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, January 2005

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Monday, January 31, 2005

While President Bush and the Pentagon continue their march around the world establishing “democracy” through military invasions and occupations, Americans would be wise to focus on democracy at home.

For example, yesterday’s New York Times reports that the CIA, which consists of secret, unelected bureaucrats whose power is virtually omnipotent, is refusing to comply with a congressional law mandating the disclosure of CIA partnerships with Nazi officials after the end of World War II.

Perhaps I have a mistaken view of democracy, but isn’t it supposed to be the people, through their elected representatives, who decide whether U.S. agency files are going to be opened for inspection by the American people? Why should CIA officials, none of whom ever faced election by the American people, have the power to tell the people’s elected representatives, “Buzz off if you know what’s good for you.”

Moreover, how could disclosure of the full extent of the CIA-Nazi partnership jeopardize the “national security” of the United States?

And while we’re on the subject, what would be wrong with the CIA’s full and complete disclosure of its partnership with Mafia officials during the 1950s, when the CIA and the Mafia were working closely together to murder Cuban president Fidel Castro as part of the CIA’s many attempts at “regime change” around the world? How could disclosure of the full extent of the CIA-Mafia partnership jeopardize the “national security” of the United States?

For that matter, why not have full disclosure of the CIA’s files on the Kennedy assassination? How could full disclosure of the CIA’s files on that major event in the history of our nation not be in the best interests of truth, justice, and the American people?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Virginia’s Democratic Lt. Governor Timothy Kaine gives a good example of the warped mindset that drives so many of America’s mainstream politicians. Faced with the promise that Virginia politicians have made to finish phasing out the state’s hated car tax, Kaine commented, “You have to come up with money to fund it. That’s what they haven’t done this year.”

Say what, Mr. Kaine? Contrary to popular political conceptions, the abolition of a tax is not a government welfare spending program. When you enact a government welfare spending program, which you people are so good at doing, then it is necessary to, as you put it, “come up with the money to fund it.” That’s when it becomes necessary to tax people because the only way government can give money to one group of people is to first get the money through taxation.

But leaving people free to keep their own money, Mr. Kaine, is not a government welfare spending program. It’s simply leaving people free to keep their own money. That money belongs to them, not to you and not to the state of Virginia. Therefore, such rhetoric as “You have to come up with the money to fund it” is nonsense.

Perhaps what you meant to say is that the state of Virginia will no longer be able to fund its full panoply of welfare-state programs if it loses the revenue from the car tax. But isn’t another option simply to eliminate those programs? After all, if you abolish one tax and raise another to make up for the lost revenue, how in the world does that benefit the taxpayers? In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, but that sure seems like political smoke and mirrors to me!

Oh, one more thing, Mr. Kaine—According to the Washington Post, Virginia’s rapidly expanding economy has “boosted tax collections by more than $900 million since last year.” So, again, would you mind telling us why you people need to “come up with the money to fund” the final phase-out of the car tax?

Friday, January 28, 2005

We would be remiss if we didn’t compare the U.S.-government-imposed democracy in Iraq with the type of democracy that officials permit here in the United States.

Over there in Iraq, U.S. officials are letting the Iraqi people select from more than 100 lists of candidates, with each list containing anywhere from 2 to 275 names.

Meanwhile, over here, U.S. Republican and Democratic politicians and bureaucrats employ monumental ballot-access barriers to ensure that American voters select from only two, sometimes 3 or 4 candidates.

And think about this: Have you seen any Iraqi candidates on television standing outside their local grocery stores seeking signatures of registered voters in order to get permission to run for public office, as third-party and independent candidates are required to do as a condition for running for office in America?

Meanwhile, Chinese officials, who wouldn’t know an election if it hit them in the head are receiving immunity from President Bush’s war on tyranny and fight for democracy by donating $1 million to the Iraq democracy campaign. When asked why they don’t permit democracy in China, Chinese officials responded that one reason is that the Chinese people are too uneducated to make such choices. Hey, isn’t that the reason that U.S. Democrats and Republicans give for their beloved ballot-access barriers and ridiculous petitioning requirements—that Americans would become too confused if they had to choose between more than two or three candidates?

Oh well, as the American people continue to block out of their minds the ever-increasing loss of democracy and liberty at home (including the Padilla doctrine and the Patriot Act, not to mention the drug war), they can at least take solace in the fact that U.S. officials continue to sacrifice U.S. troops for the purpose of bringing democracy to Iraq. A recent example is 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, 27, “a popular leader of the 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion of the 21st Infantry Regiment,” who was shot dead while distributing leaflets in Baghdad exhorting people to get out and vote. I wonder if his dying thought was, “What a grand and glorious cause to die for — getting out the vote in occupied Iraq!”

Thursday, January 27, 2005

To all Dittoheads: Yesterday, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh read part of my article “How Hitler Became a Dictator” on his show. Here’s the link to the transcript of Rush’s show.

When conservatives are reading libertarian literature, that’s a good sign! Now, if we can just get Rush to abandon the socialist, interventionist, and empire perspectives that infect U.S. conservatives and embrace the pro-freedom, pro-free-market, and pro-republic paradigm of us libertarians, the dittoheads who would follow him would give us a real chance of moving America in a better and freer direction — toward the principles of liberty that guided our ancestors.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Taking a page from U.S. politicians and bureaucrats, most of whom received their “education” in U.S. public (i.e., government) schools, the government of Mauritania is raising its minimum wage 400 percent.

Yeah, that’s right—400 percent! Wow—why didn’t they think of that before? They could have used the minimum wage to abolish poverty years ago, as we all learned in our public-school economics and civics classes and, for that matter, in our government-subsidized college economics classes.

The only problem is the increased amount still amounts to only $81 a month for Mauritania workers. So, why doesn’t Mauritania simply raise it all the way up to, say, what Bill Gates makes? Wouldn’t that eradicate poverty forever and make everyone in Mauritania wealthy? Isn’t that what we learned in our public schools and public universities? For that matter, why doesn’t Congress do the same? Or as Ludwig von Mises asked, Why is Congress so mean as to make the minimum wage less than what U.S. congressmen make?

One can already hear all those Mauritanian politicians and bureaucrats echoing the plaints of U.S. politicians and bureaucrats when unemployment soars as a direct consequence of the new increase in the minimum wage: “Unemployment is a mysterious economic force that periodically strikes a society and whose origin is unknown. We’re declaring war on it. In the meantime, we’ve got government welfare and unemployment compensation for everyone who needs it because we love you and love to control you. Don’t worry—to pay your welfare and unemployment compensation, taxes will be raised only on the rich—that is, all those millions of Mauritanians who are now making what Bill Gates makes as a result of our government’s increase in the minimum wage.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

One of the reasons that modern-day Americans so eagerly support the U.S. government’s efforts to spread democracy abroad through military invasions and war is that it enables them to block out of their mind the loss of their own liberty at home.

This week, another good example of this loss-of-liberty phenomenon for Americans came in the form of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a drug-war related case, Illinois v. Caballes.

The Court held that state cops can legally and constitutionally use a drug-sniffing dog on a car that has been stopped for a traffic violation. In other words, here in the “democratic land of the free,” a cop can pull you over for going a few miles over the speed limit, hold you until the dog is brought, have the dog sniff you and your car, and arrest you if any illicit drugs are sniffed out.

But just keep saying to yourself: “I am free because my government daddy (or god) has the power to punish me for engaging in self-destructive conduct that my daddy (or god) hasn’t approved of, and I’m free because my government daddy (or god) has the power to sniff me and search me for bad substances whenever I am caught violating daddy’s (or god’s) rules and regulations on his roads, streets, and highways. Hey, when are we going to invade another country to spread freedom and democracy?”

Monday, January 24, 2005

Federal prosecutors have another notch on their belts, which undoubtedly will make Americans safer in the much-vaunted “war on terrorism.” They’ve secured the conviction of an Iraqi-American named Samir A. Vincent for committing the dastardly crime of receiving millions of dollars from Saddam Hussein’s regime in return for lobbying U.S. officials to lift the brutal sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s.

You’ll recall that year after year, the sanctions, in combination with Saddam Hussein’s socialism, contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Not that that bothered U.S. officials (some of whom now claim that they reason they invaded Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people, including the children), as reflected by the statement to “60 Minutes” by U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.”

It’s not clear whether these people (the feds) went after Vincent because he was paid by the Iraqi government to help lift the sanctions or whether they went after him because he tried to get the sanctions lifted or whether he didn’t file his registration papers with federal regulators. (Don’t forget that the feds also have gone after people for committing the dastardly crime of delivering medicines to the Iraqi people in violation of the sanctions—the same people that the feds said they later invaded Iraq to liberate.

Let’s keep in mind a few things about all this:

1. U.S. officials pay both Americans and foreigners to lobby for their programs. The hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams is a good example. Another is the money being paid to influence foreign elections, most recently in Ukraine.

2. Private individuals and businesses pay advance bribes totaling millions of dollars to U.S. politicians and bureaucrats, with the expectation that they’re going to receive a government favor in return at some point in the future.

3. The sanctions against the Iraqi people were so brutal in their consequences that they motivated two high UN officials to resign their positions out of a crisis of conscience.

4. By not condemning Albright’s the deaths are “worth it” comment, U.S. officials implicitly endorsed her callously brutal but revealing comment.

5. The infamous “oil-for-food” program was another U.S. government acknowledgement that the sanctions were killing the Iraqi people in large numbers. (The other acknowledgment, of course, being Albright’s “worth it” comment.)

6. U.S. officials continued the sanctions, year after brutal year, under the pretense that Saddam still had those WMD that the U.S. had delivered to him when the real reason the Iraqi children were being sacrificed was the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power and his replacement by a U.S.-friendly dictator.

7. The brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people and the deaths they produced were cited as one of the reasons for first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Osama bin Laden’s declaration of war against the United States.

There’s something seriously wrong with a society whose government officials casually endorse the killing of multitudes of innocent foreign children as a means to secure “regime change” and then go after people such as Vincent who are doing their best to stop it. Sort of reminds me of Martha Stewart—good people being sent to jail for violating ludicrous, immoral laws of a highly regulated society. Recall the words of Dr. Floyd Ferris, the slimy bureaucrat at the State Science Institute, in Atlas Shrugged:

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against — then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Well, the Fox News commentators who have been “shocked” at the discovery of corruption within the U.S.-UN-Iraq “oil-for-food program” have another government program to be “shocked” about. It seems that the Iraqi defense minister, Hazim al Shalaan, who serves in the U.S. government’s puppet regime in Iraq, is involved in a mysterious $300 million scandal.

It seems that the cash (yes, 300 mil in cash) was quietly taken out of the Iraq central bank and whisked out of the country on a charter jet to Lebanon. The cash was supposedly used to purchase arms (which undoubtedly will bring back fond memories for the federal Iran-Contra crooks during the Reagan administration), but it’s a mystery as to who actually received the money, where it ended up, and what exactly was purchased with it.

The man who is accusing the Iraqi defense minister of corruption is none other than Ahmed Chalabi, who was the Pentagon’s pinup boy for Iraqi prime minister, before he was beaten out of the job by the CIA’s puppet boy Ayad Allawi, a former henchman of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi, you’ll recall, has been convicted of bank fraud in Jordan.

The defense minister, in turn, is threatening to arrest Chalabi. The charge? “Maligning” him and his ministry. The problem, however, is that there’s no legal system in Iraq by which the charges can be brought, which also raises the interesting question of how “maligning” the government became a crime, especially given that, according to President Bush and other U.S. officials, the Iraqi people are now “free.” (Question: Wasn’t the reason that Allawi shut down Al Jazeera in “free” Iraq was because it was “maligning” the government?)

Will the Fox News people get as “outraged” over the mysterious disappearance of that $300 million as they did over the corruption in the “oil-for-food” scandal? Well, if you believe that, I’ve got a nice bridge over the Tigris River I’d like to sell you.

Friday, January 21, 2005

In his inaugural address, President Bush says that he is committing our nation to freeing people all over the world for the next four years. Although he was reluctant to mention Iraq, no doubt that he was thinking about the longtime U.S. government partnership with Saddam Hussein, the U.S. furnishing Saddam with his WMD, U.S. officials’ helping Saddam to use his WMD against the Iranian people, the green light the U.S. gave Saddam to invade Kuwait, the Persian Gulf War, the 10 years of brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people, the illegal no-fly zones, the WMD falsehoods, and Bush’s unprovoked invasion and war of aggression against Iraq, all of which together has killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including defenseless women and children.

No doubt also that by “freedom,” which Bush mentioned countless times in his speech, he was referring to U.S. military “freedom” in Iraq — where U.S. military officials are in charge, and where there are indefinite detentions, curfews, gun control, murder, rape, torture, and sexual abuse of prisoners, censorship, no jury trials, habeas corpus, right to counsel, and due process, and where a former Saddam henchman rules the roost with an iron hand, backed by U.S. soldiers, and is filling mass graves with the bodies of recalcitrant insurgents, just as Saddam did to insurgents when he was ruling the roost with his Republican Guard.

What remains ominous is that the federal governmental power, especially military power, necessary to accomplish Bush’s “freedom” objectives overseas will continue moving our nation toward the U.S. military-style “freedom” that Bush proposes to bring to the rest of the world. This includes ignoring the Bill of Rights; indefinite detentions; torture, rape, sex abuse and murder of prisoners, both Americans and foreigners; denial of due process of law, right to counsel, and right to a jury trial; gun control; and all the other attributes of U.S. military-style “freedom” that Bush, the CIA, and the U.S. military have brought to Iraq and are now threatening to bring to the rest of the world.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The New York city government, which historically has been one of history’s most voracious tax and spend monsters, is now going after 3,700 purchasers of cigarettes on the Internet for unpaid taxes totaling $1.3 million. One poor hapless smoker owes $10,000 in back taxes.

The mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says that people who are avoiding taxes by buying on the Internet are “stealing” from other New Yorkers. Now, that’s an interesting concept. I thought that stealing was when one person forcibly takes what belongs to another person, such as the underlying principle of New York City’s government welfare system, in which the government takes money from one person in order to give it to another person. Under what perverted form of thinking is tax avoidance — that is, taking steps to keep more of your own hard-earned money — considered “stealing”? And what about all those other things that people buy on the Internet by which people avoid paying local sales taxes? How come that’s not “stealing”? (Whoops, better not give them any ideas, uh.)

If only New Yorker citizens would have a New York Cigarette Party that would outdo the Boston Tea Party. But alas, in an unfortunate era in which tax increasers are considered the heroes, the only tax protesters Americans now celebrate are those who lived more than 200 years ago.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

In today’s FFF Email Update, we link to an article by a U.S. army sergeant, Kevin Benderman, that explains why he is refusing, out of conscience, to return to Iraq.

One fascinating aspect of this story, of course, is to read how one God-fearing man begins to follow the dictates of his conscience rather than the orders of his government, especially when such orders involve the killing of innocent people in a war of aggression, a type of war that was punished at Nuremburg. (“Innocent” in the sense that not one Iraqi, including Saddam Hussein and any Iraqi soldier, ever attacked the United States or threatened to do so, with or without WMD, and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.)

According to CNN.com,

“Benderman told of bombed out homes and displaced Iraqis living in mud huts and drinking from mud puddles; mass graves in Khanaqin near the Iranian border where dogs fed off bodies of men, women and children. He recalled his convoy passing a girl, no older than 10, on the roadside clutching a badly injured arm. Benderman said his executive officer refused to help because troops had limited medical supplies. ‘Her arm was burned, third-degree burns, just black. And she was standing there with her mother begging for help,’ Benderman said. ‘That was an eye opener to seeing how insane it really is.’

Another fascinating aspect of this is the response of U.S. military officers to Benderman’s crisis of conscience. According to CNN.com, “An officer called him a coward. His battalion chaplain shamed him in an email from Kuwait.”

But I think the most fascinating response has been from Army Chaplain Matt Temple, who presumably has accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, who wrote to Benderman: “You should have had the moral fortitude to deploy with us and see me here in Kuwait to begin your CO application. You should be ashamed of the way you have conducted yourself. I certainly am ashamed of you.”

Chaplain Temple, I don’t know what denomination you are, but don’t you realize that a Christian’s highest duty is to his conscience and to God, not to the U.S. Army? You need read “Conscience of the Battlefield” by Leonard E. Read, which describes why each individual soldier is morally responsible for the killings he commits during war, especially an unjust war to which his government has committed him. Finally, you might want to read my 3-part article “Obedience to Orders,”, which discusses U.S. military officers who blindly obey orders. It produced a firestorm of controversy among West Point cadets, a Pentagon West Point graduate, and a heated response from an official at the Virginia Military Institute.

Reflect on what your boss (the U.S. government) has done, Chaplain. It has shipped young men and women to a foreign land in an illegal invasion and immoral war of aggression, a type of war that was punished at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal. And then it has sent them out among the Iraqi populace with the command, “Kill or be killed.”

What’s a Christian soldier to do, Chaplain? Blindly follow orders and kill an innocent person—a person who had nothing to do with 9/11, whose government never attacked the U.S. or threatened to do so, and whose leader did not have WMD after all? Will God not hold him morally responsible for such killings? Is that perhaps why you wish Benderman had redeployed with you while his CO status was being determined by the Army—so that he would have to continue “killing or being killed,” which perhaps might salve your conscience?

Chaplain Temple, you need to reread your Commandments. The pertinent one says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Again, I don’t know what denomination you are but you might want to reflect on Pope John Paul II’s admonition before the invasion—that those who wage the “unjust war” on Iraq will ultimately have to answer to God for the consequences. Isn’t it possible that that is what is going through the mind of Sgt. Benderman? Isn’t it what should be going through your mind?

No, Chaplain Temple, it is not Sgt. Benderman who should be ashamed of himself. It is you should be ashamed of yourself.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Saddam Hussein’s big mistake when he invaded Kuwait in 1990 was not announcing (1) that the reason he was doing so was to liberate the Kuwaiti people from the rule of the unelected emir of Kuwait and (2) that he was imposing democratic elections on Kuwait to serve as a model for the entire Middle East.

If he had done that, U.S. officials undoubtedly would have hailed him as a great liberator and democracy-spreader and enthusiastically maintained their long partnership with him and continued to furnish him WMD, as they were doing during the 1980s when they were helping Saddam to attack Iran with the WMD that they were furnishing him.

Monday, January 17, 2005

In his Sunday New York Times column about the $240,000 in U.S. taxpayer monies that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams secretly received from U.S. officials to shill for the federal education program, New York Times columnist Frank Rich asks a fascinating question: How many other radio, television, and newspaper columnists and commentators are receiving or have received secret federal payments? The question is especially appropriate for those commentators on cable news networks that have shown what appears to be an almost blind allegiance and support of the president’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq.

Rich writes:

“But might there be more paid agents at loose in the media machine? In response to questions at the White House, Mr. McClellan has said that he is ‘not aware’ of any other such case and that he hasn’t ‘heard’ whether the administration’s senior staff knew of the Williams contract — nondenial denials with miles of wiggle room. Mr. Williams, meanwhile, has told both James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times and David Corn of the Nation that he has ‘no doubt’ that there are ‘others’ like him being paid for purveying administration propaganda and that ‘this happens all the time.’ So far he is refusing to name names — a vow of omertà all too reminiscent of that taken by the low-level operatives first apprehended in that ‘third-rate burglary’ during the Nixon administration.”

Rich makes another insightful observation. When a person secretly receives a quarter of a million dollars in U.S. taxpayer money to promote some domestic government program, how likely is he to become an ardent critic of other programs that are important to the president, such as the invasion of Iraq? In fact, once the person permits his personal integrity to be purchased and compromised through the secret receipt of U.S. taxpayer money, doesn’t it become more likely that he will rationalize and convince himself that the president’s other programs and policies need to be supported?

Rich issues an interesting challenge: “If CNN, just under new management, wants to make amends for the sins of ‘Crossfire,’ it might dispatch some real reporters to find out just which ‘others’ Mr. Williams is talking about and to follow his money all the way back to its source.”

The same might be said of other news media, Mr. Rich, including the New York Times. In fact, it is interesting that not too many media columnists and commentators are showing much interest in finding out who else in the news media is secretly on the federal payroll.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Undoubtedly there are those who are hoping that the conviction of a lowly corporal in the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will help to sweep the entire matter under the carpet. These include members of Congress and members of the executive branch, including those in the CIA and the Pentagon, who are up to the ears in both the wrongdoing and the cover-up of the wrongdoing. Those hopes of the hopers had to be uplifted by the following parts of the Washington Post article about the conviction of Spec. (i.e., non-officer) Charles A. Graner Jr:

“In a court-martial, ‘obedience to orders’ is a defense to a charge of misconduct, as long as the soldier reasonably believed the order to be lawful. But Graner’s attempt to exploit that defense at trial was largely stifled by the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl. Pohl refused to allow witnesses to discuss which officers were aware of events in cellblock One-Alpha, or what orders they had given. He said any testimony about what the officers knew or said would be inadmissible hearsay evidence. In Womack’s final argument to the jury Friday, the lawyer blasted the government for ‘hiding’ the role of superior officers. ‘Not one witness from the chain of command came to this proceeding,’ he said. ‘Do you think the prosecutors just forgot to call those officers?’”

Speaking of officers and high U.S. officials, not one single one has been charged in the ever-growing torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal. What should give them hope is that the Pentagon is still in charge of the many investigations.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The front page of the Washington Post announces today that according to the CIA, Iraq has become a new terror breeding ground. How can that be a surprise given the tens of thousands of innocent people who have been killed or maimed during the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

Of course, inevitably there will those who will claim that the deaths and maiming of all those people have nothing to do with the anger and hatred that people in that part of the world have for the United States. Instead, it’s all because they hate us for our “freedom and values.”

Of course, it’s not only the invasion and war of aggression and occupation of Iraq that have generated the increased anger and hatred. We should keep in mind the other things the feds have done to people in that part of the world—the CIA ouster of the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, the delivery of WMD to Saddam Hussein, the assistance provided to Saddam with the use of those WMD against his enemies, the “green light” given to Saddam to invade Kuwait, the Persian Gulf War, the decades of brutal sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the “no-fly zones,” the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the unconditional military support provided the Israeli government, and then the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal at Abu Ghraib along with its correlative cover-up.

And let’s also not forget all the anger and hatred arising out of U.S. misconduct in Latin America, including support of right-wing regimes and death squads, ouster of democratically elected regimes in Chile and Guatemala, the century-old obsession with installing a U.S. puppet in Cuba, and, of course, the decades-old drug war that has ravaged Latin America. I can just hear it now, if a Latin American commits an act of terrorism against the United States, what we inevitably will hear as the “war on terrorism” is extended to Latin America: “They hate us for our ‘freedom and values’ in that part of the world too!”

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The New York Times reports that a U.S. charity, Save the Children, has been overwhelmed with private donations to help the tsunami victims. The problem has gotten so large that the local post office has had to add workers to handle the donations being mailed to the charity.

So, repeat after me: “We cannot abolish the income tax, the IRS, Social Security, public schooling, and government welfare programs because the American people are so evil, selfish, greedy, and self-centered that they would never care about voluntarily taking care of their family or others in need. Anyway, the only reason they’re helping those foreigners whom they’ve never met is for an income-tax deduction.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Uh, oh! The commentators at FOX News might have to shift gears real fast! After years of embracing the federal position of “stay the course” in Iraq, rumors have it that U.S. officials are looking for a way to bale out of the mess they’ve made with their invasion and war of aggression against the Iraqi people. According to the New York Times, “Three weeks before the election in Iraq, conversation has started bubbling up in Congress, in the Pentagon and some days even in the White House about when and how American forces might begin to disengage in Iraq.”

As I have repeatedly pointed out ever since the invasion, this will ultimately turn out to be a fiasco for both the Iraqi people and the American people, if for no other reason that the Iraqi people, most of whom are very religious, will never accept a regime installed by a foreign invader that engages in and covers up torture, rape, sex abuse, and murder. And while U.S. officials and U.S. conservatives continue to call brutal dictatorial military rule in Iraq “freedom,” the Iraqi people are not fooled. They know that such things as censorship, a CIA-installed Saddam Hussein look-alike who is filling graves with the insurgents his military is killing, indefinite detentions, warrantless searches and seizures, and gun control are not genuine freedom.

It’s only a matter of time that the U.S. government exits Iraq. Be prepared for the standard line that we undoubtedly will hear from the FOX News commentators—that it’s all the fault of weak-kneed pacifists who refused to “stay the course” or, equally likely, it’s all the fault of those D.C. neocons who adopted the “wrong” plan for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Washington Times editorial board takes Washington Post columnist William Raspberry to task for the following statement by Raspberry: “We can argue all day that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant whose defeat and humiliation should evoke no sympathy from us. But he did have a functioning country. There was a government in place. People went to work and to the market and to school in relative safety. Can anyone really believe that the U.S.-spawned anarchy has left the Iraqi people better off? We broke it.”

The Times writes, “On both a historical and moral level, this is pure rubbish. Can Mr. Raspberry honestly tell his readers to compare present-day Iraq to Saddam’s totalitarian state? To understand his moral obtuseness, consider a similar example. In Hitler’s Germany citizens had a “government in place.” They “went to work and to the market and to school….”

Unfortunately, the Times’ analysis is very wrongheaded. For one thing, as the world has learned time and time again, it is entirely possible for people to live and survive under an authoritarian regime. Think about Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe under the multi-decade control of the Soviet Union, which was America’s “freedom ally” in World War II. Very few would suggest that living under Soviet communist domination was a pleasant thing, but it was living and it was surviving — and don’t forget that the Poles and other Eastern Europeans were ultimately able to cast off the Soviet chains peacefully.

Would they have been better off if the United States had attacked and invaded Eastern Europe in the good-hearted attempt to “liberate” them? What if hundreds of thousands had been killed and maimed in the process? What if nuclear bombs had fallen, as they did at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Under what moral authority does the U.S. government or U.S. conservatives say that the survivors would be better off after hundreds of thousands are killed or maimed? Why shouldn’t violent regime change be left to the people of that country rather than to U.S. federal bureaucrats and politicians who, contrary to popular conservative opinion, do not necessarily know what is in everyone else’s best interests? Maybe the Declaration of Independence is right—that given a choice, sometimes people would rather choose to suffer under tyranny than to suffer the consequences of violent revolution. Why shouldn’t that decision be left to them rather than all-knowing, all-wise, pointy-headed Washington, D.C., politicians and bureaucrats?

As I have repeatedly stated, conservatives have it all wrong when they claim that the Iraqi people have been “free” ever since the U.S. invasion because they confuse U.S. military rule with genuine freedom. What has actually happened is that the U.S. invasion has substituted one form of tyranny for another. Ever since the invasion, there have been indefinite detentions, warrantless searches and seizures, curfews, gun control, censorship, torture, sex abuse, rape, murder, no legislature, rule by decree, a Saddam Hussein, CIA-approved substitute dictator, who uses the U.S. military to suppress insurgents and dissidents, just as Saddam did. To U.S. conservatives, all that is “freedom” because it’s happening under U.S. military rule. But it is not freedom in the genuine sense of the term. It is simply another form of tyranny—U.S.-approved tyranny, but tyranny nonetheless.

Finally, conservatives have never explained how their indifference to the loss of Iraqi life during both the brutal sanctions regime and during the invasion can be reconciled with their supposed motivation to invade Iraq for the benevolent purpose of “liberating” the Iraqi people. The fact is that they can’t be reconciled because conservatives have never given a hoot for the well-being of the Iraqi people. The “we invaded because we love the Iraqis” rationale came about after the “we invaded because Saddam is about to attack us with his WMD” rationale fell apart.

Why can’t conservatives simply be honest: The U.S. government invaded Iraq not to “disarm Saddam” and not to “spread democracy” and not to “liberate Iraqis” but simply for the purpose of installing a U.S.-friendly regime. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of ousting the democratically elected president of Chile in 1970 and the democratically elected prime minister of Iran in 1953? Hasn’t that been what U.S. foreign policy has been all about for decades, and isn’t that why Americans are now having to fight “the terrorists”?

As I wrote yesterday, connect the dots and you’ll start to see that the root of most major political-economic-social problems in America lies with the federal government. Unfortunately, it’s a blind spot that afflicts all too many U.S. conservatives and, well, U.S. leftists as well. That’s why the hope for America continues to lie with libertarianism and libertarian principles.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Has anyone else noticed that just about everything the federals have had a heavy hand in during the past several decades is an absolute mess? Think about it: Social Security, health care, education, foreign policy, Iraq, Afghanistan, federal housing guarantees, the U.S. dollar, foreign aid, torture, civil liberties, immigration, the postal service, and airport security, just to mention a few. No one can deny that all of them are an absolute mess!

All too many Americans fail to see a pattern here. Unable to conceive that the federals are at the root of all these problems, they want the federals to “take charge” and fix the problems. Unfortunately, their misconception is reinforced by both conservatives and “liberals” (“liberals” in the corrupted sense of the term), who continue devoting their lives, websites, and studies to what the federals should do to reform or save the federal programs.

What we libertarians must continue doing is helping our fellow Americans to connect the dots, helping them to recognize that the federal government — specifically, its welfare-warfare paradigm — is at the root of the major political and economic problems that face our nation. Once a sufficient number of people begin connecting the dots, a critical mass will be formed that will reject the futile quest to reform or save the welfare-warfare paradigm and its socialist-interventionist programs and instead embrace the libertarian paradigm of individual freedom, free markets, private property, and constitutional republic.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

A letter to the editor in today’s New York Times pretty much sums up the moral abyss into which our nation has fallen:

“Let me get this straight. If Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, had paid his nanny under the table, recent history shows that there is no way he could be confirmed. But Mr. Gonzales is merely the architect of a White House policy on torture that even Republicans believe has endangered the lives of American troops. Therefore, his confirmation does not appear in doubt.” — Diane Runyan Bech Swarthmore, Pa., Jan. 7, 2005.

I’d put it more bluntly: In today’s America, If a U.S. citizen hires an undocumented foreigner on mutually beneficial terms, the nominee must be banned from federal office. If, on the other hand, a U.S. citizen is the architect of a policy of torture against foreigners, the nominee is to be confirmed to his federal position post haste.

Anyway, it’s all part of the “war on terrorism,” you know, and therefore that makes it, for some people, all okay. Just like it was, say, in Chile under Army General Augusto Pinochet.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Attorney-general nominee Antonio Gonzales, who drafted the famous legal memo for the president regarding torture and the Geneva Convention, now assures us that he’s against torture and is even promising to investigate FBI reports of U.S. military torture in Cuba.

After long denying accusations that it’s torturing people in Cuba, the U.S. military, faced with FBI proof that it is torturing people, has now announced that it’s going to investigate itself to determine whether it is in fact torturing people.

Unfortunately, President Bush is refusing to release documents relating to the torture scandal because to do so would supposedly jeopardize the security of the nation. Perhaps the real reason is that disclosure might result in the discovery of an “executive order” issued by the president regarding torture, given that the FBI reports of the torture at Guantanamo Bay mention an “executive order.”

Meanwhile, U.S. officials, including those in the Pentagon, continue to claim that the torture is limited to a few “bad apples” and is not the result of a U.S. government policy.

Well, why not have Congress appoint an independent special prosecutor with the authority to investigate and seek indictments against everyone who broke the law? Given that there is considerable evidence that higher-ups have been involved in the wrongdoing, and given that higher ups cannot be expected to competently investigate and prosecute themselves or their close associates, isn’t this the type of case that screams out for the appointment of an independent special prosecutor?

Thursday, January 6, 2005

A U.S. federal district court in Spartanburg, South Carolina, finally held a hearing on accused terrorist Jose Padilla’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. The judge announced that he’ll issue a ruling in 30-45 days.

Padilla’s attorneys contended what we here at FFF have been contending ever since Padilla was taken into custody in Chicago — that under our system of laws, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the government must either charge him or release him.

The government’s position remains as ominous as ever — that the military has the power under our system of government to take any American into custody as an “unlawful combatant” in the “war on terrorism” and punish him without due process of law, right to counsel, jury trial, and the other protections provided in the Bill of Rights.

The government’s attorney suggested to the judge that Americans need not worry over the government’s position because the government had actually done this to only two Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. Apparently this guy thinks that all of us were born just yesterday. The reason they’ve stopped at two Amreican detainees is simply to first secure a favorable ruling from the federal judiciary. Once they do that and have ensured no further federal court interference with their operations, the floodgates will then be open to round up as many as they want. If they started the roundups first, the judiciary would be likely to take a closer look at their actions. So, better to start with two, act like it’s no big deal, get a favorable ruling, ensure no further federal court interference, and then finally expand the roundups.

After all, don’t forget: Chilean General Pinochet’s regime, which the U.S. government supported during that regime’s “war on terrorism,” started with just a few “terrorists” that it was torturing and killing and then the number of victims quickly moved into the thousands.

And don’t forget that the U.S. military started with just a few “terrorists” at Guantanamo and then that extended to the victims of the Iraqi invasion. And don’t forget that the Pentagon has been lying the entire time about no torture and sex abuse taking place at Guantanamo.

History repeatedly shows that once these type of people have the unfettered power to “get the terrorists,” their paranoia and power know no bounds, which is why the Padilla case is one of the most important (and ominous) cases in our lifetime.

By the way, the government is making the same claim about Padilla that it made about Hamdi — that he is a dangerous terrorist who is waging “war” against the United States. But don’t forget: when the U.S. Supreme Court effectively held in the Hamdi case that the government had to charge him with a crime or release him, the government chose to release him. If Padilla has committed terrorism, then let them charge him with terrorism. After all, isn’t that what the PATRIOT Act, which the Congress passed without reading, was supposed to be all about?

While we’re on the subject of General Pinochet, isn’t it ironic that the Chilean people are doing their best to uncover and prosecute the higher ups who were responsible for the torture, murders, and disappearances in Chile’s “war on terrorism,” while here in the United States, the architect of one of the memoranda that led to the torture, murder, rape, sex abuse, and disappearances in the U.S. “war on terrorism” has been nominated to be the federal government’s attorney general.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

The Washington Times, perhaps the nation’s premier conservative newspaper, runs a celebratory drug-war article entitled, “U.S. Agencies Celebrate Banner Year in Drug War.” The article details all the drug busts of drug lords that U.S. drug agencies made during 2004.

Yawn!

Why yawn? Because I’ve heard this celebratory drug-war nonsense when I was a young criminal-defense lawyer in Laredo, Texas, in the 1970s. Just as it is today, Laredo was one of the major drug smuggling areas on the Mexican border. DEA agents were saying the same things they’re quoted as saying in the Washington Times celebratory article. They were busting drug smugglers. They were breaking up drug gangs. They were capturing drug lords. They were cracking drug cartels.

Yawn!

Ironically, the St. Petersburg Times is running another type of drug-war article, “Danilo’s War.” It details how a DEA hero, a foreign drug-war cop, went over to the dark side of the drug culture and is now dead. Oddly, the Washington Times didn’t tell that story in its celebratory article.

The underlying reason the DEA is celebrating is that all these successful drug busts is that they mean that the DEA stays in existence, maintains and perhaps expands its budget, keeps DEA agents on the public payroll, and funds pensions for all those retiring DEA agents who were celebrating drug-war busts in the 1970s. In other words, as long as there are drug busts successfully being made, that’s justification enough to continue the drug war, regardless of the fact that these drug busts and drug-war celebrations never end, continuing indefinitely into the future.

What about the people who get busted or killed, such as the DEA drug-war hero who went over to the dark side? They’re the losers, but make no mistake about it — they will immediately be replaced by new drug lords, drug gangs, drug cartels, and DEA heroes who will become corrupted because that’s the way the free market operates.

As we have written time and time again for the last 15 years here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, there is one — and only one — way to eradicate drug gangs, drug lords, drug cartels, the DEA, and cops who go over to the dark side of the drug culture — legalize drugs — end Prohibition (again) — repeal the drug war. Treat drug addiction the way we treat alcohol addiction. Remember that booze is also a drug and that it used to be illegal, which engendered booze lords, booze gangs, booze violence, anti-booze drug agencies, booze cops, corrupt booze cops, and booze-war celebratory newspaper articles, until the booze laws were finally and wisely repealed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

In an the wake of the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal by the U.S. military and the subsequent cover-up of such wrongdoing by Pentagon officials, along with the pooh-poohing of such misconduct by U.S. conservatives, it is refreshing to see that not all U.S. military personnel take such a wrongful attitude.

For example, the Washington Post reports that a twelve retired military officers have sent a letter to the Senate judiciary committee expressing “deep concern” over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzalez as the nation’s next attorney general. The concerns arise out of the role that Gonzalez played in the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal arising out of U.S. military operations in Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

The officers wrote, “Today, it is clear these [detention and interrogation] operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world…. Repeatedly in our past, the United States has confronted foes that, at the time they emerged, posed threats of a scope of nature unlike any we had previously faced. But we have been far more steadfast in the past in keeping faith with our national commitment to the rule of law.”

Richard H. Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, “I don’t know of any precedent for something like this. A retired group of military officers bands together to virtually oppose a Cabinet nominee. And a non-military one? It is highly unusual, to say the least.”

These officers are a credit to the military—they are what an officer is supposed to be all about. They put to shame not only those members of the military who participated in the wrongdoing and cover-up and not only those officers who have chosen to remain silent for fear of damage to their military career, not only those officers who blindly obey orders, but also those U.S. conservatives who, even while preaching moral and religious and ethical values to others, have consistently pooh-poohed the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal, preferring to have it all swept under the carpet.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Whenever I think that U.S. officials cannot outdo themselves in audaciousness, they do it! To ring in the new year, federal officials are planning an extensive series of American-built gulags around the world for the purpose of indefinitely detaining suspected terrorists, denying them due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and all other guarantees provided in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The plan undoubtedly will include other forms of punishment for the accused, including torture, sex abuse, and even execution.

Unbelievable, especially in the wake of the severe admonishments against such misconduct by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Rasul, Hamdi, and Padilla cases.

What these people (the feds) are actually proposing is to build a series of prisons in dictatorial regimes that are friendly to the U.S. government, along the lines of the federal Guantanamo, Cuba, gulag, which was established there for the express purpose of detaining and torturing prisoners outside the supervision and control of the federal judiciary. Then, as prisoners are deposited in those foreign gulag centers, the plan undoubtedly to farm out the torture to interrogators of the foreign regime, so that it won’t appear that U.S. officials are engaged in such misconduct or simply do it themselves if they are successful in avoiding federal-court interference with their operations.

If you want a model for this type of thing—and a reason to ardently oppose it—just think of combining Stalin’s gulag system in the Soviet Union with General Pinochet’s reign of terror in Chile. Think about all the people they and their minions tortured and killed in the name of battling terrorism.

And lest anyone think that none of this is any big deal because it will involve only foreigners, think again. In the Jose Padilla case, the military is doing everything it can to avoid the express admonishments from the Supreme Court in the Hamdi and Rasul cases, which clearly also apply to Padilla. Padilla is an American who has been jailed for more than two years without a trial. The military continues to take the position that despite the Supreme Court rulings, it will continue to exercise the power to jail and punish Americans without any regard to due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and the Bill of Rights.

Fortunately, a few members of the long-supine Congress have stepped forward to mildly criticize the new federal gulag plan. What’s needed is for the American people themselves to firmly put a stop to the destructive Soviet-like direction that the federals continue to take our nation.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

One of the most important legal cases of our time will be presented on January 5 in U.S. District Court in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It will be a hearing on the petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by accused terrorist Jose Padilla, an American citizen. For almost 3 years, the Pentagon has held Padilla in a brig as an “unlawful combatant” in the so-called war on terrorism and denying him all protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Despite adverse rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hamdi and Rasul (Guantanamo Bay) cases, the Pentagon continues to steadfastly maintain that it has the power to jail and punish any American citizen accused of terrorism, without due process of law, right to counsel, and trial by jury — much as the military did in the former Soviet Union and under the Pinochet regime in Chile and currently does on Castro’s side of Cuba.

Of course, the forces of freedom and the defenders of the Constitution already have one victory of sorts against the Pentagon. The military initially took the position that it would brook no interference by the federal courts in its operations. The Supreme Court rulings in Hamdi and Rusul put the quietus to that ludicrous position, which means that now the Pentagon must appear in a subservient role in a habeas corpus proceeding in U.S. District Court to show cause why it should not be required to obey other restrictions in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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.