Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, May 2006


Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In a speech to a friendly audience at West Point, President Bush announced that the “war on terrorism” would ultimately rival the Cold War in its length and difficulty.

The corollary, which Bush didn’t mention, is that this will be perpetually increasing budgets for the military-industrial complex, a point that the graduates of West Point would undoubtedly be interested in.

Think about it: As effective as the Cold War was in producing ever-increasing budgets for the Pentagon and the “defense” contractors, there was always the possibility — albeit remote — that the Cold War would end.

But then the Soviet Union did fall and — uh, oh — what then?

Well, obviously, we need a brand new justification for those ever-increasing Pentagon-CIA-State Department budgets, right?

The beauty of the “war on terrorism,” from the standpoint of the big-government crowd, is that it will never come to an end because there are always going to be terrorists somewhere to bring in, dead or alive. Voila! Perpetually growing, everlasting federal budgets!

And the other beautiful part of the “war on terrorism” is that many Americans believe that terrorism is a mysterious disease that suddenly and unexpectedly strikes a nation, sort of like inflation, and that it can’t possibly have anything to do with the U.S. government’s foreign policy of invasions, wars of aggression, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, assassinations, coups, foreign aid, and support of dictatorships, or the killing of innocent families, including women and children, such as the killings that recently took place in Haditha, Iraq.

Bush told the West Pointers: “The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom, and we will not rest until the promise of liberty reaches every people and every nation.”

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating again: Heaven forbid that Bush and the military are ever permitted to import their Iraqi-type, war-on-terrorism “freedom” to the United States. Because if they do, heaven help all those Americans who are unfortunate to live outside the privileged and protected “green zone” areas, such as the one they’ve established in the middle of Baghdad.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Washington Post reported yesterday that U.S. officials are rounding up support for economic sanctions against Iran from European countries and Japan.

Wouldn’t you think that after the disastrous failure of sanctions against Cuba and Iraq, including the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children killed, U.S. officials would be reticent about causing even more damage to innocent people.

Unfortunately, not so. Hope springs eternal, and U.S. officials are now doing their best to force another foreign regime to surrender its will to the U.S. through the use of brutal sanctions.

You’ll never guess who might not be willing to join this new “coalition of the willing” against Iran.

Iraq! That’s right — Iraq — the nation that the U.S. sanctioned and then invaded with the aim of installing a pro-U.S. puppet regime.

According to the New York Times, “Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari of Iraq today endorsed the right of Iran to pursue the ‘technological and scientific capabilities’ needed to create nuclear power for peaceful purposes, in the first high-level meeting between officials from the new Iraqi government and its eastern neighbor.”

Whoops! That’s what American troops have been killing, dying, and destroying for?

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Despite its military victories, the U.S. lost the Iraq War and Iran won it. President Bush’s “democratic” elections have succeeded in installing a brutal, tortuous, radical Islamic regime whose officials have long had a close relationship with Iranian radical religious officials.

The interesting question, of course, pertains to President Bush’s possible invasion of Iran. Which side would Iraq fight on? If the president proceeds to attack Iran, the American troops (and the American people) might well discover that what it’s like to fight a two-front war —one against Iran and other in its rear against Iraq.

Monday, May 29, 2006

According to the New York Times, “Some in Congress fear the killings could do more harm to the image of the United States military around the world than the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.”

They were referring to the purported execution slayings of 24 Iraqis, including women and children, by U.S. Marines who were angry and outraged over the roadside-bomb killing one of their comrades.

There is also evidence that U.S. military officials have fought valiantly to keep the scandal covered up.

For some Americans, the response will be: What’s wrong with that? It’s war, and bad things happen in war. Let’s forget it and move on.”

Well, for one thing, it’s not war. It’s an occupation of a foreign country — and, even worse, an occupation based upon an illegal and immoral invasion of a country that had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

Moreover, even in war (and occupations) there are rules of behavior that cannot be countenanced. For example, the conquest of a country does not give the troops the right to rape the inhabitants of the conquered country. And they also do not permit murder of innocent civilians.

As the Iraq War continues to corrupt the U.S. military and, for that matter, the American people, many of whom are now practically begging the government to suspend their civil liberties to keep them safe from “the terrorists,” it is important to bear in mind that the invasion itself violated the principles against aggressive war set forth at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, the principles set forth in the UN Charter, and the principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution.

It bears repeating: Neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. No nation has the legal or moral right to invade another nation for the purpose of “democracy-spreading,” especially when bullets, bombs, and missiles are going to kill and maim people in the process. No nation has the right to invade a country for the purpose of making it a “magnet” for “terrorists” and then daring “the terrorists” to “bring it on.” Finally, under our system of government, the president is barred from waging war without a congressional declaration of war.

Therefore, all the killings and all the maiming and all the destruction in Iraq are wrongful, both in moral sense and a legal sense.

Keep in mind that while those Marines purportedly killed 24 people, all of whom had the right to continue living, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has killed tens of thousands of people — many more than died on 9/11 — and that they had the right to continue living as well.

It’s unfortunate that those soldiers who were involved in the Hidatha killings are brought to account for what they have purportedly done will not be joined in the dock by those U.S. politicians and bureaucrats who are responsible for the troops being in Iraq in the first place. That includes the cowardly members of Congress who not only went along with the undeclared war on Iraq but who have steadfastly remained silent about the assault on the civil liberties of the American people, which of course hasn’t stopped them from expressing anger and outrage over the recent FBI search of one of their own members.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The primary way that conservatives and liberals have been able to sell the concept of a regulated economy is that it supposedly protects people from the wrongful acts of greedy, evil, fraudulent, profit-seeking entrepreneurs, capitalists, and businessmen.

But this is poppycock. The regulations and the regulators don’t protect consumers from unsavory or incompetent people. Instead, they do nothing more than centralize power in Washington and, even worse, lull people into believing that their political daddy is taking care of them.

What better example of this than Enron? This was one of the biggest companies in the world. Yet, did the regulations and the regulators protect people from losing their money? We know that they did not. All the government did was prosecute the people who purportedly committed fraud — after the fact and after everyone had already lost his money.

Another good example is occupational licensure laws, which purportedly protect consumers from, for example, unscrupulous and incompetent lawyers. We all know how effective that one is.

So, the obvious question arises: Why do we need a regulated economy? Why not simply abolish the SEC, the FTC, FDA, TSA, banking regulations, licensing laws, and all the other regulatory agencies and rules and regulations controlling economic activity?

In that way, people would learn to be more cautious with respect to their economic decision-making, knowing that there was no political daddy supposedly watching over them and taking care of them. And we would be ridding our society of the costly and needless burden of tens of thousands of economic regulations along with the hordes of voracious, power-seeking bureaucrats who accomplish nothing more than eat out the substance of the American economy.

After all, let’s keep in mind that most businesses are honest not because the federal government is regulating them but because they know that honesty is one of the prerequisites to staying in business.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Latin America has long been known for its socialism with respect to the oil and gas industry.

The way the socialist game has been played is this: Under assurances that Latin America is “pro-free enterprise and pro-private property,” foreign oil companies are induced into coming into Latin American countries and investing millions of dollars exploring for oil and gas, oftentimes successfully.

Over time, the high oil revenues become a juicy plum that Latin American officials find to be irresistible. So, amidst lots of nationalist hype, Latin American dictators decree the nationalization of the oil and gas industries and promise that government ownership of the oil and gas industry will finally end poverty in their country.

But alas, poverty is never ended. The only thing the nationalization achieves is a transfer of wealth into the pockets and savings accounts of government officials, not to mention a degrading of the oil and gas industry itself, which is an inevitable result of socialism.

Examples of this phenomenon include three countries where poverty is endemic: Venezuela, Mexico, and most recently Bolivia.

U.S. officials love to look down their noses at these Latin American attacks, especially under the standard conservative rubric of “free enterprise, private property, limited government, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

Yet, the fact is that the mindset of U.S. officials is no different in principle from their socialist counterparts in Latin America, including Venezuela’s Hugh Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

After all, what are U.S. officials trying to do to American oil companies? Amidst cries of “price-gouging” and “excess profits,” they are trying to seize the oil companies’ money with some kind of tax to be sent to Washington.

In fact, notice that when Americans begin complaining about high gas prices, the response of U.S. officials is not to lower federal gas taxes but instead to raise them so that more money can flow to Washington. They easily convince gullible Americans that such additional tax revenues will help American consumers, much as Latin American officials easily convince their citizens that nationalization will help their consumers.

Thus, what U.S. officials do to American oil companies is no different in principle from what their Latin American socialist counterparts do to foreign oil companies. The Latin Americans are simply more consistent — they steal all the oil companies’ property with nationalization. U.S. officials steal just a part of it with price controls and excess profits taxes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

After federal officials failed to find WMDs in Iraq, their primary justification for invading and occupying the country became: “We love the Iraqi people and the real primary reason we invaded was to help them be free and democratic.”

Many Americans bought it.

But it was a lie too. U.S. officials had as much concern for the well-being of the Iraqi people as they do, well, for Mexican immigrants to the United States. After all, if they don’t give a hoot for the well-being of citizens of an adjoining country that has been a friend of the United States ever since the U.S. absorbed the northern half of Mexico, what is the possibility that they care about citizens of a country thousands of miles away and whose government has been antagonistic toward the U.S.?

Answer: No possibility.

The problem is that the American people form their reality based on federal pronouncements rather than what their eyes are seeing.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens are now dead and maimed and there is absolutely no remorse by U.S. officials. In fact, we don’t even know the exact number of Iraqi dead because the Pentagon’s official policy at the outset of the invasion was not to count them. That’s why the estimates of the Iraqi dead are falling within a wide range — 30,000 to 100,000.

Moreover, while President Bush is now proclaiming another of his many milestones of bringing “freedom” to Iraq, implicit in his proclamation is that the deaths and maiming of these countless Iraqi people, each of whom had a name, have been “worth it.” That’s the same callous attitude of indifference that U.S. official Madeleine Albright took when asked whether the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children had been worth the cruel and brutal sanctions that the U.S. and UN enforced against Iraq for more than a decade to “encourage” the Iraqi people into effecting “regime change” on their own.

The reality is that Bush’s invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with “disarming Saddam” or protecting the U.S. from an imminent WMD attack or love for the Iraqi people. It had one purpose: the ouster of Saddam and the installation of a U.S.-friendly regime. (See Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, the new book by noted New York Times writer Stephen Kinzer, which puts the Iraq operation in the context of many other U.S. “regime change” operations, including Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. Also, see my four other book recommendations in my May 22 blog.)

Once Americans confront this basic reality about U.S. foreign policy — that it is about power, not freedom — then we can begin debating whether our nation’s pro-empire foreign policy should be rejected in favor of a restoration of a limited-government republic.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In my April 11 blog, I explained the difference between the way the police deal with crime compared to the way the military does so.

If police know that a suspected criminal is hiding in a building in which there are 100 innocent people, the police will not knowingly and deliberately kill the innocent people as a way to kill or capture the suspected criminal. They’ll do whatever they can to protect the innocent, even if it entails the risk of losing the criminal.

Not so with the military. They would simply drop a bomb on the building, arguing that they “got the terrorist” and that the 100 dead innocent people were simply unfortunate “collateral damage” that always occurs in a war, including a war on crime.

The recent military attack in Afghanistan illustrates my point. As everyone knows, after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. government successfully installed its own regime to run things in that country. Thus, ever since U.S. military forces have effectively been serving as the Afghan government’s internal police force, ferreting out terrorists and Taliban on behalf of the Afghan government.

Last Sunday, in pursuit of Taliban and terrorists, U.S. military planes dropped bombs on an Afghan village. U.S. officials say that they killed 20 to 80 Taliban fighters. But also killed were 16 civilians, along with 15 wounded. Many of them were women and children.

According to the New York Times, “Mohammed Rafiq, a 23-year-old farmer, said that the bombs had caused enormous destruction. ‘I don’t have anything left,’ he said. Another farmer, Azizullah, 30, said three members of his family had been killed. ‘I was at home when the Taliban came to our village last night,’ he said. “After some time, U.S. planes came and bombed the Taliban, and they bombed us, too.’

Doctors confirmed that the wounded included an 8-month-old baby and the New York Times article included a photo of a 3-year-old Afghan boy with burns that came from the American bombing.

Of course, the killing and wounding of the Afghan children bring to mind the brutal sanctions that U.S. officials enforced against Iraq for more than a decade. When asked if the deaths of so many Iraqi children were “worth it,” UN Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright summed up the official U.S. government mindset when she responded: “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”

The Pentagon is already attempting to hijack America’s criminal justice system, such as in the Jose Padilla case. Heaven forbid if the U.S. military is ever permitted to take over domestic police functions. Just ask those Afghanis who have just lost their homes and loved ones to the latest U.S. bombing campaign to kill “the terrorists.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Five Book Recommendations:

During the weekend, I finished reading Stephen Kinzer’s new book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.

This is one of the best recently published books on foreign policy, and I highly recommend it. It places the Iraq War in the context of “regime change” interventionism that has characterized U.S. foreign policy for more than a century. Kinzer examines such “regime-change” coups and invasions as Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Iran, Vietnam, Chile, Grenada, Panama, and Iraq. More important, he examines the disastrous consequences that flowed from most of them.

Kinzer’s other book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, is also great — it details the secret coup by which the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq and then supported the brutal, tortuous policies of the Shah of Iran for the next 20 years, resulting in the deep-seated anger and hatred that many Iranians have for the United States.

Two other great foreign policy books that I recommend are by the noted scholar Chalmers Johnson: Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire. Published before the 9/11 attacks, Johnson correctly predicted that the U.S. would ultimately suffer terrorist attacks on American soil arising out of U.S. foreign policy. The Sorrows of Empire details the extent to which the U.S. has become one of the most extensive and far-reaching empires in history — and the disastrous effects that has had on our nation.

The fifth book on foreign policy I would recommend is James Bovard’s newest book Attention Deficit Democracy. In my opinion, this is Jim’s best book. It strips away all the falsehoods, lies, deceptions, and myths regarding foreign policy and brings unvarnished reality to the attention of the reader. The late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck once wrote that mental health entails a commitment to reality at all costs. For a nation that has mired itself in unreality with respect to both foreign policy and civil liberties, Bovard’s book is the antidote.

Friday, May 19, 2006

On Wednesday, I blogged on the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped, tortured, and drugged by CIA agents operating overseas. Finally realizing that they had the wrong “terrorist,” the CIA released him from custody. El-Masri filed suit here in the United States against George Tenet, the CIA director, and the unknown CIA agents and others who engaged in this wrongful activity.

Yesterday, the Alexandria federal judge presiding over the case, T.S. Ellis, summarily dismissed the suit, holding that U.S. officials had the right to keep the entire matter secret from the courts, from the American people, and from the people of the world.

According to Judge Ellis, the security of the nation apparently depends on not requiring federal officials to admit what they’ve done to Masri and bear responsibility for it. Maybe Masri should be grateful that Judge Ellis didn’t order his incarceration and rendition to Gitmo for jeopardizing national security by disclosing what federal officials did to him in his lawsuit.

Based on an affidavit from the CIA, Judge Ellis held that responding to al-Masri’s suit would entail a disclosure of the government’s clandestine program of “extraordinary rendition” and the “means and methods the foreign intelligence service of this and other countries used to carry out the program.”

This is the program, of course, by which U.S. officials are kidnapping people and removing them to Soviet-type torture camps as part of the federal government’s “war on terrorism.” Judge Ellis apparently bought the government’s ludicrous argument that secrecy is needed because we’re “at war” despite the fact that terrorism is a criminal offense entailing the application of the Bill of Rights, as reflected by the Zacharias Moussaoui case which recently took place in the same federal courthouse where Judge Ellis presides.

Judge Ellis’s ruling and reasoning reflects the moral debauchery and moral corruption into which our nation is falling, including in the legal world. After all, don’t forget that in the Jose Padilla case a federal court of appeals recently upheld the power of the U.S. military to arrest and punish any American citizen simply by labeling him an “enemy combatant terrorist,” denying the accused American due process of law, trial by jury, and the other protections in the Bill of Rights. In other words, the same omnipotent federal power to do to American citizens what they have done to Masri.

Any independent judge worth his salt would never have countenanced the government’s misconduct and its attempts to keep their misconduct secret. Unlike Judge Ellis who said that Masri’s rights had to yield to “the national interest in preserving state secrets,” an independent judge worth his salt would have instead held,

“No free nation can ever countenance a regime that is kidnapping and torturing accused criminal suspects and denying them due process of law and trial by jury. That’s the type of conduct that characterizes brutal and oppressive regimes, such as the Burma, North Korea, Iraq, the Soviet Union, and National Socialist Germany. Here in the United States, the rights of the individual reign supreme over the interests of the state in keeping its wrongful conduct secret. This suit will proceed and the government will be required to disclose everything about its kidnapping and torture operation. The freedom and security of the American people and the people of the world depend not on keeping such misconduct secret but instead by bringing it into the light of day — and, more important, by bringing it to an immediate halt.”

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What a great time I had on the Alan Colmes radio show last night! Colmes was one of the most courteous talk show hosts I’ve ever encountered. He brought up virtually all the important issues in the immigration debate and provided me with plenty of time to explain the libertarian position in favor of open borders.

His staff had obviously done extensive research into FFF’s writings on the immigration issue (including the use of immigration controls to prevent German Jews from escaping the Holocaust and the forcibly repatriation of Cuban refugees into communist tyranny). Colmes clearly understood the libertarian arguments for open borders and observed that it’s truly a shame that the libertarian case for open borders is not receiving more attention as part of the national immigration debate.

One of the major points I wanted to make — and was able to make — is that no matter how much federal officials reform, immigration controls will never work. This is what has yet to sink into the consciousness of the American people, which is why they continue to support the idea of reform. As long as a person has hope that some reform can be found to finally keep illegal immigrants from coming to the United States, people will continue search for the reform that finally accomplishes that end.

But no reform will ever succeed. Why? Two reasons:

(1) Socialist central planning, including those of labor markets, is inherently defective and in fact produces very strange distortions. For example, without immigration controls Mexican immigrants would come here and work a few months and then return home, with plans to do it again. The immigration crackdown has caused them to stay here permanently because of the risk and cost of coming back in. It has also caused many of them to bring their families in.

So, immigration central planning has produced a result that is the exact opposite from the result that the planners had intended.

(2) No matter how hard they try, Congress and the president cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand. The more they crack down, the higher the price of the “coyote” goes up, which then draws more people into the business of getting immigrants into the United States.

Thus, those who continue to cry “The immigrant laws just aren’t being enforced” fail to realize that the laws are being enforced — and increasingly so over the years — but the problem is that the free market (black market) continues to find ways around the laws.

They criminalized the hiring of illegal aliens and promised that that reform would finally solve the problem. They constructed the much-vaunted Berlin Fence in California and made the same promise. They had something called Operation Gatekeeper, with the same promise. They sent armies of Border Patrol to the border — same promise. Passport checkpoints north of the border — same promise. Roving Border Patrol checkpoints on the highways — same promise.

And now they’re going to extend the Berlin Fence and militarize the border with trigger-happy, Baghdad-tested National Guard troops.

It still will not work. Let me repeat this point because it is critically important: None of their reforms will work but instead will continue producing such adverse consequences as death on lonely deserts or in the backs of locked tractor trailors or railroad cars. Before long, we will once again hear the lament, “The immigration laws are not being enforced. We need to crack down.”

We’ve heard the same thing in the war on drugs, a war that also been waged for decades, without success because, again, Congress and the president cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand.

The end of the reform/crackdown road is ultimately a giant, fortified Berlin Wall all around America, with the borders sealed as tightly as those in North Korea. Of course, at that point the society will be so unattractive, due to the militarist and totalitarian nature of the federal government, few people will want to come in. And those Americans who want to get out might well discover that their Berlin Wall could then be used to keep such “traitorous Americans” from leaving.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A lawsuit pending in U.S. district court provides one more example of the Soviet-like direction in which the federal government continues to move. The suit was filed by a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri who had taken a vacation to Macedonia in December 2003.

Mistaken for “a terrorist” with a similar name, the man was taken into custody and transferred to the control of the CIA.

Rather than file charges against him and seek his extradition, CIA officials instead operated in the finest Soviet-like tradition, taking el-Masri to one of their secret Soviet-like torture facilities, where they shackled him, beat him, and injected with some unknown drugs.

Finally realizing the mistake they had made, CIA officials released el-Masri in May 2004, on the direct orders of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

El-Masri has filed suit against George R. Tenet, who was director of the CIA at that time, and certain companies that were employed to transport him.

What’s the federal government’s response to the suit? U.S. officials are asking the judge to dismiss the case without any delay on the grounds that to even respond to the suit would jeopardize national security and harm relationships with other countries.

So, there you have it — a government wielding the omnipotent power to take anyone into custody anywhere in the world, transport him to secret torture facilities, torture him, and inject him with unknown drugs, perhaps even execute him. No judicial interference. No habeas corpus. No due process. No judicially issued arrest warrants. No speedy trial. No jury trials. No lawsuits for unlawful kidnapping, false imprisonment, torture, or even wrongful death. Total secrecy to protect the security of the nation and official relationships with brutal foreign regimes. And loyal and obedient government servants faithfully and dutifully carrying out the policies.

It’s all part and parcel of the federal regime under which we now live. It was also part and parcel of the regime under which Soviet citizens lived … and other totalitarian regimes as well.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The big benefit, from the standpoint of federal officials, of a society in which government has the power to regulate peaceful economic activity is the power that it provides government officials to keep people in line.

Both the regulator and the regulated know that there is no way for the regulated to possibly comply with all the regulations. Just ask, for example, any bank president in the United States.

Therefore, the regulated people know that whenever the government wants to come after them for offending the government in some way, the government has the power to do so. The government innocently claims that it is not punishing the person for engaging in the conduct that offended the government but rather for the technical violations of the economic regulations.

An example of this phenomenon might well involve Qwest and the NSA spying scandal. As most everyone knows, soon after 9/11 the feds requested Qwest and other telephone companies to voluntarily turn over to the feds people’s private telephone records. The feds had not secured a warrant for the information.

To his everlasting credit, former Qwest Communications chief executive Joseph Nacchio, said “No,” choosing to protect the privacy and confidentiality of his customers from federal intrusion.

In December 2005, the feds indicted Nacchio for “insider trading,” one of the many economic “crimes” that pervade the regulated society. Nacchio’s federal “crime” was selling his own stock in the company presumably because he knew it was in financial difficulty. As libertarians have long argued, insider trading laws are nothing more than interventionist, regulatory nonsense:



The slimy bureaucrat at the State Science Institute, Dr. Floyd Ferris, put the benefit of the federally regulated society best in Atlas Shrugged:

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against — then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

Monday, May 15, 2006

Big government, pro-militarism conservatives are going to get their wish. Reacting to pressure from U.S. conservatives, President Bush is going to send the National Guard to patrol the border against illegal aliens.

Combined with the Berlin Fence that the feds are constructing along our southern border, conservatives continue to move our nation more and more in the direction of the former Soviet Union — more big government, central planning, militarism, empire, and interventionism.

Americans might just discover the hard way that a country whose government is sufficiently powerful to seal its borders against illegal entry, such as North Korea, is also a government with the power to seal the liberty of its very own citizens. They might yet discover the hard way why the Founding Fathers so fervently opposed standing armies and, for that matter, immigration controls.

The president’s plan is also a reflection of the moral decay into which conservatives have plunged our nation. It wasn’t enough to attack defenseless Cuban refugees and forcibly return them to communist tyranny. It wasn’t enough to criminalize illegal entry, knowing that immigrants would die on lonely deserts or in the back of locked trailers or railroad cars. It wasn’t enough to impose felony convictions on American employers who hired illegal immigrants despite the fact that they have the moral right to do what they want with their own money. It wasn’t enough to flood the border regions with armies of abusive Border Patrol gendarmes. It wasn’t enough to construct passport checkpoints many miles north of the border.

No, none of that was enough. Apparently the more the crackdowns failed, the more confirmation that the feds weren’t cracking down enough.

And what will conservatives and U.S. officials say 2 or 3 years from now, when it becomes obvious that their latest reform has failed? The same thing they’ve said after all their other reforms have failed (not only in their war on immigrants but also in their war on drugs): “Well, this just shows that we need to crack down even more. We need more reform, more criminal penalties, more troops, and more shootings.”

After all, just think about how successful the Marine killing of 18-year-old Mexican-American Esequiel Hernandez Jr. in 1997 was in stemming the flow of illegal drugs into the country.

As they exhort the well-armed troops, many of whom are battle-tested over their invasion of Iraq, to protect America from the Mexican “invaders” whose only weapon is unskilled labor, conservatives will undoubtedly continue to preach their mantra of “free enterprise and limited government” and their strong devotion to the Bible. The only antidote to conservative collectivism and moral hypocrisy continues to lie with libertarianism.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In the wake of the newest revelations about illegal and disgraceful federal monitoring of everyone’s telephone calls, it’s important that we once again review the words of James Madison, the father of the Constitution:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. . . . [There is also an] inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and . . . degeneracy of manners and of morals. . . . No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

How is President Bush justifying his shameful conduct, not only with respect to this scandal, but also with respect to warrantless wiretapping, military arrests and indefinite detentions, torture and sex abuse, kidnappings and rendition, declaring and waging wars of aggression, and all the other dictatorial powers he is now exercising?

You got it — his perpetual “war on terrorism.”

But don’t forget that the terrorists are the direct result of U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast.

Also don’t forget that the 3-year imperial occupation of Iraq has been engendering even more terrorists. That means more “war on terrorism,” which means ever-increasing dictatorial powers for federal officials and ever-increasing loss of rights and freedom for the American people.

Isn’t that brilliant — produce the crisis, frighten the citizenry, and then assume permanent dictatorial powers to deal with the crisis. And best of all, frighten millions of grownup sheeplings to go along with it all.

The Founding Fathers were brilliant too, especially in recognizing that the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry lies with the federal government.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

As most everyone knows, Republicans get upset when President Bush’s dictatorial policies (such as military arrests and indefinite detentions, illegal wiretapping, ignoring statutory law and constitutional restraints, declaring and waging war on countries that have not attacked the U.S., torture and sex-abuse centers, kidnappings and renditions, etc.) are compared to the dictatorial policies of Adolf Hitler.

Well, for those who think that things are going to be any better by turning to the Democrats (who were the ones responsible for the massacre at Waco and the murders at Ruby Ridge, along with the resulting cover-ups) should consider this paragraph from an article in the May 9 issue of the New York Times:

“But some of these analysts argue that the party needs something more than a pastiche of policy proposals. It needs a broader vision, a narrative, they say, to return to power and govern effectively — what some describe as an unapologetic appeal to the ‘common good,’ to big goals like expanding affordable health coverage and to occasional sacrifice for the sake of the nation as a whole.

Sacrifice for the sake of the nation as a whole? Democrats (and for that matter Republicans) badly need a double dose of Atlas Shrugged, the perfect antidote for a collectivist mindset.

As I pointed out in my article “Hitler’s Mutual Admiration Society,” here’s what Hitler wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt, whose 4-term presidential New Deal regime was devoted to forcible sacrifice for the good of the nation:

“The Reich chancellor requests Mr. Dodd to present his greetings to President Roosevelt. He congratulates the president upon his heroic effort in the interest of the American people. The president’s successful struggle against economic distress is being followed by the entire German people with interest and admiration. The Reich chancellor is in accord with the president that the virtues of sense of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline must be the supreme rule of the whole nation. This moral demand, which the president is addressing to every single citizen, is only the quintessence of German philosophy of the state, expressed in the motto “The public weal before the private gain.”

If there’s any American who still doesn’t believe that our country is headed in a very bad direction, he’s just not paying attention. He’s got his head buried in the sand, just like an ostrich, preferring to not know and just hoping that everything turns out well.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: The only — repeat only — hope for the future of our country lies with libertarian philosophy and principles. To continue down the path we are headed will only bring more death and destruction, more dictatorial conduct, more oppression, more forced sacrifice, and more loss of liberty.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A group of West Point graduates has come out publicly against the Iraq war as well as the lies and deceptions leading up to the war. Their website is entitled West Point Graduates Against the War. Here are two articles by West Point graduates who are members of the group:

Of West Point, War and Pizza: What’s In a Name?

“Duty, Honor, Trademark”: Privatizing West Point

I tip my hat to these West Point graduates for their courage and independence of thought, especially since I suggested a couple of years ago in my 3-part article “Obedience to Orders” that West Pointers would be much less likely to display such qualities than graduates of my alma mater Virginia Military Institute.

This comes on the heels of Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate, who is still on active duty, who has had the courage to publicly oppose the U.S. military’s torture of detainees in Iraq. See my article West Pointers, Where Are You?

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, West Point officials have gone on the attack (see below) against the West Point antiwar graduates They’re telling them — (please, hold your laughter) — to stop using the term “West Point” because it violates their “trademark.” That motivated the author of the second article linked above, Col. Dan Smith, a West Point grad, to refer to the group as “Xxxxx Xxxxx Grads Against the War.”

Of course, this reminds me of the attack leveled against me 3 years ago by a VMI alumni official, one Paul Maini, who felt the need to “apologize” to a West Point official for my “Obedience to Orders” article, which suggested that West Point officers were much more likely to blindly obey wrongful orders, such as torture of prisoners, than VMI officers. My response to Maini’s attack appeared in Part 3 of the article, which explained the virtues of VMI’s citizen-soldier concept over West Point’s professional soldier concept, an article to which Maini never responded.

Maybe Maini felt the need to apologize to West Point because I had mentioned that that I was a VMI graduate in the article. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt the need to issue such an apology if I had simply mentioned that I was a graduate of Vxxxx Mxxxx Ixxxx.

* Email from Paul Maini, Executive Vice President, VMI Alumi Association (April 4, 2003)

From: PMAINI@vmiaa.org [mailto:PMAINI@vmiaa.org] Sent: Friday, April 04, 2003 10:59 AM

Dear Colonel Hudgins,

On behalf of the VMI Alumni Association I extend our sincere apology to the Cadets and Graduates of the USMA at West Point for the insulting and ridiculous statements recently made by an isolated alumnus of VMI. Those statements are reprehensible to us and represent only the bizarre sentiments of this single individual. VMI Alumni have the deepest respect and admiration for the Academy and its graduates. For nearly 160 years we have stood shoulder-to shoulder as comrades-in-arms in our nations defense and I fully expect we will continue to do so in spite of this recent episode.

Sincerely Paul Maini EVP

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

The invasion and occupation of Iraq involve countless stories of personal tragedy, not the least of which are the American and Iraqi families who have lost loved ones in the process. It is also a story of lies and deceptions. A story of massive assaults on civil liberties, both in Iraq and here at home. A story of immorality and illegality. It is also a story of corruption. A front-page article in today’s New York Times entitled “Killings in Iraq Spawn Search for Missing Funds” contains elements of all this. A 33-year old American lawyer and human-rights activist, Fern Holland, was murdered in Iraq. No one has been arrested and charged but sources say Holland was kidnapped and shot by a group of Iraqis wearing police uniforms. It turns out that U.S. officials had delivered $320,000 in cash to Holland, which disappeared after her death. While most people agree that she didn’t do anything improper, the same can’t be said of some Americans around her, who proved to be as corrupt as the Saddam Hussein regime. A former occupation official in Hilla, Robert J. Stein, Jr., has pled guilty to bribery, conspiracy, and other crimes arising out of the Holland money. Another American, Philip H. Bloom, a businessman, has pled guilty to similar charges. Two Army Reserve officers, Lt. Col. Debra Harrison and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler, have been arrested and charged with accepting bribes. As the Roman citizens in the Roman Empire discovered, a domestic welfare empire combined with a foreign military empire ultimately produce a rot at the center of both empires — a rot that consists of lies, deceit, death, destruction, immorality, illegality, corruption, and a loss of liberty. There is but one solution: to reject the paradigm of paternalism, welfare, socialism, interventionism, and empire that currently holds our nation in its grip and replace it with the paradigm of individual liberty, free markets, and limited-government republic on which our nation was founded.

Monday, May 8, 2006

A fascinating article about sedition in WWI, which recently appeared in the New York Times, provides valuable insight into the mindsets of those U.S. officials today who are waging their perpetual “war on terrorism.” The article told about 79 Montanans of German descent who were sentenced by state courts to many years in prison for criticizing the federal government during World War I. That’s right — here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, Americans were punished with prison terms for speaking their minds about government and the war. One man received a 7 to 20 year sentence for saying that wartime food regulations were a “big joke” (which undoubtedly they were). Ordinary Americans were encouraged to become snitches: According to the article, “Officials encouraged neighbor to inform on neighbor, and one person’s accusation was often enough for an arrest.” One man was turned in and prosecuted after a conversation with an undercover agent who was working for the local prosecutor. As those “seditionists” who criticized the federal government during WWI discovered, there are always those “good and patriotic” citizens who, especially in times of “war,” will look on their federal government as a god — all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing and immune from all criticism. This is what Madison was suggesting when he said that of all the enemies to liberty, war in the biggest because it encompasses all the other enemies to liberty. And it induces ordinary (and oftentimes frightened) adults to cooperate in the demise of their own freedom, often in the name of “patriotism.” Keep in mind that the quest in World War I was to spread democracy (as in Iraq) and to bring an end to all war. Also, that the loss of American life in WWI was a total waste (as in Iraq) and that the intervention resulted in disaster (as in Iraq), especially given that it was a critical factor in producing the conditions in Germany that ultimately gave rise to Adolph Hitler. Is it a surprise that federal officials are relishing the prospect of a perpetual war against terrorists everywhere, many of whom they have produced as a result of U.S. foreign policy? Ever-growing “defense” budgets, centralization of powers, militarism, suspensions of civil liberties, secret prisons, torture. In a word — power. And lots of it. And with no end to the “war” in sight.

Friday, May 5, 2006

No one should ever accuse Vice President Cheney of lacking chutzpah. Obviously unhappy with Russia for not endorsing President Bush’s hope of attacking Iran, Cheney accused Russia of backsliding on democracy at a conference in Vilnius. This from the man who is in charge of a government that claims the power to send military forces across America and round people up and punish them, denying them any federal court interference and jury trials. That’s what the Jose Padilla doctrine is all about, and it applies to all Americans, including dissidents, newspaper editors, and government critics. Didn’t they do that in the Soviet Union, Mr. Vice-President? This from the man who is in charge of a government that claims the power to wiretap the American people without a warrant issued by an independent federal magistrate. Didn’t they do that in the Soviet Union, Mr. Vice-President? This from the man who is in charge of a government that set up a torture camp in Cuba with the intention of avoiding interference by the courts? Didn’t they do that in the Soviet Union, Mr. Vice-President? This from the man who is in charge of a government that kidnaps people and sends them into secret Soviet-era torture compounds in Eastern Europe? Didn’t they do that in the Soviet Union, Mr. Vice-President? Mr. Vice-President, remember that when you’re pointing your finger at Russia for not doing your bidding on Iran, there are four other fingers pointing back at you.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Make no mistake about it: If Zacharias Moussaoui had been tried by a Pentagon military tribunal, he would have been found guilty and executed. Military personnel would have been frightened to death to buck their commander in chief by doing what an independent jury of American citizens did yesterday — sentence Moussaoui to life in prison rather than impose the death penalty on him, as the executive branch wanted them to do. The jury system is one of the hallmarks of our criminal-justice system. It is one of the things that distinguish our nation from most of the other nations around the world. Some Americans, especially those in the Pentagon, hate the jury system. That’s in fact why the Pentagon set up its torture and sex abuse camp in Cuba — because Pentagon officials hoped that they could do whatever they wanted to suspected criminals without interference by the federal judiciary, including juries. Their assumption is that juries are stupid and thus cannot be trusted to dispense “intelligent” justice. That’s why they want to use those ludicrous military tribunals, whose only mission is to please their commander in chief with kangaroo courts whose only purpose is to present the fake and false aura of “justice” before the pre-ordained verdict of guilty and sentence of death are carried out. The Americans people need to conquer their fears of the “terrorists,” who, not so coincidentally, have produced by the federal government’s foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. They need to do what people who love liberty have done throughout history, stretching all the way back to the time that the great barons of England held their king at the point of a sword and extracted from him the Magna Charta, which contained the seeds of due process of law. They need to recapture their heritage of civil liberties, as expressed in the Bill of Rights, which our American ancestors brought into existence to protect themselves from federal officials. They need to come to the realization that the greatest threat to their freedom is the federal government, which is precisely why the Framers placed such severe restrictions of federal power in the Constitution. They need to recapture the love of liberty that has been the birthstone of an American and reject firmly all entreaties to exchange their rights and freedom for the pretense of “security.” Those who were saying that 9/11 was an act of war rather than a criminal act were wrong. Their suggestions that the federal officials should have sent Moussaoui to Gitmo rather than have him indicted and tried in federal court were wrong. With its treatment of American Jose Padilla and its Soviet-like camp in Cuba, Pentagon officials are trying desperately to hijack the greatest criminal justice system in history. It will be a mark of shame on the American people of our time if they permit them to do so.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

U.S. officials are a bit apoplectic over Mexico’s decision to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal consumption, including cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, PCP, Opium, mescaline, and peyote. Unfortunately, it’s not total legalization because distribution is still illegal, which means that the drug lords and drug gangs will continue to remain in business. But it’s certainly a significant step, especially given Bolivia’s recent intention to stop drug-war crop-spraying, contrary to U.S. government wishes. Not surprisingly, U.S. officials are pulling out the old tried-and-true bromides about how Mexico’s action will cause drug use to soar and how this sends out the wrong message. Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, railed, “Any country that embarks on policies that encourage drug use will get more drug use and more drug addiction.” Actually, what terrifies U.S. officials most is that they know that if people end the drug war, it will be more difficult to justify the continuation of the drug-war budgets (and the massive taxes that fund them). Drug-war agents would have to find honest jobs, in much the same way that booze-war agents had to find honest jobs when Prohibition ended. Asset-forfeiture in drug cases could no longer be used as a means to fund police departments and federal law-enforcement agencies. Drug-war bribery of government personnel would dry up. Prison personnel would have to be laid off. Everybody knows that the decades-long war on drugs has failed to achieve its purported goals and, in fact, has accomplished nothing more than massive infringements on the civil liberties and financial privacy of the American people, not to mention the thousands of lives it has damaged or destroyed. The problem is that lots of people have become dependent on the drug war, especially drug lords and law-enforcement personnel. They know that if drugs were legalized, both groups — drug lords and drug agents — would be out of a job immediately. Is it any surprise that both drug lords and drug agents are the fiercest opponents of drug legalization?

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

To inject a dose of reality into how free the American people are now, we need only turn to Egypt, one of the many countries that has never had a libertarian heritage. Egypt has just extended a 25-year-old emergency law that provides the Egyptian government with the power to detain people indefinitely without trial and hearings of civilians before military tribunals. That, of course, is the same power now claimed by the U.S. government over the American people, a power that now has the decision of a federal court of appeals to buttress it. That’s what the Jose Padilla doctrine and the Gitmo military tribunals are all about. Is that shameful or what? If copying Egypt doesn’t give Americans pause as to the bad direction our country is headed in, what will? The American people of our time have permitted their federal officials to abandon the constraints regarding due process of law and jury trials that our forefathers fought so hard to achieve — and all because Americans were frightened that the “terrorists” were coming to get them — terrorists whose existence was, ironically, owing to the bad things that U.S. officials were doing to people overseas. The Egyptians have learned what people throughout history have learned — that once people permit their government officials to suspend temporarily their rights and liberties, the suspension inevitably becomes permanent. In Egypt’s case, the “emergency” that justified the assumption of such dictatorial powers has apparently been going on for 25 years. U.S. officials tell us that here their “emergency” powers will last only until the “war on terrorism,” is finally over, whenever that is. Of course, Adolf Hitler did the same thing. After the terrorists attacked the German parliament building, Hitler declared war on terrorism and asked the German legislature to give him temporary powers to deal with the terrorist “emergency.” The “temporary” powers and the “emergency” never went away. Let’s also not forget about all the “dirty wars” that were fought in Latin America as part of the “emergency” of protecting people from “the communists.” Unfortunately, for the American people history begins with 9/11. Thus they have no idea that the use of “emergencies” and ever-shifting official enemies such as the “terrorists,” the communists, Saddam, Castro, Chavez, Osama, Zarqawi, or the drug lords are among the oldest scams in the book for grasping dictatorial power — and making the sheep eager and grateful for their sheering.

Monday, May 1, 2006

In our FFF Email Update today, we link to a fascinating article about the Pentagon’s operations at Gitmo, entitled “My Guantanamo Diary.”

I was particularly struck by a profound statement by a Washington, D.C., attorney who is representing some of the detainees at Gitmo.

The author of the article had commented to the lawyer that she was surprised at how friendly the Gitmo military escorts were, for she had expected hostility instead.

The lawyer, Tom Wilner, a partner in the Washington office of Shearman & Sterling, responded, “Yeah, they’re nice. But this whole place is evil — and the face of evil often appears friendly.”

The profundity of Wilner’s retort cannot be overstated. It is a point that all too many Americans still do not understand. They think that if American troops are engaged in an operation, then it must automatically be a good or moral operation even if otherwise it would be considered evil.

Consider the president’s war on Iraq, a war that has killed tens of thousands of innocent people, that is people who never attacked the United States or even threatened to do — and neither did their government. These deaths have been justified under the rubric of “democracy spreading” — that President Bush invaded Iraq to help the Iraqi people establish a democratic system.

Of course, there is significant circumstantial evidence that this justification, just like the WMD one, is fake and false. But let’s assume it’s true.

Ask yourself this: Assume, hypothetically speaking, that before the invasion Saddam Hussein had said to you the following: “If you will kill this 7-year old boy, I promise to abdicate and let the U.S. take over Iraq and hold elections.” Assume also, hypothetically speaking, that it was a moral certainly that he was telling the truth.

I would be willing to bet that most Americans would consider it evil to kill the child in order to achieve that result. I personally would consider it evil to do so. As a Catholic, I believe that I would ultimately have to answer to God for the wrongful killing of the child, even if I took the position that the killing was “worth it” because it brought democracy to Iraq.

Now, multiply that dead child by tens of thousands of people, both young and old, who have been killed (and maimed) as a result of the invasion. In fact, think about all hundreds of thousands of children who died as a result of the cruel and brutal sanctions against Iraq as well as the position of U.S. officials, as expressed by their ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, that the deaths of those children were “worth it.”

Even if the American soldiers who enforced the sanctions and invaded Iraq are the nicest, friendliest people in the world on a purely personal level, we must always keep in mind the profound words of attorney Tom Wilner: “The face of evil often appears friendly.”

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.