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 2007

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Drug-War Idiocy

by Jacob G. Hornberger

Mexican officials are all aglow over the seizure of a record 23 tons of cocaine, which they promptly burned in the hope of receiving $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer monies from U.S. officials.

When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

Some 30 years ago, when I was a young lawyer in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, the DEA loved to make these types of announcements. Month after month, year after year, decade after decade, one record drug bust followed by another record drug bust.

I repeat: When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

At the risk of asking an impertinent question: What’s the use of record drug busts, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade? Do record drug busts do anything to stop the supply of and demand for drugs? If they did, then why have there been record drug busts following record drug busts month after month, year after year, and decade after decade? Wouldn’t you think that if “progress” were being made, especially after 30 years of drug warfare, drug busts would no longer be setting records?

Those DEA agents who were making those record drug busts 30 years ago are now retiring on their sweet federal pensions. The current crop of DEA agents is following the same well-trod road, making the same glorious record-drug-bust announcements, and declaring how “progress” is being made in the war on drugs.

If the American people continue to let this drug-war idiocy continue, 30 years from now the current crop of DEA officials will be retiring on their sweet federal pensions and replaced by a new crop of DEA officials making new record drug busts and making the same idiotic drug-war announcements.

Here’s an example of the drug-war idiocy that guides these people. U.S. officials are now saying that rising prices of cocaine show that the Mexican drug war is working. Hello?! Have these people never heard of the law of supply and demand? When supply is constricted, the price goes up. But that new higher price—and higher profits—then attract new suppliers, which increases the supply of the item, which then causes the price to go down.

That’s in fact what has happened throughout the 30 years of the drug war. Don’t you recall all the glorious announcements from the DEA and the Justice Department about busting the Medellin cartel, or the Cali cartel, or the drug lord Carlos Lehder? Don’t you remember the U.S. invasion of Panama for the supposed purpose of incarcerating Panama’s president and ex-CIA operative Manuel Noriega for drug violations? If those drug busts were such a success, how come the drug war is still being waged with such ferocity? When does it finally end?

I repeat: When will the American people finally demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy?

Mexican officials will do anything to get a hold of those one billion dollars of U.S. taxpayer money, including selling out their favorite bribe-paying drug dealer. That’s $1 billion dollars—with a “b”! Make no mistake about it: Most of it will end up in the Swiss bank accounts of Mexican politicians, bureaucrats, and military officials. That’s the way the Mexican system operates and has always operated. If you’re an American taxpayer —if you file your tax returns every April 15 — this is where part of your hard-earned money that you send the IRS will be going — into the pockets and bank accounts of Mexican government officials.

Despite any self-righteous rhetoric from U.S. officials, the drug war is a tremendous financial bonanza for U.S. officials also, from the federal level, to the state level, to the local level. If it isn’t bribes and payoffs, it’s large taxpayer-funded budgets that provide nice salaries and pensions, not to mention all those asset forfeitures that provide nice automobiles for officials at all levels of government.

And every one of them knows that no matter how many record drug busts are made, the drug war is endless, which is why it is so attractive to them. They are making big bucks off of it, just as the Mexican officials are, and just as the drug lords are. That’s why all of them continue to promote this endless drug-war idiocy.

The American people have the ability to demand a stop to this drug-war idiocy. If they don’t, it will go on forever, with glorious announcements of record drug busts made by generation after generation of DEA agents. As Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman stated in a Newsweek column 35 years ago, “Prohibition is an attempted cure that makes matters worse-for both the addict and the rest of us.” As Friedman stated in a follow-up Wall Street Journal column in 1990, “Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse, and make the problem appear even more intractable.”

Americans would be wise to carefully read and seriously consider those two articles by Nobel Laureate Friedman. After three decades of drug-war idiocy, isn’t it time to finally demand a stop to it, before it does even more damage to society, both in Latin America and the United States?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Musharraf’s and Bush’s Enemy-Combatant Power
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It is important that we keep in mind that military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s round-ups of lawyers, judges, and protestors in Pakistan are a logical consequence of President Bush’s “war on terrorism.”

After all, don’t forget that under Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the head of a country wields the omnipotent power to round up citizens who are “enemy combatants.” Thus, after 9/11 when Musharraf’s military and police rounded up Pakistani citizens for rendition to Guantanamo Bay, Bush hailed him as a great partner in the U.S. government’s war against “the terrorists.”

Musharraf’s dictatorial power — the power to label a person an “enemy combatant” and treat him accordingly — is the same power that Bush and the Pentagon now wield here in the United States. All that Bush and his military have to do is label any American a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” and they can whisk that person away, keep him incarcerated in a dungeon or prison camp for the rest of his life, and torture and abuse him, all without due process of law and trial by jury.

That was the legal and judicial revolution that the 9/11 attacks brought, all without a constitutional amendment. When it comes to the “war on terrorism,” the procedures in Pakistan and the United States for dealing with “the terrorists” are now the same.

Of course, American neo-cons would say, “But Bush and his loyal partner Musharraf can be trusted to use such power only against genuine ‘bad guys.’ They would never abuse such powers against non-terrorists.”

Well, try telling that to the lawyers, judges, and anti-tyranny protestors in Pakistan. They’re now rotting in Pakistani jails as enemy combatants during the “war on terrorism emergency” in Pakistan. And no one can do anything about it because Musharraf’s enemy-combatant power is omnipotent, just as President Bush’s is.

After all, Musharraf and Bush say, we don’t want the courts to be interfering with the military’s determination of who is a terrorist or enemy combatant, do we? We’re at war! Anyway, isn’t that what freedom is all about — trusting our rulers with omnipotent power over the citizenry?

As Musharraf and Bush would tell us, there’s nothing wrong with disappearing terrorists and enemy combatants. Musharraf and Bush are just trying to keep us safe. Never mind that the courts aren’t permitted to determine that those who have disappeared are really terrorists or enemy combatants. That’s what the military and the secret police are for, in Pakistan, the United States, and everywhere else in the “global war on terror,” right?

How far can the enemy-combatant power wielded by Bush and Musharraf be taken?

According to Amnesty International, “Pakistan’s involvement in the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’ has been characterized by widespread violations of human rights. Mass arrests of terror suspects — often for bounties of thousands of dollars — have led to detainees being taken away to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, transferred to secret CIA detention centers, unlawfully transferred to other countries or held in arbitrary and often secret detention in Pakistan itself. Many — if not most …have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated.” Human Rights Watch has documented beatings, sleep deprivation, and electric shocks in Pakistan’s prisons.

Whenever a neo-con suggests that America is moving in a good direction, one might respond with a pointed question: “You mean, like in Pakistan?” Just don’t be surprised if he responds, “You’re darned right!”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Feds, Not Wyatt, Should Be Going to Jail
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Federal prosecutors are undoubtedly celebrating the one-year sentence doled out to 83-year-old Houston oilman Oscar Wyatt by a federal district judge. Wyatt committed the heinous federal “crime” of violating the federal government’s infamous “oil-for-food” program by paying a $200,000 bribe to Saddam Hussein’s regime in exchange for the purchase of Iraqi oil under the program.

Never mind that the feds were providing aid to Saddam during the 1980s in the form of weapons of mass destruction to help him kill Iranians. Never mind that the feds provided aid to the Shah of Iran to help him torture and brutalize the Iranian people. Never mind that the feds funnel billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of the Pervez Musharraf regime, one of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictatorial regimes. Never mind that the feds provide millions of dollars in drug-war money to corrupt dictatorial regimes in Latin America.

The lesson here is a simple one: The feds, not American businessmen, will decide which dictatorial regimes will be supported with cash and which ones will not be supported. Wyatt’s “crime” was putting private money into the coffers of a dictator who had once been in favor with the feds but who had now fallen out of favor.

The “oil-for-food” program was the socialist program that the feds came up with in response to growing outrage in the world over what the brutal sanctions were doing to the Iraqi people, especially Iraqi children. The best estimates are that the sanctions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. The federal attitude toward those deaths was perfectly reflected in the words of UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, who told “Sixty Minutes” that, yes, the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.” What she meant by “it” was the attempt to oust Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a U.S.-approved stooge, such as Chalabi or Allawi, which of course was the real goal of President Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, after the sanctions had failed to achieve the desired regime change.

As the brutal sanctions continued taking their toll on the Iraqi children and on Iraqi life, without any real effect on Saddam’s grip on power, U.S. officials steadfastly refused to lift the sanctions. Instead, they came up with their infamous “oil-for-food” program, which was just another standard Washington, D.C., central-planning (i.e., socialist) program designed to make it look that the feds were “doing something” for the Iraqi people. In fact, the program became a great big bureaucratic game for D.C. officials. For the best description of the brutal gamesmanship that the feds engaged in, read “Cool War” by Joy Gordon.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when you set up a socialist/interventionist program, the opportunity arises for bribery, extortion, and blackmail. That, in fact, is why governments riddle their economic systems with thousands of rules and regulations.

It also shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Saddam Hussein regime would seek bribes from such a program. That’s the way dictatorial regimes operate. Does anyone really think that Gen. Musharraf and his military goons are not squirreling away some money out of those billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars that President Bush has funneled into the country? Does anyone really think that the Latin American regimes that received millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money, such as Columbia and Mexico, don’t put some of that money into the private bank accounts of government officials? Does anyone really think that the billions of dollars that the feds shipped into Iraq to “rebuild” the country and that are now accounted for weren’t used for bribes? Heck, while we’re on the subject of bribes, should we just ignore all those federal grants that incumbent politicians and bureaucrats offer voters at election time?

No doubt the federal prosecutors in the Wyatt case were filled with self-righteous indignation over what a bad person Wyatt is in paying the bribe. Never mind that the federal judge who sentenced him was flooded with so many letters praising Wyatt and the exemplary life he has led that he actually gave him a sentence lower than the minimum provided by official sentencing guidelines.

For his part, Wyatt expressed deep remorse over his conduct and even broke down into tears, which is what the feds love to see. Too bad Wyatt didn’t instead say, “Judge, the feds had no right to brutalize Iraqi children with their sanctions, and the oil-for-food program was just a federal scam and sham to cover up the deadly effect of the sanctions. As a businessman, my job is to make a profit by satisfying consumers with a product they need and want. The surcharge that the Iraqi regime was charging me and other oil companies arose as a direct consequence of the oil-for-food program. It was just one more cost of doing business, a cost that arose as a direct consequence of federal meddling in the Middle East. Anyway, what’s the difference between my putting money into the pockets of foreign dictators and the foreign aid that the feds put into the pockets of foreign dictators, except that my money is my own and the money that the feds use has been taken from American taxpayers? It’s the feds, not me, who deserve to be here in the dock for the holocaust they have brought to Iraq, a holocaust that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, including Iraqi children, not to mention the destruction of the entire country.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Empire’s Dollar Debacle
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Neo-cons often complain that the American people haven’t made any sacrifices as part of President Bush’s much-vaunted “war on terrorism.” For his part, President Bush likes to say that he opposes tax increases to fund his military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ever-growing expenditures of the military-industrial complex.

Both the neo-cons and President Bush are speaking falsely.

Take a look at what has happened to the dollar during the past 5 years, that is, during the time that President Bush embarked on his out-of-control federal spending spree. The dollar has plunged some 50 percent against the Euro. Why, it’s even plunged 50 percent against the Brazilian real, if you can believe that.

Now, some neo-cons would undoubtedly say that this is just one of those things that happen to countries from time to time. Like terrorism, they would say that the plunge in the value of the dollar is unrelated to the federal government’s policies.

They are wrong. Just as the federal government’s foreign policy is at the root of foreign anger and hatred toward our country, the federal government’s monetary policy is at the root of the dollar debacle. And it has been the monetary policy that has provided the money to fund the president’s imperial overseas policies.

Contrary to what the neo-cons might claim, the federal government is not an independent fountain of wealth. It primarily gets its money from taxation, borrowing, or by printing the money. When President Bush embarked on his massive, uncontrolled spending spree after 9/11, he had those three choices: raise taxes, borrow the money, or have the Federal Reserve just print the needed money.

Not surprisingly, the president chose the last two options, which enabled him to play the role of the anti-tax man. The federal borrowing crowded out the credit market, sucking massive amounts of savings into the federal imperial machine. The ongoing mortgage debacle, where credit dried up, was one consequence of this massive drain on capital. Another consequence is that the Chinese communists are now one of the federal government’s major creditors.

The third option has also been utilized. The government’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, has been printing money to finance the president’s spending spree. The beauty of this option, from the standpoint of the president, is that the average American has no idea that the federal government is behind the dollar debacle. He just thinks that prices are rising at the grocery store naturally. He does not see that rising prices are a necessary reflection of a constantly debasing currency.

Suppose a European vacation cost a family $10,000 five years ago. That same vacation today would cost $20,000. Double. That’s the cost of out-of-control federal spending. That’s the cost of empire.

And even if someone says, “Oh well, I didn’t want to go to Europe anyway,” he cannot escape the costs of the dollar debacle. Commodity prices have been rising across the board for the past five years. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who shops at the grocery store. That’s what happens when a currency is being debased by politicians and bureaucrats.

Do you see now why governments everywhere love being in charge of the money supply? It enables them to print money to their heart’s content, without having to risk the ire of the citizenry through tax increases, Do you see now the tremendous benefit, from the standpoint of politicians and bureaucrats, of having a central bank — a Federal Reserve System?

As Americans continue to reflect on the ongoing debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is important to keep in mind that there is a way out — through the rejection of the neo-con vision of empire and intervention and the embrace of America’s founding principles of republic and nonintervention. As part of that reevaluation, Americans would be wise to reflect also on what the federal government has done to our money, not just in the past 5 years but also for the past several decades.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bush’s Support of Dictators
by Jacob G. Hornberger

According to the Washington Post, “President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general ‘hasn’t crossed the line’ and ‘truly is somebody who believes in democracy.’

If that doesn’t encapsulate U.S. foreign policy, I don’t know what does.

Here is a brutal unelected dictator — and a military one at that — who originally took power in a coup and who has now declared martial law to maintain his brutal dictatorial grip on power. Yet Bush feels that Musharraf hasn’t yet “crossed the line” and that Musharraf “truly is somebody who believes in democracy.”

Throughout the Iraq War, when Bush was claiming that the purpose of his invasion was to spread democracy, we continually pointed out that this was not possible given the partnership that Bush had established and was maintaining with Musharraf, a brutal unelected military dictator. Don’t forget that as part of that partnership, Bush was funneling millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of Musharraf and his military goons.

Hasn’t crossed the line? This military dictator has declared martial law, which has entailed the arrest and incarceration of lawyers, judges, human-rights advocates, political opponents, and protestors. It has also entailed the dissolution of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. And Musharraf’s minions in the military and police have loyally obeyed his orders.

If that’s not “crossing the line,” President Bush, what is?

Perhaps President Bush has looked into the soul of Musharraf and seen a benevolent dictator, who has promised to have elections in January. Never mind that under his martial law, anyone who criticizes Musharraf while campaigning is violating the law, a law that is being brutally enforced by his military and police goons. And never mind that those who threaten to run against Musharraf are subject to immediate arrest, torture, incarceration, and exile.

Herein lies the perfect example of U.S. foreign policy. It never was about spreading democracy and never will be. It’s about installing U.S.-approved rulers in countries all over the world, and it doesn’t matter one iota whether they are democratically elected or not. Thus, the U.S. partnerships with the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Pervez Musharraf, and many, many others, including the many Latin American military dictators whose goons have been trained at the infamous School of the Americas.

With the federal government taking our country down to road to ever-increasing damage, including the out-of-control federal spending that has caused the dollar debacle, what better time for the American people to reevaluate their government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy? What better time to embrace our nation’s founding principles of republic, non-intervention, and sound money?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving and Economic Liberty
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I would venture to say that most Americans have no idea of the economic roots of Thanksgiving. When the colonists landed at Plymouth Bay, they established a socialist system. Being highly religious, they believed that a moral system would be one in which everyone was forced to share the fruits of their earnings with everyone else. So, everyone was required to put his crops into a common pool, which would then be distributed to each family in accordance with its needs.

The result of this socialist economic system was famine and starvation.

Finally, Gov. Bradford, the head of the colony, issued a decree terminating the forced-sharing system. From that point out, each person would own his tract of land, farm it, and keep whatever he produced, no longer being forced to share it.

The result of this private-property system was tremendous bounty. That bounty was what the first Thanksgiving was all about.

So, it was at Plymouth Bay that people gained a clue as to how to eliminate poverty or, more accurately, how to create a wealthy, bountiful society. Herein were the roots of a society without income taxation, welfare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other forms of forced sharing—the type of society established by our American ancestors when the United States were brought into existence. Herein were the roots of the private-property, free-market system that Americans once embraced.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Second Amendment: American’s Guarantee of Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide the gun-control case arising out of Washington, D.C.’s, ban on handguns. You know — the city in which there are no murders with handguns because criminals obey gun-control laws. (Sarcasm!)

The major issue in the case is whether the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right or whether it pertains instead to the National Guard.

Hopefully, the Court will bear in mind that the primary purpose of the right to keep and bear arms is so that people will be able to resist violently the tyranny and oppression of their own government. Unfortunately, all too many Americans have lost sight of this, believing that gun ownership is about shooting deer and burglars.

Our American ancestors had a direct and personal experience with the tyranny and oppression of their own government. People often think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as great Americans. They weren’t. They were great Englishmen. When they signed the Declaration, they were as English as you and I are Americans. Their own government had become tyrannical and oppressive and would not correct its ways. These Englishmen decided that their government had left them no choice but to resist the tyranny and oppression with violence, and that meant the use of weapons. Most of us consider them patriots because they had the courage to oppose the wrongdoing of their own government.

The reason that King George and his minions tried to disarm the colonists was that they knew that a disarmed citizenry is an obedient citizenry. And as history has shown, oftentimes a disarmed citizenry is a dead citizenry. Historically, governments, not terrorists, are the biggest killers of their own people. And when people have no means of resistance, they have little choice but to succumb. The Jews in Nazi Germany are just one example.

Many Americans believe that democracy is a protection against tyranny. Oh? Then what about Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela who not only has been exercising dictatorial powers but is also now trying to expand such powers through democratic vote. Democracy ensures a peaceful transition of power, but all that ordinarily means is the democratic substitution of one dictator for another.

The right to keep and bear arms is a society’s finest insurance against tyranny and oppression. As long as government officials know that the citizenry is well-armed and well-trained, they will tend to think twice before becoming tyrannical and oppressive.

If the Supreme Court holds that the Second Amendment pertains only to the National Guard, then everyone should understand the logical consequence of such a decision: The federal government will be empowered to do to private Americans what the D.C. government did to its citizenry — prohibit them from owning weapons, even in their own homes. If that were to happen, not only will the American people’s primary protection against burglars and robbers will have disappeared but also their primary protection against tyranny and oppression.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shame and Hypocrisy from the Right
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As the presidential campaign heats up, be prepared for the standard neo-con attacks against libertarians for being “unpatriotic.” The attacks will come not only from statist candidates in both major parties but also from the likes of such radio and television commentators as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly.

These people know no shame. After all, look at where the federal policies that they support have brought our country.

Consider the out-of-control federal spending that federal officials have foisted on our country, especially to fund their overseas imperial military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Take a wild guess at how much the U.S. dollar has depreciated against the Euro in the last four years. 50 percent! Yes, a fifty percent drop in the value of your money. That’s like a 50 percent tax on the American people, brought to you compliments of the people who say that they oppose tax increases and favor “small government.”

How in the world can the destruction of a nation’s currency be reconciled with any reasonable understanding of the word “patriotism”? Doesn’t patriotism connote love of country? How can destroying a country’s currency be reconciled with love of one’s country?

And look what the U.S. government’s world-policeman foreign policy has brought our country — the constant threat of terrorist counterstrikes. That in turn has caused the statist supporters of that foreign policy, especially the men, to live their lives with their knees a’knocking. That’s why they have been practically begging their federal masters to do whatever is necessary to protect them from those scary terrorists. “Please, please, do whatever is necessary — cancel habeas corpus, ignore due process, eradicate the lawyers, torture and sexually abuse people, set up kangaroo tribunals, detain enemy combatants — anything — just please protect me from those big, bad terrorists who are coming to get me and take me away!”

Talk about shameful! Is that what an American is now all about — a shivering, cowering adult begging his government to take away his rights and freedoms because he is terrified of being attacked by the people who have been victimized by the federal policies that he himself supports? Perish the thought!

Look, it’s one thing to have an interventionist foreign policy and to say, “Well, I fully understand that killing people overseas is going to get some people angry but I’m willing to take that risk and I’m not willing to have my rights and freedoms taken away from me to protect me from that risk.”

But that’s not the position of the cowering crowd. They want the feds to continue poking hornets’ nests overseas and then when the victims threaten to retaliate, the knees of those in the cowering crowd start to shake and quake, causing them to beg the feds to sacrifice everyone’s rights and freedom — including, unfortunately, those of us who oppose the policies and who don’t live our lives in fear of the terrorists.

Another amusing aspect of all this is who these people periodically sing the praises of America’s Founding Fathers. It doesn’t even occur to them that if they had lived in 1776, the last place they would have been found is in the camp of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. Don’t forget, after all, that those brave and courageous patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence were British, not American, colonists who had the courage to oppose the wrongful policies of their own government. Those in today’s cowering crowd would themselves undoubtedly admit that they would have found themselves safely ensconced behind British lines, shaking and cowering in fear of those big bad colonists who were behaving “unpatriotically” by opposing the wrongdoing of their own government, including the out-of-control federal spending of the king to finance the out-of-control expenditures of his empire.

These people should hang their heads in shame because their lives and principles are a shame. What’s obviously making them nervous is that after decades of horrible damage that federal welfare-warfare policies have done to our country, the campaign season is reflecting that the number of people who are seeing through their empty rhetoric and shrill is growing by the day. Be prepared for more of their silliness as the presidential campaign continues to heat up. Be prepared also for ever-growing numbers of people who fail to fall for their shameful and unpatriotic diatribes.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chavez’s Lessons on Democracy and Dictatorship
by Jacob G. Hornberger

What is happening in Venezuela provides a textbook example of how askew President Bush’s thinking is regarding democracy and dictatorship.

For Bush, as well as his neo-con supporters, democracy is everything. In their minds, democracy equals freedom, which is why they say that the Iraqi people are now “free.” Thus, it is not surprising to see Bush urging his partner and ally Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan, to have national elections, even while Musharraf has declared martial law as part of the “war on terrorism.” If Musharraf were elected, the Bush people, as well as the Musharraf people, would then say, “This is an accountability moment. The voters of Pakistan have spoken.” And then they would argue that Musharraf has the “right” to do whatever he wants, including violating civil liberties as part his “war on terrorism,” just as Bush has done here in the United States.

What’s this have to do with Venezuela? Well, in Venezuela Hugo Chavez, the president of the country, is holding a national election involving constitutional amendments. The amendments are designed to centralize power in Chavez, giving him even more dictatorial powers than he already is wielding.

What Chavez is doing obviously puts Bush and his neo-cons friends in a peculiar bind, given that Bush and the neo-cons worship so passionately at the shrine of democracy. Since the Venezuelan people are voting on these amendments, Bush and his people would ordinarily say that this is democracy at work and, therefore, that there’s nothing dictatorial about it. The only thing that would keep Bush from praising what Chavez is doing is his personal animosity toward Chavez, unlike his respect and admiration for military strongman Musharraf.

Yet, what is happening in Venezuela shows that a country can have both democracy and dictatorship. Democracy is simply a means by which people can effect a peaceful transition of those in public office. Dictatorship turns on the particular powers that a ruler or regime, democratically elected or not, possesses. Thus, it is entirely possible to have a democratically elected dictator, as many Latin Americans will attest.

What is happening in Venezuela should also remind Americans of the purpose of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution called the federal government into existence, not the other way around. In doing so, it expressly limited the powers of the president and the rest of the federal government. The idea was that if a power wasn’t enumerated in the Constitution, it could not be exercised. To make even more certain that the feds could not abuse people by smashing their fundamental rights, our American ancestors insisted on the passage of the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the people from the president, the Congress, and all other federal officials, including the U.S. military, the FBI, and the CIA.

The Constitution, with its limitations on presidential and congressional power, is an acknowledgement that the biggest threat to the rights and freedoms of the American people lies not with the “terrorists” but rather with the federal government, especially the president and his minions. Thus, what all too many Americans fail to realize is that when Bush claims the power to ignore the Constitution or ignore laws enacted by Congress, he is behaving in the same classic dictatorial mode in which Venezuela’s Chavez is operating. The difference between Bush and Chavez is that while Chavez is asking the Venezuelan people to grant him dictatorial powers through constitutional amendment, Bush simply assumes such powers as part of his “war on terrorism,” just as his friend and partner Pervez Musharraf has done.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bush, Musharraf and Enemy Combatants
by Jacob G. Hornberger

We mustn’t forget one of the most important aspects of the Musharraf crackdown in Pakistan — that the post-9/11 “enemy combatant” doctrine assumed by President Bush and the Pentagon empower the feds to conduct the same types of “emergency” round-ups and incarcerations here in the United States that Musharraf is conducting in his country. Plus don’t forget that Bush and the military also wield the power to torture and sexually abuse detainees, even though they falsely deny exercising such power.

“No way!” some naïve Americans might exclaim. “America is different from Pakistan. Here we have freedom of speech and freedom of protest. There is no way that Bush and the military could round up and incarcerate protestors, dissidents, lawyers, government critics, and newspapers editors, as Musharraf is doing. After all, this is America we’re talking about, not Pakistan.”

Well, that was pre-9/11 America. Like it or not, in post-9/11 America the president and the Pentagon wield the card that trumps freedom of speech and freedom of protest. That card is the “enemy combatant” card. It empowers the president and the military to label any number of Americans as “enemy combatants” and treat them accordingly.

Suppose some American political dissidents find themselves labeled as enemy combatants and carted off to some secret CIA center in the dead of night. As they are being tied down to the water board, they exclaim, “You can’t do this to me. I’m an American. I have the right under the First Amendment to criticize President Bush and his policies. I have my rights!”

The federal agent would simply respond, “Well, of course you have your rights. But we have our rights too. And among our rights is the right to label you an enemy combatant. Just ask the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative court in the country. Now, stop your chattering, take off your clothes, lie down on the water board, and start drinking.”

How did the president and the Pentagon acquire their enemy combatant power? Did they secure a constitutional amendment to acquire it? No. After the 9/11 attacks, they simply declared that they now possessed such power. Then they later got a terrified and intimidated Congress to ratify it. They cowed a frightened American public into accepting it.

So, if President Bush and the Pentagon have the same round-up powers that Gen. Musharraf and his military goons have, why aren’t we witnessing round-ups here in the United States? Because they isn’t a sufficiently serious terrorist “emergency” here, yet, as Musharraf says there is in Pakistan.

What’s important to keep in mind is that dictatorship doesn’t depend on the exercise of dictatorial powers but rather the possession of dictatorial powers. The fact is that given the right “emergency,” such as some coordinated terrorist strikes across the United States, the president now wields the same powers of round-up (plus the powers of torture and sex abuse) that military general Musharraf wields against his people.

What about habeas corpus? Americans could still file a petition for writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention, assuming that they would be able to contact a lawyer. But don’t forget that the government’s position is that a federal judge in a habeas corpus proceeding should not second-guess the president’s enemy-combatant determinations. Therefore, the evidentiary requirement to uphold the president’s enemy combatant detentions is likely to be quite low in habeas corpus hearings, especially during a terrorist “emergency.”

Don’t forget also that in an “emergency,” a terrified and intimidated Congress would likely do to Americans what it did to foreigners — remove the jurisdiction of the federal courts to consider habeas corpus petitions in terrorism cases. In an “emergency,” it will likely be “bye, bye habeas corpus” for Americans, as it has been for foreigners.

Lest anyone think that President Bush would hesitate to conduct such enemy combatant roundups if he felt that national security was at stake, just look at his conduct in Iraq, where some 28,000 Iraqis are held in detention without trial. Even worse, as conservative columnist Robert Novak reports, Bush is even ignoring the orders of judges to release Iraqi detainees.

Is Bush a kinder dictator than Musharraf? Americans would certainly say so but probably not the Iraqi people. Who can tell what could happen in an “emergency” where “national security” is at stake? Don’t forget that there are still many conservatives and neo-cons who still idolize Chilean military strongman Augusto Pinochet, who rounded up, tortured, sexually abused, and killed thousands of Chilean citizens who he and his military goons considered enemy combatants.

The best hope there is if the American people, including the men, conquer their silly fears about “the terrorists” and finally recognize what our American ancestors understood: that the biggest threat to our rights and freedoms lies with our very own government officials. That is, in fact, what the Bill of Rights is all about — protecting us not from “the terrorists” but instead from the feds. That’s why the feds hate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and do everything they can to circumvent and ignore them. They know that these documents serve as constant reminder of the danger that the federal government poses to the freedom and well-being of the American people.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Foreign-Policy Reality in Pakistan
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It is fascinating the way that reality sometimes has a way of breaking through the walls of falsehood and deception that form around people’s minds. What is happening in Pakistan is a textbook example of this psychological phenomenon.

Thanks to incessant indoctrination at the hands of government officials, including those in the public (i.e., government) schools, there has been a large segment of Americans that honestly believes that U.S. foreign policy is based on spreading “democracy” in the world. Thus, when President Bush ordered his military to attack Iraq, this segment of Americans automatically bought into the president’s rationale for having to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people — he just wanted to bring “democracy” to Iraq” — well, that is after those scary WMDs with which he scared the American people failed to materialize.

So, from the time that the president gloriously announced “mission accomplished!” that segment of Americans has continued to hold that the U.S. government is occupying Iraq for the sake of “democracy”—and that all the killings of the Iraqi people in the invasion and occupation have been “worth it”—that is, worth the spreading of “democracy” to that country.

If evidence to the contrary was introduced to any member of this segment, it would simply be discarded and disregarded. For example, if you reminded any of these people that the U.S. government had supported, especially with U.S. taxpayer money, Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, the Emir of Kuwait, and other unelected dictators in the Middle East, not to mention military dictators in Latin America, the members of the segment would simply not permit such evidence to enter their minds, and they simply would not discuss it. They would not permit their minds to absorb or process any evidence that was inconsistent with the democracy-spreading thesis about U.S. foreign policy to which their mind had adhered.

Then comes Pakistan, and specifically anti-democratic, military strongman Pervez Musharraf’s brutal crackdown on his own people. Here is a reality that the segment of true-blue believers in the democracy-spreading thesis cannot avoid, no matter how hard it tries. How does one avoid a story that is on the front pages and evening news every day, not to mention all over the Internet?

Musharraf is a brutal army general who took over Pakistan in a coup. Before he became a partner of George W. Bush, he was a partner of the Taliban. The only reason he switched sides was because of an offer from President Bush of large amounts of U.S. taxpayer money and the promise of U.S. bombs over Pakistan if he failed to accept the offer of a partnership with President Bush. He is not elected and, in fact, will permit only elections that are rigged to keep him in power. He has recently declared martial law, enforced by his military and police goons. He has unilaterally dismantled Pakistan’s judiciary, jailed lawyers and judges and others for disagreeing with him, and made it illegal to say bad things about him.

The fact is that Musharraf is a dictator par excellence. In fact, it would be difficult to find a better example of a dictator — and a brutal, violent one at that.

So, what is the democracy-spreading President Bush doing about this? He’s continuing to pump millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of Musharraf and his military goons while, at the same time, trying to make it look like he disapproves of Musharraf’s crackdown on the “terrorists.” In fact, President Bush’s public face of “disapproval” of Musharraf’s crackdown reminds us of his public face of “disapproval” of torture — pretty words but without substance or commitment.

The Pakistan situation provides another example of how the American people lose because of U.S. foreign policy. Suppose a Pakistani lawyer put into jail is raped, tortured, or even killed at the hands of Musharraf’s military or police goons. If there is a later terrorist attack against Americans by a family member of the lawyer, one can already hear U.S. officials exclaim, “We’re innocent! We’re innocent! We didn’t do anything wrong. The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values.” Yeah, like never mind that the U.S. government supported this dictator and his military and police with billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money, which was used to buy the weapons that were used against the Pakistani people—well, at least that part of the money that didn’t end up in the Swiss bank accounts of Musharraf and his goons.

The Pakistan crisis provides a much-needed dose of reality about the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy. It’s a reality that once again reminds us of the wisdom of America’s founding principle of foreign policy: free trade with everyone and entangling political alliances with none.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Watada’s Victory Lets Military Off the Hook
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It seems like the U.S. Military might be let off the hook by a federal judge’s ruling in case of Lt. Ehren Watada. The judge has issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the military from prosecuting Watada, pending whether the military can successfully show that the prosecution of Watada would not violate the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Here is what is going on in this case and why it is so important.

At the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, Nazi officials were charged with the war crime of waging a war of aggression. What that meant was that the German government had attacked and waged war against countries that had not attacked Germany.

Watada ultimately came to the realization that the U.S. government was committing the war crime for which Nazi officials had been indicted and convicted at Nuremberg, to wit: attacking a country, Iraq, that had not attacked the United States. Once he realized that, Watada refused to blindly obey orders to participate in the war crime. He refused to deploy to Iraq, both on the legal grounds arising out of the Nuremberg proceedings and the moral ground that it’s wrong to kill people, even as a soldier, in a war of aggression.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government took the same position that the German government took — that soldiers cannot refuse to participate in a war, even if it is an immoral and illegal war of aggression being waged by their ruler. Whether the war is immoral or illegal is not an issue for the soldier, claim U.S. officials. Those are issues to be decided by their commander in chief.

Interestingly, all other U.S. officers and enlisted men bought into the government’s position, sacrificing their conscience and their reasoning ability and obeying orders that required them to kill and maim people thousands of miles away from the United States—people who had never attacked the United States, including on 9/11. “Our job is to do our job,” has been the standard mindset of American officers and enlisted men participating in the killing, mayhem, and violence in Iraq, even though Iraq never attacked the United States. Equally interesting is that many Americans, including Catholic priests and Protestant ministers, have supported the actions of such soldiers knowing full well that they were participating in the type of war that had been punished at Nuremberg as a war crime.

Why didn’t they simply discharge Watada as a conscientious objector? Because the U.S. military’s rule on that issue requires the soldier to object to all wars — not just illegal wars of aggression. Thus, since Watada has no objection to defensive wars — that is, wars where a country has been attacked by another country — he would not fall within the U.S. military’s definition of conscientious objector.

So, the military went after Watada by prosecuting him in a military court martial for refusing to obey the orders of the president. After the trial had begun, the prosecutor claimed that by entering into a particular pretrial procedural stipulation, Watada had effectively admitted his guilt. It was a ludicrous argument and the judge effectively so held. That caused the prosecutor to claim surprise, which was also ludicrous, and ask for a mistrial in order to get more time to prepare his case. The judge granted the mistrial.

As I wrote at the time, by granting the prosecutor’s motion for mistrial, the judge might well have inadvertently precluded any further prosecution of Watada. Why? Because while the defendant can ask and get a mistrial in a criminal suit, the general rule is that the prosecutor cannot. The reason for this is that the Constitution bars prosecuting a person twice for the same crime. By starting the trial, Watada was placed in jeopardy of being convicted, and the granting of the prosecutor’s motion for mistrial doesn’t change that.

When the military nonetheless proceeded with its second prosecution, Watada went to a civilian federal court and asked for an injunction prohibiting the military from proceeding. Obviously, given the military’s disdain for the U.S. judicial system (a disdain perfectly reflected by the military’s establishment of its torture-and-sex abuse camp in Cuba), this “interference” must chaff military officials to no end. The judge granted the injunction pending whether the military can overcome the double-jeopardy argument.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the military can appeal the grant of the injunction, claiming that the federal courts should not interfere with a military prosecution. It’s an argument that could conceivably prevail since Watada could still appeal a conviction through the military-justice system all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, therefore, the argument would go, there’s no reason for a federal court to get involved.

Either way, my hunch is that Watada will win on double-jeopardy grounds. As the federal judge who issued the injunction pointed out, no doubt to the chagrin of U.S. military officials, the Constitution still applies to the military in this country.

So, why did I begin by saying that the federal judge’s injunction might have let the military off the hook? Because if Watada is convicted and his double-jeopardy claim rejected, when he appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court would be faced squarely with the crucial question: Are U.S. soldiers bound to obey orders to commit the war of crime of waging a war of aggression? Are they duty bound to sacrifice conscience and reason when ordered to participate in the killing of people in a war of aggression? The answer might not be one that the president and the military would like. If the Court ruled for Watada, the ruling would obviously constitute one of the biggest transformations of the principles of military service in history.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hypocrisy and Cowardice in China and the U.S.
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Members of Congress are upset with Yahoo officials for giving Chinese officials confidential online information about one of their customers in China. The Chinese authorities used the information to send the Yahoo customer to jail for 10 years for engaging in subversive, anti-government activity.

Meanwhile, Congress is talking about the importance of giving immunity to U.S. telecommunication companies for illegally giving U.S. officials confidential online information about their customers in the United States. The U.S. officials say that they needed the secret information to ferret out subversive activity against the U.S. government.

Oh, well, no one ever accused Congress of a lack of hypocrisy.

Yahoo’s general counsel, Michael J. Callahan, said that Yahoo employees had little choice but to comply with the Chinese government’s demands.

Ironically, that’s what the U.S. telecommunication companies are saying as to why they complied with the U.S. government’s demands!

The fact is that all these executives are the par excellence of cowardice. Yahoo does have a choice — stand up for your customers or don’t do business in communist countries. And U.S. companies also have a choice — stand up for your customers and tell the feds to take a hike, even if it means they come after you with a retaliatory indictment, as they did with Qwest, which, unlike Yahoo and the U.S. telecommunications companies, said “No” when the little tyrants came demanding their information.

For decades both the American and Chinese people have loved their big governments, mostly because their big governments take care of them like parents with education, health care, social security, and other forms of welfare. But as we are learning with the Yahoo and U.S. telecommunications scandals, there is big price to pay for big government.

Isn’t it ironic that Americans have the most powerful government in history and the most terrified citizenry in the world? It is not a coincidence. Big government produces small, frightened people. As earlier generations of Americans could attest, small and weak government, on the other hand, results in strong, self-reliant, and courageous people.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Pomona College Debate on Immigration
by Jacob G. Hornberger

What a great time I had at the immigration debate at Pomona College last Thursday! Since I was debating the president of the “Minutemen,” Marvin Stewart, the event was rife with controversy on campus. You’ll recall that when the debate was originally scheduled last spring, the then-head of the Minutemen, Jim Gilchrist, backed out, ostensibly because he was scared after having experienced an adverse reaction among students at Columbia University. (See “Gilchrist, O’Reilly, and the Cowardice Factor” by Jacob G. Hornberger.)

Despite the fact that there was much opposition, among both students and faculty, for giving a representative of the Minutemen a forum to express his views, the students in the Student Union, who organized the event, much to their credit went forward with the event anyway, with the goal of stimulating thought and discussion within the campus on the immigration issue, through the crucible of a debate. The event drew an estimated overflow, standing-room-only crowd of about 600.

Interestingly, Stewart is a Christian minister who runs a non-profit educational foundation. Thus, throughout the debate, he continually referred to sayings from the Bible. I challenged him to explain how he could reconcile God’s holy word with the U.S. government’s treatment of illegal immigrants — e.g., attacking them on the high seas with water cannons and forcibly repatriating them into Cuban communist tyranny, incarcerating them, deaths on lonely deserts and in railroad cars and in the backs tractor-trailors, etc. Not surprisingly, Stewart failed to rise to the challenge.

Instead, he kept repeating that rules are rules and, therefore, must be obeyed. My response: Just because a law is on the books doesn’t mean that it is worthy of obedience. A student in the audience had an even better comment, “You mean, like slavery?” (Stewart is an African-American.)

I pointed out to the audience that there is one — and only one — solution to the so-called immigration crisis. It is a solution that is consistent with our heritage as Americans, with economic prosperity, especially for the poor, and with moral and biblical values. That solution is the free market, which includes the free movements of goods, services, and people across borders. I pointed out how each day countless people from Maryland and Virginia cross the border between these two states and that the border (the Potomac River) has not disappeared and that neither state has lost its sovereignty.

Not surprisingly, Stewart never responded directly to this point, instead spending much of his time complaining that immigrants were adversely impacting the African-American community. I responded by pointing out that immigrants are a tremendous economic boon to a society, in at least 3 ways: the work ethic they bring, the division of labor they provide, and the increase in prosperity they produce with their consumption. I also recommended the fantastic new book on open immigration, which smashes in a serious, readable way every single argument of the anti-immigrant and closed-border crowds: Philippe Legrain’s Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them.

After about 3 questions during the Q&A, student protestors began chanting loudly “Hate is Not Debate,” which was addressed to the fact that a representative of the Minutemen was speaking on campus. Since they would not stop their chant, the Student Union was faced with either having them evicted forcibly or terminating the event early. It chose the latter, especially since there was time for just a few more questions anyway. (See “Protest Ends Debate” in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.)

Undoubtedly, the protestors thought that their actions were protected under principles of free speech, but they are sadly mistaken. Freedom of speech simply means that the government cannot legitimately stop someone from expressing his views. But it does not grant someone the right to interfere with another person’s event. If the protestors wanted to make a statement about the immigration debate, they had the right to hire out their own hall, where they could then chant to their heart’s content. They did not have the right, moral or legal, to interfere with the immigration debate.

Also, one can only hope that the protestors learned from the debate that rather than try to suppress unpopular speech, it’s much more satisfying to smash it through reason, argumentation, and debate.

The organizers of the debate deserve commendation and praise for their courage and boldness in having the debate, especially in the face of criticism and adversity. By providing people with a stimulating intellectual debate, they achieved their aim of stimulating thought and discussion on campus about one of the burning issues of our time.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Democracy Is Not Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Bush’s advice to Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf is quite revealing. In the face of Musharraf’s brutal crackdown on civil liberties, Bush is telling Musharraf that he needs to have elections.

Whoop-dee-do!

Never mind that Musharraf’s military and police goons are beating up and rounding up lawyers and judges and other Pakistanis who believe in a constitution, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and other civil liberties.

In Bush’s mind, all that matters for “freedom” is a democratic election. The idea is that once people get to vote, then the ruler who is elected has the “right” to do anything he wants to his own people—well, as long as it’s part of the “war on terrorism.”

That’s in fact why Bush himself feels that he has the power to order his loyal military and police goons to round up, incarcerate, and torture Americans as enemy combatants, and to spy on Americans, and to ignore the Constitution and the laws enacted by Congress.

In principle, Bush doesn’t have anything against what his friend and partner Musharraf is doing. That’s why Bush intends to continue depositing millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer monies into the coffers of Musharraf and his military goons. Bush just wishes that Musharraf had been elected before he began doing his dirty deeds.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Paralyzing Silence Among the Neo-Cons
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the amusing aspects to the Musharraf crackdown in Pakistan is the air of silence it is producing among American neo-cons. The crackdown is an absolutely perfect model of dictatorship and tyranny. And the resistance being led by Pakistani lawyers and judges in the name of the rule of law and an independent judiciary is an absolutely perfect model of justifiable resistance to dictatorship and tyranny.

So, why are the neo-cons frozen into silence? Why are they not able to passionately take the side of those who are resisting tyranny? Well, think about it: Ever since 9/11 the neo-cons have said that patriotism means blind allegiance among the citizenry to the president (or to their commander in chief, as some of them put it). Neo-cons wholeheartedly embraced President Bush’s dictum, “In the war on terrorism, you’re either with us or against us.” Therefore, anyone who criticized President Bush, his “war on terrorism,” his invasion and war of aggression against Iraq, his torture, or his cancellation of civil liberties has been labeled “unpatriotic” by the neo-cons.

So, applying their reason to Pakistan, the neo-cons cannot help but feel sympathy toward Musharraf and antipathy toward the protestors. After all, the justification that Musharraf has used for his crackdown is no different from the justification that Bush has used for his actions: the terrorists! And don’t forget—In the mind of a neo-con, Musharraf is standing for “law and order” while the resisters are breaking the “law” by going out on the streets and protesting.

Since it never occurs to the standard neo-con that Bush’s justification for his actions is nothing but a crock, why should it occur to him it’s a crock insofar as Musharraf’s actions are concerned? And don’t forget that Musharraf is a close partner and ally of Bush in the “war on terrorism.” Would President Bush even consider cavorting with a known tyrant or dictator? “Not on your life! Not our president!” the standard neo-con would answer. Thus, because he is aligned with President Bush, the neo-con would reason, he must be the good guy and his opponents the bad guys. That’s in fact why neo-cons remained silent with respect to the shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, and other tyrants and dictators who have partnered with U.S. presidents.

Moreover, the fact that the resistance to Musharraf’s crackdown is being led by the country’s lawyers and judges is the worst nightmare of the neo-cons, not to mention that the resistance is citing the principles of an independent judiciary and the rule of law as their cause. In the mind of a neocon, what could be worse than that? Haven’t the neo-cons done everything they can to undermine the power of the U.S. federal judiciary to interfere with Bush’s “war on terrorism”? Haven’t the condemned federal interference with Bush’s torture and sex-abuse camp at Gitmo? Didn’t they remove the power of the federal courts to grant habeas corpus to foreigners held as “enemy combatants” in the “war on terrorism”? Haven’t they mocked and ridiculed the very notion of judicial interference with Bush’s “commander-in-chief” powers?

Thus, the neo-con temptation is to side with President Bush’s partner, Pervez Musharraf, and to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But on the flip side, the neo-con knows that siding with dictators and tyrants might not be a good idea during a presidential campaign season.

Thus, the paralyzing silence.

And you haven’t seen anything yet. Because if Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul breaks into the ranks of the major contenders, I predict that you’re going to see some major quivering and quaking within the neo-con community.

Suppose that Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton win their party’s presidential nominations. What would neo-cons do (besides have a heart attack)? President Paul would dismantle the U.S. overseas empire and end the federal government’s role as international policeman — anathema for the neocons!

Yet, on the other hand, even though President Clinton would be pro-empire, pro-intervention, and pro-war, all of which is standard neo-con philosophy, among the worst nightmares of the neo-cons is the prospect of having to salute President Clinton and support and obey her commands. Again, don’t forget that for the last 7 years, the neo-cons have maintained that that’s the duty of the “patriotic” citizen, especially in time of “war.”

My prediction: If it’s Ron Paul vs. Hillary Clinton — there will be more paralyzing silence among the neo-cons.

The neo-cons have brought nothing but death, destruction, and damage to our country and to the world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they took a vow of permanent silence?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Heroics of Pakistani Lawyers
by Jacob G. Hornberger

What a fantastic credit to the legal profession that lawyers and judges are playing the leading role in resisting tyranny in Pakistan.

Thousands of lawyers are defying Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s imposition of martial law by street protests all across the country. But Musharraf, in the finest tradition of dictators, is fighting back, sending his loyal, baton-wielding gendarmes into the streets, where they are beating up the lawyers and hauling them away by their legs and arms. Lawyers are being taken to jail bleeding or passed out from the tear gas that Musharraf’s goons are shooting at them. Estimates are that 500-700 lawyers are now in jail.

And it’s all thanks to the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf, the close friend and partner of George W. Bush, and no doubt the new hero of U.S. neo-conservatives for his “law-and-order” crackdown, especially against those pesky lawyers and judges who sometimes stand in the way of dictatorial powers.

Earlier this week, Musharraf actually fired the entire Supreme Court for daring to question the constitutionality of his rule. Imagine that: a president firing the entire Supreme Court! And Musharraf has even put some of the members of the Supreme Court under house arrest. That was on top of his suspension of Pakistan’s constitution.

For his part, President Bush is urging his partner and ally Musharraf to give up his army post and to hold elections “as soon as possible.” According to the New York Times, Bush gave “no indication that the general’s imposition of emergency rule would bring about any significant change in American policy.” That means, of course, that millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars will continue to be funneled into the coffers of Musharraf and his military goons. (Think about that when you’re doing your best to make ends meet this Christmas.)

But let’s address a more pertinent topic: How is Musharraf’s disrespect for the Pakistani constitution, the Supreme Court, the legal profession, and the law any different, in principle, from that of his partner Bush? Yes, it’s true that Bush isn’t firing the U.S. Supreme Court and jailing lawyers but his attitude toward the judiciary, the Constitution, criminal-defense lawyers, and the rule of law is no different, in principle, from that of Musharraf.

Look at Gitmo. Why did Bush establish his torture-and-sex-abuse camp in Cuba rather than in the United States? For one reason: because he felt that it was the only way to avoid the application of the U.S. Constitution and any interference by the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. If a person believes in the principles of the Constitution, including the federal judiciary, then why would he attempt to avoid their application and their “interference”?

Look at the kangaroo proceedings at Gitmo. Do they bear any relationship to the principles enunciated in the Bill of Rights, principles that our ancestors fought to achieve and which stretch back to struggles against tyranny in ancient England? They do not. In fact, there is no difference in principle between how Bush has been treating people at Gitmo and how his partner Musharraf is now treating people in Pakistan.

Do you see trial by jury at Gitmo? Due process of law? Protection against cruel and unusual punishments? Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures? Effective assistance of counsel? Protection against self-incrimination? Speedy trials?

No, you don’t see any of those things there. Now, take a look at the Bill of Rights. Do you see any of those protections enumerated there? You see all of them.

Ask yourself: If the president and the Pentagon had a deeply seated belief in the principles of the Bill of Rights, wouldn’t they do their best to ensure that those rights were applied and honored at Gitmo? Yet, we all know that they’ve done the exact opposite at Gitmo — torturing and sexually abusing people, keeping them incarcerated for years without trial, and operating under one of the greatest kangaroo systems in history.

Just ask any lawyer who is representing a client at Gitmo. He will tell you that the Pentagon has treated them like dung, even denying them the age-old right to conduct completely confidential and privileged communications between their clients.

Let’s also not forget how the president and the Pentagon have done everything they can to circumvent the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the treatment of people at Gitmo. Indeed, it was Bush himself who led the shameful and disgraceful effort to have Congress enact a law that removed the power of the federal courts to rule on habeas corpus cases filed by the Gitmo prisoners.

Let’s also not forget that the president, along with his new attorney-general designate, take the position that the president has the power to ignore the Constitution and the laws in his role as a war-on-terrorism commander in chief.

Pray tell: what’s the difference between Bush’s self-acquired power to ignore the Constitution and Musharraf’s suspension of his country’s constitution? Indeed, what’s the difference between Musharraf’s disrespect and dishonor of Pakistan’s constitution, Supreme Court, and bar associations and Bush’s disrespect and dishonor of America’s Constitution, Supreme Court, and bar associations?

Let’s just hope that if Bush keeps moving in the same direction of omnipotent government and tyranny exemplified by his partner and ally Musharraf that American lawyers will have the same courage and fortitude as those courageous and heroic Pakistani lawyers.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Musharraf, Lincoln, and Bush
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Pakistan is providing another good example of the bankruptcy of the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention, which has brought so much damage to our country. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has declared a national emergency and has seized emergency powers. His security forces have detained about 500 opposition party members, lawyers, and human rights advocates. He has closed several privately owned television stations. The BBC and CNN have been shut down. He has even fired the Supreme Court, which was getting ready to rule that he was ineligible to continue serving as president.

Don’t forget that Musharraf is an army general who took power in a coup and who has refused to permit democratic elections in Pakistan. Don’t forget also that he is a close friend and ally of President Bush, who has sent Musharraf some $10 billion in hard-earned U.S. taxpayer money since 9/11.

Will Bush order an invasion of Pakistan to liberate the Pakistani people and bring democracy to that country? Don’t forget that that was one of Bush’s supposed reasons for invading Iraq—well, after Bush couldn’t find those WMDs that he scared Americans with in order to garner their support of his invasion.

No. Not only is Bush not going to invade Pakistan, he is going to continue sending Americans’ hard-earned money to Musharraf because Musharraf continues to be a pro-U.S. ruler.

And that’s what U.S. foreign policy is all about. It’s not about freedom, democracy, or any other such bromides that Americans are taught in their public schools. It’s about control through the installation of pro-U.S. regimes—that is, regimes that agree to do the bidding of U.S. officials when called upon to do so. That was what the 1953 CIA coup in Iran was all about. It’s what the 1954 coup in Guatemala was all about. It’s what the brutal sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s were all about. It’s what the invasion of Iraq was all about. It’s what the proposed war on Iran will be all about.

Thus, while U.S. officials will issue the standard regrets over what Musharraf has done, the fact is that they couldn’t care less what Musharraf does to the Pakistani people as long as he continues to be a loyal member of the U.S. Empire.

That in fact is why the U.S. partnered and allied with the shah of Iran and Saddam Hussein, two well known dictators in the Middle East. That was the time, of course, when Iraq and Iran were considered friends and partners of the U.S., despite the brutality of their regimes against their own people. The only reason that the U.S. government has turned against Iran is because the Iranian people have refused to re-install a pro-U.S. regime, as exists in Pakistan. The only reason U.S. officials turned against their ally and partner Saddam Hussein (whom they later called the new Hitler) was because he refused to do their bidding.

Musharraf is claiming that his powers are temporary and is even citing Abraham Lincoln’s use of emergency powers during the Civil War. He is citing the “war on terrorism” for his justification. He is rounding people up and detaining them without trial. He is using the military to fulfill his orders.

Let’s just hope that Bush doesn’t learn any valuable lessons from his friend and partner Musharraf. After all, let’s not forget that Bush himself and the Pentagon seized some rather monumental “emergency” powers themselves after the 9/11 “emergency”: e.g., the power to round up and incarcerate Americans as “enemy combatants, subject to being tortured (as long as it’s not defined as torture) and imprisoned indefinitely. Indeed, as the president and his attorney-general designate have pointed out, the president now wields the power to ignore the Constitution and laws enacted by Congress, as long as it’s done as part of the “war on terror.” The president now also now wields the power to spy on Americans and monitor their telephone calls and emails. And how many times have we heard the neo-cons refer to Abraham Lincoln as their model for the president’s “temporary” curtailment of civil liberties?

Heck, let’s just hope that the right “emergency” doesn’t come along that will cause Bush and the Pentagon to spread their powerful, post-9/11, “war no terrorism” wings over larger numbers of Americans, as their partner and ally Musharraf has done in Pakistan. An “emergency” arising out of, say, a U.S. military attack on Iran and the inevitable blowback that such an attack would produce.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Federal Inanity in the Fourth Circuit
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the most inane arguments I’ve ever heard came this week from one of the 10 judges serving on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reputedly the most conservative federal appellate court in the country. The judge is J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who was nominated to the bench by Ronald Reagan. The case involves Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was initially a criminal defendant in a terrorism case but who was whisked into the clutches of the Pentagon as an “enemy combatant” shortly before his trial was to begin. The issue in the case is whether the “enemy combatant” power is constitutional.

According to the New York Times, Wilkinson “added, in extended remarks, that civil liberties groups had stirred up needless anxiety about the president’s detention powers. ‘We’re not talking about an indiscriminate roundup,’ he said. ‘We’re talking about two people’ — Mr. Marri and Mr. Padilla — ‘in six years with undisputed ties to Al Qaeda.’”

That is one inane argument.

First of all, we can only hope that Wilkinson was simply making a political observation rather than making a legal argument. After all, surely he knows that whether a particular power is constitutional or not turns not on the number of people it is being used against but rather on whether it is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution. That is, even if a power that is being claimed is not being exercised against anyone or only against two people doesn’t mean that the power is constitutional.

For example, supposed the president and the military have taken into custody two Catholics under a claimed power to arrest and incarcerate people because of their religious beliefs. Surely, Wilkinson wouldn’t suggest that the claimed power was constitutional simply because it was being exercised against only two people.

But even if Wilkinson’s point was simply a political one, which would be somewhat odd given that he was presiding over an important legal proceeding, his point is still inane.

The enemy-combatant doctrine is quite possibly the most revolutionary legal doctrine in American history. If ultimately upheld by the courts, it will constitute a fundamental reordering of America’s judicial system. Prior to the assumption of such power after 9/11, terrorism was always considered a federal criminal offense. In fact, it is listed in the federal statute books as a federal felony, which means that terrorism was always prosecuted in federal district court. That’s why such terrorists as Zacharias Moussaoui, Timothy McVeigh, Ramzi Yousef, and Jose Padilla were indicted and prosecuted for terrorism in federal district court.

After 9/11, the president and the Pentagon unilaterally changed that principle. Declaring a “war on terrorism,” they said that from now on, the president and the military would have the option of treating suspected terrorists in two completely different ways: one, the traditional route involving the federal courts, where defendants are according all the rights and guarantees of the Bill of Rights; and, two, as “enemy combatants,” where they would be accorded virtually no rights whatsoever and subjected to torture, indefinite incarceration, and execution.

Neither the president nor the Pentagon secured a constitutional amendment before assuming this new, revolutionary power.

Now, ask yourself: From a political standpoint, after 9/11 how smart would it have been for Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to go out and start rounding up large numbers of Americans, torturing them, incarcerating them in prison camps, and executing them?

Not very smart at all because there would have been a big possibility that Americans would have risen up in opposition. That’s why the round-ups were limited to foreigners, who were whisked away to Gitmo or to the secret CIA camps around the world or renditioned to friendly brutal regimes for torture and punishment.

Insofar as American citizens were concerned, the feds selected and pursued a couple of legal test cases designed to get their enemy combatant power against Americans upheld. They chose the cases that would be likely to receive the least sympathy from the American people. They chose Jose Padilla and Ali al-Marri, neither of whom were, say, a high school principal living in American middle-class suburbia and attending the local Baptist church. The feds knew that few Americans would sympathize with a Muslim-American who had supposedly threaten to explode a nuclear bomb in America and a foreigner who had supposedly supported terrorists while living in America.

The feds knew that if they could get the enemy combatant power upheld in their test cases, the holding would then apply universally against all Americans. In other words, from a political standpoint, why start the round-ups of American citizens before the power is upheld by the courts? In fact, it wouldn’t even be smart from a legal standpoint because it’s obvious, based on Wilkinson’s remark, that some judges would be less likely to uphold the power if it was being exercised against large numbers of people.

What Wilkinson possibly was forgetting when he made his remark is that once the courts uphold the principle in a case involving only two people, the power can then be legally exercised against everyone else. Once the power is upheld and subsequent roundups begin, Wilkinson cannot then cry, “Wait a minute! When we issued our rulings in Padilla and al-Marri, we didn’t realize that the government would abuse the enemy-combatant power by rounding up hundreds or thousands of Americans. We trusted the government to exercise its power judicially and well.” At that point, it will be too late because the government’s roundups will be based on the court’s stamp of constitutional approval in the test cases that the government brought.

If the courts end up upholding the enemy combatant doctrine and if there are more major terrorist strikes in the U.S., which is likely given that U.S. officials continue to poke hornets’ nest in the Middle East, Judge Wilkinson and all other Americans might yet get to witness what citizens of such countries as Burma, Chile, Germany, and the Soviet Union have witnessed in their history — the round-ups of large numbers of citizen “enemy combatants.” Don’t count on the courts to bail anyone out.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Terrorist Cases Belong in Federal Court
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As I have argued ever since 9/11, there was absolutely no reason to let the Pentagon hijack America’s criminal-justice system in the area of terrorism. Terrorism is a federal criminal offense, not an act of war. That’s, in fact, why many, but certainly not all, terrorism cases are still prosecuted in federal district court. The federal-court prosecutions for the federal criminal offense of terrorism include those of Zacharias Moussaoui (one of the 9/11 terrorist conspirators), Jose Padilla, the Detroit terrorism cases, the Dallas terrorism case, and several more. Some of the accused have been convicted and others have been acquitted.

Thus, it is refreshing to read an op-ed published in the New York Times today entitled, “How to Try a Terrorist,” which contends that terrorism cases rightly belong in federal district court, where the terrorist suspect is accorded all the traditional rights and guarantees accorded criminal defendants.

Significantly, the op-ed is written by a current federal district judge, John C. Coughenour.

Coughenour writes:

“In 2001, I presided over the trial of Ahmed Ressam, the confessed Algerian terrorist, for his role in a plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. That experience only strengthened my conviction that American courts, guided by the principles of our Constitution, are fully capable of trying suspected terrorists.”

After the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon announced that it was establishing a prison camp and an alternative “judicial” system for suspected terrorists in Cuba. Why Cuba? The Pentagon didn’t like the idea of federal judges and criminal-defense attorneys meddling with its “war on terrorism.” In the eyes of Pentagon officials — indeed, in the eyes of many federal officials — the Constitution was nothing more than a piece of paper containing “technicalities” designed to let terrorists go free.

Thus, 9/11 produced two systems for handing terrorists, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. One was the traditional federal-court system. The other one was the Pentagon/CIA system that was designed to operate outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

The reason I put “judicial” in quotes when I refer to the Pentagon-CIA system is because their system is actually no “judicial” system at all. Instead, the Pentagon-CIA system makes an absolute mockery of the term “judicial.” There are no speedy trials — detainees have languished in the Gitmo prison for years without a trial. At first, detainees were denied attorneys and even now, attorneys’ relationships with their clients are severely restricted. Detainees are prohibited from filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, a right that stretches back to ancient England. Detainees have no protection against cruel and unusual punishments, and therefore are subjected to torture and sex abuse, even without even being convicted of anything. Trial by jury is denied, with detainees being subjected to kangaroo military tribunals that hardly ever meet. Due process of law is non-existent. Proceedings are held in secret. There is no right to bail. Hearsay is permitted. Decisions are sometimes based on politics. Detainees are held for years and then released, without explanation. Detainees under CIA control have disappeared, without any explanation as to what happened to them.

As Judge Coughenour puts it,

“Consider the fact that of the 598 people initially detained at Guantánamo Bay in 2002, 267 have been released. It is likely that for a number of the former detainees, there was simply no basis for detention. The American ideal of a just legal system is inconsistent with holding ‘suspects’ for years without trial.”

Moreover, despite America’s long-held commitment to what is called “the rule of law,” this dual-track system now permits the government to choose which track to send people on. Some terrorist suspects are lucky — they get the federal-court track. Others are unlucky — they get the Pentagon/CIA track. Since the government now has the discretionary option of choosing which track on which send a suspected terrorist, it would be difficult to find a more perfect example of a violation of the principle of the rule of law than this.

After 9/11, Americans were stampeded into accepting this fundamental reordering of our federal judicial system, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. Today, every American should be embarrassed for the shame, disgrace, and damage that these people have done to our nation.

Thank goodness there are still jurists like Judge Coughenour to remind Americans that they have the finest judicial system in the world, a system that is perfectly capable of handling the federal criminal offense of terrorism without compromising the fundamental values and protections that our ancestors fought for and achieved in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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.