Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

Hornberger’s Blog, July 2008

by

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is China a Model for U.S. Conservatives?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives must be ecstatic over what is happening in China. Joining the U.S. government in its crusade against terrorism, the Chinese communist government is adopting measures that would make any U.S. conservative proud.

For example, the Chinese government recently bused several thousand Chinese students and office workers into a public square. Three convicted terrorists were brought before the crowd and shot at point-blank range.

Now, that’s an action that would surely warm the heart of any U.S. conservative. No coddling of terrorists in China. No lengthy, drawn out legal appeals. And what better way to send a message to everyone in society, especially the young, than to have them witness a public execution of terrorists?

The executed men were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been outlawed by the Chinese government. The operative word is “Islamic,” as in the global Islamic threat. Chinese officials said that the men were part of terrorist conspiracy to disrupt the Olympic Games. The group has long fought for independence for Uighur inhabitants in East Turkestan.

The U.S. government doesn’t like Uighurs either. That’s why it’s imprisoned some of them at Guantanamo Bay. Their crime? No, they’ve never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. They’ve fighting for independence from the Chinese communist government. That’s their crime. In the eyes of U.S. and Chinese officials, that’s terrorism.

I couldn’t find the judicial method by which the 3 executed terrorists were tried and convicted, but undoubtedly it was a variation of the “judicial” system that the Pentagon employs at Gitmo or the new-fangled, bizarre system for trying terrorists recently proposed by the Washington Post.

In other words, the trial was conducted before a military tribunal or a tribunal of judges rather than a jury of ordinary Chinese citizens. There was no due process of law, independent criminal defense attorneys, or right to confront witnesses. Undoubtedly, coerced confessions and testimony were allowed, hearsay evidence was acceptable, and the defendants were presumed guilty. The defendants never had a chance. But hey—as U.S. officials, along with their communist counterparts, would argue, the world has been made safer by the removal of thee more terrorists.

Even better, from the standpoint of Bush, the Pentagon, and U.S. conservatives, Chinese officials also recently executed nine drug dealers, thereby signaling that China is a loyal partner in the war on drugs. Haven’t conservatives long argued that the only problem with the decades-long war on drugs is that government officials simply haven’t cracked down hard enough? Well, how can the manner in which the Chinese communist regime is cracking down in the war on drugs be anything but a model for U.S. drug warriors?

Also, tell me if the following isn’t a conservative dream-come-true: 80,000 police officers are being joined by half-a-million neighborhood “volunteers” and 100,000 anti-terrorism troops on alert to protect Beijing from the terrorists. To ensure that people are safe, 300,000 surveillance cameras have been placed around the city.

Hey, isn’t security more important than liberty and privacy? Of course it is, according to U.S. conservatives and Chinese communists.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the checkpoints on the highways leading into the city, which are manned by well-armed police gendarmes. Drivers and passengers are asked to present their national ID cards, which are checked against the national database. I’ll bet the NSA and the Pentagon are studying those procedures very carefully.

China’s war on terrorism is also being extended to cover anti-government political protests. Beijing’s Public Security Bureau (which is undoubtedly akin to anti-terrorist agencies in America’s cities) has warned that demonstrations requires prior approval from the authorities. After all, as any U.S. conservative will tell you, anyone who protests against his government, especially in the midst of war, is a terrorist who hates his country.

Did you ever think you’d see the day when the U.S. government and the Chinese communist government would be moving in the same direction? What’s even more tragic in all this is that the Chinese government seems to be moving in the direction of permitting its citizens more economic “freedom” (it’s not freedom if it’s by permission) than the U.S. government is permitting its citizens.

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Love Being Energy Dependent
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I have a confession to make: I love being dependent on foreign oil. In fact, I love being dependent on domestic oil too. For that matter, I love being dependent on other people for all the other things I purchase in the course of my life.

It is a fundamental economic axiom that in every exchange, both sides to the transactions benefit. Each side gives up something he values less for something he values more. That’s why people trade — to improve their economic well-being. People can improve their individual standard of living simply by entering into exchanges with others.

Some people live in deep fear of being dependent on foreign citizens for the production of important items. “Energy independence” is their battle cry. The idea, I think, is that if the American people will just stop buying oil from foreigners and instead buy all their oil from American companies, Americans will be better off. The fear seems to be that foreigner producers of oil might suddenly and without warning decide to stop selling oil to the American people, leaving Americans in the dark and without gas to put into their cars. Do you ever wonder why Americans don’t get just as scared that some American company might suddenly cut them off, not only from oil, but also from the purchase of food, clothing, computers, and other important items?

The fact is that such fears are totally irrational. For one thing, foreign producers of products, including oil, are as dependent on sales as consumers are dependent on purchases. That’s the nature of continuous business transactions — mutual dependency and trust that the relationship will continue. Again, the idea is that people enter into business transactions with each other because they both perceive a gain from the transaction.

Thus, foreign producers of oil — or any other product — are highly unlikely to simply cut off oil supplies to a major world market for the same reason that consumers are highly unlikely to suddenly cut off purchases of such products. Both of them gain from the transactions; otherwise they wouldn’t enter into them.

In a complex market economy, everyone is dependent on millions of other people, most of whom he doesn’t even know. Such dependency is not cause for fear or concern. It’s an economic and sociological phenomenon that everyone should celebrate.

Suppose you decide to live a life of total self-sufficiency and independence. You move onto a farm and begin to grow your own food. What about tools? You have to make them yourself. Remember: you’re striving for total economic independence. What about electricity? You can’t use it unless you figure out a way to produce it yourself. Clothing? You’ve got to weave it all from scratch. Books — no way, unless you write and print them yourself. Computers, a tractor, and television — forget it. You lack the capacity to produce them, including all their internal parts.

So, you decide to abandon your quest for economic independence. You decide it’s easier to buy your eggs from a neighbor who is specializing in that area. You buy your milk the same way. You order your books on the Internet with your computer. All of a sudden, you have made yourself dependent on countless people all over the world. But that’s not a reason to live in fear over the fact that you have now made yourself dependent on others. It’s a way that the free market enables you to live a better life by trading with others. And the same holds true for them as well. And if someone decides to cut you off, you simply adjust and look for alternatives.

One of the keys to a peaceful and harmonious world is the interdependencies that come with trade between people, regardless of citizenship. When people of different nations are dependent on each other with respect to trade, it makes going to war much more difficult. It’s when their respective governments have adopted “trade independence” policies that war becomes easier, at least in an economic sense.

Thus, what is the ideal trade policy for the United States (and every other nation)? A unilateral abolition of all trade restrictions on the American people. No negotiated trade agreements or mutual lowering of tariffs with other nations. Instead, simply drop all barriers to trade here in the United States, including all U.S. government-imposed embargoes and sanctions that punish Americans for trading with foreigners. Not only would such action liberate the American people to freely trade with the people of the world, not only would it bring the interdependencies that are the key to rising standards of living and peace, it would also serve as a model for the rest of the world to follow.

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

World War II Was Not a Good War
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Pat Buchanan’s new book Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”does an excellent job of demolishing the myths surrounding World War II, commonly called “the good war” in American public school textbooks. Here are some of the major points Buchanan makes in the book:

1. World War II was actually a continuation of World War I, a war that involved a total waste of American life, which is why U.S. officials, not surprisingly, don’t like to talk about it. Despite the fact that America’s Founding Fathers had warned against U.S. involvement in Europe’s endless wars, President Wilson intervened in the war with two objectives: to make the world safe for democracy and to end all future wars.

After the war was over, it increasingly became clear to the American people that neither of these goals had been achieved, to say the least. In fact, America’s intervention, which brought about the total defeat of Germany, produced the brutal and vengeful Treaty of Versailles, which then prepared the ground for Adolf Hitler and World War II. If America had not intervened in World War I, the opposing sides would have had to work out a negotiated peace rather than have an unjust peace treaty imposed on the defeated and conquered side.

2. Embracing the same arguments that many Westerners, including John Maynard Keynes, were making with respect to the unjust parts of the Treaty of Versailles, Hitler was able to rouse support among the German people for himself and the Nazi Party.

3. Perhaps the most important point made in Buchanan’s book is regarding the Polish guarantee. After Hitler absorbed Czechoslovakia, Great Britain issued a guarantee to Poland promising to declare war on Hitler in the event of a German attack. Yet, the guarantee was worthless because Britain lacked the military means to reverse a German attack. Knowing that they had the guarantee, Polish officials refused to negotiate a revision of that portion of the Treaty of Versailles that had removed a major German city, Danzig, from German control, a provision that many Westerners also considered unjust.

Among the ironies of the Polish guarantee was that when the Soviet Union invaded Poland a few days after Germany invaded Poland, pursuant to a pact between Stalin and Hitler, Britain declared war only on Nazi Germany and not on the communist Soviet Union. This was despite the fact that ever since the Communist Revolution, Great Britain had condemned the Soviet communists, and rightfully so.

4. Britain (along with the United States, France, and other Allied nations) ultimately entered into a partnership with the Soviet communists, who were actually no better than the Nazis. When the war ended, the Polish people (and East Germans, Czechs, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and others) — the people to whom Britain had issued its guarantee — were under Soviet communist occupation (as compared to German Nazi occupation) and remained so for the next 45 years. That’s because of the deal that Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin entered into, a deal in which Churchill and Roosevelt knowingly and intentionally agreed to deliver Eastern Europe into the clutches of Stalin and the communists.

5. Then, the Soviet communists — the partners of Great Britain and the United States — became the new official enemy, which began the Cold War, which served to maintain and expand the U.S. military and military-industrial complex for the next 45 years.

The aftermath of World War II not only produced Soviet communist control of East Germany, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and elsewhere but also communist control over China, hot wars in Korea and Vietnam, and a Cold War all over the world.

Of course, some people argue that victory in World War II brought freedom to Great Britain and France. But Great Britain and France were free before the war. Don’t forget: It was Great Britain and France that declared war on Germany, not the other way around.

In fact, Buchanan destroys another long-held myth — that Hitler intended to conquer the world, including the United States. As Buchanan carefully documents, Hitler was looking east, not west for expanding the German Empire. Just as Western politicians would do during the 45 years of the Cold War, Hitler viewed communism, not Great Britain, France, and the United States, as the real threat. After all, if Hitler were looking to conquer the world, as the interventionists argue, isn’t it interesting that he lacked the naval power to even cross the English Channel and conquer England, much less the naval power to cross the Atlantic Ocean to conquer the United States?

Some people argue that World War II was necessary because the world could not have survived Hitler and the Nazis. Nonsense. If the world could survive Stalin and the communists, it could have survived Hitler and the Nazis because Stalin and the communists were worse, or at least as bad, as Hitler and the Nazis.

With respect to the Holocaust, Buchanan documents how it was the war itself that brought it about. Prior to the war, Hitler’s objective had been to evict the Jews from Germany. Once Hitler realized that he was going to lose the war, he implemented his Final Solution. One thing is certain—by the time the war was over, most of the European Jews were already dead.

Pat Buchanan has done a masterful job in challenging the many myths surrounding both World War I and World War II. His book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the moving our nation in the direction of the non-interventionist, non-militarist, anti-empire philosophy of America’s Founding Fathers.

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

Monday, July 28, 2008

A “People’s Court” for America?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Sunday’s Washington Post published an op-ed advocating a position that we have held here at The Future of Freedom Foundation ever since the 9/11 attacks: that terrorism cases rightfully belong in federal court. The article, entitled “The Right Place to Try Terrorism Cases,” was authored by John C. Coughenour, a federal judge in Washington State. Among the many insightful points that Coughenour makes is the following:

“Detractors of the current system argue that the federal courts are ill-equipped for the unique challenges that terrorism trials pose. Such objections often begin with a false premise: that the threat of terrorism is too great to risk an ‘unsuccessful’ prosecution by adhering to procedural and evidentiary rules that could constrain prosecutors’ abilities. This assumes that convictions are the yardstick by which success is measured. Courts guarantee an independent process, not an outcome. Any tribunal purporting to do otherwise is not a court.”

Interestingly, the Post published its own editorial contradicting Coughenour’s position. The editorial called for a bizarre new judicial system designed exclusively for terrorism cases—well, not exactly for all terrorism cases—only terrorism cases involving foreign citizens.

The Post’s proposed system would work like this: The Pentagon would have the right to take any foreign citizen in the world into custody and hold him indefinitely as a suspected terrorist. However, a new federal court designed along the lines of the secret FISA court would have two powers: first, to determine whether the indefinite detention is valid or not and then later to hold a trial for the suspected terrorist.

Unlike defendants in the federal court system, suspected terrorists under the Post’s proposal would not have the benefits of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination. The Post’s editorial was silent as to whether any of the other procedural protections in the Bill of Rights would be relaxed as well.

Under the Post’s plan, appeals would be to some new federal court of appeals whose judges would be confirmed by the Senate but who, unlike regular federal appellate judges, would not have lifetime tenure.

Unfortunately, the Post failed to discuss the equal protection problems arising from its plan. Why should Americans suspected of terrorism be treated any differently from foreigners suspected of terrorism? Isn’t a fundamental principle of due process of law equal treatment under law? Then, why should judicial treatment turn on the citizenship of the person? Unfortunately, the Post doesn’t address such a concern.

Moreover, either courts can handle terrorism cases or they can’t. If they can’t, which is the underlying assumption of the Post’s plan, then how can they handle terrorism cases involving American citizens? Conversely, if they can handle terrorism cases for American citizens, then why can’t they handle them for foreign citizens?

There is another significant piece missing from the Post’s proposal, one that is a core element of the federal court system, thanks to the Bill of Rights: trial by jury. Under the Post’s proposal, a panel of judges will be determining the guilt or innocence of the accused rather than a jury of ordinary citizens.

Also, secrecy is a prime element in the Post’s proposed judicial system. Since the plan is modeled on the FISA court, albeit more adversarial, and since the proceedings will often involve top secret information, many of the proceedings will undoubtedly be conducted in secret. In fact, the defense lawyers will need security clearances—approved by the government of course.

The Post’s proposal seems to bear a remarkable similarity to the People’s Court tribunals that were part of the Nazi legal system. After the terrorists firebombed the Reichstag, Hitler was upset over the outcome of the trial. So, he set up an alternative legal system to deal with terrorism, treason, and other offenses.

Because trials before the People’s Court involved top-secret information, they were often conducted in secret. Defense attorneys were allowed to create the appearance of an adversarial proceeding, but usually behaved quite meekly. A panel of judges decided the guilt or innocence of the accused.

For a good idea of how the People’s Court operated, check out the great German film “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” which depicts the trial of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their best friend Christoph Probst, all three of whom were college students who were guilty of publishing antigovernment pamphlets. During the trial, Hans’ and Sophie’s parents tried to attend the proceedings but were barred from doing so. After all, the proceedings were secret since they involved top-secret methods of the Gestapo.

Despite faults and failures, America’s federal judicial system is among the finest in history, in large part because of the protections provided for the accused in the Bill of Rights. Judge Coughenour is right—terrorism cases belong in federal court. The American people should reject both the Pentagon’s “judicial” system at Gitmo and the Washington Post’s bizarre new proposal.

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

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Weak and Dependent People
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With its coming bailout of homeowners and mortgage lenders, the federal government refortifies its role as daddy for the American people and the people’s role as child-adults who are dependent on their daddy to take care of them.

The bailout, while strengthening the federal government, makes the American people weaker than ever. A people who look to the government for their sustenance and to protect them from their own mistakes and from the adverse vicissitudes of life will inevitably be a weak people.

The economic question is: How long can these paternalistic programs continue? Is the final day of reckoning just being delayed? After all, don’t forget that these programs of unfunded liabilities stretch all the way back to the New Deal in the 1930s. Every few years, a new crisis materializes, only to be jerry-rigged by the feds. Most everyone assumes that the process can go on forever.

The government gets its money in one of three ways — taxation, borrowing, or printing it (i.e., inflation). Regardless of which method is used, it all comes from the pockets of the American people.

It’s fairly easy for public officials to issue these types of bailout plans. They just have to pass a law that doles out the goodies. But consider all the potential liabilities the federal government has incurred as part of being the people’s daddy. People’s retirement (Social Security). People’s healthcare bills (Medicare and Medicaid). FDIC insurance for people’s bank accounts. The savings and loan bailout. The home mortgage bailout. And countless more.

Most everyone assumes that while there might be a crisis here or there, the federal government will easily be able to deal with it. But what happens if there is a perfect storm of several industry-wide collapses? For example, instead of a few banks failing what happens if there are bank runs on 90 percent of the banks? How is the government going to cover everyone’s losses? By taxing everyone? So, let’s see: Someone loses $50,000 because his bank (and everyone else’s) fails. To get the money to pay him off (and everyone else), the government taxes him $50,000. How does he come out ahead with that kind of “insurance”?

But hope springs eternal and faith in the power of Caesar never fails. People honestly believe that despite the fact that the federal government has had a system in place ever since the New Deal that sustains and protects weakness, it will go on forever. All that’s needed is a new paternalistic program every few years.

Oh, don’t forget that the national debt, which continues to grow each day, is now at 9.5 trillion or about $31,000 per person. Five years ago, it was at about $26,000 per person. What if the day came when that debt had to be paid off? Could your family handle the tax to pay off its share of the debt? What if it came on the day that banks were failing on an industry-wide basis? What if it came when the Baby Boomers were all retiring and demanding their Social Security payments?

But why think about such unpleasantries? Heck, maybe if we’re lucky we’ll all be dead when the day of reckoning finally arrives, leaving our children’s generation to deal with the problems.

No one can say though that federal officials are dumb. People who are bailed out are likely to be very grateful to their federal daddy for having helped them out. How likely is it that bailout recipients will ever challenge the government at a core level? Who’s going to bite the hand that feeds him? Oh sure, people will carp about governmental inefficiency or call for reform of this or that government program, but when it comes to questioning such things as torture, wars of aggression, occupations, warrantless searches, and socialist bailouts, the lips of weak and dependent child-adults are likely to be silent or kissing the boots of their federal providers. That’s why Roman officials used “bread and circuses” as they extended the reach of their Empire around the world.

Our American ancestors understood that the more powerful the government is, the weaker the people will be. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that for more than a century Americans lived without such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, income taxation, welfare, mortgage bailouts, and the like. Americans also believed it was morally wrong to use government to take money from one person in order to give it to another person.

As federal officials prepare to enlarge their socialist feeding trough once again, alas, the principles of economic liberty and limited government are lost on the weak and dependent child-adult Americans of today who are preparing to do the feeding.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Trial by Jury Protects Us from Tyranny
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In my blog entry yesterday, I pointed out one of the crucial differences between the judicial system that our ancestors brought into existence with the Constitution and the model “judicial’ system that President Bush and the Pentagon have established at Guantanamo Bay. In the U.S. constitutional system, the accused has the right to have his guilt determined by ordinary citizens in the community. In the Pentagon system, the U.S. military, which brings the charges, also determines the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Why was trial by jury so important to our American ancestors? Because they knew that this right is one of the ultimate barriers to tyranny (in addition, for example, to the right to keep and bear arms).

Suppose Congress began enacting tyrannical measures against the citizenry, enforced by the president, FBI, CIA, and the Pentagon, and upheld by the Supreme Court. If the measures involved criminal prosecutions for violating such laws, juries could serve as the means by which the tyranny could be avoided peacefully.

Let’s consider a good example of tyranny: Nazi Germany. In the midst of World War II, there was a criminal case brought by German prosecutors against Hans and Sophie Scholl, two college students at the University of Munich and several of their friends in the White Rose organization.

Hans and Sophie had violated German laws by secretly publishing and distributing anti-government pamphlets in the midst of World War II. Hitler’s SS henchmen arrested them and prosecutors brought them to trial within a few days. A tribunal consisting of loyal government officials were responsible for deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused.

At the trial, which was conducted in secret, the Scholl siblings admitted having published the pamphlets. Since the law prohibited them from criticizing the government during time of war, there was no question but that they had broken the law. Since the members of the tribunal was good, rule-following, faithful, and loyal officers of the court, the defendants were quickly found guilty. They were sentenced to death and were executed within 3 days of the verdict.

If this type of thing were to happen in the United States, would the result be any different? Not if the trial were before a panel of judges or a panel of U.S. military officials, especially during a wartime “crisis.” They would simply take the position that a law, which had been duly enacted by Congress, enforced by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, had been violated and, therefore, the accused would have to be convicted and duly punished.

But if the trial were before a jury of ordinary citizens, the result might well be entirely different. For if the citizenry come to the conclusion that the law they were being called to enforce through their verdict wa unjust, immoral, and tyrannical, they would have another option: Acquit the defendants even though the evidence conclusively established that the defendants had violated the law.

What makes the right of trial by jury so powerful is that the jury’s verdict in a criminal case is final. If the jury finds the accused not guilty, there is nothing the judge or the prosecutor can do about it. The defendant must be — and is — immediately released from custody. He walks out of the courtroom a free person a few minutes after the jury reads its verdict of acquittal. (This is another big difference from the Pentagon’s system at Gitmo; if the accused is found not guilty, the Pentagon can continue to keep him in prison indefinitely).

So, the idea behind the right of trial by jury is that a jury of ordinary citizens from the community effectively serves as a conscience for the community. If the citizenry believes that a particular law is a bad law, that sentiment can be expressed through the acquittals of people who are prosecuted for violating it.

A good example of this process of “jury nullification” once occurred in a drug prosecution in my hometown of Laredo, Texas. The defendant took the witness stand and admitted that he had committed the drug offense, explaining that he had done it because his family was in such desperate financial straits. The jury felt sorry for the defendant and knew that the judge would impose a very high sentence on him. So, the jury acquitted him.

The federal judge flew into a rage, told the jury that they were the dumbest group of people ever serving on a jury in his court, and banned them from ever serving as jurors in his court again. But after delivering his tirade, he knew he had no choice: He discharged the defendant, who walked out of the courtroom a free man.

Of course, judges never tell juries that they have the power to judge the law as well as the facts. But the truth is that they do have that power — the power to acquit an accused no matter the facts and no matter the law. It is a power that serves as a check against the tyranny of our very own government. That’s why our ancestors expressly enshrined it within our U.S. judicial system with the Bill of Rights.

For an excellent analysis of the right of trial by jury, see Trial by Jury by Lysander Spooner.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why No Trial by Jury at Gitmo?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Seven years after the Bush administration declared its “war on terrorism,” the first trial of an accused terrorist is now underway at Guantanamo Bay. The Gitmo trial involves the new-fangled “judicial” system that the president and the Pentagon put into place after 9/11, without even the semblance of seeking a constitutional amendment. Keep in mind that this is their model of what an ideal judicial system is all about.

The first and foremost thing that one will notice about the Gitmo system is the group of people who are deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused, especially compared to the group of people doing the same thing in the federal judicial system our ancestors brought into existence with the Constitution.

In the judicial system that the Bill of Rights guarantees, the accused has the right to have regular people in the community, chosen at random, to decide his guilt or innocence.

The reason our ancestors expressly guaranteed trial by jury in the Bill of Rights was twofold: First, they understood that this right was essential to a free society and, two, they believed that the federal government would inevitably attract people who hated losing control over federal prosecutions to regular citizens from the community.

Our ancestors’ concerns and beliefs were well-founded. The fact that the president and the Pentagon have established an ideal “judicial” system in Cuba that denies the accused the right of trial by jury is powerful evidence that this is what federal officials would do here in the United States in the absence of a Bill of Rights, especially in drug cases.

Who is deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused in the trials being held at Gitmo? U.S. military officials! And who is bringing the charges against the accused? You got it — the U.S. military! In other words, the same organization that is accusing a person of a crime is also deciding whether the accused is guilty of the crime.

By the way, it’s actually quite appropriate that the president and the Pentagon have set up their ideal “judicial” system in Cuba. Guess who decides the guilt or innocence of accused terrorists, including those with ties to the CIA, on Fidel Castro’s side of Cuba. You got it — Cuban military officials, just like in the model “judicial” system established by the president and the Pentagon on the other side of the island.

As the Gitmo proceedings unfold, Americans are going to have the opportunity to witness what America’s federal judicial system would look like in the absence of the Bill of Rights. Hopefully, the Gitmo spectacle will give the American people a renewed understanding and appreciation for why our ancestors were so determined to secure passage of the Bill of Rights.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is It Time to Liberate China from Communism?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In last Sunday’s edition, the New York Times carried an article about pro-China advertisements that Western companies are running in China during the Olympic Games. McDonald’s is running a “Cheer for China” ad. Pepsi, which painted its blue cans red for the games, is advertising, “Go Red for China.” According to the Times, “The campaigns for Western companies are part of an advertising blitz the likes of which this ostensibly communist nation has never seen.”

Contrary to what the Times suggests, China is not just “ostensibly’ a communist nation. It is a communist nation. Despite market liberalization in recent years, the nation continues to be headed by the Communist Party, which brutally controls the political, intellectual, religious, and economic lives of the Chinese people.

Yet, notice something important here with respect to U.S. conservatives and neo-conservatives: Not one of them is calling on the U.S. government to invade, occupy, and liberate the Chinese people from communist control. This despite the fact that they continue to argue that the U.S. government behaved properly when it invaded, occupied, and “liberated” the Iraqi people from the clutches of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

Why the difference?

Could it be that conservatives and neo-conservatives no longer feel that communism is so bad after all?

Well, on the one hand they still seem proud of having sacrificed 58,000 American men and more than a million Vietnamese in the undeclared U.S. war against “the communists” in Vietnam. On the other hand, however, they now favor the forcible repatriation of Cuban refugees into Cuban communist tyranny.

Speaking of Vietnam, have you noticed that amidst all the talk about Vietnam War during the presidential campaign, not one single conservative or neoconservative has called on the U.S. government to attack, invade, and occupy Vietnam and liberate the Vietnamese people from communist tyranny? If “liberation” from tyranny was a good thing for the Iraqi people, why wouldn’t conservatives and neoconservatives favor it for the Vietnamese people? In fact, have you noticed that most conservatives and neoconservatives have silently acquiesced to freer trade between Americans and Vietnamese (even while continuing to support the brutal embargo against the Cuban people)?

For that matter, during the entire 45 years of the Cold War most conservatives never called on the U.S. government to invade and occupy East Germany, Eastern Europe, and the Baltics to liberate them from the Soviet communists. One reason, of course, might be that everyone knew that President Roosevelt had knowingly and intentionally delivered those people into the clutches of the Soviet communists as part of a deal that FDR and Winston Churchill had made with their WW II partner, the brutal Soviet communist leader Joseph Stalin.

But what’s important about all this is the idea that the people of China, Vietnam, East Germany, Eastern Europe, Cuba, North Korea, and everywhere else have the right to decide the issue of revolution or violent regime change on their own.

The people of Eastern Europe and East Germany suffered for 45 years under Soviet communist control and they ultimately threw off the yoke of Soviet domination on their own, peacefully. Wasn’t it their right to make that call on their own? What right would the U.S. government have had to invade, bomb, and kill millions of East Germans and Eastern Europeans in the process of “liberating” them from Soviet control?

The same principle holds true with respect to China and the Chinese people, Cuba and the Cuban people, Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, and North Korea and the North Korean people. The U.S. government should leave those people alone and should instead liberate the American people — i.e., the private sector — to interact with such people with such things as advertising campaigns, opening businesses, trading, visiting, touring, entertaining, lecturing, and the like. That’s what’s going on today in China and Vietnam. It’s what should be going on in Cuba, North Korea, and everywhere else.

Given that conservatives and neoconservatives understand the importance of not permitting the U.S. government to invade, bomb, occupy, and “liberate” China, Vietnam, and North Korea (as well as East Germany and Eastern Europe during the Cold War) from the brutality of communist control, why do they have such a difficult time getting it when it comes to Iraq, where their invasion and occupation have killed and maimed more than a million people, destroyed the entire country, and sent into exile millions of refugees?

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

Monday, July 21, 2008

How Bananas Brought Regime Change
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Over the weekend, I read Bananas!: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World by Peter Chapman. The book details the history of the United Fruit Company and specifically its deep involvement in the history of Central America. Part of the book’s focus is on the CIA’s ouster of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, an action in which United Fruit played a major role.

After elected president, Arbenz used eminent domain to take an unused portion of United Fruit’s vast real estate holdings in Guatemala and transferred the land to poor peasants for farming. The Arbenz government paid United Fruit for the land based on the value that the company had been declaring for tax purposes for many years.

The taking did not sit well with United Fruit, a huge U.S. corporation that was accustomed to getting its way with Central American regimes. United Fruit sought assistance from its friends in Washington, including several friendly representatives in Congress as well the Dulles brothers, J. Foster and Allen, who were serving in the State Department and the CIA.

In their lobbying efforts, United Fruit emphasized the “communist threat” posed by Arbenz. After all, the company argued, what could be better proof that the Soviet Union was infiltrating the Western Hemisphere than a leftist dictator taking property from the rich in order to give it to the poor?

The irony was that Arbenz’s socialist philosophy was no different, in principle, from that of President Franklin Roosevelt. FDR, you will recall, transformed America’s free market system into one in which the primary function of the federal government is to take money from the rich in order to give it to the poor. In taking unused land belonging to United Fruit and giving it to poor farmers, Arbenz was simply doing what FDR did with his New Deal and what subsequent U.S. administrations have done through the welfare state.

Also ironic is the fact that eminent domain is now employed in the United States to take property from the poor in order to give it to the rich. That’s what the Kelo case was all about. Thus, while Arbenz’s land-redistribution plan was to take from the rich to give to the poor, many land-redistribution plans in the United States take from the poor to give to the rich. But in principle, the idea is the same.

United Fruit’s lobbying efforts came at an opportune time. In the year before Arbenz’s land grab, the CIA, under Allen Dulles, had secretly and surreptitiously ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, from power, replacing him with the brutal and tortuous regime of the shah of Iran.

What was the CIA’s motive for regime change in Iran? As in Guatemala a year later, the CIA’s intervention was motivated by a property grab. Mossadegh had nationalized Iran’s oil industry, which has been monopolized by British oil interests. Britain sought assistance from the CIA, whose intervention succeeded not only in replacing the Mossadegh regime with the brutal and tortuous pro-U.S. regime of the Shah, it also succeeded in restoring partial oil rights to the British. (The CIA’s Iranian intervention also brings to mind the recent granting of exclusive oil rights in Iraq to U.S. oil companies who had lost their oil rights when the Saddam Hussein regime nationalized the Iraqi oil industry.)

Flushed with its “success” in Iran, the CIA proceeded with its regime-change operation in Guatemala. Successfully ousting Arbenz from power, U.S. officials replaced him with a brutal non-elected pro-U.S. military general, who proceeded to restore United Fruit’s land to the company. U.S. investigators failed to find any credible evidence of an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a communist beachhead in Guatemala.

Ironically, while United Fruit wielded sufficient power and influence in Washington to secure U.S. intervention on its behalf in Central America, it was unable to stop an antitrust prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department’s position was that United Fruit had just gotten too big and “monopolistic” and thus needed to be reduced in size.

While United Fruit successfully regained the land that Arbenz had taken away, thanks to the CIA’s intervention, the company lost much of its holdings as a result of the Justice Department’s antitrust actions. As United Fruit learned the hard way, sometimes the federal god gives and sometimes he takes away.

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

Friday, July 18, 2008

An Example of Kangaroo Justice at Gitmo
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A recent experience in kangaroo court at Guantanamo Bay provides an excellent example of how things operate in that surreal, unjust world of military tyranny and oppression.

Accused terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is representing himself, told the presiding judge, Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann, that he had asked the prison guards to let him have some paper on which he wanted to write legal motions for his case.

The guards told Mohammed that the terrorists at Gitmo were not allowed paper. After all, what could be more dangerous than a few sheets of paper in the hands of a terrorist, even one inside the walls of one of the most tightly controlled prisons in the world?

According to the New York Times, Judge Kholmann “seemed to acknowledge the challenge of writing a motion without paper.”

So, what was Kholmann’s ruling on this legal quandary? He told Mohammed that in order to secure the paper for his motions, Mohammed would have to file a motion asking for the paper on which to write his motions. After all, Kholmann said, rules are rules and must be followed.

The Gitmo episode brings to mind the old saying, “Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.”

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

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is the Washington Post Going the Way of the Wall Street Journal?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

With the recent appointment of former Wall Street Journal editor Marcus Brauchli to the post of editor of the Washington Post, the Post will inevitably continue to move further in the direction of the Wall Street Journal with respect to foreign policy and the so-called war on terrorism.

Consider, for example, an article entitled “Moscow Remains Overtly Contentious” by a Post reporter named Peter Finn. In the article, Finn writes “President Dmitry Medvedev signaled Tuesday that Russian foreign policy, ostensibly now under his control, will not stray from the often contentious course set by his predecessor … and will continue to pursue the assertive global role that Putin made a centerpiece of his foreign policy.”

How does Finn arrive at that conclusion? He says that Medvedev “attacked” efforts by the U.S. government to install a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Did you get that? It’s not the U.S. government that is being “assertive and contentious” by installing a missile defense system next to Russia’s borders. It’s Russia that is being “assertive and contentious” by objecting to the installation of such a system on its borders.

Consider, for example, if Russia began installing a missile defense system in, say, Cuba. What would Finn say then? Why, I’ll bet that he would say that Russia was being “assertive and contentious” and that the U.S. government would be acting appropriately by opposing such a system.

Finn also considers it “assertive and contentious” that Russia continues to disapprove of NATO expansion. Wasn’t the purpose of NATO to defend against a Soviet attack on Europe? And didn’t that threat disappear with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the end of the Cold War?

So, why is NATO still in existence? Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, that question doesn’t even occur to Finn. According to him, it’s entirely normal and natural not only that NATO continues to exist but also that it continues to expand toward Russia’s borders, including plans to include Ukraine and Georgia as members.

Finn also points out that Medvedev “echoed Putin’s criticism of U.S. military action in Iraq.” So, it wasn’t the U.S. government that was being “assertive and contentious” when it attacked a country that had never attacked the United States. It is Russia that is being “assertive and contentious” by objecting to an illegal war of aggression and resulting occupation, which have killed and maimed and left homeless millions of people.

Of course, if it had been the Russian government that had done the invading, occupying, killing, maiming, and destroying, Finn would undoubtedly be taking the opposite position — that Russia was being “assertive and contentious,” a position he no doubt takes with respect to the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.

Finn also considers it “assertive and contentious” for Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on Zimbabwe, which the U.S. government is supporting. Never mind that sanctions hardly ever accomplish their intended aim — a change in government policy or a change in regime — and instead squeeze the lifeblood out of the citizenry, as the people of Iraq and Cuba can attest. All that matters to Finn is that when a foreign regime refuses to bow to the wishes of the U.S. Empire in its attempt to intervene in another country, Russia is being “assertive and contentious.”

For another recent example of the Post’s Wall Street Journal direction in foreign affairs, consider Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland’s op-ed “Jitters Over Iran” in last Sunday’s Outlook section. According to Hoagland, Iran’s recent test-firing of some missiles in response to U.S. and Israeli threats to attack Iran shows that “the greater threat to global stability today lies more in Tehran than it does in George W. Bush’s Washington.”

What?

For well over a year, the U.S. government has converted Iran into the New Official Enemy, replacing Saddam, Osama, the Soviet Union, and a few less noteworthy official enemies (e.g., Sadr, Chavez, etc.). For months, U.S. officials have been beating the war drums, suggesting to Americans that the WMD threat from Iran was even greater than the WMD threat posed by Saddam and Osama. One U.S. presidential candidate has even taken to singing, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” Rumors have abounded that the Israeli government might bomb Iran on behalf of the U.S. government. Israeli forces have even conducted military maneuvers in the area.

But when Iran, which has never threatened to invade and occupy any country, signals that it intends to defend itself from a U.S. or Israeli attack, and then test fires some missiles, Hoagland concludes that it’s really Iran that is threatening world peace. If the Bush administration follows through with its bombing attack on Iraq, can’t you just hear Hoagland exclaiming, “Oh, the U.S. is just defending itself with this unprovoked attack, just as it was doing with its war of aggression against Iraq”?

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fourth Circuit’s Ominous Decision
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Led by conservative judges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has just affirmed the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” doctrine, a doctrine that allows President Bush and his military forces to designate anyone anywhere in the world as an “enemy combatant” in the so-called war on terrorism and treat him accordingly. While the case that the Court was deciding involved a foreigner, Ali al-Marri, the Court’s reasoning applies to American citizens as well.

Al-Marri is a citizen of Qatar. He was under federal court indictment for terrorist-related charges and actually preparing for trial under the principles of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. federal court system. Before the trial was permitted to begin, U.S. officials yanked Al-Marri out of the federal court system and sent him into the clutches of the U.S. military. The government took the position that ever since 9/11 it had the power to treat suspected terrorists in one of two alternative ways — as a federal court defendant or as an “enemy combatant.” While they initially chose the first route with al-Marri, they ended up employing the second route.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld the government’s position and the government’s actions. That means that the president and the Pentagon now wield the same power wielded by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes around the world: the power to sweep into neighborhoods across the land and arbitrarily take citizens into custody as “enemy combatants.” After all, don’t forget the government’s argument, an argument that has now been upheld by a federal court of appeals: In the global war on terror, the entire United States is part of the battlefield.

Do people taken into custody by the military have any recourse? Yes, but it is extremely limited. They still have the right to file a petition for writ of habeas corpus to challenge the government’s designation of them as “enemy combatants.” But as soon as the government provides some evidence indicating that the detainee is a terrorist, then the government’s detention of him will be upheld and the courts will sustain the detention. And don’t forget the government’s argument: that in “war” the courts should defer to the wartime decisions of the commander in chief and his military.

Prior to 9/11, terrorism had always been considered a criminal offense. In fact, it’s still on the federal statute books as a criminal offense. That’s why, for example, terrorists such as Ramzi Yousef (the 1993 WTC terrorist), Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City terrorist), and Zacharias Moussaoui (the 9/11 terrorist) were prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced in federal district court.

After 9/11, the president unilaterally adopted a new order of things here in the United States, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. From that point on, the president and the Pentagon would have the option of treating suspected terrorists, including Americans, as “enemy combatants” and treating them accordingly. Soon afterward, they established their torture and sex abuse camp for suspected terrorists in Cuba and later took an American citizen, Jose Padilla, into military custody as an “enemy combatant.”

Will Americans be concerned about the al-Marri decision? Not likely. Most of them will continue their sheep-like or ostrich-like way of life. The reason is that since the president and the military aren’t arresting Americans en masse and carting them into concentration centers, the standard attitude is, “Why worry?”

But if there is another big terrorist attack, then it is a virtual certainty that Americans will get to witness the full exercise of the power that has now been sustained by the Fourth Circuit. Orders for round-ups will be issued, and the troops will loyally and obediently follow those orders. In the midst of the fear and panic generated by such an attack, American sheep, both male and female, will not object to the round-ups of hundreds or thousands of American “terrorists” and “terrorist sympathizers.” For the sheep, the fear of being among those rounded up will be worse than the fear of “the terrorists.”

How will the Pentagon treat American “enemy combatants” in such a “crisis”? Well, just ask John Walker Lindh and Jose Padilla, two Americans who were tortured after being arrested. The fact is that U.S. personnel, both in the CIA and the military, view American “enemy combatants” in a much worse light than foreign “enemy combatants” because of the traitor aspect.

Given the decision in al-Marri, the government’s torture and sex abuse policy and its rendition policy now become more important for Americans. There is absolutely no reason that U.S. officials cannot treat American “enemy combatants” the same way they treat foreign enemy combatants. And everyone knows by now what they do to people they think are foreign “enemy combatants.”

Isn’t it amazing how the embrace of an imperial foreign policy can wreak such major changes in life at home? The president and his military go abroad and poke hornet’s nests. The hornets finally strike back. The retaliation enables the president and the military to revolutionize America’s judicial system through the unilateral assumption of omnipotent power over the citizenry by the president and the military. The courts uphold the assumption of power on the ground that the U.S. is now at “war” with the hornets, which attacked in the first place because the president and the military were poking their nests.

When will ordinary Americans finally start fighting back? When will they finally begin defending their own fundamental rights and liberties? When will they conquer their fears of both the government and “the terrorists”? When will they stop falling for the lies and deceptions? When will they finally begin behaving like men and women and not like sheep?

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An Iranian Dissident’s Experience Provides Lessons for Americans
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Sunday, the New York Times carried an article about a 31-year-old Iranian dissident, Ahmad Batebi, who successfully escaped imprisonment in Iran, where he was being tortured. Making his way through Iraq and ultimately arriving in Washington, D.C., Batebi taunted his former captors with a photograph of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Batebi’s story has three important lessons for Americans:

1. Torture.

The brutal regime in Iran tortures people, just like the U.S. government does. Isn’t it a shame that our nation, which has historically stood against cruel and unusual punishments, now engages in the same wrongful conduct as brutal foreign regimes?

2. Immigration.

While U.S. immigration controls could have been used to prevent Batebi from entering the United States, U.S. officials decided to permit him to enter our country “out of concern for his safety.”

This brings to mind the original idea behind the open-borders policy of our American ancestors. The idea behind open borders was that if people were suffering tyranny, oppression, or starvation in their countries and if they could find a way to escape, there would always be at least one country — the United States — that would not force them to return. Thus, our American ancestors opposed sending U.S. military forces to “liberate” people with bombs, missiles, and troops, which they knew would inevitably kill and maim many innocent people. Instead, they simply provided a peaceful and moral outlet for people to escape their plight.

The repatriation phenomenon with respect to immigration was experienced in 1939, in what has become known as the Voyage of the Damned. On the eve of World War II, the SS St. Louis departed from Hamburg, Germany, carrying 937 Jews, who realized that this would probably be the last time they would be able to escape the clutches of Germany’s Nazi regime.

When the ship arrived in Cuba, the Cuban authorities refused to permit the passengers to disembark, even though many of them had family and friends waiting for them. Turning toward Miami Harbor, the passengers soon discovered that the same plight awaited them in the United States. Relying on their power to control the borders and being infected by the same anti-Semitism that was infecting officials in the Hitler regime, U.S. officials refused to permit the Jews to disembark.

The ship captain began heading back to Europe. At first, every other country followed the lead of Cuba and the United States. Thus, the ship captain had no choice but to begin returning to Germany, the nation in which his Jewish passengers were citizens. At the last minute, Britain, Belgium, France, and The Netherlands agreed to accept them. Unfortunately, many of the ones who ended up on the continent ended up losing their lives in German concentration camps. The experience is one of the most horrifying consequences of immigration controls.

3. Foreign Policy.

The third lesson has to do with U.S. governmental meddling in Iran. U.S. officials think that a U.S. regime-change operation would be welcomed by the Iranian people, just as they thought that they would be welcomed by the Iraqi people when they invaded Iraq for the purpose of regime change.

Batebi provides a good example of how foreigners feel about U.S. governmental meddling in their nation’s internal affairs — the same reaction, by the way, that many Americans would have if foreign regimes were meddling in American political affairs. Despite the fact that Batebi despises his own government (while loving his country), “he recoils when asked about the possibility of American military action against Iran, saying that if the United States attacked, ‘I might go back and fight for my country myself.’”

The Batebi experience provides a roadmap for the future direction of the United States:

(1) The American people should send the message to the people of the world that the beacon in the Statue of Liberty has been relit, enabling anyone suffering tyranny, oppression, and starvation to freely come to the United States without fear of being repatriated.

(2) The American people should rein in the federal government in overseas affairs by prohibiting it from meddling in the affairs of other countries, which by necessity would entail closing all U.S. military bases overseas and stopping the U.S. government’s policy of regime change in foreign countries.

(3) The American people should strive to restore our country to its rightful place in the world — a free and prosperous society. A good place to start would be a constitutional amendment stating, “U.S. officials are prohibited from inflicting cruel and unusual punishments … and this time we mean it.”

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

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Rotten Fruits of Socialism and Interventionism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Washington Post carried an interesting article on Sunday by a photojournalist in Iraq whose photograph of a U.S. soldier carrying an injured Iraqi child at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq made the front page of USA Today. The point of the photograph, of course, was that American soldiers were in Iraq helping the Iraqi people. As the photographer put it, “I knew that this was a moment of American heroism, of American commitment to saving a people and to saving lives.”

After he returned home, the soldier periodically sent emails to the photographer. One of them said, “When I first got back I didn’t really want to talk about being over there to anyone. Now looking back on it, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.”

Except for one thing. The soldier, Joseph Dwyer, recently died from a drug overdose at age 31. As his mother put it, he couldn’t “get over the war.”

News reports said that Dwyer was suffering from “post-traumatic stress disorder.” My hunch is that it’s much more likely that he was suffering from massive unresolved guilt.

Look at the situation. Most people, especially the young and idealistic ones, join the military because they honestly feel like they want to serve their country. They’re interested in doing a good thing in their lives. They’re well-intentioned. They believe in the president and their superior officers. It doesn’t occur to them that as Americans, they would be put in a position of being on the morally wrong side of a war.

So, what do President Bush and the Pentagon do? They convert these young, idealistic soldiers into aggressors. No matter how much a American human being can try to convince himself that he is doing good when he kills Iraqis, deep down within his subconscious he knows that he is part of a military force that has wrongfully attacked another country—and killed and maimed countless people in the process.

On the conscious level, the soldier believes all the claptrap about why he is killing and maiming people—WMDs, liberation, democracy-spreading, nation-building, etc. But on the subconscious level he knows the truth—he has no right whatsoever to be in this country thousands of miles away from America killing and maiming people.

The soldier can try to suppress the fact that he has killed people in a war of aggression in which he as participated. He can tell himself that he has saved people during the process. He can focus on his heroics. But in the inevitable struggle between himself and his conscience, something is ultimately going to give. That’s what taking drugs is all about—trying to avoid the pain that comes from a deeply disturbed conscience.

Ultimately, the crime of Iraq is the legal and moral responsibility of George W. Bush. But the soldiers who faithfully and loyally followed Bush’s orders to kill and maim Iraqis in this war of aggression and resulting occupation will also pay a price, not only physically but also mentally and psychologically, as so many of them are now discovering,

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan a U.S. air strike killed 47 people in a wedding, including the bride herself along with several children. The U.S. military, not surprisingly, denied any civilians had been killed. They said that they had only killed terrorists. But an official inquiry determined that the U.S. military’s version was false. Of course, if there is ever terrorist retaliation for those deaths, the official U.S. response will be the same as it was after 9/11: The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values, not because our imperial forces have killed their spouses, parents, brides, and children.

Of course, to protect Americans from the threat of such terrorist blowback, it has become necessary to adopt ever-increasing infringements on civil liberties. The new FISA law, which authorizes warrantless spying on the citizenry and grants immunity to companies that breach the privacy rights of their customers, is just the latest example.

A good way to ensure a steady stream of terrorist retaliation, of course, would be to attack Iran, which has become the latest Official Enemy, given that Osama and Saddam no longer serve that function. If that doesn’t work out, then why not stir up old hornet’s nests by threatening Russia with the placement of U.S. missiles and missile interceptors near the Russian border?

Meanwhile, things aren’t going too swimmingly on the welfare-state front either. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the big federally concocted financial institutions that purchase mortgages, are both in danger of going under. U.S. officials are promising to bail them out, although it’s not clear where they will be getting the money to do so given that they’re already running an enormous budget deficit.

By the way, be prepared for the standard claptrap about how the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reflects the failure of America’s “free enterprise” system. Never mind that these institutions have their roots in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which was inspired by Stalin’s socialism and Mussolini’s fascism.

Meanwhile, the FDIC took control of another large financial institution — IndyMac Bancorp — after a run on the bank by depositors caused the bank to go under. According to the Associated Press, “It is the largest regulated thrift to fail and the second-largest financial institution to close in U.S. history.”

Question: Even if the FDIC can afford to bail out several individual banks, what happens if there is an industry-wide failure? Where does the FDIC get the money to repay depositors of hundreds of banks, especially when its welfare-state expenditures and its warfare-state expenditures are already significantly higher than tax revenues? To repay the depositors their money, wouldn’t it have to first tax the depositors to get the money to pay them back? Oh well, let’s not think about that right now.

By their fruits you will know them: death, destruction, lies, and bankruptcy.

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

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Fantasy Debate over Economics
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the amusing things about liberals and conservatives is how they sometimes lock themselves in their own little conservative-liberal paradigm and carry on a silly debate over the causes of America’s economic woes.

For example, liberals cry, “America’s economic woes demonstrate the failures of capitalism,” and then point to “deregulation” during the Reagan-Bush eras to prove their point.

Conservatives cry, “No, it’s liberalism that has failed” and point to “regulatory excesses” during the Clinton administration.

A new example of this inside-the-cocoon fantasy debate is an op-ed by liberal E.J. Dionne Jr. in today’s Washington Post entitled “Capitalism’s Reality Check.”

Dionne says that the “deregulation” in the banking industry demonstrates once again that capitalism has failed. Why, Dionne even repeats the old canard about how the Great Depression “discredited the radical laissez-faire doctrines,” completely ignoring the fact that free-market economists (e.g., Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard, and others) have conclusively demonstrated that the Great Depression was a direct result of monetary manipulation by the Federal Reserve, which was then aggravated by New Deal economic policies.

Another example of this liberal-conservative fantasy debate is Naomi Klein, a liberal who writes that the nation suffered under Ronald Reagan’s adoption of Milton Friedman’s free-market philosophy. See, for example, her recent article “ Beware the Chicago Boys that appeared in the June 12 issue of The Nation.

Not surprisingly, neither Dionne nor Klein mentions the term libertarian in their articles. The reason is simple: Libertarianism is an alternative paradigm to the liberal-conservative cocoon in which Dionne and Klein carry on their debates with each other.

Libertarians know that for most of the 20th century and 21st century, Americans have lived under a socialist-regulatory-interventionist economic system. We understand that that was what the Franklin Roosevelt administration was all about — the embrace of a revolutionary economic system involving a combination of socialism and fascism — and without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. For a while, the U.S. Supreme Court was declaring some of much of Roosevelt did unconstitutional — and rightfully so, but ultimately Roosevelt and his anti-capitalist programs prevailed over the Court and the Constitution.

Thus, libertarians are bemused when liberals such as Dionne or Klein issue indictments against some period of post-New Deal America in which there has been some sort of “deregulation” or reduction in income taxation For them, that’s what goes for “capitalism” or “free markets.” That’s what comes from operating within a closed paradigm in which libertarianism doesn’t even exist and, thus, isn’t mentioned within the context of those silly inside-the-cocoon debates.

What would be a truly capitalist or free-market system? One in which there is no income taxation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public (i.e., government) schooling, a central bank (i.e., Federal Reserve System), paper money, immigration controls, trade restrictions, welfare, subsidies, grants, or economic regulations. In other words, the type of economic system that our 19th-century American ancestors embraced—one that was called “free enterprise” because economic activity and wealth was genuinely free of almost all government control.

Now, a simple question for Dionne and Klein (and conservatives): When you indict the failures of “capitalism” (or “liberalism”) aren’t you indicting a system in which all of those programs exist, albeit in various forms or degrees?

Yes, you are, which means that in actuality you are indicting not capitalism or a free-market system but rather the statist economic system that all you favor and whose results you obviously detest.

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Lesson from Obama’s Cowardly Flip-Flop
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Those who think that the election of Barack Obama will save the nation from its many foreign-policy/civil-liberties woes got smashed and dashed with a cold dose of reality. Flip-flopping in the finest political tradition, Obama voted in favor of President Bush’s wiretap/immunity bill, after promising to filibuster it before he secured the Democratic Party nomination.

Presumably, Obama’s thinking goes like this: “Now that I’ve secured the nomination of my party, liberals will vote for me regardless because they won’t want John McCain in power. So, I can now flip flop and taken different positions on foreign policy and civil liberties so that John McCain won’t be able to tell people that I’m soft on terrorism.”

Reminding people of what happened in 2002, when the Democrats unconstitutionally and cowardly delegated the power to declare war on Iraq to President Bush because of fear that the president would accuse them of being soft on Saddam Hussein, congressional Democrats voted to give Bush everything he wanted plus more in the wiretap/immunity bill, including civil immunity to private telecom companies for apparent felony offenses committed against their customers.

For an excellent analysis of the cowardly and craven cave-in by Obama and his fellow Democrats, see Glenn Greenwald’s blog and Jonathan Turley’s television interview, which is included in Greenwald’s June 9 blog. (Both Greenwald and Turley delivered terrific speeches at our recent conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.”)

Meanwhile, the president and his associates continue to threaten Iran with a military attack without even pretending that they’re going to first ask for a declaration of war from Congress, which the Constitution requires. Keep in mind that the Constitution is the law that we the people impose on the president and the Congress. That’s the law that the president feels that he can violate with impunity.

The fact is that Americans are living under a lawless regime, one in which the president feels that constitutional constraints are illegitimate during his “war on terrorism,” which he says will last indefinitely given that there are still so many terrorists and potential terrorists in the world. Never mind that the U.S. government’s own policies generate the terrorist threat against the United States, which is then used as the excuse for the president to operate in an omnipotent and extra-constitutional manner.

That’s what his signing statements, illegal wiretaps and other searches, enemy-combatant designations, torture and sex abuse camps, cancelation of habeas corpus, wars of aggression, indefinite detentions, and kangaroo military tribunals are all about — the power to ignore constitutional restraints — omnipotent power.

The battle over the wiretap/immunity bill demonstrates a critically important point, one that every lover of liberty must ultimately confront: It is not sufficient to fight every assault on civil liberties that comes down the pike. The infringements are endless. Even if one civil-liberties battle is won, there are always three more battles to wage.

Suppose, for example, that civil libertarians succeed in getting the Pentagon’s torture and sex abuse camp at Guantanamo Bay closed down. Would that end the torture and sex abuse? Of course not. They’ll simply start sending detainees to torture and sex abuse camps in Afghanistan or to friendly terrorist regimes, such as Syria (which they still claim they don’t talk to despite the fact that the CIA somehow or another made the arrangements with Syrian torturers to torture an innocent man on its behalf).

Thus, what every American who thirsts for the restoration of a normal, free society must recognize is that there is one — and only one — solution: the dismantling of America’s standing army, especially the military-industrial complex and the CIA, which are the center of the rot of the U.S. Empire. This is what should have been done when the Berlin Wall fell and it’s what should be done today.

That’s the root of the weed. That’s what needs to be pulled out of the ground. It’s not sufficient to simply continue trimming its branches.

That would mean the closing of every U.S. military base around the world — Europe, Asia, South America, and everywhere else. It would entail bringing all those troops home and discharging them into the private sector. It would entail closing the multitude of military bases all across the United States. It would entail the abolition of the CIA. It would include the repeal of the deadly and destructive war on drugs. It would entail the end of all foreign aid. It would mean the end of the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of other nations. It would entail the repeal of all the taxes that fund these people and their deadly, destructive, and nefarious operations.

Barack Obama’s cowardly flip flop should remind every American that the key to our future lies not in electing different people to public office. Instead, the key to our future lies in a shift in paradigms — from one of big government in foreign (and domestic) affairs to one of limited government in foreign (and domestic) affairs.

The time has come for the American people to do what Americans in 1787 were doing: reflecting upon the principles of liberty and limited government on which this nation should be based. The time has come to end the U.S. government’s role as the world’s policeman, intervener, interloper, aggressor, welfare provider, and sole remaining empire. The time has come for the American people to restore the principles of liberty and limited government that our ancestors bequeathed to us.

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

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Pre-Election Terrorist Attack?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The political world has been abuzz over McCain advisor Charlie Black’s statement that another terrorist attack on American soil before Election Day would benefit McCain’s chances for winning the election.

Since rational thinking will be in short supply after such an attack, I figured it’s probably best to share my thoughts about this subject before such an attack takes place.

Prior to 9/11, The Future of Freedom Foundation was publishing articles in which we pointed out that U.S. foreign policy — specifically, the bad things the U.S. government was doing to people in the Middle East — was generating so much boiling anger and hatred that a terrorist attack on American soil was likely.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to make that prediction. All a person would have had to do is read the statement issued by the terrorist who attacked the World Trade Center the first time in 1993, Ramzi Yousef. His statement to the federal judge railing against U.S. foreign policy is so filled with rage and bile that it almost defied credulity.

While the U.S. government today plays the innocent and acts as if it wasn’t doing anything bad to anyone, claiming that people just hate America for its freedom and values, the truth is that after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the U.S. government became very busy poking hornets’ nests in the Middle East: the Persian Gulf intervention, the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment facilities, the brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands, the illegal and deadly no-fly zones over Iraq, and the unconditional financial and military aid to the Israeli government.

If Yousef was eager to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, why would it surprise anyone that other people would be eager to do so later on, especially since the U.S. government was continuing to do the types of bad things that had enraged Yousef?

The same, of course, holds true today. The 9/11 attacks provided U.S. officials with the excuse to do what they had been trying to do throughout the 1990s with their sanctions and no-fly zones over Iraq: effect regime change in Iraq. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have resulted in significant more death and destruction than the U.S. government’s policies prior to 9/11. Therefore, it again does not take a rocket scientist to predict that it’s only a matter of time before somebody retaliates for the killing of his spouse, child, parent, friend, or countrymen.

Some Americans think that only Americans get angry and vengeful when their loved ones are killed or maimed by others. Thus, while it was considered perfectly natural and normal for Americans to boil over with rage and a thirst for vengeance after the 9/11 attacks, people in the Middle East supposedly are totally nonchalant when they see Iraqi children, year after year, dying from the sanctions or when they lose their family members and friends in a foreign invasion and occupation.

But people everywhere become engaged when their family members and friends are killed by others. The fact that the U.S. government had no legal or moral right to intervene in Iraq (Where are those WMDs?) only compounds the anger and rage when someone loses a loved one or friend at the hands of an occupation force.

Thus, if there is another terrorist attack on American soil, which grows increasingly likely given the enormous amount of death and destruction the U.S. government has wreaked and continues to wreak in Iraq (and Afghanistan), it will simply be the same type of blowback from U.S. foreign policy that produced the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and the 9/11 attacks.

The problem is that in the immediate wake of such an attack, few people will be listening to reason, especially with U.S. officials screaming that the terrorists are coming to get us and that national security is at stake. John McCain — and Barrack Obama as well — will be repeating their tried-and-trued mantra that “The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values.” Both of them will be suggesting that the new terrorist attack confirms that the U.S. government must continue its foreign policy of killing and maiming people until it wipes out all the terrorists in the world.

In the fear and panic arising from a new terrorist attack, how many Americans will realize that the very policies that U.S. officials will be advocating as a “cure” for terrorism are instead the very cause of the problem in the first place and, if continued, will only produce more of the same in the future?

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Robert Mugabe and the Second Amendment
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A front-page article in last Saturday’s Washington Post detailed an inside account of how Zimbabwe’s thuggish president Robert Mugabe ensured his victory in the country’s recent presidential run-off election. The account provides a good refresher course on why our American ancestors enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment — and why they so detested standing military forces within their own country.

Having garnered less votes than his opponent in the general election, Mugabe, who has held power for almost 30 years, was contemplating dropping out of the race. Afraid of losing their lucrative government positions, however, loyal government bureaucrats, including many of Mugabe’s military goons, convinced him to keep fighting.

Mugabe and his advisors came up with an interesting campaign plan known as CIBD, which stood for coercion, intimidation, beating, and displacement. Led by Mugabe’s loyal military forces, his goons embarked on a violent and brutal campaign of murder, torture, and beatings designed to intimidate the opposition.

The plan worked, causing Mugabe’s opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, to drop out of the race, delivering the runoff victory to Mugabe. Despite the fact that his election to office is as illegitimate as an election could ever be, Mugabe has promised to remain in office until God removes him.

So, what do Zimbabweans do in this circumstance? Nothing, except pray for his removal from office.

Most everyone would agree that if there was ever a right of revolution — i.e., a violent overthrow of one’s own government — this is it. Unfortunately, however, Zimbabweans are precluded from exercising the right of revolution owing to one big reason: gun control. Because they lack guns, Zimbabweans lack the means to oppose the armed government goons that do Mugabe’s bidding and keep him in power.

As our American ancestors understood so well — and as the situation in Zimbabwe is demonstrating, a disarmed citizenry inevitably becomes an obedient citizenry. It lacks the means to object when tyranny rears its ugly head.

Standing armies are inevitably loyal to their commanders, who are loyal to their political rulers. They will obey orders faithfully, especially when “national security” is at stake.

That’s why our American ancestors detested standing armies. They knew that all too often rulers would turn the guns of their military and police forces inward, against their own people. Equally important, they knew that the military and police would faithfully, loyally, and “patriotically” obey the orders of their superiors.

Thus, the central idea behind the Second Amendment was not to ensure that people could hunt deer or shoot burglars. It was instead to ensure that U.S. rulers were prohibited from depriving Americans of their “doomsday weapon” — a weapon that would always ensure that Americans would have the means to defend themselves from the tyranny of their very own government — yes, the federal government in Washington, D.C. That’s something that Zimbabweans are today unable to do owing to gun control in their country.

Some Americans claim that the Second Amendment is outmoded. They say that while U.S. personnel would do bad things to foreigners, they would never do bad things to Americans. Oh? You mean, like the way they tortured and sexually abused John Walker Lindh? Or the way they tortured, isolated, drugged, and brutalized Jose Padilla? Or the way they massacred people, including defenseless children, at Waco? Or the way they shot Vickie Weaver in the head, as she held her baby in her arms, and her teenage son in the back? Or the way they shot and killed antiwar demonstrators at Kent State? Or the way they rounded up Americans of Japanese descent and put them into concentration centers? Or the way they engaged in syphilis experiments with unsuspecting African-Americans?

The fact is that American human beings are no different from other human beings. Given a crisis environment where the fear of terrorism (or communism or whatever) is running rampant and U.S. officials are screaming that “national security” is at stake, U.S. rulers will always be able to find a certain segment of U.S. military forces and the CIA to carry out any orders against Americans, just as Robert Mugabe has. All the president would have to do is label any Americans he wants as dangerous “enemy combatants” — “terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” — and order the Pentagon and the CIA to take them into custody and treat them accordingly. If a Pentagon official or subordinate refused to carry out such orders, he would immediately be fired (or worse) and be replaced by an official who would faithfully carry out the orders of his commander in chief.

Would the Zimbabweans revolt against their government if they had guns? It’s impossible to know. As Jefferson pointed out in the Declaration of Independence, people will sometimes put up with lots of tyranny rather than suffer massive casualties in a violent revolution. At least the right to keep and bear arms provides people with the option of resistance to tyranny, an option that gun control has extinguished in Zimbabwe.

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

Monday, July 7, 2008

Americans Had It Coming
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Everyone is complaining and crying about the high gasoline prices and, well, the rising prices of most everything else, especially food.

The problem is that hardly anyone wants to admit that it’s all part of the cost of empire and imperial adventurism. Do Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind?

In 2001 and 2002, weren’t many Americans (libertarians being the notable exception) exuberantly supporting the imperial adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan that has caused federal spending to soar through the roof? Well, what did Americans think — that empires come cheap?

Do you recall what conservatives used to say when the Soviet Empire came crashing down? They bragged that Ronald Reagan had caused the Soviet Empire to spend the nation into bankruptcy. Of course, there’s nothing new about that, as people who lived under the Roman Empire and British Empire learned.

But notice now that conservatives no longer brag about how they brought down the Soviet Empire. Why not? Because someone (such as a libertarian) might ask the obvious question: If out-of-control federal spending was bad for the Soviet Union, why isn’t it equally bad for the United States?

Of course, one big problem is that Americans convinced themselves that Iraq and Afghanistan were going to be free. U.S. officials could take control of Iraqi oil and finance not only the Iraq invasion and occupation but also the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. A self-funding imperial operation! Or they convinced themselves that the “coalition of the willing” would bear the costs of America’s imperialism.

Alas, it was not to be. Year after year, Iraq and Afghanistan have become a veritable black hole of federal expenditures, much of which cannot even be accounted for by U.S. officials.

Americans can’t say that they weren’t warned. From the inception, libertarians kept warning that the out-of-control costs of empire and intervention (on top of welfare and regulation at home) would inevitably be reflected in a crashing dollar and rising commodity prices.

Today, unfortunately all too many Americans are doing their best to avoid accepting responsibility for rising prices. That’s why they’re coming up with all sorts of interesting rationales for rising prices and the crashing dollar: foreign demand, speculators, oil companies, OPEC, capitalism, and tax cuts. Before long, they’ll undoubtedly add illegal aliens to the list.

Consider Zimbabwe, where prices are three billion fold greater than seven years ago. Yes, three billion fold! Prices for food double every hour.

Now, what’s the cause of those rising prices in Zimbabwe? The average Zimbabwean might take the same position that the average American takes: “Mysterious, unseen forces in the universe that periodically attack countries, foreign demand, speculators, the business cycle, or tax cuts for the rich.”

Of course, all those rationales would be nothing more than an attempt to avoid placing responsibility for the rising prices squarely where it belongs — on the out-of-control government spending at the hands of the Robert Mugabe administration in Zimbabwe.

Heck, let’s face it: the only people who have a moral right to complain about rising prices of gasoline and most everything else here in the United States are libertarians, given that we are the ones who have been opposing both the welfare state and the warfare state and the massive government spending needed to fund them. Unfortunately though, we’re still outnumbered by big-spending welfare-warfare statists, both conservatives and liberals, and, therefore, unfortunately we too must pay the price for their big-government follies.

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

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Federal War on Financial Privacy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

While Americans are celebrating pre-revolutionary efforts by the English colonists to avoid taxes imposed by their government (e.g., the Sugar Act, Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, and Tea Act), the IRS is celebrating a federal court victory forcing a Swiss bank, UBS, to disclose the identities of U.S. customers who may have used secret accounts at the bank to avoid taxes. It’s a classic case of where one bad intervention — income taxation — inevitably leads to another bad intervention — invasion of financial privacy.

Historically, the Swiss have taken the right position with respect to financial privacy — fiercely protecting the identity and financial information of their bank customers, including from government officials. Unfortunately, the Swiss position on financial privacy is contrary to the position taken by the U.S. government, which is why the U.S. feds are now attacking UBS.

Over the years U.S. bankers have succumbed to the control of the federal authorities, especially with respect to the “war on drugs” and the “war on terrorism.” There is hardly a banker in the country that doesn’t quiver and quake at the thought that a bank examiner or IRS agent is paying a visit to his bank. Even worse, bankers have effectively been converted into spies and informants of the government, required by law to report any “suspicious” financial transaction to the feds.

For their part, the American people have become as sheep-like with respect to financial privacy as they have with civil liberties in general. The fact that their personal financial information must be reported to the government is considered “the price to be paid for living in a free society.”

Of course, never mind that those English colonists in 1776 were rebelling against these sorts of things in order to achieve a free society. After all, is it really just a coincidence that American lived without taxation on their income for more than 125 years?

People have the fundamental right to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth and decide what to do with it. How much they earn and what they do with it is none of the government’s business. A restoration of liberty to our land not only requires a repeal of all infringements on financial privacy, it also entails a repeal of the income tax, the drug war, and all other excuses for infringing the financial privacy of the people.

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Torture, Communism, and the American Way
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Do you recall how outraged U.S. officials appeared to be when people were comparing the Pentagon’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet communist gulags? Well, the outrage might have been a bit fake and false.

Guess what U.S. military officials have been using as a guideline for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. According to a front-page article in today’s New York Times, they have been knowingly and intentionally using torture techniques employed by the Chinese communists on American soldiers during the Korean War on detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

How’s that for a bit of moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy? Imagine that: 45 years of a Cold War against the communists, more than 100,000 Americans killed in hot wars against the communists, and an ever-growing military-industrial complex to oppose communism, only to find that there are some features of communism that U.S. officials really like. (Maybe that’s why they don’t mind kidnapping Cuban refugees on the high seas and forcibly repatriating them into Cuban communist tyranny.)

Apparently the idea behind using communist torture methods at Guantanamo was that U.S. personnel, especially those in the CIA, would employ the types of “touch-less” torture techniques that were employed by the communists that would damage a person’s mind but leave no evidence of physical torture. In that way, government officials could look the people in the eye and claim, “We don’t torture.”

Of course, that’s not the only procedure that U.S. officials have copied from the communists. After all, look at the entire Guantanamo “judicial” system. The very reason that it’s based in Cuba was so that the Pentagon could be free of the principles of our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights and free to adopt procedures which, coincidentally, were also embraced by the communists. Examine the following attributes of the Pentagon’s “judicial” system at Guantanamo Bay and ask yourself whether they are consistent with America’s system or the communist system:

Denial of due process.
Denial of habeas corpus.
Torture and sex abuse.
Secret proceedings.
Kangaroo tribunals.
Denial of effective assistance of counsel.
Indefinite detentions.
Presumption of guilt.
Denial of right to confront witnesses.
Use of hearsay testimony.
Cruel and unusual punishments.

Isn’t every one of those things a core feature of communist “judicial” systems?

Add to the mix the following attributes of the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy:

Wars of aggression and brutal occupations against Third World countries.
Spying on the citizenry.
Warrantless searches and seizures.
Employing private companies to spy on the citizenry and immunizing them for breaking the law.
The power to ignore constitutional constraints on power.

Didn’t the communists believe in and embrace every one of those principles?

In litigation over habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo Bay, the Justice Department argued that the Cuban government, not the U.S. government, had jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s operations at Guantanamo Bay. It’s not difficult to see why they preferred to be under the control of the communists. Pentagon officials knew that while the U.S. Supreme Court would be likely to strike down its communist methods as being antithetical to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the Pentagon knew that Cuban officials would be unlikely to object to communist methods on Cuban soil.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Immediate Withdrawal Is the Only Honorable Course in Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Supporters of the U.S. occupation of Iraq sometimes point out that U.S. soldiers are doing good deeds there, such as establishing electricity, water, and other essential services. They also say that the U.S. government liberated the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator. In fact, many of the soldiers themselves honestly feel that they are helping the Iraqi people and look upon Iraqi insurgents who are trying to oust them from Iraq as “terrorists” or “bad guys.”

Suppose I broke into your home and killed your son and your wife. When you try to evict me from your home, I respond, “Wait a minute! I am remodeling and upgrading your home. I’m doing good things for you. The killing of your wife and son are in the past. We now need to look to the future and get your house rebuilt. I’m the best one to do it. And since I sort of made a mess of things, I have an obligation to stay and help you rebuild your home and your life.”

What would be your response? My hunch is that you would not be favorably inclined to my staying in your home, no matter how much I was improving and upgrading it. My hunch is that your anger and rage at me for having broken into your home in the first place and, more important, for having killed your son and wife would not dissipate for a long time.

Or suppose the Chinese military successfully invaded the United States, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans in the process, under the guise of putting a stop to kidnapping and rendition, indefinite detentions, torture and sex abuse, kangaroo tribunals, and wars of aggression against Third World nations. Suppose that during the Chinese occupation, Chinese officials were spending billions of dollars upgrading American schools and the infrastructure. During the occupation, Chinese researchers, tourists, and journalists would be traveling to the United States and expressing friendliness to the American people.

While there undoubtedly would be Americans who would be calling for cooperation with the occupiers, pointing out how they were improving life in America, other Americans (including myself) would be taking the following position: “I don’t care how much you’re improving life in the United States, either in terms of infrastructure, services, or anything else. You had no right to invade our country and you have no right to be occupying our country. Get the heck out of here now or we insurgents will continue to kill you until you do.”

The fact is that U.S. troops, on orders, have killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in a war of aggression against a country that never attacked the United States. The position of U.S. officials, including some of the soldiers, is: “Those deaths are worth it because now the Iraqi people are free of the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. And now we have an obligation to rebuild Iraq after destroying it during the invasion, and no Iraqi has any right to stop us. ”

How cavalier! There are at least two big problems with that reasoning, however.

1. Who gave the U.S. government the right to determine that any Iraqi would have chosen death and maiming over living under tyranny? Wasn’t that a choice that the Iraqi people had a right to make rather than having it imposed on them? Isn’t a violent revolution, where countless people are going to lose their lives, a choice best left to the people of each nation? Isn’t that what was done with Eastern Europeans who had to live for almost half a century under Soviet communist tyranny? How about Vietnam today? What about North Korea, a country with whom President Bush just struck a deal? Zimbabwe? Cuba?

Why shouldn’t regime change be left to the citizens of each country rather than have it forcibly and violently imposed on them by the imperial politicians and bureaucrats of Washington, D.C.?

2. For many survivors of the U.S. intervention, living under the brutal occupation in Iraq, combined with an extremist pro-Iranian Islamic regime in Iraq and a violent insurgency, is as bad, if not worse, as living under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. The fact that millions of Iraqis have fled the country is strong circumstantial evidence of that fact.

Since the U.S. had no moral right to invade and occupy Iraq, there is only one moral and honorable course of action for the U.S. government to take. It is the same course of action that the hypothetical burglar or Chinese occupier should take. That course of action is: immediate withdrawal from Iraq. No more rebuilding. No more improvements. No more control. No more killing and maiming. Just immediate withdrawal. The Iraqi people, for better or for worse, have the right to finally be left alone by the U.S. government. The issuance of an apology would be good too.

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.