Baloo—Dog of Kokesh
Freedom-loving ex-marine seeks a House seat on Republican ticket
Given that I had just read Jim Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn, written by one Mark Twain, and given that I especially enjoyed the passage reading, “A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise,” and given that I never have had a fondness for politicians—nor understood those that did—it was with no small amount of wickedness that I set out from the heart of Albuquerque to conduct an interview on the outskirts of Santa Fe with newly announced Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Adam Kokesh. Mr. Kokesh, who professes a libertarian-leaning agenda, will be seeking to replace the current representative for the 3rd Congressional District, Ben R. Luján (D), who defeated Dan East (R) in 2008 after Tom Udall (D) left the seat to run for the U.S. Senate. Because the 3rd Congressional District is strongly democratic, Mr. Kokesh will have to exert a novel appeal as he stalks the Nov. 2, 2010 election. The 27-year-old veteran and New Mexican native saw action with the U.S. Marine Corps in Fallujah in 2004, became active with the anti-war movement upon returning home and studied political management at George Washington University.
From what little I knew of Kokesh, I had already made up my mind to not like him much—mainly due to his youth, ambition, radical politics and prior association with the Marines. Despite my best efforts as an army paratrooper, the particular strain of enthusiasm that Marines embody has always eluded me—the narcissistic eagerness to be ground into sausage first, the unbridled contempt for anything short of blind obedience, the devotion to killing. I preferred to serve—and did serve—with common ornery soldiers, like Sergeant Bowers of Twain’s Marion Rangers: “Night shut down black and threatening. I told Sergeant Bowers to go out to that place and stay till midnight; and, just as I was expecting, he said he wouldn’t do it. I tried to get others to go, but all refused. Some excused themselves on account of the weather; but the rest were frank enough to say they wouldn’t go in any kind of weather.” These contumacious rangers were no Marines, and during my years of soldiering, I was the happier (and drier) for it.
Because my goal was to circumvent stock answers, I labored, while driving, to come up with some unexpected questions for the former Marine sergeant. In fact, I was so fixed on coming up with hard questions and practicing their delivery—and gloating over his imagined responses—that I missed the turn for his campaign headquarters, where the interview was scheduled. Fortunately for all involved, I realized my mistake not too far north of Pojoaque and was able to double back and still arrive within reasonable sight of late.
Regarding the parley, I would have preferred for it to take place at his home because I believe where a man hangs his shirts and walks around barefooted is more revealing of a person than a campaign office. So it came as a pleasant and unexpected surprise to find that, in the case of Mr. Kokesh, campaign headquarters and home were served by the same roof—and the same front door. The import of this particularity being that I was greeted upon arrival by not one but two Kokesh loyalists: his campaign manager, Tina, and at her heels, Baloo—dog of Kokesh.
If Mr. Kokesh had intended for Baloo to serve as chief of public relations, he could not have selected a more winning and effective ambassador. Before even meeting Mr. Kokesh, I found myself quite unable to continue disliking him, despite my best intentions—all due to Baloo. But enough of Baloo: What of Kokesh?
Is the issue of Iraq and Afghanistan sufficiently in the public discourse?
No, but I realize that it’s not unique as an issue that way when it comes to morally unsound things our government is doing domestically and abroad—and abroad in subtler ways than our overt military interactions and our financial manipulations through the World Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund]. We’ve been talking about knowing the nature of government: George Washington said, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquent, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master,” and we’ve allowed it to become the master of our society, and we’ve done it by checking out, not paying attention.
And it’s not just the war. At least we were paying enough attention to the war to vote Democratic seats in 2006 to end it. That election was a referendum—a national referendum on the war. It should have been January 2007, when they were sworn in. They could have cut off the funding, they could have mandated withdrawal. But no, they would rather perpetuate their own power and continue to posture against George Bush so they could take the White House; and Pelosi said it explicitly, they don’t have a firm enough grip on the Senate even.
“Government has turned into nothing more than a very complicated scam to steal from the poor to give to the rich.”
There are some that have quipped that our withdrawal from Iraq will mark the largest transference of air conditioners in the history of mankind.
You mentioned in the past that upon serving in Iraq, you discovered that some of our enemies that need to be addressed were not to be found overseas in the desert but right here at home, in the form of domestic tyranny. What are some of the dangers we’re facing regarding our liberties, our civil rights? Are we in a place where we need to be thinking about those issues?
Yes, absolutely, and I can sum it up in a single word: statism. That’s the enemy. It’s an idea and it’s something that is really pressing, and something that we have to rid ourselves of.
This is the paradigm shift; this is the revolution away from statism. Statism is the belief or the inclination of society to turn to government to solve their problems, to turn to systems of force and violence and coercion rather than creating means of cooperative collaboration to better humanity.
This turning to systems of violence often turns to systems of exploitation. And this is the mentality we’ve come to in the United States: Oh, there’s something wrong? Well, there ought to be a law, or the government better do something about that, and it’s an abdication of our responsibility as moral human beings to say, “Well, we’re just going to have someone else solve our problems. We’re going to vote for that, and then we’re going to go back to sleep. We’re going to demand things that other people are going to pay for, and we’re going to use the guns of government to get them for us, or our special interests,”—to the point that today, government has turned into nothing more than a very complicated scam to steal from the poor to give to the rich.
That segues into another topic, and that is your platform in a nutshell: smaller government and minimizing taxation? Is that a fair characterization?
No, it’s deeper than that. I mean, yeah, that might be fair at some level, but we’ve all kind of got guns to our heads in this society today. I’m saying let’s just slowly put the guns down and find ways we can do this cooperatively and voluntarily. And by the nature of not having to sustain all those violent systems, or violence-based systems, we’ll also be much more efficient and productive and happier as a society.
“If insurance companies in a free market did what HMOs are doing, they would be out of business tomorrow.”
If government could be shrunk, or there could be less governmental bodies, what are some of the things government is now involved in that it could withdraw from or back away from?
Well, one of the things that is really at the core is the intervention into the economy—the domination of the entire economy through the fiat currency system of the Federal Reserve. In a national free market, there is a texture: There are people that are better off than others, but it’s relatively flat, like a rough fabric. What they’ve done with the central bank is grabbed a tiny piece of that and pulled it way up and distorted the entire fabric of society by creating this grossly unnatural concentration of wealth and power in the Federal Reserve System—and I don’t know if you’re familiar with how the Federal Reserve works ...
Simply by the ability to create money out of thin air, they have power that extends into so many aspects of society. Because there is nothing at this point that gives our dollar any value more than the paper it’s printed on since it was taken off the gold standard. The only thing that gives it any value is our shared illusion that it has value; and when we as a society allow this illusion that has been propagandized into us to be maintained, and when we still grant this power to this one entity—the power to create money out of thin air—basically we are authorizing them to steal from us.
Your thoughts on the bailouts?
It’s criminal: It’s just the best organized armed robbery in history. It’s really all it is. You know all systems of exploitation have had the component of fear and threats and violence; and now, what we see in the way government works today, there’s relatively a very small amount of violence and actual threat of violence. Not many people have to get taken away to jail to pay their taxes. You [arrest] one and you scare the rest into never speaking out. That’s all you got to do. And it’s all imposed by propaganda that carries these threats that say if you don’t do this you’re a bad citizen ...
Control by fear?
Yes, control by fear, but more than by fear—by propaganda. That’s what makes it so dangerous—that it’s not always overt fear as much as much more deceitful, much more intricate deceptions. They convince you to do this because it’s the right thing—the right thing to give up your human rights, to give up the inherent human rights of liberty for the betterment of society, or to keep America safe, or to take care of the poor, or whatever the excuse is. It’s always to give someone more power, [when] there is always a way to accomplish whatever those goals they’ve set out through voluntary means of cooperation, without turning to systems of violence and exploitation.
You’ve served as an artilleryman ...
Artillery reserves and then active civil affairs [in Fallujah, Iraq].
What other jobs have you had that put you in touch with the basic experience of average Americans out there working?
“Not many people have to get taken away to jail to pay their taxes. You [arrest] one and you scare the rest into never speaking out. That’s all you got to do.”
Well, I’ve had a lot of various jobs during my time in the reserves. I worked as a bartender at Chulaco, one of the restaurants that’s in the famous—sort of—restaurant black hole off of Old Pecos Trail. I worked at my dad’s gun shop for a summer, working on the floor in the machine shop. I’ve worked in a print shop. I’ve been pretty lucky to have a wide variety of jobs and experiences that I think allow me to relate to a wide range of people. But more important than that is the perspective I’ve taken on in terms of putting human rights and human liberty at the forefront and wanting to dedicate my life to serving humanity.
A large amount of people are forced into bankruptcy due to medical bills, catastrophic medical bills. How important is it to have accessible affordable health insurance for Americans, and is this a responsibility government should address?
The reason that we have gotten to the point where we are in the health care industry today is because of government intervention. Now insurance in other industries—or, hypothetically, because all industries are subject to some government intervention—they serve a legitimate function and give a legitimate service to their customers in terms of mitigating risk—that’s sharing risk—and catastrophic insurance can function that way in the medical industry as well. But since the HMO Act of 1973 where you had these artificial entities created that would never exist without government mandate—and the force of government backing them up—we’ve gotten to a system of prepaid health care that gets corporations a discount and forces people into these monstrosities of systems that have no accountability to the consumer. And that’s the problem.
But that’s the genius of the market [as well]; that if you’re going to make money as a company in a true free market where you don’t have any favors from the government, you have to do your best to serve people. And if insurance companies in a free market did what HMOs are doing, they would be out of business tomorrow. No individual in their right mind would go to an HMO for health insurance; it’s ridiculous. But because we have a system where that’s the only option, or [the only option offered through] your employer, then you also have the problem of being dependent on your employer. You could have a system of health insurance that is not something that you pay into monthly or yearly, but that includes a provision that would cover you so if you lost your job you could still have health care.
These are all things that if people want, the system will provide. Now we have such a screwed-up system in the country today because of government interventions that it’s not something we can just go, “All right, take the government out completely, let it go and turn it back to the free market,” and I understand that that is like pulling the rug out from underneath a lot of people. We can’t do that. So you have to have a way to transition out of this in a way that involves less government and less violence and less intervention, and more respect for individuals and consumers and what they want. And if what they want is a way to pool risk, there are mechanisms for that. But in the system that we have today, where we do have such a gross imbalance of power and control in the medical industry—as in most aspects of society—it may be appropriate for states and cities or counties to organize a kind of communal health care that I hope would be voluntary.
“What made me suspicious about global warming when it first was raised was not the science, because I’m not an expert, but the way it was being exploited, like the fear of terrorism, to scare people into giving the government more authority.”
A Canadian astronaut assigned to the International Space Station reported that in the 12 years since he was last in orbit, the ice caps appear to have melted. Is global warming and climate change—the way it has been reported in the news—is this something that deserves the kind of attention the scientists are clamoring for, or is this [melting of the ice caps] also part of the natural warming and cooling trends that this planet has experienced for, you know, millennia?
[Laughs.] This is great, now every politician has to answer this intensely scientific question. Well, what we’ve seen from recent data is that the world is cooling all of a sudden, and people who were clamoring about global warming don’t know what to say about it. What made me suspicious about global warming when it first was raised was not the science, because I’m not an expert, but the way it was being exploited, like the fear of terrorism, to scare people into giving the government more authority. Rather than trying to convince people to do something, to use reason and logic, to appeal to humanity to say, “We need to do something about it,” it was, “No, you need to give up more power and authority to the government for them to take this on.” And that’s what bothered me about it.
Tell me about the importance of these words to you: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
Where did you get that?
I did some research in preparation for the interview, and in one of the clips that I saw, the interviewer was asking you about these words because it is part of a tattoo ...
Yeah, OK. [Rolls up his sleeves to reveal tattoos of verse on the insides of his forearms.] My left arm is the one I got in the Marines, and then the one for IVAW [Iraq Veterans Against the War] has that quote. In a way it kind of sums up the paradigm shift away from systems of violence, when we’re able to meet fellow human beings with love, and we choose love over fear, and love over power and exploitation.
Final thought: If you are elected to the House of Representatives, any plans for a third tattoo?
[Laughs.] I think one government institution having left its mark on me is enough. I don’t know, I wouldn’t rule it out, though.
Alex E. Limkin served with the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq from 2004 to 2005.