Wednesday, November 30, 2011
by Jacob G. Hornberger
A Washington Post op-ed by Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Republic Senator John McCain shows, once again, that the threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people comes from both liberals and conservatives, especially those within the government.
The op-ed was written in support of the 2012 defense [sic] authorization bill, which effectively authorizes the president to treat suspected terrorists either as illegal enemy combatants or as criminal defendants under the U.S. Code, at the option of the government. That, of course, entails the power of the president, through his military and CIA forces, to label people as terrorists, torture them, incarcerate them forever without trial, and even execute them after some sort of kangaroo military tribunal, such as those at Guantanamo Bay.
I probably should note that such power will not be limited to foreigners labeled as terrorists. It also encompasses Americans.
The bill has produced a ruckus in liberal, conservative, and libertarian circles. Critics are pointing out that such power is an inherent part of dictatorial regimes.
Consider, for example, the Egyptian military dictatorship. It possesses the same power over people as the power delegated to the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA in the defense authorization bill. The power delegated to the president, the military, and the CIA in the 2012 defense authorization bill is the same power that the Egyptian demonstrators have been demanding, without success, that the Egyptian military relinquish.
Or consider the Chinese communist dictatorship. Same power there too.
For that matter, consider the Nazi dictatorship. The Enabling Act, a temporary measure that was enacted as part of Hitler’s war on terrorism after the terrorist fire-bomb attack on the Reichstag building, enabled Hitler, his military, and the Gestapo to round people up, send them into concentration camps, torture them, and execute them.
There is one important thing, however, that we should keep in mind about the 2012 defense authorization bill, something that Levin and McCain point out in their op-ed: We’re already living in a country where the president, the military, and the CIA possess the omnipotent, dictatorial power that is granted to them in the bill. As Levin and McCain point out, the bill is simply codifying a legal situation that already exists.
That is what we have been pointing out here at The Future of Freedom Foundation ever since 9/11. When President Bush decreed that the 9/11 attacks gave him, the military, and the CIA the power to round up foreigners, torture them, detain them indefinitely, and even execute them, we opposed the assumption of such omnipotent powers not only because we believed it was wrong to exercise such powers against foreigners, but also because, we repeatedly emphasized, the power could also be wielded against Americans.
That was the logical outcome of the government’s reasoning, as we repeatedly emphasized. The United States is now involved in a “war on terrorism,” the president decreed. The war was a global one and, therefore, one in which the United States was part of the battlefield. The war would be perpetual. To keep Americans safe, the president, the military, and the CIA would have the task of finding terrorists anywhere in the world, including suspected American terrorists on American soil, and the power to treat them as illegal enemy combatants. It was a cleverly successful way to circumvent almost 250 years of Bill of Rights protection against dictatorial power.
That’s what the Jose Padilla case was all about. It confirmed the president’s dictatorial power to seize Americans, torture them with impunity, detain them forever, and even execute them as part of the “war on terrorism.” Padilla was an American. Once the federal court of appeals upheld the government power to do all that to Padilla, the government acquired the power to do it to all Americans.
It has been a wholesale legal revolution, one bigger and more ominous than even the New Deal’s revolutionary transformation of America’s economic system from free market to socialism.
Prior to 9/11, the Bill of Rights prohibited the government from depriving any person, including foreigners, of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. After 9/11, the Bill of Rights remained the same, but the president assumed, by decree, the power to ignore the Bill of Rights with respect to people labeled as terrorists, just as he chose to ignore the constitutional provision relating to a declaration of war from Congress.
What the members of Congress should be doing is enacting a law that removes such tyrannical powers from the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA rather than further entrenching them with codification.
What Levin and McCain are doing is precisely what Mubarak’s legislature did and what the Reichstag did — delegate such dictatorial powers to the president, the military, and the CIA by legislative enactment. Their attempt to codify and enshrine such dictatorial powers into law ten years after 9/11, rather than expressly prohibit them by legislative enactment, demonstrates, once again, that the major threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people comes not from terrorists, communists, drug dealers, or illegal aliens. It comes from the federal government, including the president, the military, the CIA, and statist members of Congress.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Heading Toward Greece
by Jacob G. Hornberger
American statists just don’t get it. They see what’s happening with Greece, and yet steadfastly continue down the same road here in the United States. With Americans unable to let go of warfare-state programs and welfare-state programs, federal spending and borrowing continue to soar, hurtling the nation toward the same financial bankruptcy that now confronts Greece.
The situation in Greece is not a complicated one. Under its welfare state, the Greek government taxes people in order to give a dole to selected people, such as the elderly. For a time, the amount collected in taxes was presumably sufficient to cover the amount paid to the welfare recipients as well as the costs of having the government perform this service.
Ultimately, however, the payments to the welfare sector began exceeding the amounts being collected in taxes. Rather than reduce the amount being paid to the welfare sector, which would have made the welfare recipients angry, the government simply borrowed the difference.
As the borrowing continued, year after year, the total amount of debt owed by the Greek government became larger and larger. Ultimately, things got to the point where prospective lenders were no longer willing to lend any more money to the Greek government for fear that they would not be repaid, leaving the Greek government with tax revenues that are insufficient to pay for the welfare, costs of operating the programs, and interest on the debt.
Suppose a family has an income of $100,000 and expenses of $150,000. Each year, it goes out and borrows $50,000 to cover the excess expenditures. After 10 years, the accumulated debt amounts to $500,000. The bank refuses to renew and extend the note, demanding immediate payment of $500,000.
That’s the position that the Greek government is in. Busted. Bankrupt.
Now, what should the Greek government do?
A related question, one much more important for Americans, is: What should the U.S. government do about its situation? After all, in principle the U.S. government is in the same position as the Greek government. That’s not to say that the situation here in the United States is as dire as it is in Greece. It’s simply to say that the road that the United States is on ends up at the same point that Greece is in.
Everyone knows that federal spending is soaring out of control. Warfare-state spending and welfare-state spending far exceed the amount being collected in taxes. To cover the difference, the federal government has been borrowing the money. The total amount of the accumulated debt continues to soar.
That’s what the debate over whether to lift the debt ceiling was all about. The debt ceiling is an express acknowledgement that too much accumulated debt on the part of the federal government is a bad thing. Nonetheless, U.S. officials lifted the ceiling once again, enabling the federal government to borrow more money, thereby adding to the total amount of its accumulated debt.
If things proceed as they are, at some point — one can never know precisely when — the United States will face the same situation that the Greeks are facing. At some point, investors will refuse to buy government bonds. The gig will be up. The government will be unable to pay all its warfare-welfare payments simply because it will lack the full amount of money needed to do so and because it will be unable to borrow the money needed to make up the difference.
What’s the solution to all this?
American statists say that the Greeks just need to tax their citizenry to make up the difference. The Greek government is doing that, but the Greek people, both those in the private sector and those in the welfare sector, are fiercely resisting the new taxes. For those in the public sector, the taxes simply mean a reduction in the amount of the dole. For the private sector, it means more people will be going on the dole, thereby reducing the private sector even more.
The statists also say that the countries in the Euro zone should simply print the money to help Greece make its payments. In other words, inflation. But that’s a fool’s road. If debasement of the currency was the key to prosperity, countries that have gone down the inflation road, such as Zimbabwe, would be wealthy. The Germans, who have had experience with the ravaging effects of inflation, are not going along with this recommendation of the American statists, and rightfully so.
The principle is no different here in the United States. Imposing higher taxes on the private sector will send marginal firms into bankruptcy and inevitably expand the number of people on the dole. Having the Federal Reserve print the money to accommodate the debt will only add to the chaos and crisis.
Some argue that all that is needed is an across-the-board cut in federal spending — say, 30 percent.
The better solution, however, is for Americans to ask themselves the question that libertarians have long pondered: What is the rightful role of government in a free society? Is it the role of government to take money from people in order to give it to others? Is it the role of government to regulate and punish peaceful behavior? Is it the role of government to serve as a military empire or a global police force?
If a critical mass of Americans come up with the same answer that libertarians have come up with, then the solution to America’s woes becomes clear: Dismantle, repeal, and abolish every single welfare-state program (including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, corporate bailouts, and foreign aid), every single regulatory program (including the drug war), the warfare state (including the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the overseas bases, and the military-industrial complex), and the income tax (and IRS).
With libertarianism come peace, prosperity, harmony, and, most important, the restoration of freedom to our land.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Statism from the Right and Left
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a conservative, and New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a liberal, recently provided excellent insights into how the statist mind operates, both from a conservative and a liberal perspective.
During a recent presidential debate, Gingrich praised the Patriot Act, claiming that “all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives.” He’s referring, of course, to the government’s “war on terrorism,” a “war” that Gingrich and other warfare statists claim will be with us forever,
Unfortunately, Gingrich didn’t explain why that is so. Why is it that Americans must live with the fear of terrorism for the rest of their lives?
NATO’s recent killing of six children in Pakistan provides a microcosm of why the war on terrorism is perpetual in nature. The children were killed by an airstrike that officials said was targeted at insurgents who were purportedly laying mines in a local village. Essentially, the children were at the wrong place at the wrong time, making them unfortunate collateral damage.
According to the New York Times, however, “An uncle of the four children disputed that account. He said that his relatives were working in the fields when they were suddenly attacked by the planes. ‘There were no Taliban in the field; this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines,’ Mr. Samad said.”
As a practical matter, whether there were insurgents laying mines or not doesn’t really affect the rage that naturally arises within people when children are killed by bombs or missiles, especially by foreign occupiers. When children are killed, parents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and friends are going to get angry — very angry. Some of them are likely to join the next group that is laying roadside mines intended to oust the occupiers from their country.
The cycle then continues to repeat itself, ending up in a perpetual war on terrorism and perpetually increasing infringements on civil liberties supposedly intended to keep us safe from the terrorists that the government’s foreign policies are producing.
Why does Gingrich say that Americans will be unsafe for the rest of their lives? Because in his mind, the U.S. Empire is a given. Even if the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan were to end, that would simply mean that imperial resources and manpower would be reoriented toward other parts of globe — e.g., Asia, Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East.
For a statist like Gingrich the basic imperialist paradigm isn’t to be questioned. Instead, for him the paradigm of imperialism, militarism, and a giant military-industrial complex with ever-rising military budgets must be considered a permanent feature of American life, much as the Egyptian military considers its position a permanent feature of Egyptian life.
With empire comes foreign anger and rage, which manifests itself in terrorism, which is then used as the excuse for ever-rising military budgets and perpetually growing infringements on civil liberties.
A similar mindset was manifested by Collins in a recent column entitled “O.K., Now Ron Paul.” Since Paul is now in the top tier of polls in Iowa, Collins said she felt compelled to devote an entire column to his views. One can almost feel Collins’ pain of having to address Paul’s libertarian perspectives rather than simply ignore them.
Referring to Paul’s book End the Fed, Collins writes “if you are interested in abolishing the Federal Reserve, I would really suggest reading it. However the Fed is not going to be ended.”
I find that last sentence to be both fascinating and revealing. How does she know that the Fed is not going to be ended? Is she a seer? Is she predicting the future?
I don’t think so. I think that what she is saying is that the statist paradigm of monetary central planning is a permanent feature of American life. Like Gingrich’s warfare state, the Federal Reserve is here to stay and everyone had just better get used to it, even if it does mean that financial and economic bankruptcy lies at the end of the road.
Thus, while it’s fun to have libertarians like Paul bringing up ideas on monetary freedom and the private minting of money, for Collins they are totally irrelevant given that in her mind, the paradigm of monetary socialism will be with us forever.
But if the status quo really is permanent, why do totalitarian dictators incarcerate, torture, and execute people who are spreading ideas on liberty? What difference does it make to them that such people are spreading such ideas if statism is, in fact, permanent in nature?
Indeed, the reason that dictators shut down those who are spreading ideas on liberty is precisely because they know that the status quo is never permanent. Ideas on liberty have the potential to inflame the populace, to such a point that even the most powerful of paradigms and regimes can be brought down.
This is especially true with respect to the Federal Reserve, which is now being attacked by both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements. Both sides are figuring out that we libertarians have been right about the Fed from the start — that it’s a vehicle by which public officials fraudulently plunder and loot ordinary people for the benefit of the rich and the privileged, including their cronies on Wall Street and elsewhere.
It is ideas on liberty, both in foreign and domestic affairs, that makes libertarianism such a threat to statists like Gingrich and Collins. Deep down, people of the statist ilk know that the socialism, interventionism, and imperialism that they have foisted onto our land can be dismantled. All that’s needed is a critical mass of Americans who become fed up with the statism that afflicts our land and demand the restoration of liberty, free markets, and a limited-government republic. If that were to happen, a paradigm shift could occur as rapidly as the fall of the Berlin Wall, which statists once claimed would be with us for the rest of our lives.
That’s what scares statists like Gingrich and Collins. They see the rising level of interest in libertarians, which is being manifested in the political arena by the Ron Paul campaign. At first, they hoped to ignore it. When that didn’t work, they chose to scoff at it and suggest to people that system can’t be changed — that statism is here forever.
When statists suggest that libertarian ideas can never prevail in America, me thinks that the statists might just be whistling past the graveyard.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
College Civil Liberties Tour
by Jacob G. Hornberger
FFF is embarking on one of the most exciting programs in our 22-year history.
We are partnering with the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to go on a one-week college tour next February featuring a panel entitled “The War on Terrorism, Civil Liberties, and the Constitution.”
The panel will consist of three lawyers, a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian, all three of whom are ardent defenders of civil liberties: Bruce Fein, Glenn Greenwald, and me. The panel will be moderated by Jack Hunter, who recently joined YAL’s staff as director of outreach and who is a frequent contributor to American Conservative magazine.
Fein, who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration, is one of the most spellbinding and erudite speakers on freedom, the Constitution, and civil liberties. He’s the author of the great book American Empire Before the Fall.
Greenwald, a Salon.com blogger and author of the great, newly published book With Liberty and Justice for Some, was described by Forbes magazine as one of the top 25 most influential liberal commentators in the country.
Fein and Greenwald are among the foremost defenders of civil liberties in our time. It makes no difference whether Republicans or Democrats are in power — Fein and Greenwald remain steadfast, consistent, and fierce proponents of civil liberties.
Since our inception in 1989, FFF has always been a staunch advocate of civil liberties. In fact, in our very first year of operation, we devoted much of the July 1990 issue of Freedom Daily to civil liberties, including my article “The Forgotten Importance of Civil Liberties.” Ever since, and especially since 9/11, we have been at the forefront of the libertarian movement in emphasizing the importance of civil liberties.
YAL was formed in the wake of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. It is a fantastic organization of young people, especially college students, who have fire-in-the-belly for libertarianism and Austrian economics. They have college chapters all over the United States.
The tour will primarily concentrate in the Northeast and Midwest, ending up with a presentation at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, D.C. YAL is now in the process of selecting the colleges that we’ll be visiting. We’ll let you know as soon the schedule is finalized.
The events will be free and open to the public. Since our panelists will consist of a conservative, a liberal, and a libertarian, we’re sure to attract college students from different philosophical perspectives. I hope you’ll be able to make one or more of these appearances, as it would be great to have the students interacting with libertarians, especially during the informal social period following the formal program.
With the U.S. government’s interventionist and imperialist foreign policy, the government’s infringements on civil liberties continue to grow. There is no way that a people can be considered free when they have lost civil liberty. This program is aimed at restoring civil liberties to our land. What better place to begin than on America’s college campuses?
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Ron Paul’s Interview on “Face the Nation”
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Ron Paul’s interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last Sunday provides a fascinating look at the mainstream media mindset.
Referring to the 9/11 attacks, Schieffer remarked, “Basically what you’re saying is that it was America’s fault that 9/11 happened and it was our fault that it happened.”
As Paul made clear in his response, he has never blamed the 9/11 attacks on America or on the American people. The responsibility for the rage that ultimately manifested itself in the 9/11 attacks ultimately lies with the foreign policy of the U.S. government. As Paul indicated, the notion that foreigners hate our country for its “freedom and values, ” as compared to the U.S. government’s foreign policy, is ridiculous.
In framing his question, Schieffer makes a mistake that is common to statists, in that he conflates the U.S. government and America into one amorphous whole. In the mind of the statist, they are one and the same thing.
Thus, if a libertarian criticizes the government, in the mind of the statist he’s criticizing America. In the mind of the statist, a critic of U.S. foreign policy is un-American, unpatriotic, perhaps even a traitor. To the statist the government is everything because in his mind, it is the country.
For us libertarians, the government and the country are two separate and distinct entities.
That recognition enables us libertarians to view the government in a way that statists are unable to do, owing to their conflation of the two entities. Libertarians are able to see what the Framers saw: that the federal government is the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people.
That’s why the Constitution expressly limited the powers of the federal government. That’s why the Bill of Rights expressly prohibited the federal government from infringing on the fundamental rights of the people and placed obstructions in front of the federal government’s ability to punish people.
The statist is unable to see that, simply because for him the federal government and the country are one and the same thing. If asked to explain the concept of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the statist is likely to respond, “They are the vehicle by which the government gives people their rights.”
A proper analysis of the 9/11 attacks requires an examination into the motive of the attackers. More often than not, the statists will exclaim, “Oh, you’re a justifier! You’re justifying and defending the terrorist attacks!”
But that’s ridiculous. In criminal cases, the prosecutor will oftentimes delve into the motive of the defendant in order to show the jury the entire context of the criminal act. That obviously doesn’t mean that the prosecutor is justifying or defending the act of the defendant. Or to take another example, when libertarians pointed out that Timothy McVeigh was motivated by the federal massacre at Waco to commit his terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, that was done not to “justify or defend” the attack but instead to show that the federal government should refrain from committing any more Waco-like massacres of people.
It’s no different with respect to the 9/11 attacks and, for that matter, the anti-American terrorist attacks that preceded the 9/11 attacks — the 1993 WTC attack (on the same target as the 9/11 attacks), the attack on the USS Cole, and the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in East Africa. By analyzing motive, we can determine whether the U.S. government should discontinue doing the things that are motivating people to retaliate with terrorism against the United States.
By being able to recognize the distinction between the federal government and the country, we libertarians are able to advocate ways to get our nation back on the right track by changing the direction of the government.
That’s one big reason that the future well-being of our country lies with libertarians rather than statists.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Advancing Liberty in Oregon
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Last weekend, I experienced one of those great libertarian highs that come with advancing liberty! I spoke at two separate venues in Portland, Oregon — the first at a great private school named the Delphian School and the second at a great freedom seminar that has been held annually for some 20 years.
The Delphian School was an absolutely perfect venue to share libertarian ideas. The aim of the school is to encourage students to become independent, critical thinkers. Thus, the students are totally unafraid to consider new, provocative areas of thought. In fact, it was very obvious to me that they actually enjoyed such a thing.
As I was sharing the pure, no-holds-barred overview of the libertarian paradigm, I could see the gears turning within the heads of all 200 students in the audience. Not surprisingly, the discussion period turned out to be more fun than my talk.
Then, after the speech and discussion period, we adjourned to a different, more in-depth discussion with the high school seniors. It was just as enjoyable as the previous session.
Later, one of the professors who sponsored my visit, Mark Siegel, told me that many of the students were still discussing and debating libertarianism late in the day.
A special thanks to Mark Siegel and to Rosemary Didear, the Delphian School’s headmistress, for your kind invitation and reception. I sure had a great time!
Then, the next day I had the good fortune of preaching to the choir at the annual “Freedom Seminar,” which has been organized by longtime Oregonian libertarians David and Laurie Hendersen and Dick Foley (a Portland lawyer who has long written for The Freeman and Freedom Daily) for the past 20 years. Take a look at this link for a list of past speakers who have spoken at the seminar, including Hans Sennholz, Richard Ebeling, Sheldon Richman, Jim Bovard, Don Boudreaux, Robert Higgs, Burt Folsom, Tom Palmer, Lawrence Reed, Dick Foley, Robert Sirico, and many other libertarian luminaries.
This was actually my third appearance at the Freedom Seminar since 1991. It was great to see some familiar faces and many FFF supporters. This particular seminar was especially fun because there was another lawyer on the program (and another Jacob!) — Jacob Huebert, a young libertarian lawyer who is working for a new public interest law firm in Illinois that is going to be fighting state cases based on the concept of economic liberty.
Jacob began the program with a fascinating talk on the prospects for liberty in our time. We then broke into two discussion groups. That was followed by a talk I gave on why civil liberties are so important. Jacob gave a second talk on intellectual property rights that, not surprisingly, generated all sorts of discussion and debate both after his talk and in the discussion session that followed. I then wrapped up the program with a talk on the principles of economic liberty.
A big thanks to Dave and Laurie and Dick for your kindness and affording me the opportunity to share ideas on liberty again with your great bunch of seminar participants.
The Delphian School videotaped my talks, which I anticipate will be posted on the school’s website. As soon as it is, we’ll link it in our FFF Email Update. The talks at the seminar were audiotaped and we’ll see about sharing those with you as well.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Electing a Torturer-In-Chief
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The last Republican presidential debate — the one on foreign policy — was absolutely pathetic. Except for John Huntsman and Ron Paul, the candidates seemed to be fighting to show that they would be bigger and better torturers, aggressors, and assassins than President Obama.
While the dismal state of the economy is likely to hurt Obama’s chances at reelection, he has clearly outmaneuvered the Republicans by embracing their foreign-policy views. After all, I think most everyone would agree that on foreign policy, Obama’s first term is nothing more than George W. Bush’s third term.
The problem is that if Romney, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, or Bachmann were to be elected president, their term would be Obama’s second term, given that they all share the same perspectives on foreign policy, militarism, civil liberties, the war on terrorism.
So, given that they hold the same basic foreign policy views as Obama, the problem that Romney, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, and Bachmann have is to convince people why they should vote for one of them rather than Obama. Obviously, when it comes to foreign policy, they feel that their best chance is to show people that they would be bigger invaders, occupiers, imposers of sanctions and embargoes, assassins, and torturers than Obama.
That’s what running for president has come to in the United States of America.
Consider Iran. The Republicans were stumbling over each other in a desperate attempt to show how much tougher they would be with Iran than Obama has been, some of them even signaling that they were ready to bomb Iran soon after taking office.
It was so refreshing to have Paul and, to a certain extent Huntsman, remind us that the empire/intervention/torture paradigm is not what America is all about. Their position is that it’s time to move America in a different direction — to end the occupations and bring the troops home and stop the torture, including waterboarding.
Not surprisingly, out of the hour-long televised debate, they gave Paul the grand total of 90 seconds — a bit more than they gave Gary Johnson (who wasn’t even allowed to participate in the debate), and I would estimate that it was pretty much the same with Huntsman. If a candidate is expounding libertarian views or views that are inconsistent with the statist views of the mainstream press, the last thing the statists want to do is provide him with much time to expound on his views.
In fact, did you notice that there wasn’t one question about the drug war, which has long been a core element of U.S. foreign policy, especially given the active role that the CIA and the Pentagon play in it? Hey, that would mean that they’d have to listen to Paul explain why the drug war is nothing but a federal model of failure, immorality, death, destruction, corruption, and loss of liberty. That’s the last thing statists want. They want the drug war to just keeping going and going and going, regardless of the results, just like their imperialism and, for that matter, their socialist domestic policies.
The regrettable part about all this is that when he assumed office, Obama could have done what Paul and Huntsman are doing, at least with respect to foreign policy and the drug war. When he came into office, Obama could have said:
My fellow Americans, President Bush and the Republicans have used the last 8 years to lead our nation into invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, infringements on civil liberties, and aid to dictatorships.
They have had 8 years to fulfill their aims. That’s enough time. I wish to move our nation in a new direction. Therefore, I am ordering the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and from everywhere else.
The war on terrorism is hereby declared over, and I am requesting the Congress to immediately restore the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.
There will be no further kidnapping, torture, rendition, assassinations, executions, indefinite incarceration, denial of due process, or secret prisons. The military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay is hereby ordered closed. All people charged with terrorism will be prosecuted in federal court, as the Constitution requires.
I’m also ordering the termination of all CIA and military involvement in the drug war, and I am requesting Congress to end it immediately by legalizing drugs. Forty years of failure, death, destruction, corruption, and infringements on privacy and liberty are enough.
Obama had the chance to raise America’s vision on foreign policy to a higher level, as Paul and Huntsman are now doing, but instead he chose to remain mired in the muck of imperialism, militarism, and statism. By embracing the Republican vision on foreign policy, he may have outmaneuvered his Republican opponents, but he did a grave disservice to our nation.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Friday, November 11, 2011
A Worthless and Destructive Proposal from the New York Times
by Jacob G. Hornberger
The lead editorial in the New York Times today explains why the U.S. dollar is worth only about 5 percent of its value compared to when the Federal Reserve was established in 1913. The editorial doesn’t specifically address the U.S. dollar. Instead, it’s about the financial crisis in Italy. But the reasoning of the editorial provides an excellent explanation of the monetary debauchery that has long characterized American life.
The Times says that the solution to Italy’s financial woes lies with the European Central Bank. The Times says that the central bank should crank up the printing presses and start printing the money to purchase Italian bonds, given that investors are fleeing them en masse.
That’s precisely what the Federal Reserve has been doing for decades.
Here’s the problem. Like the U.S. government, the Italian government has been borrowing money for years, constantly adding to the government’s indebtedness. The total national debt has now gotten so high that speculators and investors are smelling the distinct possibility of default. They’re dumping their bonds and refusing to buy new ones.
Why has the Italian government been borrowing so much money? To pay recipients of welfare-state largess. Since the total tax revenue has consistently been less than the amount of the welfare payments, the Italian government has borrowed the difference.
Why not simply raise taxes to cover the difference, so that no borrowing would be necessary? Because people get angry when their taxes are increased. It’s easier to borrow the money because most people don’t worry about that. The attitude is that their children and grandchildren will have to deal with the debt, long after their parents and grandparents are dead.
But now Italy has reached a point where it can’t afford to raise the taxes to cover all its expenses, including interest on its massive debt. If it raises taxes, it squeezes the private sector, sending more businesses into bankruptcy, thereby shrinking the tax base and exacerbating the overall problem.
Now, doesn’t it seem like there is an obvious solution to this problem? Just dismantle the welfare state. Immediately terminate all welfare-state payments. That would at least reduce the amount of expenses needed to be paid.
But that idea is anathema to statists. It’s heresy. The welfare state is here to stay, they argue. It’s permanent. It is never to be questioned or challenged. Instead, people are expected to come up with solutions to make the welfare state succeed.
And that’s where the idea of monetary debasement comes in. Here, the state pays off its creditors with cheapened, debased dollars. It’s a way to cheat creditors of the money that is owed to them. It’s also a way to plunder and loot the citizens by reducing the value of their money. Inflation is a tax, pure and simple, albeit a secret, surreptitious one.
What the Times is recommending for Italy is precisely what the Federal Reserve has been doing for decades with America’s welfare-warfare state. As expenditures have soared for the welfare state and the warfare state, borrowed and the national debt have also skyrocketed.
Don’t forget that it was just recently that statists succeed in getting the debt ceiling raised here in the United States to enable the federal government to pile even more debt onto the backs of the American people.
Decade after decade, the Federal Reserve has accommodated the debt by printing the money needed to pay it, thereby cheating creditors and plundering the citizenry with a constantly debased currency.
The Times hopes that inflation will bring “growth” to Italy, but that’s ridiculous. If inflation could bring real economic growth to a nation, Zimbabwe would be extremely wealthy today. Inflation brings nothing but the artificial and destructive world of booms and busts, balloons, and monetary crises.
The only thing that brings genuine growth to a society is economic liberty, the antithesis of both the welfare state and the warfare state. With economic liberty, there are no welfare-state programs and no warfare-state expenses. People are free to engage in economic enterprise free of government control and free to keep everything they earn. As people save their money, those savings are converted into capital, which makes companies more productive, which raises wage rates and standards of living.
The statist paradigm is finished, and that’s a good thing. The Times’ pro-inflation proposal would only delay the inevitable and make things worse. For genuine growth and prosperity and liberty, Europeans and Americans need to abandon both the welfare state and the warfare state and embrace economic liberty and a constitutional republic.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Warping the Economy with Welfare and Warfare
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Let’s assume a society in which there is no income tax, no welfare state, no overseas military empire, and no military-industrial complex. Assume that the tax burden amounts to an average of 2 percent per person, with it being collected with a sales tax on imported goods People are keeping 98 percent of their income.
In such a society, people would be free to do whatever they want with their money. Production and consumption of goods and services would be driven by that 98 percent that people are keeping. Businesses would almost be entirely oriented toward satisfying consumer preferences or saver/investor preferences. The citizenry, through their buying and selling, would be directing most of the economic activity in society.
The probability is that overall people would be saving a large portion of their incomes, which is the key to economic prosperity. The savings are placed into banks, which then lend the money to businesses that are purchasing machinery and equipment which make workers more productive. More productivity means higher wage rates and increasing standards of living throughout society.
Now, imagine that the state decides to impose an 80 percent income tax on the citizenry. Everyone is now required to send in 80 percent of his income to the government, keeping 20 percent for himself. The government uses the money to build an enormous welfare bureaucracy, distribute a welfare dole to large segments of society, and build a vast overseas military empire and domestic military-industrial complex.
Obviously, this new state of affairs dramatically changes the orientation of economic activity in the society. Thousands of businesses and industries that previously catered to the consumer/savings/investment preferences of the private sector go out of business because people are no longer disposing of the 80 percent that they previously spent or saved.
The government hires tens of thousands of people to serve as tax and welfare bureaucrats and to serve in its vast foreign and domestic military empire. Those people come out of the private sector, where they use to be productive. Now working for the government, they are living off of the 80 percent of taxes that are now being taken from those who remain in the private sector.
Vast new businesses and industries come into existence to cater to the wants of the government — to the new non-productive class, i.e., the soldiers, the welfare bureaucrats, and the welfare dole recipients.
The thing to note is that we are dealing with two completely different groups here: a productive group and a non-productive group. The private sector is the productive group. The government sector is the non-productive group. The private sector produces the wealth in society. The government sector — consisting of soldiers and bureaucrats — produces no wealth; instead it thrives off the money that is taken through taxation from the private sector.
For a time, everything works out, in large part because the private sector is able to sustain the burden of paying for the welfare-warfare sector. Standards of living continue to rise, albeit not as enormously as before, but most people don’t seem to notice that. Anyway, people are told that it’s all because of national security and to fight poverty, and so people are willing to accept the lower standard of living than they otherwise would have had.
Over time, however, the private sector cannot handle the financial burden of supporting the non-productive sector. For example, let’s say that it’s costing $1 million to pay for the soldiers, the bureaucrats, and the welfare recipients but the taxes being collected through the 80 percent income tax amount to $800,000.
Obviously, the government could raise the income tax to 90 percent to cover the difference, but the problem is that that tax increase will drive more businesses into bankruptcy, thereby shrinking the tax take from the private sector.
So, the government simply goes into the investor marketplace and borrows the money to make up the difference. The next year, it’s faced with the same problem. It goes out and borrows more money. Year after year, it continues borrowing and borrowing and borrowing, until the total amount of its debt becomes so large that the government cannot pay all the soldiers, the bureaucrats, the welfare recipients, and the interest on its debt, much less any of the principal, with its tax revenues.
That hypothetical essentially describes the economic situation of such countries as Greece, Italy, Cuba, and the United States. Obviously, the numbers are different in each country, and the situation is different in each country, but the principle is the same in all of them.
The government sector — the non-productive sector — has grown so large that tax revenues are not enough to cover the expenses. The government sector knows that a critical point has been reached. If taxes are raised on the productive sector, it will shrink, thereby exacerbating the problem. The government has borrowed so much money that it is unable to pay interest except by borrowing more money. But for countries like Italy and Greece, that game is just about over, given that investors are now refusing to lend their governments any more money by buying their bonds.
What’s the solution? The solution is obvious: dismantle the welfare-warfare sectors and and the taxes needed to sustain them. End the welfare, dismantle vast the military empire, and abolish the income tax. Leave people free to keep everything they earn.
That’s where the statists go ballistic. They say that that would be the worst thing that could happen because of the vast unemployment that would accrue from discharging all those soldiers and welfare bureaucrats and terminating the dole for all the welfare recipients. They also point to all the businesses that cater to the public sector that would go out of business.
What they miss is the tremendous economic boon that dismantling the welfare-warfare sector would produce. All those discharged people would soon find jobs in the productive sector. Thus, there would be a doubly positive economic effect: People currently in the private sector would now be free to keep their own money — money that was previously used to sustain people in the non-productive sector — and people previously in the public sector would now be in the productive sector too.
The same holds true for the businesses that cater to the public sector. They would go out of business but be replaced by all the new businesses that would come into existence to serve the productive sector.
Today, 80 percent of the workforce in Cuba is employed by the public, non-productive sector. The Cuban government is proposing discharging 100,000 workers. American statists are undoubtedly exclaiming what a bad idea that would be because, they would say, it would bring about unemployment. They miss the point. By relieving the private sector of the burden of paying the taxes that sustain those unproductive 100,000 workers, the private sector is strengthened. Moreover, those 100,000 workers are no longer living parasitically off of the taxes imposed on the private sector but instead are now part of the private sector and producing wealth.
The welfare-warfare state has warped the orientation of goods and services in society and impoverished the productive sector. The best thing people could do is dismantle the welfare-warfare state, thereby restoring a vibrant, productive, prosperous private sector to society.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Stirring Up Crises and Wars
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Talk of war with Iran is back in the air. Conservatives and liberals alike are doing exactly what they did when the U.S. Empire was ramping up the crisis environment in the build-up to the Empire’s undeclared war on Iraq. Interestingly, the same rationale is being cited by the statists: WMDs. “The Iranians are acquiring WMDs!” the warfare statists are crying. “If the Empire doesn’t bomb Iran now, mushroom clouds will soon be appearing over American cities. We have to trust our government officials. They have access to information that we don’t have.”
It was no different with the U.S. war on Iraq — a war and resulting 9-year occupation that have killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not one single one of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.
The new crisis environment over Iran should not surprise us. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, explained why:
A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending have enslaved the people. (Emphasis added.)
While there are no violent revolts taking place in the United States, there certainly is a lot of restlessness with the domestic situation, as reflected in the Tea Party and Occupy movements. An increasing number of people are protesting the dismal economic conditions in which the United States is now mired — out of control spending and debt, inflation, unemployment, negative savings rate — a nation increasingly headed into bankruptcy, just like Greece and Italy are.
On top of all the economic misery are the ever-increasing infringements on civil liberties, through such things as the PATRIOT Act, indefinite detention, airport body groping, assassinations, torture, cover-ups, immunity for criminal acts, Internet monitoring, highway VIPR checkpoints, and on and on.
To explain why things are so bad, government officials spout their standard nonsensical bromides about “It’s because of the failures of free enterprise” or “The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values” or “We’re infringing on your civil liberty only temporarily to keep you safe.”
Or they look for scapegoats on which to blame the problems, such as immigrants, or at least illegal immigrants, or the debt crisis in Europe.
Or they resort to the time-honored strategy that the Roman officials employed — stir up crises and wars overseas, as they are now doing with Iran. If not Iran, they always have North Korea, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, or some other such regime to stir up trouble with.
The problem facing our country is not Iran or any other nation. The problem facing our country is the U.S. government — yes, our very own government.
Specifically, the root cause of America’s economic woes lies in the U.S. welfare state — a socialistic system that has now held our nation in its grip for some 80 years. It has brought out-of-control spending, debt, inflation, monetary debasement, poverty, and a mindset of dependency to our nation. It has turned America into a political warzone in which large segments of the populace fight hard to plunder and loot the income and savings of other people. The welfare state is threatening to take our country down — into bankruptcy — just like it is doing to Greece and Italy.
The root cause of America’s terrorism woes lies in our nation’s warfare-state empire, which has now held our nation in their grip for more than 60 years. It too has brought out-of-control spending, debt, inflation, monetary debasement, and a mindset of dependency among the vast number of contractors, companies, and cities that receive military largess. The warfare state empire has brought the constant threat of terrorist retaliation to our land with its sanctions, embargoes, invasions, occupations, torture, meddling, and support of brutal dictatorships.
Moreover, the U.S. government has used the threat of terrorism that it itself has produced to infringe to an ever-growing degree on the civil liberties of the people. That’s what such things as the Patriot Act, the airport body groping, indefinite detention, torture, spying, Internet monitoring, GPS and cell phone tracking, VIPR highway checkpoints, and assassination are all about.
So, what better time than now to ramp up a crisis or a war, when people are getting restless under the burden of the big government that the welfare-warfare state has brought into existence?
Madison was a wise man. His insights about empires and standing armies apply as much today as they did back when he expressed them.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
by Jacob G. Hornberger
I watched a couple of episodes of a new television reality series on A&E called “Bordertown: Laredo” since Laredo is where I grew up. The series is about the drug war and follows a special drug-enforcement team within the Laredo Police Department. In the two episodes I watched, the series tracked the team as it monitored suspected drug dealers, secured search warrants, made some drug busts, and even pursued and caught a suspect in a high-speed car chase inside town.
As I listened to the head of the team explain what they were doing and why they were doing it and as I watched them as they investigated, monitored, pursued, and busted, all I could do is shake my head.
Why was I shaking my head?
Because 35 years ago, I heard the same claptrap and witnessed the same drug-war antics from drug agents who were doing the exact same things these guys are doing. I had just graduated from law school and had returned to Laredo to practice law. My very first case to which I was assigned to represent an indigent client in federal court was a drug conspiracy case.
This drug-war rigmarole in Laredo goes back even further than that. When I was growing up, my father, who was also a lawyer, served as the U.S. Magistrate in Laredo. He was the judge that DEA agents would bring drug suspects before for a preliminary hearing. My dad was the magistrate before whom Timothy Leary was brought when he was busted for possession of LSD in Laredo in 1965.
During my law practice, I got to know some of the DEA agents in town and people in the police department and sheriff’s office. They were no different than the guys in the “Bordertown: Laredo” series — dedicated, committed, and honestly believing that they were doing the right thing in trying to rid America of drugs.
I assume that those drug-enforcement agents are now retired and living off their pensions. That’s assuming, of course, that they were killed along the line by some drug dealers.
Yet, here were are 35 years later and the only thing that has changed is the identity of the drug-enforcement agents, the cops, the drug dealers, and the judges. The same mantras. The same pronouncements. The same record drug busts. The same warrants. The same sentences.
So, what’s the point?
Unfortunately, that’s not a question that the members of that drug enforcement team featured on “Bordertown: Laredo” ever think to ask themselves. It’s not within their job description. All they can see is that the law is the law and they’re enforcing the law. While they sometimes would intimate on the two episodes I saw that they knew that they were only seizing a small percentage of the total drugs going north, it was clear that the overall “big picture” of the drug war itself of little or no concern to them. Their job is simply to investigate and bust, not determine what good it is all doing in the larger scheme of things.
One sad part of the drug war in Laredo is that most of the people that they target are poor people. That’s not surprising given that Laredo is filled with poor people. The problem is that the drug war entices poor people into the drug trade given the enormous amount of money that can be made in a drug deal. By making drugs illegal, the price is artificially driven upward, along with profits. One big marijuana or cocaine sale reaping tens of thousands of dollars is difficult for lots of poor people to pass up. It was no different when I was growing up there.
So, here’s the perversity: With the drug war, the government artificially creates the conditions for illegally making large amounts of money and then targets the poor for succumbing to the temptation to make a large amount of money. The result is lots of poor people being sent to jail, only to be replaced by new poor people who do the same thing, year after year, all the while providing jobs to drug-enforcement teams, prosecutors, clerks, and judges.
In the television series, the people being busted are oftentimes well-armed, some with assault rifles. I figure it’s just a matter of time before some drug agent in “Bordertown: Laredo” is killed in the line of duty and it’s captured by the cameraman for viewers to watch in the series later on. Some people will do desperate things, including killing law-enforcement officials, when they stand to lose a large amount of money in a drug seizure. A posthumous medal will undoubtedly be given the grieving spouse and the killer will be sent to prison for the rest of his life.
What’s the point of it all? There is no point. Like the Energizer Bunny, the drug war just keeps going and going and going, providing no redeeming social value at all, only death, destruction, and jobs for drug dealers, cops, and judges.
The best thing the American people could do for the world, including drug-enforcement agents, judges, and the poor, is to legalize drugs, thereby finally bringing an end to this long, pointless inanity.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Cuba, Greece, and the United States
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Well, it seems that Greece and the United States aren’t the only countries that are suffering the consequences of socialism. So is Cuba. But the difference is that unlike Greece and the United States, Cuba seems to be moving in the right direction.
The Cuban regime has just announced that for the first time since the Cuban revolution in 1959, Cubans will be permitted to buy and sell both homes and automobiles. That might not be a big deal to Americans or Greeks, but it is an enormous thing for the Cuban people, who have lived in a country in which the state owns everything.
Cuba’s socialist economic system is really just a logical extension of the American and Greeks welfare states. The welfare state is based on the notion that inequalities of wealth are inherently bad. Thus, the state forcibly takes money from those who own it and redistributes it to those who the state feels need it more. The welfare state is also based on the idea that people cannot be trusted to make the correct charitable decisions. Thus, the state forces people to share their money with the poor and disadvantaged. That’s what such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and education grants are all about.
Fidel Castro simply took those statist precepts to their logical conclusion. Early on, the state took all the money, businesses, and homes of the rich in order to equalize everyone. According to this Associated Press article about the new changes in Cuba, today 80 percent of the Cuban workforce works for the government. The pay rate is $20 a month, which includes free education, free health care, free transportation, and nearly free housing. The best thing, from the statist perspective, is that most everyone is equal, in terms of how poor everyone is.
Reflecting the statist mindset that afflicts so many Americans and Greeks, the new Cuban law does not permit people to own more than one home in the city. Why? Because it would lead to speculative buying and the danger of large concentrations of wealth. Sound familiar?
Another fascinating aspect to this new development in Cuba is how it reflects the similarity of statist mindsets in Cuba, Greece, and the United States. What I’m referring to is the concept of permission. The Cuban government is permitting Cubans to own property. The operative word is “permitting.”
In other words, the Cuban government doesn’t view private property and economic liberty as fundamental, natural, God-given rights, as libertarians do. Instead, it views such concepts as government-granted privileges, by which the government permits people to own homes and cars.
Of course, in principle it’s no different here in the United States, thanks to the statists.
Consider, for example, the 50-year U.S. embargo on Cuba. Many Americans have convinced themselves that the embargo is just a way to effect regime change in Cuba by bringing untold suffering onto the Cuban people until they oust the communists from power and install a U.S.-approved regime.
That’s true, of course, but the embargo represents much more than that. It’s also a direct infringement on the economic liberty of the American people. Under the embargo, Americans are not permitted to spend money in Cuba or transact business there without the official permission of the U.S. government.
The operative word is “permission.” Like the Cuban government, the U.S. government takes the position that it wields ultimate control over what people do with their money. If Americans travel to Cuba and spend money there without permission, the U.S. government severely punishes them, the same thing that the Cuban government does to Cuban citizens who violate its economic regulations.
But let’s give credit where credit is due: At least the Cuban government, which is also discharging 100,000 government employees into the private sector, is moving in the direction of economic liberalization, while the U.S. and Greek governments continue to move more in the opposite direction.
The ideal, of course, is libertarianism, which recognizes what the Declaration of Independence observed: that everyone — Cubans, Greeks, Americans, and everyone else — is endowed with fundamental, natural, God-given rights which no government can legitimately interfere with or infringe upon. Among these rights is private ownership of property, the unlimited accumulation of wealth, and the choice on what to do with one’s own money — save, spend, invest, donate, or whatever.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Imperialism Is Complicated
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Imperialism sure is complicated.
Consider, for example, Libya. Imperialists tell us that the U.S Empire’s military machine hammered Libya with missiles and bombs in order to free the Libyan people from tyranny. The idea was that the Empire was so concerned about the freedom and well-being of the Libyan people that it simply could not stand by and permit them to be oppressed by Libya’s long-time brutal dictator Muammar Gaddafi any longer.
Yet, not too long ago the Empire entered into a torture partnership with Gaddafi, one by which the brutal dictator’s goons tortured people on behalf of the Empire.
How did the Empire select Gaddafi to do this ugly task? We don’t know because the Empire doesn’t disclose those types of things, but we can assume that it was because Gaddafi’s goons were renowned for being good torturers. And where would the torture goons have acquired their skills at torturing people? By torturing the Libyan people! Yes, the very same people that the Empire later became concerned about helping with their bombs and missiles.
Like I say, imperialism sure is complicated.
Consider Vietnam. People there have been suffering under communist dictatorship for decades. Yet, I don’t see the Empire invading and occupying Vietnam in order to free the Vietnamese people from communist tyranny. What gives? Is this an anti-Asian thing? Why are Muslims entitled to be freed from tyranny by U.S. missiles, bombs, invasions, and occupations, but not Asians?
In fact, it seems to me that the Empire is perfectly willing to coexist with communist Vietnam and, well, for that matter, communist China, which the Empire isn’t invading or occupying either. In fact, correct me if I’m wrong but the Empire even permits Americans to trade with both of these communist countries, to travel there, and spend money there.
What’s the story with that? After all, the Empire doesn’t permit Americans to trade with communist Cuba or to travel there or spend money there. If Americans do any of those things, the Empire prosecutes them as criminals and does its best to fine them or send them to jail or both. Why is that? Apparently because communism is bad and dangerous and the Empire doesn’t want Americans to be exposed to it — well, apparently not Vietnam or Chinese communism but certainly Cuban communism.
Hmm. Americans have permission to travel to and trade with communist China and communist Vietnam but are severely punished by the Empire if they do the same with Cuba.
Like I say, complicated!
The situation with communist China is interesting. That’s the regime that helped North Vietnam kill almost 60,000 American troops during the Vietnam War. It’s now the Empire’s premier foreign creditor. That’s right — the Empire owes lots of money to communist China!
How did that happen? When the Empire needed the money to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, it didn’t want to upset Americans by raising taxes, and so it approached the Chinese communists and asked them to lend the Empire the money, which it did. That’s why the Empire is now playing nice with the Chinese communists. Too bad Cuba’s Fidel Castro didn’t offer to lend the Empire any money. The embargo against Cuba might have been lifted by now.
Meanwhile, the Empire tells us that it’s necessary to continue maintaining an extensive military presence in Asia because of the potential threat that communist China supposedly poses to U.S. “interests.” That’s an odd way of treating one’s creditor, it seems to me. Maybe the Empire is concerned that China might attack the Empire for defaulting on its loan payments, which the Empire now intends to do by paying its creditors with cheapened, debased, Federal Reserve newly printed dollars.
Speaking of embargoes, don’t forget the 11-year embargo against Iraq, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. Yes, that’s the same Iraq that the Empire invaded supposedly to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people — well, after those infamous WMDs that the Empire had delivered to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to help him kill Iranians failed to materialize.
You’ll recall that Iran was a friend of the Empire after the Empire destroyed Iran’s democratic system by ousting Iran’s prime minister from power in 1953 and installing the Shah of Iran as an unelected dictator and then supporting his dictatorship and oppression of the Iranian people for the next 25 years. But today, Iran is no longer a friend of the Empire because the Iranian people ousted the Shah in their revolution against the Shah’s U.S.-supported tyranny in 1979.
Unfortunately, the Empire didn’t bring freedom and democracy to those hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who were killed by the sanctions because they were dead by the time the Empire invaded Iraq in 2003. And yes, it’s also true that the Empire didn’t bring freedom and democracy to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were killed during the Empire’s invasion and occupation because they’re dead too. The Empire considered those deaths to be an adequate price to pay for bringing regime change to Iraq.
After all, the embargo and the invasion and occupation of Iraq were always for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Oddly, however, to this day the Empire is still going after Americans who brought medicines to the Iraqi people in violation of the 11-year embargo against Iraq. Go figure. Like I say, imperialism is complicated.
Recently, it was reported that Syria has been kidnapping Syrian opponents of the regime residing in Lebanon. The Empire opposes the Syrian dictatorship and wants it ousted. Yet, like with Gaddafi, not so long ago the Empire entered into a torture partnership with Syria’s dictatorship to torture people on its behalf. Oddly, while the Empire considers the Syrian kidnappings to be bad, the Empire itself kidnapped a guy in Italy and took him to Egypt’s brutal dictatorship for torture, pursuant to another torture partnership with a brutal dictatorship, kidnappings that the Empire considered good, despite the fact that an Italian court convicted the Empire kidnappers of felony offenses.
Maybe the Empire ought to offer an online course called Imperialism 101 because the whole thing sure seems complicated to me.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Dying for Nothing
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Yesterday I attended a funeral for a friend’s mother at Arlington National Cemetery. During the service, my eyes focused on three nearby gravestones — a Lt. Colonel, a 1st Lieutenant, and a captain. The inscriptions on the gravestones stated that all three had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and that all three had died in 2011. I noticed that the captain died at the age of 30.
All I could think was: What a horrible waste of life. Three lives shortened, needlessly. All three, dying for nothing.
It was the captain’s gravestone that hit me the hardest. Inscribed near the bottom of that gravestone were three letters: “VMI.”
During my first year at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), I became accustomed to those times during evening meals when an upperclassman would take the microphone and make some sort of special announcement. I don’t recall exactly what he would say but whatever it was, everyone knew what it meant and a hush would immediately sweep across the mess hall. He would then announce something like, “Attention to orders. 10 December 1968. Lt. Smith, J.S., VMI class of 1966, killed in action this day, Republic of Vietnam.”
When I arrived at VMI in 1968, the Vietnam War was in full swing. I believed the government’s pronouncements and trusted the judgments of U.S. officials. I really believed that U.S. troops were fighting to protect our rights and freedoms here at home. I really believed that without the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, the dominoes would start falling and the communists would soon be taking over our nation.
In other words, I believed all the government claptrap and propaganda that the young men and women who enter VMI today undoubtedly believe — that without the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan — without a vast overseas military empire encompassing hundreds of military bases all over the world — without the U.S. Empire policing the world, al-Qaeda or some other group of terrorists would soon be taking over the United States.
I continued to believe the claptrap and propaganda until my junior year at VMI. I don’t recall any particular event that caused me to break through the lies and propaganda but at some point, I realized that it was all just a bunch of bull. I realized that VMI grads and others were dying (and killing) for nothing. The dominoes weren’t going to fall. Communism wasn’t going to absorb the United States. Americans weren’t going to lose their freedom if South Vietnam fell to the North. I realized that in fact, Americans were increasingly losing their freedom to their own government, owing to the war itself.
I wasn’t the only one. I’d estimate that at least 30-40 percent of the VMI corps of cadets, and maybe even more, had achieved the same breakthrough I had by the time of the 1970-71 school year.
The VMI administration was obviously not pleased with those who were questioning the war. After all, genuine red-blooded American patriots were supposed to support America, which meant supporting the troops, the government, and the war effort. Everyone knew that people who opposed the war were nothing but a bunch of no-good leftists, socialists, or communists — i.e., people who needed to be spied upon and monitored by the FBI.
During my sophomore year, a group of cadets submitted a formal request to the VMI administration to attend an anti-war rally at Washington and Lee University, which was situated next door to VMI. Big anti-war leftist radicals like Jerry Rubin were scheduled to speak at the rally..
To everyone’s amazement, the administration granted the petition. However, the administration prohibited cadets from wearing their uniform to the rally, which was somewhat amusing given that VMI regulations prohibited VMI cadets from wearing civilian clothes in town.
When the cadets returned from the rally, the administration hit them with a surprise inspection, at which they were determined to be guilty of having “long hair,” for which they were penalized them with demerits. Of course, “long hair” was one of those subjective and relative offenses listed in the VMI Blue Book of regulations, given that everyone at VMI was required to keep his hair short all the time.
I’m sure that the VMI administration was totally befuddled and not very pleased over the fact that a large segment of the student body was turning against the war. After all, since everyone lived in the VMI barracks, they had control over us 24 hours a day. Yet, here were an increasing number of students who were arriving at conclusions about the war that were diametrically opposed to the official government position (which was the VMI administration’s position) on the war. Even worse, our views on the war were aligning with those of liberals, leftists, socialists, and communists!
Unfortunately, the administration could not step back and appreciate what actually was happening: VMI was producing independent-minded students who were refusing to be taken in by government propaganda and lies — students who were unafraid to critically analyze government policy and take a stand against it when they concluded that it violated correct principles or individual conscience. To me, that’s something that a school should be proud of.
Undoubtedly, many of the 58,178 men who died in Vietnam believed that they were dying for a noble cause. But they didn’t. They died for nothing. The North Vietnamese won the war and reunited the country. The dominoes did not fall. The United States did not fall to the communists. Today, the Vietnamese people are still suffering under communism but no one is calling for a war to free them. The United States and the communist regime in Vietnam have friendly relations with each other. The result would have been the same without the deaths of all those American troops.
It’s no different with Iraq and Afghanistan. There was never any danger of the United States falling to Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the terrorists, or anyone else. All the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have accomplished is to make things worse, not better, for the American people.
Enough is enough. The only genuine way to support the troops is not by cheering for them in Iraq and Afghanistan but instead by pulling them out and bringing them home, just like we did with Vietnam. We don’t need any more gravestones like the ones I saw yesterday in Arlington National Cemetery.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Concealed Carry in Virginia
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Like many states, Virginia has long had a concealed-carry law, one that permits citizens to carry concealed weapons upon securing a permit from the state. However, for a long time there was a glaring exception to the law: Concealed-carry permit holders were not permitted to carry their weapons into restaurants or bars that served liquor. This meant that people with concealed weapons either had to leave their guns at home or in their car or ignore the law and hope they didn’t get caught.
About a year ago, the law was changed. People can now carry concealed weapons into restaurants and other establishments that serve liquor but are precluded from drinking alcohol while carrying their concealed weapon.
Needless to say, statists fiercely opposed the bill when it was being debated, predicting that there would be all sorts of murders or massacres that would inevitably take place in Virginia’s restaurants and bars.
Those dire predictions have proven to be baseless. If there have been any murders committed in restaurants or bars by concealed-carry permit owners since the change in the law, I haven’t heard of them. And there certainly haven’t been any massacres.
What the change in the law has done is permit people to defend themselves from would-be murderers. That’s what statists just don’t get. They assume that because there is a gun-control law that, say, prohibits people from carrying a gun into a bar or restaurant, a murderer is going to comply with the law.
That’s ridiculous. If a murderer is going to violate a law against murder, why would he care about obeying a gun-control law? Is he really going to say, “Golly, I can’t commit this murder with a gun because possession of a gun is against the law”? Of course not. If he’s going to murder someone, he’s going to have no reservations about violating some gun-control law. After all, just look Washington, D.C., the gun-control capital of the United States and the murder capital of the world, where murders are committed with guns all the time, in violation of D.C.’s strict gun-control laws.
What about innocent, peaceful, law-abiding people? They’re likely to comply with gun-control laws. Most of them don’t want to chance a felony or misdemeanor conviction on their record, along with possible jail time and all the lawyer fees that have to be incurred in defending against a criminal prosecution.
What gun-control laws do is render peaceful and law-abiding people defenseless against murderers and other violent people. By disarming the innocent would-be victim, the law prevents him from defending himself from murderers who enter the restaurant or bar and start shooting everyone.
Today in Virginia, it’s an entirely different story. People in restaurants and bars are now free to defend themselves against would-be murderers. Moreover, everyone who now is eating in a Virginia restaurant or bar is safer than he was before the law was enacted. That includes statists who favor gun control and opposed the change in the law.
The reason is that would-be murderers must now factor in the possibility that one or more people in the restaurant or bar are carrying a concealed weapon and know how to use it. So, there’s a better chance that the would-be murderer will avoid selecting restaurants and bars for his mayhem. Why select a place where people can fire back as compared to a place where they can’t. It’s not a coincidence that massacres occur at places like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Ft. Hood, as compared to, say, gun shows.
Of course, the ideal is where everyone is free to carry concealed weapons without a permit from the state. Why should anyone have to ask the government’s permission to exercise a fundamental, God-given right? Nonetheless, there’s no doubt that concealed-carry laws do make society safer by enabling peaceful and law-abiding people to defend themselves and their families against murderers, rapists, robbers, and the like.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Neocon Lamentations on Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Neocons are attacking President Obama for his plan to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq by the end of December. Never mind that Obama is operating under the contractual agreement entered into between former President Bush and the Iraqi regime his invasion installed into power. And never mind that there will still be thousands of U.S. diplomats, military personnel, security people, contractors, and CIA spies and assassins in the vast Vatican-sized U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. What matters is that Obama had a moral duty, the neocons say, of continuing the U.S. occupation of Iraq indefinitely into the future.
Why do the neocons want to continue the U.S. occupation of Iraq? Because they know that 9 years of military invasion, war of aggression, undeclared war, and occupation have produced nothing but failure, and hope springs eternal. Neocons think that another 9 years of occupation, and perhaps another 9 years after that (a 9-9-9 plan for the occupation of Iraq) will finally produce an economic paradise, one with peace and stability, governed by a loyal member of the U.S. Empire.
Despite the deaths and injuries of more than million people, both Iraqi and American, Iraq is ruled by brutal, dictatorial regime that is no different than that of Saddam Hussein. Like Saddam’s regime, this U.S.-installed regime has killed a vast numbers of its own people, rounded up people without arrest warrants or trials, incarcerated them indefinitely in horrific prisons, tortured and abused them, and even executed them. Despite a brutal invasion and 9 years of brutal occupation, Iraq is a violence-wracked, impoverished nation ruled by a crooked, corrupt, dictatorial regime operating under Islamic Sharia law.
Deep down, neocons know all this, even if they can’t acknowledge it on a conscious level. They keep repeating, almost mindlessly, that Iraq is now “free and democratic.” And yet not one single neocon has taken his family to Iraq for summer vacation during the past 9 years. I wonder why.
Necons are also lamenting the fact that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will enable Iran to have greater “influence” in Iraq. Hey, they should have thought about that back when they were supporting Bush’s invasion in the first place. How could they forget that it was Saddam himself who had been fighting Iran throughout the 1980s, when the U.S. Empire was partnering with him and even furnishing him with those infamous WMDs that Saddam ended up destroying prior to Bush’s invasion? Couldn’t they figure out that ousting Saddam from power and installing an anti-Saddam regime was precisely what Iran desired? Duh!
If Iraq and Iran establish closer relations after the U.S. withdrawal from the country, which seems likely, no doubt the neocons will condemn the Iraqi people for being ungrateful for what the Empire has done for them. After all, it was the U.S. Empire, not Iran, that brought them democracy, at the cost of only a million dead and injured Iraqis and the destruction of the entire country. Why aren’t those people more grateful, the neocons will ask, for having had their children, parents, spouses, or friends involuntarily liquidated or maimed by a foreign Empire for the sake of democracy? So what if they didn’t give their approval to the invasion and occupation of their country. After all, neither did the U.S. Congress. They’re just a bunch of ingrates, the neocons will claim.
Unfortunately, even though Obama is withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, he’s simply shifting them to nearby countries instead of bringing them home and discharging them. He, along with his army and his intelligence forces, just don’t get it (or maybe they do). The reason that there is so much anger and animosity against the United States in the Middle East is not just owing to the deadly and destructive U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also to the U.S. Empire’s role in the Middle East, including the stationing of U.S. troops there as well as financial and military aid both to the Israeli government and the many U.S.-supported Arab and Islamic dictatorships in the region.
Americans have been born and raised in a militarist, national-security, warfare state. Therefore, it is difficult for many Americans to imagine life without what has deceptively come to be called a “Department of Defense.” But if we are ever to restore a normally functioning society to our land, it is necessary for Americans to challenge the paradigm of militarism, empire, the military-industrial-congressional complex, and the national-security state that has held our nation in its grip for so long.
If Americans choose to hold onto the neocon warfare-state paradigm, they had better accustom themselves to continuing to live in a society based on torture, assassination, support of dictatorial regimes, terrorist retaliation, infringements on civil liberties, out-of-control federal spending and debt, inflation, and ultimately bankruptcy.
If Americans, on the other hand, choose to embrace the paradigm of free markets and a limited-government constitutional republic, the United States will once again be a society of freedom, prosperity, harmony, peace, and normality.