers in order to manipulate us and justify their pathological craving for power, and we have the experience of millennia of how power corrupts, destroys morals and clouds all judgment. Isn’t that enough experience as to continue fooling around with an innocence that is nothing more than guilty ignorance?

“Truth is war’s first casualty”. Without a doubt: it is in war that propaganda becomes more aggressive, since power must offer a moral justification to the murder —often mass murder— of human beings. The depersonalization and demonization of the enemy allows soldiers, and the citizens who support them at home, to use a double standard to judge the loss of human lives on one side and the other, transforming what is usually a defense of spurious interests or a quest for greater power into an oversimplified, fallacious fight between good and evil, which is thus legitimized. Without prejudice as to what happened and ignoring how much truth there is in what they tell us, let us use the alleged chemical attack in Syria as a recent example. What questions should a free citizen ask? Almost the same ones that would a free journalist (that endangered species) who wishes to be faithful to his main mission: to be the first line of defense of the citizens against the abuse of power by the rulers.

The first question we must pose to try to understand what happened is not exactly new. Nearly 2,000 years ago, the great Seneca (born in Rome’s province of Hispania, what is currently Spain), wrote: cui prodest scelus, is fecit, “whoever benefits from a crime, committed it”. Cui prodest? “Who benefits from this?” Let us think. The Syrian government has won a war that had nothing to do with a fight between dictatorship and democracy, little to do with a civil war and everything to do with a power struggle within the labyrinth of the Middle East, a regional war between Saudi Arabia (with Israel’s ad hoc support) and Iran, and a world war between the U.S (and its usual lieutenants) and Russia. The “opposition” was suspiciously plagued of ISIS mercenaries and similar species while in the “official” side fought the Syrian army, that was wiping out the last remaining enemy positions and that, after a long siege, was within hours of entering the city of Douma. Why would the Syrian regime take the risk of launching a chemical attack, which would provoke a Western response —as it had occurred before—, and would not bring any military advantage whatsoever? The upside-downside analysis just does not make any sense at all. Chemical weapons are used as a last resort by those who are losing; it is a sign of weakness, and Assad is winning. Therefore, the cui prodest takes the Syrian regime off the list of suspects and puts the focus on its opponents (mainly Islamic fundamentalists).

The second question would be: what exactly was the military target, why was it so vital and why could it not be successfully tackled with conventional weapons? The lack of a clear answer feeds suspicion.

The third question: is it a coincidence that the alleged chemical attack took place the same week that Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops? And last but not least, one must ask: Why, after the bombing, does the Western press (“the good guys”) bury the issue to the extent of trying to silence prestigious military experts who question the authorship of the alleged attack (among them, a former British Lord of the Seas)? Obviously, silencing attempts are usually not a symptom of truth-seeking efforts. The last clue that should lead us to a healthy skepticism, in the absence of further evidence, is the extremely limited reaction of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, which if it was indeed “proportionate” (as those governments claim it to be) would show they don’t believe there was such chemical attack. By the way, in 2001 France awarded “Animal” Assad its highest decoration, the Legion of Honor no less (now they mumble je suis desolé, etc.).

Free citizens might continue to ask themselves deeper and more uncomfortable questions. If in order to launch a missile attack on a sovereign country without prior declaration of war or legal cover (either UN or Congress-based) we need less evidence than to give someone a speeding ticket, are we not dangerously close to a situation of international anarchy where rules no longer exist and the law of the jungle prevails? Why should deaths caused by chemical weapons be more of a scandal than deaths caused by conventional weapons? Are some victims less dead than others? Do the loved ones of some victims feel less grief over their loss? Why are “collateral damages” caused by “the good guys” less horrifying than those caused by “the bad guys”? And why is the use of chemical weapons banned, while the use of nuclear weapons —which are both dissuasive and potentially apocalyptic— is not? Is it about the defense of humanitarian principles or is it mainly about the (possibly indispensable) protection of the oligopoly of power by the few countries in the nuclear club?

I don’t know whether it was a set-up or whether the chemical attack really took place, and who was responsible for it. I doubt we will ever come to know the facts for certain. However, it is irrelevant that, although our reason will usually point to the right direction, we will sometimes make occasional mistakes when drawing logical conclusions from the limited information available. The important thing is that, by thinking for ourselves, we protect our freedom by making it difficult for political leaders to manipulate us and misuse their power. We stop being meek lambs who only know how to bleat and become human beings, with the dignity that we deserve. The defense of truth is a source of freedom and, thus, there is a direct link between today’s dreadful disrespect for the truth and the growing loss of personal freedom that we are suffering. Either we understand that the defense of freedom implies an active and tenacious defense of the truth, and a constant effort to not let ourselves be overwhelmed or we will soon cease to be free. The life of a free man is not comfortable, no doubt, but we were not created to be slaves. That is not our nature, and it should not be our destiny.