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, November 2006


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Newsweek has a good summary of the current status of the Jose Padilla case. It is quite possible that government lawyers might be caught lying, as they were in the infamous Ruby Ridge case.

Responding to Padilla’s motion to dismiss based on the government’s having tortured him while in detention, federal attorneys in the case filed a response expressly denying Padilla’s torture allegation, telling the federal judge in an official court pleading that “there is not a shred of record evidence” to support Padilla’s claims and that the “conditions of his confinement were humane and designed to ensure his safety and security.”

However, the government is now asking the judge to prohibit defense lawyers from telling how Padilla was treated by the military during his detention. They’re saying that such evidence might “inflame the jury” or invite “jury nullification.”

Now, ask yourself: What do federal prosecutors have to fear? If Padilla is lying about how he was treated, as prosecutors are maintaining, then wouldn’t the prosecutors easily be able to summon the military officials who were in charge of his incarceration to rebut his testimony? Who would jurors believe — Padilla or his military incarcerators?

The more probable reason for the government’s position is that they know darn well that Padilla was tortured and abused by U.S. military officials and that they can’t get all the military people involved to get their false stories straight, especially under fierce cross-examination by an independent defense attorney who isn’t scared of the government.

Equally important, not only do they not want a jury to find out about it, they don’t want the American people to find out about it.

After all, don’t forget that Padilla is an American citizen and that U.S. officials, including those in the Pentagon, are claiming the power to do to every other American what they have done to Padilla.

My hunch is that federal prosecutors are going to ultimately turn to their standard ace in the hole — national security, arguing that to permit Padilla to describe his torture and abuse at the hands of the Pentagon would jeopardize the entire security of the nation. After all, don’t forget that that’s what their claming with respect to their mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees — that their lawyers should not be permitted to ask their clients about their mistreatment because U.S. national security will be jeopardized.

Oh, did I mention that the prosecutors and the Pentagon have agreed not to use statements extracted by Padilla in his criminal trial? Doesn’t that seem odd, given their position that Padilla is one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world? Why would that be, given that the “conditions of his confinement were humane,” as the federal prosecutors have told the judge.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Amidst the civil war — excuse me, the new phase of sectarian violence — in Iraq, we would be remiss if we didn’t notice something that we here at FFF have been pointing out for a long time: By ousting Saddam Hussein from power, President Bush, in the name of “democracy,” has succeeded in installing a radical Islamic regime in Iraq, a phenomenon that I think simply has not yet hit home with many Americans.

Don’t forget: The reason that the president’s father, when he was president, refused to send the troops during the Persian Gulf War all the way to Baghdad to oust Saddam from power was because it would end up installing a radical Shiite regime that would align itself with Iran, which U.S. officials considered to be a bigger enemy.

The most recent evidence of the new realignment that President Bush’s invasion has wrought occurred this week when Iraq’s new president Jalil Talabani traveled to Iran to cozy up and party with his Shiite counterparts in Iran.

Thus, whenever you hear Americans saying, “We’ve got to wage war against the radical Islamists because they want to do us harm,” ask them what then the U.S. should do about the radical Islamists running Iraq, but be prepared for a blank stare in response.

On a related subject, be sure to read the following article linked in today’s FFF Email Update: “Goodbye to All That” by Austin W. Bramwell. The article is a devastating critique of the conservative movement especially with respect to foreign policy.

Bramwell is a former executive with National Review, the premier conservative publication in the country, and was recently asked to resign by William F. Buckley, one of the premier conservatives in the country.

Bramwell reminds us that it wasn’t only the neocons who are responsible for the Iraq debacle, as many conservatives would now like people to believe. As Iraq continues to spiral downward, we should keep in mind that it was conservatives themselves throughout the 1990s who were lamenting the failure of the first President Bush to “get Saddam” and who were urging President Clinton to invade Iraq to complete the job that the first President Bush failed to do.

Bramwell’s analytical critique devastatingly exposes the moral and intellectual bankruptcy and hypocrisy that have long characterized the conservative movement, especially in foreign affairs. While the article doesn’t mention libertarianism, his devastating critique of conservatism leaves the person who is concerned about the current direction of our nation with no other viable alternative than the morality and philosophy of libertarianism.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Like most U.S. military officers, Captain Stephanie A. Bagley, a 30-year-old West Point graduate, went to Iraq filled with the standard Pentagon propaganda of the importance of “rebuilding Iraq.” Her mission was to help build a new Iraqi police force.

At some point in her one-year deployment, Bagley apparently realized that “rebuilding Iraq” was a crock. Of course, it didn’t help that the Iraqi police force she was training remained, according to the New York Times, “undertrained, poorly equipped and unable to stand up to the rigors of this conflict.”

So, faced with that reality Bagley adopted a more modest and admirable goal: getting every one of her troops back home alive. “I just want to get everyone home,” Bagley said. She prohibited her troops from conducting foot patrols in the violent sections of town and from engaging in any nonessential travel.

Bagley has obviously concluded that the lives of U.S. soldiers have a higher value than “rebuilding Iraq.” Or to put it another way, “rebuilding Iraq” is nothing worth dying for.

Too bad U.S. officials, along with those who still favor the continued occupation of Iraq, feel differently.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Are Americans about to witness another adverse consequence of the federal government’s pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy, including its invasion and occupation of Iraq? It could be so. The dollar has slid to a 19-month low against the Euro while the price of gold has gained 23 percent this year.

If the dollar continues to slide there exists the distinct possibility that China and other Asian countries that hold massive amounts of U.S. government debt instruments will begin dumping them into the marketplace, causing the slide to turn into a major dollar crash.

How could it be otherwise? The federal government is spending money far in excess of what it is bringing in with taxes and borrowing? How could the feds finance the difference if not by printing massive amounts of paper money?

Unfortunately, modern-day Americans look on the federal government as their daddy-god which provides them their welfare, retirement, health care, education, subsidies, loans, grants, earmarks, etc. In return, the American people permit their daddy-god to do whatever it wants to people overseas, including supporting dictators, providing foreign aid, invading and occupying countries, torture, etc. But no amount of faith in such daddy-god can turn him into an alchemist. When a family spends more than what it brings in, ultimately something must give. The same holds true for governments. After all, don’t forget what conservatives and neocons say about how they supposedly brought down the Soviet Empire — by making the Soviet government spend the nation into bankruptcy.

If out-of-control federal expenditures do produce a monetary crisis, here’s my prediction: Just like with Iraq, where no federal official is accepting responsibility for the debacle, it will be the same with a dollar crisis. Federal officials will claim that the fault lies with such scapegoats as speculators, entrepreneurs, big oil, big business, OPEC, and perhaps even illegal aliens. They will claim that out-of-control federal spending, including that which is “rebuilding Iraq,” is actually beneficial to America because it produces jobs.

The only question is whether the American people, who will watch their savings crumble and prices soar as the dollar crashes, will buy the propaganda. If a monetary crisis does develop, hopefully Americans will use it as an opportunity to rein in the federal government and restore sound money and a limited-government constitutional republic to our land.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another good example of U.S. government hypocrisy in foreign affairs involves the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election. As most everyone knows, U.S. officials hate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez because he is a socialist, is a close friend of Cuba’s communist leader Fidel Castro, has condemned the U.S. war of aggression against Iraq, has lots of oil money, and has poked fun at President Bush. So, what do U.S. officials do in such a case? Well, given that the Pentagon is bogged down in Iraq, invading Venezuela for the purpose of ousting Chavez is out of the question, at least for now. Moreover, sending the CIA to assassinate him, while no doubt an option on the table, would only serve to raise more anger and enmity toward the United States around the world.

So, instead, the U.S. government has funneled millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to Venezuelan groups in the hopes of defeating Chavez and his candidates.

Now, ask yourself: What if the Federal Elections Commission and the U.S. Justice Department discovered that the Venezuelan government had funneled money into the campaigns of Democratic Party candidates for Congress, helping them to defeat the Republicans? We all know what would happen: They would scream like banshees, cry like babies, and immediately issue criminal indictments against all the malefactors.

But then turn things around. Here you have the U.S. government doing the exact same thing — interfering in the domestic political affairs of another country. Now, is that not a classic case of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is. And when the candidates and their supporters who are on the losing end of Venezuelan elections commit some sort of “blowback” against the United States, U.S. officials will nonchalantly say, “Oh, they just hate us for our freedom and values.”

Of course, U.S. officials claim that they’re simply supporting democracy. But that’s just a lie, and they know it’s a lie. The fact is that U.S. officials are actively trying to get their people into office in Venezuela, just like they do all in elections all across the United States. After all, we all know what they would say if Chavez and Castro were to declare that the only reason they were supporting Democratic candidates for Congress was to support democracy in the United States.

It’s true that funneling money into Venezuela for the purpose of “regime change” is not as bad as a U.S. invasion or coup, as the people of Iraq and Iran will attest. But it’s still wrongful interference with the affairs of other countries, which tends to produce “blowback” against the United States. In the aftermath of the Iraq debacle, Americans would be wise to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy in its entirety, including terminating all foreign aid and the income taxes that fund it. Anyway, surely the American people can find better ways to spend their own money than Washington, D.C., pointy-head bureaucrats.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Visiting China, President Bush urged China’s leader, Hu Jintao, to create “a nation of consumers and not savers, which will inure to the benefit of our manufacturers, both large and small, and our farmers, as well.”

That is nothing more than economic ridiculousness, and most likely the Chinese know it. The key to rising prosperity lies in savings, not consumption. Savings provides the pool of resources that go into capital investment — that is, tools and machinery that then make workers more productive, which then provides the means by which overall real wages rise.

Each person and each family, of course, must make the ultimate decision as to how much income to consume and how much to save, but the key to rising standards of living in society lies with increases in overall savings, not consumption.

Does this mean that governments should enact policies that encourage savings rather than consumption? No, governments should simply leave people alone to make those decisions on their own. Government has no more business encouraging savings than it does encouraging consumption.

The problem that Bush and other U.S. officials are having is that out of control federal spending is sucking so much money out of the pockets of the American people that the overall savings rate is being destroyed. Of course, that’s not a new phenomenon. It has happened with empires throughout history. Just ask former officials of the Soviet government, which spent the Soviet Union into economic bankruptcy.

Rather than accept responsibility for this and dismantle the spending programs that are producing it, federal officials instead continue the massive spending but find easy scapegoats for the inevitable adverse consequences.

While “big oil” or OPEC or speculators always serves as popular scapegoats, as most everyone knows foreigners make the best scapegoats for federally caused economic problems. So, as federal spending policies continue apace, we’re treated to such inanities as “They’re stealing our jobs and businesses away.” “They’re saving too much of their money.” “They’re not buying enough of U.S. government bonds.”

Anything to distract the American people’s attention away from their daddy-god — the federal government — and its pro-socialism and pro-empire domestic and foreign policies that are at the root of America’s economic woes.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The temptation to which many Americans have succumbed in the cases of Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri is that Americans don’t need to be concerned because they involve only two cases. “When they begin rounding up hundreds of Americans, then that’s when I’ll take a stand,” is what some Americans might be thinking. “Right now, my life is just too busy to take a stand.”

Padilla is the American citizen who the Justice Department turned over to the U.S. military as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism,” and denied him right to counsel, right to due process, and right to trial by jury. After securing a ruling upholding such power from the federal court of appeals and before the Supreme Court could overrule the decision, the Justice Department retook control over Padilla, had him indicted, and put him in the jurisdiction of U.S. district court. His trial is scheduled for January. According to Padilla, he was tortured and injected with LSD or some other mind-altering drug during his captivity. A motion to dismiss based on the torture allegations is currently pending.

Al-Marri is a foreigner who was arrested here in the United States and actually was under indictment in federal district court. On the eve of trial, the Justice Department yanked him out of federal court jurisdiction and transferred him to the U.S. military as an “enemy combatant.” Al-Marris has been questioning his detention through habeas corpus proceedings. However, with the recent passage of the Military Commissions Act, which canceled the constitutional right of habeas corpus for foreigners accused of terrorism, the Justice Department is now claiming that al-Marri no longer has any right to question his detention in federal court and is subject to remaining imprisoned for the rest of his life, at the discretion of U.S. military officials.

If the government begins rounding up dozens or hundreds of Americans and treats them like Padilla or al-Marri, what are the chances that Americans who have remained silent about the Padilla or al-Marri cases will then openly stand up and take a stand, especially if the Supreme Court has upheld the power to torture and indefinitely detain? Answer: Virtually none. Because if Americans are too fearful or too busy to take a stand when it mattered — at the inception of the tyranny — there is little possibility that they will have the courage to stand up when hundreds are being rounded up, especially since they could become part of those being rounded up. It will be much easier for such Americans to continue their silent acquiescence, secure in the knowledge that they will be left alone as they pursue their busy lives.

Friday, November 17, 2006

With the passing of Milton Friedman yesterday, we thought it would be good to repost in today’s FFF Email Update Friedman’s famous 1990 Open Letter to Bill Bennett in which Friedman condemned the drug war. Unfortunately, despite the passage of 16 years since Friedman’s letter appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the drug war shows no signs of abatement, despite it manifest failure, destruction, hypocrisy, and racism.

However, there have been innumerable positive signs since Friedman wrote that article. Many conservatives, including Bill Buckley, have come out against the war on drugs. And the same holds true for at least one governor, at least one mayor, judges, and even law-enforcement officers.

An interesting website worth checking out is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which describes itself as “Criminal justice professionals speaking out against the war on drugs.”

In fact, LEAP has an email circulating on the Internet asking people to write moveon.org at http://pol.moveon.org/feedback/fb/form.html?tp and “tell them how important ending the drug prohibition is to our future.”

What greater way to honor the memory of Milton Friedman than by ending the war on drugs? What better way to begin moving our nation in a freer, more prosperous, harmonious direction?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Justice Department has filed a reply to Jose Padilla’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him which denies Padilla’s allegations of torture but which, alternatively, argues that if the government did torture him it should not be grounds for a dismissal of the charges against him. The government says that Padilla’s remedies should be limited to suing his torturers or asking the Justice Department to criminally prosecute the torturers. (And who says the Justice Department doesn’t have a sense of humor?)

Welcome to post-9/11 America, which seems awfully like the pre-Berlin Wall Soviet Union. Keep in mind that Padilla is an American citizen. So, what the government is essentially saying is: We’ve got the right to take any American we want into custody and turn him over to U.S. military officials for torture and indefinite detention. If the victim doesn’t like it, let him sue his torturers. Or let him come and ask us here in the Justice Department officials to criminally prosecute the torturers.

Fortunately, the presiding judge in the case is a federal district judge rather than a military-tribunal judge, meaning that the federal judge, unlike the tribunal judge, won’t be scared of offending the prosecutors. Hopefully, the judge will order a full evidentiary hearing on the motion and enable Padilla to subpoena every prison official who allegedly tortured him and every prison physician who allegedly injected him with LSD. My bet is that when these people are testifying under oath before a federal district judge, they’re not going to be the big men that they were when they were engaged in the fun and games inside Padilla’s prison cell. Of course, the likelihood is that they will lie, just as federal officials did in the Randy Weaver case, but at least maybe Americans will get a sense of the ominous role that the U.S. military now plays in American life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Amidst growing discontent with the Iraq occupation among the American people, it is important that libertarians continue emphasizing the critically important point: that the Iraq war and occupation were wrong not because they failed but because it was morally wrong for the United States to be the aggressor nation in the conflict, attacking a country that never attacked the United States and or even intended to do so.

What the war and the occupation have done is expose the underlying moral conflict that is inherent in the pro-empire, pro-intervention paradigm: the conflict between federal actions overseas and moral principles. By placing those two things in collision with each other, the federal government puts the citizen in the discomforting position of choosing whether to support his government (and its troops) or the laws of God.

Thus, the moral issue each American must confront in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle is: “Am I behaving morally and in accordance with the laws of my God when I support a war of aggression being waged by my government and its troops?”

By asking that question, people would be more likely to judge a conflict — and the deaths and maiming in such conflict — by its moral implications rather than by the actual results of the war. Moreover, they might be less enthusiastic about maintaining a pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy that inevitably leads to such things as wars of aggression, sanctions and embargoes, coups, foreign aid, etc. and more willing to return to the founding principles of our nation which envisioned a limited-government, constitutional republic for our land.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

For a good example of the way that the bureaucratic regulatory state works like a metastasizing cancer, we turn to big, successful, multi-level companies like Avon Products, Herbalife, and Amway. Such companies have succeeded by employing part-time sales representatives who are then encouraged to recruit others in return for receiving a part of their sales proceeds.

The Federal Trade Commission, which purports to use bureaucratic rules and regulations to protect American child-adults from the big bad ogres in the private sector, has issued new rules that now threaten the economic viability of these long-established companies.

The new rules apparently stem from complaints from certain sales representatives that they didn’t receive the amount of money that they thought they would earn. So, the FTC is using those complaints as a bureaucratic springboard to require multi-level companies to tell each prospective sales representative up front that he should expect to earn only a very small amount of money if he comes to work for the company.

The economic threat to the company from this set of federal regulations is so real that according to the New York Times, stock market speculators, certain that the stocks will take a plunge once investors start discover the impact of the rules, have been selling short the stocks in these companies.

In an unhampered market economy—that is, unhampered by government regulations—if someone feels that he’s been defrauded, he’s free to sue, prove his case, and recover damages. In other words, the free market—along with a judicial system—provides an adequate remedy for the problem.

The problem is that in a regulated society, which the U.S. has become, the federal government uses such private-sector problems to metastasize its cancerous self into the private sector, thereby helping to kill or damage companies that have achieved success through satisfying consumers and employees.

And do the rules and regulations actually protect people from harm? Well, go ask the employees and investors in Enron, one of the largest and most regulated companies in the United States and see what they say. What the regulated economy does instead is seduce American child-adults into believing that their federal daddy is taking care of them through silly and destructive rules and regulations issued and enforced by well-heeled, nicely salaried federal bureaucrats, many of whom resent the success of those in the private, free-market sector.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It will be interesting to see whether Donald Rumsfeld travels overseas anymore. Even though President Bush was able to persuade Congress to give U.S. officials immunity from criminal prosecution for torture of prisoners and detainees, that doesn’t prevent other countries from prosecuting, as former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet discovered. You’ll recall that Pinochet was taken into custody in England based on an indictment issued in Italy.

According to the Washington Post former detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison facility are asking German prosecutors to issue a criminal indictment against Rumsfeld for torture and other war crimes. According to the Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Col. Janis L. Karpinski, who as a brigadier general was in charge of Abu Ghraib, is assisting with the case.

Meanwhile, Italian prosecutors continue to pursue criminal charges against CIA officials for kidnapping an Italian man and shipping him to Egypt for what might be called “proxy-torture” — torture committed by Egyptian authorities at the behest of U.S. officials.

It will also be interesting to see if the Democrat takeover of Congress will result in investigations into the torture and sex abuse that the military and the CIA have been committing for the past several years, when they thought that Republican control over Congress would never end. After all, immunity from criminal prosecution doesn’t mean that Congress is precluded from investigating wrongdoing by the executive branch.

After several years of Pentagon whitewashes and investigatory cover-ups, along with silence from the CIA, the American people are entitled to know all the dirty and sordid deeds that their government has been involved in. Hopefully, the new Congress will not do what the old Congress repeatedly did — roll over and blissfully succumb to the president’s assurances that “We don’t do torture,” even while trying his best to get immunity from criminal prosecution for torture.

Kidnapping. Torture. Sex abuse. Whitewashes. Cover-ups. Rendition. Proxy-torture. Immunity. That’s not what America is supposed to be all about. The people who have engaged in all this immoral and illegal wrongdoing might well end up escaping criminal prosecution, but Congress should not permit them to escape the shame and humiliation of a full congressional investigation into the rot at the center of the empire.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Naples, Italy, is moving the way of Laredo, Texas, and other Latin American cities, as a result of the much-vaunted war on drugs, a war that government officials, led by those in the U.S., continue to wage despite 30 years of failure and violence.

According to the New York Times, the mob in Naples has moved from cigarettes to drugs, no doubt because of the exorbitant black-market prices and profits that the illegality of drugs produce. The move has brought the customary violence that comes with such illegality to Naples.

Like every other government-induced “crisis,” people are responding in the customary way — by calling for more government intervention, such as more prisons, to deal with the “crisis,” rather than simply legalizing drugs, which would put the mob out of the drug business immediately.

Oh, well, at least there are not yet any drug-war beheadings in Naples, like there are in Mexico.

Postscript on President Bush: Did you see that President Bush admitted lying to the press before the election about the impending resignation of Donald Rumsfeld? While the adulating members of the press seem to be buying his reason for lying (not wanting to inject the resignation into the election), they’re missing a much more important point — that the president is a very good liar, so good in fact that apparently none of the press suspected he was lying as he was looking them in the eye and lying to them. Now, Mr. President, about that WMD rationale for invading Iraq….

Thursday, November 9, 2006

The people who should be thanking their lucky stars for the U.S. election results are the Iranians. If Bush had retained control of Congress, the probability is that he would have ordered his army to attack Iran. In the process, countless more innocent people would have been killed in the conflagration.

Now, with the Democrats taking control over both houses of Congress, primarily because of Bush’s and the Pentagon’s ever-growing debacle in Iraq, my hunch is that Bush won’t dare wage another war of aggression. He knows that if things were to go wrong, there is no telling how Congress and the American people would react, especially if Bush had to resort to a military draft to deal with his new war.

Ironically, Bush has nominated Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. It’s ironic because Gates was involved in the infamous Iran-Contra affair, where weapons were secretly sold to Iran (after the 1979 revolution in which Iranians took U.S. officials hostage) and the money from the arms sale was diverted to help the contras wage their war against Daniel Ortega’s communist regime in Nicaragua.

Ironically, while Bush was being rejected at the polls this week, voters in Nicaragua were returning Ortega to power in Nicaragua. But since Bush and the Pentagon are bogged down in Iraq, their ability to once again get Americans all stirred up about a renewed communist threat in Nicaragua is extremely limited. The same holds true for rounding up a new band of contras to wage war against Nicaragua. Thus, while the Iraqi people continue suffering the brutal effects of the foreign military occupation of their country, the Nicaraguan people should be grateful that the Iraqi occupation serves to keep the president and the Pentagon bogged down in the Middle East.

That’s of course why simply withdrawing the troops from Iraq would be nothing more than a band-aid solution to the foreign-policy woes that afflict our nation, given that such forces would then be available for more military adventures and wars of aggression. As our American forefathers repeatedly emphasized, the root of the problem is an enormous standing force at the disposal of a ruler, especially a military that loyally, faithfully, and patriotically obeys the ruler’s orders, no questions asked.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

President Bush and his Republican cohorts continue to exhort Democrats to show their plan for resolving the problems in Iraq, which Democrats steadfastly continue failing to do. What obviously hasn’t occurred to the president and his minions is the distinct possibility that no one is capable of coming up with such a plan.

In other words, there is the possibility that U.S. forces are simply trapped in Iraq and that there is no way out of the trap.

After repeatedly calling people who are calling for withdrawal from Iraq “cowards” who would “cut and run,” how could Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld withdraw from Iraq? They know that if they were to withdraw U.S. forces now, they would implicitly be admitting that were “cut-and-run cowards.” They have boxed themselves in with their own inane insinuations.

Moreover, imagine how families of U.S. troops who have been killed in Iraq and soldiers who have lost limbs or eyesight in battle would react to a U.S. withdrawal. Bush and his cohorts know that the anger of those people would be directed in one direction — toward Bush and his neocon minions — and that there would be one constant question addressed to them: What in the world did these people die for or lose their limbs for?

After three years of believing the sunny news that U.S. officials and their cable-news supporters were spreading about the situation in Iraq, reality is starting to mug people in the face. Death has an interesting way of doing that. People are starting to come to the realization of something we have been saying here at FFF for about two years — the Iraqi regime for which U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying is a radical Islamic regime, one that has even aligned itself with Iran. Moreover, most Iraqis support the killing of occupation forces. And many are undoubtedly starting to think the unthinkable: that many Iraqis might just prefer another brutal dictator (Saddam Hussein, anyone?) to restore “order” in this wasteland of violence and destruction.

Then, there are the U.S. troops who are trapped in Iraq, many of whom would undoubtedly prefer to come home but are scared to publicly say so. They know that President Bush will undoubtedly try to keep them in Iraq for the next two years, no matter how bad things get, at which point he’ll be able to pass the problem on to his successor.

That means that over the next two years, U.S. troops will increasingly become nothing more than sitting ducks for insurgents, who will be able to plant snipers and bombs and plan ambushes to their heart’s content. And if the insurgents get a hold of hand-held missiles with the capability of taking out tanks and helicopters, U.S. troops ain’t seen nothing yet.

Of course, there is still the possibility that Bush could get lucky and figure out a way out of the trap in which he has ensconced himself and his military. But there’s also a possibility that the pro-empire, pro-interventionist paradigm has hit a deadly dead-end and that there’s no way out of it.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Given that it’s Election Day, it would be an opportune time to review why political candidates are so boring in the United States. Yes, I know, the media is saying that there is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans on Iraq, but is there really? Didn’t most Democrats support the president’s invasion of Iraq because they were so scared of being called unpatriotic cowards who hated America and love terrorism? Haven’t most of them supported every single assault on civil liberties, including the application of the ludicrous term “unlawful combatant” on the American people? Haven’t they remained silent in the face of rendition, torture, and sex abuse of detainees?

The fact is, as libertarians have long pointed out, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between a Democrat and a Republican, which is why their campaigns inevitably focus on irrelevant minutia. All of them proudly embrace the socialism and interventionism of Social Security, income taxation, Medicare, Medicaid, public (government) schooling, welfare, subsidies, drug war, foreign aid, and so many other such programs. The differences, if any, between the candidates inevitably revolve around how such programs should be reformed.

So, why aren’t there more candidates offering fundamentally different visions? Because of the enormous barriers the two major parties have implemented to prevent people with alternative paradigms from running against them.

For example, there are the inane petitioning requirements, which require candidates for public office to secure the signatures of hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of people, most of whom don’t even know the candidate, as a condition for running for office. Not only is the process demeaning (“Would you please sign my petition so that I can run for public office?”), it is also expensive. In fact, in many instances paid petition gatherers are used, which makes the process even more of farce than it already is. But it certainly does work—it’s an effective barrier that keeps people from running for office.

Another big barrier is the campaign-finance limits, which prevent alternative candidates from securing large financing from a few very wealthy donors. The ostensible reason for limiting the amount that can be donated is to ensure that ethical people are elected to, say, Congress. Well, is that a joke or what? And as everyone learns during each election, the major parties, which have an enormous built-in funding base, are ultimately able to funnel unlimited amounts of money into their campaigns. But a person without such a funding base can get nowhere with a $2,000 limit on contributions.

Thus, the best electoral reform would involve a total repeal of all ballot-access barriers, including petitioning requirements and campaign-finance limitations. Then, with lots of candidates offering alternative visions, political campaigns would be a lot less boring and lot less irrelevant.

Monday, November 6, 2006

CIA officials and Justice Department lawyers are trying to secure a court order to restrict defense lawyers from asking their clients about whether the CIA tortured them while in captivity. The clients are the Guantanamo detainees who have been held in secret CIA jails for the past few years on suspicion of having committed terrorist acts. They are scheduled to be put on trial before kangaroo military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay pursuant to the recently enacted Military Commissions Act.

The government is saying that if its “alternate interrogation methods” were made public, the “enemy” could figure out ways to counteract such methods, thereby diminishing their effect. In other words, if people were to find out how the CIA tortures people, then terrorists might discover some way to withstand the torture.

Of course, one can’t help but wonder whether there is another reason that the CIA wants to keep the detainees’ lips sealed: CIA officials simply want to keep secret the full extent of their Soviet-like conduct, especially since some country might indict them for it. No, not the U.S., given that the Military Commissions Act gave U.S. personnel immunity from criminal prosecution for torture. But as CIA officials know, the Congress can’t stop other countries from indicting them for torturing people, as former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet and his minions have discovered.. Also, the CIA, which loves doing its nastiness in secret so that Americans’ consciences are not bothered, detests the idea the American people might finally see some of the dark and nefarious deeds that the CIA commits with U.S. tax money.

But hey, what does the CIA have to worry about? President Bush has repeatedly told the American people and the world, “We don’t do torture.” And surely the president, who was the one who asked Congress to immunize him and his subordinates from being criminally prosecuted for torture, wouldn’t lie about that, would he?

Friday, November 3, 2006

Jacob Hornberger is speaking at The Freedom Summit 2006 in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Last December the Pentagon announced that it was making “nation-building” one of its primary missions, even elevating to an equal status with combat operations.

I wonder how many countries the Pentagon has signed on as clients, especially given the downward spiral into which Iraq continues to plunge. My guess: None.

But of course, the Pentagon’s mission doesn’t depend on voluntary clients but rather simply finding clients to involuntarily target, as it did with Iraq.

The problem, of course, is that while the Pentagon does an excellent job in destroying countries (and killing their inhabitants), it is utterly incapable of rebuilding nations, as everyone in Iraq has learned, not to mention the corrupt, unethical, and fraudulent rebuilding transactions it enters into with its military-industrial-complex re-builders and suppliers as part of the rebuilding process.

Oh, well, at least the Pentagon put on its promotional brochures that it’s good at fulfilling 50 percent of its destroy-rebuild mission.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Accused terrorist Jose Padilla, who is facing trial in federal district court in January, has filed a motion to dismiss the federal indictment against him on the grounds that he has been tortured while in U.S. military captivity and also involuntarily injected with psychedelic drugs, such as PCP or LSD.

This obviously holds ominous implications for the American people, given the recently enacted Military Commissions Act. In that act, any American—newspaper editors, government critics, antiwar dissidents, or anyone else—can be taken into custody as an “unlawful combatant” in the “war on terrorism,” as Padilla was. After all, don’t forget: Padilla is an American citizen.

So far, the government has not specifically responded to Padilla’s allegations, but government lawyers vehemently objected to turning over Padilla’s medical records while he has been in captivity, claiming that the records belonged to the government, not Padilla. That argument will undoubtedly be made against every other American taken into custody as an “unlawful combatant.” The presiding judge overruled the government’s objection and ordered the government to turn over the medical records to Padilla.

How long will the American people continue to countenance this military arrogance and hijacking of our criminal justice system? How long will Americans continue to tolerate the gradual destruction of rights and liberties that stretch back to Magna Carta, including habeas corpus, due process of law, right to counsel, right to trial by jury, and right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments? How long will they permit the military to have the power to take them into custody, torture them, and possibly even inject them with drugs?

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.