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, February 2007


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Empire or Freedom—That’s the Choice
by Jacob G. Hornberger

We have several important articles on civil liberties in today’s FFF Email Update. The core issue is this: There is no longer any way to reconcile the powers that the federal government is wielding over the American people — especially the military’s post-9/11 power to arrest, torture, and execute Americans — with the principles of a free society.

As I stated in my article “The Critical Dilemma Facing Pro-War Libertarians,” the assumption of this omnipotent power since 9/11 has placed every American into having to make one of the most crucial choices in his life: Whether to embrace a pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy, including the so-called war on terror, or to restore a free society. One of the most dramatic and important consequences of 9/11 was that it showed Americans that they cannot have it both ways. Empire and intervention or freedom.

Thus, even if economic liberty were to be achieved (i.e., sound money, deregulation, tax relief, etc.), it would not bring about a free society. A necessary prerequisite of a free society is the elimination of the government’s post-9/11 omnipotent power to arrest, torture, and execute Americans.

Obviously the stakes are enormous, especially for libertarians, who have long committed themselves to a free society. That’s why the words of Ludwig von Mises are so appropriate: “No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Along these lines, we are also including an excerpt from Chalmers Johnson’s excellent new book Nemesis in today’s FFF Email Update. There are few people who have a better handle on the threat to liberty posed by U.S. foreign policy than Chalmers Johnson. The excerpt from his book is worth reading, and I highly recommend his trilogy of books — BlowbackThe Sorrows of Empire, and Nemesis.

As I was reading Nemesis, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr. Johnson had either quoted or cited FFF authors and articles, including Sheldon Richman, James Bovard, Anthony Gregory, and me, especially on the articles we have published on the brutal sanctions imposed on the Iraqi people. He also cites articles published by LewRockwell.com, the Mises Institute, and Reason. Needless to say, given my longtime deep respect for Mr. Johnson’s work, those references made my day.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Pentagon’s Selective Exercise of Conscience
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The London Times is reporting that “some of America’s most senior commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.” Up to five generals and admirals are set to resign because they believe an attack on Iran would be “reckless.”

Now, mind you, I’m not complaining about that. I think those generals and admirals should have every right in to the world not to participate in another war of aggression, one that quite possibly will bring even more disastrous results to our nation than the president’s war of aggression against Iraq.

My only question is: Why shouldn’t all other officers and enlisted men be accorded the same right — the right not to participate in a war that is not only reckless but, more important, is illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral?

After all, the Pentagon is prosecuting Lt. Ehren Watada for refusing to deploy to Iraq on the ground that the war and occupation are illegal, unconstitutional, and immoral. Moreover, as Watada has pointed out, he has a duty under the principles set forth at Nuremberg to refuse to obey orders to wage a war of aggression, which the invasion of Iraq constituted since neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States.

So, why charge, prosecute, and punish Watada for following his conscience when generals and admirals are allowed to follow their conscience? Why shouldn’t all soldiers — not just the top-ranking ones — be allowed to follow their consciences rather than surrender them to the president?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Pentagon’s Indifference toward Bin Laden
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the outgoing Army chief of staff, which is the highest-ranking officer in the Army, said last week that whether they capture or kill Osama bin Laden was really no big deal. “I don’t know that it’s all that important, frankly. So we get him, and then what?” Schoomaker said.

Schoomaker pointed out that the capture of Saddam Hussein, the killings of his two sons,, and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have had little effect on threats to the United States. Therefore, the general implied, neither would the capture of killing of Bin Laden.

I wonder if Schoomaker shared his sentiments with President Bush immediately after 9/11. If he had, maybe Bush wouldn’t have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, which, along with Gitmo, Guantanamo, Bagram, renditions, torture, etc., have been a dream-come-true for Al Qaeda recruiters.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Pentagon’s Treatment of Jose Padilla Is the Harsh Reality of Post-9/11 America
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Why is the Jose Padilla case so important for every single American? Why do Americans ignore it at their peril? Because it reflects the revolutionary change in the nature of the power that federal officials, including those in the military, now possess over the American people.

In his competency hearing yesterday, two forensic psychologists testified that Padilla suffered mental damage during his 3 1/2 years in Pentagon custody. This period of time included the military’s indefinite detention of Padilla as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror,” which includes denial of such procedural protections as right to counsel, due process of law, and protection against cruel and unusual punishments.

Most important, Padilla was subjected to a form of what might be called “touchless torture,” a torture technique designed to cause people mental damage through strictly psychological means. As Alfred McCoy states in his excellent book A Question of Torture, many years ago the CIA adopted the “touchless-torture” technique from the North Koreans and has applied it successfully to victims over the years. The central element of this torture technique involves complete forced isolation for extended periods as well as complete sensory deprivation. The beauty of this touchless torture is that officials can say, “We’re innocent! We’re innocent! We haven’t laid a hand on him. Check his body! He has no physical scars at all!”

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Both witnesses [psychologists] reported that Padilla exhibited facial tics, flushing and perspiration, and that he evaded all questions relating to his solitary confinement. Defense attorneys say he was subjected to extreme temperatures and noise, fed LSD and other drugs, and made to endure hours of interrogation shackled in ‘stress positions.’”

The important point is not just that they’ve done this only to Jose Padilla. It is that the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon now wield the authority to do this to every single American (and every single foreigner) they decide to label an “enemy combatant.”

Why did they select Padilla to establish such a power? Because they knew that if they selected some high school principal who was a member of Rotary, average Americans might get alarmed. They knew that average Americans wouldn’t give a hoot about some suspected American terrorist like Jose Padilla who few Americans would care about. And once they established the power with respect to Padilla, federal officials knew it would apply to all Americans.

This is the revolutionary change that 9/11 has exposed in all its rawness for every American to see — the omnipotent power of the military to now take Americans into custody and hold them indefinitely and torture them as “enemy combatants.” It’s not a pretty change and certainly not one that can even remotely be reconciled with the principles of freedom.

While the government is doing its best to protect Americans from the reality of the change by fighting to prevent prison officials from testifying, the presiding judge is hitting Americans with a hard dose of reality in the Padilla case by shining a light into the Pentagon’s dungeons.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Federal Court is the Proper Forum to Prosecute Terrorism
by Jacob G. Hornberger

So far, conservatives are remaining silent about a new criminal case against an American citizen arising out of the federal government’s “global war on terror.”

You’ll recall that the conservative position is that terrorism is an act of war and, therefore, suspected terrorists should be turned over to the military for indefinite incarceration and possible torture and execution without being accorded the benefits of procedural protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Whenever civil libertarians have pointed out that terrorism is a crime, not an act of war, conservatives have mocked and jeered the assertion, ignoring the quite obvious fact that the Justice Department has indicted numerous terrorist suspects, both before and after 9/11, some of whom have been convicted, such as Zacharias Moussaoui, and some of whom have been acquitted.

This new case involves an American citizen named Daniel J. Maldonado who apparently participated in the Islamic regime in Somalia before it was recently ousted by pro-U.S. Ethiopian military forces. He escaped to Kenya where he was arrested by FBI agents and shipped back to the United States. The U.S. attorney intends to have him indicted by a federal grand jury for training with Al Qaeda forces and other activities relating to terrorism.

Al Qaeda? Terrorism? Doesn’t that seem to fall squarely within the confines of the “war on terror”? Wouldn’t this man fall squarely within the definition of an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror”? What in the world is he doing in federal district court rather than sitting in isolation in a military dungeon, subject to being tortured by the CIA and the Pentagon and executed by a kangaroo military tribunal? Why are conservatives remaining silent? Why are they not in the streets demonstrating against this “obvious” federal error?

As we have repeatedly pointed out here at FFF ever since 9/11, terrorism is a crime, not an act of war. That’s why it’s in the federal statute books as a criminal offense, subject to indictment by a federal grand jury. That’s also why terrorist suspects in Europe are being prosecuted in court, not held indefinitely in military dungeons. As we have repeatedly pointed out, the federal district courts, not the CIA’s and Pentagon’s torture camps and kangaroo military tribunals, are the proper forum to charge people with terrorist-related offenses.

In other words, without making any judgment as to whether Maldonado committed any violation of U.S. law with his activities in Somalia or as to the propriety of not having employed extradition to secure his return, U.S. officials are behaving correctly by bringing him to justice in a federal courtroom, seeking a federal grand jury indictment against him, according him the procedural protections in the Bill of Rights, including due process, right to counsel, and trial by jury.

This is what America is supposed to be all about with respect to criminal offenses, including terrorism — due process of law, presumption of innocent, right to counsel, trial by jury, bail, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments, coerced confessions, and unreasonable searches and seizures.

Meanwhile, reflecting the horrible federal disparity of treatment for terrorist suspects, countless foreigners continue to languish in horrific overseas camps run by the CIA and the Pentagon, subject to torture and abuse and denied the most rudimentary forms of due process, including being informed of the charges against them and a fair and speedy trial, just like criminal suspects are treated in communist China, communist Cuba, and the former communist Soviet Union. The fact that the President and the Congress have now canceled any hope of habeas corpus relief for these people with the recently enacted Military Commissions Act only compounds the travesty and the disgrace.

The Framers brought into existence the finest criminal-justice system in the world. Americans should reject the conservative position and stop the CIA and the Pentagon from continuing to hijack and destroy our criminal-justice system.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Destruction of Habeas Corpus Threatens Us All
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Federal Court of Appeals has upheld President Bush’s and Congress’s cancellation of habeas corpus for foreigners, which was part of the Military Commissions Act, accelerating the push toward empire and militarism for our country.

Lest Americans feel too safe and smug that the omnipotent power that the president, the CIA, and the Pentagon now wield to kidnap, incarcerate, rendition, torture, and execute is limited to foreigners, think again.

First of all, if the Congress can cancel a constitutional right whose origins stretch back centuries into American and British history simply by removing the jurisdiction of the federal courts to rule on such cases, they can do so just as easily to Americans, especially if the right “emergency” presents itself. Given the D.C. Court of Appeals decision, there is now nothing that would prevent Congress from enacting a law that removes jurisdiction of the federal courts to rule on cases concerning the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and the rest of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Moreover, the discomforting truth is that Americans are not in a much better position than foreigners. The president, the CIA, and the Pentagon wield the same omnipotent power to kidnap, arrest, incarcerate, rendition, torture, and execute Americans as they do foreigners. All they have to do is label the victim an “enemy combatant.” Just ask Jose Padilla, an American who was kept in a military dungeon as an “enemy combatant” for more than three years, where he was tortured through extended periods of isolation and sensory deprivation and possibly even involuntarily injected with LSD.

The remaining difference between Americans and foreigners is a relatively minor one. Americans taken into custody as “enemy combatants” can still go to federal court with a habeas corpus petition but once the government produces a modicum of evidence of “enemy combatant” status, the case is over and habeas relief will be denied. This is because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the government’s “enemy combatant” designation as part of its “war on terror.”

Meanwhile, Americans continue to innocently go about their business, blissfully ignorant of the dark clouds of empire, militarism, and torture enveloping them. Perhaps they would be well served to study the situation in communist China and communist Cuba, where the jurisdiction of an independent judiciary is as reviled in those regimes as it is in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hitler’s Welfare State Socialism Purchased German Loyalty
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Sunday’s New York Times carried an interesting review entitled “Handouts from Hitler” by Dagmar Herzog. The subject of the review was a book entitled Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State.

The author’s thesis is that many Germans supported Hitler not because of his charisma or because of Goebbel’s propaganda nor even because they were scared of the Nazis. Instead, the author argues, the reason was that the Hitler regime purchased the loyalty of many Germans through the dole of the socialistic welfare state.

Socialism, of course, comes in different varieties, one of which is the welfare state. Under a socialist system, the state is charged with the task of confiscating people’s property and redistributing it to others. Not surprisingly, the beneficiaries of this largess come to feel a deep sense of gratitude toward their benefactor as well as a sense of dependency on it.

The book review points out a peculiar aspect of Nazi’s socialist welfare-state system: The primary victims of the confiscation were Jews. Nazi soldiers were confiscating property of Jews in countries under German occupation and sending it back to German citizens.

But the review also points out that among those whose property was being confiscated and redistributed were German corporations and rich people, given that the Nazis had introduced a graduated income tax, with the obvious aim of taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

I haven’t read the book but I wonder if the author brought up such standard socialistic welfare state redistributive schemes employed by the Nazis as Social Security, national health care, and public (i.e., government) schooling, as well as Hitler’s massive public works projects, such as the German autobahn system.

A book such as this helps to clarify why the change in our own nation’s direction that the Franklin Roosevelt administration took was so dramatic, so remarkable, and so revolutionary. By formally adopting a welfare state during the 1930s, which depended primarily on the graduated income tax to confiscate people’s property for redistribution as welfare, Americans turned their backs on their free-market, private property heritage and copied the direction that other socialist countries were taking. (Another book along these lines is Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 .)

Thus, it’s not a coincidence that the U.S. Social Security Administration displays a bust of Otto von Bismarck, the “iron chancellor” of Germany, on its website. It was Bismarck who introduced Social Security to Germany after he had gotten the idea from German socialists. It’s also not a coincidence that Hitler’s autobahn system served as the inspiration for one of the biggest and most destructive public-works boondoggles in history, the U.S. Interstate Highway System.

In fact, given that both Roosevelt and Hitler shared a common commitment to the welfare-state philosophy, perhaps Americans can now understand why Hitler sent the following letter of praise and congratulations to Roosevelt in 1934:

“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.’”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Are There Nervous Nellies in the Padilla Case?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

There were some federal officials who were undoubtedly doing a bit of quivering over the weekend. The federal judge in the Jose Padilla case has ordered prison officials to testify as to exactly what they did to Padilla, who is an American citizen, when they had him in U.S. military custody for 3 ½ years.

Ever since Padilla’s lawyers raised torture allegations, Justice Department prosecutors have done everything to prevent evidence of what was done to Padilla by the Pentagon under the tightest wraps. They have even said that they would voluntarily suppress any statements that Padilla made during his military captivity, meaning that they could not be used in his trial. When was the last time you saw a federal prosecutor doing that?

But the government’s efforts have been for naught because Judge Marcia Cooke has ordered otherwise, stating to the prosecutors, “The only thing that comes to mind is: ‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much.’”

The judge’s order is of the utmost significance because as the Washington Post article on the ruling points out:

“Joanne Mariner, counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch, said the ruling is significant because while complaints of mistreatment from terrorism suspects have been frequent, it is rare that officials knowledgeable about their confinement have been called to testify. ‘This could provide official confirmation of prisoner accounts of abuse,’ she said. ‘If they confirm elements of his story, it would have enormous credibility with the public.’”

(Mariner will be a speaker at FFF’s big June 1-4 conference “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.”)

Ask yourself two questions:

1. If a Pentagon military tribunal were in charge of Padilla’s case, rather than an independent federal judge, what are the chances that the military judge would have ordered the federal officials to testify? Answer: None — he would have ordered that what was done to Padilla had to remain secret in order to preserve “national security.” While there are certainly federal judges who bend over backwards to please the Justice Department, there are also independent ones, such as Cooke,

2. Who are the Justice Department and Pentagon trying to keep from learning what they did to Padilla? Certainly not the government and not Padilla. Both of them know exactly what was done to him. The government is trying to keep the American people from learning how an American is treated when taken into custody as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror” and denied right to counsel and due process of law. No wonder the Pentagon and the CIA set up its torture facilities in Guantanamo and elsewhere precisely to avoid federal court interference.

Time and sworn testimony will tell whether Padilla’s allegations of torture are true or not, including his allegation that federal officials involuntarily injected him with LSD. Federal officials should not be nervous about testifying. If they have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to be worried about.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Victory Means Preserving Bush’s Legacy
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Obviously trying to conjure up an excuse to exclaim “They attacked us!” President Bush is claiming that Iran is sending armaments into Iraq that are being used to kill American soldiers.

But President Bush has another option — simply pull U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately and bring them home. After all, isn’t that what President Reagan did when American troops were being killed in Lebanon? For that matter, isn’t that what Soviet officials ultimately did when U.S. officials were sending weaponry to Islamic extremists, such as Osama bin Laden, to kill Soviet soldiers who were occupying Afghanistan?

Moreover, as Rosa Brooks points out in the Los Angeles Times today, the U.S. military itself has been arming the insurgency, for example by “losing” 14,000 weapons. (Yes, 14 thousand.)

Let’s not let the issue of Iranian weaponry in Iraq skirt the real issue: U.S. troops are dying (and killing) for nothing in Iraq.

Ask yourself: What does “winning” and “victory” mean for the president and his pro-occupation supporters? It means installing a pro-U.S. regime in Iraq, one that will do the bidding of U.S. officials, especially with respect to the Iraqi oil industry.

Every American owes himself an answer to the following question: Would you be willing to kill or die to achieve such a “victory”? If not, then why be willing to sacrifice even one single American soldier for such a “victory”? After all, aren’t there lots of anti-American regimes in the world, including those that are anti-American because of U.S. foreign policy?

More important, Americans must ultimately accept reality: “Victory” in Iraq is impossible. Why? Because the regime that the U.S. invasion has installed will never be pro-U.S. and instead will always be pro-Iran. And if the insurgents were to prevail, there is no possibility that they would be pro-U.S. either. In the words of retired U.S. Army General William Odom, victory in Iraq is not an option.

So, why are people continuing to support keeping U.S. troops in Iraq? Obviously not for the sake of the troops but rather for the sake of the president. Everyone knows full well that Bush will suffer an ignominious end to a failed presidency if he has to “cut and run” from the country he invaded under fake and false premises before he retires to his ranch in Crawford in January 2009. And that’s what the continued occupation of Iraq has come down to.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Libby’s Decision Means Pardon
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Scooter Libby’s decision to not testify at his trial and not call Vice President Cheney to testify was probably a smart move. The decision probably ruined his chances of convincing the jury that his false statements to the grand jury were the result of a “bad memory,” but the decision almost certainly improved his chances of receiving a pardon from President Bush.

If he and Cheney had testified, they would have had to withstand a withering cross examination from Patrick Fitzgerald, one of the most competent federal prosecutors in the country. Witnesses at the trial have intimated the critical role that Cheney played in the campaign against former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who exposed some of the WMD deception leading up the invasion of Iraq. A cross examination would have required Cheney to explain under oath the full role he played in the controversy and all facts and circumstances surrounding the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity.

So, Libby obviously did Cheney a tremendous favor by not forcing him to testify. If he had forced Cheney to testify, there is little doubt that Cheney would not have forgotten or forgiven Libby.

Reward time will, in my opinion, come before Bush leaves office and before Libby has to serve one day in jail, assuming he’s convicted. If Libby is convicted, while there is a risk that the judge will order his incarceration immediately, it is much more likely that any incarceration will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal, which will probably take about a year.

If Libby’s appeal is ultimately denied, that will be about the time Bush will be getting ready to leave office. At that point it’s almost a certainty that Bush will follow in the footsteps of his father, who pardoned the Iran-Contra defendants before he left office, by pardoning Libby.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tensions are the Empire’s Coin of the Realm
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives are upset over critical remarks made by Russian President Putin about the U.S. Empire and its interventions and abuses all over the world. Not surprisingly, they’re resorting to attacking Putin for hypocrisy rather than considering the distinct possibility that what he is saying about the U.S. government might be true.

After all, let’s not forget that the U.S. government has attacked and occupied a country that never attacked the United States, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of people in the process, and is threatening to do the same to Iran and North Korea. It is a government that claims the right to attack any other country on earth as the self-proclaimed enforcer of the GBOT (global war on terror). And that it claims the right to torture, abuse, and execute any suspected terrorist found anywhere in the world, regardless of citizenry, without any judicial involvement.

The Los Angeles Times pointed out in an editorial yesterday a classic case of U.S. foreign-policy double-dealing and double-cross.

The Times points out that at the end of the Cold War, a deal was struck between Russia and the U.S. in which Russia would accede to German reunification and a withdrawal of troops from Eastern Europe in return for the U.S. commitment to not expand NATO to Russia’s borders.

As the Times editorial points out, “That is precisely what followed…. Within a few years, the U.S. turned vindictive victor in the eyes of Russia, allowing former Warsaw Pact members into NATO, including the formerly Soviet Baltic republics. The humiliation, and seeming encirclement, of Russia continues relentlessly to this day, with talk of someday bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the club.”

How many Americans are aware of this? I’d bet 0.01 percent (about the same number that know about the CIA’s secret, illegal ouster of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister in 1953 and the installation of a brutal dictator that tortured his people until extremist Iranian revolutionaries succeeded in ousting him from power in 1979). It’s how the U.S. Empire has operated for decades — in secrecy so that they can “play the innocent” when there is retaliatory blowback.

Why wasn’t NATO, whose mission was to protect against a Soviet attack, dismantled after the dismantling of the Soviet Union? Good question! Maybe because if it was dismantled, it could not be used to increase tensions with Russia.

After the Cold War, U.S. officials turned on their old partner and ally Saddam Hussein and made him the bad-guy poster child of the 1990s to scare Americans to death. Throughout the 1990s, they poked hornet’s nests in the Middle East with their Persian Gulf intervention, their brutal sanctions against Iraq, their stationing of troops on Islamic holy lands, their no-fly zones, and their foreign aid to both Israel and Arab governments.

That produced terrorist strikes on American ships abroad, U.S. Embassies, the WTC in 1993, and of course the 9/11 attacks.

By increasing tensions abroad, the Empire had finally provided the Pentagon with its new mission — the GWOT — and its new justification for ever increasing budgets (and debt, inflation, and taxes) for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against.

Will Americans finally see through the big-government, big Empire foreign-policy scam before it’s too late?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to Start a War with Iran
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the denials by U.S. officials of an intent to attack Iran, another country that has never attacked the United States, perhaps this would be an appropriate time to recall the words of Hermann Goering, Hitler’s Reichsmarshall:

“Why, of course, the ‘people’ don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship…. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

If President Bush wants war with Iran, he has several avenues to bring it about.

One, he can manipulate and squeeze Iran with sanctions, embargoes, and humiliations, the tactics that Franklin Roosevelt successfully employed to secure a Japanese attack on U.S. forces in the Pacific, thereby enabling Roosevelt to secure U.S. entry into World War II.

Or Bush could simply do what another Texas president — Lyndon Johnson — did to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam — just make up an attack, like Johnson did with the fake Gulf of Tonkin attack.

In either event, the president would be able to excitedly exclaim, “We’ve been attacked! We’ve been attacked! Iran has attacked us! We’re innocent! It’s another day that will live in infamy.”

Or President Bush could simply do to Iran what he did to Iraq — attack a country that has never attacked the United States, killing and maiming countless Iranian people, many of whom have nothing but the utmost respect for our country (but not for our government).

However the war with Iran would come, Bush and other U.S. officials would be certain that they could count on a certain segment of American society, including many in the press, that, once again infected by war fever, would excitedly exclaim, “The time for debate and discussion is over. We are now at war and we must support the troops, as they drop their bombs on the Iranian people. We’ve got to help the president and the troops win their war against Iran. They’re our team. That’s what ‘morality’ and ‘patriotism’ are all about.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Dixie Chicks and Sophie Scholl
by Jacob G. Hornberger

It was really great to see the Dixie Chicks come out the big winners at the Grammys last night, especially after conservatives tried to destroy them financially for opposing President Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq. Events are confirming that those who opposed the war have been the true patriots, while those who waged the war are the ones who have betrayed and harmed our country and its founding principles.

Over the weekend, I watched the “additional features” that are contained on the back of the DVD version of the movie “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.” If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it — it is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The movie revolves around another young woman who dared to oppose a war by her government and who was given the ultimate penalty for doing so — death by guillotine.

The most remarkable part of the film is the courtroom scene, where Sophie and her brother Hans, both German college students, stood toe-to-toe against the Nazi judge, Roland Freisler, whom Hitler had appointed to preside over his infamous People’s Court. When you watch this scene, pay particular attention to the passive and obsequious role played by the defense attorneys for the Scholl siblings.

The Nazi regime hated criminal-defense attorneys and independent judges. One big reason was that after Hitler had declared war on terror after the terrorist firebombing of the Reichstag, some of the suspected terrorists had been found not guilty at trial. Those acquittals outraged German officials because they were convinced that the courts had acquitted genuine terrorists and, in the process, jeopardized national security.

Thus, to ensure that that never happened again, Hitler set up a special judicial system known as the People’s Court that would have the responsibility of trying accused terrorists and traitors. With Hitler’s hand-picked toady, Roland Freiser, all future verdicts would not be in doubt.

But the Nazis were smart. Rather than simply prohibit accused terrorists and traitors from having an attorney represent them, Nazi officials instead scared and intimidated criminal-defense attorneys into rolling over and serving the state by not providing a fierce defense of their clients. In the Scholl trial, the defense attorneys, even though present during the trial, were really nothing more than ornaments. They did nothing to fight for their clients. But by having such lackies present during the trial, the Nazis could tell the German people and the world that the Scholls had been provided a fair trial in which they had been represented by counsel, when in fact the trial was nothing more than a kangaroo proceeding whose outcome was pre-ordained.

An interesting postscript included in the “added features” section of the DVD was that all the judgments issued by the People’s Court were ultimately set aside … but not until the 1980s.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Is a War of Aggression a War Crime or Not?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the controversy surrounding the Ehren Watada case was an interesting obituary of a Capt. Dale E. Noyd that appeared in the New York Times on January 28. During the Vietnam War, Noyd, a decorated Air Force fighter pilot, refused to deploy to Vietnam on the ground that the war was immoral and illegal and violated his principles of humanism. According to the Times,

“Mr. Noyd seemed the model serviceman. He was the only member of the 1955 Reserve Officers Training Corps class at Washington State University to be offered a regular, not a reserve, commission. He received a medal for successfully landing a damaged nuclear-armed F-100 fighter at an English airfield. He taught at the Air Force Academy.”

The U.S. military prosecuted Noyd, just as it is prosecuting Watada, on the ground that American soldiers are not permitted to refuse orders to attack another country, no matter how illegal, unconstitutional, or immoral the attack is. In other words, the military’s position is: You must obey orders to attack, period.

Yet, unfortunately the Pentagon has failed to reconcile this position with the U.S. government’s prosecution of German officials for committing the war crime of waging a war of aggression after World War II, including Germany’s unprovoked attack on Poland. When German officials responded that they were simply following orders, U.S. prosecutors and judges at Nuremburg announced that “following orders” to unlawfully attack another country would not be permitted to be used as a defense in a war-crimes prosecution.

So, which is it: Should a soldier follow orders to commit the war crime of waging a war of aggression or should he refuse to follow such orders? Does the Pentagon now feel that the U.S. government’s prosecution of German officials for waging a war of aggression was wrong? Does it now feel that the German defense of “we were following orders” should have been allowed at Nuremburg? Or does the Pentagon draw a distinction between war crimes committed by Germans (and Japanese) and those committed by U.S. soldiers?

Is a war of aggression a war crime or not? If so, are soldiers criminally liable for following orders to commit such a war crime? If so, then why shouldn’t soldiers be permitted to avoid criminal prosecution for such war crime by refusing to obey such orders? What is wrong with what Watada has done — refused to obey orders to attack Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? Isn’t that what U.S. officials say that German officials should have done when ordered to attack Poland?

Doesn’t the Pentagon owe its soldiers an explanation? Where is the justice in threatening soldiers with criminal prosecution for refusing to obey unlawful orders to attack another country, on the one hand, and threatening soldiers with criminal prosecution for obeying unlawful orders to attack another country, on the other hand?

The U.S. Supreme Court, somewhat cowardly, refused to hear the Noyd case, saying that it was a matter for the military to decide. After serving a year in jail, Capt. Noyd received a dishonorable discharge. According to the Times, he “kept two certificates on the wall of his study, his son said. One was his commendation for heroism, and the other his dishonorable discharge.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Watada Might Walk—and Rightfully So
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A mistrial was declared yesterday in the case of Lt. Ehren Watada, the military officer who refused orders to deploy to Iraq. Watada’s refusal is based on the principle set forth at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal that soldiers have a moral and legal duty to refuse to obey orders that constitute war crimes. Watada intended at the trial to show that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a war crime (i.e., a war of aggression, one of the war crimes prosecuted at Nuremburg) and, therefore, that Watada had a legal and moral duty to refuse to deploy to Iraq.

The mistrial might well have put an end to the Watada prosecution, based on double-jeopardy grounds.

Once the trial began, the military prosecutor got hoisted on a petard of legal trickery that he tried to foist onto the presiding judge. Since Watada was not disputing that he had in fact refused to deploy to Iraq, he had entered into a written stipulation agreeing that the prosecutor would not have to prove that particular fact.

In what has to be one of the most ludicrous arguments in legal history, the prosecutor argued, in classic legal trickery, that by stipulating to that particular fact (that Watada had refused to deploy to Iraq) Watada had admitted his guilt and effectively waived his Nuremburg-type defenses.

It became clear that the presiding judge wasn’t overly impressed with the prosecutor’s ludicrous legal argument regarding the stipulation, which in turn prompted the prosecutor to move for a mistrial, which the judge granted. A new trial date is set for March.

There’s one big problem, however, for the U.S. military and its prosecutor — the U.S. Constitution, which still applies to U.S. military courts martial — specifically the constitutional bar against double jeopardy. Once the trial started, Watada was placed in legal jeopardy. He didn’t agree to the mistrial. By granting the prosecutor’s (not Watada’s) motion to start over and do it again, a new trial would effectively be placing Watada in legal jeopardy a second time. And that’s exactly what Watada’s lawyer is now arguing.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Violating the Constitution Produces Omnipotent Government
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the speculation about whether President Bush is going to order his army to attack Iran, it is critically important we continue to be fully aware that we now live in a country in which the ruler is the sole Decider when it comes to sending the nation into war.

That’s not the way things were intended when the Framers wrote the Constitution. Our system of government was such that the power to declare war was delegated to Congress, not the president. The president could not legally start a war — or even wage a defensive war — without first securing a declaration of war from Congress.

That is precisely why President Wilson went to Congress to secure a declaration of war before entering World War I. That is also precisely why President Roosevelt went to Congress to secure a declaration of war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Both presidents knew that under our system of constitutional government, they could not legally wage war without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

The constitutional provision vesting Congress, not the president, with the power to declare war has never been changed or modified by the American people.

Starting with the Korean War and continuing with the Vietnam War and thereafter, all three branches of the U.S. government have intentionally, knowingly, and deliberately chosen to ignore that critically important constitutional provision, despite the fact that the violation has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and countless foreigners.

Since the president — as the Decider — now wields the power to ignore a critically important part of the Constitution, what prevents him from wielding the power to ignore other provisions in the Constitution, including the provisions on due process, habeas corpus, cruel and unusual punishments, search and seizure, trial by jury, and freedom of speech?

Thus, what the American people have yet to face in the wake of the Iraq debacle and the possibly impending war on Iran is this discomforting fact: The president’s omnipotent power to start wars produces the conditions for omnipotent government at home. That’s why Madison, the father of the Constitution, wrote:

“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…. The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it, is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Federal Spending Is Destroying Our Nation
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The American people continue to be financially squeezed by the federal vise, with Democrats and Republicans forming both sides of the vise.

President Bush has unveiled a $2.9 trillion budget with hopes and dreams of balancing the budget in 2012, not surprisingly 3 years after he leaves office. (No doubt, he’ll call his successor and remind him of Bush’s balanced-budget plan three years before.)

The budget for “defense” (read: Empire) is the biggest since the Reagan administration. You’ll recall that conservatives used to celebrate Ronald Reagan for making the Soviets officials spend the Soviet Union into national bankruptcy. Unfortunately, neither Bush nor Reagan nor any other conservative has ever bothered to explain why the same principle doesn’t apply to the U.S. government spending.

Bush is setting up a “battle” with Congress over domestic spending. He proposes to “cut” domestic spending. The reason that the word “cut” is in quotation marks is because what a “cut” in spending means in Washington is different from what the American people mean when they cut their families spending. In Washington, a “cut” means reducing the rate of increase in federal spending.

In other words, suppose the budget for the Education Department this year is $100 million. The Education Department requests, say, a budget of $130 million next year. Bush proposes, say, a budget of $110 million. In the minds of federal politicians and bureaucrats, the Education Department’s budget has been “cut” by $20 million even though it has been increased by $10 million over last year.

Not surprisingly, Democrats can be expected to fight tooth and nail for their beloved welfare-state socialist and interventionist programs. In fact, in the midst of the Iraq debacle, Democrats have been trotting out one of their favorite antiwar themes—if all that federal money weren’t being spent for the occupation in Iraq, it could be going to public schools, public housing, public libraries, public hospitals, public health care, public this, and public that. Nary a thought to the idea that the money rightfully belongs to the people who produced it — that is, Americans in the private sector — and that it rightfully should be left with them to use.

Of course, almost all Republicans (Congressman Ron Paul being a notable exception) can also be expected to fight for increases in federal spending for domestic programs, given their joint commitment to the welfare-state philosophy.

And of course, there is the perpetual war on drugs, which always garners the joint support of both Democrats and Republicans, despite decades of manifest failure.

This is a primary way that nations go down — massive, unrestrained government spending, inflation, debasement of the currency, price controls. Look at the Soviets. Look at the Romans. It matters not whether the spending is on maintaining the Empire overseas or on maintaining the bread and circuses to keep the masses content at home. It inevitably will bring destruction to a nation.

By the way, did I mention that the U.S. savings rate in the private sector fell to a 74-year low — that is, the lowest since the Great Depression? Did I also mention that much of the massive debt that has been incurred to finance the welfare-warfare state is held by communist China and other foreign countries?

The economist John Maynard Keynes had it right when he said, “There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Cheney Might Be Wishing for a Libby Pardon
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I wonder if Vice President Cheney is wishing that President Bush had pardoned Scooter Libby before Libby’s criminal trial started. Libby is charged with false statements and perjury as part of the federal investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent.

In a report on the trial last Friday, the New York Times reported:

“In an intriguing but unexplored exchange with a prosecutor, Peter Zeidenberg, Ms. Bond also said that Mr. Libby had acknowledged in one of the interviews that he might have talked to Mr. Cheney aboard Air Force Two about whether to tell the press about Ms. Wilson as part of the effort to rebut Mr. Wilson’s criticisms.”

Yet, the same article reports the following interesting tidbit:

“On Thursday jurors also saw videotape from July 2003 showing Scott McClellan, then the White House press secretary, telling reporters that Mr. Libby had no involvement in the leak of Ms. Wilson’s name. Mr. McClellan had initially declined to do so, but was ordered by Mr. Cheney to provide the same exculpatory comments he had given earlier for Mr. Rove.”

Well, well, well!

That means that if Cheney and Libby were in fact discussing whether to tell the press about Ms. Wilson (Valerie Plame), then Cheney had to know that Libby was in fact discussing Plame with the press. But if that’s the case, then if Cheney did in fact order Scott McClellan to say that Libby had no involvement in the leak of Plame’s name, as McClellan has testified, that means that Cheney was telling McClellan to lie to the press and the American people.

Imagine that: another sitting vice president of the United States lying. Keep that in mind as the U.S. bombs start falling on the Iranian people.

It seems to me given the overwhelming evidence at the trial showing that Libby did lie about how he acquired Plame’s identity and to whom he released it, Libby is going to have to take the witness stand to establish his “poor memory” defense. If so, there could be some very interesting revelations about Dick Cheney’s role in the Plame affair during cross-examination.

Moreover, the trial could get even more interesting if Libby follows through with his plan to summon the vice president to the witness stand, where he will have to testify under oath, under penalty of perjury, and be subjected to the rigors of cross examination.

Like I say, I wonder if Cheney is wishing that Bush had pardoned Libby a long time ago.

P.S. For an interesting analysis on Cheney’s discomfort over the Libby trial, see Frank Rich’s article in the Sunday New York Times (subscription required), “Why Dick Cheney Cracked Up,” in which Rich states, “Mr. Cheney, in other words, understands the danger this trial poses to the White House even as some of Washington remains oblivious.”

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Are Nuremberg Principles Still Operative?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Many Americans believe that the war crimes for which German officials were tried at Nuremberg after World War II were limited to the concentration camps and the Holocaust. Not so. Among the war crimes charged was “waging aggressive war.”

The war crime of “waging aggressive war” involved an acknowledgement that in many wars, there is an attacking nation and a defending nation. German officials were charged with unlawfully attacking Poland and other countries.

Has the U.S. government implicitly renounced the Nuremberg principle against waging aggressive war for which it prosecuted German officials? Good question!

On February 5, the U.S. military commences its court martial of Lt. Erik Watada, who refused to deploy to Iraq based on his moral and legal duty to refuse to obey illegal orders.

In the Iraq War the U.S. is the attacking nation and Iraq is the defending nation. The president waged the war without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, making the war illegal under our form of government. Moreover, while the president claimed he was waging war against Iraq because of WMDs and democracy-spreading, the real reason he ordered his army to invade Iraq was simply to achieve a “regime change” in Iraq. The war has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, unleashed chaos, mayhem, terrorism, and civil war, and destroyed the country. And it has resulted in the installation of a brutal, tortuous, and vengeful radical Islamic regime that is pro-Iranian and anti-American in nature.

Lt. Watada is simply doing what U.S. officials expected German officials to do when ordered to attack Poland. He refused to obey unlawful orders to deploy to Iraq. What’s wrong with that?

In its prosecution of Watada, the U.S. military is refusing to permit him to defend himself with his contention that he cannot morally and legally obey an unlawful order. As Joseph Piek, a civilian public information officer at Watada’s base bluntly put it, “Soldiers can’t just pick and choose which war they would like to fight or where they would like to deploy.”

So, how does the U.S. military reconcile its treatment of Watada with the prosecution of German officials at Nuremberg for waging aggressive war? Again, a good question!

Meanwhile, German officials have indicted 13 CIA agents for kidnapping, wrongful incarcerating, and sending a German citizen to a foreign regime for torture. Will the CIA defendants defend themselves by claiming that they were simply following orders, as German officials claimed at Nuremberg? Again, another good question!

Isn’t it ironic that the U.S. government charged German officials at Nuremberg for unlawfully obeying orders and that now Germany is charging U.S. officials with criminal offenses arising out of their obedience to orders? Isn’t it even more ironic, in light of Nuremberg, that U.S. officials are now punishing U.S. military officers for refusing to obey unlawful and immoral orders to attack countries that haven’t attacked the United States?

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Fear and the Loss of Liberty
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Liberal columnist Molly Ivins, who passed away this week, pointed out in a 1993 Mother Jones article:

“We get scared so bad — about the communist menace or illegal immigration or AIDS or pornography or violent crime, some damn scary thing — that we hurt ourselves. We take the odd notion that the only way to protect ourselves is to give up some of our freedom — just trim a little, hedge a bit, and we’ll all be safe after all. Those who think of freedom in this country as one long, broad path leading ever onward and upward are dead damned wrong. Many a time freedom has been rolled back — and always for the same sorry reason: fear.”

It’s an excellent point. Throughout history, fear has caused people to relinquish their freedom — oftentimes “temporarily” — to their own government officials in the hope that those government officials will protect them from what they scared of.

The “temporary” loss of freedom inevitably turns out to be permanent because once government officials have acquired expanded powers, they hate relinquishing them. Also, once people have surrendered their rights and freedoms out of fear, they inevitably lack the courage and moral fortitude (and the means) to regain their freedom.

Not only do government officials prey on a frightened citizenry by enlisting their assistance in the infringement of their freedoms, they oftentime produce the very crises and emergencies that engender the fear.

For example, look at some of things that so terribly frighten the American people: losing their Social Security, illegal aliens, drug dealers, and terrorists.

Social Security is a government program that is based on taxing young people to give the money to old people. There never was a fund that people’s money got deposited into. As old people are coming to realize the truth, they are shaking in their boots at the thought of losing their dole. A government-caused “crisis.”

Illegal aliens frighten the American people for a multitude of reasons, including losing their jobs to them. But the reason there is a “crisis” is because the government plans and controls the free movements of people across the borders. That’s what happens when government intervenes in the free market — distortions and perversions occur, which then give rise to “crises,” which then cause the citizenry to support ever-increasing assaults on their own freedom.

Drug dealers scare Americans too. Yet the reason for the unsavory drug lords and drug gangs and all the related violence is the drug war itself, not drugs. The drug war produces the crisis, which then frightens people into supporting ever-growing infringements on their freedom, including warrantless drug raids conducted by militarized SWAT teams.

Terrorism is the great frightener of our times. Yet, terrorism against Americans is rooted in U.S. foreign policy — that is, the bad things that the federal government has done — and is doing — to people overseas. Government policies produce the conditions for the “crisis,” and then government uses the resulting fear within the citizenry to induce them to support “temporary” suspension of their freedom.

Isn’t it ironic that the most powerful government in the world has the most frightened citizenry in the world? Perhaps it’s not a coincidence.

Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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.