Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, April 2003

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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

In the wake of televised tours of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, much ado has been made about his luxurious lifestyle, which might imply that the consequences of the economic sanctions that the U.S. government has enforced against Iraq for the past 12 years have operated only against the Iraqi people and not against Saddam. But I have a question: How come neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. military’s embedded reporters ever talk about the palatial lifestyle of nearby rulers, such as those in Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia or give televised tours of their palaces so that the world can see how they live? Yes, it’s true that those rulers are friends of the U.S. government, but why should that make a difference when we’re examining the lifestyles of the political rich and famous? Oh, and while we’re on the subject, would it be too much ask why the U.S. government isn’t promoting democracy in those Islamic countries?

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Lest anyone still operate under the misconception that Republican-appointed federal judges protect the rights and liberties of the people during times of crisis better than Democratic-appointed federal judges, consider recent speeches by two U.S. Supreme Court justices, Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer:

Justice Scalia (Republican appointee): From the Associated Press, March 18, 2003:

The government has room to scale back individual rights during wartime without violating the Constitution, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Tuesday. “The Constitution just sets minimums,” Scalia said after a speech at John Carroll University in suburban Cleveland. “Most of the rights that you enjoy go way beyond what the Constitution requires.” Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative judges, was responding to a question about the Justice Department’s pursuit of terrorism suspects and whether their rights are being violated. Scalia did not discuss what rights he believed are constitutionally protected, but said that in wartime, “one can expect the protections will be ratcheted right down to the constitutional minimum. I won’t let it go beyond the constitutional minimum.”

Justice Breyer (Democratic appointee): From U.P.I., April 14, 2003

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Monday that the courts, not the government, will decide whether judges have jurisdiction over detainees held in terror investigations…. Breyer said the federal courts should learn from mistakes made in the past. Those mistakes included, he said, “the speech-censoring Alien and Sedition Acts … during the Republic’s early years … President (Abraham) Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. As a result, Union generals imprisoned 13,000 to 18,000 people — all without benefit of judicial process.” The mistakes also included the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, “when the federal government removed 110,000 individuals of Japanese origin, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, from their homes in California, sending them to camps … in Mountain and Midwestern states.” The Supreme Court, in 1944’s Korematsu vs. the United States, “a decision that we now recognize as shameful, held that the Constitution permitted it.”

What is particularly disappointing about Scalia’s position is that he, of all people, should know that a primary purpose of the federal judiciary is to serve as a barrier that protects the rights and liberties of the people from the potential tyranny of the executive branch of our government. If the judicial branch becomes as supine and acquiescent to the president’s will as the congressional branch has become, then what’s the point of having three divided branches of government, each with its own powers? After all, wouldn’t it be a lot easier and more efficient for the president if we were to simply merge all three branches of government into the executive branch and then “limit” the president’s powers to “doing the right thing,” just like they do in totalitarian countries?

Monday, April 28, 2003

George Orwell was right after all: Tyranny is freedom.

On April 25 the Washington Times published an op-ed entitled “Tyranny in China” which stated in part:

“One year later, the Chinese government has not formally charged Mr. Yang with any crime; it has not permitted him access to his lawyer; it has not allowed him to communicate with his family, friends or indeed anyone in the outside world; and it has not respected the time limits legally prescribed for detention and arrest. In fact, there has not even been any formal confirmation of where he is being held. The only response of the Chinese government is that it is investigating the case and suspects him of illegal entry and ‘other crimes.’ For Christina Fu and their two children, it is as if Mr. Yang has disappeared from the face of the earth.”

On the same day the Washington Times published an article entitled, “Ashcroft: U.S. Can Hold Illegals,” which stated in part: “Attorney General John Ashcroft says the government can detain illegal immigrants indefinitely when federal authorities determine they pose a threat to national security.” Moreover, as everyone knows, the U.S. government is also now arresting and incarcerating American citizens for an indefinite and indeterminate period of time, denying them a trial and prohibiting them from communicating with family, friends, and attorney.

As everyone also knows, unlike people who live in communist China, Americans live in freedom. (“Well, I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.”)

So, you see, Orwell was right: Tyranny is freedom!

Saturday, April 26, 2003

With all the evidence surfacing regarding Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, wouldn’t this be a good time to revisit the issue of whether our government should be involved in the same sort of misconduct?

Or is such conduct evil only when Saddam Hussein does it but good when U.S. officials do it?

And while we’re on the issue of tyranny and torture, in light of U.S. officials’ last-minute use of “We need to free the Iraqi people from tyranny” to justify its invasion of Iraq, why is it that U.S. officials continue to deport people who have suffered tyranny and torture to the very countries whose governments have tyrannized and tortured them?

Indeed, given U.S. officials’ professed opposition to tyranny and torture, why do U.S. officials continue to forcibly repatriate Cuban refugees into Cuban communist tyranny knowing that Castro tyrannizes and tortures people living there?

Indeed, why do U.S. officials continue to warn Fidel Castro not to permit large numbers of people to flee Cuban communist tyranny and torture by coming to the United States?

For that matter, given that the U.S. government supposedly now opposes tyranny and torture, does that mean that it now intends to close down its infamous Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, previously named the School of the Americas, which teaches tyranny and torture?

Friday, April 25, 2003

In light of the U.S. government’s profound commitment to democracy in Iraq, how about an immediate up-or-down vote among the Iraqi people on the following proposition: “Should the U.S. government stay or leave?”

All U.S. officials, including President Bush, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Viceroy Garner, and General Franks could campaign freely among the Iraqi people, explaining to them why it’s important to keep U.S. military forces in Iraq after the ouster of Saddam Hussein. They could even demonstrate the virtues of American democracy by telling Iraqi voters what they tell American voters: that if they vote the wrong way, they won’t get any more federal funds.

What could be more democratic than that? In fact, how about having the same vote right here at home?

Thursday, April 24, 2003

The war crimes with which former Iraqi officials will be charged will undoubtedly include the alleged use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s as well as their purported use of such weapons against Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

Would it not also be appropriate to indict the people who conspired to provide those weapons to Saddam Hussein and all the people actually did provide those weapons to him, with the intent to help him use the weapons in that way.

Some of those people and businesses are from the United States, but why should that make a difference?

The U.S. government has refused to become part of the International Criminal Court, arguing that the United States can be trusted to mete out justice to its own war criminals. What better opportunity to show the world that the United States does not countenance war crimes committed by Americans?

Why shouldn’t Congress convene hearings into who furnished Saddam Hussein with his weapons of mass destruction and why? Why shouldn’t a federal grand jury be authorized to issue subpoenas and indictments to make the same inquiry?

Isn’t that what justice is all about?

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

An article in Tuesday’s Washington Times entitled, “$100,000 Question Hard to Answer,” is sure to give hope to Iraqi officials chosen by Washington to serve in the new Baghdad administration. The article points that there are more D.C. employees receiving $100,000 salaries than there are in Chicago, a much larger city, and actually 10 times more than in Baltimore, which is about the same size as D.C.

In the meantime, the Washington Post reports that well-paid, fat-cat D.C. “consultants” are not doing too shabbily themselves. For example, former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt is receiving a $236,000 fee for a six-month stint with the D.C. Health Department writing “a nice little report about how technology can protect the city from bioterrorism.”

Now, you might think that one way close the city’s looming budget deficit of $323 million would be to reduce those generous salaries and consultant fees. But why do that when the federal government is nearby? To solve his financial problems, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams is pleading with Congress to — you guessed it! — increase D.C. taxes and send D.C. more federal money. Of course, the feds have their own deficit problem but, hey, no problem — they’ve got the Federal Reserve’s monetary printing press to crank out unlimited amounts of “free” federal money — in D.C., Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and all the other places in the world they’re building and rebuilding.

Tuesday, April 22

The U.S. government’s lackadaisical attitude toward looting is reflected in the Pentagon’s appointment of Ahmed Chalabi as its candidate for president of Iraq. Confirming the old adage about birds of a feather flocking together, Chalabi might well share Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s sentiment about looting being just an “untidy” aspect of “freedom.” It turns out that Chalabi fled Jordan in 1992, before being indicted, convicted in absentia, and sentenced to 22 years in prison for fraud and embezzling $300 million of depositors’ money from a bank he operated in Jordan. No word yet on whether Jordan intends to invade Iraq based on the U.S. government’s refusal to cooperate by returning its new “man in Bhagdad” to Jordan to face justice.

Monday, April 21

Last week, we posted a review of Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America by Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute. The review, which appeared in the Washington Times, was written by William H. Peterson, an adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation and a contributing editor to the Foundation for Economic Education’s Ideas on Liberty.

Peterson’s article motivated former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who now serves as chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation, to write a letter to the Times (“Heritage Holds Line on Drugs”) clarifying that Peterson was “speaking for himself in his book review, and he does not represent the views of the foundation.” The Heritage Foundation, Meese emphasized, continues to support the war on drugs and “believes that the best approach is the strategy established by President Reagan in 1982.”

Pity the poor neo-cons: embracing decades-old failed and bankrupt big-government central plans while still embossing on their stationery the old 1950’s Chamber of Commerce bromide “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.