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 2005

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sen. Hillary Clinton is among the growing number of congressional Democrats who are having second thoughts about the president’s war on Iraq. In a 1600-word email to her constituents, Clinton said, ”I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war…. Based on the information that we have today, Congress never would have been asked to give the president authority to use force against Iraq.”

Unfortunately, Clinton doesn’t face the important issue: That she, along with her cohorts in Congress, in the face of upcoming 2002 congressional elections, cowardly abrogated their responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution, which they swear to uphold and defend, by not insisting, on pain of impeachment, that the president secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war before waging war on Iraq. Instead, Clinton and her cohorts tried to wash their hands of responsibility by unconstitutionally delegating the power to declare war to the president, thereby vesting in him the dictatorial power to wage an aggressive war against a sovereign and independent country that had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

If Clinton and her cohorts had threatened Bush with impeachment, he might well have come to Congress with a request for a declaration of war, in which case the Congress could have ferreted out the fake, false, and hyped WMD information that the president was using to frighten the American people into supporting the war, and thereby deny Bush his request for a declaration of war. That would have meant that tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers would be alive and whole today instead of six feet under or missing limbs or sight. And it would mean that the Iraqis would be in charge of their political destiny, much as people are in Pakistan, Egypt, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Vietnam, and other countries where there are dictators and which aren’t being invaded or “liberated” by the U.S. government.

By abrogating her solemn responsibility as a congressman, especially with respect to the important constitutional provision regarding war, Clinton and her cohorts share moral responsibility for the death, destruction, and chaos that now pervade Iraq. It will take a lot more than a posturing email leading up to the 2008 presidential race to relieve Clinton of such responsibility.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

California Congressman Randy Cunningham pled guilty yesterday to accepting bribes in return for helping friends in the military-industrial complex to win contracts.

I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, especially for those who are holding fast to the picture that government schoolteachers paint about the federal government in high-schools civics classes, but bribes are the driving force of how Congress works.

Here’s how the congressional bribe system works. Those people who want favors, grants, subsidies, tax breaks, or other privileges make large campaign contributions to their congressman or to the political party in office (or also to the party out of office). The congressmen then perform favors for the contributors in the form of pork, tax breaks, regulatory relief, etc.

Unfortunately, the corruption doesn’t end there. There are also the bribes that congressmen offer to constituents in the form of grants, pork, welfare, subsidies, jobs, etc. Then, voters return the favor by reelecting their incumbent, so that he will gain more power to do more of the same in the future. Of course, voters simply block out of their minds that such bribes are being paid with the money that the executive branch of the federal government, through the IRS, has taken from the voters in the first place.

So, why aren’t most other congressmen indicted and convicted for bribery? Because they’re smarter than Cunningham was. When they accept the money from contributors, there’s no express quid pro quoi. That is, they don’t enter into an express agreement in which they say, “I will give you this in return for your big campaign contributions.” Instead, the expectations are unstated, so as to avoid a bribery indictment, but all the players know that if the expectations go unfulfilled, the money will be cut off for the next election.

It’s the same for voters. Congressmen don’t say, “I am bringing your local politicians some federal pork but you must agree to reelect me in return.” Instead, they simply turn up the federal spigots as election time nears, knowing that constituents will be grateful for all this “free” money and will be likely to express their gratitude at the polls by reelecting their congressmen, especially since they know that congressional seniority will most likely result in more candy and pork for their district.

The solution to this congressional corruption, however, lies not in “campaign finance reform” or “ethics reform” or in getting “better people” into public office. It lies instead in dismantling and repealing the socialist and interventionist programs and, ultimately, by constitutionally prohibiting Congress from having the power to dole out candy and pork. With no more candy and pork to dole out, people would no longer have any reason to bribe congressmen anymore and congressmen would no long have the means to bribe the voters.

Monday, November 28, 2005

One of the positive sides to the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq is playing out in Latin America, where according to the New York Times, “President Bush holds the lowest standing of any United States leader ever in Latin America.” The leading candidate for president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is calling for drug legalization in that country. Better yet, he’s leading in the polls, much to the consternation and objection of U.S. officials, whose drug-war policies have helped to devastate Bolivia as well as many other countries in Latin America.

The article points out that previous Bolivian administrations have cooperated with the drug war in part because of the U.S. taxpayer dollars that flow into Bolivian coffers. Apparently Morales is willing to give up those monies, and the Bolivian people are approving, partly because of the antipathy they feel toward the Bush administration. As the article points out, “Today Washington-backed economic prescriptions are being rejected up and down the continent.”

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the federal government’s own overseas policies — and the anger and animosity they have produced among foreigners — ultimately contribute to ending one of the world’s most immoral and destructive wars — the war on drugs?

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The New York Times has an interesting article today about the mental-health problems that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are experiencing.

Why would it surprise anyone that such problems would occur?

The soldiers joined the military under the misconception that their duty would be to defend their country. Yet, here their government has placed them in a foreign country waging a war of aggression, a type of war that was punished at Nuremberg. Don’t forget: Iraq never attacked the U.S. or even threatened to do so, making the U.S. the aggressor nation in this war.

So, the soldiers have been thrown into a targeted country and told, “Kill or be killed.” So, to stay alive, they must kill, but they know that they are killing people who are defending against an invasion by an aggressor nation. How would it be possible for them not to struggle internally over their killings, not only in psychological sense but a religious sense as well?

As the withdrawal of Iraq now begins, the question must be asked: Who supported the troops and the Iraqi people—those who opposed the Iraq War or those who supported it?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Last weekend I had the good fortune of not only attending the LewRockwell.com conference on gold, freedom, and peace in San Mateo but also the honor of speaking there as well. My talk and Lew Rockwell’s talk are posted in today’s FFF Email Update.

Here are links to printed transcripts of some of the talks:

What I Didn’t Learn at VMI” by Jacob G. Hornberger

Our Money Madness” by Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Warmongering Is the Health of Statism” by Anthony Gregory

The Internet vs. the State” by Eric Garris

Bernankeism: Fraud of Menace” by Robert Blumen

There were many other speakers, including Ron Paul. If you would like to tapes or CDs or mp3s of the talks, the order information is included in the articles linked above.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Congressman Murtha deserves credit for having the courage to call for a U.S. exit from Iraq. But a recent speech he delivered to his constituents deserves to be condemned. According to the New York Times, “The talk focused almost entirely on all the federal aid Mr. Murtha has been able to deliver to his district from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee.”

That part of the speech — the “free” federal candy and pork that Murtha was bringing home — produced three standing ovations.

Murtha’s speech and the audience’s positive reaction to it brings to mind Frederic Bastiat’s astute observation about socialist governments — that they provide a fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else by having the IRS dip into other people’s income and savings and then having their legislator bring the loot back home to his constituents. Unfortunately, today people judge their legislator by how well he can play this corrupt and immoral game. After all, let’s not forget that Murtha’s not the only one who does this. Most other members of Congress can’t wait to rush home to tell their constituents about how effective they are in getting some “free” candy and pork brought home to them. And people just block out of their minds that it’s their money or, even worse, the money that has been plundered and looted from their friends, neighbors, and countrymen.

Our Founding Fathers had it right: Leave people free to keep their own income and to decide how to use it. That’s why Americans once lived without income taxation, IRS, Social Security, Medicare, welfare, etc. No federal candy or pork for congressmen to bring home. The thought that government should be used to pick people’s pockets so that congressmen could come home and receive ovations for bringing home federal candy and pork was anathema to our ancestors.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Just when you think that things can’t get weirder, they do.

As I’ve been stating in this blog for several months now, it still hasn’t dawned on many Americans as to what President Bush’s war on Iraq has produced: a radical, torturous Islamic regime headed by somebody called an ayatollah, which has established formal ties with the ayatollahs in Iran, which President Bush has called evil and is even threatening to invade. This is the regime that U.S. soldiers are now killing and dying to preserve. It’s almost like there had been an election between fascists and communists, and U.S. officials saying that it was necessary for U.S. troops to be killing and dying to preserve the rule of the communists because they won the “democratic” elections.

Well, yesterday, the president of Iraq was in Tehran chit-chatting with his buddy the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during which time Khamenei advised his friend to impose a definite timetable on U.S. troops exiting Iraq. “The government and people of Iraq can with their voices seek a timetable for the exit of the occupiers,” he said. Note the operative word: “occupiers” (that is, not “liberators,” as U.S. officials insist on calling it). But that’s not all. Ayatollah Khamenei also told his Iraqi friend, “Certainly, in the end the Americans and British will be forced by bitter experience to leave Iraq.” According to Yahoo News, “Khamenei denounced what he called U.S. attempts to hurt warming Iranian-Iraqi ties with ‘lies and slander’ and urged Iraqis to resist American pressure on them to reduce relations with its neighbor.”

Now, think about this the next time you hear President Bush and Vice President Cheney waxing eloquent about the need to “stay the course” and have U.S. troops killing and dying in Iraq. I just don’t see how it’s possible for Bush and Cheney to keep this perverse result of the Iraqi War from finally dawning on the consciousness of the American people. And ask yourself this: If Bush orders an invasion of Iran, which side do you think the new Islamic regime in Iraq will side with?

Meanwhile, after 3 years of telling the American people that terrorism is an act of war and not a criminal offense, the feds have indicted Jose Padilla for “terrorism” in U.S. district court. As we have steadfastly maintained over the past 3 years, this is what they should have done from the beginning. Terrorism is a crime, not an act of war. And the U.S. military has no more business hijacking the country’s judicial system than it does establishing an independent international kangaroo military system for suspected foreign terrorists.

You’ll recall that U.S. officials, including those in the military, repeatedly told the American people and the federal judiciary that Padilla was a dangerous “enemy combatant” who had planned to put a mushroom cloud over some American city. Well, guess what: the indictment doesn’t even charge Padilla with terrorism in the United States but instead charges him with terrorism overseas (as part of the U.S. government’s self-proclaimed role as international cop). This means that either they never had the evidence to charge Padilla with a crime here or that they’ve been lying from the beginning. One thing’s for sure: Even though the president and the Pentagon aren’t openly renouncing the power to arrest and punish Americans without due process of law, habeas corpus, jury trials, and federal court interference, their decision to surrender in the Padilla case is reason for Americans to sleep easier, given that it is now unlikely that they’ll try it on more Americans, at least not in the near future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Iraq’s new army, which has been reconstituted under U.S. government supervision, is remarkably similar to Saddam Hussein’s army. Lt. Col. Frederick Wellman said, “The vast majority of officers were in the previous army. People asked us why we didn’t call back the old army. And the answer is, well, we have.” Watching Iraqi tanks traveling in review on a parade ground, Sgt. Bashar Fathi, a Republican Guard veteran, reminisced, “This ceremony — this same music — it makes us remember the old army.”

The U.S. government says that it invaded Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people from the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. But Saddam couldn’t have done all those bad things all by himself. The way that any dictator is able to impose and enforce his dictatorship is through his military forces. They are the ones who loyally and obediently carry out the brutal dictates of the dictator. This was especially true in the case of Saddam. His soldiers, like soldiers in other countries, were loyal and obedient to him, faithfully carrying out his orders to invade countries, wage wars of aggression, suppress insurgents, and torture detainees.

So, now we have those loyal and obedient troops who faithfully carried out Saddam’s orders working for the newly reconstituted army of the newly installed regime in Iraq, a radical Islamic regime that is headed by an ayatollah and which has aligned itself with the ayatollahs in Iran.

The regime that Saddam’s former troops now serve suppresses and kills insurgents, enforces gun control and gun confiscation, tortures detainees, denies due process and right to counsel to detainees, conducts warrantless searches and seizures of people’s homes and businesses, shoots demonstrators, and closes down the critical press.

Oh well, at least Saddam’s former troops, especially those who served in his Republican Guard, have been well-trained to loyally and obediently carry out orders enforcing such policies.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Human rights workers in Guatemala have uncovered a treasure trove of official government documents detailing kidnappings, torture, and killings at the hands of Guatemalan officials during the Guatemalan civil war. The war began after the U.S. government ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala and, in the name of “freedom,” installed a military dictator who was an ally (and stooge) of the U.S. Not surprisingly, Guatemalan government officials in 1996, when the peace accords were finally signed, lied when they denied that any such files existed.

Meanwhile, Chilean prosecutors are prosecuting former Chilean government officials for torture, sex abuse, and murder of detainees during former military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s war on terrorism.

No doubt U.S. officials are keeping a wary eye on developments in those two countries and trying to figure out whether to keep written records of their kidnappings, renditions, torture, sex abuse, and homicides of detainees as part of their “war on terrorism,” not only in Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan but also in their secret “black” sites in Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe. After all, they’ve already seen what can happen when photographs are released, which is why they’re fighting to suppress the balance of the Abu Ghraib photographs.

The reason is obvious as to why U.S. officials, from the president on down, are steadfastly maintaining that their official policy is “We don’t do torture,” despite what everyone’s eyes are seeing and despite the fact that U.S. officials are fiercely fighting for the CIA’s right to torture. They know that while the chances of criminal prosecution are nil today, there is always such potential after they leave office and after the dark clouds of their “war on terrorism” dissipate and Americans are once again living lives of normalcy.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

According to an article in the New York Times, housing prices in Baton Rouge shot up 30 percent after Hurricane Katrina. Do you think that those fearless and intelligent pro-free enterprise members of Congress are going to subpoena homeowners in Baton Rouge to testify before Congress about their “price-gouging” and “windfall profits,” like they did with those oil company executives?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Televangelist Pat Robertson has told the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania, that God might ignore them in the event of disaster for voting out all eight members of the school board for attempting to introduce “intelligent design” to the public school classrooms. (Robertson didn’t explain why God would apply the sanction against those residents who voted in favor of the school board members.)

One of the problems with conservatives is that instead of removing Caesar from education, they instead try their best to place religious teachings under the control of Caesar.

Isn’t it bad enough that parents are forced to submit their children to the government’s control for secular “education”? Why make the situation worse by forcing parents to submit their children to the government’s control for religious education too?

There is only one solution to the entire public-schooling mess: a free-market educational system, one in which there is no government involvement in education. In such a system, educational suppliers and producers, including schools, would be free to teach whatever they want, and consumers would be free to choose which of them to patronize.

A free-market in religion has worked out well, and a free market in education would work just as well. Somebody just needs to tell Pat Robertson and other religious conservatives that education, like religion, is something that should be rendered to God, not Caesar.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and his Mexican counterpart, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, have announced a joint plan to quell the drug-war violence in Nuevo Laredo.

Yawn.

What these two people don’t realize is what has become obvious to countless other people during the past 30 years or so of the drug war: that it’s the drug war itself that produces the violence. That is, if there was no drug war, there would be no drug-war violence. Or to put it another way, the drug war ensures the very violence that Gonzalez and Cabeza de Vaca are hoping to quell. Even worse, the more they try to quell the violence, the worse it gets, which of course means higher budgets to continue the crusade.

More important, people such as Gonzalez and Cabeza de Vaca never ask themselves the crucial moral question: Under what moral authority does one adult punish another adult for ingesting harmful substances? They just continue to loyally enforce the law, regardless of the moral or practical consequences.

There is one — and only one way — solution to drug lords and drug-war violence: end the war on drugs. It is also a solution in which people would finally be free to engage in self-destructive behavior — and openly seek treatment for drug addiction — without being sent to prison by the likes of Gonzalez and Cabeza de Vaca

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The newly installed Iraqi regime has now been caught red-handed torturing prisoners in what U.S. officials continue to describe as the liberated and free nation of Iraq — 173 malnourished and tortured prisoners in a Baghdad dungeon. Not surprisingly, Iraq’s prime minister was shocked over the revelation and called for an “investigation.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this what Saddam Hussein was doing, even when he was a close friend and ally of U.S. officials too? Wasn’t liberating the Iraqi people from torture one of the many alternative rationales that have been used to justify an illegal war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent people?

Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, said that the discovery that the new Iraqi regime was torturing was “troubling,” adding, “We don’t practice torture, and we don’t believe others should practice torture.” It’s not clear whether he was able to keep a straight face when he issued the statement.

Meanwhile, yesterday the head of Chile’s secret police, Army Gen. Manuel Contreras, was sentenced to three years in jail for killing a detainee who was incarcerated in one of the Chilean government’s anti-terror torture and sex-abuse centers. Contreras had already served 8 years for the “war-on-terrorism” killing of former Chilean official Orlando Letelier, whom Pinochet’s officials considered a “terrorist,” on the streets of Washington, D.C.

If it’s legally and morally right to hold high Chilean officials accountable for torture, sex abuse, rape, and killing of detainees, why shouldn’t the same standard be applied to high U.S. officials? That might be the reason that whenever there are new revelations of torture, sex abuse, rape, and homicide by U.S. personnel, the first thing that U.S. officials do is publicly proclaim, “We see nothing, we hear nothing, and we know nothing.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

President Bush is calling critics of his war on Iraq “irresponsible.”

He’s wrong.

The irresponsibility lies with him, his advisors, and the members of Congress who unconstitutionally delegated the power to declare war to the president.

Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to attack our nation. Neither the Iraqi people nor their government had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. Therefore, President Bush’s war on Iraq is what is known as a “ war of aggression,” a type of war punished at Nuremberg.

In the Iraq War, the U.S. is the aggressor nation because Iraq never attacked the U.S. or even threatened to do so.

Whether Saddam Hussein had WMD or not was a matter for the UN, not the U.S., to deal with. If Iraq was violating UN resolutions, then only the UN had the authority to enforce its own resolutions. The UN’s decision was: Keep inspecting because the inspections are working, which the Bush administration repeatedly said was a lie. That was irresponsible, along with all the mushroom cloud hyping that U.S. officials engaged in order to scare the American people into supporting the war.

The president’s war on Iraq was also illegal under our form of government because he waged it without a congressional declaration of war, which the U.S. Constitution requires. That’s irresponsible.

The Congress was irresponsible too. It should have told the president, “If you invade Iraq without a declaration of war from Congress, which the Constitution requires, we will impeach you immediately.” Instead, in fear that President Bush would call them cowardly and unpatriotic in the upcoming congressional elections, they caved in and voted to let President Bush make the decision on whether to invade Iraq.

When government officials behave irresponsibly by heading in a very bad and immoral direction, especially in an area as deadly and destructive as war, it is the foremost responsibility of the citizen to put the government back on the right track, and that includes criticism of the irresponsible behavior of government officials.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Georgetown law professor, M. Gregg Bloche, and a barrister in London, Jonathan H. Marks, have an op-ed in the New York Times today in which they disclose that the Pentagon got some of its torture techniques from the Vietnamese and North Korean communists, who used such techniques against U.S. soldiers during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to maintain that torture (and sex abuse, rape, and murder) has never been official U.S. government policy and instead has been committed by a few bad apples within the enlisted ranks. President Bush has even gone so far as to make the amazing claim, “We do not torture.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Cheney is fiercely fighting behind the scenes to persuade the Senate to exempt the CIA from Sen. John McCain’s bill to ban torture, including presumably at the CIA’s secret “black” sites located in Soviet communist-era compounds in Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, the Congress is close to effectively abolishing habeas corpus for foreigners arrested and incarcerated for “terrorism,” as P. Sabin Willett points out in his excellent article in today’s Washington Post.

Meanwhile, a Spanish judge has opened a criminal inquiry into the CIA’s practice of kidnapping people and sending them to brutal regimes for torture. Apparently the CIA has been secretly using the Spanish island of Majorca as part of its “renditions.” This comes on the heels of Italian criminal indictments against CIA agents for illegal kidnapping in that country.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is resisting the extradition to Chile of Armando Fernandez Larios for matters arising out of the Augusto Pinochet regime’s war on terrorism (i.e, torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder). You’ll recall that the Pinochet regime’s version of the CIA (“DINA”) assassinated former Chilean official Orlando Letelier on the streets of Washington, D.C.. because Chilean anti-terror officials considered Letelier to be a suspected terrorist.

The good news is that a recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News reflects that “two-thirds of those surveyed by the Post and ABC News said the country is heading in the wrong direction.” Of course, one cannot help but wonder about the one-third who apparently still think that moving in the direction of communists and military dictators is the right direction for our government to be taking.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

President Bush’s declaration “We do not torture” obviously raises troubling questions, given that the evidence is conclusive that U.S. government agents have not only tortured detainees but also sexually abused, raped, and killed them.

What could possibly be going through the president’s mind?

Perhaps the president is using the pronoun “we” to mean him and some of his White House aides. If that’s the case, then he must be telling himself that he’s technically telling the truth to the American people and the world — that he and, say, Rove and Cheney, are not torturing anyone and, therefore, that he is technically telling the truth.

However, if that’s what Bush is actually doing with his “We do not torture” declaration, then he is employing what is called a “half-truth,” which arguably is worse than a direct lie because it uses the truth to create a false impression.

Or perhaps the president means that torture is not official U.S. government policy. However, how likely is that, given the White House’s post-9/11 announcement that the U.S. government agents were not required to apply the Geneva Convention’s prohibitions against torture against “terrorists,” and given the widespread evidence of U.S. government torture (and sex abuse, rape, and homicide) in Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and given that “the Bush administration has proposed exempting the CIA from a legislative measure endorsed earlier this month by 90 members of the Senate that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoners in U.S. custody”?

Native-Americans had a good phrase for this type of thing: White man speak with forked tongue.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Yesterday, a vote by the U.S. Senate provided additional evidence that Congress cannot be relied upon to protect fundamental rights and freedoms of the people, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows that the purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to prevent the Congress from taking away our rights and freedoms.

The Senate voted to remove any federal court interference with the military incarceration and punishment of so-called “enemy combatants” in the “war on terrorism.” If the House approves the Senate’s action, the Bush administration, the Pentagon, and the CIA will be provided with what they wanted when they initially decided to set up their detention centers in Cuba, in secret Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe, and elsewhere around the world — a worldwide military “judicial” system with the power to operate totally independently of the constraints of the U.S. Constitution and without any interference by U.S. courts.

The Senate’s vote effectively buys into the government’s notion that suspected terrorists no longer have to be treated as criminal defendants but can, at the president’s and Pentagon’s option, be treated as prisoners of war — and unlawful ones at that and therefore subject to any treatment that U.S. military officials mete out to them. No attorney. No trial. No due process. No habeas corpus. Just military “treatment.”

Those who are tempted to feel secure in the notion that the Senate vote will apply only to foreigners and not Americans should keep in mind that the president and the Pentagon have already applied the same treatment to American citizens Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. Moreover, there is nothing that prevents U.S. government officials, especially in the midst of a “crisis,” to do to suspected American “terrorists” what they’re already doing to suspected foreign “terrorists” — kidnap and whisk them away to a foreign detention center or a foreign regime for the purpose of torturing them. No trial. No due process. No habeas corpus. Just railroaded in the dead of night into a secret, ominous camp where who knows what will be done to the prisoner, especially given President Bush’s and Vice-President Cheney’s fierce fight to permit the CIA to torture people and also given the horrible torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal in Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

It’s been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. But for that saying to have meaning, it’s obviously important to know where the danger to liberty lies so that people can be vigilant against it. That’s why it’s critically important that we unceasingly remind our fellow Americans of the most important warning that was handed down to us by the Founding Fathers of our nation: that the biggest threat to our liberty lies not with foreigners but instead with our very own federal government, whose officials never cease to come up with every conceivable device to do end runs around the restrictions on power and guarantees of rights and freedoms in the U.S. Constitution. Only by remaining eternally vigilant against federal officials, including those in Congress, can we hope to preserve our rights and freedoms.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Both the CIA and members of Congress are asking for formal investigations into who leaked the existence of the secret CIA torture centers in Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe to the Washington Post. Apparently, these people think that the outing of a CIA agent is the same as disclosing the existence of a secret CIA-run torture system in compounds abandoned by the Soviet communists.

U.S. officials know that this particular leak violates an implicit pact that has long existed between the federal government and the American people. The pact goes like this:

“Your government, primarily through the CIA, is going to be doing some very bad and nasty things to people in the world. These things should be kept secret from you, so that your conscience is not bothered. These are things that you do not want to know about because they might start bothering you. Turn away. Look away. Do not ask questions. Go about your daily lives. In this way, you don’t have to worry about being held morally accountable for what we do because you won’t know about it. Trust us to do whatever is necessary. We will keep our activities secret. We will keep our budget secret. Do not ask and we will not tell. We are here to protect you. You can live and die with a clear conscience because you don’t know what we are doing and you don’t want to know.”

Thus, the person who leaked the existence of the CIA’s secret Soviet-era torture centers caused a major breach of that implicit pact. Americans are now on notice that there are secret CIA Soviet era compounds in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. It is now in the interest of the CIA to do everything it can to restore the pact, limiting the damage by making sure that there are no further disclosures, especially on what has been done to the unknown people who have been subjected to CIA treatment inside the secret walls of these dark and ominous “black” sites.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials, both in the executive branch and in Congress, continue to suggest that foreigners hate America for its “freedom and values” but love the U.S. government for its beneficent policies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

There is an important albeit little-recognized point about President Bush’s failure to secure a “free-trade agreement” with Latin American countries during his recent trip to Argentina: He doesn’t need to negotiate or reach any agreement with any other nation. In fact, he doesn’t even have to travel overseas. All he has to do is tell his Republican-controlled, rubber-stamp Congress to immediately lift all tariffs and import restrictions on Latin American products and immediately end all welfare subsidies to American businesses.

Unilaterally freeing the American people to trade with others around the world wouldn’t necessarily mean that foreign governments would free their citizenry also, but at least it would serve as a model for the rest of the world. It would also remove the issue of trade from the international political arena, at least insofar as Americans are concerned.

The best place to start, of course, is with Cuba, where the U.S. government has made it a grave criminal offense for Americans to travel (or, more accurately, to spend money there without a license from the federal government) or for Americans to trade with Cubans.

What is needed is for the American people to come to the realization that while these federal trade restrictions are marketed to them as being in their best interests, they are actually U.S. government attacks on their rights and freedoms as well as grants of special privilege to a select group of American producers.

What better way to lead the world in the direction of free trade than by declaring an end to “free-trade” negotiations and “free-trade” agreements and unilaterally repealing all restrictions on the American people to trade with others around the world? Not only would both American consumers and producers benefit (except possibly for those producers who would lose their welfare benefits) but so would people in those parts of the world that forced their governments to do the same.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The New York Times reports that a growing number of people are leaving California and other high-priced areas and moving to lower-priced area. The article tells about Nathan and Melanie Fischer, 30 and 28, who moved from California to Missouri, using the proceeds from the sale of their California home to purchase a much bigger home in Missouri with a lake view and were also able to pay off their car debts and buy a 21-foot boat.

In other words, prices, costs, and incentives matter when it comes to people’s decisions to move into or out of an area. So, when prices go up in California, the tendency is for less people to move in and more people move out.

On the other hand, if the price of labor (wage rates) is going up, say in New Orleans because businesses are desperately in need of workers, the tendency is for people to move in, depending of course on the cost of living.

In each case, in determining whether to stay in an area or move to an area, people are weighing the respective costs and benefits for themselves and their families. If they decide to go, they don’t have to ask some government agency or wait months or years for a visa.

It is this natural system — a system that relies on supply and demand — by which free markets operate peacefully and harmoniously, including in labor markets.

Now, compare how the labor market is working in California and New Orleans, where Americans are free to come and go, with the labor market between Mexico and the United States, which relies on the U.S. government to centrally plan and regulate. The results are deaths, misery, incarcerations, shootings, misdemeanor and felony convictions, repatriations, visa shortages, reform plans, recriminations, militarized border, private immigration police, etc. etc. And that’s not even to mention the trade restrictions that the federal government places on products from Latin America, which worsens the economic situation in those countries, which then induces more people to migrate to the United States.

The free market is a natural system, one that that produces peace and harmony and that is consistent with moral principles. Socialistic central planning and regulation is an artificial government system that produces chaos, conflict, and disharmony and that violates moral principles.

Monday, November 7, 2005

According to the Washington Post, Chinese authorities “have shut down the law firm of a prominent civil rights attorney after he refused to withdraw an open letter urging President Hu Jintao to respect freedom of religion and stop persecuting members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.” The open letter described a torture case where “a man was hanged from overhead pipes until his legs rotted.”

The attorney is Gao Zhisheng, who the Post describes as “among the most daring of a generation of a self-trained lawyers who have been pushing the Chinese government to obey its own laws.” (Yes, “self-trained,” which means that he did not attend a government-approved law school, which tend to produce more traditional, conformity-minded attorneys who are scared to question or challenge their own government officials, especially with respect to torture and other infringements on civil liberties.)

The government responded that the real reason “the firm was being suspended because it had failed to register with the authorities after moving into a new office this year.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to maintain that the U.S. government should continue to have the authority to torture detainees at its secret CIA Soviet-era compounds and elsewhere, and that U.S. officials should continue to have the authority to deny the detainees access to attorneys, due process of law, habeas corpus, and jury trials.

When U.S. officials are embracing the tactics of Chinese officials, shouldn’t that set off all sorts of alarms within the American people with respect to the bad direction the U.S. government continues to take our nation?

Saturday, November 5, 2005

In the wake of protests against President Bush in Argentina involving tens of thousands of people, undoubtedly U.S. officials will repeat their standard bromide — that people in Latin America, like people in the Middle East, hate America for its “freedom and values” and that they love the U.S. government for its decades of military intervention in Latin America, its support of brutal military and right-wing dictators, its School of the Americas that has taught torture tactics to Latin American militaries, its failed and destructive international drug war that has torn Latin America apart, its policy of assassinating Latin American opponents, its loans and grants (i.e. bribes) through the World Bank and IMF that are used to control Latin American regimes, its military invasions, its interference with Latin American elections, and its managed and regulated trade that it markets under the rubric of “free trade.”

Undoubtedly, after Bush’s visit to Argentina federal officials will immediately dispatch recently appointed federal public relations director Karen Hughes to Latin America to explain to Latin Americans that, like people in the Middle East, they’re just too dumb and unsophisticated to appreciate the wonderful benefits of a brutal and hypocritical U.S. foreign policy.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Perhaps it’s fitting that the federal government has located its CIA torture camps in Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe. After all, the Pentagon located its torture and sex abuse camp in Fidel Castro’s Cuba and turned Saddam’s old torture prison, Abu Ghraib, into a U.S. torture and sex abuse center.

When will the American people finally recognize the horrible damage that the federal government has wreaked not only to our own nation but also to so many people around the world? When will the American people finally recognize that people do not hate our country’s freedoms and values but instead the brutality and hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy? When will the American people finally realize that a militarist, pro-empire foreign policy is at the root of our foreign-policy woes, especially terrorism? When will Americans finally demand the restoration of a constitutional republic to our land?

Thursday, November 3, 2005

One of the most important points about the Libby case is that it shows the extent to which the White House intended to punish or retaliate against any government officials who dared to question its principal rationale for invading Iraq — the imminent nuclear, chemical, and biological attack by Saddam on the United States. After all, it was the White House’s WMD claims, not democracy-spreading, that motivated most Americans to fall into line when Bush ordered the U.S. military to attack Iraq.

Even if Valerie Plame wasn’t technically covered by the criminal statute against outing a CIA agent, no federal official is ever going to release classified information about a CIA agent’s identity to the press without at least first getting a legal opinion on the matter from independent counsel. And as I wrote in a previous blog, if an antiwar person such as Michael Moore had done what Libby and Rove did, the White House people would be screaming like banshees: Traitor! Terrorist! America Hater! Unlawful combatant! Torture him! Execute him! Send him to Gitmo! Turn him over to the CIA!

The disclosure of Valerie Plame’s name to the media, whether it violated the technical aspects of the law or not, obviously had one message in mind, not only for Wilson but also for any other federal official who might be thinking of doing the same thing: Don’t even think of disclosing the truth about our (false) WMD rationale for the war or we will hurt you, and the public will support us because we are at war.

One of the most revealing pieces of circumstantial evidence indicating that the White House and the Pentagon had already decided to invade Iraq and were simply using the WMD scare as a way to market the war was the use of alternative rationales, such as democracy-spreading, to justify their invasion. Ask yourself: If U.S. officials honestly believed that a foreign nation was about to attack the United States with nuclear bombs, do you honestly think that they would be discussing the benefits of spreading democracy to that nation as they prepared to go to war against it? For that matter, do you honestly think that if enemy mushroom clouds over American cities were imminent, as Vice President Cheney kept suggesting in the run-up to the war, they’d be wasting months of time trying to convince the UN to give them a resolution to serve as cover for their war?

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Jalai Talabani, the president of Iraq, which U.S. officials have claimed is now a sovereign and independent nation, told the Arab press yesterday:

“I absolutely reject that Iraqi territory be used as a launch-pad for any military strike against Syria or any other Arab country. But this is my personal opinion and my capabilities are limited in confronting America’s might…. I cannot impose my opinion on them.”

Welcome to the club, President Talabani! The American people have no control either over the omnipotent power that President Bush wields with respect to waging war against other nations.

In our country, the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, to which the president is required to submit. The Constitution prohibits the president from waging war against another nation without first securing a declaration of war against that nation from the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Congress is composed of democratically elected representatives of the American people.

So, even though the president isn’t legally entitled to exercise omnipotent power with respect to war under our form of government, he does so anyway!

Unfortunately, when it comes to confronting the president, the members of our Congress are as impotent as you and, for that matter, as impotent as the Iraqi congress was in confronting Saddam Hussein when he waged war against Iran and Kuwait.

Oh well, so much for the myth that President Bush’s war on Iraq, which has wreaked massive death and destruction against a nation that never attacked the United States, and Bush’s “democratic” national elections in Iraq have brought sovereignty and independence to Iraq.

President Talabani, you need to get used to the fact that as the newest member of the U.S. Empire, you are “free” to make your own decisions, as long as your decisions are consistent with the will of empire officials, much as a child is free to make his own decisions as long as they don’t violate the guidelines imposed by his parents.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Vice President Cheney has replaced Scooter Libby with longtime aide David Addington. Who’s he, you ask? According to The Independent, Addington “was among the authors of a White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects.”

Add that to the fact that Cheney is asking Congress to permit the CIA to continue torturing people who are suspected of being terrorists.

Why is that important? Because Cheney continues to tell the American people that the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal in Cuba and Iraq were the acts of a few “bad apples” rather than part of a systematic plan reaching into the highest levels of government.

I still think they ought to put Fitzgerald in charge of investigating the torture, sex abuse, rape, and murder scandal, in addition to the Plame scandal, because he sure seems to be cut from a different cloth than such lawyers as John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez, Scooter Libby, David Addington, and Harriet Miers.

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.