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Suppressing Insurgencies in Syria and Afghanistan

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It’s quite amusing to see President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and other U.S. officials exclaiming against the brutality of the dictatorship in Syria. One reason, of course, is that the U.S. government partnered with the Syrian dictatorship precisely because of its brutality. That’s the reason the CIA, which is a central part of the U.S. government, delivered Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured. U.S. officials knew that the Syrian dictatorship would do an excellent job of torturing Arar, which it did for an entire year of the man’s life.

There is also the fact that the U.S. government loves other brutal dictatorships, so long as they are pro-U.S. Examples include the dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan under Musharraf.

But there is another reason for amusement: The dictatorship in Afghanistan, whose primary enforcement arm is the U.S. military, has been doing the same thing for years that the Syrian dictatorship has been doing — killing people who are trying to violently overthrow the government.

In fact, the Syrian dictatorship is doing what every government in the world, dictatorial or not, would do to people who were trying to violently overthrow it. If the U.S. government were faced with multitudes of citizens who were trying to violently overthrow the government, make no mistake about it: the full force of the U.S. government, including the military, the CIA, and the FBI, would come crashing down on the rebels, and no options for suppressing them would be removed from the table.

After all, look at what U.S. officials did to Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge and to the Branch Davidians at Waco, and they weren’t even trying to overthrow the government, even though a few paranoid types might have thought they were. Actually, the Weavers and the Branch Davidians were simply trying to be left alone by the government. Nonetheless, the feds went after them with the same degree of viciousness and brutality that the Syrian dictatorship is displaying toward the Syrian rebels. They shot Weaver’s son in the back and his wife in the head, killing them both. They attacked the Branch Davidian compound with a military tank (yes, here in the United States) and injected flammable gas into the building, knowing that most everyone, including children, would be killed once it was ignited, which they were.

Indeed, consider the War Between the States. The brutality displayed by the Syrian dictatorship pales in comparison to what Sherman, Grant, and Lincoln did to the people of the South. And don’t forget that the Confederates weren’t even trying to overthrow the government, as the Syrian rebels are trying to do. They were simply trying to secede — leave — the Union. For that “crime,” the U.S. government killed almost 100,000 of them, with another 164,000 dying from war-related disease and other such things.

And let’s not forget the Smith Act, which the U.S. government enacted in 1940. It made it a federal felony offense to simply advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Yes, simple speech was enough to bring the full force of the federal government down upon people. More than 200 people were indicted under the law and countless more learned to keep their mouths shut.

What’s the difference between what has been going on in Afghanistan for the past 10 years and what is currently going on in Syria? Hasn’t the Taliban been trying to violently overthrow the Karzai regime, after the U.S. government violently overthrew the Taliban regime with its military invasion of Afghanistan? And hasn’t the pro-U.S. Karzai regime been killing untold numbers of insurgents, plus lots of bystanders, for the past decade for trying to violently overthrow the government? How is that different from what the Syrian dictatorship is doing?

U.S. officials might respond, “But Afghanistan is a democracy while Syria isn’t.” But that’s palpable nonsense. Afghanistan is no more a democracy than Syria is. After all, didn’t they just have an election in Syria in which constitutional reforms were enacted? Most everyone would agree that Syrian democracy is a sham — a rigged game. But how can anyone seriously argue that it’s any different in Afghanistan. The last presidential election involved countless fraudulent ballots. What good is a fraudulent election? It is equivalent to no election at all, which makes the Afghan government as illegitimate as the Syrian regime.

Moreover, simply because a regime is democratically elected doesn’t mean it’s not a dictatorship. The U.S.-supported regime in Afghanistan has all the dictatorial powers that the Syrian dictatorship has: the power to round people up without warrants, detain them indefinitely without trial, torture them, and execute them, just as the Syrian regime does.

With the U.S. military serving as its primary enforcement force, the Afghan regime exercises its dictatorial powers to the full extent. It is impossible to know how many people it has killed, detained, tortured, maimed, executed, and assassinated during the past 10 years, but the number is far in excess of the number killed by the Syrian regime.

What should the U.S. government do about the situation in Syria? It should butt out of the Syrian conflict. Syria belongs to the Syrians, not to the U.S. government.

For that matter, the U.S. government should also butt out of Afghanistan. If the crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, illegitimate Karzai regime cannot stand on its own after ten years, that’s its problem. The U.S. government needs to immediately stop serving as the enforcement agency of the Karzai dictatorship and immediately withdraw from Afghanistan. It’s time for the U.S. government to stop its hypocritical preaching and lead by example.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.