Monday, October 31, 2011
Greek Bailout Delays the Inevitable
The European Union’s bailout of Greece will only delay the inevitable because it doesn’t get to the root of the problem — Greece’s welfare state, along with the fierce refusal of the Greek citizenry to abandon the welfare-state way of life.
It’s amusing to watch Greek citizens protest so vehemently against Germany, whose taxpayers have just been plundered to bail out the beleaguered Greek government. It’s also amusing to watch those same Greek citizens protest any reductions in welfare in Greece.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell:
The Greek people want the government to take care of them with free welfare benefits. Where do the Greek people expect the government to get the money to pay for those free welfare benefits? They don’t care. They just know that it’s the government’s job to take care of people by providing them with free welfare benefits. How the government gets its money is no concern of the Greek citizenry. That’s the government’s problem.
For a while, the government taxes the rich and uses the money to make the welfare payments. More and more people sign up for the free welfare payments and, in fact, start demanding higher free welfare benefits. At some point the demand for benefits gets so high that the government begins taxing the middle class. Ultimately, as recipients of the welfare dole increase, along with the amount of the dole, the government begins taxing everyone.
Ultimately, the amount of the tax revenues cannot keep up with the amount being paid in free welfare payments. So, the government starts borrowing the difference by issuing bonds. Purchasers of the bonds figure that their investment is safe because the Greek government has the power to tax people in order to repay the bonds. As the welfare sector continues to increase, the government’s debt continues to soar.
Finally, things get to a point where the government’s tax receipts are insufficient to make the welfare payments, the debt payments, and pay the expenses of government. The government is broke, busted. It’s a deadbeat. To make its payments, it would have to tax and destroy the private sector, and even that would not be sufficient.
You would think that this would be an opportune time for people to challenge the fundamental premises of the welfare-state paradigm. Alas, not so. By this time, people have become too dependent on the dole, just like someone on heroin. They cannot imagine life without the dole.
What happens if a heroin supplier runs out of heroin? The addict looks for another supplier, which is what the Greek people and the Greek government have done. They just looked to Germany and other EU countries to tax their citizens and send the loot to the Greek government, which it is using to make debt payments and welfare payments.
But it’s only a temporary fix because the Greek people are unequivocally committed to the welfare-state way of life. They will continue to demand their dole and at ever-increasing levels. They won’t care where the Greek government gets the money. All they care about is that their dole be maintained. The government will continue taxing and borrowing and looking to foreign regimes to subsidize the free Greek welfare payments.
Ultimately, however, foreign taxpayers will finally say “No more” and refuse to be looted for the sake of the Greek welfare recipients, and investors will refuse to buy Greek bonds, and the gig will be up. Of course, the statists will blame free enterprise, greed, the banksters, the speculators, and maybe the illegal aliens rather than confront the root of the problem — the welfare-state paradigm itself, a failed, destructive, and immoral paradigm if there ever was one.
Americans should take heed because they are, in principle, in no different position than the Greek citizenry. Ever since the advent of the modern-day welfare state under the Franklin Roosevelt administration, the number of people on the dole — and the amount of the dole itself—has continued to soar, decade after decade. Moreover, American dole recipients are just as fiercely resistant as the Greek citizens about losing any portion of their dole. Like their Greek counterparts, Americans have become hopelessly addicted to the dole, unable to imagine life without it. Just propose the immediate abolition of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, farm subsidies, or corporate bailouts, and you’ll see what I mean. The recipients of those free welfare benefits, along with the supporters of statism, will scream like banshees and claim that they’ll die without them.
American statists say, “Don’t worry. We’re not like Greece. We’re rich. We have lots more people to tax here than they do in Greece.” That’s true but we also have something else that Greece doesn’t have: a vast military empire that sucks off the private sector as much as the welfare-state sector does. Bases all over the world, occupations of two countries, assassination programs, torture facilities, secret prisons, suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors, and fancy jets and golf courses for the generals and admirals. And most important, a fierce determination on the part of the warfare-state dole recipients to oppose any reduction of their dole, much less a total dismantling of the empire. We’re told that “national security” is at stake. Without this vast military empire, the nation will supposedly fall to the communists, or the terrorists, or the drug dealers, or the illegal aliens.
Like Greece, the U.S. government’s tax revenues have not kept up with the welfare-state and warfare-state payments. So, like Greece, the U.S. government has borrowed the difference, and continues to do so. The government’s debt continues to soar out of control, while the dole recipients in both the welfare-state sector and the warfare-state sector fiercely resist even small reductions in their dole.
When the day of reckoning comes for the United States, unlike Greece there will be no foreign taxpayers lining up to bail out the U.S. government. There’s too much anger and resentment against the United States for that to happen. Instead, count on the Federal Reserve to do what it has done for decades — plunder and loot people through the debasement of their money. The Fed will print and inject into the system vast new quantities of fiat money, in order to continue making payments to its welfare-state recipients, its warfare-state recipients, and its ever-growing list of creditors.
None of this can end well. But with crisis comes opportunity. The crisis facing our country provides us with the opportunity to lead our nation and the world out of the statist morass. Let us seize it before it’s too late. The best place to start is by challenging the premises of the welfare-state and warfare-state way of life and by restoring a free-market, limited-government republic to our land.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Chalmers Johnson’s Libertarian Foreign Policy
Whenever someone asks me how he can learn more about the libertarian perspective on foreign policy, I recommend Chalmers Johnson. Johnson, who recently passed away, was a liberal, not a libertarian. But there are few people who have a better handle on foreign policy from a libertarian perspective than Johnson did. If you want to truly understand the foreign-policy problems facing our country and what we need to do about them, read Chalmers Johnson.
The best thing to do is to read the four books authored by Johnson:
If instead would like to begin reading articles by Johnson, I’ve posted some links below that provide many of Johnson’s articles that are posted online. Undoubtedly there are more but these links will give you a good start. By just reading these articles, you will have an excellent grasp of foreign policy from a libertarian perspective. Then, you can decide whether to go further and read the books.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The extraordinary power of the U.S. government to assassinate people has, once again, been manifested in the assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. No, that’s not Anwar al-Awlaki, the American Muslim cleric whom U.S. officials recently assassinated in Yemen. That’s Abdulrahm al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki.
There are several things that are especially fascinating about the U.S. government’s assassination of this American teenager, who apparently traveled to Yemen looking for his father before his father was assassinated:
First, the U.S. government has assassinated a minor.
Second, no one except the assassins knows why they assassinated the boy.
Third, the people who planned and carried out the assassination — from President Obama, to the Pentagon, to the CIA — aren’t talking.
Fourth, nobody can force them to explain why they killed the boy.
The assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki reveals in stark clarity where the U.S. government’s imperialist foreign policy and resulting war on terrorism have brought us as nation and as a people. We now live in a country in which the president and his military and paramilitary forces now wield the omnipotent authority to assassinate anyone they want, anywhere in the world, with impunity and without having to provide an explanation to anyone.
In a news story on the assassination of the boy, Time magazine cites a young friend of Abdulrahman asking, “Who can’t America kill?”
Indeed! The fact, as discomforting as it might be, is that the president, the military, and the CIA can now kill anyone they want for whatever reason they want, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. The assassination of 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki confirms the extent of this extraordinary post-9/11 power now wielded by the U.S. national-security state.
It’s never been made clear the precise reasons for the assassination of the boy’s father, Anwar al-Awlaki. Some people speculate that it’s because he was exhorting Muslims to resist U.S. imperialist policies with violence. Others speculate that it was because he was actually conspiring to commit terrorist attacks against the United States. Others suggest that it was because he was purportedly a member of al-Qaeda. Others say it was because he was committing treason.
Neither President Obama, nor the Pentagon, nor the CIA have ever provided an explanation for the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, confirming, once again, that we now live in a country where government officials can assassinate anyone they want, foreigners and Americans alike, with impunity.
Why assassinate the 16-year old boy?
Was he supposedly doing what his father was doing? Was he allegedly exhorting Muslims to resist U.S. imperialism with force? Was he allegedly conspiring to commit terrorist attacks himself? Was he supposed to be a member of al-Qaeda?
We don’t know. The only people who know are President Obama, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CIA and, again, they’re not talking and, under the war on terrorism, are apparently not required to talk.
According to that Time magazine article, some unidentified U.S. official is quoted as saying that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” — collateral damage in the assassination of an alleged al-Qaeda terrorist who was killed as part of the same strike.
One problem, of course, is that that information might well be false, especially since it’s not under oath and comes from an unidentified official. Thus, the information is worthless insofar as understanding why the assassins ended the child’s life. Another problem is that even if the claim is true, an obvious question arises: Did the assassins know that 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was present and, therefore, would likely be killed in the attack?
Perhaps I should mention that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki wasn’t the only teenager assassinated in the attack. Also assassinated were his teenage cousin and six other people with whom he was having dinner. Were they also alleged to have been terrorists? Again, we just don’t know. The president, the Pentagon, and the CIA just aren’t talking and apparently don’t have to.
Did the U.S government assassinate Abdulrahman al-Awlaki because he was the son of an alleged terrorist? Did they assassinate him to send a message to other would-be terrorists — that this is what will happen to your children (or other relatives) if you oppose the U.S. Empire? Did they assassinate him to preclude the possibility of his growing up with a thirst for vengeance and retaliation arising out of the assassination of his father?
We just don’t know. I think the idea is that while the government is disappearing people from life through assassination, we, the citizenry, are expected to not dwell on such things and instead to simply continue going about our daily lives with the understanding that the government is doing what is necessary to keep us safe.
But one thing is for sure: The assassination of 16-year-old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki confirms that we now live in a country whose government has the unfettered authority to assassinate anyone it wants, adult or minor, foreigner or American, and remain mute about it.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Investigate the Torture Partnerships
American military statists, along with U.S. officials, are glorifying the U.S. government’s opposition to the dictators in Libya, Syria, and Egypt. They’re saying that such opposition shows that the U.S. government is concerned about the people suffering under those dictatorships and just wants to help them out by bringing them freedom and democracy.
But there is something dreadfully wrong with that picture. The statists and U.S. officials are forgetting that there is a dark side to this tale. That dark side involves the U.S. government’s torture partnerships with those very same dictators.
In the interests of truth, morality, and transparency, the American people are owed a full and complete explanation of these torture partnerships — their background, their terms, their longevity, and their consequences.
We begin with the discomforting fact that the U.S. government partnered with Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad — the very same dictators that the U.S. government later turned against. The purpose of those torture partnerships was to have the dictatorships torture people whom the U.S. government was kidnapping in other countries and labeling as “terrorists.”
Why did the U.S. government select those particular dictatorships to torture the people it was kidnapping? We don’t know for sure because U.S. officials aren’t talking, but the most likely reason is that when U.S. officials were going down the list of possible regimes to torture people on their behalf, they finally settled on the best ones — that is, the ones who were most brutal in torturing people. After all, if one wants someone tortured, why select regimes that might be squeamish about torturing people? It stands to reason that the U.S. government would want the best torturers in the world to torture suspected terrorists on its behalf.
But those are the types of questions that need to be answered by U.S. officials, along with lots of others.
Which U.S. officials made the initial contacts with Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad? When was contact initially established? Who negotiated the terms of the torture partnerships on behalf of both regimes? What were the final terms of the torture partnerships? Were they put into writing and, if so, why can’t the American people see the contents of the contract? Were the partnerships indefinite in nature or did they expire after a certain point in time? Are any of the torture partnerships still in existence? Are there other torture partnerships with other dictatorships around the world and, if so, what are their background, terms, and conditions?
How many people were tortured pursuant to these torture partnerships? Who were they? What exactly was done to them as part of the torture regimen? Did any of them die? Were any of them permanently injured by the torture? Where are those who were tortured today?
Until Americans get the full details on the U.S. government’s torture partnerships, the U.S. government’s belated opposition to Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Assad has all the appearance of a sham — a façade, one in which the U.S. government is presenting a false and fake outward appearance to the world.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, how can one reconcile the U.S. government’s torture partnerships with those brutal dictatorships with a purported concern about the people who were suffering under those dictatorships? Let’s face it: The reason that those dictators were so good at torturing people was because they had been perfecting their torture skills against their own citizens for decades — the same citizens that U.S. officials now say they’re trying to help.
It’s up to Congress — the elected representatives of the American people in the legislative branch of government — to conduct a full and complete investigation into the executive branch’s torture partnerships with the dictators in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and everywhere else. Until we have the full details and explanation of those torture partnerships (and any others), the U.S. government’s belated opposition to such dictators must be presumed to be opportunistic, fake, and cynical.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
No Moral Standing
There is a principle in the law that requires a person to have “standing” as a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit in court. The law requires the plaintiff to have a direct interest in the outcome of the case or show he has been directly affected by some government action in order to have the requisite standing to bring the case. Otherwise, the court will dismiss his case for lack of standing.
This principle regarding standing can actually be applied in other areas of life. For example, consider a principle that we might call “moral standing.” There are instances in which we might argue that a person lacks “moral standing” to lecture another person on some particular aspect of life.
Consider, say, a thief. We might say that he lacks moral standing to lecture other people on how wrong it is to steal from people.
Or consider this real-life example involving the U.S. government, as described in this article from the Washington Post.
The U.S. government recently refused visas to some 60 Russian officials to protest Russia’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute people connected to the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistle-blowing lawyer.
Additionally, just recently Michael H. Posner, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor spent six days in Russia meeting with human-rights advocates and offering U.S. support for their efforts.
Even though there is a distinct possibility that Magnitsky was killed by government officials and even though Russia is still notorious for human-rights abuses, the problem is that the U.S. government lacks moral standing to make the point, as a Russian foreign minister pointedly observed with the following statement:
Such moralizing calls appear especially cynical against the background of the practical legalization of torture in U.S. special prisons, kidnappings and mistreatment of terrorism suspects, the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, uninvestigated murders of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, everything the Russian foreign minister says is true. He might have also added the torture partnerships entered into between the U.S. government and U.S.-supported dictatorships in the Middle East, including Egypt (with Mubarak), Libya (with Gaddafi), and Syria (with Assad). And the U.S. assassination program, which targets both foreigners and Americans. And a kangaroo military justice system that purports to mete out justice.
It’s all a sad reminder of what U.S. foreign policy, militarism, and the war on terrorism have done to our country. To supposedly keep us safe from the terrorists that U.S. foreign policy has produced, the U.S. government has embraced practices that we would have expected from, say, communists in the Soviet Union.
Thus, the U.S. government’s human-rights lectures fall on deaf ears. Why should people listen to a regime lecture on human rights when it is engaged in assassination, kidnapping, indefinite detention, kangaroo tribunals, torture, torture partnerships with dictators, and immunity for non-judicial executioners of prisoners?
Alas, the U.S. government’s moral case against Russia for human-rights abuses must be dismissed, for lack of moral standing.
Monday, October 24, 2011
An Anti-Semitic President
Ever since 9/11, we have repeatedly emphasized why the assumption of extraordinary emergency powers by the president, the military, and the CIA as part of their “war on terrorism” was antithetical to a free society.
Everyone is coming to the realization that we now live in a country in which the government possesses the unfettered, non-reviewable authority to assassinate its own people.
As we learned in the Jose Padilla case, the government also now wields the post-9/11 authority to take Americans into custody without judicial process, incarcerate them as suspected terrorists for as long as it wants in a military dungeon, and torture them.
It seems to me that if a government wields the omnipotent, non-reviewable authority to assassinate its own citizens and also to arrest them without judicially issued warrants, incarcerate them forever in military dungeons without trial, and to torture them, it also, by implication, wields the omnipotent authority to round up citizens suspected of being terrorists, send them into concentration camps, and execute them, perhaps after some sort of kangaroo tribunal.
Is there a good test to determine whether citizens should permit government officials to wield such extraordinary powers, even in times of emergency or crisis?
Yes there is.
Imagine the country is in a deep economic crisis, one in which millions of angry Americans are out of jobs and have lost their savings. Assume they decide to elect an openly anti-Semitic presidential candidate, one who is blaming the nation’s economic woes on Jewish bankers, merchants, and speculators.
Now, ask yourself: Would you want that president to have the omnipotent power to assassinate Americans whom he, the Pentagon, and the CIA deem to be terrorists? To round up Americans and send them into concentration camps? To torture and brutalize Americans? To execute Americans after some sort of kangaroo tribunal?
There’s your test to determine whether President Bush or President Obama or any other president should be permitted to wield these extraordinary powers. If you’re not willing to delegate such powers to the very worst imaginable person, then you shouldn’t trust any person with such powers.
After all, it’s easy to say, “Jacob, that could never happen here in the United States. That could happen only in Germany.” But that, of course, nonsense. Anything is possible given the right circumstances. Moreover, once it happens, it’s too late to do anything about it. The power is already there in the hands of the president, the military, and the CIA, ready to be exercised.
Even if a president isn’t anti-Semitic, it is inevitable, especially in the middle of a real war or crisis, that the realm of people defined as “terrorists” will begin encompassing those citizens who are opposed to the war effort or who are exposing wrongdoing by the government. They come to be viewed by government officials as potential spies, traitors, demoralizers, or threats to national security.
We saw this whole phenomenon with Hitler himself. After the Reichstag Fire, Hitler persuaded the German legislature to grant him temporary extraordinary powers to wage his war on terrorism and the war on communism (i.e., Germany’s cold war against the Soviet Union). Hitler also established special courts to try suspected terrorists, communists, and traitors, to ensure that they would never be released by the regularly established German courts.
Inevitably, these extraordinary emergency powers were directed not just against Jews but also against critics of the regime — those, for example, who contended that the wielding of such powers, even in the name of fighting terrorism and communism, would destroy the freedom of the German people.
Thus, Hitler’s temporary emergency powers and his special People’s Court were ultimately employed against college students Hans and Sophie Scholl and their White Rose group. Their “crime”? Calling on Germans through a series of pamphlets to oppose their own government.
More recently, the abuse of such powers has been used by U.S.-supported dictatorships in the Middle East to arrest government critics, incarcerate them without trial, torture them, and even execute them. In other words, such dictatorships have been employing their emergency powers in the same way Hitler did and with the same justification—to wage war on terrorism, which is one big reason why people in the Middle East are so angry.
All of this should give Americans pause. It’s time for Americans to begin asking some fundamental questions. Did the Framers envision a government with these extraordinary powers? Is this what America is supposed to be all about? Is this what a free society is all about? And how do we restore freedom to our country?
Friday, October 21, 2011
Gaddafi’s Execution: A Wake-Up Call for Americans?
No doubt that many supporters of the U.S. government’s war on terrorism and its global assassination program will come to the defense of the Libyans who executed former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi after taking him captive. They will say, “What’s wrong with executing Gaddafi? He was a terrorist, wasn’t he? Those people didn’t need a stinking trial. Everyone knows that Gaddafi was guilty. The Libyans were right to just shoot him in the head right there and then.”
After all, isn’t that the mindset in the U.S. government’s war on terrorism? Sure, they permit some suspected terrorists to have trials but certainly not all of them. It’s entirely up to U.S. officials, on purely an ad hoc, discretionary basis. Some suspected terrorists get trials. Others get indefinite incarceration. Others get torture. Others get kangaroo tribunals. Others get execution. Others get assassination.
The fact is that no matter what Gaddafi did — no matter how many crimes he supposedly committed — no matter how horrific such crimes might have been — once he was taken in custody, he was entitled to be treated decently and humanely. He was entitled to a fair trial, one in which he was guaranteed all the rights and protections of due process of law, including right to counsel, right to cross-examine witnesses, the presumption of innocence, and trial by jury. Only after a fair trial and upon conviction would it have been proper to have imposed punishment.
Those are the principles for which America once stood. Those are the principles enshrined in our Bill of Rights. They are principles that our ancestors insisted had to be applied to every person, not just Americans, before the government could deprive a person of life, liberty, or property. They are principles that stretch all the way back to Magna Carta, when the English people’s own government was killing them and stealing from them without due process of law.
Unfortunately, they are no longer the principles embraced by the United States. Seizing upon the 9/11 attacks, President Bush decreed that he now wielded temporary, emergency powers — including the omnipotent power to label people terrorists and have his military forces and CIA forces take them into custody, hold them as long as they wanted without trial, and torture them. Some of the suspected terrorists have also been executed after being taken into custody, without a trial. President Obama, for his part, has extended those temporary, emergency powers to encompass the omnipotent, non-reviewable authority to assassinate Americans. Such power has most recently been expanded to encompass the assassination of American minors.
Ironically, the powers now wielded by the federal government, post 9/11, are the same types of powers wielded by such Middle East dictators as Gaddafi, Egypt’s Mubarak, and Syria’s Assad. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that the U.S government specifically selected these brutal dictatorships to serve as torture partners with the U.S. government. All three of those dictatorships tortured suspected terrorists on request of the U.S. government, without even the semblance of a trial to determine guilt or innocence.
Perhaps the brutal execution of Muammar Gaddafi will be a wake-up call for Americans, causing them to ask themselves a fundamentally important question: What are U.S. imperialism and the resulting “war on terrorism” doing to us, both as Americans and as human beings?
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Illegal Immigrants: The Statist Scapegoats
It really is sad — no, actually pathetic — to see Republican presidential candidates competing with each other to show how tough they are on illegal immigrants in order to garner votes from Republican voters. That’s not to say, of course, that liberals are any better, as reflected by President Obama’s massive number of immigration raids on private businesses and record deportations of illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, the Republicans keep reminding us of how committed they are to “free enterprise, private property, and limited government,” while Democrats keep reminding us of how much they love “the poor, needy, and disadvantaged.”
What a joke those mantras are!
Message to Republicans and Democrats: Illegal immigrants are not the cause of America’s economic woes. They are not responsible for America’s high unemployment. They are not responsible for the massive drop in home values. They are not responsible for the deep recession.
Supplementary message to Republicans and Democrats: You — yes, you — are responsible for our nation’s economic woes. Specifically, your welfare-state paradigm and your warfare-state paradigm are taking our country down. Your socialism, your interventionism, your militarism, your imperialism. That’s the problem.
Yes, it’s your statism — the statism that you statists have foisted on our country — that is the root of our nation’s problems. That’s the cause of the unemployment. That’s the cause of the out-of-control spending and debt. That’s the cause of the monetary debasement. That’s the cause of the booms, bubbles, and busts.
The problem is that you people simply cannot take personal responsibility for what you have wrought with your statism. So, you do what statist regimes have done throughout history. You look for scapegoats when economic conditions go bad. Illegal immigrants are your convenient scapegoat. They’re not in a position to defend themselves.
Consider the inane personal immigration attack leveled by Rick Perry against Mitt Romney. Perry accused Romney of hiring illegal aliens to do work at his home.
If only Romney had replied, “Yes, I did. I’m a believer in free enterprise, private property, and limited government. I hired them with my own money. They agreed to the deal. That means we were both happy with the arrangement. It’s really none of your business. Butt out.”
Of course, that’s not how Romney responded. Instead, he went through the standard contortions that any public official has to go through whenever he’s caught hiring illegal immigrants — that he didn’t know that the lawn service he hired was using illegal aliens and when he did learn of it, he terminated their services.
And why? To pander to voters, who themselves cannot bring themselves to admit that it is not illegal immigrants that are the cause of American woes but rather the welfare-warfare paradigm that all too many of such voters unfortunately continue to embrace.
Additional message to statists: Even if you succeeded in building a solid wall along the Southern border — one that was better fortified than the Berlin Wall ever was — and even if it was manned by East German (legal) immigrant sharpshooters — and even if the entire border was monitored by tens of thousands of CIA assassination drones — even if millions of military boots were lined up side-by-side along the border — even if not one single illegal immigrant was able to enter the United States — your economic problems would still not go away.
That’s because, again, illegal immigrants are not the cause of America’s economic problems. They’re just your convenient scapegoat. The cause of America’s economic woes is the welfarism, militarism, imperialism, socialism, and interventionism that have pervaded our land for decades. Attacking illegal immigrants is not going to prevent the chickens from coming home to roost after decades of statism.
In fact, illegal immigrants actually provide a guide to Americans as to how to extricate our nation from its statist morass. Illegal immigrants are among the hardest-working people you’d ever find in life. They have a tremendous work ethic. That’s why Mitt Romney’s lawn service — and countless other American employers — love to hire illegal immigrants — because they work hard.
Have you ever noticed that in the midst of high unemployment, illegal immigrants find their way into the United States and find jobs that don’t exist?
Yes, I’ve heard the old canard: “Oh, Jacob, they’re just coming here to get on welfare, and welfare should be limited to Americans.” That’s just projection. It is American statists who love welfare. Both conservatives and liberals embrace the welfare state, adore it, and are firmly committed to saving and reforming it. It’s only libertarians who wish to dismantle it.
There’s a good reason why immigration raids are never on welfare offices and always on private firms. It’s because illegal immigrants are hard workers, not welfare lovers, and, deep down, both liberals and conservatives know it. That’s what makes statists uncomfortable. They cannot believe that there are actually people in life who still have the traits of self-reliance, independence, courage, family values, and a strong work ethic — the traits that characterized our American ancestors, who rejected the paradigms of the welfare state and the warfare state. Thus, statists end up projecting their own love of welfare onto hard-working, independent-minded, self-reliant illegal immigrants.
If only Republicans and Democrats practiced what they preached — “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” and “we love the poor, needy, and disadvantaged,” immigrants could be left in peace, enabling them to enter into mutually beneficial economic relationships with American employers and sustaining and improving their own lives and the lives of their families through good old-fashioned labor.
Alas, we’re a long ways from there. Since conservatives and liberals both find the concept of personal responsibility to be anathema, illegal immigrants will continue to be their scapegoat.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Disparities of Wealth
On the matter of great disparities of income and wealth in a society, the manner in which people become wealthy is of great importance.
In a society based largely on socialism and crony capitalism, which is the system under which the United States operates today, lots of people get wealthy by using the government to plunder and loot their fellow citizens.
In a system based on libertarian principles, people get wealthy by producing goods and services that other people are willing to pay for. The difference between these two ways of acquiring income and wealth is the difference between night and day.
Let’s assume that you have $10,000 in savings and that I have $0 in savings. I accost you with a gun and force you to go to your ATM and withdraw half your savings and give them to me. That means that we both are now worth $5,000. We’re now equal in terms of wealth.
Robbery and theft are obviously one way to equalize wealth and also to become wealthy. But fundamental moral and religious principles hold that stealing is wrong. The fact that stealing might equalize wealth in a society or make some people wealthier is irrelevant. Wrong is wrong, regardless of the result.
Why should it be any different in principle when government force is being used to do the equalizing or to make some people wealthier? What government does with its socialist programs is forcibly take money from those who own it and give it to other people. What it’s doing is no different than what the private thief does. The fact that people are being equalized is irrelevant. Wrong is wrong. The money belongs to those who earned it.
Thus, those who acquire their wealth through government plunder stand in no different position than those who receive the fruits of a private robbery. The reason they are wealthy is because the government has forcibly taken money from people who rightfully own it and given it to people who don’t rightfully own it.
That’s the position that those Wall Street firms that received government bailouts are in. They enriched themselves by feeding at the government trough, a trough that was filled with monies forcibly extracted from taxpayers.
The situation is the same with respect to firms that rely on government for regulations, tariffs, tax policy, monopolies, and other measures that protect them from the competition of others. They are enriching themselves as a result of artificial measures imposed by government.
Now, consider the other way to acquire wealth — by producing goods and services that consumers are willing to buy. When these firms acquire wealth, they stand in a completely different position, morally and religiously speaking, than their counterparts that rely on government largess or privilege. Their wealth is a direct result of having satisfied consumers by selling them something that they obviously value more than the money they paid to acquire the object.
A good example: Steve Jobs and Apple. They became extremely rich not by using government force to plunder and loot taxpayers but instead by producing products that people were willing to pay for. In order to get wealthy, they had to satisfy consumers by offering them a product that they valued more than the money they parted with to acquire it.
The principle is the same, say, with rock stars. Some have higher incomes than others, which is a reflection of consumer tastes. If a star is attracting 10,000 people to his concerts, his annual income will be lots higher than one who is attracting only 1,000 to his concerts.
Thus, even in an economic system that is largely based on socialist programs and crony capitalism — where the state doesn’t own all the means of production — there are people who are getting wealthy in the marketplace by producing goods and services that consumers find valuable.
An important thing to note about the unhampered market economy is that the consumers are sovereign. By their buying habits, consumers decide whose income will be high and whose will be low. And as many computer companies and rock stars will attest, consumers can be fickle and ruthless. If someone else comes up with a better product or a more popular voice, consumers will quickly move elsewhere, even if it means a drastically reduced income for the people who used to satisfy them.
Of course, such is not the case with socialism and crony capitalism. Under those systems, what matters is that the provider of the services pleases the politicians and bureaucrats who have the authority to write the checks. The consumer is relatively irrelevant and unimportant.
What we need in America is to dismantle the system of socialism and crony capitalism that has characterized our nation for so many decades and replace it with economic liberty, a way of life in which people acquire wealth morally by producing goods and services that other people are willing to pay for.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Thou Shalt Not Covet
American statists are now claiming that America’s economic woes are rooted in income inequality. They’re suggesting that the reason people are struggling economically is because there are millionaires and billionaires in American society. If only the government would take more money from the rich and redistribute it to the poor, the statists say, everyone would be living comfortably, happily, and harmoniously.
Really? Well, then how do they explain Cuba? Prior to Fidel Castro’s taking power in 1959, there was a large number of millionaire and middle-class Cubans in the country. Castro took power, and being of a socialist mindset, he proceeded to confiscate the businesses, industries, and homes of the rich and redistribute them to the poor or simply had the government own and operate the businesses on behalf of “the people.”
After several years of socialism, Castro achieved income equality among the Cuban citizenry. Everyone was now equal. The problem was (and is) that everyone was also desperately poor, verging on starvation.
The problem is that all too many liberals are so consumed with envy and covetousness that they’re happier when there is income equality than when there is income inequality, even when it means that everyone, including those at the bottom of the economic ladder, are worse off than they would otherwise be.
Consider the following hypothetical. Suppose we have a society in which people are free to engage in any economic enterprise without government interference or regulation, in which people are free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, and in which people are free to do what they want with their own money.
Suppose that society produces the following levels of annual income: The top 5 percent receive $10,000,000. The middle 90 percent receive $100,000. The bottom 5 percent receive $20,000.
Now, let’s say that statists gain control over the levers of power (as they did in Cuba), and impose a socialist system, one in which the government proceeds to equalize income by taking from the rich and either giving to the poor or running businesses and industries on behalf of “the people.”
Suppose that socialist society produces the following level of annual income: 100 percent receive $5,000.
Given a choice, many American liberals would choose the second scenario. They would be ecstatic that there were no longer any more rich people in society. Even though the people they purport to love — the poor — are worse off under socialism, that would be of secondary importance to such liberals. What would matter to them is that there are no longer enormously wealthy people in society.
That’s what envy and covetousness do to people and to societies. Such traits eat away at people’s souls, like an acid. Envy and covetousness ultimately cause people to start thinking of stealing from those who have more, either personally or through government programs.
That’s not to suggest, of course, that Cuba had anything akin to a free-market society prior to Castro’s taking power. Cuba under U.S.-approved strongman Fulgencio Batista was similar to the economic systems that have long characterized Latin America — a combination of socialism, fascism, mercantilism, and crony capitalism that nonetheless permitted honest and industrious businessmen and entrepreneurs (along with crony capitalists) to succeed and prosper in the marketplace.
It’s also not to suggest that the U.S. embargo hasn’t played an important role in squeezing the lifeblood out of the Cuban people. But even without the embargo, there is no doubt that Castro’s socialist system has impoverished the Cuban people.
What’s the solution to income inequality? Forget about it. Instead, focus on the real causes of America’s economic woes.
That entails, first of all, a recognition that our nation’s economic woes are rooted not in economic inequality but rather in the type of economic system that America has embraced in modern times — one that consists of a combination of socialist programs, government planning, government-business partnerships, crony capitalism (including Wall Street bailouts), monetary central planning (the Federal Reserve), and a vast warfare empire (including invasions and occupations).
Then, second, a recognition that the solution to American’s economic woes entails a total separation of economy and the state and a restoration of limited-government, constitutional republic to our land. That is, a society based on the principles of economic liberty: no more income tax, no more regulation, no more central planning, no more socialist programs, no more government-business partnerships, no more military empire — a society in which people are free to engage in any enterprise free of government interference or regulation (i.e., free enterprise), to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth, to travel and trade with people anywhere in the world, and to decide for themselves what to do with their own money.
Contrary to what statists claim, there is a natural harmony that exists between the rich, the middle class, and the poor in an economic system based on the principles of economic liberty. The rich and the middle class (and oftentimes the poor) build the businesses and industries that employ the middle class and the poor. The rich and the middle class also provide the savings and capital that raises productivity, real wage rates, and rising standard of living, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. And the rich oftentimes bring into existence the consumer luxuries that become standard items for the middle class and the poor in the future.
All this is to say that God has created a consistent universe. The solution to America’s economic problems lies not in envy, covetousness, and political stealing. Those things will only make everyone worse off. The solution to America’s economic woes lies in the full embrace of the God-given right of economic liberty, a way of life that not only keeps everyone free but also makes everyone better off.
Monday, October 17, 2011
America’s Foreign Dictatorship
President Obama’s reaction to the alleged Iranian assassination plot reflects, once again, the dictatorial powers that the president of the United States now wields in foreign affairs.
As many commentators are noting, the whole scheme appears to be as bogus as a 3-dollar bill, but that isn’t really the point. The point is that we now live in a country in which the ruler wields the omnipotent power to send the entire nation into war for whatever reason he wants, bogus or not.
That’s not the way things were supposed to be. The Framers didn’t devise a system where the president had that omnipotent power. When they called the federal government into existence with the Constitution, they delegated the power to declare war to Congress and the power to wage war to the president.
Thus, under the Constitution Obama is required to come to Congress with a request to declare war on Iran (or even to impose sanctions on the country). Presumably Congress would say, “Show us the evidence on which you’re relying for your request for us to declare war on Iran.”
At that point, it would be “put up or shut up” time for Obama and his FBI, Justice Department, CIA, and Pentagon. They would have to submit their evidence to rigorous scrutiny from Congress, just as they’re going to have to do in a criminal trial of the alleged assassination plotter, Manssor Arbabsiar. (That’s assuming, of course, that they don’t send Arbabsiar down the “enemy combatant” route by removing him from the jurisdiction of America’s constitutional judicial system and delivering him into the clutches of the U.S. military.)
That’s not to say, of course, that Congress would necessarily decline to issue a declaration of war but rather that it’s an important barrier that Obama might not be able to overcome. Since war necessarily involves death, destruction, spending, debt, inflation, and infringements on liberty, that’s why the Framers decided to make it difficult for the president to send the nation into war against other nations.
But Obama doesn’t have to concern himself with that barrier. He now wields the authority to ignore that constitutional provision. When it comes to war, he is the declarer. He is the decider. He — and he alone (along with his advisers in the CIA and Pentagon) — decides whether America is going to war against Iran or any other nation.
And what happens if Obama sends the nation into war and the whole assassination plot turns out later to have been bogus? No problem. Obama will simply take the same position that George W. Bush took when he sent the United States into war against Iraq without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war. Like Bush, Obama will simply claim that he regrets the error but that the troops are bringing “freedom and democracy” to Iran anyway.
The principle is actually no different with respect to Obama’s power to assassinate Americans. He doesn’t need a trial to determine whether a person really is engaged in an action that warrants a non-judicial execution. He is the decider — the determiner. He reviews the evidence and if he’s convinced of the person’s guilt, that’s all that’s necessary. He issues the order to take out the person, and the order is carried out by either the Pentagon or the CIA. No judicial review. No congressional impeachment. Just the omnipotent power to assassinate, along with the omnipotent power to send the nation into war.
Meanwhile, as the U.S. government accuses Iran of sending agents to conduct an assassination on American soil, the U.S. government continues to wield the post-9/11 “emergency” power to send its agents into any foreign country on earth to kidnap people, torture them, rendition them to dictatorial regimes to be tortured, or assassinate them.
It’s all enough to remind Americans of the dictatorial power that their ruler now wields in foreign affairs as well as the rank hypocrisy that people all over the world find so offensive.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Seizure, Detention, Torture, and Assassination
In today’s blog, I thought I would share with you a deeply insightful quote by Alan Barth (1906-1979), who served on the Washington Post’s editorial board for 30 years. The quote is from his book The Rights of Free Men, which was published posthumously in 1984.
As you read the quote, keep in mind that we now live in a country in which the government — specifically the president and his military — now wields the authority to barge down people’s door to seize them, cart them away to a concentration camp or military dungeon for indefinite detention, torture them, or even execute them.
We also now live in a country in which the government — specifically the president and the CIA — now wields the authority to assassinate people, including Americans.
What are the judicial prerequisites for the exercise of such powers? None. All that is needed is the president’s determination that the target of the arrest is a terrorist.
Even in habeas corpus proceedings (which obviously don’t apply when the person has been assassinated), the courts defer to the determination of the president, the CIA, and the military because the courts have bought into the government’s “national security” and “we’re at war” rationales for the wielding of such omnipotent, “emergency” powers.
How did the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA acquire these extraordinary powers, powers that enable them to avoid the due process guarantees in the Bill of Rights? No, not by constitutional amendment or even by congressional enactment. After the 9/11 attacks, the president simply decreed that he, the Pentagon, and the CIA now wielded the emergency power to treat the federal crime of terrorism as either a crime or an illegal act of war, at their option.
Barth reminds us that it was this type of direct power — the arbitrary power to take people into custody without any judicial process — that formed the basis for Magna Carta and other battles for civil liberty over the ages.
Before you read the main quote, consider this preliminary quote by Barth, which is from his book The Loyalty of Free Men. Although he refers to communism, his point applies equally well to terrorism: “Nothing that the agents of Communism have done or can do to this country is so dangerous to the United States as what they have induced us to do to ourselves.”
Those who so glibly dismiss as “mere legal technicalities” the procedural guarantees of the Constitution limiting law-enforcement activities forget that nothing is more basic to civil liberty than freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment by policemen who are masters, not servants, of the law. The most characteristic symbol of the police state is the ominous rap on the door at night. Freedom from the fear of that rap is the basic condition for the exercise of every other form of freedom. “The history of liberty,” Mr Justice Frankfurter once observed, “is the history of the observances of procedural safeguards.”
For as long as men have sought to be free, arbitrary arrest has been a mark and measure of despotism. In every land and time, men have protested and fought against it. It has been a principal cause of every major uprising against established government. It was one of the grievances of the English barons against King John in 1215 and prompted their insistence in Magna Carta that “no free man shall be taken or imprisoned … except by the legal judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.” Bitter resentment against capricious arrest and incarceration was one of the prime causes of the French Revolution. And so the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen stipulated that “No man should be accused, arrested, or held in confinement except in cases determined by the law, and according to the forms which it has prescribed.” Arbitrary arrest and arbitrary searches conducted under the infamous writs of assistance and general warrants were among the bitterest grievances against George III recited in the American Declaration of Independence. When they established their independence Americans were determined that no government of their own creation should ever engage in these forms of despotism. Accordingly, they imposed heavy restraint upon police activity in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
POSTSCRIPT: Last Saturday in Philadelphia, I gave a speech to a regional conference of the Students for Liberty, a great nationwide organization of students with chapters all over the country. There are few better highs in life than preaching to the choir when the choir is filled with young libertarians with fire in the belly for liberty and free-market economics. Here’s a photograph of the group. (See if you can pick me out from the students!) My talk was on how the welfare state and warfare state combine to form a giant threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people and why it’s necessary to dismantle both of them to restore freedom, prosperity, morality, and harmony to our land.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Blaming America for Terrorism
Yesterday, the would-be plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pled guilty to terrorism in federal district court in Detroit. He’s the guy who was charged with trying to explode a bomb on an international flight coming into Detroit.
Federal court, you ask? Isn’t terrorism an act of war, you say? Isn’t he an enemy combatant? Doesn’t he belong in a POW camp? Why isn’t he jailed at the Pentagon’s military prison at Guantanamo Bay?
All those questions are easy to answer. It’s because terrorism is a crime — a federal criminal offense in the U.S. Code. That’s why a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted him. That’s why a federal prosecutor prosecuted him. That’s why a federal judge accepted his plea and will likely be sentencing him to life in prison without parole.
So, what’s the deal with the Pentagon’s prison camp and “judicial” system at Gitmo? That’s easy to answer too. The Pentagon put that system together after 9/11 as a way to avoid the constitutional system when it felt like doing so. No, they didn’t secure a constitutional amendment nor did they get a law enacted by Congress permitting them to do that. They did it all their own, claiming that they possessed the post-9/11 emergency authority to consider a crime to be either an act of war or a crime, at their option.
Thus, today U.S. officials can treat suspected terrorists either way they want — as illegal enemy combatants, subject to indefinite incarceration, torture, kangaroo tribunals, and even execution, or as federal criminal defendants, where they are accorded the rights and guarantees in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It’s all up to the president and the Pentagon. Why, under our post-9/11 emergency system, the Pentagon no longer even has to honor federal court jury verdicts or sentences handed down in terrorism cases by federal judges.
In any event, proponents of military statism are undoubtedly saying that Abdulmutallab “blamed America” for what he did, based on the statement that he made to the presiding judge yesterday as part of his guilty plea.
Why would the statists reach that conclusion? Well, consider what Abdulmutallab said: “I attempted to use an explosive device which in the U.S. law is a weapon of mass destruction, which I call a blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims, for U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction on Muslim populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and beyond.”
Now, a libertarian would respond, “Wait a minute, Jacob. Abdulmutallab doesn’t blame America in that statement. His anger and motivation are clearly directed toward U.S. foreign policy, specifically the killing of innocent Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere.”
Yes, but that exposes the nature of the problem we face when it comes to statists: They can’t draw a distinction between the federal government and America. In their minds, it’s all one great big collectivist entity, with the military and the CIA at the center of it. Thus, in the statist mind, when the U.S. government does something, it’s America doing it.
To get a grasp of the statist mindset, think of a great big bee hive. The hive is the federal government, with the president being the head bee. Near the head bee are the privileged elite bees, whose lives are devoted to serving and fulfilling the wishes and commands of the head bee. Everyone else is a drone, devoting his life to the greater good of the hive.
Thus, when a libertarian takes a stand against something the head bee has done, the statist becomes confused and befuddled and even angry. In his mind, the libertarian is attacking the hive and thereby jeopardizing the best interests of the hive or, even worse, its very existence. That’s a super no-no to a statist. Everyone is expected to rally to the head bee and never challenge his actions or authority, especially in dealings with the rest of the bee hives in the world.
Obviously, libertarians see things totally different from the statists. The way we view it is that there are two separate and distinct entities: the federal government and the private sector (which is the country).
Thus, our concepts of patriotism and the duty of the citizen are dramatically different from that of the statists. We libertarians hold that the genuine patriot is the citizen who takes a public stand against the wrongdoing of his government, in order to get the government back on the right track. We do this not only because we believe it’s the right thing to do but also because we consider it in our own personal interest and in the best interests of our country.
By the way, the Bill of Rights is an explicit acknowledgement of the libertarian mindset and an explicit rejection of the statist mindset. Why is that so? Because it expressly protects the country (i.e., the people in the private sector) from the federal government sector.
Why did our American ancestors do that? Because they believed that the federal government was the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the people in America.
How does the Bill of Rights fit with the statist mindset. It doesn’t. Their mindsets preclude them from recognizing that the federal government is a serious threat to the country and that the Bill of Rights attempts to protect them from that threat.
Why is Abdulmutallab’s statement important? Because it confirms, once again, what libertarians have been saying since even before 9/11: that foreigners don’t hate our country for its “freedom and values” but rather for the bad things the U.S. Empire has been doing — and continues to do — to people in foreign lands.
And why is that important? Because it leaves the American people with a choice. If Americans choose to continue the federal government’s role as an international military empire, then Americans should understand that one of the costs of such empire (in addition to the money, death, and destruction) is ever-growing anger and rage among foreigners that results in a perpetual threat of terrorism against our country.
And what does a perpetual threat of terrorism mean? It means (1) that some terrorists might ultimately succeed in killing dozens or hundreds of Americans; and (2) that the federal government will continue using this perpetual “war on terrorism” to suspend the fundamental rights and freedoms of the American people, in order to keep them “safe” from the dangers that the government’s own policies have generated.
What’s the other choice? End the U.S. government’s role as an international military empire and world policeman, interloper, and intervener. Immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from around the world, bring them home, and discharge them. Abandon all overseas military bases to the host nations, including Guantanamo. End all foreign aid to everyone.
That would immediately end the anti-American terrorist threats that are rooted in U.S. foreign policy. By restoring a limited-government, constitutional republic to our land, normality would be restored to people’s lives. No more war-on-terrorism excuse for infringing on liberty, privacy, and property rights. No more terrorist crises, no more color-coded alerts, no more groping of children and adults at airports, no more Patriot Act, no more torture, no more assassinations. Just freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world once again.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Danger of Egypt’s Standing Army
The Egyptian military is denying having killed 26 Egyptian citizens who were protesting on the streets of Cairo, even though witnesses claim to have seen Egyptian troops shooting the protestors and running them down with tanks. One thing is clear though: the military has no intention of relinquishing its dominate role in Egyptian society.
Like here in the United States, the Egyptian military plays an enormous role in the economy and life of the Egyptian people. In Egypt we might well refer to the entire military machine as the military-commercial complex, as compared to the military-industrial complex here in the United States.
The U.S. military-industrial complex consists of an enormous military presence all over the country, with military bases in cities and towns all across the country. There’s also a vast overseas military empire, with some 700-1000 military bases in some 130 foreign countries, along with the occupations of two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. Countless companies, both foreign and domestic, receive hundreds of billions of dollars in military largess, including for such things as soft drinks at the bases, meals for the troops, uniforms, supplies at the PX, refreshments at the theaters, and so forth. There is a vast number of contractors, with the assistance of lobbyists, whose income depends on the military.
In Egypt, the situation is much the same, except that the Egyptian military doesn’t maintain an overseas military empire. What it does is own and operate a vast number of commercial retail establishments in Egypt, such as hotels. Like here in the United States, countless Egyptians are dependent on the military largess.
During the protests against Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, many Egyptians believed that the solution to their economic and social woes lay in the ouster of Mubarak from power. Today, some of them are discovering that Egypt’s problems were not rooted in the wrong man at the top but rather in Egypt’s political and economic system, including the presence of the giant military-commercial complex in Egypt.
Like any other government operation, the Egyptian military operates as a huge drain on the Egyptian economy. An enormous amount of taxes are imposed on the private sector to fund its operations — monies that otherwise would go into productive endeavors if they were left in the hands of the private sector. Moreover, the military personnel themselves do not contribute to the productivity of society. Finally, the hotels and others commercial establishments run by the military are inevitably like any other socialist enterprise — expensive and shoddy, especially compared to how things would operate if they were privately owned and operating within a free market.
Thus, if the military commercial complex were dismantled, there would be a triply positive effect: the private sector would keep the money that is today taken from people in taxes, the soldiers would now be in the private sector producing instead of draining, and private companies would be running the commercial establishments.
Several weeks ago, however, the military announced that while the citizenry would be permitted to establish a new government, it would have to be done with the premise that the military would serve as the foundation for Egyptian society. In other words, the military comes first — as the foundation of society — and a “democratic” government comes second, built on the military foundation.
That premise did not go over well with many Egyptians and the military has ostensibly abandoned it. But most everyone knows that the military has not abandoned its fundamental premise — that the military-commercial complex must be a permanent feature of any new government.
The Egyptian people might well experience why America’s Founding Fathers opposed standing armies. Our American ancestors believed that standing armies were antithetical to the principles of a free society and, in fact, a grave threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry.
The Egyptian military obviously takes the position that Egypt’s existence depends on the continued existence of the Egyptian military-commercial complex. The military is convinced that without such a complex, the nation would fall to terrorists and drug dealers. In the minds of military officials, freedom and prosperity in Egypt depends on the continued existence of the military-commercial complex. The way the military sees it, dismantling its privileged position in Egyptian society would be a grave threat to national security and economic prosperity, and they’re not about to permit the Egyptian people to make that sort of mistake.
Moreover, notwithstanding the demands of the protestors during the Mubarak demonstrations, Egyptian military officials have steadfastly refused to relinquish the temporary emergency powers that have been in existence for some 30 years. Such powers encompass the temporary emergency powers now being wielded by President Obama, the U.S. military, and CIA — the omnipotent power to arrest, torture, and kill citizens suspected of being terrorists.
One can only wonder whether Egypt’s military dictators, notwithstanding their denials, simply desired to send a not-so-subtle message to the Egyptian people with those 26 dead protestors: “Don’t mess with us. We are here to stay. Get used to it.” For its part, the U.S. government can certainly attest to the brutality and efficiency of Egypt’s military regime, given that the U.S. government selected Egypt’s military to serve as one of its rendition/torture partners in the U.S. government’s global war on terrorism.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
You’re Either With Us or Against Us
Yesterday, I described one of the principal dangers of a ruler having the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to assassinate his own citizens (and, for that matter, foreigners as well). All too often rulers, along with their armies and intelligence forces, come to place citizens who oppose their policies through speech in the same category as those who are opposing it with force. That’s why tyrannical rulers oftentimes end up arresting, incarcerating, torturing, and even executing citizens who are doing nothing more than criticizing the regime or exposing or opposing wrongdoing by the regime.
The mindset of warfare statists is a simplistic one, one that can be summed up in the mantra, “You’re either with us or against us.” Since an opponent of U.S. foreign policy isn’t “with us,” that obviously means that he’s “against us”— that is, he’s on the side of the terrorists, the communists, or a nation state that the United States happens to be at war against. Since the mind of the welfare statist has only those two options — for us or against us — he cannot conceive of the possibility that a citizen is opposing government wrongdoing against foreigners on principle. In the statist mind, a person who falls into that category has automatically joined the side of the victims of the wrongdoing who are responding with forcible resistance or retaliation.
Thus, for the warfare statist, the critic of government policy becomes as much an enemy of the state as the person who has actually taken up arms against the government.
Last week I was debating a man named Stephen Cohen, an academic who serves as senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. The debate was on the international Russian television network RT. If you would like to watch the debate, you can do so here.
The debate was over U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it became quite heated. I was making the standard libertarian argument: that U.S. foreign policy engenders the anger and hatred that foreigners have for the United States, which then manifests itself in the threat of terrorist retaliation, which then is used as the excuse for the federal government’s suspending our civil liberties in order to “keep us safe” from the threat that the government’s policies have produced.
I pointed out that it’s rational that the Pakistani government might resist the U.S. government’s demand that the Pakistani government kill its own people for resisting the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, especially since Pakistanis, with U.S. support, resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
I said that the best thing that the United States could do is immediately pull out all the troops and bring them home and stop the drone assassinations in Pakistan and elsewhere.
During the course of the debate, Cohen became furious, in part because he felt that the host of the show had misstated one of his positions. But much to my surprise, he suddenly blurted out to me, “So, you would support Pakistani terrorist attack against the United States because it would be retaliation? You would have supported the Times Square bombing?”
Imagine that. My opposition to U.S. foreign policy had caused Cohen to leap to the notion that I somehow support terrorism against the United States!
Since I considered Cohen’s questions to be idiotic, I chose not to dignify them with a direct response. Instead, I deflected the questions by stating that the U.S. should end its occupation now, not at some indefinite time in the future, which would bring an end to terrorist attacks against the United States.
It was obvious, however, that in Cohen’s mind, his questions weren’t idiotic at all but instead perfectly rational. Remember: In the simplistic mindset of a warfare statist, “You’re either with us or against us.” When Cohen heard me criticizing U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere and arguing that such policy produced the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, his mind obviously placed me on the side of the insurgents and the terrorists. His mind obviously precluded him from considering the possibility that a citizen can oppose governmental policy without placing himself on the side of foreign victims who are violently retaliating against such policy.
That’s the mindset I’m talking about with respect to why it’s so dangerous that the president, the CIA, and the military now wield the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to assassinate citizens whom they deem “terrorists.” Many political rulers, along with their high military and intelligence officers, have that same “You’re with us or against us” mindset. Thus, they come to see domestic citizens who are opposing their policies as threats to “national security” or, even worse, an agent of the terrorists (or the communists, as during the Cold War).
One irony is that while people like Cohen can so easily hurl questions like that at opponents of U.S. foreign policy, it is warfare statists like him who wants to keep the troops in Afghanistan knowing that some of them are going to be killed or maimed by the insurgent and terrorist attacks.
Take a look at this link. It shows the faces of the 6,230 U.S. service members who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom [sic] and Operating Enduring Freedom [sic].
Or take a look at this article, which describes strategies for treating traumatic brain injuries suffered by servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Or take a look at this article from last Sunday’s Washington Post, which shows a picture of Army Lt. Dan Berschinski with his girlfriend Rebecca Taber. He’s missing both of his legs as a result of a bomb he stepped on in Afghanistan. He’s one of the 13,000 U.S. soldiers injured in Afghanistan.
Cohen’s position — the position of warfare statists — is that the Afghan occupation must continue notwithstanding the fact that there will inevitably be many more dead, injured, and maimed U.S. soldiers. As I stated during our debate, he’s not doing the troops any favors.
And what’s his justification for his position? During the debate, he said that we’ve got to be sure that al-Qaeda is no longer a threat.
No longer a threat? Give me a break! They’ve had 10 years to kill al-Qaeda members to their heart’s content. Nothing has restrained them with respect to their use of bombs, missiles, and bullets. If they haven’t killed all the al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan by now, maybe there’s a reason — like maybe the occupation itself continues to generate a self-producing recruiting vehicle for al-Qaeda and the insurgents, who are simply committed to ridding their country of a foreign occupier.
Would al-Qaeda come to the United States and invade and conquer our country if the U.S. Empire were to end its occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq? The notion is ridiculous. For one thing, the purpose of al-Qaeda is rid the Middle East of the U.S. Empire, including its occupations and support of Middle East dictatorships. Moreover, the notion that al-Qaeda has the military transport planes and ships and millions of troops that would be needed to cross the ocean and successfully invade and conquer the United States is too laughable to seriously critique.
The simplistic “You’re either with us or against us” mindset that guides warfare statists is obviously a dangerous thing when government officials wield the omnipotent power to take out their citizenry. But like other extraordinary “emergency” post-9/11 powers, it is ultimately rooted in the existence of the U.S. military empire. That’s just one more reason why it’s imperative that such empire be dismantled if we are to restore a free society to our country.
Monday, October 10, 2011
Lyndon Johnson once remarked, “We had been operating a damned Murder Inc. in the Caribbean.”
What Johnson was referring to was the CIA’s assassination program during the 1960s in which the agency targeted Latin American leaders for assassination. Johnson’s statement is a reminder that the CIA, which recently assassinated American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, has been in the assassination business for a long time.
It was an interesting term that Johnson used to describe the CIA’s asssassination operation, given that “murder” connotes the wrongful taking of human life and “Murder Inc” connotes the Mafia, which just happened to be the CIA’s assassination partner in their attempt to assassinate Cuba’s president Fidel Castro.
President Obama and the CIA are remaining mum as to why they took Awlaki out, but statist supporters are claiming that the hit was justified because (1) Awlaki was supposedly exhorting Muslims to resist U.S. imperialist actions with force, and (2) that he supposedly was actively participating in al-Qaeda’s commission of terrorist actions against the United States.
The problem, of course, is that no one really knows what Awlaki did to merit his assassination. All that we know is that we now live in a country in which a super-secret presidential committee wields the authority to secretly designate Americans as assassination targets and that the president wields the non-reviewable, omnipotent authority to order the hit.
Leaving aside what Awlaki did to justify his assassination, one big problem is that governments often end up viewing citizens who oppose their policies as enemies of the state, ones who are considered just as dangerous to “national security” as those who actually take up arms against the government. Thus, governments with the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to take out their own citizens oftentimes end up sliding the assassination scale to encompass those who are threatening national security or demoralizing the war effort by simply opposing what the regime is doing.
Returning to Cuba provides a good example. The CIA considered its assassination attempts against Castro to be entirely proper, both from a moral standpoint and a legal standpoint. In the eyes of the CIA and the rest of the national security state, Castro was a communist and a socialist and, even worse, one who refused to kowtow to the U.S. government. Unlike his predecessor Fulgencio Batista, Castro refused to place Cuba under the control of the U.S. government. Since the United States was “at war” against communism, it was considered proper to take out a recalcitrant communist ruler through assassination.
Now, reverse the situation. Suppose Castro had been the one who assassinated Kennedy.
Well, then the CIA’s perspective changes. The CIA would have considered that assassination to have been morally wrong and unlawful. It’s exactly what we would expect from a no-good, rotten communist, CIA officials would have said.
So, same action — the assassination of a leader of another country, but with a different perspective. When the CIA does the assassinating, it’s considered good, moral, and lawful. When a communist does it, it’s considered bad, immoral, and unlawful.
Obviously there is another perspective: that assassination of rulers of other countries is wrong per se, even when it is carried out by the U.S. government. That’s the position that libertarians take. We believe it was just as wrong for the CIA to have been assassinating foreign leaders as it would have been for foreign leaders to be assassinating other foreign leaders. We believe it was wrong for the CIA to be trying to assassinate Fidel Castro, even if he happened to be the most committed communist and most committed socialist in the world and even if he refused to submit the dictates of the U.S. Empire.
Many government officials simply cannot understand the libertarian mindset. In their minds, if you’re not supporting the CIA’s assassination attempts (or the invasions, occupations, torture, or other aspects of U.S. foreign policy), then that must mean that you support Fidel Castro, or communism, or socialism, or terrorism.
In their minds, whatever the U.S. government is doing to combat communism or terrorism has to be good and anyone who opposes it must be helping the communists or the terrorists. The best way to describe this statist mindset is through the simplistic statement, “You’re either with us or against us.” Thus, if a person is opposing the government’s actions against communists and terrorists, that person must be supporting the communists or the terrorists.
That’s how dissidents and critics end up on their government’s watch lists, terrorist lists, communist lists, no-fly lists, or assassination lists. By standing up against the government’s policies, they are inevitably viewed as enemies of the state by government officials.
Let’s return to our Cuba example. Consider an organization called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), an American organization that played an interesting role relating to the John Kennedy assassination.
First of all, let me say that I don’t profess to know much about the organization and my knowledge of it is mostly based on a few Internet articles, includingWikipedia.
But from what I gather, this organization was formed with the aim of opposing the U.S. government’s actions against the Castro regime. This included opposition to the CIA’s invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the U.S. embargo placed on Cuba, and the CIA’s innumerable assassination attempts on Castro’s life.
Most of the members in the organization seem to have been ardent leftists — people who were sympathetic with Castro’s socialist aims. Some of them were prominent American liberals — people like Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and William Appleman Williams.
That combination — ardent socialists and opposition to the U.S. government’s policies against Cuba — convinced the U.S. national security state that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee was a grave threat to “national security.” Thus the organization was targeted, both by the CIA and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, two of the principal parts of the national security state.
Now, imagine that. On the one hand, the federal government is purporting to protect the freedom of the American people by targeting the head of a foreign state for assassination while, at the same time, it’s targeting a domestic organization that supports socialism and opposes foreign interventionism in Cuba.
Yet, doesn’t a free society encompass the right to be a socialist and to promote socialist views? Doesn’t a free society encompass the right to defend foreign nations from U.S. imperialism? Doesn’t a free society encompass the right to oppose invasions, embargoes, and assassinations conducted by one’s own government? Indeed, doesn’t a free society encompass the right to be a communist, join the Communist Party, promote communism, and speak out in favor of communism and communist regimes?
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that the CIA targeted any of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee members with assassination, but the CIA and the FBI certainly did spy on them, monitor them, and even target them for character assassination. According to this article at Spartacus Educational,
It was not long before the CIA was taking a close interest in the activities of the FPCC. Two days after the publication of the advert, William K. Harvey, head of the CIA’s Cuban affairs, told FBI counterintelligence chief Sam Papich, “For your information, this Agency has derogatory information on all individuals listed in the attached advertisement.”
Of course, that was the modus employed by Hoover for decades — gather up embarrassing information on people and then use it to blackmail them into submission or to humiliate them or destroy their reputation. According to the Spartacus Education article,
On April 27, 1961, J. Edgar Hoover himself ordered his agents to focus on pro-Castro activists, stating that the FPCC illustrated “the capacity of a nationality group organization to mobilize its efforts in such a situation so as to arrange demonstrations and influence public opinion.” Under orders from Hoover, Cartha DeLoach began a red-baiting campaign against the FPCC during May 1961. According to Bill Simpich: “As part of his counterintelligence responsibilities, DeLoach developed a Mass Media Program that included over 300 newspaper reporters, columnists, radio commentators, and television news investigators.”
The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was ultimately put out of business with Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination. During Oswald’s time in New Orleans prior to the Kennedy assassination, he had been distributing FPCC pamphlets. Interestingly, the return address that Oswald had stamped on some of the pamphlets was 544 Camp Street in New Orleans, which just happened to lead to the offices of a retired FBI agent, Guy Bannister, whose private investigation firm happened to be located near the New Orleans offices of the CIA and FBI.According to Wikipedia, Bannister was a fierce anti-communist who allegedly served as a munitions supplier for the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion. In any event, Oswald’s purported association with the FPCC was enough to put the organization out of business after the Kennedy assassination, which had been the aim of the CIA and FBI prior to the assassination.
Delegating the power to assassinate citizens to the government is a dangerous thing because inevitably governments come to believe that citizens who oppose its policies are enemies of the state, enemies that are as dangerous to national security — if not more so — than those against whom the policies are being carried out.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The Assassination Decider
Statists are continuing to say that President Obama’s assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki (through his CIA and military forces) was justified because Awlaki was supposedly exhorting Muslims to resist U.S. foreign policy with force and that he was also supposedly engaged in operational activities to bring this about. For his part, Obama is remaining mum on the subject, as are the CIA and the Pentagon.
The statists are missing the point, however. What Awlaki was doing or not doing is irrelevant. He’s now dead and nothing can bring him back to life. And his family will be precluded from bringing any wrongful death actions against the government owing to the doctrines of “national security,” “state secrets,” and “war on terrorism.”
What matters is this: the Awlaki assassination confirms that we now live in a country in which the ruler has the unfettered, non-reviewable power to kill his own citizens, without a trial or any due process of law. That’s where the U.S. government’s pro-empire foreign policy and the resulting “war on terrorism” have brought us. That’s not exactly what the founders of this country envisioned when they brought the federal government into existence.
The fact is that Obama is now the decider when it comes to assassinating American citizens. He wields the omnipotent power to order his intelligence and military forces to kill any American he labels a terrorist or a threat to “national security.” He knows that no court is going to second-guess him, especially when his attorneys in the Justice Department simply mention to some presiding federal judge the magic terms “national security” and “state secrets.” And he knows that the Congress isn’t going to impeach him for killing an American, especially since he can simply say, “I have a legal opinion from my Justice Department authorizing me to assassinate Americans whom I determine are terrorists, and you can’t second-guess my decisions on this because it’s part of the ‘war on terrorism.’”
What can an American who has been placed on Obama’s assassination list do about it? Nothing. If he asks a friend or relative to seek the assistance of the federal courts with an injunction enjoining the government from assassinating him, the federal judge will summarily dismiss the case based on the fiction that the person lacks standing to bring the suit, knowing full well that if the target of the assassination brings the suit himself, he will be assassinated by the president’s forces before he even has the chance to enter the courthouse.
Suppose the CIA and the military proceed to assassinate him. Then what? Then nothing. Remember that under our post-9/11 political system the president is the assassination decider. He makes the final, non-reviewable determination on assassinating an American. If the victim’s family later sues the government for wrongfully and unconstitutionally assassinating this American, the federal judge will immediately dismiss the case on hearing the magic terms “national security” and “state secrets” come out of the mouths of Obama’s lawyers. And, again, the Congress isn’t going to get involved with any investigations into why an American was assassinated because they’re not going to second-guess Obama’s “war on terrorism” decision to take out the American.
The omnipotent, non-reviewable power to assassinate one’s own citizens is, needless to say, the hallmark of a totalitarian regime. It is, in fact, the ultimate power in the tool chest of a totalitarian dictator. It obviously trumps the power to tax, the power to inflate, the power to confiscate guns, the power to suppress religion, and the power to censor speech. In fact, the dictator can permit the citizenry to exercise all those rights, knowing that the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to kill his own citizens (and, of course, the power to seize them, throw them into a military dungeon and incarcerate them forever without a trial, and torture them) will keep them in line.
After the 9/11 attacks, when President Bush and his CIA and military forces began torturing and assassinating foreigners, we libertarians emphasized that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits U.S. officials from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, applied, by its express terms, not just to American citizens but to all persons,including foreigners. We said that once the power to arrest and detain indefinitely, torture, and assassinate people was permitted to be wielded against foreigners, there was no way to prevent such power from being ultimately wielded against Americans.
Unfortunately, we have once again been proven correct. As the Awlaki assassination shows and as the Jose Padilla case showed, the president now wields the omnipotent, non-reviewable power to round up, detain indefinitely, torture, and assassinate his own citizens — the same omnipotent, non-reviewable power that U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East wield against their citizens.
Meanwhile, even as people in the Middle East are demanding that their governments abandon such totalitarian powers over them, American statists continue to sing, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free,” reminding us of Johann von Goethe’s immortal words, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Barack Hussein Pinochet
Yes, I fully realize that some conservatives will claim that I’m smearing the reputation of Chile’s former military dictator Augusto Pinochet by comparing him to President Obama, but since Obama’s assassination program is so similar to Pinochet’s, the comparison is worth exploring, if for no other reason than to show how the U.S. government has become the world’s premier international dictatorial state.
First of all, I think everyone would agree on one fundamental point: Pinochet was a genuine dictator. He was a military general serving as commander in chief of the Chilean Army in 1973, when he violently ousted democratically elected socialist/communist Salvador Allende from the presidency of the country and installed himself into power.
For 17 years, Pinochet ruled Chile without standing for elections. But that’s not all that made him a dictator. What also made him a dictator was the fact that his powers were omnipotent. That is, he could do whatever he wanted without any legislative or judicial constraints. That’s what makes a dictator — the extent of his powers. When a ruler has the power to do whatever he wants, that’s a dictator.
Pinochet exercised his dictatorial power by arresting people without warrants, incarcerating them indefinitely, torturing them, and even executing them, all without any judicial process or due process of law. Of course, he didn’t do these things himself. His military, his police forces, and his intelligence agency did them on his orders.
What I wish to focus on in this article, however, is Pinochet’s assassination program, given that it was virtually a mirror image of Obama’s assassination program.
Pinochet had an intelligence agency named DINA that was similar to the CIA. In fact, after the coup the CIA worked closely with DINA for many years, under the rationale of protecting “national security” from the communists.
Part of DINA’s mission was to assassinate Chilean citizens who Pinochet determined were threats to national security. Just like the CIA today, DINA agents were assassinating people in foreign countries on orders of Pinochet.
Among the people ordered assassinated was a man named Orlando Letelier, a socialist who had served in the Allende regime. After the coup, Letelier was arrested, incarcerated, and tortured by the Pinochet regime, but ultimately released.
Letelier came to the United States, where he established an office in Washington, D.C. His activities were devoted to trying to bring down the Pinochet regime by lobbying U.S. officials to terminate support to Chile.
An assassination team headed by a man named Michael Townley made its way to Washington with the aim of taking out Letelier. While Pinochet denied that he had ordered the hit, Townley later claimed that Pinochet had issued the order. And it would have made sense, at least from the standpoint of “national security.” Letelier was a genuine threat to Chilean “national security” in that he was doing everything he could to bring down the Pinochet regime. Here’s an article about the murder.
One of the interesting things about Townley was that he was an American. And guess who he worked for while he was in Chile. You guessed it: the CIA, which was working closely with DINA (much as the CIA was already working closely with the brutal Iranian intelligence force, the Savak, after the CIA installed the dictator Shah of Iran into power).
Townley later claimed that when he made the hit on Letelier, he was no longer working for the CIA. Nonetheless, his team of assassins consisted of a group of anti-Castro Cubans. You’ll recall that the CIA had partnered with anti-Castro Cubans for the Bay of Pigs invasion, whose mission was to oust Fidel Castro from power. You’ll also recall that the CIA’s assassination program included a partnership with the Mafia in the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro countless times.
In any event, Townley and his assassination team set a bomb in Letelier’s car, which exploded while Letelier was on his way to work. In the car was his young assistant Ronni Moffitt. Both of them were killed in the blast. Moffitt’s husband, who was also in the car, survived.
One can easily understand Pinochet’s mindset because it’s really no different in principle from that of Obama. As a dictator, Pinochet believed that he had the omnipotent authority to protect Chile from all threats to “national security,” especially from socialists and communists who would destroy the country or surrender it to the Soviet Union if they regained power. Letelier was a socialist who had even served in the Allende government, a government whose policies, Pinochet said, were taking the country to destruction and ruin.
So, Pinochet sent his assassination team abroad and eliminated a grave threat to “national security.” There was no arrest, trial, or conviction of Letelier. No trial was necessary because Chile was at war — a war against communism, a cold war. Moreover, an arrest and extradition of Letelier was obviously out of the question. The nation had a right to protect itself. National security was clearly at stake.
Interestingly, lawyers in the U.S. Justice Department, perhaps under public pressure, didn’t see things that way. They viewed Letelier’s national-security assassination on the streets of America’s capital as murder. They indicted and prosecuted Townley and his assassination team. Townley and some of his assassination assistants were convicted. Oddly, even though he killed Letelier and Moffitt in cold blood, Townley only had to serve about 5 years and then, even more oddly, got released into the Federal Witness Protection program, which has enabled him to live in obscurity ever since.
As an aside, the CIA definitely participated in the assassination — or, if you will, the murder (I’m not really sure what the difference is) — of a young American citizen in Chile during Pinochet’s coup. His name was Charles Horman and he was working as a journalist during the coup. Here’s an articleabout him.
It’s interesting to compare Horman’s murder with that of the recent CIA assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. While Obama himself has remained silent with respect to the factual and legal reasons he ordered his forces to assassinate Awlaki, statist supporters are alleging that Awlaki was engaged in operational terrorist attacks on the United States.
Not so with Horman. All he was doing was working as a journalist — an American journalist living and working abroad. For years, the CIA denied playing a role in the Pinochet coup, although there was no doubt that the U.S. government was ecstatic that the military dictator Pinochet had taken power.
Many years after the coup, the State Department released a document revealing that the CIA had in fact played an undefined role in the murder of this young American. Why had the CIA helped murder Horman? Who were the CIA agents involved in the murder? How was the murder carried out?
We don’t know. The CIA refused to answer questions, and no one forced them to. No congressional investigation was ever held which, I suppose, is not too surprising. What congressman wants to take on an agency that has the omnipotent power to assassinate Americans with impunity?
I don’t know if Horman’s family ever filed suit for Horman’s wrongful death, but it wouldn’t have done any good anyway. Federal officials would have walked into court, mentioned the magic terms “national security” and “state secrets” and the federal judge would immediately have dismissed the case, just as they do now when Obama’s assassination team takes out Americans or threatens to do so.
The point we need to keep in mind is that Obama’s powers in foreign affairs are no different from those of Pinochet. He wields the power to send his military and CIA abroad to kill anyone he feels is a terrorist or a threat to “national security.” Like Pinochet, Obama’s determination is final and non-reviewable. Like Pinochet’s forces, Obama’s military and CIA will faithfully and loyally follow orders, especially since in their minds, they are protecting the nation from threats to “national security.” And just like in Chile, the Congress and the judiciary are impotent, deferring to Obama and his forces to do whatever is necessary to keep us safe.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Assassinating with Impunity
Statist supporters of President Obama’s assassination of an American citizen overseas, Anwar al-Awlaki, are convinced that Awlaki’s actions warranted his assassination. There is at least one big problem, however, with their convictions: How do they know what Awlaki did to warrant his assassination? Moreover, how do they know that the law permits an assassination under such circumstances?
The press is alleging that Awlaki served as a propagandist for al-Qaeda, that he exhorted Muslims to commit terrorist attacks on the United States, and that he was participating in the operational planning of terrorist attacks.
How do we know whether any of this is true? We don’t.
In fact, that’s what a trial is all about. One of the principal jobs of the jury is to determine what exactly the facts are. The government comes into court with criminal charges, as set forth in the grand jury indictment. The government then presents sworn testimony, through witnesses and documents, establishing exactly what the defendant has done.
But a critically important aspect to a trial is the defendant’s right to cross-examine the witnesses the government calls to the stand and to challenge the legitimacy of any documents it puts into evidence.
Why is that important? Because the law recognizes that government officials sometimes lie, even under oath and that they also sometimes conjure up fake documents to help secure a conviction. Why do they do that? Because they’re convinced of the defendant’s guilt but simply lack enough evidence to convince the jury to convict.
Consider, for example, the Randy Weaver case, where federal agents killed Weaver’s wife and son. After shooting Weaver’s son in the back and his wife in the head and severely wounding Weaver himself, the feds indicted Weaver for attempted murder of the federal agents who had killed his wife and son.
When the case came to trial, the jury acquitted Weaver. Why the acquittal? The feds were caught committing perjury during the trial. They were so convinced that Weaver was guilty that they were willing to do anything, including lying in an official federal court trial, to secure a conviction. Weaver ultimately sued the feds for the murder of his wife and son, and the feds ended up paying millions of taxpayer dollars in settlement, an implicit acknowledgement that it was the federal government, not Weaver, that was the murderer.
Consider the Amanda Knox case in Italy. Prosecutors there were as convinced of Knox’s guilt as President Obama, the CIA, and the Pentagon were convinced of Awlaki’s guilt. Yet, after reviewing all the evidence an appellate jury acquitted Knox, who was immediately released from custody. If there had been no trial or appeal and had the state had the authority to simply punish Knox for what they were convinced she had done, she’d still be in jail today and would be spending the next few decades there.
In a trial, the accused has the right to take the witness stand himself and tell the jury that he’s innocent — that he didn’t do what the government is charging him with. He also has the right to call witnesses to help establish his innocence.
At the end of the trial, the jury decides whether he really did commit the offense with which he is charged.
Let’s assume the jury convicts. That’s still not the end of the story. The judge still has to decide whether the defendant’s actions truly constitute a criminal offense under the law.
Let’s assume, for example, that the jury found that Awlaki exhorted Afghanis to resist with violence the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Let’s assume that that’s all he did and that the jury found him guilty of the offense.
That still wouldn’t be the end of the matter. In post-trial motions, Awlaki’s attorneys would argue that the jury’s verdict should be thrown out based on the right of free speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment. They would argue that no matter how despicable people might consider Awlaki’s exhortations, freedom of speech encompasses the right to make despicable exhortations.
Even if the judge disregarded the defense position and entered a judgment of conviction, the defendant could still appeal and make his legal arguments all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
All that was rendered moot by the president’s assassination of this American citizen. Sure, it’s entirely possible that he was guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism, as some in the press are alleging, but owing to his assassination, we can never know that for sure.
When Awlaki’s father brought a legal action seeking an injunction prohibiting the government from assassinating his son, the federal court summarily dismissed the case, holding that the father lacked the legal standing to bring the case. Awlaki himself, the judge held, would have to bring the case. But of course, that was ridiculous given that CIA or FBI or U.S. military assassins would undoubtedly have taken him out as he was walking to the courthouse.
Meanwhile, Congress has shown no interest in conducting an official investigation into the president’s assassination of an American citizen. One possible reason is because the particular federal agency that committed the assassination was the CIA, an agency that few members of Congress are willing to confront given its overwhelming power.
So, if the president, the CIA, and the military have the omnipotent power to assassinate Americans overseas, with absolutely no interference by the legislative and judicial branches, doesn’t that make it rather dangerous for American critics of U.S. foreign policy to travel overseas? It would seem so. But then again, how safe is it for American foreign-policy critics here at home, given the government’s long-held position that the entire world, including the United States, is a battlefield in the war on terrorism?
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Empire and the Destruction of America
If there’s a bright side to the national security state’s assassination of one of its citizens, it’s this: At least the statists are not saying that the dead man, Anwar al-Awlaki, hated America for its freedom and values. Most every statist is acknowledging that Awlaki’s anger toward the United States was driven by his hatred for what the U.S. Empire has been doing to people in the Middle East.
After all, don’t forget that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, statists, led by President George W. Bush, declared that the terrorists were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values.
Libertarians, on the other hand, said that the statist position was nonsense — that such a position was simply a way to avoid confronting the bad things that the Empire had been doing to people in the Middle East for years. Arabs and Muslims were angry, we pointed out, because of U.S. foreign policy in that part of the world.
Statists were outraged over the libertarian position. “You’re blaming America!” they exclaimed, given that in their minds the federal government is America. To the American statist, it was simply inconceivable that the U.S. government had been doing bad things people in the world. Thus, they believed that it was unpatriotic, perhaps even heretical, for libertarians to suggest otherwise.
Recall the famous debate exchange over U.S. foreign policy four years ago between Ron Paul and Rudy Guliani. Paul suggested that the reason that people came over here to kill us was because the U.S. government was over there killing them. Guliani went ballistic, refusing to believe that the federal government could possibly have done bad things to people.
Needless to say, there are still countless statists who take the “My government, never wrong in foreign affairs” position and the “the terrorists just hate us for our freedom and values” position, but I think most thinking people have come to the realization that the libertarians have been right all along.
Consider the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Pakistan, specifically matters relating to the Haqqani Network, a group in Pakistan that is violently resisting the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. The U.S. Empire is upset at the Pakistani government for not attacking and killing the Haqqani and for possibly even supporting them.
Now, think about that for a moment. The U.S. government wants the Pakistani government to kill its own people, just as the U.S. government is now killing its own people.
And for what?
For empire. So that the U.S. Empire can fortify its hold and control over that part of the world.
Indeed, why the billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid into the coffers of foreign dictatorships, such as Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and others?
Why the torture partnerships with dictatorships such as Libya, Egypt, and Syria?
Why are troops killing and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq?
All of this death and destruction is not about the freedom and well-being of the American people or anyone else. It’s all about the authority of the U.S. Empire to police the world and embargo, sanction, invade, and occupy recalcitrant nations and torture, humiliate, and kill people who resist such imperial actions.
That’s why Awlaki was killed. That’s why the Pakistani government is expected to kill its own people. That’s what U.S. troops are killing and dying for. That’s why people in Iraq and Afghanistan are being killed and maimed. That’s why their countries are being destroyed.
It’s all about the “right” of the U.S. Empire to expand and solidify its control and domination around the world. Those who resist the Empire are considered bad people and if they resist the Empire with violence, they are considered terrorists and need to be killed.
After all, let’s not forget: American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, which was originally the purported justification for the “war on terrorism.” At worst, he was charged with conspiring to resist with violence the U.S. government’s imperial actions overseas. That’s why the Empire took him out.
It all goes to show what empire has done to our nation and to the American people. After all, don’t forget that it wasn’t too long ago that the U.S. government was supporting the Haqqanis, Osama bin Laden, and the Pakistani government, all of whom were resisting the Soviet Empire’s occupation of Afghanistan. During that time, the Haqqanis, bin Laden, and the Pakistani government were considered the good guys and the occupiers the bad guys.
It’s all one great big, giant, screwy, immoral mess. And it’s all because America abandoned its founding principles of a limited-government, constitutional republic in favor of empire, interventionism, and militarism. The American people need to stop and reflect upon what the abandonment of our founding principles have wrought to our nation. What better time than now, when the U.S. Empire has now expanded its killing to encompass the American people?
Monday, October 3, 2011
We Were Warned
In a Fourth of July message to Congress, John Quincy Adams suggested that if America were ever to embrace the principles of empire and militarism, she would become a dictatress of the world. What better evidence of Adams’ wisdom than President Obama’s assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, a state-sanctioned murder, one without any judicial process whatsoever?
Look at what an interventionist and imperialist foreign policy has wrought: a perpetual threat of terrorist attacks, which has been the government’s excuse for assuming extraordinary emergency powers — the same powers that many of the brutal U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East wield: arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, indefinite detention, rendition, torture, kangaroo tribunals, and assassination.
After the 9/11 attacks, statists cheered the assumption of these extraordinary emergency powers, naively believing that they would be exercised only against foreigners. But President Bush, whose CIA assassinated an American travelling in Yemen in 2002, always made it clear that these emergency powers extended to Americans. President Obama’s assassination of al-Awlaki is another reminder for the American people—that the U.S. government wields the post-9/11 power to kill its own people without any due process of law or judicial interference. It is a power, of course, that dictators throughout history have wielded.
Adams wasn’t the only one who warned Americans what would happen if they embraced empire, militarism, and interventionism.
Madison pointed out that of all the enemies to liberty, war is the biggest because it encompasses the germ of every threat to the liberty and well-being of the citizenry. Not only are civil liberties damaged or destroyed, but also economic well-being owing to out-of-control spending, debt, and inflation that inevitably comes with war.
Who can deny that the so-called war on terrorism, with its much-vaunted Patriot Act, illegal NSA spying, and airport groping has infringed our civil liberties? Who can deny that it has contributed in a major way to out-of-control federal spending, debt, and inflation that now threaten out nation with bankruptcy?
After World War II, defenders of America’s non-interventionist, anti-imperialist legacy warned that the establishment of a permanent military establishment and an imperialist, interventionist foreign policy would forever change the character of our nation— into one resembling totalitarian regimes.
At the same time, libertarian economists like Friedrich Hayek were warning Americans about the road to serfdom they were traveling with welfare statism.
But the statists prevailed, with both the welfare state and the warfare state.
In the National Security Act of 1947, America became saddled with a permanent and ever-growing military-industrial complex, the CIA, and a never-ending obsession with “national security”—all with the notion that the United States was charged with policing and defending the world from its old World War II ally and partner, the Soviet Union.
It wasn’t too long after that that the CIA began engaging in coups, assassinations, and regime-change operations, for example, in Iran, Guatemala, and Cuba.
On December 22, 1963 — exactly one month after President Kennedy was assassinated — former President Truman wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post telling Americans that the CIA had grown into something dark and sinister that no one had ever envisioned. He stated: “We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”
But it was not corrected. Things only got worse.
Then, by the time that President Eisenhower was leaving office, it was obvious that he had come to realize the dangers posed by America’s embrace of the national-security state. He warned Americans of the grave threat to America’s democratic processes posed by the military-industrial complex.
By the time he was assassinated, it is clear that President Kennedy had recognized what Truman and Eisenhower had seen. Before he was murdered, Kennedy promised to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and was exploring ways to end the Cold War, over the fierce opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military establishment.
Ever since Kennedy’s assassination, every president has bought into the national-security state concept, even after the Soviet threat disintegrated. National security has become a permanent national shibboleth at which federal officials in all three branches of government worship, even though—or perhaps because—its only purpose is to serve as a tool that enables the government to do whatever it wants and to keep it secret.
Militarism and empire are glorified all across America, and Americans get their sense of national purpose and meaning in life through the invasions, occupations, assassinations, kidnappings, torture, detention, kangaroo tribunals, and renditions that empire, interventionism, and militarism have brought us.
Some argue that the battle America confronts is between al-Qaeda and the United States. They are wrong. The real battle is between libertarians and statists. Libertarians are committed to dismantling America’s welfare state and warfare state and restoring liberty and prosperity to our land, while the statists are committed to maintaining the welfare and warfare empires and their ever-growing destruction of the liberty and well-being of the American people.