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, May 2008

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Compassionless Conservatism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In an op-ed entitled “The Libertarian Jesus” by Michael Gerson in today’s Washington Post, Gerson provides an excellent example of the moral blind spot that afflicts the conservative movement.

Gerson, who served as a speech writer for President Bush and who was a senior policy advisor for the conservative Heritage Foundation, uses his op-ed to sing the praises of government welfare programs, especially those that are endorsed by conservatives under the rubric of “compassionate conservatism.”

Implicitly denouncing libertarianism for calling for the end, not reform, of all government welfare programs, Gerson feels that while tremendous deference should be given to private charity, the role of the federal government in helping others is necessary and imperative.

Amazingly, Gerson fails to address the central moral issue in both Christianity and libertarianism: coercion vs. voluntarism.

With government welfare programs, government force is used to take money from one person in order to given it to another person. In the United States, the money is taken by the IRS and redistributed by some federal welfare agency. The central point is that if a person doesn’t pay his taxes, he is taken into custody, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to jail. Additionally, on the civil side his assets, including even his home, are forcibly seized and sold at auction to satisfy taxes owed.

If a person forcibly resists any of this, federal officials will meet force with force. If the resister uses deadly force to resist, federal officials will use deadly force in response. In other words, if you fail to pay your taxes and then forcibly resist criminal or civil proceedings against you, they will kill you.

How in the world can forcing someone to care for others be reconciled with the principles set forth by Jesus? Alas, Gerson doesn’t tell us. Instead, he simply points to examples in Jewish and Christian history of where people have purportedly used government to help others.

In his piece Gerson cites the story of Jesus’ encounter with the young rich man, claiming that it’s “a stretch” to use it as a biblical foundation for libertarianism. Unfortunately, however, Gerson doesn’t address a central point in that story—that after the young man rejected Jesus’ suggestion to sell all his assets and give them to the poor, Jesus did not employ force, either personally or through Caesar’s agents, to take the man’s money and give it to the poor. Gerson doesn’t tell us whether, in his opinion, Jesus should have done so.

Jesus told us that God’s two greatest commandments are, first, to love God and, second, to love your neighbor as yourself. But nowhere does God suggest that people should be forced to obey these commandments. That’s where God’s great gift of free will comes in. By its very nature, free will entails the right to reject God and reject one’s neighbor.

In the political arena, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all agree that government should punish people who initiate violence against others, for example rape, murder, stealing, etc. But where libertarians differ from conservatives and liberals is in the area of wrongful or sinful conduct that is non-violent. For libertarian Christians, that’s the arena for the operation of God’s gift of free will.

Thus, conservatives use the force of Caesar to punish people for committing such acts as adultery, covetousness, homosexuality, and drug abuse and to force people to care for others, thereby denigrating God’s great gift of free will. Libertarians, on the other hand, honor God’s great gift of free will by using the state to ensure that no one interferes with people’s peaceful choices, even when they are considered by others to be bad or irresponsible choices.

Finally, Gerson’s mindset reflects the loss of faith that has unfortunately captured the mindsets of both conservatives and liberals. He argues, for example, that private compassion “cannot replace Medicaid or provide AIDS drugs to millions of people in Africa for the rest of their lives.”

Oh, and why not? After all, Mr. Gerson, correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Americans operate without Medicaid and government-provided welfare for most of our nation’s history? And didn’t doctors and hospitals and others, together with the free market, provide for the healthcare and other needs of the poor during that time?

Gerson’s lack of faith in freedom reflects the conservative mindset toward free will and charity: When people cannot be relied upon to make the “right” choices, they should be forced to do so, for their own good and the good of society. That’s what goes for conservatism today, but what’s compassionate about it?

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

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another Obstacle in the Wars on Drugs and Immigrants
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Black-market principles are posing a new obstacle for advocates of the wars on drugs and immigrants. According to a front-page article in the New York Times, an increasing number of Customs and Border Patrol officials are accepting bribes in return for agreeing to look the other way when drug smugglers and immigrant smugglers come through their areas.

Here is how the black-market operates. The government makes some peaceful activity illegal, such as the possession and distribution of drugs or the illegal entry of immigrants into the United States. Immediately, the prices of drugs and immigrants go up because supply of both items is being constrained by the new laws.

The higher prices—and profits—provide an incentive for people to begin smuggling the banned items, in this case drugs and immigrants. That, in turn, causes government officials to crack down, which then makes it riskier to engage in the smuggling operations. That constrains supply, which then causes black-market prices—and profits—to soar.

Ultimately, the cycle continues to such a point where black-market profits are so exorbitant that it becomes worth it to expand the cost of doing business to bribery of government officials. In Latin American countries, where public officials do not earn extremely high salaries, it takes less money to get those officials to look the other way.

In the United States, where government salaries are quite handsome, it obviously takes more money to get the official to look the other way. For example, Michael Gilliland, a 46-year-old highly revered and respected U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, accepted $70,000 to $120,000 for letting illegal immigrants pass through his lane at the border.

According to the Times, a favorite ruse that smugglers employ, especially with middle-aged Customs and Border Patrol agents, is to deploy attractive women to flirt, charm, and beg them to let in an unauthorized immigrant—“just this once.”

U.S. officials can be quite clever. For example, two Border Patrol agents would drive their van to the border and open the back doors, permitting a load of illegal immigrants to enter the vehicle. They then would drive them to a safe place in San Diego, where they would then be transported north. If they were intercepted along the way, the agents were prepared to show that they had arrested the immigrants and were taking them in for processing.

According to the Times article, there have been “scores of corruption cases in recent years that have alarmed officials in the Homeland Security Department just as it is hiring thousands of border agents to stem the flow of illegal immigration…. Altogether, there are about 200 open cases pending against law enforcement employees who work the border…. While the corruption investigations involve a small fraction of the overall security workforce on the border, the numbers are growing.”

Hiring all those new people only exacerbates the problem, which is why there are now plans afoot to give lie detector tests to applicants. As one border official put it, “It’s very difficult for us to get out and vet each and every one of the applicants as well as we should.”

One customs officer, who had been on the job for less than a year, has been charged with knowingly letting several vehicles loaded with dozens of illegal immigrants and pounds of illegal drugs pass through. One of the vehicles belonged to his uncle. The officer has pleaded not guilty. The feds found $175,000 in cash in his house.

So, what do the drug warriors and immigration warriors do now? Well, I suppose they’d say that we just need to now crack down even more fiercely, not only on the drug lords and illegal immigrant smugglers but also on U.S. officials. Never mind that U.S. prisons are already overflowing and that the United States now incarcerates more people per capita than even the police state of communist China. In the minds of the warriors, when it comes to the war on drugs and the war on immigrants, no price is too high to pay. Anyway, think of the increased jobs for those in the burgeoning prison industry.

When will all this interventionist madness come to a stop? When a sufficient number of Americans finally reach the conclusion that Americans reached when they ended Prohibition: It will never work, at least not without a massive police state, and, more important, it’s just plain wrong.

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Socialism Is the Root of Healthcare Woes
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The healthcare system in the Czech Republic has a valuable, albeit perhaps discomforting, lesson for Americans.

For decades, Americans have convinced themselves that they live in a free-enterprise country. For such Americans, such government programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling are an important and essential part of America’s free-enterprise system.

Consider the healthcare system in the Czech Republic, which used to be under the domination of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Under communism, health care was free…. Many Czechs see it as a matter of principle that health care should be free.”

Did you catch the operative word — “free”? The reason that healthcare under communism is considered “free” is because the government guarantees it for everyone. Communists and socialists believe that free healthcare is a fundamental right.

Explaining the Czech mindset, Marc J. Roberts, who teaches at Harvard’s School of Public Health, analogized, “Most people in the United States believe that primary education should be free and open to all and that it shouldn’t be subject to market principles.”

Roberts might have also used socialist and communist Cuba as an example, given the free education that the Cuban government provides its citizens from elementary school through college. For that matter, he could also have pointed out that free health care has long been a core program in Fidel Castro’s communist and socialist system.

Of course, health care under communism and socialism isn’t really free given that it is financed by government-imposed taxes, most of which, as the Times points out, are taken out of people’s paychecks.

The reason that the Czech healthcare system is in the news is that a doctor’s visit now costs $1.85 while a hospital stay costs $4 per day. An American might be tempted to ask, “What’s wrong with that?” The Czechs would respond that no one should have to pay anything for healthcare. After all, free healthcare, they say, is a fundamental right.

Of course, there is one slight downside to the socialist/communist healthcare system in the Czech Republic: According to the Times, the country ranks “at or near the bottom in life expectancy, as well as mortality rates for strokes, heart disease, and cancer.”

Oh well, I suppose no healthcare system is perfect, not even a “free” one.

Why does the healthcare system in the Czech Republic provide a valuable one for the American people? Primarily because it might help to pierce the life of the lie and mindset of delusion that afflicts so many Americans — that is, that America has a free-enterprise healthcare system.

If Americans come to realize that their government-provided Medicare and Medicaid are not free enterprise but instead akin to the socialist and communist system in the Czech Republic (and Cuba), then maybe they’ll begin to see that the healthcare woes that are afflicting our nation are not caused by free enterprise but instead by socialism.

Only by reaching the right diagnosis of America’s healthcare ills is there any hope that Americans will arrive at the correct prescription — the one that the Czechs unfortunately have not yet arrived at. That prescription entails the adoption of a truly free-market health care system, one in which Medicare, Medicaid, and all other forms of government involvement in healthcare are removed entirely from the body politic.

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No Light at the End of the Drug War Tunnel
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Drug warriors are lamenting the high number of deaths of Mexican officials at the hands of Mexican drug lords. The latest victim was Edgar Millan Gomez, the acting chief of the federal police in Mexico City. In the last month alone, four top security officials in Mexico City have been killed. Drug dealers have killed another seven Mexican federal agents along the border. They’ve also killed 170 local police officers.

The reason for all this increase in violence? The president of Mexico, at the urging of U.S. officials, ramped up the drug war. And the more he ramps it up, the worse the situation becomes.

After 35 years of drug warfare, all the drug warriors have to show is a bunch of meaningless statistics showing how many drug busts they made during the past three decades. Yet, the war goes on. No one ever declares victory. They tell us that they just need to crack down more fiercely. Yet, that only makes the consequences worse, as the situation in Mexico reflects.

So, why continue fighting the war on drugs?

One reason is that there are government jobs to consider — the jobs of federal, state, and local drug-war officials. In the minds of public officials, it is imperative that those jobs be preserved at all costs. After all, drug-war officials have mortgages too.

Second, there are government officials who are making big money from the drug war. They’re on the take. The drug war’s black market enables them to make more money than they ever would in a regular marketplace.

There is one — and only one — way to put drug lords out of business immediately. That’s through the legalization of drugs. By restoring a free market to illicit drugs, the sale and distribution of drugs would be handled in the same peaceful manner that alcohol (perhaps the most destructive drug) is handled.

Drug-war proponents respond, “We can’t do that. That would mean that drugs would be readily available to those who wished to consume them. We just need to crack down in war on drugs.”

But drugs have been readily available during the entire 35 years of the drug war. Anyone who wants them can get them. And as the Mexican experience shows, cracking down in the war on drugs simply exacerbates the violence problem.

The fact is: The drug war cannot be “won,” at least not without massive violence and the adoption of a militarized police state to deal with it. Just ask the people of Mexico.

With no drug war there would be no more drug lords, no more drug cartels, no more killing of drug-war law-enforcement officers, and no more drug-war violence.

But of course, drug legalization would also mean layoffs for drug-war officials and no more bribes and payoffs, which is why the drug war will go on indefinitely, until Americans just say no.

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

Monday, May 26, 2008

Iraq and the Emperor’s New Clothes
by Jacob G. Hornberger

After five years of sacrificing thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people in a war of aggression and military occupation of a country that never attacked the United States, Pentagon officials are chagrined that the military junta of Burma won’t permit Pentagon officials to show how good and caring they are through the delivery of relief supplies to cyclone victims in Burma.

Make no mistake about it: The Pentagon’s offer of relief supplies to the cyclone victims does not reflect how good and caring the Pentagon has suddenly become. The money that was used to purchase the supplies came out of the pockets of U.S. citizens, compliments of the force used by the IRS to ensure that Americans fork over the money.

Moreover, the offer of aid by the U.S. military to Burma cyclone victims does not reflect how good and caring the American people are. It’s not as if Americans voluntarily chose to part with a portion of their money to help the cyclone victims, which is what voluntary charity is all about. The aid that the Pentagon is offering the Burma victims is part of a corrupt system involving welfare and warfare in which the IRS plunders and loots people, on threat of fine and imprisonment, so that the money can be used for the political and bureaucratic interests of those in power.

One of the common mantras heard regularly all across the land, including in churches, is that U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq for freedom. The U.S. government’s regime change operations are always about freedom. How else could they get Americans to support wars of aggression, occupations, and interventions? If they told them that it’s all about money, power, empire, and regime change, would Americans be extolling the loss of their servicemen, the killing of Iraqis, and the total destruction of Iraq? By believing the nonsense about freedom, Americans can make themselves feel good about whatever their government is doing.

While the lies emanate from Washington, the ultimate moral responsibility rests with the American people — the people who willingly permit themselves to fall for the lies. Why bother with the possibility that one has been lied to when it’s so much easier to simply pin a flag pin on one’s lapel and exclaim that it’s all about freedom?

Last week the New York Times revealed that a Pentagon audit reflected that $8.2 billion in American taxpayer money had been spent in Iraq with virtually no documentation as to how the money had been spent. The same was true for $1.8 billion in Iraqi assets that U.S. military officials stole (what other word can be used to describe it?) from the Iraqi government after the invasion. Let’s not forget that early in the occupation the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (what a title) found that $8.8 in Iraqi oil money and other assets could not be accounted for.

That’s a lot of money. Billions of dollars. Where did it all go? The president doesn’t know. The Pentagon doesn’t know. There are no receipts or accounts of disbursement for billions of dollars.

Maybe all that money went for goodness and freedom. But I’ve got a different hunch: I suspect it went into misappropriation and bribery, which have lined the pockets and foreign bank accounts of lots of government officials and their privileged cronies, both American and Iraqi.

The plight of the American people can be summed up by that old tale about the Emperor’s new clothes. Unfortunately, however, whenever Americans are confronted with the consequences of naked power that comes with U.S. empire and intervention, they will not permit their minds to stray from the officially approved mindset that the U.S. welfare-warfare state is clothed with nothing but goodness and freedom.

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

P.S. My colleague Sheldon Richman has a great Memorial Day perspective “Happy Revisionist History Day” on his blog page.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Allowing Cubans and Americans to Be Free
by Jacob G. Hornberger

From this week’s New York Times: “President Bush announced Wednesday that Americans would soon be allowed to give their relatives in Cuba cell phones to use.”

Now, doesn’t that just say it all? Notice the operative word: “allowed.” The American people are being allowed to send cell phones to Cubans.

Hey, President Bush: Since you’re now allowing your child-adults to send cell phones to Cuba, how about allowing them to travel to Cuba to deliver the cell phones personally? Why continue to threaten them with criminal prosecution at the hands of the Justice Department for traveling to Cuba and spending money there without federal permission?

The reason that President Bush is allowing his child-adults to send cell phones to Cuba is to test the sincerity of Cuban President Raul Castro’s decision to allow the Cuban people to own cell phones. Bush doesn’t think that Castro is truly sincere, given that many Cubans cannot afford to buy cell phones.

So, there you have it — two omnipotent rulers allowing their citizens to own or send cell phones. The real tragedy in all this is that both Cubans and Americans are celebrating the “freedom” of being allowed to exercise what some would consider to be fundamental, inherent rights that should require no governmental permission at all.

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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

“We Don’t Torture”
by Jacob G. Hornberger

After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush assured the American people, “We don’t torture.” By “we” he meant people working for the federal government, including those in the CIA and the military.

Since then, we’ve learned about the Abu Ghraib scandal, where some photographs or videos still remain under lock and key because what they depicted was so shocking even to members of Congress.

Since then, we’ve learned that U.S. personnel have engaged in torture, beatings, waterboarding, forced isolation, and various forms of sex abuse on detainees and prisoners in U.S. custody in different parts of the world, including at least one American.

Since then, we’ve learned that several prisoners have even been killed or disappeared while in the custody of CIA officials and U.S. military officials.

Since then, we’ve learned that President Bush secured secret legal opinions from White House lawyers that could be construed to authorize torture.

Since then, we’ve learned that President Bush has sought and secured from Congress immunity for U.S. personnel who have engaged in torture.

Since then, we’ve learned that President Bush has refused to send CIA agents to Italy to stand trial for kidnapping for the purpose of torture.

And now, the latest revelation: We now learn that FBI officials opened up a secret war-crimes file detailing first-hand accounts of torture and sex abuse at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. After U.S. officials intentionally and knowingly ignored the file, a senior FBI official ordered it to be closed.

Throughout it all, President Bush has continued to maintain, “We don’t torture.”

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Prosecution of Tariq Aziz
by Jacob G. Hornberger

U.S. officials might want to think twice before imposing price controls ever again in the United States, given what Iraqi officials are doing to Tariq Aziz, who served as deputy prime minister in the Saddam Hussein regime.

Iraqi officials are prosecuting Aziz for enforcing government-imposed price controls against Iraqi merchants during the time of the brutal sanctions that U.S. and UN officials were enforcing against Iraq during the 1990s. The Iraqi merchants who were caught violating the Iraqi price control law were given the death penalty and executed. Today, Iraqi officials are seeking the death penalty against Aziz for having participated in the enforcement of the Iraqi price controls.

Price controls are a favorite way for government officials to mislead their citizenry as to the causes of rising prices. When government officials wish to spend lots of money, either for domestic welfare or overseas adventures, they have three ways to do so: taxation, borrowing, or printing the money.

As the American people are now painfully discovering, government officials inevitably turn to borrowing and printing rather than taxation to finance their profligacy. The reason for this is that people tend to get angry when their taxes are raised. The advantage of borrowing and printing the money is that government officials can plunder and loot the citizenry secretly and surreptitiously.

Here’s how the process works.

To pay off its ever-increasing debts and expenses, government officials simply print the money. Due to the increased supply of paper money, the value of the money goes down. That drop in value is reflected by rising prices of things like food, gasoline, education, and other regular expenses. Those rising prices are simply reflecting that it takes more paper money to buy such items, due to the government’s debasement of the currency.

But most people have no idea why prices are rising. They think it’s all the fault of greedy businessmen, speculators, profiteers, big oil, and capitalists. The last thing they would suspect is that the federal government is behind the entire scam, especially during time of “war,” when the federal government is considered sacrosanct.

Inevitably, there are calls for price controls, which entail the enactment of laws that prohibit sellers from raising prices. Harsh criminal penalties are placed on violators. This is, in fact, what the Richard Nixon administration did during the 1970s. It is also what the Saddam Hussein regime did during the 1990s. From the standpoint of Nixon and Saddam, the advantage of price controls was that they make people think that the cause of rising prices are the businessmen rather than the government itself. The masses celebrate the government’s prosecution of the merchants, never suspecting that the real criminals are the government officials who are debasing the currency and enacting and enforcing the price controls.

Today, former Iraqi official Tariq Aziz is being put on trial by a new Iraqi regime for having played a role in the enforcement of price controls in Iraq. The crime with which he is being charged is “crimes against humanity.” The Aziz prosecution should serve as a valuable warning to U.S. officials: Beware enacting price controls as a way to disguise what you have done and are doing to the U.S. dollar to pay for your out-of-control federal spending.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Conservative Gods
by Jacob G. Hornberger

To gain a good sense of how conservatives view the federal government, all one has to do is examine the words that conservative political commentator Tucker Carlson directed toward David Ray Griffin, an author who has claimed that the federal government was behind the 9/11 attacks. Regardless of whether one sides with Griffin or believes (as I do) that foreign terrorists committed the 9/11 attacks in retaliation for U.S. foreign policy, Carlson’s words reveal the important role that the federal government plays in the conservative mindset.

Carlson told Griffin that his criticism of the federal government was “wrong, blasphemous, and sinful.”

Why would Carlson use those words? Because long ago conservatives came to view the federal government as their other god, a god that not only takes care of people’s retirement, education, healthcare, food, and other necessities but also is the only thing standing between the citizenry and such bad guys as terrorists and drug dealers.

Now, that’s not to say that conservatives don’t also believe in God. In fact, they’ll openly proclaim how religious they are, oftentimes proudly wearing their religion on their sleeves.

But the truth is that that conservatives have two gods — their federal god and their religious God, both of whom conservatives think are equally worthy of people’s respect and support.

God’s system is one in which people are expected to take responsibility for sustaining their lives and those of their family. Ordinarily, this responsibility is fulfilled through labor—i.e., hard work.

For those who are unable to take care of themselves, God expects people to use some of the fruits of their labor to help them out. God doesn’t force anyone to do this; He just asks and expects people to do so voluntarily.

Obviously, there are risks in God’s system. Some people make what others consider are wrongful, irresponsible choices in life. For example, some people are lazy; they don’t work hard. Some are selfish; they won’t help others. Some don’t care about education. Others won’t help their parents or the poor. Some don’t attend church. Some let others do the donating to worthy causes.

In the conservative mind, God simply made a mistake by entrusting people with too much freedom. If God had known that people were going to be so untrustworthy, so selfish, and so irresponsible, He would never have given them such a wide ambit of free will.

That’s where the federal god enters the picture. With such federal programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, subsidies, the drug war, and foreign aid, no one need concern himself about those who make the wrong choices. The federal god ensures that everyone makes the right choices, primarily with the “contributions” that people make to the IRS.

What about God’s commandment regarding false idols? For conservatives, that commandment must be construed in light of the thousands of commandments issued by their federal god. After all, what better way to enforce God’s laws of responsibility and charity than to employ the federal god’s rules, regulations, orders, laws, fines, and jails?

The next time you hear a conservative expressing thanks, listen carefully to whether he says, “Thank gods.”

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

Monday, May 19, 2008

Appeasing Bush
by Jacob G. Hornberger

On his recent trip to Israel, President Bush ignited a political firestorm within the Obama, Clinton, and McCain camps by suggesting that it would be wrong to “appease” the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran.

Unfortunately, Bush has the appeasement issue inverted. The real appeasement question is whether people in the Middle East should appease Bush and, if so, whether appeasement would assuage Bush’s aggressive designs in that part of the world.

For example, suppose the insurgents in Iraq, who are currently committed to ousting U.S. forces from their country, suddenly decided to let Bush have Iraq. Would Bush give up his designs on Iran or would he be satisfied with simply having Iraq? My hunch is that appeasing Bush in that way would only encourage him to bomb Iran and try to effect regime change there as well.

Let’s keep an important fact in mind, one that all too many Americans unfortunately still find too discomforting to accept: President Bush and his military are the aggressors in Iraq. Neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. President Bush and his military have waged a war of aggression against Iraq, a type of war that was punished as a war crime at Nuremberg.

Moreover, if Bush decides to bomb Iran, he and his military will be once again be the aggressor power, waging another war of aggression against a country that never attacked the United States.

Did “mission accomplished” in Iraq satisfy Bush? On the contrary! Soon after the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a new regime in Iraq, Bush was still not satisfied. He soon began talking about a supposed WMD threat from Iran, creating the same type of fear-mongering that was used to scare Americans into supporting his invasion of Iraq, a deadly, destructive, and expensive imperial operation that has taken the lives of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Even if it’s true that Iran is supporting the insurgents in Iraq in their attempt to bring an end to the U.S. occupation of their country, that’s a far cry from attacking and invading another country. After all, let’s not forget that the U.S. government itself did everything it could to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, including supporting Osama bin Laden and other radical anti-Soviet insurgents.

The issue raised by Bush of appeasing Iran is quite irrelevant given that Iran isn’t threatening to attack another country. It is instead George W. Bush and his military that have invaded two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, and without even the congressional declaration of war that is required by the U.S. Constitution.

It is George W. Bush and his military that are now threatening to attack another country, Iran, despite the fact that Iran has not attacked the United States and despite the fact that Iran, like Iraq and Afghanistan, is situated thousands of miles away from American shores.

Can Bush be appeased? Should he be appeased? My hunch is that having tasted the fruits of empire, invasion, and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, appeasing Bush would only serve to increase his thirst for more imperial “missions accomplished” overseas.

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

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crisis and Revolution in the Republican Party
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With their third straight loss of a House seat in a special election, Republicans are discovering that they’re in crisis.

Well, duh!

After all, here you have a political party that preaches the old libertarian mantra of “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” while embracing and supporting such socialist, interventionist, and imperial programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, the drug war, paper money, the Federal Reserve, the war on immigrants, the war on poverty, torture, wars of aggression, military occupations, kidnapping and rendition, suspension of habeas corpus, and denial of due process of law, right to counsel, right to confront adverse witnesses, and right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments.

In other words, there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between a Republican and a Democrat, with one exception. Since Republicans have long preached libertarian principles as their mantra, hypocrisy has become the middle name of virtually every one of their candidates.

For decades, Republicans have been able to get away with this “life of the lie,” except for one thing: libertarians. Unlike Republicans, libertarians not only preach libertarian principles, they also live them. Thus, unlike Republicans, libertarians oppose every single one of the socialist, interventionist, and imperial programs enumerated above.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Republicans have long resented libertarians. We remind them of what they are not and also what they have done with their embrace of socialism, interventionism, and empire, despite their continued, fraudulent use of libertarian mantras.

Libertarians, by and large, remained off the political radar screen, in large part because of the enormous ballot-barrier restrictions that both Republicans and Democrats have erected against libertarian participation in the political arena. That made it easier for Republicans to continue getting away with their shameful and hypocritical life of the lie. They continued to convince Americans that there was really a philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats.

And then along came Republican libertarian Ron Paul who decided to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. With Paul’s presidential campaign, libertarian principles were brought to the forefront of the political radar screen. Speeches, lectures, articles, news conferences, radio shows, television interviews, and perhaps most important presidential debates.

Republican voters were still hearing the standard “free enterprise, private property, limited government” mantra from all the Republican presidential candidates but for the first time, they were hearing a presidential candidate — Ron Paul — explain what the practical application of those principles actually meant, especially in foreign affairs.

All of a sudden, Paul’s libertarian message began resonating within people. What began has a trickle turned into an avalanche, one in which people were achieving a “breakthrough” that enabled them to confront the lies and the false realities under which Republicans had long been living.

Through it all, Ron Paul’s revolution has terrified not only the Republican establishment but also the mainstream establishment that has come to glorify and embrace the welfare-warfare state. And what terrifies them the most is the fact that once people achieve a “breakthrough” to the truth and reality of what both Republicans and Democrats have done — and are doing — to our country with their socialism, interventionism, and imperialism, that breakthrough is not reversible.

Meanwhile, Republican operatives are doing their best to come up with a solution to their crisis. Republican Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Committee, said, “What we’ve got is a deficiency in message….”

Well, duh, Congressman Cole! You sure got that one right. But it goes much deeper than you think. You people also have a deficiency in integrity and moral principles. Without those, your message doesn’t mean squat. At least not anymore because people are onto you Republicans!

To solve their political crisis, Republicans are coming up with new mantras, which are nothing more than warmed-over versions of their old libertarian mantra “free enterprise, private property, and limited government.” The Ron Paul revolution obviously still hasn’t sunk in to the Republican establishment. It’s not just libertarian mantras but rather the actual application of libertarian principles that is the key to the freedom of the American people and the future well-being of our country.

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

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Shameful Mistreatment of Foreigners
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Under ordinary circumstances, accused terrorist Mohammed Qahtani would be pleased that all criminal charges have been dismissed against him, especially since the Pentagon has alleged that he is one of the many “20th hijackers” on 9/11. But these are not ordinary circumstances given that Qahtani is one of the many foreigners mired in the Pentagon’s bizarre “judicial” system at Guantanamo Bay.

Why shouldn’t Qahtani be pleased? Because he might well be in a worse position than he was when the charges against him were pending. A Pentagon official named Susan J. Crawford, who is called a Tribunal Convening Authority for the Guantanamo prisoners, has dismissed the charges against Qahtani “without prejudice.” That phrase means that the Pentagon, if it wishes, can re-file the charges at some indefinite time in the future, which means that, if it wishes, it can continue to hold Qahtani indefinitely while U.S. officials make up their minds on whether to re-file the charges. Since Qahtani cannot file a habeas corpus petition owing to the Military Commissions Act, there is no way for him to challenge his continued detention. He must either continue languishing in jail and hope that Pentagon officials, in an expression of mercy, either charge him and finally give him a trial or release him despite the fact that they claim he conspired to kill thousands of Americans on 9/11.

Why did Crawford dismiss the charges? We don’t know because she didn’t say and the Gitmo “rules” don’t require her to state her reasons. But defense lawyers are saying that that most likely reason is that even U.S. military judges would have had a difficult time basing their verdict on evidence acquired from what U.S. officials did to Qahtani: beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, attacks by dogs, threats against family members, and threats to transfer him to foreign countries for the purpose of torture.

Now, isn’t that something? If Qahtani really conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks, he might well be released as a free man owing to the Pentagon’s vengeful mistreatment of him. Might it not have been better to have instead transferred him to the U.S. federal court system, where he could have been prosecuted and convicted in a court of law and then punished? Exactly how are Americans safer as a result of the Pentagon’s torture and sex abuse camp at Gitmo, especially if a man who allegedly conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks is set free because of the Pentagon’s mistreatment of him?

Of course, some neo-cons might respond, “Well, he’s a terrorist. It’s no big deal how he’s mistreated.” Never mind that no one has proven Qahtani’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury. Under the neo-con mindset, we’re supposed to have total and unwavering faith in the judgments and actions of military officials, even when their actions result in the release of people whom they say have committed horrific terrorist acts.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, U.S. officials are injecting dangerous anti-psychotic drugs intoimmigrants who are simply being deported for being here illegally. The principal drug that U.S. officials are using on the immigrants is Haldol, which “gained notoriety in the Soviet Union, where it was often given to political dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals.” After one Ecuadorian immigrant was injected with the drugs, one U.S. official nattily said to him, “Nighty-night.”

Of course, in a perverse sort of way maybe the Gitmo prisoners and the drugged and deported immigrants should be counting their blessings, at least compared to the many illegal immigrants who have died while in U.S. custody. According to the New York Times, 66 immigrants died while in custody from January 2004 to November 2007. As the Times put it in the case of Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who overstayed his tourist visa and who died in custody, “He died in a sequestered system where questions about what had happened to him, or even his whereabouts, were met with silence.”

Whenever a government is engaged in grave wrongdoing, it is up to an aroused citizenry to finally put a stop to it. The problem facing our country is that we have frightened citizens with severely diminished consciences who looks upon the state as their savior and depend on it for their sustenance.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Immigrants and American Values
by Jacob G. Hornberger

An increasing number of newspaper articles are reflecting that Latino immigrants nationwide are suffering from the U.S. economic downturn. For example, an article in Tuesday’s New York Times entitled “A Tenuous Prosperity Lost” stated,

“The economic downturn unfolding across the United States is imposing a particularly punishing toll on Hispanics, a group that was among the primary beneficiaries of the expansion in recent years. What had been a story of broad and steady advances has given way to growing joblessness, diminishing paychecks and lost homes.”

“The boom in American housing generated millions of new jobs for those willing to engage in physically demanding tasks, from factory work churning out floorboards, carpeting and upholstery, to landscaping, roofing and janitorial services, Latinos occupied widening swaths of these trades and filled large numbers of relatively high-paying construction jobs.”

The article states that one of the effects of this phenomenon has been a sharp reduction in the amount of money sent home to family members in Latin America.

The downturn has affected both legal and illegal immigrants. For example, Jose Serrano, an illegal immigrant in Atlanta, used to send most of the money he made at $10 per hour to his wife and children in Mexico. Since last November, he has failed to find steady work, which has prevented him from sending any money to his family. Lately, he has been borrowing money from friends to pay his rent. Serrano said, “Your dreams have disappeared. Your family is counting on you for basic necessities. You feel defeated.”

The article states that other immigrants have decided to simply return home.

Meanwhile, the same issue of the Times reported that federal agents had raided a meat plant in Iowa, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants, thereby ensuring that no more money is sent to the families of those people.

Wait a minute! What’s going on here? How can this actually be happening? Illegal immigrants losing income in an economic downturn and even returning home? Illegal immigrants being arrested actually working in a private business?

How is this possible? Hasn’t the anti-immigrant crowd told us for years that illegal immigrants come to America just to get on welfare? Hasn’t that been their principal argument for “cracking down” on the illegals?

Well, if the illegals came here just to get on welfare, then why in the world would an economic downturn adversely affect them? In an economic downturn, welfare payments don’t stop. So, why are illegal immigrants returning home to Latin America in the face of the economic downturn? Wouldn’t they instead be rushing to the local welfare office to pick up their welfare checks?

And how come federal gendarmes are raiding private businesses and finding hundreds of illegals to arrest? Shouldn’t they instead be raiding local welfare offices across the nation, where multitudes of illegal immigrants are supposedly lining up to collect their welfare? At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a meat-packing plant is a very unlikely place to be signing up for welfare. Isn’t it a place where people are more likely to be lining up to work?

The fact is that the “they’re coming to America to get on welfare” claim by the anti-immigrant crowd has been a sham the entire time. Immigrants, especially illegal ones, are among the hardest-working people one will ever find. They risk their lives and their fortunes in the hope of bettering their lives financially, mostly to send back to their spouse and children. They are the epitome of not only a strong work ethic but also strong family values, qualities that our American ancestors held dear.

The problem is that unlike our American ancestors, modern-day Americans do love welfare, a phenomenon manifested by their adoption and embrace of the socialistic welfare state. Whether the situation involves retirement, health care, education, food, or whatever, Americans love the fact that the state is there to help out — help with the money that the state has taken from other people, including immigrants, by force.

Since modern-day Americans love welfare, they find it impossible to believe that other people have a deeply seated devotion to a strong work ethic and actually believe in helping out their families on their own, without using the state to plunder the wealth and savings of others.

That’s in fact why so many U.S. officials, including those who teach in the public (i.e., government) schools, denigrate our American ancestors for rejecting such welfare-state schemes as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, food stamps, business subsidies, etc.

Thus, it’s not surprising that American anti-immigrants project their love of welfare onto Latino illegal immigrants. While anti-immigrants can easily understand why a person would risk his life and resources and leave his family for welfare, it is incomprehensible to them that anyone would actually risk his life and resources for the sake of bettering his life through labor, especially to support his family.

It only goes to show how far modern-day Americans, who have come to depend on the state for their sustenance, have strayed from the political and economic philosophy of economic liberty and from the moral values of voluntary charity and family values that guided our American ancestors.

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

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rising Prices and a Falling Dollar
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It seems that the mainstream media might finally be coming to realize that the soaring prices of commodities is not so much due to reduced supplies or increases in demand but instead to the enormous fall in the value of the dollar.

In an article in Sunday’s New York Times entitled “A Peek Behind the Price at the Pump,” Nelson D. Schwartz hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “But even as the presidential candidates debate whether to cut federal taxes this summer and legislators look at other ways to ease prices at the pump, a harder-to-control factor is emerging as a main reason behind the increase in energy costs: the sinking dollar.”

Welcome to Empire 101: What They Don’t Teach You in High School Civics and College Economics.

Since items sold in the United States [and elsewhere around the world] are priced in dollars, the price must inevitably reflect supply and demand for both the item and the currency.

If the value of a currency goes down because of an increase in supply of the currency or a decrease in demand for the currency, the only way that can be reflected is through an increase in the price of things that the currency buys.

As most every American should know by now, ever since 9/11 the dollar has been cratering in international markets. What many Americans are just now discovering, however, is that that phenomenon is a direct result of out-of-control federal spending, the type of spending that has characterized the federal government for the last seven years. Do the imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind?

Unfortunately, many in the mainstream press still don’t get it. For example, in an editorial yesterday the New York Times, the same paper that published the Schwartz piece, lamented the high financial costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, especially medical costs for soldiers.

So, does the Times call for an immediate withdrawal from these imperial adventures? No. Instead, it declares:“Fortunately, the solutions are clear — more money for mental health services….”

As Americans are now discovering, empires are not cheap. As people continue to pay ever-increasing prices at the pump, in the grocery store, and elsewhere, it’s important that we keep the reason in mind: out-of-control spending by federal officials. Such spending not only pays for ever-rising welfare at home, and not only for such wasteful and destructive things as the war on drugs, but it also pays for deadly and expensive imperial projects abroad.

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

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Constitution Protects Us from Them
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Framers understood the most important point about the nature of government: It constitutes the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry. Unfortunately, it is a point that has been lost among many modern-day Americans, who have come to view government as their friend, protector, provider, and savior.

If the Framers had viewed government the way that many modern-day Americans do, why would it have been necessary to limit the powers of the president, the Congress, and the judiciary to those specifically enumerated in the Constitution? After all, the Framers could have used the Constitution to simply call the federal government into existence and then written, “The government shall have omnipotent power to do whatever U.S. officials deem is in the best interest of the nation and to take care of the citizenry.” Instead, they effectively wrote, “Here are the few powers the government shall be permitted to exercise; if a power is not enumerated, it cannot be exercised.”

Even the enumerated-powers concept, however, did not satisfy our American ancestors. Convinced that federal officials would not remain constrained by the Constitution’s enumeration of powers, they demanded that amendments be enacted that expressly prohibited U.S. officials from infringing on the people’s fundamental and inherent rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, peaceful assembly, and gun ownership.

Why did they want such express prohibitions on infringing people’s rights? Because they knew that the federal government would inevitably attract totalitarian-minded people who would do whatever they could to suppress such rights.

Our ancestors also demanded amendments that expressly guaranteed the exercise of such vitally important procedural rights as due process of law, trial by jury, right to counsel, right to confront witnesses, the right to a speedy trial, and protection against cruel and unusual punishments. They were convinced that in the absence of such express guarantees, U.S. officials would arbitrarily arrest, torture, indefinitely incarcerate, and otherwise punish innocent people, especially those who criticized government wrongdoing.

In other words, the reason that our American ancestors feared the federal government is that they knew that in the absence of constitutional limitations on federal power, U.S. officials would do to Americans precisely what they are doing in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and other places around the world where federal officials operate free of the constraints of the Constitution. That’s why our ancestors came up with limited, enumerated powers in the Constitution and express guarantees of fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights.

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

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sealed Borders Work Both Ways
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Apparently not having enough to do to keep illegal immigrants from entering the country, U.S. officials are now also spending their time looking for illegal immigrants leaving the country. According to an article entitled “Border Busts Coming and Going in the Los Angeles Times, federal customs and immigration officials are setting up random checkpoints 500 yards from the Mexican border to search vehicles leaving the United States for illegal immigrants, drugs, and other contraband. People who cannot produce their papers are taken into custody and then turned over to the Border Patrol, which then deports them a few hours later.

Apparently the idea is to send a message to illegal immigrants that the U.S. government is serious about cracking down on illegal immigration. (The message being sent to drug dealers, apparently, is: Don’t even think of removing illicit drugs from the United States.)

Pardon me for asking a discomforting question, but isn’t it likely that, like other government interventions, this measure will have an unintended consequence that is opposite to what government officials want? Once illegal immigrants realize that there is a strong likelihood of being caught returning home, wouldn’t that encourage them to remain permanently in the United States rather than return home after making some money? And wouldn’t that, in turn, induce them to smuggle their wife and children into the United States? And isn’t that the exact opposite of what U.S. officials wish to accomplish with their immigration-enforcement measures?

The U.S. checkpoints for people leaving the country should also remind Americans of something that Germans and Koreans learned long ago: a government that is sufficiently powerful to keep people out is sufficient powerful to keep people in. In a national emergency, people soon discover that enforcement measures that were previously applied to people trying to illegally enter a country can be quickly converted to apply to citizens trying to quickly get themselves, their families, and their capital out of the country. Sealed borders can seal people in as effectively as they seal people out.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cuba’s Socialism Has Lessons for Americans
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Americans ought to pay attention to what Cuban President Raul Castro is doing in Cuba because he is providing them with excellent insights into realities about America’s economic system.

According to the New York Times, Castro has recently decreed that various modern consumer items, such as computers and cell phones, should be available for purchase to the Cuban people. He has also lifted a ban on Cubans’ use of tourist hotels and is letting farmers farm unused land at a profit. On the horizon is the possibility that Cubans will be permitted to buy and sell their own cars and homes.

On reading these things, some Americans might be tempted to think that this means greater freedom for the Cuban people.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason lies in the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. As Jefferson pointed out, man has been endowed by God and nature with certain fundamental and inherent rights. As such, these rights not only don’t come from government, they preexist government. In fact, the only reason that people need government is to protect the free exercise of such rights.

Among these fundamental and inherent rights are life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Unfortunately, however, Americans have come to view the concept of liberty in political, intellectual, and religious terms, by and large forgetting (or never learning) the importance of economic liberty (as well as civil liberty). That is, as long as they have the right the right to vote, freedom of speech, and the right to make their own choices on religion, Americans view themselves as a free people living in a free country.

In fact, when it comes to the concept of economic liberty, the best way to describe the plight of the American people is with the words of Johann Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

Consider, for example, such government programs as income taxation, welfare, Social Security, public (i.e., government) schooling, Medicare and Medicaid, and farm subsidies. If asked, the average American would say, “All these programs are the backbone of America’s free enterprise system.”

Now, examine this excerpt from the New York Times article about what Raul Castro is doing in Cuba: “For now, his government seems willing to accept those disparities, tolerating the notion of class differences while continuing to cling to a Cuban vision of socialism that includes food subsidies, free education and health care for all, Mr. Castro’s backers in the government say.”

Now, that is reality: Cuba has a socialist economic system. Everyone acknowledges that. But what does that mean? As the article points out, it means “food subsidies, free education, and health care for all.” And it also means government welfare and income taxation.

In other words, the same programs that Americans believe are the backbone of a free-enterprise system.

Despite the fact that Cubans and Americans have the same types of government programs, Americans continue to cling to the notion that they have a free-enterprise system while Cuba has a socialist system. One reason for this psychological phenomenon is that Americans equate wealth and higher standards of living with “capitalism” and poverty and lower standards of living with “socialism.” Another reason is that most Americans have been deeply indoctrinated by government officials for 12 years in public schools into believing that America has a free-enterprise or capitalist system.

But the truth and the reality are that the only real difference between the Cuban and American economic systems is of degree, not of principle. What Fidel Castro did is take socialism to its logical conclusion, while U.S. officials have applied their socialist principles less harshly than Castro has.

For example, the American income tax/capital-gains tax, inheritance-tax/welfare-state way of life is based on equalizing wealth among the citizenry. The idea is that government takes money from the rich (and the middle class) and redistributes it to the poor, thereby helping to reduce large disparities of wealth.

Isn’t that precisely what Fidel Castro did when he took charge in Cuba? He confiscated all the businesses and the big mansions, all for the benefit of the poor. He equalized wealth in Cuba. Never mind that he did so by making most everyone equally poor. What mattered was that most people were now “equal.”

Raul Castro’s changes in Cuba might mean more consumer goods for the Cuban people but they don’t mean more freedom for them. Since economic liberty is a fundamental and inherent right, its exercise doesn’t depend on government permission. When government officials are letting people be “free,” freedom is absent in that society.

By the way, our American ancestors understood that economic liberty was as important as religious liberty, intellectual liberty, and political liberty. That’s why they chose a way of life without such socialist programs as income taxation, Social Security, welfare, Medicare and Medicaid, public schooling, and farm subsidies.

By studying Cuba’s economic system and the changes that are now taking place there, Americans stand a better chance of breaking through to the reality of America’s economic system and leading the world to the restoration of economic liberty.

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

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thieves and Welfare Staters
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last February a federal court in Richmond sentenced a Roman Catholic priest, Rodney L. Rodis, to five years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering arising out of his embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars from church coffers. The state of Virginia has now indicted him for the actual theft of the monies.

While the evidence showed that Rodis had used the money to support a secret wife and three children (Catholic priests are not allowed to marry) and to purchase real estate in his native Philippines, an interesting aspect of the case was the plea that his wife made on his behalf.

According to the New York Times, Rodis’s wife “offered some insight into what became of the embezzled money. In asking for mercy for her husband, Mrs. Rodis wrote that he provided for his parents and that he ‘had also been a surrogate parent to his nieces and nephews. He has sponsored their education through college.’ Funds were used, too, to pay for surgery for a niece who has cancer.”

What if the evidence had conclusively established that Rodis had used all the money to pay for other people’s healthcare costs and educational expenses and that he had not used the money to benefit himself personally? Would that have made a difference? Would that have obviated a criminal indictment and punishment?

Not very likely. Even if Rodis had used the money to help others, most people would say that such altruistic conduct would not legally or morally justify what he had done. The money belonged not to him but to the church. He had no right, either morally or legally, to take the church’s money, even if he was using it to help other people with necessary healthcare and educational expenses. Rodis certainly had the right to ask the church to help his family members, but the church, as the owner of the money, had the right to say either yes or no. Stealing is stealing, no matter how the thief uses the money.

While most people can easily understand such a basic moral principle — that it is wrong to take what doesn’t belong to you even if you use the money for a good cause — they enter into a mental fog when it comes to the socialistic welfare state.

Under the principles of the welfare-state, democratically elected politicians vote to forcibly take money from people in order to give it to other people to help with such things as healthcare and education.

Ironically, people’s attitude toward their politicians is totally different from how they feel about thieves like Rodis. People honor and revere their politicians as well as those federal officials who take the money (e.g., IRS and Social Security Administration) and those who redistribute the money to the needy (e.g., Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, and Department of Education).

Such officials are viewed as noble, selfless people for helping others, despite the fact that, like Rodis, the officials have not used their own money to do good but instead money that has been forcibly taken from others.

The reason that people lose their moral bearings in this process is because they somehow have come to believe that because politicians are democratically elected, that serves as a moral justification for their adoption of a welfare state way of life.

Yet, if democratically elected politicians voted to force everyone to attend church on Sunday, everyone would immediately recognize that democracy has limits and that a person’s religious choices are not properly the subject of majority vote. They just have a difficult time applying that same principle to the choices each person makes — and has the right to make — with his own money.

Under standard welfare-state analysis, Rodis’s mistake was in taking the money directly from the church. What he should have instead done is lobby his congressman to tax people in other congressional districts in order to fund federal healthcare and educational grants for the people in Rodis’s district. That way, people today would be hailing Rodis’s benevolence and goodness rather than treating him as common thief. They would be forgetting that moral principles are immutable and, thus, apply equally to government officials and common thieves.

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

Monday, May 5, 2008

Killing Enemies without Trial
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In an editorial published last Saturday, the Washington Post celebrated the killing of a man in Somalia who the Post said “deserved the label of ‘evildoer.’” The man was killed when a U.S. Navy ship fired Tomahawk missiles at a Somali home in which the man was apparently located. The Post said that the missile “killed a vicious militia leader and an al-Qaeda operative.”

The Post did point out that the U.S. operation had a “distinct downside”: Some 24 other people were also killed in the attack. Notwithstanding that unfortunate side effect, the Post said that the operation was “a victory for the Bush administration’s counterterrorism operations in Africa.”

I wish the Post had compared the U.S. operation against the terrorist in Somalia to a similar operation carried out against a communist in 1973 on the streets of Washington, D.C., by agents of the Augusto Pinochet regime. It would be interesting to know whether the Post would, in retrospect, celebrate that killing as well, as part of Pinochet’s counter-communism operations in the Americas during the Cold War.

The victim of the killing, Orlando Letelier, was a Chilean citizen who had served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Interior Minister, and Defense Minister in the administration of Chilean president Salvador Allende, a socialist and communist politician whom the Chilean people had democratically elected as their president.

When Chilean Army General Pinochet ousted Allende in a military coup, a coup with which U.S. officials were not displeased, Letelier was among the first seized and arrested. After being severely tortured and incarcerated for eight months, he was ultimately released on the condition that he leave Chile immediately.

In 1975 Letelier moved to Washington to join the staff of the Institute for Policy Studies, an independent research institute. He also taught at American University.

While living in Washington, Letelier became a leading spokesman against the Pinochet regime, thereby sealing his fate as a communist enemy of the state operating abroad.

Since Chilean government officials lacked a Navy that could fire Tomahawk missiles, they decided to take out Letelier using a more conventional means — a regular bomb planted in his automobile. The killing was apparently part of Operation Condor, a program in which right-wing and military regimes in South America, working with the CIA, had embarked on a program of torture and assassination against left-wing “communist” opponents, who government officials considered at least as dangerous as “the terrorists” against whom the U.S. government is currently waging war.

Letelier’s killing was organized by a man named Michael Townley, who had been CIA’s liaison with intelligence agents in the South American governments. Townley retained the services of five Cuban anti-communist exiles in the United States to plant a bomb in Letelier’s car. The bomb blew up, killing Letelier along with his American assistant, Ronni Moffit, who was not alleged to be a communist.

Interestingly, the Justice Department treated the killing as a murder rather than a covert operation as part of Chile’s war on communism. Townley, along with the Cubans, were indicted. Townley confessed to the crime and was convicted in a Washington, D.C., court, but things didn’t turn out too bad for him. For organizing an operation that ended up killing two people, he served only three years and four months in prison before being released into the U.S. government’s “witness protection program” for implicating higher-ups in the Chilean government, including Pinochet himself. (Also, see: “My Case Against Pinochet” by Letelier’s son, Francisco Letelier.)

After Pinochet left office, his henchmen, Chilean Army Generals Manuel Contreras and Pedro Espinoza Bravo, were convicted of the Letelier murder in Chile. Contreras told the presiding judge in the case that Townley had been supported in the Letelier killing by the CIA.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government continues to withhold classified documents relating to the Letelier-Moffitt assassination on the grounds that they are associated with an ongoing investigation, 35 years after the murder. Apparently they’re referring to outstanding U.S. extradition requests for Contreras and Espinoza.

The rationale for the Letelier killing was that Chile, along with other right-wing military regimes and the CIA, were at war — the war on communism. Why should government officials, the thinking went, have to deal with indictments, lawyers, trials, and extradition against communists, who were arguably more dangerous and threatening than terrorists? Better to simply kill them (or torture them and then kill them). Yes, war is hell, and sometimes innocent people are killed in the process. But what better, more efficient way to rid a nation of its enemies in the war on communism than by simply assassinating them, either with missiles or bombs?

It’s a mindset with which U.S. officials, who recently killed those people in Somalia with their Tomahawk missiles as part of their war on terrorism, can surely sympathize.

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

Friday, May 2, 2008

CIA Lies and Stonewalling: The JFK Assassination
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In his new book Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post columnist, Morley delves into an interesting and revealing aspect of the John Kennedy assassination.

Morley points out that the CIA’s official story had long been that the CIA had been unaware of Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City in October 1963 until after the Kennedy assassination. It was during that trip that Oswald purportedly visited both the Soviet and Cuban embassies.

You’ll recall that initially unpublished portions of the Warren Report were not to be published for 75 years after the assassination. Morley points out that faced with criticisms of his movie JFK, which posited a CIA role in the killing, Stone had a telling response: If the CIA had nothing to hide, why was it still withholding files some 40 years after the assassination? Largely as a result of that pointed question, Congress passed the JFK Records Act of 1992, which ordered the release of all government records relating to the assassination.

Since Oswald visited Mexico City during Scott’s tenure as head of the CIA’s Mexico City office, Morley’s book delves into that aspect of the assassination. Morley’s examination of the documents that were released as a result of the 1992 JFK Records Act revealed that the CIA was fully aware of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City prior to the assassination.

In other words, CIA officials lied about this critical aspect of the assassination investigation and maintained the lie for some 40 years.

As Morley carefully points out, however, the lying doesn’t necessarily establish that the CIA was involved in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy but it certainly raises an important question: Why did CIA officials lie about this critically important aspect of the Kennedy investigation and why did they believe it necessary to maintain the lie for some 40 years after the assassination?

An interesting aside is that for years Morley has been attempting to secure CIA documents relating to the role that CIA agent George Joannides played in the Kennedy investigation. Despite the 1992 legislation, the CIA has steadfastly refused to comply with the law requiring the release of the Joannides files. Over the vehement objections of the CIA, Morley successfully secured a federal court order ordering the CIA to release its Joannides files.

Joannides’s role in the assassination investigation is intriguing. He was the CIA agent responsible for funding the radical anti-Castro group in New Orleans that Oswald, who was initially posing as an anti-Castro advocate, initially tried to infiltrate. Later, as a pro-Castro advocate, Oswald entered into a much-publicized altercation with the anti-Castro group.

The CIA kept Joannides’s relationship with the anti-Castro group secret from the Warren Commission.

When the Kennedy assassination was again investigated by the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement to serve as a liaison between the CIA and the House Committee. While serving in that capacity, Joannides and the CIA steadfastly maintained the secrecy of his relationship with the anti-Castro group. In fact, Joannides actions remained secret until 2001 when an article published by Morley exposed them.

As U.S. federal Judge John Tunheim, who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, put it, “[Joannides] was central to the time period, and central to the [JFK] story. There is no question we were misled on Joannides for a long time.”

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the CIA hasn’t changed its stripes at all. In an April 30, 2008, article entitled “CIA Still Stonewalls on JFK Mystery Man,” an article that provides an excellent summary of the Joannides matter, Morley points out:

“Flouting a federal court order, the CIA refused to make public long-secret records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. At a federal court hearing in Washington, CIA attorneys declined to provide any records related to the secret operations of a deceased undercover officer named George Joannides whose role in the JFK story has never been explained by the agency. A three-judge appellate court panel ruled in December that the agency had to search its files for records of Joannides’ secret operations in 1963, when he served undercover in Miami running ‘psychological warfare’ operations against the government of Fidel Castro. The court also ordered the CIA to explain why 17 reports on Joannides’ secret operations in 1962-1964 are missing from the National Archives.”

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

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The CIA and the Rot of the Empire
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I just finished reading a very interesting book entitled Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by Jefferson Morley. The book is a biography of Winston Scott, the head of the CIA’s Mexico City office from 1959 to 1969. Morley is a former columnist for the Washington Post whose articles have also appeared in such publications as the New York Review of Books, Reader’s Digest, Slate, and Salon.

According to Morley, the CIA recruited several high-level officials in the Mexican government as agents or informants, including Mexican presidents and many of their subordinates. Scott provided a valuable service for his Mexican operatives: He helped them secretly wiretap and monitor telephone calls made by their political enemies.

In return, Mexican officials would look the other way as the CIA used Mexico as a base of operations to achieve regime change in Cuba entailing the ouster or assassination of Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Here, in a nutshell, is the essence — and the rot — of U.S. foreign policy: Make sure that “our” people are in public office in countries all around the world, either through bribery, influence, assassination, coups, military training, military aid, or foreign aid. Do favors for them. Give them money. Do whatever is necessary to ensure that such officials will respond positively when the U.S. Empire needs a favor.

Do you remember the scene in the movie The Godfather when Vito Corleone says to the undertaker who has requested and been granted a favor by Corleone? The godfather responds with words to the following effect: One of these days, I will ask you for a favor and I will expect you to grant it quickly and without question.

That’s the way that the U.S. Empire works. Empire officials don’t really care how a particular regime treats its own people. All that matters is that when the Empire calls on the regime for a favor, it can rely on it to be granted.

Once one realizes that this how U.S. foreign policy operates, it becomes easier to understand how U.S. officials could support such brutal dictators as the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, and Pervez Musharraf. It also becomes easier to understand why the empire strives to oust or assassinate rulers, even democratically elected ones, who refuse to become agents of the empire, such as Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Allende in Chile, Castro in Cuba, and Chavez in Venezuela.

Some Americans might ask: What’s wrong with the U.S. government trying to get its people into public office around the world?

Well, how about if we ask the question another way: What would be wrong with foreign intelligence agents putting U.S. presidents and other federal officials on their payroll and ousting or assassinating those U.S. officials who refused to do so? Obviously, Americans wouldn’t be too happy with that type of foreign interference with their political system. Why should foreign citizens be happy with U.S. interference in their systems?

Moreover, when the foreign regime that is in the pockets of the CIA or the Pentagon commits human-rights abuses against its own citizens, the anger among the victimized citizenry is inevitably directed not just to their own government but also against the United States, especially when the CIA or the Pentagon has furnished the training or the weaponry for the regime. A good example of this phenomenon was the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when angry Iranians took U.S. diplomats hostage in anger over the CIA’s 1953 coup in Iran and the U.S. government’s ardent support of the brutal regime of the Shah.

Oftentimes U.S. officials must remain silent in the face of human-rights abuses by regimes it supports for fear of antagonizing their secret government operatives, especially when such operatives have embarrassing secrets about the CIA that could be leaked to the press.

Morley provides a good example of this in his book. In 1968, Mexican government officials opened fire on student demonstrators in a Mexico City plaza, killing several of them. When CIA Chief Scott asked his Mexican operatives for an explanation, they gave him a load of lies and deceptions that falsely blamed the massacre on the students, which Scott dutifully reported to his superiors in Washington. A week after the student massacre, Scott sent a thank you note to Mexican President Echeverria for an electronic time-zone clock that the president had sent him as a gift. As Morley succinctly put it, “The puppet master had become a puppet.”

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.