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, October 2007


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Federal Blackmail, Privacy, and Conformity
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In today’s FFF Email Update, I have an article about the federal war on telephone privacy, the government program in which certain telephone companies allegedly turned over people’s private telephone records to the feds.

A common bromide among some Americans is: “I don’t care what information about my telephone calls the feds get because I’m not a criminal. As far as I’m concerned, they can do whatever they want to protect me from the terrorists.”

What such innocent naives fail to understand is that there is another factor to consider in the government’s securing of private information about people — blackmail and extortion, either directly or subtly.

Most everyone has a certain ambit of his life that he wishes to keep private, even if it doesn’t involve criminal behavior. This zone of privacy often involves matters that might be very embarrassing if they were released to the public.

Thus, the government’s intrusion into that sphere provides government officials with an inordinate amount of power over the citizenry, for each person knows that if he bucks the feds, the feds could easily retaliate by leaking the private information to some favored journalist. Such being the case, once people realize that the government has such power and such information, the natural tendency becomes to conform and “go along” for fear of retribution for refusing to do so.

Before anyone cries “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!” let’s not forget that that is exactly how J. Edgar Hoover operated throughout his career as head of the FBI. He had his agents monitor the private activities of other government officials, including the president of the United States, and then retained the information in secret files in his office. If one of those government officials got out of line, for example by trying to get Hoover ousted from office, Hoover would not hesitate to leak a bit of private information about the recalcitrant official to the press. Since other government officials knew that Hoover operated in this way, that influenced how they treated Hoover. Inevitably, conformity was the safe route to follow.

What was Hoover’s official rationale for monitoring the private lives of other government officials and compiling such personal information? You got it! “National security” and the “communist threat.”

Would U.S. officials today do the same thing that Hoover did with information acquired from the telephone companies? Make no mistake about it — absolutely! For one, many of them were trained under Hoover, and they still idolize him. More important, most U.S. officials have the same mindset about terrorism that Hoover had about communism. They honestly believe that America is engaged in a war that could result in the terrorist conquest of America. They have convinced themselves that anything goes in the “war on terror.” The standard government mindset is: In the war on terror, you’re either with us or against us.

What’s important to note in all this is that government officials don’t even have to blackmail anyone overtly. Once people discover that the government might have violated their own individual spheres of privacy and might now have files on what they have said, expressed, and done in their private lives, the tendency is to become a nice, compliant, conformed sheeplings, fearful that otherwise government agents will leak the embarrassing personal information they have acquired to the press.

Hopefully, American will rise above any fears of federal blackmail, extortion, and retaliation and demand a dismantling of the federal “war on terror,” along with all the horror it has spawned, including torture and sex abuse, rendition, wars of aggression, illegal occupations, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, warrantless searches, indefinite detentions, kangaroo military commissions, denial of due process and jury trials, and the securing of private telephone records of the American people. The day that government officials fear the people more than the people fear the government will be the day we regain our freedom, privacy, security, and well-being.

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Free Market as Redistributor of Wealth
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Liberals and conservatives argue that the income-tax, welfare-state way of life is necessary to redistribute wealth so that people will be more “equal.” The free market, they have long suggested, results in enormous concentrations of power in which the rich get richer and poor get poorer.

They might want to ask Stan O’Neal, who “retired” as CEO for Merrill Lynch this morning, whether he agrees with that political and economic philosophy.

Why O’Neal?

Because under his leadership, Merrill Lynch recently lost around $8 billion as a result of bad investments of Merrill’s money. That’s billions, with a “b,” a sizable amount of money for even one of the world’s biggest financial firms. In fact, the amount is so large that O’Neal was ousted from office this morning by Merrill’s board of directors.

Question for liberals and conservatives: If the free market guarantees ever-growing concentrations of wealth, would you please explain how it is that Merrill Lynch just suffered a billion-dollar diminution of wealth? In fact, wouldn’t the Merrill financial debacle reflect that the free market is a rather effective means of redistributing wealth, without the intervention of the IRS and the federal government’s multitude of welfare-state agencies?

Take a look at the ten top companies in the Fortune 500 in the year 1980. My bet is that very few of them are in the current top 10. But if conservatives and liberals are correct, how could this be? Under their theory, wouldn’t the top 10 companies in 1980 have just continued getting bigger and wealthier, thereby guaranteeing their top-10 status in 2007?

The truth is that the market is an enormous redistributor of wealth. Every day, fortunes are made and lost in the marketplace. There are no guarantees for anyone, not even the wealthiest people in society.

The process is especially brutal not only in the investor marketplace but also in the consumer marketplace. Why? Because consumers generally are among the most ruthless people you would ever find. If you don’t believe me, go watch, for example, a housewife shopping in a grocery store. Hardly ever will she stop and ask whether the store employees need help with their medical bills, car payments, or mortgage expenses. All she is interested in is finding the lowest possible price to pay for her grocery items rather than paying higher prices that could help store employees or even the store owner with their personal financial problems. (Keep in mind that all of us fall into the role of consumers and that as consumers, all of us fall into the ruthless category.)

What liberals and conservatives fail to understand is that in the marketplace, it is the consumer, not the producer or seller, who is the sovereign. The consumer, through his buying decisions, decides whether enterprises are going to stay in business or not. Those businesses that successfully satisfy consumers stay in business. Those that do not satisfy consumers go out of business. And the principle operates no matter how wealthy or successful a business currently is. If it fails to please consumers, there will be a massive shift of wealth as consumers move their business elsewhere.

The income tax and the welfare state are not needed to confiscate and redistribute wealth. The free market does that all by itself. Just ask Stan O’Neal and Merrill Lynch.

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Roll of the Dice against Iran
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As most everyone knows, President Bush has now placed that dreadful label — “Terrorist!” — on the government of Iran — well, actually on a piece of the government. That’s the magic word that enables the U.S. government to attack, kill, torture, incarcerate, or destroy the recipient of the label. Unfortunately, it’s also the word that is almost guaranteed to get the knees a’knocking of many Americans, including adult men and women, causing them to support whatever bombs, missiles, torture, incarceration, destruction, and loss of liberty that comes with waging the “war on terrorism.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported yesterday “The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric from the U.S. could bring disaster.”

But, hey, why let truth get in the way of another war of aggression? If the WMD/mushroom-cloud scare could be used to aggress against Iraq, why not use it again, this time against Iran? Anyway, surely President Bush can find people in the State Department and Pentagon who would be willing to issue a report or two stating that Iran is definitely about to fire nuclear weapons at the U.S. Surely he can get the CIA to leak some information from a “credible” secret source about Iran’s smoking nuclear guns to favored journalists in the mainstream press. If all else fails and WMDs are not found in Iran, Bush and his people could always say they’re just engaged in another round of “democracy-spreading,” a process in which killing hundreds of thousands of foreigners, including women and children, is considered “worth it” to U.S. officials.

It’s all enough to remind one of the words of Joseph Goebbels, the National Socialist Party’s propaganda chief:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” —Joseph Goebbels

The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly — it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” —Joseph Goebbels

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that a war on Iran could have quite large adverse effects on the U.S., including more out-of-control federal spending, more crashing of the dollar, higher expenses at the grocery store and gas pump, retaliatory terrorist strikes, and increased deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

So, why would Bush do it? Because he knows that the Iraq invasion has produced an ongoing monumental debacle, including the installation of a pro-Iran regime and, now, the prospect of a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq. Bush knows that there is only one way out for the U.S. — an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq by withdrawing all U.S. forces from the country. But since Bush isn’t about to permit himself to be a president who started a war against a country that never attacked the United States and then “cut and run” from it, he might well conclude that his only hope is to double his bet (after driving the nation even more into hock) and throwing the dice in the desperate hope that a war on Iran would produce pro-U.S. regimes in both Iran and Iraq.

But if a war on Iran doesn’t work out well for Bush and the U.S., his throw of the dice could well be the swan song of the pro-empire, pro-intervention pro-militarist paradigm that has unfortunately held our nation in its grip for so long. As things stand now, increasing numbers of Americans are finally thinking about and reflecting on U.S. foreign policy. Another war of aggression — this time on Iran — might well focus people’s attention on the importance of restoring a limited-government republic to our land.

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

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Fraud of the War on Terror
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Immediately after he denounced Fidel Castro for being a dictator, President Bush unilaterally decreed new sanctions against Iran, moving the United States closer to war against Iran. Would someone please tell me how it is that Bush exercises such omnipotent power, without even a peep from both Congress and the mainstream press? How is he able to take such serious and ominous action against a sovereign and independent country without going to Congress for permission? Weren’t we taught in civics classes in our public schools that Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the judiciary interprets them? How can the president now rule by decree, enacting and enforcing laws whenever he wants, especially ones that are likely to send our nation into war? How is that different from what a dictator does?

Bush also recently labeled a branch of the Iranian military, the elite Quds unit, to be a “terrorist” organization, again without congressional approval. That seems to me to be a rather ridiculous notion. Either the Iranian government is a terrorist organization or it’s not. To separate out a branch of the Iranian government for being a terrorist organization makes as much sense as saying that the CIA and the Pentagon, but not the U.S. government, are terrorist organizations.

Consider, for example, Syria. It’s a country whose regime has been labeled “terrorist” by the U.S. government. That’s why President Bush says that he won’t talk to Syria, which is itself an odd claim, given that the CIA cut a secret deal with Syria to torture a Canadian citizen named Maher Arar. The deal was cut after the CIA kidnapped Arar on American soil and whisked him off to Syria for torture pursuant to the deal that the CIA cut with Syria.

But maybe President Bush is deliberately lying when he says the U.S. government won’t talk to Syria because maybe he’s thinking the same thing about the CIA as he apparently does about Iran’s Qud unit — that the CIA is a separate and independent organization bearing no real relationship to the U.S. government.

Yet, implicitly conceding that the CIA is a core part of the U.S. government yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a congressional hearing that “We do not think the case was handled as it should have been.” According to MSNBC, “When asked whether the United States relied on diplomatic assurances from Syria that the engineer, Maher Arar, would not be tortured, Rice said she would respond later because her memory of certain details ‘has faded a bit.’”

Unfortunately, like the mainstream press, the members of Congress missed the opportunity to ask Rice the critical questions: How is it that the CIA cut a torture deal with a terrorist state that President Bush says the U.S. government hasn’t talked to? Who was the CIA official who cut the deal? Who was the Syrian official with whom he cut the deal? Was the deal put into writing? What were the exact terms of the deal? Were the means of torture agreed upon? Did they agree that Arar would remain incarcerated for a year? Was President Bush aware of the deal prior to the time it was cut, and if so, wouldn’t that mean that President Bush has been lying to the American people about not talking to Syria? What are the implications, moral and otherwise, of cutting a torture deal with a regime that President Bush says is a terrorist organization and with whom he says the U.S. government hasn’t talked to?

All this just goes to show what a fraud and a sham the “war on terrorism” is and how it is nothing more than a cover for the U.S. government’s own wrongful conduct.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Havana and Guantanamo Bay
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Give President Bush credit for chutzpah. Yesterday, he delivered a speech decrying tyranny and economic oppression by Fidel Castro while continuing his gulag at Guantanamo Bay and his brutal embargo against the Cuban people.

First of all, let’s not forget why Bush and the Pentagon established their prison camp in Cuba — because they didn’t want to have to put up with the Constitution, a document they took an oath to support. They set up their gulag in order to exercise dictatorial power — the same type of dictatorial power that Castro exercises on his side of the island.

One of the misconceptions under which Bush suffers is his belief that democracy and dictatorship are opposites, a misconception that was apparent in his speech. He honestly believes that if there were free and open elections in Cuba, the Cuban people would finally be free of dictatorship. Perhaps he had in mind the recent “free and open” elections by which his friend and partner Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan, was recently “elected.”

What Bush doesn’t understand is that democracy is simply a means by which people change rulers. Dictatorship is measured by the extent of powers that a ruler wields. Thus, it is entirely possible to have a dictator — that is, a ruler with dictatorial power — who is democratically elected. In fact, that’s the only “freedom” that most countries in Latin America have known — the “freedom” to elect a new dictator at election time.

That’s exactly the direction that the United States has been headed in, especially since 9/11. Look at Guantanamo Bay, for example. In Bush’s mind, his power to run his prison camp at Guantanamo Bay is as total as Castro’s power to run the rest of the island. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court put the quietus to Bush’s dictatorial dreams for Gitmo, he and the Pentagon have done everything they can to circumvent judicial interference with their Cuban operations.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Bush’s treatment of accused terrorists on his side of Cuba is no different — and quite possibly worse — from how Castro treats suspected terrorists on his side of Cuba. Torture and sex abuse (assuming that Castro also believes in sex abuse of prisoners). No trial by jury. No due process. No speedy trials. Secret proceedings. Use of hearsay and evidence from torture. Tight restrictions on the press. Kangaroo military tribunals. Forever detentions.

In his speech, Bush said that he intended to maintain his brutal embargo against the Cuban people — the embargo that the U.S. government has maintained for almost 50 years in the hopes that it would squeeze the Cuban people into ousting Castro from power and replacing him with a U.S-approved puppet.

This is what Bush calls “freedom.” You know, as in prosecuting, imprisoning, and fining Americans who travel to Cuba without Bush’s permission and spend money there.

Never mind that the embargo, especially in combination with Cuban socialism, has kept the Cuban people on the verge of starvation. In imperial Washington, no price is too high to pay for the hope of a favorable regime change, as UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright pointed out when she said that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the embargo against that country had been “worth it.”

In what was one of the most embarrassing parts of Bush’s speech, he promised the Cuban people that if they would just oust Fidel from power, Bush would establish an international fund to finance computers, scholarships, and Internet access for them. In other words, here’s a nice little socialist bribe for you if you will just oust your socialist dictator and replace him with a U.S.-approved dictator comparable, say, to the military dictators the U.S. government has supported in other parts of Latin America.

Is that not shameful or what? After all, that’s exactly what the Chinese Communists and the democratically elected socialist dictator of Venezuela are offering the Cubans — a socialist dole. And here comes Bush, offering to outbid them with a U.S.-supported socialist bribe.

What Bush still doesn’t get is that the Cuban people despise socialism, revere Fidel Castro, love America, and despise U.S. officials. Unlike many Americans, they draw a sharp distinction between the U.S. government and the American people. I noticed this several years ago when I visited Cuba. I would ask people, “Why are you so nice to me given the embargo?” Their response: “What fault do you have for what your government has done to us?”

If Bush thinks that the Cuban people would rally toward the United States in a war of aggression against Cuba, ala the U.S. war of aggression on Iraq, it’s just more proof that he’s living in la-la land. The reason that Cubans revere Castro is not because of his socialism, which they resent, but because he has had the courage and the fortitude to keep Cuba independent of U.S. control. Here are two reactions to Bush’s speech from the New York Times that, in my opinion, reflect the dominant thinking among Cubans:

“Humberto Valdez, 39, who sells sandwiches on the seaside boulevard in Havana called the Malecón, said: ‘The embargo has only proven damaging to the Cuban people. Because of it, we lack medicine, clothes, food. It is unfair.’ Laudelina Rivas Corp, 74, said: ‘War! War! War! That’s about all Bush wants. War against Iraq, against Afghanistan and against the Cuban people.’”

In pointing a finger at Fidel Castro at the State Department yesterday, Bush would be wise to remember that he was simultaneously pointing three fingers back at himself.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Arrogance and Hypocrisy of Empire
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Every day brings more proof as to why the American people need to reject the federal government’s pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy in favor of a pro-freedom, limited-government republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

U.S. Empire officials are warning the Iraqi government to take action to stop Kurdish attacks on Turkish troops operating in Turkey, which itself exposes the lie of Iraqi sovereignty. After all, if Iraq is now a sovereign and independent country, rather than a colony of the U.S. Empire, then under what authority do U.S. officials issue such warnings?

At the same time, Empire officials are telling Turkish officials to show “restraint” by not sending troops across the border to attack the Kurdish guerrillas who have killed Turkish troops in Turkey.

Restraint? You mean, like the restraint that U.S. officials exercised in attacking and occupying Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, none of whom had anything to do with 9/11, and destroying their country? I’m amazed that these people can even show the restraint of keeping a straight face as they counsel Turkish officials to show restraint.

I wonder how much restraint U.S. officials would exercise if Mexican drug dealers were crossing the U.S. border and attacking and killing U.S. troops.

Now, get this: At the same time that Iraqi Kurds are crossing into Turkey and killing Turkish troops, Iraqis Kurds are also crossing into Iran and attacking and killing Iranian troops. So, are U.S. officials advising Iraq to stop those Kurds? Of course not. Why not? Because U.S. officials hate the government officials of Iran and, therefore, consider it okay for Kurdish troops to kill ordinary soldiers serving in the Iranian military. Never mind that the Iranian soldiers have loved ones and families and are probably serving as conscripts. Their lives are considered worthless because their government officials refuse to bend their knee and join the U.S. Empire.

Of course, if the CIA were able to install another shah-like puppet to rule Iran, as it did in 1953, the tune of U.S. Empire officials would change immediately. All of sudden, Iran would be our trusted ally and partner in the war on terror.

How come Americans have such a difficult time understanding why so much of the world hates the hypocrisy and duplicity of U.S. foreign policy? Perhaps it’s because within their minds they still conflate the federal government and our country and also because they’ve been indoctrinated to believe that our country cannot be great without an imperial foreign policy.

Notice also how Bush’s intervention into Iraq is now leading America into being embroiled smack dab in the middle of the old Kurdish fight for an independent Kurdistan encompassing parts of Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.

Meanwhile, the longtime U.S. Empire obsession with controlling Cuba, an obsession that is more powerful than the obsession that U.S. officials have with controlling Iraq and Iran, is once again rearing its ugly head. According to today’s New York Times. President Bush is “planning to issue a stern warning Wednesday that the United States will not accept a political transition in Cuba in which power changes from one Castro brother to another, rather than to the Cuban people.”

Imagine that — the head of the U.S. Empire warning an independent and sovereign country what the U.S. Empire will accept and not accept. What better example of imperial arrogance than that? It doesn’t even occur to Bush that as much as the Cuban people might not like socialism, most of them would fight to the death to prevent the U.S. Empire from conquering Cuba as it has done to Iraq.

As an aside, it might be appropriate to ask what President Bush has against Castro anyway, given that he and Castro share a common commitment to such things as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public schooling, income taxation, welfare, gun control, drug laws. torture, military commissions, and denial of habeas corpus, due process, trial by jury, and right to counsel.

The answer revolves around the issue of control. It’s not a philosophical difference that Bush and other U.S. officials have with Castro. It’s that they don’t control Castro, as they do, for example, Pervez Musharraf, the military dictator of Pakistan, who is no different in principle than Castro but who is a close friend and ally of President Bush because of his willingness to be a team player within the Empire.

The good news is that there is a solution to all this arrogance, hypocrisy, and duplicity, if the American people can muster up the wisdom and courage to pursue it. As Chalmers Johnson points out in his excellent article “Intellectual Fallacies in the War on Terror,”

There is, I believe, only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trial by Jury Wins in Dallas
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The value of the right of trial by jury once again became apparent yesterday. A jury in Dallas, Texas, acquitted defendants of most charges in a war-on-terrorism federal criminal prosecution and deadlocked on a few remaining charges.

The feds were prosecuting the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development along with several people involved in the organization. Absolutely convinced in his own mind that the charity was supporting terrorism, three months after 9/11 President Bush ordered that the assets of the organization be frozen. Just as convinced as the president, the Justice Department then secured criminal indictments against the organization and the people involved in it.

Fortunately, President Bush and the Pentagon did not choose to go the “enemy-combatant” route. If they had, the defendants could have been whisked away to Guantanamo Bay or some secret CIA site for waterboarding, sex abuse, or others forms of torture and humiliation as well as indefinite detention.

When it came time to present its evidence, the government’s case fell apart because its witnesses failed to show any evidence that the organization had funded suicide bombers. Instead, the government’s theory was that the organization supported terrorism by sending more than $12 million to charitable groups, which used the money to build hospitals and to feed the poor.

So, why is building hospitals and feeding the poor a bad thing, especially for a government that gets a large amount of tax revenue from the American people through the IRS under the same rationale?

Well, the government’s theory was that since the charities were controlled by Hamas, sending the money supported terrorism by helping Hamas spread its ideology. The government used Israeli agents to testify as to this theory.

Despite 197 counts in the indictment, years of preparation, almost two months of testimony, and 1,000 exhibits, the jury didn’t buy the government’s case. The federal prosecutors, who obviously aren’t very happy with the jury’s verdict, are promising to re-prosecute on the few remaining charges on which the jury deadlocked.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right of trial by jury. The reason for the amendment was that our American ancestors trusted the citizenry, not the military or even judges, to decide the guilt or innocent of people accused of crimes. No doubt the defendants in the Dallas prosecution are feeling a deep sense of gratitude for that Amendment. No doubt they’re also grateful that the feds didn’t choose to go the enemy-combatant route, a power the feds acquired unilaterally and without a constitutional amendment after 9/11.

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

Monday, October 22, 2007

Mukasey’s Support of Tyranny
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives are all aglow over President Bush’s selection of Michael B. Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzalez as U.S. attorney general. The conservative love-fest for Mukasey comes as no surprise, especially given his positions:

1. Mukasey says he’s against torture. Yawn. So is President Bush. So are the CIA and the Pentagon. That’s not the point. The point is the definition of torture. These people simply define torture to exclude everything that they are doing to people. Once they puts their new, ever-changing, subjective definition of torture into effect, voila!, no more torture because whatever it is that they’re doing to people does not fall within their definition of torture. Mukasey adopts that position, which is why he could not bring himself to contradict his boss on whether the ancient art of water-boarding — i.e., forced drowning — is really subjecting somebody to torture.

2. Mukasey buys into the “enemy combatant” doctrine, the post-9/11 power assumed by the president and the military to label anyone, including American citizens, an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror” and treat him accordingly. That is, without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment, Mukasey, a former federal judge, accepts the radical notion that a terrorist attack, historically a criminal act, automatically gave the president and the military the power to take any American into custody, subject him to water-boarding or other acts of non-torture (see above), and detain him indefinitely, even perhaps for the rest of his life. Equally bad, Musasey says that in any habeas corpus action, all that is needed to keep an American (or a foreigner) in military control is “some” evidence that he is in fact an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terror.”

3. Mukasey also believes that because the president is “at war,” which presumably means the “war on terror” (as compared to the war on drugs or the war on poverty), his “commander-in-chief” status means that he doesn’t have to comply with constitutional or congressional restrictions on this power, a position that Bush (and Vice President Cheney) have long held. Not surprisingly, Mukasey failed to explain how this is different from dictatorship — i.e., a ruler who has omnipotent powers to do “the right thing.”

Some Americans would exclaim, “How can you have a dictatorship in a democracy?” It’s easy — you simply have a system in which the dictator is elected rather than self-appointed. What do you think a constitution is for if not to restrict the powers of government? Thus, if such restrictions can be ignored, that’s as good as having no constitution at all. This post-9/11, post-Constitution situation will be no different for whoever is elected president, including Hillary Clinton.

Is any of this reconcilable with the principles of a free and civilized society? Of course not. It is an inherent part of a pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy. Therefore, Americans have a choice to make: Either keep the U.S. empire and an interventionist foreign policy and the blowback that comes with them, or restore a limited-government republic to our land along with freedom, peace, harmony, and prosperity.

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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sanctions and Embargoes Are Immoral and Counterproductive
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In an unusual moment of candor, President Bush revealed why so many people around the world hate and resent the U.S. government for its foreign policy. In his news conference this week, Bush pointed out how he is hoping that the U.S. sanctions against Iran encourage the Iranian people to oust their rulers from power. According to the New York Times:

“Mr. Bush sought in the news conference to make clear that his pressure tactics, including economic sanctions, were aimed at persuading the Iranian people to find new leadership. ‘The whole strategy is that, you know, at some point in time leaders or responsible folks inside of Iran may get tired of isolation and say, ‘This isn’t worth it,’ and to me it’s worth the effort to keep the pressure on this government,’ Mr. Bush said.”

So, there you have it — the same nasty, cruel strategy of sanctions that was aimed at the Iraqi people for more than 10 years and against the Cuban people for more than 50 years.

Bush knows that sanctions and embargoes attack the citizenry, not the rulers. He knows, for example, that it wasn’t Saddam Hussein who paid the price for the sanctions against Iraq but rather the Iraqi people, who lost hundreds of thousands of their children as a result of the sanctions. He also knows that it hasn’t been Fidel Castro who has paid the price for the embargo against Cuba but rather the Cuban people, who live on the verge of starvation.

The idea is that if the citizenry are sufficiently squeezed economically, especially through the prospect of death, they will have the incentive to oust their rulers and install a pro-U.S. regime in their stead, which will cause U.S. rulers to drop the sanctions, establish friendly relations, and flood the country with U.S. foreign aid.

Unfortunately, all too many Americans have yet to figure all this out — that this is the core element of U.S. foreign policy — regime change — the ouster of independent regimes and their replacement with pro-U.S. regimes. They prefer to convince themselves that the lofty pronouncements issued by U.S. officials regarding democracy-spreading, liberation, and loving foreigners are true despite the manifest evidence to the contrary, including the willingness to kill an unlimited number of foreigners to achieve their goals. Thus, Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions was “worth it.”

Another factor to consider with respect to Iran, of course, is that U.S. officials have never forgiven the Iranian people for ousting the pro-U.S. shah of Iran, whom the CIA installed in a coup in 1953, and replacing him with an independent regime during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

On top of the immorality of sanctions and embargoes, there are two other important factors to consider.

One, sanctions and embargoes produce anger, hatred, and resentment, which manifests itself with terrorist blowback. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (along with the attacks on the USS Cole, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Pentagon) was the rage that the continual deaths of the Iraqi children produced among people throughout the Middle East, not to mention the effect that Albright’s unbelievably callous statement had on people in the Middle East.

Two, sanctions and embargoes are a direct infringement on the economic liberty of the American people because they deprive people of the fundamental right to spend their money the way they want.

Sanctions and embargoes are immoral and counterproductive. Americans should constitutionally prohibit the federal government from ever imposing them again.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Revving Up the Engine for Iran
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Since President Bush seems to be revving up his military engine and preparing Americans for another war of aggression, this time against Iran, it might be wise to revisit this famous quote by German Herman Goering:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, 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. Voice or no voice, 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 peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Yesterday, Bush warned that if Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, it could lead to “World War III.”

Yawn! Isn’t this similar to all that WMD claptrap that Bush employed before ordering his army to attack and invade Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people in the process?

Prepare yourself for the standard, “Accurate reports issued by the CIA and Pentagon report that Iran is on the verge of unleashing mushroom clouds over American cities. It is once again time for the knees of American men and women to begin knocking so that Americans can, once again, blindly support their government and its troops as they begin killing Iranians.”

Prepare yourself for the standard, “We have nothing against the Iranian people who are being accidentally killed by our bombs and missiles. Our cause is against the Iranian government, which the Iranian people installed, without our permission, in place of the pro-U.S. regime that the CIA installed in 1953.”

Prepare yourself for the standard, “Iranians hate us for our freedom and values, not because we have killed them, their families, and their countrymen and not because the CIA ousted their democratically elected prime minister and installed the brutal and tortuous pro-U.S. shah of Iran into power.”

Prepare yourself for the standard, “Woe is us. We are innocent. Why did those Iranian terrorists retaliate against us with terrorist strikes? Woe is us. Why us?”

Prepare yourself for the standard, “We’re only taking away your fundamental rights and freedoms temporarily. We plan to restore them as soon as we kill the last terrorist. Oh, and we promise not to abuse our powers.”

Prepare yourself for the standard, “Inflation has nothing to do with out of control federal spending on overseas military adventures. Like terrorism, inflation is a disease that strikes nations suddenly and mysteriously.”

Finally, prepare yourself for the standard, “It doesn’t matter who started this war. What matters is that we are now at war and, therefore, everyone must now support our government and its troops blindly. You’re either with us or against us. And if you can’t support our side because you don’t believe it’s morally right to kill people in a war of aggression, then at least support the troops who are doing the killing. It’s not their fault that they’re killing people who have done no harm to our country because they’re just following orders and defending our freedoms. God bless America.”

Goering was right. Too bad we now live under a system in which our ruler has omnipotent power to send the entire nation into war, especially given the president’s power to ignore the declaration of war requirement in the Constitution. Maybe we the people ought to amend the Constitution to read: “The Congress, not the president, shall have the power to declare war, and this time we mean it.”

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Turkey, Iraq, and Imperial Gall
by Jacob G. Hornberger

U.S. Empire gall is manifesting itself once again in Iraq. President Bush is telling Turkish officials to “show restraint.” Turkey is threatening to send troops into northern Iraq to suppress cross-border raids that Iraqi Kurds have been inflicting on Turkey.

“Show restraint?” These people are something else. Exactly how much restraint did the U.S. Empire exercise before it invaded and occupied a country that had never attacked the United States, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks? Indeed, how much restraint did the U.S. Empire exercise when it contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children as a result of the brutal sanctions that the Empire enforced against Iraq for more than 10 years? How much restraint was exercised when the Empire’s ambassador to the UN said that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children had been “worth it”?

Moreover, let’s not forget that the U.S. Empire is now threatening to attack Iran, supposedly because Iran is furnishing armaments to Iraqi insurgents who are trying to oust the U.S. Empire from Iraq. Never mind that the U.S. Empire did the same thing when it was furnishing armaments to Osama bin Laden and other insurgents when they were trying to oust the Soviet Empire from Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told the Iraqis that “we all have an interest in a stable Iraq.”


Yeah, we wouldn’t want Turkey interfering with all that stability that the U.S. invasion and occupation have brought to Iraq in the hope of installing a pro-U.S. regime in a country with the world’s third-largest oil reserves.

Oh well, at least Empire officials are no longer speaking that “democracy-spreading” or “liberation” claptrap as a rationale for invading and occupying a country that never attacked the United States.

Pardon me for asking an indelicate question, but wasn’t Iraq “stable” under Saddam Hussein?

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gen. Sanchez Still Doesn’t Get It
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The former commander of coalition forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, has joined the growing list of generals and admirals who are coming out against the Iraq occupation. You’ll recall that he was the U.S. general in charge of Iraq when the torture and sex abuse at Abu Ghraib prison took place. Lt. Sanchez calls the Iraq situation “a nightmare with no end in sight” and says that the Iraq war plan was “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic.”

So, where was Sanchez prior to the invasion of Iraq? Oh, like most other military types he was either living with sealed lips or behaving “patriotically” by blindly supporting the president. Like most other military types (Lt. Eric Watada being a heroic exception), Sanchez considers it his patriotic “duty” to click his heels, salute, and say, “Yes, my president. I am here to serve you. Tell me what country you want me to invade and I will do so, no questions asked, and I will kill as many people as necessary to achieve your goal.” (Of course, it’s also the same attitude that many members of Congress had after 9/11.)

This is one reason why people should never believe what active-duty military types are saying about a president’s military operation. Their rosy, optimistic pronouncements are no different, in principle, from those of Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi guy whose rosy, optimistic pronouncements had one purpose — to please his ruler, Saddam Hussein.

The perversity in all this is that many of these military types were among those who were questioning the patriotism of those of us who were opposing the Iraq invasion prior to, during, and after the invasion. Unlike Sanchez and other generals and admirals, we didn’t wait until things had gone bad before condemning what was happening in Iraq. Unlike them, we knew that genuine patriotism does not mean blind support of the government and its military during time of war but rather the courage to stand up against one’s government, including the military, when it is engaged in wrongdoing.

The only reason that these military types are now questioning their war is that things haven’t worked as swimmingly has Bush and they had hoped. If the invasion and occupation had succeeded in establishing a stable, pro-U.S. regime, there is no doubt that these new-found military critics would be celebrating their conquest.

What these people still have yet to confront is the basic immorality of what they have done by invading Iraq: They have killed Iraqi people — lots of Iraqi people — none of whom ever attacked the United States, not on 9/11 or any other time.

I repeat and emphasize: Neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States, which means that President Bush and his military had no moral or legal right to attack Iraq and kill Iraqi people. In the Iraqi escapade, the U.S. government, including its troops, is the aggressor and the Iraqi people are the defenders.

Thus, the fundamental moral issue that the American people must confront in dealing with the ongoing quagmire in Iraq is not that the war and occupation have been mishandled. The core issue is that President Bush and his military were in the wrong, both morally and legally, in attacking and occupying Iraq, given the undisputable fact that neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States.

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

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shenandoah, Liberty, and the State
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I was watching the 1965 movie Shenandoah last night and it reminded me of how differently 19th-century Americans viewed the concept of liberty and the role of the state, compared to today’s Americans.

Keep in mind that our American ancestors lived without such things as income taxation and the IRS, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, gun control, etc. In fact, don’t forget that the big exception on freedom — slavery — was a way of life in which the slave had guaranteed housing, food, and employment — and no freedom.

The star of Shenandoah is Jimmy Stewart, who plays the role of a Virginia farmer who refuses to get involved in the Civil War and discourages his six sons and daughter from doing the same. The family has always been opposed to slavery and has never employed slaves on its farm. Thus, they have no interest in fighting to preserve such an institution. (The issue of secession never arises in the movie.)

One day a Confederate officer arrives at Stewart’s farm with a few men and tells Stewart that he is there to enlist his sons in the Confederate army. Here’s the exchange between the officer and Stewart:

Stewart: “Can you give me one good reason why I should send my family that took me a lifetime to raise down that road like a bunch of damned  fools to do somebody else’s fighting?

Confederate Officer: “Virginia needs all of her sons, Mr. Anderson.”

Stewart: “That might be so, Johnson, but these are my sons. They don’t belong to the state. When they were babies, I never saw the state coming around with a spare teat. We never asked anything of the state and never expected anything. We do our own living and thanks to no man for the right.”

Of course, today all too many American men could not and would not say the same thing, given that they ask everything of the state and have long depended on the government teat for such things as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, drug laws, public schooling, welfare, SBA loans, education grants, protection from competition, and economic regulations. Today’s American man is always expecting more and more government welfare in one form or another, ignoring of course that all these welfare “benefits” are being paid for by their friends, neighbors, and relatives through the coercive apparatus of the state.

Moreover, since most American parents today look upon the federal government as a generous and compassionate parent, albeit at times abusive, they would eagerly claim that their lives and the lives of their children do belong to the state. That’s why unfortunately all too many Americans have no reluctance to letting the state seize their child not only to be indoctrinated for 12 years in the state’s schools but then also to be sent thousands of miles away to die in some worthless foreign war.

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

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Comedy and Perversity in the War on Immigrants
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The federal government’s war on immigrants would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. At the same time that the feds are cracking down on illegal immigration nationwide, they’re “quietly rewriting federal regulations to eliminate barriers” to immigration. Why? Because according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, there is a nationwide farm worker shortage that is “threatening to leave unharvested fruits and vegetables in fields.”

In other words, the war on immigrants has resulted in American farm owners not having enough workers to pick their crops, which means that the unpicked fruits and vegetables are going to be left rotting in the fields, which means that the federal regulations have to jerry-rigged to let more foreign workers into the country to pick the crops while the nationwide federal crackdown on immigrants is taking place.

But, hey, where are all those Americans whose jobs have been stolen by the illegal aliens? How come they’re not rushing to take those jobs picking the crops? How about all those American welfare recipients in the unemployment offices? Can’t the bureaucrats get word to them? Or how about the Minutemen or other anti-immigrant types? How come they’re not willing to help out?

There’s a much better way to handle the problem than to engage in two-faced, forked-tongue immigration hypocrisy. It’s called the free market. Let the market—supply and demand—determine the quantity of workers needed in particular labor markets. If farmers need help picking their crops, that message will manifest itself with higher labor pay rates. Workers, out of self-interest, will get the message and rush toward that area of the market. That’s the beauty of the free market—it allocates labor resources without the hassle of government regulations and bureaucracies. Of course, though that requires a free flow of labor across international borders, just as we have a free flow of labor across domestic borders, because the foreigners are the ones who are willing to do this back-breaking work.

As the world has learned, government central planning will never work and will instead continue to produce distortions, dislocations, and perverse results, such as the rotting of American crops. The free market produces harmonies which benefit everyone—producer, worker, and consumer.

A political side note: Count me in among those who favor Al Gore’s entering the presidential race in the Democratic Party, not because his statist philosophy is any different, in principle, than those of the other Democratic candidates but because I don’t think he would be afraid to take Bush and Cheney on with respect to the Iraq occupation. Hillary, Obama, Edwards and the rest of the field are so scared of being accused of being “soft on terrorism” that they are now sounding like Bush/Cheney Lite. In fact, some of them are now even suggesting that U.S. troops will still be in Iraq at the end of their administration. I’ve got a hunch that unlike them, Gore wouldn’t be afraid to confront Bush directly on the lies and deceptions that have resulted in the Iraq quagmire and that fear of Bush and Cheney wouldn’t prevent Gore from calling for an immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq. That would be a positive addition to the Democratic presidential debate on Iraq.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Orwellian World of Secrecy and Torture
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Supreme Court has declined to consider the appeal of Khaled el-Masri. He’s the German citizen of Lebanese descent who was kidnapped by agents of the U.S. government, whisked away to a secret overseas prison camp, and tortured. Fortunately, they didn’t execute him because he turned out to be innocent. Yes, that’s right—after being labeled and designated an “enemy combatant terrorist,” it turned out that it was all a mistake. And when U.S. officials realized their mistake, they ignominiously dumped el-Masri in some remote part of Albania, without even a “We’re sorry.”

El-Masri sued but a federal court of appeals held that his case could not even go to trial. Why? The government told the court that to allow el-Masri to proceed to trial would require the disclosure of important government secrets relating to national security. The court of appeals bought it and the Supreme Court has let the decision stand.

Never mind that el-Masri has told his story to news media all over the world. And never mind that the United States is still standing despite the government’s national-security claim.

So, there you have it: the federal government has the post-9/11 omnipotent authority to kidnap anyone it wants, send him into a secret dungeon or camp run either by the U.S. government or a brutal foreign regime, torture him or have him tortured, and keep him detained him for as long as it wants. And the government has immunity from both civil and criminal liability. It all has to remain secret because national security depends on it.

Meanwhile, President Bush continues to mouth his favorite mantra, “We don’t torture people.” No, we just waterboard them, beat them, freeze them, sexually abuse them, and sometimes accidentally kill them, after kidnapping, blindfolding, and railroading them into a dark and ominous torture camp in the middle of the night. That’s not torture. How can it be torture when we don’t torture?

And all this without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment. Pardon me for asking a unpleasant question but isn’t that the way things operate in Burma?

Meanwhile, everyone should just keep singing to himself, “Well, thank God I am an American because at least I know I’m free.” Well, except for the fact that they’re able to do the same thing to Americans that they did to el-Masri. Just ask the federal judge in the Jose Padilla case.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Financing the Empire with Inflation
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The New York Times is reporting that U.S. officials are reacting with “contented silence” to the enormous drop in the value of the dollar. Well, of course they are. This is the way they are able to finance their out-of-control federal spending by not raising taxes. Nothing new here — this is what profligate rulers have done throughout history — debase the currency to finance their big-spending binges.

Despite the official mantra expressed by President Bush and his conservative cohorts — that a “strong dollar is in our nation’s interest”—the dollar has lost about a third of its value against the euro during the last 5 five years. Now, isn’t that a coincidence! Wasn’t it about five years ago that President Bush and his cohorts embarked on their foreign military escapades against Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn’t that when federal spending on the military-industrial complex began going through the roof?

As longtime FFF readers know, we’ve been predicting this would happen for the past several years — that the out-of-control federal spending would ultimately result in a severe monetary crisis reflected by a crash in the value of the dollar. And my hunch is that we haven’t seen anything yet. If China and other foreign regimes that have loaned large amounts of money to the U.S. to finance its foreign military adventures decide to dump their securities, the monetary chaos could be quite serious.

Make no mistake about it: Despite claims by some U.S. officials that a constantly devaluing dollar is a “benefit,” it is instead the time-honored way to plunder and loot the citizenry by not raising taxes. A devaluing currency is reflected by prices rising across the board. Everyone, especially the poor and middle class, will witness it in the grocery store, the cleaners, the repair shops, the gas stations, the restaurants, and everywhere else.

Meanwhile, President Bush and his Republican cohorts will prattle on about how they haven’t raised taxes to finance their out-of-control spending binges, behaving as if the federal government can do whatever it wants by magic. Don’t fall for it. The empire has been paying its bills by using its power to print unlimited amounts of paper money. And the American people are going to pay for it all through reduced purchased power of their money.

Welcome to Empire Economics 101, what they didn’t teach you in your government-approved schools. Have you noticed that President Bush and his conservative cohorts no longer brag about how Ronald Reagan supposedly brought down the Soviet Union — by making the Soviet government spend the nation into bankruptcy?

Given the inability of most Americans to realize that U.S. officials are behind their growing economic pain, no wonder Washington officials are maintaining a “contented silence.”

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blackwater Sovereignty
by Jacob G. Hornberger

If things are going as swimmingly in Iraq as U.S. officials say they are, then how come U.S. officials have to be escorted around the country by the gun-toting cowboys from Blackwater who are shooting innocent people on the street?

I also still don’t understand this sovereignty business in Iraq. I thought that Iraq is supposed to be a sovereign and independent country. If that is the case, then how is it that a private mercenary group has immunity from criminal prosecution for murder by virtue of some decree previously issued by a U.S. occupational administrator? That is, once the new Iraqi regime was installed into power, why would any of the colonial aspects of the pre-installation occupation be in force?

The answer lies in the fact that the ultimate sovereign in Iraq is the U.S. government, not the Iraqi regime. As long as the Iraqis don’t stray outside parameters of proper behavior set forth by U.S. officials, then Iraq is permitted to be “sovereign.” But if the Iraqis go outside those parameters, such as by making soldiers from both the regular U.S. Army and its mercenary army subject to Iraqi law, then the real sovereign growls and bears its sharp teeth.

Thus, all this “sovereignty” business is just one more lie piled among a multitude of other lies. The truth is that there has always been one — and only one goal — for Iraq — the installation of a pro-U.S. regime, not a truly independent regime. What U.S. officials mean by “success” in Iraq is a pro-U.S. regime akin to those that exist in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan — that is, a pro-U.S. regime that will do the bidding of U.S. officials, especially upon payment of a satisfactory amount of foreign aid.

Of course, all this is nothing more than empire thinking, which divides the world into pro-U.S. regimes and anti-U.S. regimes. In actuality, it doesn’t matter one bit what type of regime ultimately comes into power in Iraq. Even if the regime hates the United States, it will nonetheless do everything it can to sell its oil. Even if it refuses to sell to the United States, once the oil is put into the marketplace, it can be sold elsewhere.

After all, look at Venezuela, whose ruler hates the Bush regime. It is still selling tons of oil, not out of generosity but rather out of self-interest. The same was true of Saddam Huussein. But for the sanctions imposed upon him by the UN and U.S., he would have been more than willing to sell tons of Iraqi oil into the international marketplace. It was ironic that he was prevented from doing so by U.S. officials.

The solution to all this, of course, is not a reform of the U.S. overseas military empire but rather a dismantling of the empire. It is the only way to neutralize the empire mindset — i.e., the mindset that divides the world into pro-U.S. regimes and anti-U.S. regimes—and, at the same time, limit the sovereignty of the U.S. government to the United States.

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

Monday, October 8, 2007

Conscience and Killing in Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A federal judge has issued a stay in the Army’s court martial of Lt. Eric Watada, which had been scheduled to begin tomorrow. The reason: despite Army objections the trial might violate the double-jeopardy clause of the Constitution, which apparently sometimes still applies to the military.

Watada’s case is unique. Unlike other U.S. military personnel, especially officers, Watada refused to blindly follow orders to deploy to Iraq. To do so, he maintained, would constitute the war crime of waging a war of aggression.

Since everyone agrees that Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so, there is no question but that Watada is right: In the Iraq War, the United States is the aggressor power and Iraq is the defending nation. As Watada maintains, the U.S. government has, in fact, waged a war of aggression against Iraq. The Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal did, in fact, hold that waging a war of aggression constituted a war crime.

So, as a matter of conscience, morality, and prudence, Watada refused to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The government, in return, is prosecuting him for refusing to obey the orders of his commander in chief. The Army’s position is that while soldiers have a duty to disobey orders on the battlefield that constitute war crimes (e.g., shooting a prisoner), a soldier cannot question an order to wage a war of aggression. According to the Army, Watada violated his duty by refusing to deploy to Iraq even if by obeying such order, he was exposing himself to a Nuremberg-type war-crime charge of waging a war of aggression.

So, why is a federal judge interfering with the process? Because this is actually the second time that the Army is prosecuting Watada. At the first court-martial, the judge screwed up by granting the prosecutor’s motion for a mistrial. As I pointed out in my February 8, 2007, blog, that order of mistrial might well have meant no more prosecution of Watada because of the constitutional bar against prosecuting a person twice for the same offense. Despite the fact that the military courts have ruled against Watada on the issue (surprise, surprise), a federal civilian judge deems the issue sufficiently important to examine it himself.

Lt. Watada is one of the genuine heroes of our time. It’s truly a shame that so many other U.S. military officers take the position that they had to follow orders rather than their consciences when they agreed to participate in the killing of people who had never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

In a somewhat related story, on Sunday the Washington Post detailed the reactions of some of the people in the Bush administration who played important roles in the Iraq adventure. Among them was 38-year-old Meghan O’Sullivan, who served as an adviser to chief U.S. occupation administrator L. Paul Bremer. Although she has returned home, O’Sullivan continues to suffer dreams about Iraq and apparently thinks that the dreams have to do generally with the horrors of being in Iraq, where people she knew were killed. She is now asking herself what level of sacrifices, both Iraqi and American, can justify the deaths, and she mollifies herself with the idea that the possibility of “success” could ultimately justify the killings.

I have a different theory: O’Sullivan’s dreams are her conscience and subconscious telling her what she doesn’t want to acknowledge and what Eric Watada already knows: that she didn’t have the moral right to participate in the killing of even one single Iraqi, much less hundreds of thousands of them — not for democracy, not for stability, not for 9/11 revenge, not for regime change, and not for any other grandiose political reason — and that the killings of Iraqis, in fact, constitute grave sins. My hunch is that like so many others who have participating in these killings, O’Sullivan’s dreams will continue until there is acknowledgment, confession, remorse, and repentance.

While Watada is still facing the prospect of imprisonment, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s much better off than O’Sullivan.

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

Friday, October 5, 2007

Iran and the Constitution
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the talk about whether President Bush is going to wage another war of aggression — this time against Iran — it’s important that we keep one fact in mind: Under the U.S. Constitution, President Bush is precluded from waging war against Iran without a declaration of war from Congress.

That is, despite what President Bush claims, when it comes to declaring war it is not Bush who is the legitimate and legal “decider.” It is the Congress. That’s the law — the law of the Constitution — the law that the people of the United States have imposed on the president and all other federal officials.

The purpose of the Constitution is to limit the power of those who are in office, including the president. It is designed to prevent the rise of dictatorial power, even by officials who have been elected into office. Federal officials, from the president on down, are expected to comply with this higher law as much as they expect us to comply with their laws. When they break our law, they become lawbreakers, which is exactly what President Bush is — by virtue of his undeclared war of aggression against Iraq — and will be, by virtue of his possible upcoming war of aggression against Iran.

So, why does President Bush claim that he, not Congress, is “the decider” when it comes to deciding whether war will be waged against another country? Did the American people amend the Constitution to transfer the power to declare war to the president? No. President Bush feels that because previous presidents have ignored this constitutional restraint, he has the power to do so as well. But obviously that is a ridiculous notion. Simply because previous presidents have broken the law does not operate as a de facto amendment to the Constitution that empowers subsequent presidents to break the law.

With the debacle in Iraq becoming an ever-lengthening quagmire into which our nation is trapped — a quagmire that will certainly deepen if Bush attacks Iran, Americans will have plenty of time to reflect upon the wisdom of the Framers in separating the power to declare war and the power to wage war. One issue will be how big a price Americans will have to pay to learn this important lesson in constitutional law.

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

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Monetary Policy and Welfare-Warfare Adventures
by Jacob G. Hornberger

As we have been saying for the last several years, the out-of-control federal spending to fund both domestic welfare-state programs and foreign warfare-state adventures, would ultimately threaten the economic and financial well-being of the American people.

Among the threats were inflation, i.e., a debasement of the currency, and a flight from the dollar, resulting in a major monetary crisis. Today, the Telegraph is reporting that two countries — Vietnam and Qatar — are planning to reduce their purchases of U.S. treasuries and other dollar bonds. Within the article there are links to the following related articles:

“Fears of Dollar Collapse as Saudis Take Fright”
“China Threatens ‘Nuclear Option’ of Dollar Sales”
“Jump Off the Deranged Bull Now”

This is what the neo-cons and other pro-empire interventionists never thought would happen. They figured that they could invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq without any risk to the American people whatsoever. They even dreamed of using Iraq’s oil revenues to finance their imperial adventurism.

Meanwhile, many Americans continued supporting the Afghan and Iraq escapades despite the fact that federal spending was going through the roof. As long as the Bush people were standing fast against tax increases, the idea was that somehow, magically, the U.S. government could continue spending money as if there were no tomorrow.

What the feds were doing, of course, was borrowing to finance their ever-growing expenditures. That borrowing entailed sucking billions of dollars of private savings into the coffers of the U.S. government, along with massive borrowing from central bank reserves of foreign regimes, including such communist countries as China and Vietnam. That credit squeeze finally erupted with tremendous fanfare in the housing market, where people have been unable to refinance their adjustable home mortgages. (It would be interesting to know how many people who have been hurt by the mortgage crisis were also ardent supporters of the military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.)

Still, something had to give, as we have long maintained here at FFF. Ultimately, all that borrowing has to be repaid, either with tax money or by inflation (i.e., simply printing the money to pay off the debt). Not surprisingly, the feds have chosen inflation because they know that the average public-schooled American is unlikely to figure out that it’s the feds, not the speculators and business community, who are fleecing them as prices in the economy rise.

That’s what the recent half-point drop in official interest rates by the Fed all about. Fed officials knew that that all that debt that has been piling up for the last several years had to be paid either with taxes or inflation. The Fed, realizing that the Bush people weren’t about to raise taxes, blinked. The signal was sent to the currency markets: the Fed is going to accommodate the debt by printing the money to pay it off.

That’s what is behind the plummeting dollar. People are reluctant to hold an asset that is likely to continue dropping in value. There are people who say that the Chinese communist regime would never dump the dollar because it wouldn’t be in their interest to do so. Don’t count it. For one, it might be in their interest to do so if there is a stampede for the exits and the dollar is dropping precipitously. Second, sometimes politics trumps self-interest and if the Bush people make the Chinese communist rulers angry, say, with tariffs, they might just put politics above money.

In my opinion, we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg. If there is a run on the dollar, it is impossible to predict how bad the crisis could become. Regardless, everyone should keep an important point in mind: Despite predictable hoopla against speculators and capitalists, the root cause of the monetary crisis will be out-of-control federal spending on both domestic welfare-state programs and foreign warfare-state programs, including the military escapades in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What’s the Standard for Foreign Meddling
by Jacob G. Hornberger

If President Bush decides to wage another undeclared war, this time against Iran, he will have at least two possible rationales by which to market the war to the American people — Iranian WMDs and Iranian meddling in Iraq. Given that many people have realized what a crock the WMD rationale was for invading and occupying Iraq, Bush’s more likely rationale will be, “Iran is meddling in Iraq by supplying weaponry that has killed U.S. troops.”

Unfortunately, as the world’s international policeman the U.S. government hasn’t yet clarified the standard by which countries can and cannot meddle in the affairs of other countries.

For example, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan for much the same reason that the U.S. invaded Iraq — to install a friendly regime into power. Yet, apparently the Soviet meddling in Afghanistan was not considered okay while the U.S. meddling in Iraq is considered okay. After all, let’s not forget that the U.S. government furnished sophisticated weaponry to Islamic extremists (e.g., Osama bin Laden), including Stinger missiles that are still unaccounted for, which the extremists used to kill Soviet soldiers.

Yet, in Iraq the U.S. considers its invasion and occupation to be okay, despite the fact that Iraq never attacked the U.S., despite the fact that the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war was not attained, and despite the fact that the UN never authorized the invasion. And it condemns Iran for doing the same thing that the U.S. did in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials now claim that the invasion and occupation of Iraq were justified in order to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. Yet, most everyone will now concede that the Iraqi people are not free. After all, they are living under a brutal military regime that has killed many more people than, say, the brutal military regime that rules Burma. In fact, there are virtually no restraints on U.S. government power in Iraq, especially among the U.S. mercenaries who can kill people with impunity and immunity. Iraqis are subject to unreasonable searches and seizures, indefinite detentions, cruel and unusual punishments, torture, extrajudicial execution, curfews, and gun control. They are denied indictments, speedy trials, due process, attorneys, free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. They live under a socialist economic and educational system.

So, given that there is no freedom in Iraq under U.S. military rule, it would seem incumbent on U.S. officials to explain why it is that other countries do not have the same “right” that the U.S. claims — the right to meddle in other countries in an attempt to bring freedom and regime change to that country.

In other words, U.S. officials should explain why the U.S. government has the authority to meddle in Iraq and why other countries don’t have the same authority. Or is it simply a matter of military might? Does the standard for meddling boil down to this: “We can do it because our military is bigger and stronger. Might makes right.”

Increasingly concerned about his legacy as his tenure approaches its end, we shouldn’t be surprised if Bush claims that U.S. meddling in Iran is necessary to prevent Iran from meddling in Iraq and interfering with U.S. meddling in Iraq. What more grand and noble cause to go to war for than that?

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Cancerous Growth in Our Nation’s Capital
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Washington, D.C., officials are undoubtedly jumping up and down in their offices exclaiming, “We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!” after a new congressional report was published yesterday. The report declared that the United States has consolidated its position as the world’s leading arms dealer, accounting for 42 percent of the world market. Sales to developing countries accounted for 80 percent of the arms market. U.S. sales totaled $17 billion, up from $3.4 billion the previous year.

Well, hoorah for the U.S. military-industrial complex, which continues to fleece the American taxpayer to finance ever-growing expenditures for bombs, missiles, tanks, guns, and bullets to “rebuild” Iraq and Afghanistan (after destroying them) — and, of course, to ship out to foreign regimes, including those headed by brutal dictators.

Among the big buyers of U.S. armaments was Pakistan. You know, the country that is headed by a brutal military dictator who took power in a coup and who was a close friend and ally of the Taliban. Yes, I know what you’re thinking — that the U.S. government is dedicated to democracy. That’s why it supposedly invaded Iraq — well, after the WMDs that the U.S. had given Saddam failed to materialize. How in the world could the U.S. government possibly be supporting and selling arms to Pakistan, when it is ruled by a cruel and brutal anti-democratic military brute?

In fact, did you read in the paper how Pakistani ruler Musharraf had his henchmen attack lawyers who were doing nothing worse than simply protesting a ruling in Musharraf’s favor? His henchmen beat them with sticks. Yes, that’s the guy to whom the U.S. government and the U.S. military-industrial complex are delivering U.S. taxpayer-financed military weaponry.

President Eisenhower’s warnings against the military-industrial complex should have been heeded — and also the warnings of the Founding Fathers against standing armies and militarism.

First, U.S. officials go out and supports brutal dictators, such as Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Musharraf, and countless others. Then they foment all types of hatred for the U.S. in Third World countries with such deadly and damaging policies as sanctions, embargoes, invasions, coups, military bases, interventions, and assassinations. Then, they use the terrorist blowback from those policies to strike fear within the American people, inducing them to trade away their freedoms, including due process and habeas corpus, in return for a “safety” that never comes. Then, they spend unlimited amounts of money for their military escapades, threatening both the economic and monetary well-being of the American people.

The real threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people lies not in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or any other foreign country but rather right there in Washington, D.C., where a government that began as small and limited in power has metastasized into an enormous, out-of-control cancerous growth that is sucking the lifeblood out of our country. When will the American people finally figure it out?

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

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dropping to Their Knees at Yale
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last week I blogged about how the real purpose of government assistance — the dole —is to keep the dole recipient in line, ensuring that he doesn’t stray too far from supporting his dole provider. I pointed to Columbia University, which was recently threatened with a reduction of its dole for having invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is a personal enemy of U.S. officials, to speak at the university. Needless to say, the president of the university, Lee Bollinger, who went out of his way to issue personal insults to President Ahmadinejad in his introduction of him, did not tell state officials what they could do with their threats. The fear of losing any portion of a dole is almost always paralyzing to dole recipients.

Now, another example of the dole phenomenon is in the news. Yale Law School had refused to permit military recruiters onto the law school campus because of the military’s discrimination against gays. In retaliation, the federal government threatened to terminate millions of dollars in grants to the university.

So, guess what happened. Yep, fearful of losing the dole caused the law school to cave in. Here is how law professor Robert A. Burt bluntly put it: “We had a choice, which is we could continue to exclude the military, and Yale University would have lost $300 million per year. We’re not going to bring the medical school and the whole science enterprise to its knees.”

What professor Burt fails to acknowledge, however, is that in making that decision, the Yale Law School went down on its knees, kissing the feet of its federal masters and dole providers. It’s a textbook example of what the welfare-state system has done to a once-proud and independent people.

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

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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.