Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, February 2011

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Jury Nullification Prosecutorial Abuse

While the U.S. government was expressing outrage over attacks on freedom of speech at the hands of U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East, the U.S. Justice Department was securing a federal grand jury indictment against a man named Julian Heicklen. The charge? The feds are charging Heicklen for handing out jury-nullification pamphlets to people who are entering the federal courthouse in New York City, including prospective jurors. The feds say that that’s “jury tampering.”

Is that ridiculous or what? What an excellent example of prosecutorial abuse.

What is the government trying to accomplish with its prosecution of Heicklen? It’s trying to prevent people like Heicklen from telling prospective jurors the truth about the power of the jury in criminal cases. For decades, federal judges have been lying to jurors about their power, and fully informed jury advocates like Heicklen have been exposing the lie. The prosecutors want the judges to be free to continue lying to jurors with impunity, and they’re hoping to accomplish that by putting people like Heicklen into jail and scaring everyone else into shutting up.

Thanks to our American ancestors who demanded passage of the Bill of Rights, people charged in federal criminal cases are entitled to a jury trial. If our ancestors had not insisted on the inclusion of that guarantee in the Sixth Amendment, it is a virtual certainty that Americans accused of federal crimes today would be having their guilt or innocence determined by federal judges, military tribunals, or national-security courts rather than by ordinary people chosen at random from the community.

The fact is that federal prosecutors and many federal judges hate jury trials. They think juries are dumb and certainly not as smart as those well-educated lawyers who serve privileged positions as federal prosecutors and federal judges. That’s the whole idea of those military tribunals at Guantanamo — to ensure that people who the feds are accusing of terrorism aren’t tried by dumb, ignorant American juries who might acquit them but instead by smart, intelligent judges with law degrees from state-approved law schools who are certain to arrive at the “correct” verdict — the one that prosecutors are seeking. Juries, after all, are unpredictable. Unlike many federal judges or military judges, jurors cannot always be counted on to do what federal prosecutors and many federal judges want them to do, which is automatically grant the prosecutors’ request to convict.

The heritage of trial by jury, which stretches back into centuries of resistance to tyranny at the hands of the British government, is that the jury is the final judge not only of the facts in the case but also of the law.

In other words, the jury in a criminal case has two powers. One is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused really is guilty. Everyone, including the prosecutors and the judge, agree that the jury has that power. With one exception, the jury’s verdict on guilt or innocent is final. If the jury acquits, there is nothing the prosecutor or the judge can do about it. The defendant must be released.

The exception to that rule came into existence after the 9/11 attacks. As part of its “war on terrorism,” the military, on orders of the commander in chief, now wields the superior power to ignore jury verdicts of acquittal in terrorism cases and to take the accused into indefinite military custody as an “enemy combatant.”

The other power the jury has is the power to judge the law itself. This is the power that drives federal prosecutors and federal judges batty. If the jury decides that the law is rotten, it has the power to acquit, even if the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the act. If the jury acquits on that basis, every federal prosecutor and federal judge in the land knows that there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Thanks to our ancestors, the jury’s verdict is final, no matter how angry or upset the prosecutor or judge might be.

Sometime during the late 1960s or early 1970s, federal prosecutors in my hometown of Laredo, Texas, were prosecuting a man for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The defendant took the witness stand and admitted to the offense, explaining that he did it because his family was desperately poor and just needed the money.

The jury felt sorry for the guy and knew that the federal judge was one of those judges who just mindlessly meted out maximum sentences to drug-law violators. The jury understood that given the judge’s mindset, probation would be out of the question. To return the man to his family, the jury knew that it had but one course of action: acquittal. After deliberating, the jury returned to the courtroom and handed its verdict of acquittal to the clerk, who handed it to the judge, who was stunned, angry, and outraged.

The federal judge screamed at the jury, telling them that they were the dumbest jurors who had ever served in his courtroom. He told them that their names would be stricken from the jury list and that they would never serve as jurors in federal court again.

But what mattered was that that was all the federal judge had the power to do. He could scream, yell, and insult all he wanted but he knew that at the end of his tirade, he had no other choice but to order the release of the defendant and the discharge of the jury. The jury’s verdict was final, regardless of the reason. The judge could not incarcerate the jury and it could not keep the defendant incarcerated.

The reason that this power — the power of the jury to judge the law — came into existence was so that juries would serve as a final bastion of conscience and morality as a society plunged into the darkness of tyranny. If the government enacted a law, for example, criminalizing the housing of Jews, a jury has the power to respond to the dictates of individual conscience by refusing to convict, no matter how much evidence of guilt is adduced.

For decades, federal prosecutors and federal judges have done their best to keep this power secret from jurors, even to the point of openly lying about it. In their final instructions to jurors, federal judges tell jurors that they have the power to judge only the facts of the case, not the law. It’s a lie. The judge knows full well that the jury also has the power to judge the law and there’s not a thing the judge or the prosecutor can do about it, except rail, scream, yell, insult, and throw a temper tantrum, just like that judge in Laredo did.

All that fully informed jury advocates like Julian Heicklen are doing is telling the jurors the truth about their powers, and the truth is that juries have the power to judge both the facts and the law in criminal cases. That’s what Heicklen is being prosecuted for — for not only exercising freedom of speech but also for speaking the truth. In the minds of federal prosecutors and federal judges, telling people the truth is the real crime. Let’s hope the jury in Heicklen’s case is fully informed as to its powers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Padilla and Mubarak

A federal judge in South Carolina has dismissed a civil suit brought by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla against Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other U.S. officials. The judge held that Padilla had no right to recover for constitutional violations arising out of three years of military detention and torture.

Why should this matter to the American people? Because the ruling applies not only to Padilla, who is an American citizen, it applies to all Americans. That’s why the government has been resisting Padilla’s suit so vehemently. If Padilla won, the government would be precluded from exercising such powers against Americans generally.

Here is the practical effect of the ruling: The U.S. government wields the post-9/11 power to take any citizen into custody by simply labeling him an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism.” The military can keep the American in custody as long as it wants, even for life. The military can also torture the prisoner, including subjecting him to what is commonly known as “touchless torture.” That’s where the prisoner is deliberately kept in isolation with the intent of causing him permanent mental damage. That’s what they did to Padilla. That’s what they can do to any American.

The American prisoner can still file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but if the government provides a relatively small amount of evidence to establish that the American has ties to terrorism, the petition will be denied.

There is always the possibility that the military might decide to turn the American over to the federal civilian authorities for criminal prosecution, given that terrorism is still a criminal offense under the U.S. Code. That’s what they did with Padilla after the military imprisoned him without a trial and tortured him for some 3 years. That’s where he was convicted of terrorism — in federal district court. He was suing for the unconstitutional treatment he was subjected to by the military branch of the federal government prior to being turned over to the civilian branch for criminal prosecution.

Even if an American citizen is accorded the federal court route (along with the standard constitutional protections), however, the military has the ultimate say over whether he will be released. The military has the power to ignore the federal jury’s verdict of acquittal and take (or retake) the American into custody as an “enemy combatant,” keep him incarcerated indefinitely, and torture him.

There is nothing Americans can do about any of this. That’s one of the things the 9/11 attacks achieved for the U.S. military. As that federal judge in South Carolina has shown with his ruling, American officials, including those in the military, are empowered to treat Americans as “enemy combatants,” incarcerate them indefinitely, and torture them, with impunity and immunity.

Ironically, the judge’s ruling comes in the wake of the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as dictator of Egypt.

One of the persistent demands that the Egyptian people made of Mubarak was the lifting of the Egyptian government’s 30-year-old, “temporary” emergency anti-terrorist legislation, which empowered the Egyptian dictator and his military to take Egyptian citizens into custody as suspected terrorists, incarcerate them indefinitely, and torture them.

While the Egyptian people rightfully recognize such powers as attributes of tyranny and dictatorship, U.S. officials continue to maintain that such powers are actually pro-freedom devices designed to keep people safe.

How ironic is that!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Democratic Tyranny

No doubt many American statists celebrated the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as dictator of Egypt in the belief that freedom had arrived for the Egyptian people, given that the country was now experiencing the “order and stability” provided by military rule. But the truth is that military dictatorship isn’t freedom at all; it’s as much tyranny as what the Egyptian people experienced under Mubarak for 30 years.

What about democracy? American statists feel that if the Egyptian people are able to achieve democracy, that will mean that they will then be free. That’s in fact why American statists honestly believe that people are now free in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since there are elections (even if a bit fraudulent) in both countries, the argument goes, that means that the Iraqi and Afghan people are now free.

Actually, democracy and freedom are two entirely different things. In fact, as America’s Founding Fathers understood so well, democracy can be one of the gravest threats to freedom. That’s why the Framers placed the federal government within the straitjacket of the Constitution and why our American ancestors demanded passage of the Bill of Rights as a condition for agreeing to call the federal government into existence — to protect people from the grave threat to freedom posed by democracy.

So, what good is democracy? Actually, the only benefit of democracy is that it provides the citizenry of a country with the ability to change political regimes peacefully. As we are seeing in the Middle East, when people desire to change directions in a country ruled by a non-democratic regime, oftentimes the only way to do that is with violence. With elections, people can oust public officials from power without resorting to violence.

But what’s important to keep in mind is that simply because people have the ability to vote people out of office and vote new people into office does not mean that the society is free. Freedom turns on external (i.e., constitutional) limitations on the powers of public officials who are elected to power.

For example, suppose the Egyptian people enact a new constitution that says that the people shall have the right to elect anyone they want to the presidency but that whoever they do elect shall have all the powers that were exercised by Hosni Mubarak or his successor military dictatorship.

Would that be a free society?

Of course not. It would simply be a democratically elected dictatorship.

This raises the notion of fundamental, inherent, natural, God-given rights to which Jefferson referred in the Declaration of Independence. No government, not even a democratically elected government, has the legitimate authority to infringe on such rights. Thus, freedom turns on whether government is restricted from infringing on people’s fundamental, inherent, natural, God-given rights. That’s what constitutional constraints are all about.

Can a democratically elected regime engage in tyrannical acts? Of course. The United States provides two good examples. The first is the drug war, one of the cruelest, most brutal, and tyrannical measures that any government could engage in. Yesterday, I blogged about a young mother of four who was recently sent to prison for 10 years for selling $31 worth of marijuana to a police informant. How’s that for cruelty, brutality, and tyranny? What business of government is it to jail people for buying and consuming marijuana or any other drug? What business of government is it to jail people for providing marijuana or anything else to consumers? The government’s decades-long drug war strikes at the heart of a free society — the fundamental right of people to live their lives any way they choose so long as their conduct is peaceful.

Another example: the extensive anti-terrorist legislation that came into existence 10 years ago after the 9/11 attacks, including the Patriot Act, the NSA spying, the telecom spying, the enemy combatant doctrine, torture, kidnapping, assassination, indefinite detention, denial of due process, denial of trial by jury, denial of speedy trials, and military tribunals. Those are essentially the same measures adopted by the Mubarak dictatorship as a temporary, emergency measure after the president of Egypt was assassinated 30 years ago.

The Egyptian people rightfully view such measures as an attribute of tyranny, which is why they are so insistent that the Egyptian military dictatorship lift the anti-terrorist legislation.

Here in the United States, however, U.S. officials continue to refer to such measures as temporary, emergency pro-freedom devices designed to keep the American people safe. They are wrong. Tyrannical measures are tyrannical measures, whether embraced by unelected Egyptian dictators or elected American presidents.

Did I mention that the Mubarak dictatorship justified its anti-terrorist legislation by both the war on terrorism and the war on drugs?

When it comes to freedom, the world is desperately in need of leadership. Who better to lead the way than the American people, whose heritage of liberty was born in centuries of resistance to tyranny? A good place to start would be by demanding the end of both the war on drugs and the war on terrorism.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Drug-War Idiocy in Oklahoma

More proof that licensing of lawyers doesn’t guarantee that judges won’t engage in judicial idiocy comes out of the state of Oklahoma.

Three days before Christmas, a state judge named Susie Pritchett, whose retirement would become effective on December 31, sentenced a 25-year-old mother of four named Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow to ten years in the state penitentiary.

Spottedcrow’s crime? She and her mother sold a “dime bag” of marijuana to a police informant for $11. Two weeks later, another sale to the same informant netted another $20 for the women. That’s a grand total of $31.

Yes, you read that right. Oklahoma retired Judge Suzie Pritchett sentenced Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow to prison for 10 years for selling the grand total of $31 of marijuana to a police informant.

Wow! What a magnificent victory in the decades-long war on drugs? I wonder if this $31 sale was one of those famous drug-war record busts. Does this great victory mean that the drug war has finally been won and that the war can be declared over?

Oh, did I mention that Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow isn’t white? She’s a non-white who has no criminal record.

How long will Americans tolerate this drug-war idiocy? How many more lives must be ruined before the American people become as outraged over this democratic tyranny as the people in the Middle East are outraged over their authoritarian tyranny?

When I was growing up in the border town of Laredo, Texas, state and federal judges were engaged in the same type of drug-war idiocy as Suzie Pritchett. Some of them were known by the moniker “Maximum” because they loved to mete out to drug-war violators the maximum sentence allowed by law.

Did any of those maximum sentences do any good? Did they ever stem the tide of drugs? Of course not. They just ended up ruining lives, year after year, decade after decade. Over time, those judges would be replaced by new judges, who would engage in the same mindless “maximum” sentence idiocy. No doubt few of them, including Prichard, ever asked themselves an important question: What good am I doing for society by engaging in this maximum-sentence drug-war idiocy?

Why did Spottedcrow sell the marijuana? Because she needed the money. She was poor and unemployed. Her family had recently lost their home for non-payment of the mortgage expense.

Presentence investigators, whose jobs often depend on the drug war, condemned Spottedcrow for selling marijuana instead of getting legitimate employment. What the report failed to point out is the U.S. government’s role in the overall economic debacle that made conditions difficult for her to find legitimate employment.

What the report also failed to point out is the U.S. government’s role in luring people into the drug trade. After all, notice that Spottedcrow chose to sell marijuana rather than beer or cigarettes to that police informant. Why was that? Because the U.S. government’s decades-long drug war makes the price of marijuana artificially high, as compared to the free-market prices of drugs like beer and cigarettes. That artificially high price lures the unemployed, the desperate, the poor into making a quick buck, something that that police informant surely knew when he approached Spottedcrow and asked to purchase $31 worth of marijuana.

Judge Pritchett claimed that she was showing leniency by granting probation to the grandmother, who, Pritchett said, could help Spottedcrow’s husband care for the children until Spottedcrow was released from jail ten years from now.

But isn’t that just more judicial idiocy? Both women committed the same offense. If it was a matter of having someone to help care for the children, wouldn’t it have made more sense to send the grandmother to jail for 10 years instead of the mother? More important, the fact that one person receives 10 years in prison while the other receives probation for the same offense just goes to show the arbitrariness and capriciousness of the drug-war judicial process.

Spottedcrow is now serving her 10-year prison sentence in one of Oklahoma’s two prisons for women. In this article by Ginnie Graham in Tulsa World (from which the facts in my article are drawn), it is pointed out that 48 percent of women in Oklahoma prisons are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses.

Maybe Spottedcrow and those other drug-war prisoners will get lucky and the Oklahoma government will go broke soon, which could force the state to release these women early. Even better, maybe it will force the state to abandon occupational licensure, which could mean less idiocy on the judicial bench. Best of all, maybe going broke would force Oklahoma to finally bring an end to the drug war itself.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Standing Armies, Gun Control, and Middle East Tyranny

America’s Founding Fathers would not be surprised by what is happening in places like Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and Iran. They understood that the real value of a standing army, from the standpoint of dictatorial regimes, is that the military can usually be relied upon to do its duty and protect the regime by killing protestors or rounding them up, torturing them, detaining them indefinitely, and even executing them.

In Egypt the military decided to give up the 80-year old dictator Hosni Mubarak rather than kill protestors en masse, but the military did participate in arrests, round-ups, and torture before doing so. Moreover, the jury is still out on how the military will react to any sign that democracy could end up dismantling the military’s privileged position in Egyptian society.

In other Middle East countries where people are demonstrating against their respective dictatorships, the military is proving its loyalty to its commander in chief, protecting “national security” by shooting defenseless demonstrators, sometimes in the back or even while they are sleeping.

Here is what James Madison said about standing armies:

A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.

Here is how Henry St. George Tucker put it in Blackstone’s 1768Commentaries on the Laws of England:

Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.

Virginian Patrick Henry pointed out the difficulty associated with violent resistance to tyranny when a standing army is enforcing the orders of the government:

A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?

The U.S. State Department’s own website describes the convictions of the Founding Fathers regarding standing armies:

Wrenching memories of the Old World lingered in the 13 original English colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America, giving rise to deep opposition to the maintenance of a standing army in time of peace. All too often the standing armies of Europe were regarded as, at best, a rationale for imposing high taxes, and, at worst, a means to control the civilian population and extort its wealth.

Over the years, I have had occasion to travel to Europe, where I have engaged in conversations about gun control with Europeans. They always bring up the standard leftist arguments in favor of gun control. My response has always been the following: When a European country is taken over by a dictatorship, Europeans must either submit or be killed. At least in the United States, the American people, being armed, have another option: the ability to defend themselves from military murderers by shooting back at them.

Events in the Middle East are confirming my point. The dictators’ military goons are able and willing to shoot peaceful people with impunity under the guise of protecting “national security.” The citizenry must either submit or continue subjecting themselves to being murdered with the hope that the military goons will finally suffer a crisis of conscience that precludes them from loyally following the orders of their commander in chief. In Libya, it seems that some of the troops are changing sides and taking their weaponry with them, giving the citizens the chance to defend themselves from the government’s murderers.

Federal Judge Alex Konzinski expressed the benefit of gun ownership in the case of Silveira v. Lockyer:

The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that the U.S. and British governments have been among the biggest suppliers of weaponry to the Middle East dictatorships whose militaries are now murdering their own people. In fact, when it comes to arms sales the U.S. government has long been Number 1 in the world. Not surprisingly, U.S. officials have always maintained that the weaponry provided U.S.-supported dictators was for “defense” when in fact it was to ensure “order and stability” by providing the military means for the dictators to suppress any and all resistance among the citizenry to their dictatorships.

Americans are outraged over what the Middle East dictators are doing to maintain their hold on power. Too bad Americans are not outraged over their own government’s decades-long support of the dictatorial tyranny that led up to the protests.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Solution for Wisconsin

The controversy with public schoolteachers in Wisconsin proves, once again, that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference in principle between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. This time, the big battle between the statists is whether state schoolteachers should be allowed to collectively bargain. The conservatives say no. The liberals say yes.

Yawn. Regardless of which way the issue is resolved, it’s not going solve the basic problem: The state of Wisconsin lacks the money to pay its bills and fulfill its commitments.

The latest battle between the statists arises in the context of Wisconsin’s budget woes, which are similar in principle to those in Greece. Like the Greek government, the state of Wisconsin has been spending and borrowing money for years along with making commitments to state pensioners that it cannot keep.

In Wisconsin, as in Greece, the welfare-state chickens are coming home to roost. The state’s revenues are insufficient to pay the bills. State officials, who lack the constitutional authority to simply print money to pay the bills, are having to slash spending, which has sent those who receive the state’s largess on the warpath. “Don’t take away our dole,” they cry.

But in their demand to keep their largess, the dole recipients forget that the state does not have an independent fountain of wealth. To get more money, it must impose heavier taxes on the citizenry, who are already hard-pressed just to make ends meet. Moreover, heavier taxes are likely to drive marginal firms out of business or cause them to leave the state, thereby aggravating the problem.

Wisconsin might just be the first of a string of state dominoes to be falling. With the federal government itself hurtling toward bankruptcy owing to its ever-increasing welfare-warfare state spending and debt, and with such foreign welfare states as Greece and Ireland on the ropes, and now with American state governments in financial straits, the world might just be witnessing the death throes of the welfare state at all levels of government.

Americans would be wise to use this crisis as an opportunity to ask some fundamental questions, especially: “What is the proper role of government in a free society?” Then, people should dismantle all the departments and agencies doing things that government should not be doing and laying off all the bureaucrats who are engaged that illegitimate activity.

One example is charity. The state has no business being in the charity business. Charity is the business of the private sector, which is based on voluntary choices that people make on how to dispose of their wealth. When the state forcibly takes money from one person through taxation and gives it to another person, that’s not charity. It’s legalized theft. Dismantle every single department and agency that’s in the charity business and lay off all the workers.

Another example: the drug war. This decades-long war has wrought nothing but death, destruction, corruption, and ruined lives. Time to ditch it permanently, just as our ancestors did with alcohol prohibition. Legalize drugs and lay off all the bureaucrats, including prosecutors, drug agents, and judges, who depend on the drug war for their income.

A third example: Separate school and state by ending all state involvement in education. Repeal compulsory-attendance laws and school taxes, lay off all the public-school administrators and teachers, and get rid of the school buses and buildings. Rely totally on the free market for education, as we do with religion. Teachers would then be free to negotiate pay in the free market, just as other people in the private sector do.

Will any of this be done? Not if conservative and liberals have their way. They’re convinced that the state should be in the charity business, in the drug-war business, and in the education business. In fact, they simply cannot imagine life without statism.

But reality is mugging people in the face, not only in Greece and Washington but also in Wisconsin and other states. The state simply cannot meet its welfare-state obligations. They can’t tax people more heavily or borrow more money because people in the private sector are not in a financial position to handle higher taxes and more debt.

What to do? It’s time to ask that fundamental question: What should be the role of government in a free society? Once we answer that question, we can then dismantle all the departments, agencies, and bureaucracies that are engaged in illegitimate activity and end all the spending, taxes, and borrowing needed to sustain them..

Friday, February 18, 2011

The U.S. Military Empire Meets Dictatorship in Bahrain

The U.S. Empire includes 750-1,000 military bases in more than 130 countries. The reality of that extensive military empire has come to the forefront in Bahrain, where the authoritarian government in that country is cracking down on protestors with round-ups, jail, torture, and even extra-judicial execution.

Of course, it’s a familiar story, one that is confronting Americans every day. People are risking their lives in the attempt to oust brutal authoritarian dictatorships from power — dictatorships that are partners, allies, friends, and loyal members of the U.S. Empire … and recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid that has been used not only to line the personal pockets of the dictators and their henchmen but also to fund the instruments of torture and pay the salaries of the jailers and torturers themselves.

Now, in Bahrain, we see another factor involved in the U.S. Empire’s support of dictatorship — U.S. foreign military bases — one of the many hundreds all across the world. The dictatorship in Bahrain has permitted the Empire to establish and maintain a base there for the Empire’s Fifth Fleet.

So, why should it surprise anyone that the U.S. government, especially the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would favor the “order and stability” that comes with dictatorship? Hey, democracy is unpredictable. People might not like the idea that a foreign regime maintains a huge military base within their nation. Look at the people of Okinawa, who are trying their best to end the longtime U.S. military occupation of their land. Wouldn’t most Americans resent it if foreign regimes, including Muslim ones, maintained enormous military bases here in the United States?

Dictators are easier to deal with when it comes to U.S. military bases, especially when billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money and military armaments (which can be used to suppress dissent) are placed into his hands of the dictatorship by the Empire. It all makes for a cozy relationship. We’ll line your pockets with cash and give you military armaments to maintain your dictatorship, and you’ll let us keep our military base.

The imperialists say that the Fifth Fleet ensures the flow of oil to the West. That’s inane. It’s sort of like the fly on the automobile wheel that convinces himself that his presence on the wheel is what is propelling the car. Or like the rooster who crows every morning and is convinced that his crowing is bringing up the sun.

It’s no different with respect to the U.S. Empire and its massive overseas military establishments. The Empire is convinced that its presence in the Middle East is what is ensuring the flow of oil needed by the West (including the U.S. government’s massive military machine that consumes so much of the oil).

Not so. The world would function quite well without the Empire’s presence. Owners of oil would sell their oil into the marketplace, just like people sell other things throughout the world. People sell things to make money. Venezuela, whose officials hate the U.S. government, nonetheless sells its own to the United States, not because the U.S Navy is forcing it to do so but because Venezuela wants the money.

Anyway, if owners decide not to sell what they own, that is their right. That’s part of what being an owner is all about — deciding whether to sell and on what terms.

The widespread protests in the Middle East are bringing the ugly reality of U.S. foreign policy into the consciousness of the American people. While most Americans are sympathizing with the people who are risking their lives in resistance to tyranny, Americans are also having to face the discomforting fact that their very own government is, in large part, responsible for the tyranny that those people are opposing. Through a combination of U.S. foreign aid and U.S. foreign military bases, the U.S. government has been partnering with, cozying up to, training, and supporting the tyrannical regimes that foreign citizens are now rebelling against.

Shouldn’t all this give pause to Americans and cause them to begin thinking about rejecting the paradigm of empire and intervention that has held our nation in its grip for so long, including an end to all foreign aid, the closure of all foreign military bases, and the bringing of all the troops home from everywhere and discharging them? As the people of the Middle East rise up against the dictatorships that have brutally oppressed them for so long, hasn’t the time arrived for the American people to restore the paradigm of a constitutionally limited republic and non-interventionism on which our nation was founded?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time to End All Foreign Aid Entirely

Preliminary Note: Just in case you’ve missed them in this week’s FFF Email Updates, here are links to recent FFF videos:

Campaign for Liberty Panel at CPAC with Ivan Eland, Jim Bovard, and Jacob Hornberger.

Jacob Hornberger Show at CPAC featuring Jim Bovard, on “Why Do Conservatives Support Statism?”

FFF Economic Liberty Lecture Series: “Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform” by David E. Bernstein.

Good for Ron Paul. He’s asking for a public vote by every member of the U.S. House of Representatives on an amendment to the fiscal 2011 funding bill that would cut off all foreign aid to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Pakistan. My hunch is that his Republican colleagues are going to resent him to no end for flushing them out into the open with a public vote on such an issue.

After all, don’t Republicans express deep concern over out-of-control federal spending? Don’t they loudly exclaim against the budget deficit — the fact that they are spending $1.6 trillion more than what the IRS is collecting from the taxpayers? Don’t they tell us how wrong it is to continue making the Chinese communist regime one of America’s principal creditors? Don’t they constantly wring their hands over the ever-growing national debt?

Well, what better place to save money than to end foreign aid to foreign regimes? In fact, why limit the termination of foreign aid to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Pakistan? Why not end it to every single regime in the world?

Isn’t it time for Americans to be asking themselves some fundamental questions, such as, “What is the role of government in a free society?” Should the federal government be collecting taxes from the American people in order to transfer the money to foreign regimes? Is that a legitimate role for the U.S. government? Is it a constitutional role? Is it a beneficial role?

Consider all the foreign aid that has been given to foreign dictatorships during the past several decades. The Shah of Iran’s brutal regime in Iran. The brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The brutal dictatorships in Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, and others. The brutal dictatorships in Latin America. The list goes on and on.

Think about it: The money that the IRS has been taking from the American people has been transferred to regimes that have tortured, raped, jailed, executed ,and otherwise oppressed their own people. By having funded the operations, year after year, not to mention the training of the dictatorships’ military forces, the U.S. government has been a co-partner, co-torturer, and co-tyrant in these operations.

“But Jacob, don’t you know that ‘our interests’ require that our government periodically engage in evil conduct.”

Well, if “our interests” necessitate the commission of evil conduct, that’s the time to question such interests or to question whether God has given us a universe in which evil means are required to achieve good ends.

Terrorism? Terrorism against Americans is motivated by the U.S. government’s support of the regimes that are torturing, raping, brutalizing, and oppressing their own people, along with other meddlesome and interventionist acts on the part of the Empire. End the foreign aid, close the overseas bases, and stop the meddling, and the anger and hatred that drives the terrorism dissipates.

Israel? The Israeli government has the responsibility of defending its own nation. If American citizens wish to donate their own money to the Israeli government or join the Israeli forces in the event of war, they should be free to do so. But sending U.S. taxpayer money or materiel to or defending the Israeli government (or any other government) is not a rightful or constitutional role of the U.S. government.

Oil? The oil belongs to those who own it, not to the U.S. government. The owner has the right to sell it or not sell it, as he wishes. Owners of natural resources usually try to maximize their profits by selling, not hoarding, their commodity. Venezuelan officials hate the U.S. government and nonetheless sell oil to the United States. The U.S. government has no legitimate authority to forcibly take oil (or anything else) that doesn’t belong to it or to force someone else to sell his own property.

Since most Americans have been born and raised under an Empire, they have come to believe that life could not exist without it. Their mindset is no different from, say, the Russian people, who were born and raised under socialism and who thought that life could not exist without it.

Nonsense! It is the U.S. Empire itself that is the root cause of the crises and chaos that infects American life. Through its ardent support of dictatorships and other foreign regimes, and its other meddling (e.g., coups, assassinations, invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, and foreign bases), the Empire engenders anger and hatred toward the United States among the victims of the brutality and oppression.

When that anger and hatred ultimately erupts in terrorist retaliation against the United States, the statists cry, “They hate us for our freedom and values,” as if our “freedom and values” included the support of dictatorship, brutality, rape, torture, and other oppressive actions against people. And then, the terrorist retaliation is used as the excuse for such anti-freedom idiocy as the Patriot Act, the war on terrorism, torture, and other anti-terrorist measures that are inherent to the dictatorships the Empire is supporting.

In his column this week, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof talks about how the Middle East protests have expanded to Bahrain, which is ruled by another authoritarian regime:

“At first the protesters just wanted the release of political prisoners, an end to torture and less concentration of power in the al-Khalifa family that controls the country. But, now, after the violence against peaceful protesters, the crowds increasingly are calling for the overthrow of the Khalifa family…. All of this puts the United States in a bind. Bahrain is a critical United States ally because it is home to the American Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Washington has close relations with the Khalifa family.”

So, there you have it — more U.S. government support of horrible authoritarian dictatorships that torture and brutalize their own people. Not just Tunisia. Not just Egypt. Not just Jordan. Not just Pakistan. Not just Iraq. Not just Iran. Not just Saudi Arabia. Not just Latin America.

Everywhere! The U.S. government is one of the world’s principal enablers of dictatorship, torture, oppression, and brutality, especially with its foreign aid to dictatorships—money that the IRS has forcibly extracted from the American people and given to Congress and the president, for transfer to foreign regimes as “foreign aid.”

It’s great that Ron Paul is placing his Republican colleagues on the spot by making them take a public vote on foreign aid, especially given that bankruptcy looms on the horizon for the federal government.

But hasn’t the time come for the American people to do some serious soul-searching on the issue, especially when they’re having a difficult time making ends meet and especially when their government is sending our nation into financial bankruptcy? Wouldn’t this also be an opportune time for soul-searching because of the widespread opposition among people in the Middle East to dictatorial regimes that the U.S. government has been partnering with and supporting with foreign aid?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where’s the American Outrage against U.S. Support of Dictatorships?

Once it became clear that Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak was on the way out, U.S. officials quickly shifted gears and took the side of the demonstrators, the people who had suffered for 30 years under the brutal Mubarak dictatorship. U.S. officials even offered their guidance for moving Egypt toward a democratic political system.

Of course, all this pro-democracy hoopla was designed to disguise the fact that the U.S. government has been the prime partner and enabler of this brutal dictatorship for the entire 30 years under which the Egyptian people have suffered. It has been the U.S. government that has been providing the $60 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to Mubarak and his henchmen in the Egyptian military and secret police. It has been the U.S. government that has been paying the salaries of Egypt’s jailors and torturers for the past three decades. It is the U.S. military that has been training the Egyptian military.

In fact, it’s actually worse than that. Believe it or not, U.S. officials actually cut a deal with Egypt’s torturers to torture people on behalf of the U.S. government. The deal called for the U.S. government to bring people into Egypt, where they would be tortured for information or confession, with the understanding that Mubarak would publicly deny that the prisoners would be tortured.

In that way, U.S. officials could proclaim, “We’re shocked that our prisoner has been tortured because they promised that they wouldn’t torture him.” Of course, it was all a sham, one that would enable U.S. officials to deceitfully express shock over the torture, acquire the information or confession with torture, and then secretly thank their Egyptian partners for employing their torture expertise on their behalf. The torture deal was a testament to the U.S. government’s partnerships with dictatorships.

Supporters of the U.S. Empire might respond, “But Jacob, the U.S. government’s longtime support of the Mubarak dictatorship is an exception because the U.S. government is an exceptional government.”

Well, then explain this paragraph from an article about Yemen in yesterday’sNew York Times: “Yemen, one of the poorest nations in the Middle East, has become a cause of concern for the United States as the protests have spread because Mr. Saleh has supported the fight against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda.”

In other words, here’s another U.S.-supported dictator in the Middle East, one who has been in power as long as Mubarak—30 years! And the U.S. government, which pro-empire advocates say is exceptional, has been partnering with him, just as it did with Mubarak.

What’s the rationale for the U.S. government’s support of this brutal dictatorship in Yemen? The Yemen dictator has served as a loyal partner in the U.S. Empire’s war on terrorism against al Qaeda. And, as everyone knows, the war on terrorism trumps everything else. As in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere, it doesn’t matter how much U.S.-supported dictators oppress, torture, rape, and brutalize their own people. All that matters is that they are loyal members of the Empire, especially when it comes to the war on terrorism.

The irony, of course, is that it is the U.S. Empire’s support of dictatorships in the Middle East that is one of the principal motivations of al Qaeda and other anti-American groups in the Middle East (along with the U.S. Empire’s presence and meddling in the Middle East, including its unconditional financial and military support of the Israeli government).

So, the U.S. government supports the brutal dictatorships that oppress their own people, which inspires anger and rage not only against the dictatorship but also against the United States, which the U.S. government then uses as a justification for its support of the dictatorship. How’s that for empire logic? And when that anger and hatred materializes in terrorist retaliation against the United States, U.S. officials then use that to justify the same type of anti-terrorist measures against the American people that are employed in the brutal dictatorships that they’re supporting.

The solution to this morass of evil is obvious: The American people should require their government to cease all support for dictatorships (and every other foreign regime). They should require their government to dismantle its overseas military empire and bring all the troops home and discharge them. They should prohibit their government from meddling in the affairs of other nations.

With this solution, not only would the anger and hatred against the United States dissipate, the termination of foreign aid would also help alleviate the impending bankruptcy of the United States arising from out-of-control federal spending. Moreover, a principal justification for the U.S. government’s adoption of the type of anti-terrorist measures that are inherent in foreign dictatorships would be removed.

Hasn’t the time arrived for the American people to confront the wrongdoing of their government, much as people in the Middle East are confronting the wrongdoing of their governments? It’s great that Americans are celebrating the toppling of dictators in the Middle East. But my question is: When are Americans going to be become as angry and outraged over their own government’s support of dictatorships as the people who have had to suffer under such dictatorships?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

YAF’s Attack on Ron Paul

I have long pointed out that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between conservatives and liberals in that they are both statist to the core. Sure, it’s true that conservatives love to employ libertarian-type mantras, such as “free enterprise, private property, and limited government,” but when it comes to supporting statist programs, conservatives join forces with liberals.

Examples: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, welfare, foreign aid, government grants, government-business partnerships, drug war, war on poverty, income taxation, and so forth. All these are socialist or interventionist programs that are impossible to reconcile with libertarian-type mantras, but conservatives are as dedicated to preserving them as liberals. With rare exceptions, you’ll never see a conservative calling for the repeal of any of those programs. Their call is always for some reform designed to save the program.

Libertarians, of course, are different. We would repeal every single welfare-state program in existence. Why? Because we stand for free enterprise, private property, and limited government. We believe that people have a natural, God-given right to engage in economic enterprise freely (i.e., free of government control), keep the fruits of their earnings, and decide what to do with their own money. We also have no doubts that a free-market system is the key to prosperity and education and nurtures such values as charity, responsibility, and morality.

Another area in which conservatives and liberals have long been advocates of big government is with respect to the military and foreign policy. This is another area that separates libertarians from statists. Libertarians support a limited-government republic while conservatives and liberals support a vast overseas military empire, wars of aggression, invasions, occupations, sanctions, the CIA, militarism, and the military-industrial complex, along with the ever-growing taxes, debt, and spending needed to pay for it all.

A few days ago, the long-time conservative organization Young Americans for Freedom, once again demonstrated the stark foreign-policy dividing line between conservatives and libertarians. The group publicly ousted Ron Paul from its national advisory board owing to Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views.

In this Daily Caller article, the national vice chairman of YAF, Chris Bedford, explains the reasons for Paul’s expulsion from the group.

Bedford’s article is standard conservative fare with respect to foreign policy, citing first communism and now radical Islam as grave threats that threaten the existence of the United States. Although Bedford doesn’t come out and say it, the implied position is the same that conservatives held during the Cold War: that unfortunately, it is necessary for conservatives to support big government in the form of a vast military empire, hundreds of overseas bases, foreign aid to dictatorial regimes, an enormous military-industrial complex, foreign wars and interventions, and of course ever-soaring budgets for the military and the military-industrial complex.

Libertarians heard this conservative justification for big government during the 45 years of the Cold War. “The only reason we favor big government,” conservatives cried, “is because of the communist threat. If there were no communist threat, we could dismantle big government.”

Revealingly, at no time during the entire Cold War did conservatives ever cite the so-called threat from radical Islam as an excuse for big government. It was all “The communists! They’re coming to get us. They’re everywhere. Look in the State Department and even under your bed. The dominoes are starting to fall. Send the troops into Vietnam. The communists just attacked our ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.”

In fact, one of the things Bedford failed to point out in his article was that during the Cold War conservative icon Ronald Reagan actually supported radical Islamic groups that young conservatives like Bedford now consider an official enemy. If Reagan were alive, he would be boasting about the support that he and conservatives provided to Osama bin Laden and others of that ilk when it was the Soviet communists doing the occupying of Afghanistan.

In 1989, the worst fear of conservatives materialized: Much to their shock, their decades-long justification for big government disintegrated with the unexpected demise of the Soviet Union.

What to do now? Conservatives didn’t hesitate. First, they said that it was a giant communist ruse, one by which the commies were lulling the West into complacency, after which the Berlin Wall would be rebuilt and the communists would come marching toward America. Second, they said, “Our vast military empire can participate in the drug war and in the war against the illegal aliens. Just don’t get rid of big government because our nation still needs it.”

Then, throughout the 1990s, with the ardent support of the conservative movement, the U.S. Empire went into the Middle East to stir up hornet’s nests. The Persian Gulf intervention, in which the Empire went after its old Reagan-Bush partner and ally, the dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iraq sanctions, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous announcement that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it.” The intentional stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands. The unconditional military and financial aid to the Israeli government and Arab dictators, including Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

The inevitable anger and hatred against the United States came in the form of retaliation: the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and of course the 9/11 attacks.

What was the response of conservatives? Marching in lockstep with conservative icon George W. Bush, they responded, “Our government is innocent! The terrorists hate us for our values. The Muslims are going to come and get us. They are everywhere. Look under your beds. The dominoes are starting to drop, beginning with the re-conquista of Spain.”

Yes, the conservatives had found a new official enemy to support their embrace of big government — from communists to drug dealers to illegal aliens and finally to Muslims. Needless to say, the last thing conservatives considered was that it was the U.S. government, which many of them treat as their god, that was at the root of the problem. When Ron Paul pointed out in that famous debate exchange with conservative icon Rudy Guliani that the terrorists came over here to kill us because of what the U.S. government was doing to people over there, conservatives considered that statement to be heresy and treason.

Oddly, in coming up with Islam as their new official enemy to justify their support of big government, conservatives continue to support the fact that U.S. troops are killing and dying for the sake of Islamic regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

YAF’s attack on Ron Paul is actually a good thing in that it clearly exposes a major fault line between conservatives and libertarians. Along with conservative support of the drug war and the welfare state, the conservative attack on Ron Paul with respect to foreign policy provides people with a clear choice: the choice between libertarianism and statism.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dictatorship and Torture Are American Values

Count on U.S. officials, from Obama on down, along with their conservative supporters, to bring some hilarity into the events occurring in Egypt. Don’t you just love watching them on television providing their advice and counsel to the Egyptian people on how to achieve democracy and offering their guidance for the future?

“This is Earth calling the U.S. government. Come in, U.S. government.”

Hey, dudes, have you so quickly forgotten the role that the U.S. government has played in the tyrannical regime that the Egyptian people have risked to lives to resist? It was you people and your predecessors who propped up the dictatorship against which the Egyptian people finally revolted. It was you people who have been paying the salaries of the dictator himself and his team of oppressors and torturers for 30 years. It was the U.S. government that was purchasing the tear gas canisters and bullets. It was you people who were providing the instruments of torture that the Mubarak regime used against the people. It was you who were funding the dictator’s secret police. It was you who were training and arming his military. It was you who were partnering with his torture team to torture people on behalf of your own torture team, the CIA, so that U.S. officials could deceitfully say to the American people, “We are an exceptional government because we don’t torture.”

It is the U.S. government, whose officials are now offering their democracy-guidance services to the Egyptian people, who is co-responsible for the oppression and the tyranny under which the Egyptian people have been suffering for the last 30 years. It is you — the U.S. government, including the Congress, the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA — who are the enabler, the partner, the co-oppressor, the co-tyrant.

You knew what the Egyptian tyrants were doing to their own people. You watched them. You assisted them. You supported them. You gave them, year after year, the billions of dollars in U.S.-taxpayer money that paid for it all.

And what was your rationale? “Our interests.” According to you, all that torture, oppression, brutality, and tyranny, while no doubt “regrettable,” was necessary to protect “our interests.”

Don’t forget that your mindset was no different when your brutal sanctions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children for more 10 years. As your ambassador to the United Nations put it, the deaths of all those innocent children were “worth it.” After all, “our interests” were at stakes!

And now, you have the gall to offer your democracy-spreading guidance and advice to the victims of the oppression, torture, brutality, and terror that you supported and enabled for 30 years. Have you no shame at all, especially given the fact that you are simultaneously lamenting and grieving over the loss of a “good friend,” one who was willing to torture anyone on your behalf whenever he was asked, and, even better, deny that he was doing it? You’re right: It’s not easy to find a good friend like that. No wonder you’re so sad about his loss of power.

One question, President Obama: If victims of Mubarak’s U.S.-supported oppression and tyranny retaliate with a terrorist attack against the United States for the U.S. government’s having knowingly participated in the oppression and tyranny in Egypt, will you respond in the same way that President Bush responded after the 9/11 attacks, with the assertion, “The terrorists just hate us for our values”?

If so, you will be speaking the truth because thanks to the U.S. government, dictatorship and torture are American values.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Obama: Egyptians Are Too Dumb for Democracy

Flip-flopping over events in Egypt, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have decided that it would be a bad idea for unelected Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to immediately resign from office. Their reason? Under Egypt’s constitution, Mubarak’s departure from power would require national elections to be held within 60 days.

What’s wrong with that? Obama and Clinton say that the Egyptian people could not adequately organize themselves for elections in such a short period of time. Therefore, Obama and Clinton cavalierly suggest, it is preferable for the Egyptian people to continue suffering under brutal and tyrannical U.S.-supported tyranny until September.

In other words, according to Obama and Clinton the Egyptian people are simply too dumb to organize elections and run campaigns within a 2-month period of time.

Of course, another possible reason is that free-wheeling elections could bring people to office who don’t like the U.S. government, especially because it’s the U.S. government that has been propping up the dictatorship that has been oppressing the Egyptian people for 30 years.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t there special elections sometimes in the United States that are held within a short period of time? But of course, no doubt Obama and Clinton would say that those elections are run by Americans, and everyone knows how smart Americans are.

Well, actually, not so! In reality, the powers-that-be in the United States consider American voters to be dumb too. That’s the ostensible rationale behind ballot-access barriers all across the United States, including burdensome petitioning requirements, limits on campaign contributions, and tens of thousands of election regulations, all of which are designed to ensure that American voters are not confused by too many candidates on the ballot.

Here in Virginia, for example, rarely are voters treated to more than two candidates for statewide office. The reason? Horribly burdensome and expensive petitioning requirements. For example, if a poor, inner-city African American who opposed the racism of the drug war wanted to run for statewide office, for all practical purposes he would not be able to do so. Why? First, he would be required to secure 10,000 valid signatures from registered voters, which means he would have get about 16,000 to be safe. Could he get all the signatures from his part of town? Nope. He would be required to get them from all across the state, which means he would have to spend money on travel and hotels while securing the signatures. Then, he would have to find places that would permit him to get signatures, including in certain parts of Virginia in which well-to-do white people might well not like being approached for a signature by a poorly dressed, inner-city black calling for drug legalization.

The real purpose of ballot-access restrictions, both at the state and federal levels, is to preserve the Democrat-Republic monopoly grip on power. As I have long pointed out, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans. They belong to one party — the welfare-warfare party — and their fights are over who is going to get to control the reins of power and the largess that comes with such power.

The determination that Republicans and Democrats have to continue their monopoly control over American politics is no different, in principle, than the determination by Mubarak’s party to maintain its decades-long monopoly control in Egypt. That’s why Obama and Clinton and many Republicans are so unsympathetic to quick elections in Egypt. Statists know that such democratic “chaos” could easily upend monopoly control over the political system.

Several years ago, there was a quick election for governor in California. Due to some quirk in the election law, anyone could run for governor in the election without having to comply with the standard burdensome ballot-access restrictions. My recollection is that there were about 50 candidates for governor. It was an exciting, free-wheeling election in which people got to consider a wide range of candidates and positions and then make their choice.

Some would undoubtedly argue that the voters were too dumb to be able to consider so many candidates, as evidenced by their election of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Others would say: So what, democracy entails the right of people to elect whomever they want to public office. Still others would say: Everyone should have the right to run for office, and it was a good thing that California voters had so many choices.

But that was an exception. Take my word for it: Thanks to ballot-access barriers established by the monopoly party here in Virginia, voters will never get to choose between 50 candidates for governor, including any poor, inner-city African-American from Richmond or Norfolk. The powers-that-be have ensured that their monopoly hold on power will never be threatened by democratic “chaos.” And they get away with it by intimating that voters are just too dumb for democracy anyway, just like the people of Egypt.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Search of Monsters to Support

On July 4, 1821, U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams delivered a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in which he observed that America was founded on principles of liberty and limited government that precluded our nation from going abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.” The idea was that although people in different parts of the world might be suffering under the yolk of brutal and monstrous dictators, it would not be the role of the U.S. government to send its troops abroad to save them.

While President Obama continues his dithering toward events in Egypt, one thing remains clear: Obama has no intention of turning off the spigot of U.S. foreign aid to the Egyptian brutes, including Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak and his right-hand henchman Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s torturer-in-chief whom Mubarak recently elevated to the vice presidency. Suleiman, you will recall, is the man who headed up Egypt’s torture program and was, in fact, the CIA’s partner in the U.S. government’s rendition-torture program, before Mubarak made him vice-president.

Obama’s continuation of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid to the Egyptian dictatorship reflects how far the statists have plunged America in terms of moral principles. Neither Adams nor any of America’s Founding Fathers could have ever imagined that our nation would be converted into one that went abroad not only in search of monsters to destroy but also monsters to support.

The statists cry, “We have to continue supporting the monsters with U.S. taxpayer money because ‘our interests’ are at stake.” Apparently they are referring to such things as “our dependence on foreign oil” or the “safety of Israel.”

Do the ends ever justify the employment of immoral means? Indeed, has God actually created a universe in which it is moral to sacrifice the lives, limbs, and liberty of innocent people for the sake of political goals? If an end depends on the employment of immoral means, then that’s the time to either question the end or come up with moral means to achieve the end. I submit that God has created a consistent universe — one in which bad means beget bad ends, in which good ends can be achieved with moral means, and in which immoral means can never be justified.

For the last two weeks, the rebellion of the Egyptian people against the monsters who have oppressed them for 30 years has shined the light on the U.S. government’s support of monsters. The tyrannical government that the Egyptian people are trying to topple is one whose power has been built up over the past three decades with U.S. taxpayer money, provided by the U.S. government, with the support of both conservative and liberal statists.

The arbitrary arrests in the middle of the night. The torture chambers, among the world’s most gruesome. The torturers, who are among the finest and most experienced in the world. The extra-judicial executions. All bought, paid for, and maintained with U.S. foreign aid, aid that Obama intends to continue.

While Obama and his people continue their flip-flops, their hand-wringing, their posturing, and their straddling over Egypt, it’s time for us to restore a sense of morality to our nation. Turn off the spigot to the Egyptian monsters, Mr. President. Do it now and do permanently. Don’t set conditions. Don’t negotiate. Just end it. Better yet, turn off the foreign aid spigot to every regime in the world, monstrous or not.

The time has come to restore our nation’s founding principles. It’s time that America stopped going abroad in search of monsters to destroy and monsters to support.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mubarak and the Income Tax

As it continues to seep into the consciousness of the American people that their very own government — the U.S. government — has been the primary financial supporter of the Mubarak dictatorship for the past 30 years, the fact that April 15 is approaching provides a good opportunity for the American people to do some soul-searching.

While it is the U.S. government that has provided the billions of dollars in cash and military armaments that has enriched Mubarak and his cohorts and provided them the means to punish, torture, intimidate, imprison, and kill those who dissent, Americans should keep in mind where the money came from.

That’s where the income tax comes into play. The federal income tax provides the revenue to the U.S. government that ends up in the hands of people like Mubarak and his henchmen.

As Americans scramble to file their federal income tax returns and pay their income taxes by April, they should keep in mind where their hard-earned money is going, especially if they’re having trouble making ends meet, covering health care costs, and paying for children’s education.

As the Egyptian people continue struggling to overcome the horrible tyranny and oppression under which they have been suffering for 30 years, Americans need to be asking themselves some fundamental questions:

1. Why did our American ancestors live without income taxation for more than 100 years?

2. Why shouldn’t Americans be free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it?

3. To what extent is a citizen morally responsible for the evil things that are done by his own government with the monies extracted from him through the federal income tax, especially where the citizen is supporting the concepts of income taxation and foreign aid?

4. Why shouldn’t the American people prohibit their government from distributing money and armaments to any foreign regime and, indeed, from interfering in the affairs of other nations?

5. Why did our American ancestors establish a system in which the federal government would not go abroad in search of monsters to support or monsters to destroy and in which the American private sector was free to travel and trade and interact with the people of the world?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Courage to Confront the Darkness

The Chilean government is investigating hundreds of cases of human-rights abuses under the dictatorial regime of army Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who took power in a violent coup in 1973. Notably, the probe will include an investigation into the death of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of the country who Pinochet and his military henchmen ousted in the coup. At the time, it was determined that Allende committed suicide. The investigators will attempt to determine whether he wasn’t actually murdered instead.

It’s ironic that the investigation is taking place today, given the widespread publicity about the U.S. government’s 30-year-long support of the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. The U.S. government was also among the Pinochet dictatorship’s biggest supporters.

The U.S. government, including the CIA, has long denied any participation in the Chilean coup. Some have doubted the credibility of that denial, however, given the U.S. government’s ardent support of Allende’s ouster after his election, the CIA regime-change coups in Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954), and the repeated attempts at regime change in Cuba, including assassination attempts, during the Kennedy administration.

A statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger after Allende’s election perfectly sums up the mindset that has long guided U.S. foreign policy, including with respect to Egypt: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

There is another reason for believing that the CIA participated in the Chilean coup: the CIA’s participation in the murder of a young American journalist named Charles Horman who was living in Chile at the time. Horman’s murder was the subject of a movie titled Missing which starred Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. For years, the CIA denied any role in the killing, but in 1999 a State Department document was declassified that revealed that the CIA had been lying the whole time and that it had, in fact, played a role in Horman’s murder. How does an agency play in role in the murder of American citizen during a military coup while, at the same time, playing no role in the coup itself.

What role did the CIA actually play in Horman’s murder? We don’t know. Neither the Congress nor the Justice Department issued any subpoenas to the CIA to testify about the murder and the identities of the CIA agents involved in the murder.

The Pinochet regime was characterized by arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, rapes, torture, extra-judicial executions, and other human-rights abuses. It was all done in the name of protecting the nation from the communists and the terrorists. Not surprisingly, U.S. officials, especially those in the CIA and the Pentagon, fully supported the Pinochet military dictatorship, just as they have fully supported the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. The notion was that Pinochet, like Mubarak, brought “order and stability” to the country, as compared to democracy, where people make mistakes, like electing socialists, communists, or people who simply wish their governments to be free of U.S. government control.

The people of Chile are confronting their dark past. The people of Egypt are confronting their dark present. Wouldn’t it be great if the American people did both?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shared Values in the U.S. and Egypt

On the surface of it, one might reasonably ask how it is that President Barack Obama and other U.S. statists feel so comfortable having the U.S. government partner with a brutal dictator like Hosni Mubarak. In an attempt to excuse the partnership, U.S. statists argue that such a thing, even if distasteful, is a necessary part of protecting the national security of the United States. However, there is actually a much more realistic reason: Shared values. Barack Obama and Hosni Mubarak, and their respective statist supporters, share the same values.

Look at Obama’s proposed “solution” to the “problem” of the massive anti-government protests in Egypt. He’s willing to see Mubarak go to ease tensions but only if Mubarak’s hand-selected vice-president, Omar Suleiman, is selected to rein in his stead. Why do Obama and U.S. statists love Suleiman? Because he’s one of their type of people — the man in charge of Egypt’s CIA who was responsible for torturing people at the behest of the U.S. CIA. As such, he’s able to continue providing “order and stability” while continuing Egypt’s partnership with the United States.

After all, democracy is unpredictable. The voters can make mistakes and put the wrong person into power. Through the maintenance of “order and stability,” the military and the intelligence services are able to protect the nation from the possibility or consequences of such a mistake.

Here in the United States, you have the pretense of a democratic system, with Republicans versus Democrats, but when you pierce through to reality, you realize that it’s really just one big political charade. There is one political party — the welfare-warfare party — that is divided into two wings, Democrats and Republicans, who complete against each other to gain control over the political largess that comes with running the welfare-warfare state.

For all practical purposes, the welfare-warfare party has a monopoly on power, one that it does not intend to relinquish. That’s the purpose of the campaign finance laws — the limits on contributions — the extensive campaign regulations that are enforced with the threat of heavy fines and perhaps even criminal prosecution. The purpose of all the rules and regulations is to make things as difficult and expensive as possible for outside candidates — that is, those who oppose the welfare-warfare paradigm — to run for office and win.

For example, here in Virginia, hardly anyone outside the mainstream parties ever runs for statewide office. The reason? The monopoly party has made it too difficult and too expensive to do so. The argument against letting whoever wants to run for office do so is that the voters would be too confused having too many candidates on the ballot.

Oh, by the way, did you know that there are periodic elections in Egypt under Mubarak? See, it’s not as if they don’t have democracy, just like we do here in the United States.

What about the standing army and the military-industrial complex? Like here in the United States, the military plays a dominant role in Egyptian life. Also, like here in the United States, the dominance of the military is permanent. There is no possibility that the military in either Egypt or the United States would ever willingly relinquish the major role it plays in society.

In Egypt, the military-industrial complex is so extensive that it even owns and operates businesses across Egypt. Here in the United States, it is difficult to measure the enormous extent to which private-sector businesses depend on military contracts. And, of course, everyone is aware of the deep dependency that U.S. states and localities have on military bases.

Like here in the United States, the military and intelligence forces in Egypt justify their existence by resorting to national security, the war on terrorism, and the war on drugs. If it weren’t for the military and the intelligence services keeping people safe, the story goes, the two nations would quickly succumb to conquest from the terrorists and the drug dealers.

What about corporatism in Egypt — the system of crony capitalism by which people get rich by virtue of their connections to the state? Isn’t that what America’s system of corporatism is all about? What red-blooded American statist opposes America’s decades-long system of welfare largess for the privileged?

What about the welfare state and controlled economy that have produced so much economy misery for the Egyptian people? It goes without saying that Barack Obama and his statist supporters embrace such a paradigm as enthusiastically as the Egyptian statists.

Torture, indefinite detention, spying on the citizenry, and national-security courts? What better example of shared values than in the infringement of civil liberties? Does anyone really think it’s a coincidence that Egypt serves as one of the places that the CIA renditions its prisoners? Egypt has long been renowned for being one of the finest torture countries in the world, and it boasts some of the worlds’ finest torture facilities and most experienced torturers.

Indefinite detention and spying on the citizenry were a hallmark in Egypt long before the 9/11 attacks that were used to justify such practices here in the United States. And national security courts and military tribunals to try suspected terrorists are something that both U.S. statists and Egyptian statists enthusiastically embrace.

It’s undoubtedly a bit uncomfortable for U.S. statists to have so much publicity about the U.S. Empire’s longtime partnership with the Egyptian dictatorship. But really, no one should be surprised over the partnership. Partners usually have shared values.

Friday, February 4, 2011

We Need a Foreign-Policy Revolution Here at Home

If only the American people were as angry and outraged over the U.S. government’s partnerships with foreign dictatorships as the Egyptian people are with the U.S-supported dictatorship under which they have been suffering for 30 years. If that were the case, we would stand a good chance of restoring a limited-government republic to our land. So far it seems, however, Americans are still deferring to authority in the quaint belief that the conservative-liberal vision of an interventionist foreign policy is the way to go.

Look at the various positions that are being taken by the statists, both liberals and conservatives. All of a sudden, some of them have become born-again democracy supporters, calling on Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak to resign. Others, especially in the conservative camp, are still clinging to the dictatorship with the conviction that dictatorship brings “order and stability” while democracy brings “chaos and disorder.”

Make no mistake about it: If the Egyptian people were still quietly suffering under the U.S.-supported dictatorship under which they’ve suffered for 30 years, both liberals and conservatives would be doing what they’ve been doing for 30 years—ardently supporting the Egyptian dictatorship and continuing to send it billions of dollars, especially in military armaments that have ensured “order and stability” through a terrifying regime of torture and terrorism against the Egyptian people.

Not surprisingly, President Obama has a plan for Egypt. Statists always have a plan. The notion that foreigners should be left alone to manage their own problems doesn’t even enter the mind of a statist. In Obama’s mind, the U.S. government must manage affairs in Egypt, in the name of protecting “national security” and the interests of the U.S. Empire.

What’s Obama’s plan? To have the U.S. government’s old, loyal partner, Mubarak, resign in favor of Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman. Who’s he? you ask. Well, only Egypt’s torturer-in-chief. You know, the guy that conservative President George W. Bush partnered with to torture U.S. prisoners on behalf of the United States so that Bush and his people could tell Americans, “The U.S. government continues to be exceptional because unlike dictatorial regimes, we don’t torture people.”

Can you see how there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between liberals and conservatives? Their foreign-policy vision is the same — interventionism through such lovely devices as coups, assassinations, support of dictatorships, invasions, occupations, foreign aid, kidnapping, rendition, and torture. But when it all starts to collapse through resistance to tyranny, many of the statists all of sudden become enthusiastic democracy-lovers. Can you see why so many foreigners hate the U.S. government for its duplicity and hypocrisy?

Leave it to conservative statists though to inject a bit of humor into the situation, albeit unintentionally. Some of them are claiming that George W. Bush’s violent invasion and war of aggression against Iraq and against the Empire’s old, loyal partner Saddam Hussein inspired the pro-democracy protests in Egypt. Why is that funny? Because it was Bush and his people who cut the torture deal with the guy that Obama now wants to make president of Egypt!

Bush was using the CIA to kidnap people and then rendition them to Egypt where Vice President Suleiman, who was head of Egypt’s CIA before he was elevated in a non-democratic way to the vice presidency. As director of Mubarak’s CIA, Suleiman coordinated with Bush’s CIA to torture people on behalf of the U.S. Empire.

So, I suppose conservatives are saying, “Bush inspired the pro-democracy protests by employing Egypt’s torture machinery, which the Empire’s partner Mubarak was using against the Egyptian people, for the benefit of the U.S. Empire.” If you’re having trouble understanding the logic, I can sympathize.

Oh, did I mention that Suleiman received some of his training at the Pentagon’s military schools here in the United States?

The statist vision of interventionism, which liberal and conservative statists have imported to our land, is not limited to Egypt. The statists have been supporting dictatorships and partnering with them ever since World War II.

Just ask the people of Latin America, where right-wing death squads who were raping and massacring the citizenry received their training at the infamous School of the Americas, which is still renowned for the torture manuals that it used in its training.

What about all that chaos and disorder that liberal and conservative statists fear? What they fear is the anger and hatred that the pro-democracy crowd is going to have to the United States, given that it’s the U.S. government that is, in large part, responsible for their tyranny and oppression. Why wouldn’t they be angry about that? You don’t see any anger directed to Switzerland, whose government minds its own business, do you? No, the anger is directed to the intervener, interloper, and meddler-in-chief, the U.S. government.

Here’s the libertarian vision: Prohibit the U.S. government from intervening in the affairs of other nations. Prohibit it from trying to get its people in public office in foreign lands. End all foreign aid to every single regime in the world. Dismantle all U.S. foreign military bases and bring all the troops home and discharge them. End all mutual defense treaties and alliances. Lift all U.S. embargoes and sanctions everywhere. Open the borders to receive people suffering from foreign dictatorships. Liberate the private sector — the American people — to travel and trade freely with the people of the world.

That was the vision on which our nation was founded. We need to restore it with a peaceful revolution here at home.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What about That Egyptian Anti-Terrorist Law?

There’s one part of the dictatorial tyranny in Egypt against which the Egyptian people are protesting that might make American statists very uncomfortable, which is perhaps why they’re not focusing too much attention on it. It’s the part that deals with the temporary “emergency law” that the Mubarak dictatorship enacted after assuming the reins of power with the assassination of President Anwar el –Sadat in 1982.

Can you guess why American statists might feel a bit uncomfortable with that part of the Mubarak tyranny against which the Egyptian people are protesting?

The Egyptian dictatorship’s response to the Sadat assassination was similar to the U.S. government’s response to the 9/11 attacks. In Egypt the assassination was used to justify an emergency law that empowered the dictator to arrest people without charge, detain people indefinitely, curtail freedom of speech and assembly, and to create a special security court to try terrorists.

Sound familiar? After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government adopted its enemy combatant doctrine, opened up its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, embraced indefinite detention and torture, suspended habeas corpus, opened up secret prison camps in foreign counties, kidnapped and renditioned people to foreign regimes (including Egypt) to be tortured, announced that its anti-terrorist operations were beyond the reach of the federal courts, and even held that if an accused terrorist was acquitted by a federal court such a verdict would not be binding on the U.S. military.

Interestingly, the Mubarak dictatorship sought and secured its temporary emergency powers from the Egyptian Parliament, while the Bush administration simply implemented its temporary emergency measures by decree. Well, except for the Patriot Act, which Congress was asked to approve.

According to this May 10, 2010, article in the New York Times, Egyptian officials promised that their emergency law would only be temporary and would apply only to terrorists and drug dealers.

Sound familiar? U.S. authorities have always maintained that their emergency powers were temporary too — that they would be lifted as soon as the war on terrorism was over. While U.S. officials have always claimed that their emergency powers would apply only to terrorists, there have been repeated implications that they could ultimately be applied to drug dealers, especially in areas where the war on terrorism intersected with the war on drugs.

Given the close relationship between the U.S. government and the Egyptian dictatorship —and especially between the U.S. military and the Egyptian military — for the last 30 years, one cannot help but wonder whether the Egyptian dictatorship’s emergency measures weren’t used as model for the U.S. government’s emergency measures after 9/11.

According to the Times, Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said that “the government was having difficulty finding the right balance between protecting the nation and civil liberties, comparing the challenge to President Obama’s difficulties in closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and comparing the law to the Patriot Act, adopted in the United States after Sept. 11, 2001.”

It seems that the Egyptian people have achieved a breakthrough and have come to recognize that their government’s emergency powers are a crock and a guise for tyranny. That’s not likely to sit well with American statists. They are still holding fast to the notion that that their government’s emergency powers are a pro-freedom device to keep Americans safe from the terrorists and the drug dealers.

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.