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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 37: September 10, 2007

  1. 9/11 and Expansion of Government Power
  2. CIA Report Misses Key Mistake Leading to 9/11
  3. Sophie Scholl Dramatizes Moral Courage versus the Banality of Evil
  4. Documentary Exposes Anti-Poor Biases of Mining Foes

1) 9/11 and Expansion of Government Power

“During the past six years, 9/11 has often served as an all-purpose instrument in the state’s propaganda kit,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs in a new op-ed. “For the Bush administration, it has provided the answer to every critical question about foreign and defense policies, among other things.”

Critics of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge increase in spending for “homeland security” (much of it political pork that contributes nothing to public safety), the expansion of domestic surveillance, and the accretion of executive power may crow all they like. In the end, it seems as though the feds need simply invoke the imagery of the brutal al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001, and their wishes are granted.

“No one needs to wait twenty or thirty years, however, to understand how the government has exploited 9/11 at every turn to provide a knock-down justification of its irresponsible (and sometimes criminal) political, legal, military, and fiscal actions,” Higgs continues. “For the Bush administration, no mistakes are ever made, because no matter what the government chooses to do and no matter how disastrously that action works out in practice, it is always alleged to rest on the same purportedly unimpeachable foundation—9/11.”

“Another 9/11—in a Long Series,” by Robert Higgs (9/10/07) Spanish Translation (pending)

The Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11, by Robert Higgs

Neither Liberty nor Safety: Fear, Ideology, and the Growth of Government, by Robert Higgs

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2) CIA Report Misses Key Mistake Leading to 9/11

The CIA’s Office of Inspector General issued a report last month on the agency’s failures in the lead up to 9/11. While recognizing numerous small failures that prevented the agency from “connecting the dots,” the report is especially critical of the agency’s lack of a comprehensive strategy for combating al-Qaeda.

According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Pena, however, the greatest failure of policymakers was their conduct of U.S. foreign policy in the Islamic world, which created the anti-American sentiment that motivated the 9/11 terrorists.

“Certainly, al-Qaida—not Americans or American society—is solely responsible for the death and destruction of those attacks,” writes Pena. “But the U.S. government must be held accountable for ill-conceived policies that have helped motivate terrorism…. To understand what the U.S. government could have done better to prevent Sept. 11 and to understand how we might prevent future terrorist attacks, we need to adopt a more humble foreign policy, as candidate Bush advocated in 2000. That responsibility rests squarely in the Oval Office, not at CIA headquarters in Virginia.”

“U.S. Requires a More Humble, Nuanced Foreign Policy,” by Charles Pena (9/10/07) Spanish Translation (pending)

More by Charles Pena

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3) Sophie Scholl Dramatizes Moral Courage versus the Banality of Evil

In search of a great movie? Independent Institute Research Fellow Wendy McElroy gives “two thumbs up” to Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005), the Oscar-nominated German movie about a real-life university student who attempted to rally her fellow students to oppose Hitler during the Second World War. The depiction of Scholl’s imprisonment, interrogation, trial and execution draws on East German archival records that became accessible after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sophie Scholl is one of those rare movies that maintain tension and suspense even though the outcome is known from the beginning shot,” writes McElroy, editor of Liberty for Women. In contrast to many Hollywood depictions of the Nazis, the film reprises political theorist Hannah Arendt’s famous dictum that the Nazi regime exposed “the banality of evil.” Career-minded bureaucrats—represented in the film by Herr Mohr, the policeman tasked with interrogating Sophie—implemented Hitler’s tyranny at home in strict accordance with German law.

Sophie Scholl is not merely a movie about moral courage,” McElroy continues. “Its value in that respect should not be understated but, for me, the most fascinating aspect was the interaction between ideals and evil that occurs in subtle and varied ways throughout the film. Over and over, those who ‘process’ Sophie’s murder are either morally dead—that is, they have become true bureaucrats who are just doing a job—or they are shaken by the simple truth and bravery of her being. Her existence is a reproach to the devastation they do under the guise of ‘greater principles’ or expediency.”

“Sophie Scholl: A Life of Courage,” by Wendy McElroy (8/18/07) Spanish Translation (pending)

Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Wendy McElroy

More by Wendy McElroy

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4) Documentary Exposes Anti-Poor Biases of Mining Foes

In search of another great movie? The documentary film “Mine Your Own Business” depicts controversies surrounding mining in the developing world, focusing on three poor regions in particular: Romania’s Rosia Montana, Madagascar’s Fort Dauphin, and Chile’s Huasco Valley. According to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Global Prosperity, the film, made by Irish journalist Phelim McAleer and his wife Ann McElhinney, exposes the hypocrisy of anti-mining activists who distort the truth for the sake of preserving the status quo, even when doing so keeps people in poverty.

In some cases, the activists seem to be driven by an anti-development environmental ideology. Incredibly, one Belgian environmentalist says on camera that “the people of [Romania’s] Rosia Montana would rather use carts and horses than pollute the air with cars,” writes Vargas Llosa. In other cases, the activists are pushed by short-term material gain—or the preservation of current profits—though that ulterior motive may be hidden from view. Opponents of the Chilean mining project, according to one villager, “are mainly rich landowners who don’t want the peasants working on their lands for a pittance to flock to the mines for twice their current wages,” Vargas Llosa continues.

The film’s larger message, however, isn’t that all mining opponents are insincere or hypocritical (they aren’t), or that all mining companies are honorable (they aren’t, either). Rather, the message is that economic progress requires people to make choices—sometimes hard choices. “The wealthy nations of today were themselves ‘pristine’ environments in which people gradually gave up traditional ways of life to improve their living conditions,” writes Vargas Llosa. “Who are we to deny the poor of today the chance to do well for themselves when an opportunity arises if they decide to take it?

“Mine Your Own Business,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (9/5/07) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Director)

Visit our Spanish-language website.

Visit our Spanish-language blog.

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