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, December 2006

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Yesterday, I blogged about a book entitled A Question of Torture by Alfred W. McCoy, which details how the torture that U.S. officials have engaged in has not been because of a few bad apples but instead has been totally consistent with the pattern of behavior of the CIA for the last several decades.

The relationship of the American people to the CIA is an interesting one. Deep down, I think most people know that the CIA has been involved in very nasty, nefarious deeds, including assassinations, coups, murder, kidnapping, renditions, and torture.

But the unspoken agreement between the American people and the CIA has been: You do the dirty, immoral work that needs to be done but don’t tell us about it so that we can’t be held morally accountable for what is done.

Now, the U.S. torture scandal is threatening to burst that symbiotic, dysfunctional relationship. As an increasing number of people, including defense attorneys and judges, explore the torture to which prisoners and detainees have been subjected at hands of federal officials, the fingerprints and footprints of the CIA are increasingly appearing.

Be sure to read the article from The Nation by Naomi Klein that we link to in today’s FFF Email Update: “‘Never Before!’ Our Amnesiac Torture Debate.” The article, which discusses McCoy’s book, is an excellent summary of the torture scandal in the context of the long history of torture experimentation, training, and commission by both the CIA and the Pentagon, especially at the latter’s School of the Americas.

In March 2003 I wrote an article entitled “The Rot at the Center of the Empire,” in which I stated:

“There is a rot at the center of the American empire, and the rot has been there a long time. Unfortunately, it is a rot that the American people simply do not want to confront. It’s just too painful to confront the possibility that the root of their woes lies with the rot at the center of their empire.”

In order to achieve a healthy, moral, and ethical society, the American people must have the courage to face that a central part of the cancerous rot at the center of the U.S. Empire is the CIA and the courage to eradicate it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

One of the common refrains after the Abu Ghraib torture-and-sex-abuse photos surfaced was that all this was nothing more than the acts of a few bad apples in the military. Since then, however, evidence has surfaced of similar acts committed against detainees in U.S. detention camps in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan. The Justice Department is now trying to prohibit detainees who were transferred from secret CIA detention centers to Gitmo from telling their lawyers how they were treated. Most recently, the president and Republican-controlled Congress secured passage of the Military Commissions Act, which immunized U.S. officials from torture prosecutions.

Sure seems like a lot of hullabaloo over a few “bad apples.”

Over the holidays, I began reading a remarkable book entitled A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror by Alfred W. McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which puts the lie to the bad-apple claim. McCoy carefully documents how the torture and sex abuse that U.S. officials have engaged in since 9/11 is what the CIA has been doing and teaching ever since the 1950s.

McCoy traces CIA torture experiments on U.S. citizens in the 1950s, then into the infamous Project Phoenix in Vietnam, in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese prisoners were tortured and executed, and then later when the CIA’s torture tactics were taught at the Army’s School of the Americas to brutal rightwing regimes in Latin America.

Recently, U.S. citizen Jose Padilla’s attorneys filed a motion questioning his mental capacity, causing the federal judge in the case to order a psychiatric examination of Padilla. Padilla claims that he was held in total isolation under what is known as “sensory deprivation,” a process in which the prisoner is intentionally deprived of any contact with the outside world, including such things as human contact and clocks with the intent of causing mental damage to the detainee.

The Justice Department, not surprisingly, has claimed that this is not torture apparently because there isn’t any physical abuse. Yet, McCoy carefully documents that this type of “no-touch” torture is exactly what the CIA has been developing for decades and that it has, in fact, caused severe mental disorders in repeated CIA torture experiments.

McCoy shows how the CIA helped train the Shah of Iran’s secret domestic police force, SAVAK, to torture dissidents after the CIA secretly ousted Iran’s democratically elected prime minister from power and installed the Shah. Of course, many Americans don’t realize that the ouster and the torture were the principle reasons for the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the anger that still persists among the Iranian people against the United States today.

In the soul-searching and reflection that the Iraq debacle might bring to our nation, one of the most important principles for the American people to consider is that a free and healthy society cannot be reconciled with the existence of the CIA. Here are two articles on the subject:

The CIA by Sheldon Richman

Abolish the CIA! by Chalmers Johnson

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The situation in Iraq gets more interesting — and more perverted — as each day passes.

First, British troops attacked a police station in Basra because they had evidence that the Iraqi police were torturing their prisoners. The attack, which included a tank, killed several Iraqi policemen and destroyed the police station.

Now, keep in mind that the attack took place long after the Saddam Hussein regime was ousted and the new democratic Islamic Shiite regime was installed by “democracy.” Keep in mind also that Iraq is now supposed to be a sovereign and independent country.

Second, U.S. troops have taken two Iranian military officials in Iraq into custody. Why? Because they said that the Iranians were interfering with the internal affairs of Iraq by bringing in weapons, and apparently that’s something that only U.S. and British officials are permitted to do. But Iraq’s president, Jalai Talabani, said he had invited the two Iranians to Iraq during his recent trip to Iran. Apparently someone forgot to tell Talabani that just because Iraq is now a sovereign and independent country, he’s not allowed to invite Iranian officials to his country without the permission of U.S. and British officials.

With occupation troops attacking and destroying local police stations in Iraq and with Iraqi officials continuing to align themselves with the radical Islamic regime in Iran, American should keep asking the obvious question: What exactly are U.S. troops killing and dying for in Iraq, except to protect the legacy of President Bush and the international “respectability” of the Pentagon?

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Washington Post article we link in today’s FFF Email Update, “Federal Subsidies Turn Farms into Big Business” is just one more textbook example of the failure of federal socialism. Oh, it’s not called socialism by the feds. It’s called “America’s free enterprise system,” but that’s just one more federal lie to make Americans feel good about their abandonment of our nation’s founding principles.

Our American ancestors opposed socialism because they believed it was just as immoral for the government to use its power to take Peter’s money to give it to Paul as it would be for Peter to steal Paul’s money directly. That’s why our ancestors chose a way of life in which people would be free to accumulate wealth in the marketplace and not be forced to surrender it for the sake of someone else. They believed in private, voluntary charity to help out those in need.

Modern-day Americans have chosen an opposite way of life, one in which the federals take money from the citizenry to give it to the privileged, especially as way of garnering votes.

That’s what the federal farm subsidy program is all about—stealing from the citizenry in order to dole out the money to the rich and the privileged.

“Oh, but we need farm subsidies to save the family farm,” the advocates of socialism cry. But as the Post article points out, that’s just more aspect of the life of the lie. In fact, the farm subsidy program has contributed to the demise of the family farm. How? By lining the pockets of rich, fat-cat farmers with massive amounts of “free” federal money, the fat cats have been able to expand their socialist empires by buying up the farms of the small families.

It’s just one more example of the perversity of welfare-warfare state programs, one that unfortunately Americans just don’t want to face. Whether it’s the drug war, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, immigration, trade, Iraq, foreign policy, torture and sex abuse, or any other federal program that is in “crisis,” Americans just don’t want to recognize the root of the problem and thus continue to look to Washington for the solution.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A legal case in Austria has lessons for Americans. Austrian authorities have released British historian David Irving from jail after he served 13 months of a 3-year sentence. Irving’s offense? He denied the Holocaust 17 years ago, which is a criminal offense in Austria.

The case reveals that Austrians simply have no real conception of the principle of freedom of speech. The test of a free society — speech-wise — is not whether people are free to say what is responsible or popular. The test is whether the publication of the most vile and offensive speech is protected, not punished, by the government.

By criminalizing the publication of Holocaust denial, the Austrian government is, in principle, behaving no differently than the Hitler regime, which criminalized the publication of anti-Nazi criticism, which it considered offensive. Both regimes put people into jail for saying things that each regime considers offensive.

Many years ago, the ACLU lost many of its donors because it defended the right of American Nazi sympathizers to march in a Chicago neighborhood. Those donors didn’t realize that the ACLU was protecting the principle of freedom of speech by protecting the exercise of despicable, offensive speech.

The principle applies equally to people who the federal government accuses of criminal offenses, including terrorism. Some people take the position that because a terrorist suspect appears to be despicable and loathsome, there is nothing wrong with the government’s denying him important procedural rights, such as right to counsel, due process of law, trial by jury, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments. Yet, the true test of a free society — procedure-wise — is not whether the well-to-due or the well-respected people are accorded such rights but rather whether those who appear to be the most despicable and the most loathsome are accorded such rights.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I highly recommend Congressman Ron Paul’s article “The Original Foreign Policy,” which we link in today’s FFF Email Update.

During the dark times in which we live, it becomes easy for advocates of freedom to succumb to feelings of despair and despondency, especially given the U.S. government’s deadly and destructive occupation of Iraq, the steadfast determination by President Bush to continue it, the increased threat of terrorist “blowback” as a result of it, the secret U.S. torture centers around the world, and the denigration and abuse of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution both for foreigners and Americans.

But at least there is a way out of the darkness. Even though people might not yet be ready for the solution, the fact that there is a solution for them to turn to when they are ready should provide some sunshine of hope and optimism for the future.

When one’s personal life is a mess, what’s the best thing a person can do? Engage in introspection and reflection on how one’s life as deviated from important basic principles with the aim of restoring a commitment to those principles.

It’s the same thing with respect to a nation. Things are mess in this country. That’s when it’s time to reflect on the founding principles of our nation, including on foreign policy.

As Congressman Paul points out, our Founding Fathers favored a non-interventionist foreign policy but not an isolationist policy. That meant keeping the federal government from intervening in the affairs of other nations but unleashing the American people in the private sector to engage and interact with the people of the world.

Today, U.S. officials are doing the exact opposite. The federal leviathan has been unleashed around the world, including the Middle East, and it’s trying its best to isolate the American people from the rest of the world.

No wonder things are such a mess.

Gradually, it’s bound to dawn on the American people that the reason things are going so badly for our country is that our government has deviated from our nation’s founding principles and that if they wish to put things back on the right track, the solution is to restore those founding principles to our land. Congressman Paul’s article points the way.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stuart W. Bowen should be grateful. He’s the special inspector who was exposing fraud in federal contracts in Iraq. Consequently, Congress terminated his job.

So, why should Bowen be thanking his lucky stars? Because he got off light compared to Donald Vance, a 29-year-old American who went to Iraq as a security contractor. No doubt a bit naïve due to his age, Vance began reporting suspicious activity to the FBI about possible illegal weapons trading in the Iraqi security firm he was working with, including a steady flow of weapons to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which has been tied to death squads in Iraq.

When the firm was raided, at Vance’s urging, Vance learned the hazards of being a whistleblower. He got taken into custody and was imprisoned in one of the U.S. military’s infamous detention centers in Iraq. Spending 97 days in that hellhole, his confinement appears to be eerily similar to that of another American imprisoned by the Pentagon—Jose Padilla. According to the New York Times:

“American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep. The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.”

Vance’s request to talk to a lawyer, one of the principal tenets of America’s criminal justice system, was rebuffed by U.S. military authorities. After all, he was in Iraq, where that pesky U.S. Constitution isn’t operative.

Giving the same response that they have in the Padilla case, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s detentions operations in Iraq, a first-lieutenant named Lea Ann Fracasso, said that Vance was “treated fair and humanely.”

The sad part of this is the distinct possibility that Fracasso, along with her Pentagon cohorts, really and truly believes this. One day, Vance wrote in his Bible: Sick, very. Vomited. Told no more phone calls til leave.” Yesterday, the federal judge in the Padilla case ordered an official examination into Padilla’s mental competency, given Padilla’s apparently having been subjected to the same type of mental torture that American GIs were subjected to by the North Korean communists during the Korean War.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Heaven forbid that the American people ever permit the U.S. military to import to America the type of “freedom” and “humaneness” it has brought to the Iraqi people. But that’s certainly the direction our nation continues to head in, thanks to the horrible fear of “the terrorists” that 9/11 engendered in American adults. Just ask Jose Padilla and Donald Vance.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Too bad so many in the White House Press Corps see their jobs as serving as administration lapdogs because otherwise then they would be able to ask President Bush the following question about the his steadfast refusal to talk to Syria: Would you please explain how the arrangements were made to transfer Canadian citizen Maher Arar from U.S. custody to Syrian custody for the purpose of having Syrian officials torture him on behalf of the United States?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Everyone should feel safer now that a fencing-building company in California and its two executives have pled guilty to hiring illegal aliens. Golden State Fence Company has agreed to pay a $4.7 million fine, and the firm’s president and manager face five years in the federal penitentiary.

This is what now passes for “freedom” in the United States (along with drug laws, Social Security, gun control, Medicare, income taxation, etc.).

It wasn’t always that way in the United States. Economic liberty, the freedom philosophy that our American ancestors believed in, held that a person is free to do whatever he wants with his own money. If he chooses to open a business, that is his right.

And since it’s his business — that is, since the business is privately owned — under principles of economic liberty, he has the right to hire whomever he wants on whatever terms he wants (just as prospective employees have the right to accept or decline employment).

It’s his money. It’s his business. It’s his choice.

Thus, if the owner chooses to use his money to hire Mexicans, Japanese, Muslims, Catholics, or Jews, that is his right. Again, it’s his money. It’s his business. It’s his choice.

That’s what economic liberty is all about. That’s what freedom is all about. That is what America was once all about.

Golden State Fence Company and its executives don’t deserve to be convicted of anything. However, they are deserving of moral condemnation and hypocrisy for having helped build the federal government’s version of the Berlin Wall in California to prevent Mexican workers from freely coming to the United States to work for Golden State and other companies on mutually beneficial terms.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More interesting anecdotal evidence of out-of-control federal spending, including in the “rebuilding of Iraq,” has recently surfaced. As many already know, commodity prices have been soaring and the value of the dollar has been plunging in international markets, making travel to Europe enormously more expensive for American tourists.

Now, there is more evidence of this monetary phenomenon. The value of copper in pennies now exceeds 1 cent and the same holds true for the value of the alloys in nickels. This means that people now have the financial incentive to hoard pennies and nickels and melt them down for the metal contact which can then be sold, and the proceeds can then be used to purchase more pennies and nickels.

To prevent this, the feds are enacting a criminal ban on such melting, with the penalty being up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. People are also now prohibited from exporting large quantities of coins overseas for the same reason.

It’s another classic case where a government-induced “crisis” results in more attacks on the economic liberty of the American people.

Of course, the average person just thinks that these types of things are just the natural course of life. You’ll recall that our American ancestors used gold and silver coins as their medium of exchange. During the 1930s, as a result of the monetary crisis caused by the Federal Reserve, the feds nationalized and confiscated gold holdings of the American people, just as the Fidel Castro did with people’s homes when he took over in Cuba.

After gold ownership was legalized in the 1970s, the reason that the coins didn’t circulate as money was because the gold content exceeded the face value of the coins. For example, a $20 gold coin today might be worth, say, $600. Obviously, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a coin worth $600 because of the gold content to pay for something that costs $20.

Although silver coins continued circulating through the 1950s, federal inflation (produced by excessive federal spending) ultimately caused the silver content in the coins to exceed the face value of the coins, causing people to hoard them. The gradual disappearance of the coins from circulation is what caused the feds to begin using cheap alloys for coins.

Yet, to this day lots of Americans just think that the disappearance of the gold and silver coins from circulation is just something that naturally happens in history — sort of like a natural progression from the “olden days” to modern times. They have no idea that federal spending policies are behind the monetary debasement. Even worse, they have no idea that it’s one of the time-honored ways that governments secretly and surreptitiously plunder and loot the citizenry, not to mention infringing upon people’s economic liberty.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yesterday, I blogged about the fact that pro-war and pro-occupation Americans tend to focus on the number of deaths among U.S. soldiers than they do on the number of Iraqi people killed. Their feeling is that bringing democracy to Iraq has been “worth it’ because “only” 3,000 U.S. soldiers have died in the conflict.

Here’s a good question to pose to those who still think it was a good idea to invade and occupy Iraq: “If the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq matched the number of Iraqis killed, would you still feel that bringing democracy to Iraq has been worth it?”

Keep in mind that the Pentagon took the position at the inception of the invasion that it would not keep track of Iraqi people killed in the conflict, even though the invasion was supposedly conducted, at least in part, for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

That Pentagon’s decision has left people who believe that the number of Iraqi people killed is something important having to rely on estimates. There are four primary estimates of Iraqi dead:

(1) President Bush’s estimate of 30,000 dead Iraqis.
(2) IraqBodyCount.org’s estimate of 50,000 dead Iraqis.
(3) Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s estimate of 150,000 dead Iraqis.
(4) Johns Hopkins University researchers’ estimate of 650,000 dead Iraqis.

Now, let’s take the lowest estimate — that of President Bush — 30,000. If the number of dead American troops was 30,000, instead of 3,000, would pro-war and pro-occupation advocates still feel that the president’s invasion was worth it to spread democracy in the Middle East? How about the highest estimate—650,000 dead American troops?

In a somewhat related article, the American Conservative has just published an article by William S. Lind, where he again emphasizes the possibility that if President Bush starts a war with Iran, Iranian and Iraqi Shiites could conceivably cut off the southern supply line between Kuwait and Iraq on which U.S. troops in Iraq depend. If they were to succeed in that military endeavor, all 140,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq would be encircled, with their primary supply line cut, and thereby subject to siege and massacre, just like Custer and his troops at Little Big Horn. If that were to happen, my hunch is that while the loss of tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of Iraqi lives has still not changed the mindset of some of the pro-war crowd, the loss of 140,000 U.S. imperial troops is a reality that would quickly cause every single Americans to confront whether the U.S. government should indeed be serving as international policeman and international democracy-and-welfare provider.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

One of the interesting aspects to the Iraq war and occupation has been the large emphasis on American military casualties compared to the emphasis on Iraqi deaths.

Let’s keep in mind, first of all, that neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. They were entirely innocent of the 9/11 attacks. That makes the U.S. the aggressor nation in the conflict and Iraq the defending nation.

So, how did U.S. officials initially justify killing Iraqis? By suggesting that their government was about to unleash a WMD attack on the American people. Therefore, it was entirely proper for U.S. military forces to kill Iraqis, it was argued, because it involved a matter of preemptive self-defense against their government.

When the WMD threat proved to be bogus, the U.S. government could have apologized for its mistake and for the Iraqis who had been killed up to that point and then humbly exited the country. But it didn’t do that. Instead, it chose to continue killing Iraqis under the rationale that it is was necessary to capture Saddam Hussein and bring him to trial, even though Saddam had never attacked the United States.

Then, after Saddam was captured U.S. officials decided to continue killing Iraqis in order to have Iraq serve as a “magnet” for Middle East terrorists who hate the United States. As President Bush said to the terrorists, “Bring it on” — in Iraq, a country that, again, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Then, U.S. troops continued killing Iraqis in order to help Iraq become a model of democracy in the Middle East.

Then, once elections were held U.S. forces continued killing Iraqis in order to ensure that the newly installed Islamic regime could remain in power.

And now U.S. forces are still killing Iraqis under the rationale of winning “victory” over Iraqi insurgents who simply want the U.S. to leave their country — and so that the U.S. government doesn’t “lose face” in the world.

Meanwhile, if one adds the number of Iraqis killed as estimated by the researchers at Johns Hopkins University — 650,000 — to the estimated number of Iraqi children killed by the U.S. sanctions — 300,000, that’s almost one million dead Iraqis, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. At the risk of offending the Holocaust deniers, that’s almost 1/6 the number of people killed in the Holocaust. That is not a small number of dead people. And even if one relies on President Bush’s estimate of 30,000 dead Iraqis — an estimate he failed to provide any basis for — that still is not a small number of dead people — people who never attacked the United States and whose government never attacked the United States.

The Clinton administration took the position that the deaths of the Iraqi children caused by the sanctions were “worth it,” as reflected by Madeleine Albright’s infamous assertion to “Sixty Minutes.” No doubt that the Bush administration feels the same way about the Iraqis deaths from the invasion and occupation. One cannot help but wonder whether the Iraqi people would agree, especially all those dead Iraqis who are no longer alive to express their opinion.
Monday, December 11, 2006

On Saturday the New York Times had an interesting story describing how China has decided to drop its low profile in world affairs and overtly become a “world power.” It is even preparing the Chinese people with this major shift in policy with a 12-part television series on how nations rise to become great powers.

While China is a socialist country, much as the United States, the advantage that the Chinese government has is that it doesn’t have an extensive overseas military empire to maintain and it’s also not mired in an expensive overseas war.

The U.S., on the other hand, has the burden of maintaining troops in more than a hundred countries. Even worse, mired in the quicksand of Iraq, an endless stream of federal money continues to pour out of the U.S. treasury at an ever-increasing rate.

For decades Americans have been taught that a big and powerful federal government means a stronger nation. I have a hunch that Americans might well learn that it’s the exact opposite — the more the government spends (and taxes and borrows), the weaker the nation.

After all, don’t forget how conservatives claim they brought down the Soviet Empire — by making the Soviet government spend the nation into bankruptcy, including on military armaments. And history is replete with instances of where profligate rulers have destroyed their nations through uncontrolled government spending.

MSNBC carried a story over the weekend about how Americans traveling overseas are seeing exorbitant price rises in terms of the dollar, which has plunged in overseas trading compared to other currencies.

Hopefully, U.S. government officials will not consider China’s economic rise to be a “threat” to the United States, but unfortunately that’s the customary reaction of beleaguered empires. The last thing the American people need is another federal crisis, especially one with China.

Amidst imperial hopes and dreams of spreading “democracy” through deadly, destructive, and expensive federal invasions and occupations abroad and pacifying the citizenry with ever-growing amounts of federal welfare at home, the American people ignore at their peril the ominous threat that the welfare-warfare empire poses to our nation’s freedom and its economic strength.

Friday, December 8, 2006

In the latest development in the Jose Padilla case, federal prosecutors are asking a federal judge to block Padilla’s defense attorneys from questioning U.S. military officials about their treatment of Padilla while he was in military custody.

Defense lawyers have issued subpoenas for at least four military officials, including personnel at the brig where Padilla was jailed, and a Marine general. I’ve got a hunch that if the federal judge in the case orders them to testify, they are unlikely to be the same “big men” on the witness stand as they were when they were handling Padilla or other suspected terrorists.

Don’t forget that the Pentagon’s official position, which has been stated in official court documents filed by prosecutors, is that military treated Padilla “humanely,” an assertion that increasingly is looking like a flagrant lie. Of course, the more ominous thought is that the military really does consider it “humane” to hold people who are presumed innocent under our system of government, including Americans, in isolation for years knowing that that was the same type of mental and psychological torture employed by North Korean communists against American soldiers during the Korean War.

The Smoking Gun has posted more photographs showing a glimpse of how the military treats an American citizen accused of terrorism. Warning: Looking at the photos will give you the feeling of watching the inside of a Soviet or Chinese communist compound.

For those still operating under the quaint notion that the Pentagon will limit its Gitmo and Abu Ghraib treatment to foreigners, think again. Just ask U.S. citizen Jose Padilla. If the military will do it to one citizen — and then shamefully try to keep it secret from other Americans — they’ll do it to any citizen, especially if they are ordered to do so.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The town council of Cherry, Pennsylvania, is considering enacting a law asking all its residents to own guns and train themselves on how to use them.

This, of course, was the original idea behind the Second Amendment. The United States was designed to be a society in which “the militia” was not a governmental unit such as the National Guard but rather one in which well-armed and well-trained citizens could protect themselves not only from violent criminals and foreign invaders but also from the tyranny of their own federal officials — a society in which the federals would be prohibited from interfering with this critically important prerequisite to a free society.

Of course, the gun-control crowd would argue that the Second Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, is an outmoded relic of the horse-and-buggy era.

Meanwhile, given that today is the anniversary date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we would be remiss if we didn’t also remember that during World War II the U.S. government rounded up thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent and placed them in U.S. concentration camps for the duration of the war.

Why is this important today? Because that power to round up citizens and put them in concentration camps — say, Americans of Muslim faith — still exists. The Supreme Court decision (Korematsu vs. U.S. ) that upheld the power of the federals to do this, while largely condemned in legal circles, has never been overturned. It is still the law of the land.

Don’t forget also the official federal position today, as ludicrous as it is: We are at war, just as Americans were at war after Pearl Harbor — only this time against “the terrorists” rather than the Japanese — and that this war will last indefinitely.

Don’t forget also the Padilla doctrine, in which the federals now wield the power — today — to send military units across the land, arresting people off the street as “enemy combatants,” torture them, and hold them in isolation for years incommunicado and denied trial and due process of law.

Now, add the Padilla power to the Korematsu power and you might start to get a sense of how different and dangerous a society in which we now live, as compared to our American ancestors, who never would have permitted an omnipotent federal government with Soviet-like powers over the citizenry.

While the people of Cherry, Pennsylvania, might be thinking about protecting themselves from burglars by asking everyone to arm himself, we should never forget the true underlying purpose of the Second Amendment: Its purpose is not to enable Americans to shoot deer or burglars but instead to ensure that U.S. officials think twice about becoming overly oppressive here at home.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

In the midst of the most recent revelations of the Pentagon’s alleged torture of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, who has never been convicted of a crime, an Italian prosecutor continues to seek the criminal indictment of 26 U.S. officials, all but one of whom are CIA agents, on charges relating to kidnapping. The accused criminals allegedly kidnapped a man on Italian soil and “renditioned” him to Egypt for the purpose of torture.

There is an extradition treaty between the United States and Italy, but my hunch is that the U.S. government will refuse to turn over these criminal suspects to Italy, just as Russian prosecutors have announced their refusal to extradite Russians accused of assassinating Alexander Litvinenko in London. (For that matter, we would be remiss if we didn’t recall that the reason that the U.S. government gave for invading Afghanistan was the refusal of Afghan officials to extradite Osama bin Laden to the United States, despite the fact that there was no extradition treaty between the United States and Afghanistan.)

The U.S. will undoubtedly take the position that these criminal defendants could not possibly have violated any Italian laws for the simple reason that the CIA is the law. That is, in the minds of U.S. officials, whatever the CIA does anywhere in the world — kidnappings, assassinations, coups, renditions, torture — is ipso facto legal because the U.S. government, as the world’s policeman fighting the global “war on terror,” can do whatever it wants anywhere it wants.

Like Scotland Yard in the Litvinenko murder, the Italian prosecutor is doing courageous work in seeking the indictment and prosecution of these CIA officials, especially given the CIA’s history of assassination. The case could shed some much-needed light on some of the dark and nefarious misdeeds of the CIA — misconduct that the U.S. Congress and the American people have unfortunately chosen to ignore for decades.

One of the prospective criminal defendants who has been identified, Robert Seldon Lady, is the former CIA station chief in Milan. His lawyer has already raised an interesting defense to the charges: “Even the documents of the prosecution show that he was not an organizer. If anything, he was someone who obeyed orders,” lawyer Daria Pesce said.

Now, that’s a defense that should bring back memories to Italians, at least those who are old enough to remember the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

For another good example of what the socialistic welfare state has done to the moral fiber of the American people, we turn to American fruit and vegetable farmers, who the Washington Post describes as “fiercely independent farmers who shunned federal subsidies.”

Not anymore. Confronted by competition from China, those “fiercely independent” farmers are now asking the federal government to permit them to join those Americans who feed at the federal trough. My hunch is that the feds will open the troughs to the farmers, knowing that their by doing so the farmers will lose their “fierceness and independence” and become frightened, dependent wards of the federal government, reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them.

This phenomenon reflects the brilliance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was primarily responsible for changing America’s economic system from one of free markets to one of socialism. Roosevelt knew that by making people dependent on the government handouts they would come to look upon the federal government as a parent.

Roosevelt’s brilliance was also manifested in the manner in which he convinced Americans that they were actually saving free enterprise rather than adopting socialism. In fact, the plight of post-FDR Americans could best be summed up with the words of Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

But perhaps the continuing nature of the Iraq debacle will cause Americans to reflect upon and reevaluate the role of the federal government not only in foreign affairs but in domestic affairs too. Simultaneously restoring both a free-market economic system and a constitutional republic to our land would also help to restore such values as self-reliance and independence that once characterized the American people.

Monday, December 4, 2006

For a good example of how the Pentagon intends to treat Americans who are suspected of terrorism, all one has to do is keep a close watch on the Jose Padilla case. This is the test case in which the American people are threatened with being subjugated to military rule.

Under the Padilla doctrine, the Pentagon and the president, operating as a military commander in chief, now wield the power to pick up Americans off the streets, put them into military custody as “enemy combatants,” place them in isolation, deny them access to the outside world, and hold them forever without a trial or due process of law.

Take a look at the first two articles we link to under “War on Terrorism” in today’s FFF Email Update to get a good idea as to what lies in store for Americans if the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the power wielded against Padilla. Taking a page out of the North Korean torture handbook during the Korean War, U.S. military officials have, according to Padilla’s lawyers and psychiatrist, damaged his mind through their intentional use of torturous isolation over a period of two or three years.

As you read those two articles, imagine that this was happening to you or to a member of your family or a friend. Because it could.

The mental torture inflicted on Padilla clearly wasn’t accidental. The articles describe a video showing that when Padilla needed dental treatment, before he was taken to the dental room his custodians placed darkened goggles on him and declined to talk to him, obviously so as not to disturb the isolation torture they were intentionally inflicting on him.

Keep in mind that terrorism is a crime, not an act of war, which is why Padilla is now in federal court facing a criminal indictment for terrorism. Under our system of justice, every accused is presumed to be innocent. Even if he is later convicted, he is protected from cruel and unusual punishments.

But try telling that to the military, which now wields the power to do to every American what it has done to Jose Padilla.

Friday, December 1, 2006

If you’re thinking about the upcoming expenses associated with Christmas, perhaps you’ll be mollified by knowing that some of your hard-earned money that you send to the IRS is going into “rebuilding Iraq.” Never mind that most of your “rebuilding” money has been frittered away.

Hey, at least people can take solace in the fact that the inspector general for Iraq, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., is reporting on some of the waste, fraud, abuse that has come with this giant socialist enterprise. Well, that is, until recently.

For example, according to the Washington Post, Bowen “found that Halliburton Co. wasted $75 million on a failed pipeline project and that Parsons Corp. bungled construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that human waste dripped from the ceilings.”

Well, guess what happened: Some sneaky person in Congress, who apparently didn’t like the job that Bowen was doing, sneaked a provision into a “Defense Authorization Bill” that terminates Bowen’s office. And guess what: Those sleepy members of Congress, who approved the Patriot Act without reading it, supposedly failed to discover what the Post described as this “mischievous provision” before they voted to approve it.

The dollar just hit a 14-year low against the British pound and a 20-month low versus the Euro.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is now asking for another whopping $100 billion of U.S. taxpayer money to continue “rebuilding” Iraq, its largest appeal for Iraq rebuilding funds yet.

While you’re out buying Christmas presents and, for that matter, when you’re preparing your income tax return for April 15, just keep reminding yourself that the military-industrial complex has needs too.

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.