Anti-War's Angela Keaton on Women, War and the Ethics of Empire
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Angela Keaton.
Introduction: Angela Keaton is the Director of Operations at Antiwar.com. She is currently chairman of the board for the Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) and national secretary for Outright Libertarians. Among her proudest movement moments were as producer for Antiwar Radio with host Scott Horton from 2006-2011.
Daily Bell: Give us some background on yourself.
Angela Keaton: Grew up surrounded by a family of immigrants, artists, intellectuals and academics in New York. Various family members were influenced by the ideas of Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and strident anti-communism. Was mostly schooled privately or at home which I left at 15 or 16, unaware that most people were not terribly interested in the nature of government power. After some culture shock and confusion, found myself at a large state university in the Southeast collecting degrees (an excuse to get paid to read), hanging out at the few punk rock and gay clubs and participating in assorted performance art, Dadaism, obscurantist word play and prankery.
In the early '90s, I was simultaneously preparing a bourgeois career as a lawyer and political scientist and a bohemian one in the arts, both of which came to a grinding halt during my young adult rage over the brutal destruction of a commune outside of Waco, Texas by the United States Government (USG) in 1993. People's reactions to that siege became a litmus test of both one's character and empathy. Later came to the realization that all of this could be combined and expressed through radio journalism.
Daily Bell: How did your views evolve and become anti-war oriented?
Angela Keaton: How much evolution does one need to mind one's own business and keep one's hands to one's self? One can glean that from simple observation.
The focus on the antiwar issue began on September 11, 2001. The events that day were no shock. The Rothbardian view of history was the window to the future; the violation of the non-aggression principle only reaps violence, chaos and destruction. 9/11 was the inevitable response to the USG's foreign policy in Central Asia and the Middle East. The courage of the late Harry Browne during the hours the followed was inspirational. Browne's essay, "When Will We Learn," was published the next day at Antiwar.com.
Daily Bell: How did you become directly involved in Antiwar.com?
Angela Keaton: Had been reading Antiwar.com since about '99. Remember joking around with my friends after reading a 2003 San Francisco Weekly article, "Intrepid Antiwarriors of the Libertarian Right Stake Their Rightful Claim to Power," which was a slightly skeptical and comedic take on Antiwar.com. (Mused that it would be the ideal place for someone like me.) By 2006, my buddy, Free Radio Austin's Scott Horton, came up with an idea that eventually became Antiwar Radio. Not long after he put me on the phone with Eric Garris. I was terrified and in over my head within a minute of the conversation. Two years later I was full time. Having abandoned any normal career path, I am both punished and blessed in daily reckoning what it means to be an American in the age of Empire.
Daily Bell: What is your role in antiwar.com?
Angela Keaton: My job is simple: to end the United States Government (USG) campaign of violence, oppression and brutality abroad. Specifically, I raise money, organize activism Antiwar.com might sponsor, handle media requests, am ombudsman for the donors and readers, represent us at conferences and liaison to the libertarian world.
Realize that this is a very fortunate and lucky thing: I work with and for people at Antiwar.com who uphold high standards in commitment, integrity and work ethic.
Daily Bell: Give us some sense of your writings and videos today.
Angela Keaton: Video: "Antiwar.com's Angela Keaton on Fox News's 'Freedom Watch' and "Angela Keaton on Fox Business Channel."
Much of my writing through the last decade was on a blog called "Anarchist Bitch" which archived my time as host of the Liberated Space, my comedic riffs on the internal libertarian culture war and coverage of the death throes of the Libertarian Party (US). Occasionally, I sucker punch on LewRockwell.com and the Libertopia Festival blog.
Daily Bell: What is your sense of the world today? Who is primarily behind most major wars today? Is it NATO and the West?
What is going in the Middle East? Please give us your reactions to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.
Angela Keaton: Here's where you ask variations on all the same questions, which is the key to the answers.
1. When we discuss power, we are discussing people who behave badly. These people sometimes find their interests aligned. No dark conspiracies needed. People should watch old t.v. soap operas, read classic novels or observe children. That would be far more helpful in understanding the hows and whys.
2. People are pack animals besotted with hierarchy. We adore status, class and categories, the last of which allows us to stick things in boxes without having to think critically or use the most basic discernment. It also allows for the one true and real conspiracy: language. "Women," "The Gays," "The Arabs," "The Jews" don't exist. Only individuals exist. Mock Ayn Rand all you wish but the concept of the individual as something real and vital is not only morally righteous but would be a consequentialist step toward peace. Recognizing individual human dignity makes bombing and torturing people more difficult.
3. Treat someone poorly long enough and he or she will eventually react either with passive-aggressive resentments or with direct action.
4. There is no such thing as 'bringing democracy' or 'liberation' by the USG, NATO, The West or whatever terms it is one uses to describe the Empire. First, how can the most potent violent force in human history bring anything but violence? Second, Latins, Arabs and everyone else the USG tries to pound into submission are painfully aware of CIA coups, phony revolutions, paid off puppets, military aid bribes, client states, colonialism and the giant military installations in their back yards. The victims aren't fooled. One doesn't have to slog through Zinn or Chomsky or Rothbard to see what is in front of one's face. 'Spreading Democracy' is a euphemism for maintaining the Empire: the expansion of the most powerful state in human history, which oppresses and violates the most basic rights. Why would any sane, rational person want any part of that?
5. Not everything in the world is done by the CIA. Paranoia, however, is a creative and natural response to observing the evil done by the state. If you have the misfortune of being any sort of racial or religious minority or a woman or anyone who dare not fit, sooner or later you might come to the realization that the state, government, the USG, is racism, patriarchy writ large. Conspiracy theories flourish under suppression and subterfuge.
Go to a college campus, hang out at Fraternity Row. Take in a student council meeting. When there is power to be had, the unethical will seize it. It's a character defect to desire power over others. Human beings are full of character defects.
Daily Bell: The argument has been made that the West is creating a kind of Islamic arc in the Middle East and Africa to manufacture an enemy to continue a kind of phony war on terror. Your reaction?
Angela Keaton: The USG creates enemies. It's all a cycle of blowback now. Chickens or eggs – does it matter? The real question is when will we be evolved enough to engage in ethical trades for resources and lands? When will we be sophisticated and tolerant enough to live and let live? And when will we learn to resolve conflicts without violence?
Daily Bell: Is Islam evil? Is there a difference between Sunni and Shia Islam? Is the West is some sense fighting a genuine war against terrorist Islam?
Angela Keaton: There was a time when intellectuals, free thinkers and adventurers saw Islam as this quaint little religion. Hippies and drug enthusiasts embraced Sufism and people were encouraged to travel to these exotic places. Call it patronization or Orientalism if you wish but it is far preferable to hysterical Islamophobia, anti-Arabism and all the related forms of bigotry, which should be horrifying if anyone actually bothered to remember anti-Semitic rhetoric leading up to the holocaust. How many times do we need to learn this lesson?
Daily Bell: Is Islam inevitably a terrorist religion?
Angela Keaton: My immediate reaction to this question was something flip as in, "No more so than Catholicism leads to pedophilia or Judaism to Zionism," but the new atheism does service to the great lie of USG foreign policy. Terrorism has tangible root causes in war, torture and occupation. One only needs the simplest understanding of human nature to recognize that people will take action to remove the boots on their necks. Actions have consequences. A is still A and people will still hate you for killing their children.
While I am at this point, while this is highly unfashionable to say, for me, Catholicism and Judaism minus the mysticism, spiritually and tribalism inform my ethical understanding of the world. These ideas that are supposedly the underpinnings of western civilization are what I act out upon. There is nothing unique about me. The world is likely full of millions of people who likely have that same relationship with Islam. These questions all have roots in a lack of empathy and imagination. Muslims are not cartoons. They eat, breathe, form families and try to impress their mothers just like we do.
Daily Bell: Does Islam mistreat women? Should the West rescue the women of Islam?
Angela Keaton: The first part: No more so than any other patriarchal religion. The treatment of women by men is the subject of another entire interview but let's say that Islam is particularly anti-women. Feminism is part of the struggle for basic human dignity, which cannot be created by force. Force, the use of violence, the use of power and privilege over others will not end force, power and privilege and the use of violence. The cynical use of feminism in regard to the occupation of Afghanistan is another example of how the USG co-opts and corrupts every aspect of each modern liberation movement.
The second: "Rescue?" Women are not small children or inert objects. Any authentic feminist revolution comes from within the woman herself. If one wants to see feminism in action Malalai Joya stood up to the USG, quislings, war lords and elites on her terms without any regard for her own comfort and safety. That's courage any woman anywhere can draw upon.
Daily Bell: Is Western society different and better than Islamic societies? Is Afghanistan better off with a Western-style government?
Angela Keaton: How does one begin to parse this out? If you mean by "the rule of law," "guaranteed human rights," etc., clearly the USG is not an exemplar. If you mean by efficient means of producing consumer goods, distributing literacy and marginally better treatment of minority groups, perhaps but if the Tea Parties, Occupy, black bloc, the new anarchists inspired by Ron Paul are any indication, more and more people are less and less impressed by cheap microwave ovens.
Daily Bell: Regardless of the rationale for such wars, should the US and NATO withdraw from them? Is it necessary to the defense of the US to participate in them?
Angela Keaton: Yes. No. In fact, the pursuit of the empire is not only antithetical to the national security interests of the American people but undermines any claim to Judeo-Christian ethics, Western civilization and basic human rights.
Daily Bell: Are you a supporter of closing down American bases around the world?
Angela Keaton: Yes.
Daily Bell: What is your position on a reasonable defense for the US and for NATO?
Angela Keaton: NATO? I am not a fan of collectives of any kind, particularly street gangs with the ability to carpet bomb.
Respect and friendship with all. Free and voluntary trade. Can't we just buy oil like normal human beings? People can exchange goods and services for land. That's what normal would look like.
Every day, I wake up in Los Angeles surrounded by millions of people of every imaginable race, creed and color, speaking scores of different languages, in both sexes and all gender constructs. It rarely erupts into violence apart from what is instigated though the police state and the drug war. These people, each an individual, make exchanges with each other without treaties or armed guards.
Daily Bell: Will you continue to advocate these views? What is next for you?
Angela Keaton: I will continue do so as long as Antiwar.com will have me or until the Empire is dissolved.
Finding a way to get paid for hanging out at the gym and visiting all the places I read about.
Daily Bell: Any books, articles or websites you want to recommend?
Angela Keaton: Besides Antiwar.com: Arthur Silber's blog, The Power of Narrative, Chris Floyd's Empire Burlesque, the Black Agenda Report, the American Conservative, anything at the Future of Freedom Foundation blog, especially Andy Worthington, and Glenn Greenwald. The National Interest carries some of the best consequentialist work including nearly everyone at Cato's foreign policy division. Subscribe to Rational Review and TomDispatch. Books: Why Peace, edited by Marc Guttman; We Who Dared to Say No to War, edited by Tom Woods and Murray Polner, ComeHomeAmerica.US, edited by Paul Buhle, Bill Kauffman, George O'Neill, Jr. and Kevin Zeese and Against Equality: Don't Ask to Fight Their Wars, edited by Ryan Conrad.
Daily Bell: Any other comments?
Angela Keaton: I smile every time I re-read that line in the chat logs where we learn that Bradley Manning is a gay, libertarian, atheist, computer nerd.
Daily Bell: Thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts with us.