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, November 2004

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The last few weeks have not been kind to sons of prominent bureaucrats.

First, Howard Stern brought to public attention that Michael Powell, the head of the FCC, the American version of the Taliban’s Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, is the son of Colin Powell. But both Michael Powell and his father claim that Michael was selected for his position strictly out of merit and not because his father is a retired army general and current U.S. secretary of state.

And now we learn that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s son was being paid by one of the companies involved in the scandal arising from the oil-for-food program, which was imposed by the United States and United Nations on the Iraqi people in a purported attempt to alleviate the massive suffering that the U.S.-UN embargo was inflicting on the Iraqi people throughout the 1990s.

As a result of the sugar-coated treatment about the nature of government in high-school civics classes, unfortunately many Americans are unable to recognize that patronage and corruption are an inherent part of government welfare and regulatory schemes. Rather than focus on “getting better people into office” or “eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse,” Americans would be better served restoring the free market by eliminating such regulatory schemes as the FCC and international economic embargoes and such socialist schemes as the oil-for-food program.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The upcoming national elections in Iraq are undoubtedly going to be one of the most bizarre political events of the year, assuming, that is, they even go off as planned on January 31. So far, there doesn’t seem to be much active campaigning for office, which is perhaps not too surprising given the ongoing attacks, killings, mayhem, and destruction taking place on a daily basis.

The violence has now caused some Iraqi politicians to call for a delay in the election, despite the fact that the country is under the rule of a non-elected dictatorial stooge of the CIA, who would continue ruling the country if the elections were delayed. However, so far U.S. officials are insisting that the election must be held as scheduled, and the leading Shite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is in agreement.

It will be interesting to see if the U.S. position changes as January 31 approaches, given that Sistani’s followers make up the majority of voters. If the Shiites were to win, they might well decide to impose an Iran-type of Islamic regime on the country, not to mention booting all U.S. troops out of the country. That obviously would not sit well with U.S. officials, who invaded Iraq for the precise purpose of installing a U.S.-friendly regime and who are already planning many bases all over Iraq to base all the troops that were taken out of Saudi Arabia after the 9/11 attacks.

So, will U.S. officials permit a democratic election to occur in Iraq even though the result might well be a non-U.S. friendly regime? Given that U.S. officials have not permitted elections up to now for fear of an “adverse” outcome, it would not seem likely, but we’ll surely find out by January.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Despite adverse rulings against Pentagon officials in the Hamdi and Rasul cases, federal officials are steadfastly maintaining that they have the legitimate power to seize and hold American citizens for the rest of their lives after labeling them “enemy combatants” in the federal “war on terrorism.” That’s what federal attorneys are saying in official pleadings recently filed in federal court in response to the petition for writ of habeas corpus of American Jose Padilla, who has been held by the Pentagon in a military brig without charges and denied due process of law, habeas corpus, right to counsel, and trial by jury.

As we have steadfastly maintained here at FFF ever since the Pentagon assumed this ominous, Soviet Union-like power, it is impossible to overstate the ominous nature of such power. If the Pentagon were to prevail, then there would be nothing stopping U.S. military officials from doing to Americans what they’re doing to Iraqis—rounding up whomever they want, labeling them an “enemy combatant,” and locking them away or, even worse, torturing or executing them. And there would be nothing that such Americans could do about it—not even hiring an attorney or going to court.

The power that the Pentagon is claiming in the Padilla case is what Cuba is all about. And the Soviet Union. It is not what America is all about. America is about Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and habeas corpus.

We must continue to fight to protect these fundamental rights which our ancestors fought so hard to bequeath to us. We should not permit the military authorities to suspend them or terminate them. We owe it to ourselves, our predecessors, and our successors to continue defending our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the principles they represent.

Friday, November 26, 2004

U.S. officials are threatening to “trim” $140 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine officials if they don’t declare the U.S.-supported candidate president of that country in the midst of reported electoral fraud there. Wow! That’s almost reason enough to hope that Ukraine officials say “No way!” After all, ask yourself: given that U.S. federal spending is out of control and far exceeds that which is being brought in, resulting in a constant plunge in the dollar, why in the world are U.S. officials sending our hard-earned money to Ukraine and, well, for that matter, to any other foreign officials in the world? Isn’t it time to bring a stop to these international welfare payments, which are designed for nothing more than bribing, extorting, and cajoling foreign officials into obeying the dictates of U.S. officials?

And while we’re on the subject of elections, wouldn’t it be wonderful to see U.S. officials exclaiming against ballot-barrier laws (i.e., petitioning requirements to run for office), limits on campaign contributions, and other such tricks, whose purpose is to maintain incumbents in office, with the same vehemence that they exclaim against fraudulent elections in other countries?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

As the dollar continues to plunge in international markets due to out-of-control federal spending, take a look at how much pork those “patriotic” members of Congress voted for themselves in their $388 billion spending bill:

Pet Projects Unleashed in Spending Bill

Lawmakers’ Pet Project Lay Deep Inside $388 Billon Spending Bill

As we have long pointed out here at FFF, the critical issue in monetary and fiscal policy is not the level of income taxes but rather the level of federal spending. When the government spends more than it takes in, the excess government spending will ultimately have to be paid by the citizenry. Historically, the way government officials pull that off is by simply printing the money to pay the excess, which causes a general debasement or devaluation of the currency, which means people can buy less with their money than before. That’s the infamous “inflation tax” but the problem is that most people have no idea that their politicians and bureaucrats are behind it, instead believing government pronouncements that the plunge in the dollar is due to mysterious forces beyond the control of the government. The next time you’re having financial difficulty making purchases, think about the reason–out of control federal spending, including all that pork that the “patriotic” members of Congress are sending back home to purchase votes in the next election.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dan Rather is resigning his post as CBS news anchorman, most likely because of the mistake he made in publishing what turned out to be a false story about President Bush’s war record.

Federal officials screwed up by failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks and then by using non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to scare the American people half to death into supporting the invasion and war of aggression against Iraq, a nation that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Unlike the Dan Rather error, the federal errors cost the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of innocent people. Yet, not one single person in the federal government been fired for these screw-ups; on the contrary, they’ve all been praised, glorified, promoted, and given more money and power.

Aren’t the differences between the government and private sectors amazing?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ironically, while the U.S. government is flexing its brutal military might all over the world, including Latin America, China is spreading its economic might peacefully, both into Latin America and Asia.

Thus, while the U.S. government continues to weaken our nation through military and imperial adventures, much as the Roman government did to its people, China, despite being a socialist country, continues to grow stronger through peaceful economic cooperation with the people of the word.

The danger the American people face is twofold: one, empires historically start wars with growing economic powers (who are viewed by the empire as “competitors”) and, two, the unrestrained government spending that comes with empires inevitably threatens the economic well-being of the citizenry, as we have been arguing for a long time here at FFF and which Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan emphasized last week.

Maybe that’s why China issued its somewhat humiliating advice yesterday to the U.S. government that it should take responsibility for its financial misconduct and not blame others for it has done to the American people. Unfortunately, the advice is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Defenders of the brutal ten-year embargo against the Iraqi people have scoffed at the notion that the sanctions played a significant role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, perhaps because the thought that the U.S. government, which is portrayed as good and caring in U.S. public (i.e., government) schools, would never involve itself in a program with such horrific results.

Yet, truth is truth: the sanctions, in conjunction with Saddam Hussein’s socialist system, operated as a vise that squeezed the life out of hundreds of thousands of innocent children. Out of conscience, two high UN officials resigned their UN positions, even while U.S. officials were saying that the deaths were “worth it.”

Now, we’re learning that even Iraqi children are suffering under the Allawi regime. According to the Washington Post, “Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago…. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from “wasting,” a condition characterized by chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.”

“‘Believe me, we thought a magic thing would happen’ with the fall of Hussein and the start of the U.S.-led occupation, said an administrator at Baghdad’s Central Teaching Hospital for Pediatrics. ‘So we’re surprised that nothing has been done. And people talk now about how the days of Saddam were very nice,’ the official said.”

So, will defenders of the sanctions say that the deaths are because the Allawi regime is not using U.S. money to feed his own people, as they did with Saddam? Not likely, because they know that the Allawi regime is a puppet regime of the U.S. government and, therefore, blaming him would be blaming the U.S. government, which is as big a no-no as it was during the 1990s when the sanctions system was contributing the deaths of Iraqi children. Much more likely is that they will blame new catastrophic results on “the terrorists” who refuse to permit U.S. officials to rebuild the water and sewage facilities that the U.S. government intentionally destroyed during the Persian Gulf War and kept from being repaired for ten years with the embargo.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Question: If resistance to an invasion, war of aggression, and occupation of a sovereign and independent country constitutes “terrorism,” as U.S. officials claim, then does that mean that the Polish resistance to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939 constituted “terrorism”? And don’t forget that President Franklin Roosevelt ended up forming a partnership with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet communists to resist Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation of the Soviet Union (after Germany had invaded and occupied Poland before Stalin and the Soviet Union had). Was Soviet resistance “terrorism?” And keep in mind that FDR agreed that Stalin and the Soviet communists could occupy Eastern Europe as part of the “liberation” of Poland and the other Eastern European countries. Was resistance by the Eastern Europeans to the joint U.S.-USSR “liberation” of their countries “terrorism”?

What if China invaded and occupied the United States? Would some Americans cooperate with their occupier? What if some Americans decided to resist? Would resistance to the Chinese occupation of America constitute “terrorism”?

What if Chinese citizens resisted their own communist regime? Would that constitute “terrorism”?

Well, at least we know that the answer by U.S. officials to that last question is definitely “Yes,” at least when the training is provided by al-Qaeda. See this New York Times article, which details how the U.S. military has seized and incarcerated — and is threatening to execute — Chinese “enemy combatants” in the “war on terrorism” at the Pentagon’s prisoner gulag in Cuba simply because the men received weapons training from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to help them in their fight for independence from the Chinese communists. Ironically, it was the U.S. government that helped train al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

Wow, who’s a “terrorist” and who’s a “freedom fighter” under U.S. foreign policy can get complicated, uh?

Oh well, maybe it’s because communism isn’t so bad any more, evidenced by the fact that U.S. officials have been working with Fidel Castro for years to give Cuban escapees on the high seas a forced one-way U.S. Coast-Guard ticket back to Cuban communist tyranny.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Did you get an eerie sense of déjà vu yesterday from U.S. Army General (ret.) Colin Powell, who currently serves as U.S. Secretary of State? After swearing to the United Nations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and providing the “irrefutable evidence” to support his assertion, Powell made the dramatic announcement that it’s actually Iran that has WMD.

Or maybe Powell just got his q’s and n’s mixed up. Never mind that more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis are now dead or maimed as a direct consequence of Powell’s speech, given that it played a critical role in scaring the American people into supporting President Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Never mind also that no one in the U.S. government, including Powell, ever bothers to explain why a country doesn’t have the right to arm itself to defend against an invasion by an aggressor nation.

But hey, what would be wrong with invading Iran and killing hundreds of thousands of more innocent people, right? After all, don’t forget 9/11! Moreover, isn’t that where all this started — with the desire of U.S. officials to kill Iranians? Remember — that was why the U.S. furnished Saddam with those WMD in the first place (a fact that some Americans don’t like to talk about because it’s so discomforting) — so that he could use them to kill Iranians and, even worse, remember: U.S. officials actually helped Saddam, a former buddy of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to kill Iranians. Imagine that!

When they got upset with Saddam because he went “independent,” they turned on him and used a brutal embargo to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children in an attempt to oust him from power. But as Madeleine Albright said, the deaths were “worth it,” even if they failed to result in Saddam’s ouster from power. Then they used a brutal invasion to replace him with an unelected CIA-designated dictatorial stooge suspected of terrorism, while in the process killing, maiming, torturing, sexually abusing, or raping more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi people.

Just keep in mind that if they end up attacking and invading Iraq, I mean Iran, killing and maiming and destroying even more than they already have, when the Iranians or their compatriots defend themselves or counterstrike, it will be because they’re “terrorists” who hate us for our “freedom and values” and that the U.S. government’s morally bankrupt foreign policy will have had nothing to do with it.

November 18, 2004

Hurray! The drug war is finally close to being won! A federal judge has sentenced 25-year-old Weldon H. Angelos to 55 years in prison for selling small bags of marijuana while carrying a pistol in an ankle holster. Once Angelos begins serving his 5-decade sentence at taxpayer expense, the whole world will be able to sleep better, knowing that the nation is now close to ridding itself of marijuana, right? Aren’t you already feeling safer? (Well, except of course for “the terrorists,” who are still out there and coming to get us.)

Unfortunately, Angelos’s wife, Zandrah, and their two boys, 5 and 7 years old, aren’t feeling too good. Wiping tears from her eyes, she said “He might as well as killed someone.” But she’s wrong because just two hours before, the judge had sentenced a man to 22 years in jail for aggravated second-degree murder. Hey, doesn’t every public-school class monitor know that selling a few bags of marijuana to a willing police informant is much worse than beating an elderly woman to death?

In deference to the judge, who expressed regret over what he was doing, he said that his hands were tied because of mandatory-minimum sentencing statutes, laws that were enacted by those fearless and feckless members of Congress with the purported intent of finally winning the 30-year-old war on drugs. The judge urged Angelos’s attorney to appeal and also to seek clemency.

The assistant U.S. Attorney, Robert Lund, was not so sympathetic. Lund called Angelos, who by the way is founder of the rap music label Extravagant Records, a “purveyor of poison” and said that carrying a gun meant that Angelos was prepared “to kill other human beings.”

Never mind that the police informant who bought the dope did so voluntarily, as any other purchase of drugs would have done, or that alcohol and tobacco are much more poisonous than marijuana, or that guns can be used in legitimate self-defense. Lund’s justification for this horrific application of the drug laws is the classic model of the good little bureaucrat who slavishly enforces the law, no matter how immoral or unjust the law or its application, and actually feels good about doing it. After all, the law is the law, right? (Except, of course, when it’s the Constitution and federal officials just feel like ignoring it.)

But hey, let’s give credit where credit is due: As a good little “patriotic” bureaucrat, assistant U.S. Attorney Lund is doing his part to finally win the 30-year-old war on drugs, just as his good little patriotic bureaucrat counterparts are doing in Singapore, where hanging people for drug offenses is just part and parcel of the endless war on drugs.

November 17, 2004

The Washington Post reports that two city councilmen in our nation’s capital are “leaning toward supporting” D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams’ $530 million baseball boondoggle “because Williams would fund libraries for Graham and a recreation center for Allen.”

Let me see if I have this clear. If a private party were to promise to put cash into Mayor Williams’ pockets in return for his vote in favor of a tax-supported baseball stadium, wouldn’t that constitute bribery? If so, then why is it considered okay for Williams’ to offer multi-million dollar tax-supported inducements to city councilmen in return for their votes in favor of the stadium boondoggle?

That is, why is the morality or ethics of the matter any different just because tax monies, rather than private cash, are being used to induce a favorable vote or just because the monies are being used to fund a socialist program (i.e., government libraries) rather than lining the personal pockets of the city councilmen?

Isn’t the result the same — that is, don’t the mayor’s library offer and his recreation center offer to the city councilmen make it less likely that their votes on the stadium will be determined on the merits of the baseball stadium itself and more likely be determined by the fact that the councilmen’s constituents are having their collective pockets lined with a new government library and a new government recreation center?

Of course, this type of vote-buying junk has long been the political culture in Washington, D.C. What’s tragic, however, is that people have become so accustomed to the sale and purchase of votes with taxpayer money that hardly anyone feels any moral or ethical outrage over it anymore.

November 16, 2004

Army General Colin Powell was always a soldier first and a secretary of state second, which was a major factor in making his tenure in office such a tragedy. For example, even though Powell had reservations about attacking the Iraqi people and waging an unjust war of aggression against them, once the president made up his mind to declare war, Powell, being the good soldier he is, simply clicked his heels, said, “Yes, sir,” and fell into line, dutifully obeying his commanding officer’s orders.

That’s undoubtedly why Powell ended up telling the United Nations, the world, and the American people that Saddam Hussein did possess those infamous weapons of mass destruction and that he intended to attack the United States with them. The information was false. That speech played a critical role in scaring the American people half to death, making them believe that Saddam Hussein and the terrorists were on their way to America with the aim of spraying biological and chemical weapons into their faces. The speech caused many Americans to support the president’s decision to skip the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war before invading Iraq.

Powell’s army career, along with the concomitant loyalty that a military man has to the army, undoubtedly also played a role in creating the atmosphere and ambiance leading up to the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal at Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. After all, when a secretary of state doesn’t complain about the Pentagon’s setting up of a prisoner gulag and independent criminal justice system in Cuba modeled on Fidel Castro’s military tribunal system and then attempts to avoid both federal court interference and the constraints of the Constitution, military personnel from the Joint Chiefs of Staff down to lowly army privates aren’t likely to worry too much about adverse reaction against their misdeeds from a State Department headed by one of their own. Military personnel, including retired ones, have a long tradition of protecting the military, even when it is engaged in wrongdoing.

General Powell’s appointment as secretary of state reflects the unfortunate military and imperial road that the U.S. government has traveled, not only domestically (i.e., the many cities that are scared to death of losing their bases that they have become dependent on) but also in foreign affairs (i.e., troops in more than 130 countries, embargoes, invasions, wars of aggression, occupations, etc.).

Would a civilian secretary of state have reacted differently than a military secretary of state? It’s hard to tell, especially given the high number of “yes” men serving in the U.S. government. But at least there’s a better chance that faced with a wrongful decision of the president, the civilian will say “No” and resign in protest as compared to a military “Yes, sir” man, who is much more likely, given his military mindset, to register his objection but then click his heels, declare “Yes, sir,” and then dutifully carry out the orders of his commanding officer. More important, the appointment of civilians to high office might help nudge our nation toward the non-militarist tradition that once characterized American society rather than the militarism that unfortunately continues to hold our nation in its grip.

November 15, 2004

In a disgraceful last blast before he exits political power, John Ashcroft leveled a vicious attack against the federal judiciary for interfering with the president’s power to wage the so-called war on terrorism. What Ashcroft is lamenting is that the Supreme Court, whose job it is to enforce the Constitution, has put the quietus to the unwarranted and unconstitutional exercise of powers by the U.S. military, powers that bring to mind such regimes as those in Chile and Argentina (during their wars on terrorism), Burma, the Soviet Union, communist China, and communist Cuba.

Most ominous of all the powers is that of the Pentagon to arrest any American or foreigner, regardless of where he is arrested, even here in the United States, and punish him — even execute him — without federal court interference and without complying with the Constitution of the United States, including according the accused right to counsel, due process of law, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.

What all too many Americans unfortunately do not understand is that if the Supreme Court had not stopped this unwarranted and dangerous exercise of power, the Pentagon would already have been sweeping up larger numbers of people, including Americans, and sending them to its military dungeon in South Carolina, its prisoner gulag in Cuba, or even concentration camps established in friendly dictatorial regimes to which prisoners are currently being “renditioned” for torture.

In other words, Hamdi, Padilla, and Rasul were simply the “test” cases — the cases that the Pentagon hoped would receive favorable rulings from the Supreme Court. If the Pentagon had won the test, there would have nothing standing between the American people (and foreigners) and such things as indefinite detention, torture, rape, sex abuse, and execution.

Thank goodness for the wisdom, courage, and foresight of the Framers. Thank goodness for Chief Justice Marshall who established the judicial branch as the final interpreter of the Constitution. Thank goodness we had men of such high caliber, including lawyers—founding our country — men who valued natural rights and freedom — men who were not afraid of their own shadows — men who were not willing to sell out the rights and freedoms of the people and their heritage of liberty at the first sign of trouble.

November 13, 2004

An exchange between one of the Pentagon and one of its Guantanamo detainees exemplifies the utter perversity of the military tribunal process. The detainee asked a logical question: “Do you have any proof that I am with Al Qaeda? Any real proof?”

The Pentagon’s response was, well, yes, there is evidence but we can’t show it to you because it’s classified.

The man responded with what would seem to be an obvious point, which exposes such military-tribunal justice” for the sham it is: “I can’t bring any evidence against the classified information I cannot see.” Apparently, Pentagon officials are unable to understand the logic of that simple objection.

Last week a U.S. federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a halt to the Pentagon’s military tribunals, much to the chagrin of the Pentagon, which is threatening to appeal the judge’s order, and also much to the chagrin of those who believe that the “war on terrorism” gives a blank check to the military to do whatever it wants to people it perceives are “enemies”—including executing them after giving them a sham, Soviet Union-like trial with secret evidence.

November 12, 2004

The unelected CIA-designated Iraqi dictator Iyad Allawi and his U.S. military police force are providing yet another example of the “freedom” that the invasion of Iraq has brought to Iraq. Iraq’s Media High Command, which regulates the media in Iraq, has issued an ominous order to the Iraqi press: stick to the government line on the Allawi regime’s attack on Falluja or else.

According to al-Jazeera, whose Baghdad office was closed by Allawi last August for not following the approved government line, with still no word as to when it will be permitted to reopen, the Media High Command stated, “We hope you comply … otherwise we regret we will be forced to take all legal measures to guarantee higher national interests.”

Wow! I wonder if “all legal measures” include being shot on sight, like they did both to protesters in Falluja and to gun dealers in Tikrit.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, several television stations declined to show the Oscar-winning film “Saving Private Ryan” not because of their concern over adverse viewer reaction but simply out of fear over an adverse reaction from the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. government’s counterpart to the Iraqi Media High Command.

The mission of the FCC, which is headed by Colin Powell’s son, is to protect the virtues and morals of the American people by punishing those who transgress the subjective standards of decency of Powell and his fellow high commissioners, much like the Taliban’s Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue did for the Afghan people.

The Chinese (communist) news agency Xinhuanet reports to Chinese readers an ominous warning issued by Janet Wise, spokeswoman for the FCC’s enforcement bureau, to American television stations that was eerily similar to that issued by Allawi’s Media High Command to the Iraqi media: “If we get a complaint, we’ll act on it,” said Wise.

Isn’t it wonderful, albeit coincidental, that both the American people and the Iraqi people are experiencing the benefits of media “freedom” at exactly the same time?

November 11, 2004

Ordinarily the departure of John Ashcroft as U.S. attorney general would be welcome news for those of us who place a high value on freedom, for the reasons I enumerated in yesterday’s commentary. Unfortunately, President Bush’s nominee to replace Ashcroft, Alberto R. Gonzalez, provides no reason for freedom advocates to celebrate. Gonzalez, who serves as White House counsel and has loyally served Bush for many years, has never condemned the horrific abuses of civil liberties under Ashcroft’s regime, including the Pentagon’s denial of habeas corpus, due process of law, and jury trial for Americans and foreigners arrested and incarcerated in the Pentagon’s prisoner gulag. Equally significant, Gonzalez is the attorney whose legal opinion to the president concluded that provisions of the Geneva Convention were “obsolete” and “quaint,” which ultimately provided cover for the president and his associates when the Abu Ghraib torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal finally erupted into public view. The nomination of Gonzalez to become U.S. attorney general makes the fight for civil liberties more important than ever.

November 10, 2004

During the wars on terrorism in Chile and Argentina, lots of ordinary citizens were fully supportive of all the bad things that the military was doing in name of combating “terrorism.” Years later, most Chileans and Argentines now recognize that the seizures, tortures, murders, and disappearances inflicted on the populace by the military were abhorrent abuses of power.

When the dark days of America’s “war on terrorism” ultimately pass, history will undoubtedly judge retiring U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft harshly. After all, look at the shameful acts of U.S. officials that Ashcroft has presided over during his tenure as attorney general:

1. The setting up of a prisoner gulag at Guantanamo Bay for the express purpose of avoiding the constraints of the American Constitution (which both Ashcroft and every military person takes an oath to support and defend) and the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.

2. The torture, rape, sex abuse, and murders that the U.S. military has committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba, then trying to limit the damage to a few enlisted men, and then the subsequent Pentagon cover-up and stonewalling of official investigations into the actions of the higher-ups.

3. Setting up of military tribunals whose Soviet-like procedures fly in the face of the due process of law guarantees that our English and American ancestors fought so hard to ensure, stretching all the way back to Magna Carta and subsequently to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

4. Setting up of an arbitrary prosecutorial system in which some terrorist suspects are criminally prosecuted in federal court while others are sent to a Pentagon gulag for punishment.

5. Imprisoning American citizens and foreigners suspected of terrorism in a military dungeon for the rest of their lives, denying them habeas corpus, due process of law, right to counsel, and trial by jury.

6. Sending suspected terrorists to friendly dictatorial regimes for torture.

7. Denying criminal suspects in federal court the right to confront accusers and compel their attendance in court, in mockery of the Bill of Rights.

8. Conducting secret judicial hearings and securing secret secret warrants from secret courts, much as judicial officers in Nazi Germany did during its “war on terrorism” after the terrorist attack on the Reichstag.

9. Stonewalling to avoid the Supreme Court’s orders in the Hamdi and Rasul due-process cases.

All these actions, committed in the name of keeping us safe from “the terrorists,” have brought shame to our nation and have denigrated the legacy of the Framers, who fought so hard to prevent these types of things from ever taking place in the United States. John Ashcroft, a lawyer who refused to say “No, not in my country!” bears partial responsibility for such shame.

November 9, 2004

Another good example of the U.S. “freedom” that U.S. soldiers are dying for in Iraq comes in the form of the U.S. Treasury’s refusal to permit Americans to travel to Cuba for the purpose of historically preserving the home and papers of Ernest Hemingway. That’s right — according to U.S. officials, who pride themselves for invading foreign countries for the purpose of liberating those who survive such invasions, to permit Americans such as Lauren Bacall (the famous actress who made her acting debut in a film based on a Hemingway novel) to travel to Cuba for the purpose of historical preservation would effectively permit them to “trade with the enemy.”

The enemy in this case, of course, is Fidel Castro, one of the world’s dictators whose regime U.S. officials have been obsessed with changing for many decades. The Treasury Department’s convoluted reasoning for denying Americans freedom of travel is that conserving Hemingway’s house might attract tourists to Cuba, who will then spend their money on food, hotels, etc, part of which will ultimately find its way to Fidel Castro. Never mind that the lives of ordinary Cubans would also be improved with such spending. As in the case of the U.S. government’s cruel and brutal decade-long embargo against the Iraqi people, no price is too high to pay for “regime change,” not even death, destruction, or impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of citizens who are suffering under the ruler’s regime.

In an op-ed in the Boston Herald, the attorney for the Hemingway Preservation Foundation, which is among those who are being prohibited from conserving Hemingway’s home, stated, “One might hope that the Treasury Department will reconsider and allow Ernest Hemingway’s legacy in Cuba to be saved.”

Notice what the attorney does not state: “One might hope that the American people succeed in restoring their fundamental rights of freedom of travel and freedom to spend their money as they see fit and that they never ever again even consider asking a government bureaucrat for permission to travel anywhere or permission to spend their money in any way they desire.”

While understandable, the attorney’s hope is a pathetic lament that unfortunately characterizes the American people, who have suffered under the U.S. government’s paternalistic tutelage for so many years. Unfortunately, it’s that type of “freedom” — the “freedom” to ask government bureaucrats for permission to exercise what our ancestors understood were fundamental rights that preexist government — that all too many Americans — and, for that matter, all too many Cubans — now celebrate as their “freedom.”

November 8, 2004

CIA designee Iyad Allawi, an unelected dictator now ruling Iraq, has now formally put the Iraqi people under martial law, which means under the jurisdiction of the U.S. military. Martial law, of course, entails warrantless searches and seizures, killing criminal suspects on sight, no demonstrations or protests, curfews, gun confiscations, arbitrary military “justice,” no civil court system and no habeas corpus, jury trials, or due process, and unconditional obedience to military orders.

As the unelected dictator of Iraq, Allawi has also ordered U.S. troops to attack Fallujah by using the magical word “terrorists” to justify the attack, but one could be forgiven for believing that Allawi received his orders from the CIA or the Pentagon before he ordered the U.S. military to attack Fallujah.

Unfortunately, all too many Americans continue to live under the misconception that all this martial law, killing, mayhem, and destruction constitutes the much-vaunted “freedom” that the invasion and war of aggression against Iraq has supposedly brought to the Iraqi people. They fail to see that U.S. support of Allawi and of his killing of Iraqis who resist his unelected rule is no different in principle from U.S. support of Saddam during the 1980s.

And just as there were those who resented the U.S. government for its support of Saddam during the 1980s, there are those today who resent the U.S. government for its support of Allawi. If that resentment arises to the level of terrorism against the United States, be prepared for the standard bromide that we heard after 9/11: “They hate us for our freedom and values,” as if support of brutal, unelected U.S.-appointed dictators, martial law, warrantless searches and seizures, killing criminal suspects on sight, no demonstrations or protests, gun confiscations, arbitrary military justice, and no habeas corpus, jury trials, or due process are part and parcel of America’s freedom and values.

Of course, as I’ve emphasized before, the danger we face here in America, a danger that is much bigger than “terrorism,” is that the Pentagon will import the “freedom” it’s given Iraqis to the United States — and, even worse, that many U.S. public-school graduates will support them under the misconception that Americans have a right to the same “freedom” the Pentagon has brought to the Iraqi people.

November 6, 2004

Those who support federal officials’ trend toward ignoring constitutional restrictions on federal power and its guarantees of the rights and liberties of the American people can continue to look toward Moscow for their inspiration. As everyone knows or should know, we now live in a country in which federal officials mock the Constitution by ignoring such important provisions as (1) the requirement that Congress declare war before the president wages war, as evidenced by the invasion, war of aggression, and occupation of Iraq; and (2) the guarantees of due process, right to counsel, and habeas corpus, as reflected by the Pentagon’s seizure and punishment of both Americans and foreigners alike.

Well, consider this story in today’s New York Times. A Russian jury recently convicted a Russian physicist, Valentine V. Danilov, of spying. What wrong with that? you ask. A lot, given that another jury had already acquitted him of the charges. How can that be, you ask? Because apparently there is no protection against double jeopardy, which means that if at first the Russian federals don’t succeed in a criminal prosecution, they can keep retrying a person to their heart’s content until they finally get lucky and convict him.

Fortunately, those Americans who insisted on passage of the Bill of Rights foresaw that our government officials would love to do the same thing, which is why the Sixth Amendment reads in part as follows: “nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

Of course, however, once the people become so scared, terrified, and cowed that they’re willing to let their rulers get away with ignoring some parts of the Constitution, the danger is that the rulers will become emboldened to ignore other parts, which accelerates the trend U.S. toward the criminal-justice principles of the former Soviet Union.

November 5, 2004

One of the biggest lies in the Iraq War has been the one that says, “We’re from the U.S. government and we’re here to help you.”

Since the 1980s, when the U.S. delivered weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein … to the 1990s when U.S. officials winked at Saddam when he threatened to invade Kuwait … to when U.S. officials intentionally targeted sewage-treatment and water-treatment plants knowing that infectious diseases would spread among the Iraqi people … to when U.S. officials knowingly imposed and continued for more than 10 years a brutal embargo against the Iraqi people, knowing that it was contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent children … to U.S. ambassador the UN Madeleine Albright’s observation that the deaths of half-a-million children were worth it … to the no-fly zones that were used to kill more Iraqis, including children … to the recent invasion that has killed an estimated 100,000 additional Iraqis … to the refusal of U.S. officials to keep track of Iraqi casualties because they were just Iraqis … the official mindset of U.S. officials has been massive and deep-rooted indifference to the well-being of the Iraqi people.

It was only a matter of time that that mindset of indifference ultimately would seep down to the troops at the bottom, just as the indifference at the top to torture seeped down in the form of torture, rape, sex abuse, and murder at Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay.

Consider this news story, which describes what two U.S. soldiers did to some Iraqi teenagers. Mistakenly believing that boys were “terrorists,” they shot them, killing some and wounding others. Realizing their mistake — it turns out that the boys were simply collecting garbage at the rate of $5 a night—the soldiers decided to put one of the wounded boys out of his misery by shooting him rather than calling for medical assistance. You know, the way that hunters put wounded deer out of their misery. In fact, that’s how friends and relatives saw it:

“Iraqis who witnessed the Aug. 18 shooting said that rather than provide medical help to an injured civilian, the soldiers treated the Iraqi as if he were an animal struck by a car. ‘We are not sheep,’ said Emad Raheem, 40, who said he was the driver of the dump truck. ‘We are human beings.”

[Spc. William Davis] “described how an uninjured Iraqi male pleaded with Horne not to kill the wounded Iraqi on the ground. ‘The guy was saying, ‘No,’” Davis testified. ‘He’s my brother! He’s my brother!’ According to Davis, Horne replied, ‘I understand, but he’s gone.’”

November 4 2004

Okay, here’s a piece of good news to relieve the post-election realization that the rulers are back in charge and the serfs are back on the plantation. A federal judge in Florida has dismissed criminal charges brought by the feds against two ordinary Americans for allegedly “trading with the enemy.”

So, what did these two dangerous criminals, Peter Goldsmith and Michele Geslin, allegedly do? Who was the nefarious enemy with whom they allegedly traded? How did they endanger the security of the United States of America?

Well, they organized a sailing race, and everyone knows how dangerous to Americans that can be, right? The race began at Key West and ended at … are you ready? … are you sitting down? … Havana! You know, as in Cuba! You know, where all those communists live! And doesn’t everyone know that communists are “enemies”? (Well, except for those in China and Vietnam, where it’s okay to trade with those “enemies.”)

That’s right — these two unpatriotic Americans, the feds said, were “trading with the enemy” by organizing the Key West Sailing Club Conch Republic Cup, a sailing race that ran from Key West to Havana. Doesn’t that sound dangerous? Can’t you just feel the threat to your national security right away? Don’t you wish that the feds had been able to lock Goldsmith and Geslin away for 15 years in a federal penitentiary, which is what they faced had they been convicted? Wouldn’t you be able to sleep better at night?

Fortunately, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King once again reflected the wisdom of the Framers for providing an independent judiciary in our criminal-justice system. Holding that the sailor’s registration fees did not constitute “travel services” to Cuba (which apparently would have constituted “trading with the enemy”) but instead were only used to pay for T-shirts, trophies, and a party in Key West (which apparently doesn’t constitute “trading with the enemy”), King dismissed the charges, much to the chagrin of U.S. prosecutors.

Do you ever feel like we’re living in the Twilight Zone? Amazing — Cubans can’t come here and we can’t go there because “national security” is at stake. But hey, it’s all part and parcel of the federal “freedom” that U.S. troops are dying for in Iraq. Oh well, at least Goldsmith and Geslin ought to be grateful that the feds didn’t label them “enemy combatants” and give them a one-way ticket to Cuba — into the Pentagon’s gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that is — and tortured and executed as “terrorists” for “trading with the enemy.”

November 3 2004

One of the ominous constitutional developments that Americans might have to confront in the months ahead is the Pentagon’s apparent refusal to acknowledge its subservience to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Keep in mind, first, that under our system of government, the military does not reign supreme, not even in such metaphorical wars as the war on drugs or the war on terrorism or even in such real wars as the war on Iraq. Under our Constitution, the actions of the military fall under the review and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon early on took the opposite position. Embracing the arguments of their military counterparts in Chile and Argentina during the infamous “wars on terrorism” in those two countries, the Pentagon actually claimed that the Supreme Court lacked the power and jurisdiction to review Pentagon actions and to declare them in violation of the supreme law of the land, the Constitution. In fact, the very reason that the Pentagon set up is prisoner camp in Cuba was to ensure that it had the unrestricted latitude to establish a criminal justice system akin to that on Castro’s side of Cuba — i.e., kangaroo military courts run by military officials whose only job was to create the appearance of justice before people who were being accused of terrorism were executed.

In the recently decided Hamdi and Rasul cases, the Supreme Court put the quietus on those Pentagon plans, holding that the Pentagon would in fact be subject to the rulings of the Supreme Court and that its detainees would be entitled to the benefits of habeas corpus, right to counsel, and due process of law.

Unfortunately … and ominously … since those decisions, Pentagon officials continue to stonewall the Supreme Court’s decision, dragging their feet by doing everything they can to prevent the detainees from having unrestricted access to their attorneys.

Whether the Pentagon agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision is irrelevant and immaterial. All that matters is under our system of government, the military must submit to the orders of the judiciary. No ifs; no ands; and no buts.

November 2, 2004

What do Osama bin Laden and Ronald Reagan have in common? They both claimed credit for bringing down the Soviet Empire by making the Soviet government spend itself into bankruptcy. This was, of course, during the time that Reagan and U.S. officials were ardent supporters of both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein .

Interestingly, Osama recognizes something that U.S. officials do not recognize — the adverse impact that unrestrained government spending has on countries other than the Soviet Union, including the United States. Osama knows that uncontrolled federal spending threatens the economic well-being of our country, which is why his stated goal is to bankrupt the United States by making the U.S. government spend itself into bankruptcy, just as the Soviet government spent itself into bankruptcy.

U.S. officials, on the other hand, continue to say to the American people, “Just trust us. We wouldn’t mislead you. We’re here to help you. We have your welfare in mind. Federal spending primes the pump and helps the economy. We’re experts in this area. Believe in us.” By doing so, they are of course playing right into Osama’s hands by vowing to spend even more billions of dollars in overseas military adventures, to sustain overseas imperial bases, and to increase the amount of welfare spending that is injected into the political veins of the American people.

Meanwhile, continuing to have blind faith in their rulers, even after the invasion of Iraq, the American people block out of their minds the extent to which the federals are spending tons more money than they’re bringing in. Even those who do recognize the economic threat are calling for tax increases to cover the shortfall rather than slash federal spending. Such officials know what the reaction would be among the American people if their welfare opium (including Social Security) were even slightly reduced, much less eliminated.

One of these days of course, there will have to be a reckoning. No military empire — including the British, Roman, Soviet, and American — can withstand the enormous expenditures that come with massive overseas military adventures and massive welfare spending to keep the domestic populace pacified and subdued. Ironically, when the day of reckoning arrives, which will undoubtedly include a major debasement of the U.S. dollar, federal officials, followed by their faithful sheep, will blame it all on Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, international speculators and profiteers, OPEC, or whichever enemy seems to be most appropriate at the time.

November 1, 2004

One of the many issues that, unfortunately, was never discussed during the many months of the presidential campaign was the war on drugs, the most deadly and destructive domestic war in our lifetime. Not only has it spawned drug gangs, drug lords, gang wars, burglaries, robberies, thefts, murders, assaults, government corruption, enormous budgets, payoffs, bribes, and infringements on civil liberties and privacy, it has also proven to be an absolute failure from the perspective of its own purported goals.

Thirty years ago, I began my legal career as an attorney in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, one of the nation’s premier entry points for drugs. A few months out of law school, I was assigned to represent an indigent client in a drug case in federal court. (A federal jury acquitted him.) It was my first encounter with DEA agents, who were crawling all over Laredo with the intent of “winning” the war on drugs. By and large, they were committed people who honestly believed that they were doing good for their country by working as DEA agents.

Thus, it is with some degree of irony to see that that group of agents is now retiring with fat government pensions but with no end in sight for “winning” the drug war. Actually, things are worse than ever, as reflected in this article about Nuevo Laredo (Laredo’s sister city in Mexico), which details the deadly and destructive horrors arising from the war on drugs. As one young man put it, “Nuevo Laredo can be a branch of hell.”

Now, see this article about the retiring chief of the Miami DEA office. Notice how he talks: about how many drug lords and drug cartels they’ve busted under his watch over the last 30 years.

Yet, the poor man still doesn’t get it — he, like so many other drug agents, continue to repeat the same drug-war bromides they were mouthing 30 years ago, despite all the drug busts they’ve been making for the past 30 years. In other words, nothing has changed, despite the fact that DEA agents have 30 years of death and destruction under their belts and thousands of drug busts and millions of tax dollars spent. In fact, what DEA agents just don’t get, quite tragically, is that despite all their purported good intentions, they have spent their lives in a job path that has been responsible for the many deadly and destructive consequences of the drug war — consequences that the agents themselves thought they were eradicating when they agreed to become DEA agents. In other words, they’ve effectively wasted their lives, at least from a work standpoint, except perhaps that they can say at their retirement dinners, “But we did mean well, and doesn’t that matter for something?”

The irony of all this is that there is only one surefire way to eradicate all the deadly and destructive violence — end the drug war. There is no other solution. All “solutions” based on “reforming” the war on drugs will only produce more of the same. The other irony is that those whose existence depends on the drug war — the drug gangs, drug lords, and drug agents—are all the most fervent opponents of drug legalization, perhaps because they know that all of them will be put out of business the day that the drug war comes to an end.

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.