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, December 2007


Monday, December 31, 2007

Bhutto, JFK, and Conspiracies

by Jacob G. Hornberger

It’s interesting to compare the attitude of the U.S. mainstream press toward the assassination of Benazir Bhutto with its attitude toward the assassination of President John Kennedy.

The immediate reaction of the American press (and U.S. government officials) to the Bhutto killing has been a presumption of a conspiracy. Equally important, among the prime suspects are Pakistani intelligence agencies.

For example, the New York Times reported:

“Pakistani and Western security experts said the government’s insistence that Ms. Bhutto, a former prime minister, was not killed by a bullet was intended to deflect attention from the lack of government security around her…. Her vehicle came under attack by a gunman and suicide bomber as she left a political rally in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani Army keeps its headquarters, and where the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a strong presence.”

“The new images of the men who appear to have been Ms. Bhutto’s assassins showed one dressed in a sleeveless black waistcoat and rimless sunglasses, and holding aloft what appeared to be a gun. He had a short haircut and wore the kind of attire reminiscent of plainclothes intelligence officials, though Al Qaeda and other militants have also been known to dress attackers in Western-style clothing in order to disguise them.”

Yet, in the Kennedy assassination, the presumption has always been the exact opposite. After the killing, the U.S. mainstream press immediately embraced the conclusion quickly reached by U.S. officials that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone assassin as well as the decision by federal officials to immediately shut down any serious investigation into whether there was a conspiracy behind the killing, including a conspiracy in which U.S. intelligence agencies might have participated.

Why is the mainstream press considering the possibility that Pakistani intelligence agencies were behind the Bhutto killing? According to the Guardian, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies “are widely believed to carry out kidnappings, unlawful detentions and extrajudicial killings. The speed with which the government accused al-Qaida did little to allay fears of state involvement, and conflicting accounts of the cause of death have convinced many of a cover-up.”

Yet, as everyone knows, U.S. intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, have long been involved in the same sort of nefarious activities — kidnappings, torture, coups, murder, and assassinations, even as far back as the Kennedy administration.

Now, notice that no one in the mainstream press is screaming, “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!” in response to the suspicion that Pakistani intelligence agencies might have been behind the Bhutto killing. On the contrary, the mainstream press is actually treating such a conspiracy as a viable possibility.

Yet, whenever someone suggests that U.S. intelligence agencies might have been involved in the JFK killing, the immediate attitude of the U.S. mainstream press is exactly the opposite: “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!”

The longtime protective attitude toward the CIA among the mainstream press has been most recently reflected in the controversy over the CIA’s obstruction of justice and cover-up in the George Joannides matter. Despite the ominous overtones of the Joannides scandal, the entire matter has been met with a collective yawn of indifference among the mainstream press.

During the time that Oswald was in New Orleans, one of the groups with which he interacted was a virulent anti-Castro student group in New Orleans. Oswald first approached the group by offering his services as a former U.S. Marine to help train anti-Castro guerrillas. Soon after that, Oswald switched roles and took a pro- Castro position, causing him to get into an altercation with the same anti-Castro group.

Soon after the Kennedy assassination, that New Orleans anti-Castro group made a big deal to the press about Oswald being a pro-Castro advocate. What no one knew at the time, however, was that the CIA was funding the group, a fact that, for some reason, CIA officials knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately kept from the Warren Commission.

Then, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations reopened the investigation into the Kennedy assassination in the 1970s, the CIA called a CIA official, George Joannides, out of retirement to serve as the liaison between the CIA and the House committee.

Why Joannides? Well, he was the CIA contact for the anti-Castro group in New Orleans with whom Oswald had had that interaction. He was the guy in charge of funneling the CIA money into the group. He, along with his superiors at the CIA, kept his role secret from the Warren Commission. He was also the guy who kept his role secret from the House Select Committee during the 1970s even though the CIA was supposedly cooperating with the committee’s investigation.

In other words, when Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the House Committee, CIA officials knew that he could be trusted to keep the Joannides information secret from the House investigators.

For the past few years, the CIA has been fighting vehemently to keep the American people from viewing its Joannides files. Why? Well, the CIA’s position is that if the public were to see such files, the entire security of the United States would be threatened.

Now, think for a moment how ridiculous that position is. How in the world could the disclosure of files relating to a CIA’s relationship to an anti-Castro group with whom Lee Harvey Oswald interacted some four decades ago threaten the national security of the United States? The fact is: It couldn’t. It’s a ridiculous claim.

A few weeks ago, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the CIA to search for the Joannides files and provide a report of its findings to a federal district judge. My hunch is that the CIA, which is currently undergoing scrutiny for its intentional destruction of videotapes showing CIA agents torturing a suspected terrorist, is going to have a difficult time finding those files, perhaps for the same reason that it can’t produce those torture videotapes.

Yet, the U.S. mainstream press will undoubtedly accept without any question whatever explanation the CIA comes up with, including “national security,” even while the press accepts as perfectly natural the possibility that Pakistani intelligence agencies killed Bhutto.

I can’t help but wonder whether Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf will appoint a blue-ribbon investigatory commission to investigate the Bhutto killing, headed up by one of those Supreme Court justices that he recently appointed to the court after he fired the independent justices that were serving on the court. Such a commission might not satisfy the Pakistani people but at least it would be likely to resolve doubts among the U.S. mainstream press.

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

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blackmailing the NFL
by Jacob G. Hornberger

If you want a good example of the real purpose of the regulated economy, watch the Patriots-Giants game tonight. It will be broadcast on both NBC and CBS, compliments of the strong-arm tactics of government officials who use economic regulations to threaten and blackmail people in the private sector into obeying political orders.

The NFL planned to broadcast the game on its NFL Network, which reaches less than half the country. Under principles of private property, that’s the right of the NFL. The NFL, not the federal government, owns the broadcast rights to its games.

However, lots of fans were upset because they weren’t going to get to watch the game. And lots of them didn’t want to fork over the money to subscribe to DirectTV or Dish Network or go to a sports bar. No doubt many of them felt that they have a “right” to watch the game. It’s just part and parcel of the socialist mindset that has come to characterize so many Americans.

So, that’s where the blackmailers came in. U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Spector, who are members of the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the NFL warning that the NFL was “exercising its substantial market power to the detriment of consumers.” The blackmailers advised the NFL the Congress might just have to reexamine the exemption from antitrust laws that the Congress has given to the NFL.

Exemption? What? Why does anyone get exempt from a law that applies to everyone else? Why shouldn’t a law apply to everyone? And if bigness is an inherently bad thing, then why should anyone, including the NFL, be exempt it from it?

The fact is that antitrust laws are as a big crock as every other economic regulation. Contrary to what the political blackmailers claim, the free market is the best regulator of the size of businesses. Those businesses that satisfy consumers, such as the NFL, do well and get big. Those businesses that don’t satisfy consumers get small and maybe even go out of business. You don’t need government to enact laws against big business.

Of course, from the standpoint of government officials, the beauty of the regulated society is that the regulations can be used to ensure that businessmen toe the official line. If they get out of line, there are always rules and regulations that can be enforced against them. Just ask Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO at Qwest, who was criminally prosecuted for violating silly economic regulations after refusing to comply with federal orders to break the law by ratting on his customers. The NFL’s Patriots-Giants game is just the latest example of regulatory tyranny.

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

Stop Meddling in Pakistan
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the New York Times is calling on the Bush administration to intervene in the Pakistani crisis to “fortify Pakistan’s badly battered democratic institutions.”

I’ve got a better idea: the U.S. government should butt out of Pakistani affairs — as well as the affairs of Iraq, Iran, Korea, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and all the rest.

My gosh, what does it take for interventionists to finally realize that the solution to the messes that interventionism causes is not more interventionism but rather no more interventionism?

Does anyone need to remind the Times of the messes that U.S. interventionism has produced in the Middle East, especially in Iraq? Or how about U.S. interventionism in Pakistan itself? After all, it’s not as though the U.S. government has not been involving itself heavily in the internal affairs of Pakistan. Don’t forget that ever since 9/11 the Bush administration has been funneling millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money into the coffers of Pakistan’s unelected dictator, Pervez Musharraf, and his military goons.

Exactly what “badly battered democratic institutions” in Pakistan is the Timesreferring to? The fact that a brutal military dictator took power in a coup and has been in charge of the government ever since? The fact that this brutal military dictator has instituted martial law in the hope of retaining his grip on power? The fact that this brutal military dictator has dissolved the country’s Supreme Court and jailed justices, judges, and lawyers for refusing to toe his line?

Pardon me, but since when does a military dictatorship constitute a “battered democratic institution”? I always thought that dictatorship constituted the absence of democratic institutions.

What business does the U.S. government have meddling and intervening in the internal political affairs of Pakistan? After all, wouldn’t the feds go ballistic if some foreign regime — say, in Cuba or Venezuela — involved itself with the internal political affairs of the United States?

Oh, and by the way, at the risk of asking a discomforting question of the neo-cons: Do you still maintain that President Bush invaded Iraq to spread democracy (after the WMDs failed to materialize), given his longtime ardent and enthusiastic support of Pervez Musharraf, one of the most brutal unelected military dictators in the world? And just out of curiosity, are you more pleased with the results of U.S. interventionism in Pakistan than you are with the results of U.S. interventionism in Iraq?

One problem with the Times and so many other interventionists is that when it comes to interventionism, hope springs eternal. No matter how big the mess that previous interventions have produced, the eternal hope is that the next intervention will prove to be the magic elixir that finally makes things right.

It will never happen. Interventionism is an inherently defective paradigm. No matter what the Bush administration does to intervene further into Pakistani affairs, the result will only be worse, especially for Americans, than the situation that currently exists.

Yes, bad things happen all over the world. They always have and always will. But U.S. interventionism only makes the United States part of the messes and also makes the messes worse. When will Americans finally wise up and realize that our Founding Fathers, who counseled against foreign entanglements and foreign meddling, were right and that the neo-con interventionists are flat wrong?

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The New York Times “Retracts” Its Ron Paul Smear
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The New York Times is now admitting that Virginia Heffernan’s article about Ron Paul, which I blogged about yesterday, “contained several errors.” The Times also says, “The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul.” See the Times’ retraction here.


The problem is not just that the article “contains errors” or that Paul should have been given a chance to respond before it was posted. The problem is that the article should never have been published in the first place. It was nothing more than a false, misleading, vicious smear of a man who has done nothing worse than trying to move his country in a better, freer direction by running for president on libertarian principles. Why should that cause him to be subjected to nasty, vicious, misleading smears, especially by one of the leading newspapers in the country?

I don’t know the extent of Heffernan’s understanding of libertarianism or even her understanding of economics. But my hunch is that like many others, it is extremely limited. I’ll bet that Heffernan, like so many other people, honestly believes that America today is based on the principles of free enterprise and limited government. So, along comes a candidate with libertarian principles who criticizes our nation’s welfare-state programs, which causes people like Heffernan to reason, “Wow! If he’s criticizing such welfare-state programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, then that must mean that he’s against free enterprise. Wow! That must mean that he’s a Nazi. Wow! Why, I’ll bet that that’s why there have been reports that Nazis have been donating to his campaign and attending his lectures. Wow! So, that’s it — libertarians are Nazis! I’d better report this ASAP to the American people in my new blog post in the New York Times! Wow! I’ll be hailed as an American heroine!”

What Heffernan most likely fails to understand is that while the United States once embraced free-market, limited-government principles, long ago the American people rejected those principles in favor of the socialistic welfare state and the highly regulated society. But the problem is that in doing so, they clung to the myth and delusion that America’s free-enterprise philosophy was continuing unabated albeit in a welfare, regulated manner.

What Americans once celebrated as freedom was a society in which there was little or no income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, public schooling, trade restrictions, economic regulations, drug war, and other such things.

Today, all of those things are embraced by Americans, perhaps even by Heffernan. (The irony is that they were also embraced by the Nazis.) But the problem is such programs are also viewed by many Americans as “freedom,” even though they are opposite to the freedom experienced by earlier Americans who rejected them. The result is the phenomenon described by Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

People sometimes suggest to me that public schooling (and government-licensed private schooling) isn’t so bad because it has “educated” so many people. What they fail to understand is that one big price that is paid for such “education” is the false and delusional political indoctrination that young people receive for 12 long years.

What else can explain the fact that so many Americans honestly believe that the socialistic welfare state and the regulated economy, which their American ancestors rejected, constitute “freedom and free enterprise”? What they can’t understand is that the reason they have such a mindset is that the state had 12 long years to get their minds straight, on pain of Ritalin and other disciplinary methods for resistance and recalcitrance.

What distinguishes libertarians from others is that we have been able to free our minds from the indoctrination with which the state clouded our minds. What’s “dangerous” about the Ron Paul campaign is the possibility that it might cause large numbers of Americans to achieve the same breakthrough to truth and reality that we libertarians have achieved. That’s why it’s preferable in the minds of some people to smear people like Ron Paul rather than address their libertarian arguments directly.

There is only one proper thing for Virginia Heffernan and the New York Times to do: Retract their entire smear of Ron Paul and apologize for their disgraceful conduct.

Don’t hold your breath.

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shame on the New York Times for Its Smear of Ron Paul
by Jacob G. Hornberger

I couldn’t help but be struck by the vicious smear of Ron Paul by a Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times. You can read it here.

Sure, politics is a nasty business but I just couldn’t help but wonder why the New York Times would publish garbage like this.

Here’s the thrust of Heffernan’s attack: that Ron Paul has received donations from neo-Nazi extremist groups and has spoken at events attended by right-wing extremist individuals.

Well, duh!

Pray tell: What political candidate does a background check of people before accepting their donations? And what political candidate does a background check of people attending a talk before he begins speaking?

Maybe Heffernan and the Times would like a national ID card that would identify which people are Nazi sympathizers and which aren’t. Then, I suppose the reasoning would go, political candidates could ask to see people’s national ID cards before accepting donations from them or addressing them in speeches.

Is this ludicrous or what? What are Heffernan and the New York Times suggesting — that Ron Paul, one of the most committed libertarians around, has instead been a closet Nazi the whole time he has been in Congress? Or maybe they’re suggesting that this committed libertarian has, all of a sudden, decided to convert to Nazism. Or maybe they’re saying that libertarians don’t really advocate individual freedom, free markets, and limited government but instead advocate statism and government control over economic activity.

Does Heffernan even attempt to address Paul’s libertarian positions? Of course not. Heck, for all I know maybe she thinks that libertarianism is the same thing as socialism and interventionism, which were core elements of National Socialism (i.e., Nazism). Maybe she doesn’t realize that libertarianism was the philosophy of economic liberty that guided the founding of our nation. Maybe she doesn’t realize that the American people once embraced the free-market, limited-government philosophy that undergirds libertarianism.

Maybe Heffernan has never been taught that the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal revolution, which libertarians have long opposed, was based on the socialist ideas of Stalin’s Soviet Union and the fascist ideas of Mussolini’s Italy. Maybe she doesn’t realize that Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act and its “Blue Eagle” propaganda campaign, which were the antithesis of libertarianism, bore a remarkable resemblance to Nazi Germany’s economic plans. For that matter, I wonder if Heffernan knows that Social Security, the socialist program which libertarians have long opposed, originated among German socialists and was ardently embraced by none other than Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party in Germany.

I just can’t help but wonder whether some people are so scared over the fact that every day Ron Paul’s campaign is causing more and more people to look closely at libertarianism and to recognize that it is the only solution to the many crises facing our nation — crises that have their root in the socialist and interventionist ideas that American statists have foisted upon our nation during the past several decades.

Heffernan and the Times are not dumb. They undoubtedly realize that attacking libertarianism directly might cause people to examine it, especially given that attacks on libertarianism are usually intellectually weak, whether they come from the right or the left. Much easier — and more cowardly, of course — to smear Paul with some sort of Nazi nonsense in the desperate hope that frightened and cowed Americans won’t dare to even look at libertarian philosophy and ideas.

Heffernan and the New York Times should be ashamed of themselves for their silly smear of Ron Paul. No wonder people are so disgusted with politics.

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Nothing Can Morally Justify the Killing of Even One Iraqi
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Neo-con supporters of the U.S. government’s war of aggression against Iraq are undoubtedly holding their collective breath in the hope that U.S. military forces have finally smashed any further violent opposition to their conquest of Iraq. The attitude would then be, “You see, this shows that we were right after all to invade and occupy Iraq and kill and maim hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people.”

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting that U.S. soldiers have found mass graves next to a torture center north of Baghdad. In the torture center, chains were attached to blood-spattered walls while a metal bed was attached to an electrical shock system.

Hey, who knows? Maybe the torture center prevented a ticking time bomb from going off? And who’s to say that chains, blood-spattered walls, metal beds, and an electrical shock system really constitute torture? Doesn’t torture depend on each person’s subjective determination of the term?

By the way, wasn’t there torture in Iraq under Saddam Hussein? I wonder if his justifications for torture were different from those employed by those torturing in Iraq today. I wonder if they were different than those employed by current U.S. torturers.

As Rosa Brooks writes in the Los Angeles Times today, Baghdad has now been divided into “cleansed” neighborhoods, in which Sunnis occupy some areas and Shiites occupy others. The U.S. military is helping to keep the neighborhoods free of violence by constructing walls that separate the respective neighborhoods. What an interesting way for the Pentagon to rebuild a peaceful society that it has destroyed with its invasion.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled the country, mostly to neighboring countries given that the U.S. government refuses to let them emigrate to the United States, despite one of the U.S. government’s claims (in addition to the WMD one) that it invaded Iraq out of love for the Iraqi people. Hey, what better way to reduce the death toll than by reducing the country’s population?

And if things weren’t crazy enough, we now learn that the U.S. government is helping Turkey to attack Iraqi Kurds in the northern part of the country. Can’t you just hear U.S. officials exclaim when some Iraqi survivor of those attacks retaliates with a terrorist attack against the U.S.: “We’re innocent! We’re innocent! We haven’t done anything to provoke this! They hate us for our freedom and values! God bless America!”

No rational person can deny that Iraq never had any connection whatsoever to the 9/11 attacks, especially given that none of the 9/11 attackers were even from Iraq. Yet, countless Iraqi people are now dead or maimed and their entire country is destroyed. One might easily say that Iraq is the federal massacre of Waco magnified a million-fold. The whole situation in Iraq brings to mind the famous dictum of Tacitus: “They made a desert and called it peace.”

Nothing, not even “peace” in Iraq, will ever be able to morally justify a war of aggression against a nation whose people were totally innocent of the 9/11 attacks. Nothing, not even some warped definition of “terrorist,” will ever be able to morally justify killing Iraqis who were doing nothing more than trying to oust their country of an illegal invader who had invaded with a thirst for vengeance and regime change relying on fake and false rationales for its invasion. Nothing will ever be able to morally justify the killing of even one single Iraqi, much less hundreds of thousands of them, given 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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Widening CIA Torture Scandal
by Jacob G. Hornberger

CIA torture-tape scandal is becoming more interesting. It now turns out that White House personnel played a major role in the decision on whether to destroy the tapes. While it is still unclear what everybody’s position was on the matter, according to the New York Times, the White House people who took part in the discussions were former White House Counsel (and later Attorney General) Alberto R. Gonzales, Vice-President Cheney’s counsel David Addington, senior National Security Council attorney John Bellinger III, and White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers. Also involved in the decision-making process were CIA attorneys.

According to the Times, a former senior intelligence official said that some of the White House officials “believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.”

That is exactly what I intimated in my December 12 blog (“Don’t Reform the CIA — Abolish It”)—that the CIA is likely lying when it claims that the reason for destroying the tapes was to protect the identity of CIA torturers from retribution from al-Qaeda. The much more likely explanation for the destruction of the tapes was to protect the torturers and their enablers from adverse publicity and criminal prosecution. It was also likely intended to protect President Bush and his constantly repeated false mantra “We don’t torture.”

Several days ago, on the instructions of President Bush’s new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, the CIA refused to comply with congressional subpoenas to appear before Congress to testify about the scandal. Such a refusal confirms another point I made in my blog — that the CIA, not the Congress, is the supreme governing authority in this country.

Congress purportedly has the authority to enact laws in this country, including laws that govern the CIA. As part of that process, it has the power to subpoena witnesses, just as the courts do. When ordinary people are served with a subpoena, they must either appear as ordered or secure a court order quashing the subpoena.

Not the CIA though. Did the CIA go to a court asking for an order to quash the congressional subpoenas? Nope. It just ignored them. That’s the power that the CIA has in this country. As I stated in my previous blog, the CIA isn’t above the law, it is the law.

But now there is another interesting development. The judicial branch of the U.S. government is now involving itself in this scandal. That could set up a rather fascinating confrontation between the CIA and the federal judiciary. After all, the CIA can easily cow and intimidate, even blackmail, members of Congress into laying off the CIA. Doing so to an independent federal judge who has a lifetime appointment might be more difficult.

The federal judge, Henry H. Kennedy Jr., ordered a court hearing into whether the CIA violated a court order to the government to preserve evidence in cases involving suspected terrorists. The Justice Department told Kennedy that he lacked jurisdiction to inquire into the destruction of the tapes. But while Congress quickly backed down from its hearings after Mukasey told it to back off, Judge Kennedy, without comment, proceeded to go ahead schedule a hearing into the matter.

My hunch is that Attorney General Mukasey, a former federal judge himself, is not going to ignore Judge Kennedy’s order. My hunch is that Justice Department lawyers are going to be in full attendance at the court hearing.

Of course, what happens at that court hearing is another issue. The judge could simply decide not to delve into the matter after hearing legal arguments from the attorneys. Or he could schedule an evidentiary hearing into the matter, in which subpoenas — yes, subpoenas — would undoubtedly be issued to CIA personnel. If that happens, it will be interesting to see if Mukasey and the CIA ignore subpoenas issued by a federal district court, like they have done with the congressional subpoenas.

Are you getting a sense of why President Bush’s close friend and ally, Pakistani military strongman Pervez Musharra, simply fired and jailed the federal judges in his country? Are you getting a sense of why Bush refused to ardently condemn Musharraf for such action?

If it turns out that the CIA destroyed the tapes in violation of a court order and if the federal judge does relatively little about it, for all practical purposes the situation won’t be any different in principle than what is going on in Pakistan. After all, if government officials can violate with impunity constitutional constraints, laws, subpoenas, and investigations and judicial orders, how much closer to dictatorship can a nation get than that?

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

U.S. Soldiers Might Pay the Price for Torture
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Amidst all the debate in which President Bush and his neo-con supporters are trying to convince people that waterboarding, forced isolation, sex abuse, sleep deprivation, stress positions, freezing temperatures, and other “harsh alternative interrogation methods” do not constitute torture, there is one group of people who might well wish that U.S. officials had taken a firm, clear, unequivocal stand against such practices: U.S. soldiers.

Given that the massive military strength of the U.S. Empire, especially against Third-World countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, it might be tempting to think that the United States will never go to war against a more powerful adversary in the years ahead. Given the resentment against the Empire all over the world, however, and the propensity of Empire officials to poke hornets’ nests and push their weight around all over the world, it would be a mistake to succumb to such a temptation.

In a war against a more powerful adversary, it is a virtual certainty that some U.S. soldiers will be taken captive. When that happens, how are U.S. officials going to respond when enemy forces subject U.S. soldiers to the same “non-tortuous” treatment that the U.S. government is employing against prisoners and detainees today?

Isn’t it going to be a bit awkward for U.S. officials to proclaim, “Waterboarding is torture only when others are doing it to our soldiers, not when we’re doing it to people”? Or “Sex abuse tactics are nothing more than college-like pranks when we’re doing it but constitute war crimes when enemy forces are doing it to captive American soldiers.”

Wouldn’t people all over the world simply laugh at such hypocritical idiocy?

In some future war, American soldiers taken captive — and their families — might well rue the day that the U.S. government and the American people didn’t take a firm stand against waterboarding, forced isolation, sex abuse, sleep deprivation, stress positions, freezing temperatures, and other “harsh alternative interrogation methods” employed by U.S. officials against prisoners and detainees as part of their “war on terrorism.”

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

Putin, Roosevelt, and Conservatives
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In its weekend edition, the Wall Street Journal carried an editorial criticizing Russian President Putin’s attempt to extend his power in Russia. Putin has rigged things so that one of his younger lackies will replace Putin as president, while Putin will assume the post of prime minister. However, to ensure that the real power remains with Putin, many of the powers that the office of the president now has are being transferred to the office of the prime minister.

Of course, the Journal’s criticism is well-taken. But let’s not forget that Putin isn’t really doing anything different than Franklin Roosevelt did. You’ll recall that he’s the one who served some 15 years as president. He’s also the president that both conservatives and liberals extol to this day for his centralization of power.

After all, it was Roosevelt who revolutionized America’s economic system, effecting the transformation of America from a free-market, limited-government republic to a socialist welfare state and a fascist regulated economy — and without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment.

Does anyone need to be reminded that it was Roosevelt who came up with such revolutionary socialist and interventionist programs as Social Security, the National Recovery Act (NRA), the Blue Eagle, FDIC, SEC, and the TVA? Does anyone really need an explanation as to how these programs centralized power?

Surely everyone remembers what Roosevelt did when the U.S. Supreme Court declared some of his socialist and fascist programs unconstitutional. He came up with a plan to pack the Court with cronies who would do his bidding. While the plan failed in the short term, the Supreme Court did do Roosevelt’s bidding over the long term, ensuring that Roosevelt’s (and his successors’) socialist and interventionist programs would never again be declared in violation of the Constitution.

In more modern times, let’s not forget the restrictions that both Democrats and Republicans have placed on democracy with the intent of consolidating power.

Consider, for example, the ridiculous petitioning requirements that are designed to prevent independents and third parties from competing against the two major parties. In Virginia, for example, a candidate for statewide office must secure 10,000 valid signatures from registered voters, which means that a candidate must actually get around 16,000 signatures to ensure 10,000 valid ones.

Even worse, he must secure at least 800 valid signatures from each congressional district all across the state. That means he needs about 1,600 signatures from each district to be safe. Ask yourself: If a person has 10,000 people who are willing to sign his petition, why should it make any difference that the people are geographically spread across the state? We don’t run our elections that way, do we?

Assume, for example, that a financially poor inner-city African American from Richmond wants to run for U.S. Senate. Assume that he wants to run on an anti-establishment campaign platform that condemns Social Security (on the grounds that it’s a transfer program from whites to blacks) and the 30-year-war on drugs, which is racist to the core. Assume that he also has thousands of African-American supporters from Richmond ready to help him out and vote for him but that they also lack much money.

What are the chances that such a person will be able to make the race? Not good. For one thing, he and his supporters have to travel all over the state, staying in hotel rooms, and finding places to petition. Remember: They can’t just get their 10,000 valid signatures in Richmond. They have to get them all over the state, including in many of the predominantly white areas.

Keep in mind, however, that the candidate and his supporters lack money.

Keep in mind, also, that it is extremely difficult to find places that will permit petitioning because most stores don’t like their customers being harangued by petitioners.

Keep in mind also that while the petitioning process simply permits a person to run for office, many voters refuse to sign such a petition when they disagree with the views of the candidate. How many white voters are going to sign a petition being offered to them by a group of impoverished African-Americans, who possibly aren’t dressed extremely well, who wish to run an anti-establishment African-American candidate who is going to take away white people’s Social Security and repeal one of the most beloved programs to whites in U.S. history—the war on drugs, a war whose adverse consequences fall disproportionately on blacks?

Combine the petitioning process with the campaign-finance laws, which limit contributions to a candidate to $2,300 per donor. In the absence of such laws, an impoverished African-American might find a few very wealthy individuals who would be willing to bankroll his entire campaign, for example with several donations of hundreds of thousands of dollars. With the $2,300 maximum donation restriction, it is much more difficult for the African-American candidate to raise the necessary funds to compete against the establishment candidates, given that he lacks an enormous base of $2,300 donors and given that wealthy people who share his political philosophy are limited to giving only $2,300 each.

The point of all this is not to take the Wall Street Journal to task for criticizing Putin and his attempts to retain his grasp on power. It’s just to observe that when U.S. conservatives (and liberals) point a finger at Putin for trying to retain his grasp on power, they should remember that they have three fingers pointing back at themselves.

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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Immigration Controls and the Police State
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the things that fascinate me about the immigration debate is those people who say that they favor closed borders but simultaneously oppose the police-state programs that are necessary to enforce such a policy.

For example, some in the anti-immigrant crowd say that they vehemently oppose a national ID card, a type of program that has long been a core aspect of police states. (Just ask former East Germans, former Eastern Europeans, former Soviet citizens, and current citizens of North Korea and Cuba.)

Yet, ask yourself: Under a regime that differentiates between people who are here legally and illegally, how else are people supposed to identify which people are the legal ones and which ones are the illegal ones. Even if you require only foreigners to carry their identification, what’s to stop an illegal immigrant from simply claiming to be an American and, therefore, not needing his “papers”?

Or consider the forcible repatriation of Cuban refugees, including women and children, into Cuban communist tyranny. Some anti-immigrants types recoil against that, still feeling some of the ardent anti-communism that influenced them during the Cold War. Yet, how else are immigration controls supposed to be enforced except by forcibly sending people back to their country of origin?

Or consider the increasing police-state environment along the Southern border. There are actually government checkpoints on highways and in airports for people who have never left the country! That’s right — people who travel along the border and never enter Mexico are subject to being stopped by government gendarmes, just like they were in the Soviet Union and still are in North Korea.

Yet, how else are the federals going to prevent foreigners from simply traveling freely along the highways heading north?

Or consider the raids on American businesses that are suspected of hiring illegal immigrants. Some illegal-immigrant types are opposed to that type of Soviet-like behavior. Yet, by keeping illegal immigrants from getting jobs, aren’t those raids simply a logical consequence of immigration controls?

Or consider the Berlin Fence that is being constructed along the Southern border. It’s trampling on private property and destroying natural habitats, causing some of the anti-immigrant types to oppose it. Yet, isn’t the Berlin Fence the logical consequence of an anti-immigrant policy. After all, don’t forge that the Berlin Wall was very effective in keeping people from crossing the border.

When someone is favoring a particular government program while, at the same time, opposing the police-state means necessary to enforce such a program, perhaps that’s the time that the person should begin re-examining his support of the program itself.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Terrorist Suspects Belong in Federal Court
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The new chief judge of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlman, is being confronted with a paper that was written back in 2002 at the Naval War College criticizing President Bush’s and the Pentagon’s plan to use military tribunals to try suspected terrorists.

The paper said that it would be better to try suspected terrorists as criminal defendants in federal district court rather than in military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, a position that we have advocated here at The Future of Freedom Foundation since 9/11, when President Bush and the Pentagon unilaterally assumed the power to treat people as “enemy combatants” in their “war on terrorism.”

Bush later persuaded the Republican-controlled Congress to ratify such power in the Military Commission Act. No constitutional amendment was ever sought for the exercise of this tyrannical power, and the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the enemy-combatant power and the Military Commission Act.

Today the president and the Pentagon have the option of sending a suspected terrorist down the enemy-combatant road or down the federal-court road. Not only does such discretion violate the age-old principle of the “rule of law,” it also has major consequences for those who are accused of terrorism.

The enemy-combatant road leads to torture and sex abuse, indefinite confinement, rigged and secret kangaroo proceedings, and even execution.

The federal court road leads to due process of law, right to counsel, trial by jury, and protection against illegal searches, self-incrimination, and cruel and unusual punishments.

“Unnecessary use of military tribunals in the face of reasonable international criticism is an ill-advised move,” the Navel War College paper stated. The paper referred to the Bush administration’s “spinmeisters” and, according to the New York Times, dismissed “the argument that the new challenges of fighting terrorism meant that civilian judges and juries would be endangered by federal trials.”

The paper also pointed out that previous prosecutions for terrorism and organized crime showed that “the existing United States criminal justice system does not have to be put aside simply because the potential defendants have scary friends.”

Who was the author of the paper? The new chief judge of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay — Marine Col. Ralph H. Kohlman himself.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Don’t Reform the CIA — Abolish It
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The latest CIA scandal will once again teach Americans a valuable lesson: It is the CIA, not the Congress, that is the ultimate governing authority in this nation. No one messes with the CIA, and the CIA knows it. That’s why it knew that it could destroy CIA’s torture tapes without asking anyone’s permission. And, after all, as Richard Nixon’s advisers told him, better to take a bit of heat for destroying the tapes than to take the heat for what the tapes contained.

While there undoubtedly will be a big hub-hub over the destruction of the tapes and possibly some minor slapping of wrists, the CIA knows that no one is going to be sent to jail or severely punished for torture, obstruction of justice, murder, kidnapping, or any other crime. The uncomfortable fact is — the fact that all too many Americans just don’t want to face, just as many Germans didn’t want to face the truth about the Gestapo — is not that the CIA is above the law but rather that the CIA is the law. It can do whatever it wants with impunity.

The CIA is at the rot at the center of the U.S. Empire. It does the dirty work — the torture, the murders, the assassinations, the regime changes, the coups, the secret prison camps. The secrecy of its operations is guaranteed. No one dares to jack with the CIA. Other federal departments and agencies, as well as Congress, essentially operate in a support role.

Don’t forget that this isn’t the first time that the CIA has destroyed tapes. Recall that the CIA destroyed its tapes regarding Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City prior to the Kennedy assassination. See, for example, “Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City” by John Newman.

Did any heads roll at the CIA because of that? Of course not. Like I say, no one jacks with the CIA, an agency whose mission is to spy on people, keep files on people, kidnap people, drug people, torture people, and murder people. Who is going to jack with an agency with that kind of power? Why, compared to the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI, with their secret files and blackmail, were amateurs.

Also, don’t forget what the CIA did to obstruct justice with CIA operative George Joannides’s role in Congress’s JFK assassination investigation during the 1970s. Acting as if they intended to fully cooperate with the congressional investigation into Kennedy’s murder, they brought Joannides out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s liaison with Congress.

However, the real purpose of appointing Joannides to that position was to keep secret from Congress the fact that the CIA had been funding the anti-Castro group in New Orleans with whom Oswald was interacting. To this date, the CIA absolutely refuses to open its Joannides files to the public, claiming — yes, you guessed it! — “national security.” See, for example, “‘’Denied in Full’: Federal Judges Grill CIA Lawyers on JFK Secrets” by Jefferson Morley.

Have heads rolled at the CIA for that obstruction of justice? Nope. And if the CIA is ever ordered to release the Joannides files on the ground that its “national security” argument is ridiculous, the CIA could then destroy such files without having to worry one whit about the consequences.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the CIA has already destroyed the Joannides files. Who could do anything about it? Don’t forget that this is the agency that destroys people, kidnaps people, tortures people, and kills people with impunity. And everyone in Congress and the rest of the federal government is fully aware of that uncomfortable fact.

Consider, for another example, the CIA’s kidnapping, rendition, and torture of people in Italy and Germany. Will the CIA hand over its agents for trial in those countries, as the authorities in those countries are requesting? Of course not! Why not? Because, again, the CIA is the law — everywhere. It wields the power to kidnap, torture, and kill anyone it wants anywhere in the world and without congressional or judicial interference. I repeat: The CIA is not above the law; it is the law, just as the Gestapo was the law in Nazi Germany.

There is only one solution to the rot at the center of the empire — the same solution that exists when someone is diagnosed with cancer: Radical surgery entailing the eradication of the rot by abolishing, not reforming, the CIA. The abolition of the CIA is a necessary prerequisite to restoring morality and liberty to our country.

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gun Control Protects Murderers
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Let’s compare the two recent murder rampages in the Omaha, Nebraska, shopping mall and the Colorado Springs church camp.

The shopping mall was a “gun-free zone,” a place where people, including murderers, are prohibited from carrying weapons.

As we have long pointed out here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, there is one great big fallacy about rules, regulations, or laws that prohibit people from bearing arms: They rely on the assumption that murderers will obey them.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, people who intend to violate laws against murder are not going to obey gun-control restrictions. The only people who are going to obey such laws are those people who would use firearms to defend themselves from the violent criminals.

Now, it’s true that the Omaha mall is privately owned. Therefore, under libertarian principles it has the right to set any rules and regulations it wishes for people coming onto its property. Consumers, for their part, have the right to comply with the rules or simply not come into the mall. If they come into the mall, they assume the risk of being in a place where a murderer is confident that no one is armed.

But the Omaha murder rampage is a good example of how gun control operates. When a law prohibits people from carrying weaponry, a murderer knows that this is good place to operate. That’s why mass murderers commit their rampages in places like the Omaha mall or Washington, D.C., the disarmed city that is sometimes described as the murder capital of the nation.

If people are free to bear arms, does that mean that everyone who walks into a mall, school, or church camp must be armed? No. The beauty of no gun control is the unknown factor: A murderer has no idea whether someone is armed or not. The greater the probability of someone being armed in the area, the lower the probability that the murderer will select that place for his rampage. After all, when was the last time you saw a mass murderer attacking a gun show?

Moreover, all you need is one person carrying a weapon to put a stop to a killing rampage, as the murderer and the people at the Colorado Springs church camp have discovered. It was quite likely that the murderer believed that it was improbable that anyone at a church camp would be armed. Wrong guess, bozo! Jeanne Assam, a private security guard, was there and armed. She took the murderer out before he could kill more people.

Now, imagine what would have happened if the state had made the Colorado church camp a “gun-free zone,” as it has done with public schools and some colleges. The murderer would have paid no heed to the law and would still have gone on his rampage, as mass murderers did at Columbine High School in Colorado and at Virginia Tech, places that the state had mandated as “gun-free zones.”

Gun control protects murderers and disarms peaceful, law-abiding people. What happened in Omaha and Colorado Springs are just more examples of this principle.

P.S. Our book The Tyranny of Gun Control would make a great Christmas present!

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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tortures, Tapes, and Lies
by Jacob G. Hornberger

CIA Director Michael Hayden is saying that the reason that the CIA destroyed the videotapes of the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists was because he wanted to protect the identity of CIA agents from possible retaliation from al-Qaeda.

That almost certainly has to be a lie. The more likely reason is that Hayden was trying to avoid a repeat of the Abu Ghraib scandal, where the CIA’s and U.S. military’s torture and sex abuse of Iraqi detainees was captured on videotape and, thus, could not be denied by the CIA and the Pentagon.

With the destruction of the CIA’s videotapes, CIA officials are now free to repeat President Bush’s mantra “We don’t torture” and then claim that detainees are lying when they begin describing the torture and sex abuse to which they have been subjected. In the years ahead, as revelations of what the CIA and the Pentagon actually did to people begin to see the light of day, the CIA’s and Pentagon’s favorite mantra will undoubtedly be “Who are you going to believe — a U.S. official or a suspected terrorist,” knowing that the average American would never believe that a U.S. official would lie.

What will happen now? I suspect that Congress will ask the CIA will be asked to conduct its own investigation of the matter, just as the U.S. military was asked to conduct its own investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal. The result will be the same as it was after those 10 or so army investigations into Abu Ghraib — whitewash and cover-up.

Don’t forget that it was the Congress that enacted the Military Commission Act, which granted President Bush’s request for immunity for all U.S. officials who had tortured people after 9/11, even as President Bush was telling the world “We don’t torture and we’re against torture.”

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if your people are not torturing anyone and if you’re against torture, why would you seek immunity from criminal prosecution for tortuous acts committed by your minions?

What all too many Americans don’t want to confront is the virtual certainty that President Bush himself has been lying to the American people and the world. The extreme likelihood is that Bush has known about the torture and sex abuse from the beginning but has felt that he must act like he doesn’t really know about it and that he must act like he opposes it. My hunch is that Bush was up to his neck in the planning of those infamous torture memos, which in my opinion were nothing more than legal opinions designed to give legal cover to the president and his subordinates.

After all, Bush knows that he won’t be in office forever and he knows what has happened to rulers who have committed criminal acts, after they have left office. Even today, the Peruvian people are prosecuting former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for criminal acts allegedly committed while he was in office. And former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet was hounded by prosecutors for crimes he allegedly committed in office until the day he died.

If President Bush truly opposed torture and sex abuse, his attitude would have been totally different than it has been every time there has been a new revelation of torture and sex abuse committed by U.S. personnel or a new revelation of rendition to a foreign country for the purpose of torture and sex abuse. Heads would have rolled. Any attorney in his office who gave him a legal opinion countenancing torture or sex abuse would have been immediately fired. The same would have been done with higher-ups in the CIA and military who were in the chain of command in which the torture and sex abuse took place.

Such actions would have sent a message that torture and sex abuse would not be countenanced. The CIA and the Pentagon would have gotten the message.

Instead, throughout the torture-and-sex-abuse scandals, Bush has taken the passive approach, simply mouthing and re-mouthing his favorite mantra “We don’t torture” every time a new revelation of torture has occurred. It is a mantra that Bush’s subordinates have obviously been cued to repeat whenever their subordinates are caught in a new round of torture and sex abuse. Bush’s passive approach has sent a subtle but important message to U.S. personnel: “Do it, deny it, and continue doing it. You’ll be protected.”

Given the ever-growing magnitude of the torture-and-sex-abuse scandal, what Congress ought to do is repeal the Military Commission Act, including its grant of torture immunity, and then appoint an independent counsel with the mandate to investigate and prosecute anyone, no matter how powerful, involved in the torture and sex abuse of prisoners and detainees.

Don’t hold your breath, however. Given the fact that Congress is more terrified of the CIA and the military than they are of President Bush’s calling them “soft on terrorism,” the likelihood of that happening is, unfortunately, extremely unlikely. After all, don’t forget that it was Congress that let the Pentagon get away with its 10 or so investigatory whitewashes and cover-ups of the Abu Ghraib torture-and-sex-abuse scandal.

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

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bush’s and Musharraf’s Contempt for Judges and Lawyers
by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Guantanamo case heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday raises an important constitutional conflict that the Court will have to resolve.

On the one hand, the Constitution guarantees the privilege of habeas corpus for everyone, foreigners and citizens alike. The only way that can be changed is through constitutional amendment.

On the other hand, the Constitution vests in Congress the power to divest the federal courts of jurisdiction (i.e., power) to hear certain types of cases. In the Military Commissions Act, the Congress removed the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear habeas corpus cases involving foreigners accused of terrorism.

So, the Supreme Court must decide whether the Congress can effectively cancel the constitutional protection of habeas corpus simply by removing the jurisdiction of the courts to hear such cases.

My hunch is that given the long-enshrined established history of habeas corpus as a protection against tyranny, the Court is going to rule in favor of habeas corpus.

What should concern everyone, however, is the contempt that both the president and the Congress have shown for the federal judiciary. The reason that the president persuaded the then-Republican-controlled Congress to remove the power of the courts to hear habeas corpus cases was precisely because he didn’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling that its jurisdiction extended to the Pentagon’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Don’t forget that the only reason that the president and the military established their prison camp in Cuba was to avoid the application of the Constitution and the interference of the federal courts. They wanted to establish an independent, alternative “judicial system” that they considered would be better than the one that the Framers established in the Constitution — one where they could torture and sexually abuse suspected terrorists to their heart’s content and then execute them after conducting a rigged, kangaroo hearing.

So, when the Supreme Court struck down those plans in the case of Rasul vs. Bush, the president and the Pentagon were outraged. That’s when they went to the Congress and secured passage of a law that purported to take away the power of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary to interfere with the Pentagon’s Cuban operations.

Every American should be indignant. This is our Constitution, and the federal judiciary is an essential part of that Constitution. It is the judiciary that has the power to protect our lives, liberty, and property by declaring acts of Congress and actions of the president in violation of the Constitution. After all, don’t forget that the Congress and the president are the biggest threats to our freedom. Our ancestors didn’t mention Congress in the First Amendment for nothing.

Moreover, don’t forget that if the president and the Congress are able to cancel habeas corpus for foreigners that easily, they can just as easily do the same with Americans. And that would enable the president and the military to do what their partner and ally Pervez Musharraf is doing in Pakistan—jailing judges, lawyers, editors, and government critics without fear of judicial interference.

In fact, the contempt that the president and the Congress have shown toward the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts and toward criminal-defense lawyers representing clients at Guantanamo Bay is no different from the contempt that shown by the president’s partner and ally Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Resenting judicial interference with his “war on terrorism,” Musharraf simply dissolved the Supreme Court and jailed the judges who were ruling against him and the lawyers who were arguing against his positions. While Bush and the Congress haven’t gone that far, their removal of the power of the courts to interfere with their “war on terrorism” is based on the same contemptible feelings that Musharraf has toward the judiciary and legal profession.

Federal judicial interference in the “war on terrorism” and the Pentagon’s alternative, independent “judicial” system is absolutely necessary. President Bush has repeatedly said, “We don’t torture,” but most everyone has known he’s been lying. Yesterday, it was revealed that the CIA knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally destroyed videotapes of its torture of terrorist suspects in its custody. Will President Bush and his new attorney general seek indictments for this? Don’t count it. My hunch is that they will simply continue to mouth their standard mantra “We don’t torture … and there are no videotapes in existence to show the contrary.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon continues to operate its kangaroo courts at Guantanamo Bay, where suspects are presumed guilty, lawyers can’t subpoena witnesses or confront witnesses, incriminating evidence adduced by torture is admissible into evidence, lawyers can’t discuss secret evidence with their clients, and proceedings are conducted in secret.

Recently, one lawyer was told by the judge that his request to subpoena witnesses held in custody for the trial of his client came too late. Yet, the judge had never set a deadline for such a request. In other words, the rules are made up as they go along, according to the feelings of the presiding judge, who is a military officer whose career depends on pleasing the Pentagon and the president. The defense lawyer put it succinctly: “We get to the hearing and find we haven’t complied with a rule we didn’t know of. How is that in the interests of justice?”

Hopefully, the Supreme Court might yet put the quietus to all these Soviet-like operations. This is not what America is supposed to be all about. This is what the Soviet Union was all about — and what Red China, North Korea, and Cuba are all about.

Wouldn’t it be great though if there were a reawakening among the American people themselves — one in which they rediscovered their heritage of liberty and the principles of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — a reawakening in which people restored the principles of a constitutional republic to our land, including the recognition of how important an independent federal judiciary and criminal-defense bar is to our liberty?

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

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mussolini and the Mortgage Bailout
by Jacob G. Hornberger

President Bush’s “agreement” with the mortgage industry to freeze interest rates is a reminder of the point that Ludwig von Mises made about interventionism. It is also a reminder of Benito Mussolini’s government-business partnerships that inspired much of the regulatory aspects of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Notice, first of all, that President Bush and his federal cohorts are totally silent about the root cause of this crisis — the out-of-control federal spending that the feds have embarked upon since 9/11, especially to fund the U.S. Empire’s military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Do you remember when these people were suggesting that these adventures would essentially be “free” — that is, that the bills would be covered by nations joining the “coalition of the willing” and by oil taken from the Iraqis?

Those plans obviously didn’t work out. As most people are now realizing, the bills for these adventures continue to soar, with no end in sight.

How do such bills get paid? One option would have been for President Bush to simply raise income taxes on the American people to pay the bills. But Bush didn’t want to do that because he knows that most voters wouldn’t like paying higher taxes. So, he simply began borrowing the money.

Borrowing the money has involved sucking billions of dollars out of the capital markets, not only here in the United States but also internationally. That’s why the Chinese communist regime has now become one of the U.S. government’s big creditors.

As the government continued sucking all that capital out of the private sector to fund the military adventures, the inevitable result was a drying up of capital for things like refinancing home mortgages on favorable interest terms.

Thus, given that Bush’s adventures were not going to be free, it was just a question of who was going to have to pay for them. Since the taxpayers weren’t going to be charged, the bills had to fall on someone, and they did — on all those homeowners who signed those adjustable rate mortgages and who now can’t find mortgage companies to give them favorable deals on refinancing. It would be interesting to know how many of these homeowners supported Bush’s imperial adventures.

Ludwig von Mises pointed out that one government intervention inevitably leads to more interventions. Here we have a good example of that phenomenon. Bush’s interventionism in overseas affairs leads to a mortgage crisis at home, which then leads to Mussolini-type partnerships with the private sector designed to “encourage” the financial institutions to not enforce the terms of their contracts. And it’s all designed to look “voluntary.”

Of course, all that federal debt, including the monies owed to the Chinese communists, must be paid back. Ordinarily, that would mean higher taxes coming down the pike. Again, however, Bush has repeatedly told people that he’s a “no-new-taxes” type of guy.

That’s where the Federal Reserve has been so accommodating. It simply prints the money that is needed to accommodate the debt. That’s why the value of the dollar has plummeted some 50 percent in the last 4 or 5 years. That is what is called “devaluation,” at least when Third World regimes do it. It involves a debasing of the currency in order to pay the ever-rising bills of the government.

The average American has no idea what it being done to him because it’s a process that people are not taught in their economics and civics classes in high school and college. Students are taught that inflation is simply “rising prices” that mysteriously afflict societies from time to time, oftentimes as part of a nation’s “free-enterprise system.”

That’s in fact why many Americans believe that the Great Depression was a failure of America’s free-enterprise system. That’s what is taught in American’s public schools and colleges. Most Americans have no idea of the role that the Federal Reserve played in bringing about the Great Depression. At least Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, acknowledged as much when he said back in 2002: “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna [Friedman]: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.” (See “Monetarist Explanations” and “Austrian School Explanations” at Wikipedia’s “Causes of the Great Depression.”)

Meanwhile, the presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic, are stumbling over themselves to outdo Bush with grandiose plans to help out borrowers with their own financial bailout plans. Notice that not one of them has offered to help out any particular borrower by sending him a check out of his own personal funds. Instead, it’s all about using federal power to force lenders or taxpayers to take the hit.

Also, never mind that the Constitution does not provide the federal government with the power to impair contracts. Who’s paying attention to the Constitution? Hey, we’re at war! Just like Mussolini.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Educational Whackiness
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the issues that hasn’t surfaced in a big way in the presidential race is education, which is unfortunate given that it is such an important part of our lives. There are two primary sub-issues involved here: (1) whether to end all federal involvement in education, especially through the abolition of the Department of Education, and (2) whether to abolish public schooling at the state and local level.

I think that most everyone would agree that public schooling has been an abject failure, despite many, many decades of trying. Public schooling destroys the natural love of learning that every child has up to the time that he is six years of age. It is a system that is based on coercion at all levels, including coercion in attendance and coercion in funding. It is impossible to measure the psychological damage that such coercion has on children, but it has to be immense.

One perversity in all this is that those children who naturally resist this aberrant, coercive system are punished (or “treated”) with mind-altering drugs designed to mold their minds into one of conformity and obedience. Tragically, all too many parents, who themselves are products of public schooling, fail to recognize that the child who resists the system is behaving in a healthy, normal fashion. It is the people who are drugging him who are behaving in an abnormal, aberrant manner.

None of this failure and perversity is a surprise to libertarians. Unlike conservatives and liberals, libertarians understand that socialism is an inherently defective system. It would be difficult to find a better model of socialism than public schooling. It’s not a coincidence that public schooling is a central feature of life in Cuba, North Korea, and China.

To belabor the obvious, public schooling is a government program. It is run like the army — in a top-down, command-and-control manner. The people who run the system are government officials, either elected or appointed. The curriculum is set by government officials. Attendance is mandatory and enforced by harsh penalties involving jail and fines. Funding is through taxation, even for people who don’t have children. Every aspect of public schooling is politicized.

I challenge anyone: Show me a better model of socialism than public schooling and use any country you want, including China, North Korea, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union.

You’ll have a hard time meeting the challenge.

Now, ask yourself: Is it possible that socialism can be made to succeed? That’s obviously an important question because if you say, “Yes!” then you might be tempted to devote part of your life, your energy, your time, and your money to trying to improve public schooling. That’s in fact what has happened to both conservatives and liberals who are now working in the Department of Education or on state or local school boards. They have either convinced themselves that they can help make socialism work or, even worse, they have falsely convinced themselves that public schooling isn’t really socialism, at least not when it’s run by Americans.

The education issue is just one more example of how libertarians have a much better grasp on reality than conservatives and liberals.

First of all, we libertarians recognize that public schooling is a socialist program.

Second, we libertarians recognize that socialism is an inherently defective system. No matter what anyone does — no matter which reform is employed — no matter how much money is thrown at the system — public schooling will never work because it can never work. That’s what “inherently defective” means — that something cannot be made to work no matter what is done to it.

Third, we libertarians favor a free market in education, which would entail the end of all government involvement in education. Families would be free to employ any educational vehicle that they chose for the education of their children. Entrepreneurs would be free to provide any range of educational opportunities to families.

What could be more whacky than supporting a failed system — socialism — that has caused so much damage and that is inherently defective? What could be more rational than supporting a system — the free market — that has proven to be a resounding success in other parts of our lives?

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bush and His Scary (Nonexistent) WMDs in Iran
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Well, well, well. It seems that President Bush might have to fall back on a democracy-spreading rationale for attacking Iran, just as he did with Iraq when those scary WMDs that Saddam was going to use to conquer America failed to materialize.

The CIA and 15 other U.S. spy agencies (yes, 16 in all!) have issued a National Intelligence Estimate reporting that Iran halted its nuclear-weapon program in 2003, contradicting what Bush and Vice President Cheney have been suggesting for the past 4 years.

In fact, it turns out that Bush knew about the report when he issued his infamous warning to the American people that to prevent World War III, it is necessary to prevent Iran from pursuing a nuclear-weapons program.

Let’s also not forget all the scaremongering that the U.S. neo-con community has been engaged in for the past few years. How many times have we been told that it is necessary to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran in order to protect the national security of the United States?

Has the Intelligence Estimate sabotaged any plans that Bush and Cheney might have to bomb Iran? It’s not clear yet. Don’t forget that they still have the democracy-spreading rationale to fall back on, as they did with Iraq. After the intelligence estimate was made public, Bush announced that he would keep sanctions imposed on Iran and even seek more stringent sanctions. His rationale? That Iran could possibly seek to pursue a nuclear-weapons program at some indefinite time in the future.

Of course, all these rationales are nothing more than fake and false window-dressing to disguise the real purpose of the sanctions and a possible war on Iran — to oust the radical Islamic regime in Iran and replace it with a U.S. stooge.

Don’t forget that that’s what U.S. officials did in 1953. That was when the CIA, intervening in the affairs of a foreign country, secretly engineered a coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and installed the brutal, unelected dictator known as the Shah of Iran. Don’t forget also that the CIA helped the Shah to set up a domestic version of the CIA in Iran — the brutal Savak, which then proceeded to terrorize and torture the Iranian people for the next 25 years.

Make no mistake about it: There was nothing democratic about Iran under the Shah. All that mattered though to U.S. officials was that this brutal dictator was a U.S. stooge. What he did to suppress internal dissent against his rule was fine.

In fact, the U.S. government’s attitude toward the Shah was, in principle, no different from its attitude toward Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf. Who cares that Musharraf has dissolved the Supreme Court because it was going to rule against him? So what if he has jailed lawyers and judges who are seeking nothing more than an independent judiciary? So what if he has imposed a crackdown enforced by his military and police goons? As President Bush put it, Musharraf hasn’t really crossed any lines and is a lover of democracy. Hey, as long as the dictator remains a U.S. stooge, what else matters?

It was the same with Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials loved Saddam. That’s why they delivered those infamous WMDs to him. It’s why they supported his war against Iran (after the Iranian people ousted the Shah from power). It was only when it became clear that Saddam was not going to be their stooge that they turned against him.

And notice that the same pattern that they used to effect regime change in Iraq is repeating itself with Iran. First, they impose brutal economic sanctions whose effects fall not on the rulers but instead on the citizenry. No price is too high to pay, as Iraqi families learned who lost hundreds of thousands of children as a consequence of the sanctions. When the sanctions fail to encourage the people to oust their regime and install a U.S. stooge into power, the scare-mongering begins as a prelude to a military strike: “Oh! Saddam (or the Ayatollah) is coming to America with mushroom clouds and other WMDs or intends to conquer our nation, taking over the IRS, the public schools, and the DEA. We have to bomb now, not later!”

And then after the bombs have fallen and tens of thousands of people killed, the inevitable announcement: “Whoops, it was all a stupid mistake. It turns out that there weren’t any WMDs after all. Oh well, while we’re here, we might as well stay and rebuild Iraq, even if our brutal occupation results in having to kill hundreds of thousands more, including those ‘terrorists’ who don’t want us here. No price is too high to pay for democracy.”

As we have been pointing out ever since Bush’s “democratic” elections in Iraq, the winner of Bush’s war on Iraq has been Iran. Bush’s invasion and occupation failed to install a U.S. stooge into power (such as Chalabi or Allawi, who Bush figured would be installed). Instead, a radical pro-Iran Islamic regime is now in charge of Iraq. And Bush figures that his only way to salvage this deadly, U.S. money-burning quagmire is to return to the halcyon days of yesteryear — by effecting another regime change in Iran that will install another Shah-like U.S. stooge into power.

Finally, let’s not forget something else very important about the Iran situation: We now live in a country in which one man — the president — wields the omnipotent power to decide whether to declare war on Iran — the power to ignore the constitutional requirement to seek a declaration of war from Congress. If that’s not dictatorial power, what is?

At least Americans are getting to witness the realities of the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy firsthand. Let’s just hope that the U.S. intelligence community’s report, combined with an awakening among the general public, not only dissuades President Bush from ordering his military to kill Iranians but also, in the longer term, helps to restore our Founder’s vision of a limited-government republic and a non-interventionist foreign policy to our land.

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

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fight Despotism with Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Donald Rumsfeld — you remember him, right? He was U.S. Secretary of Defense (sic) during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Well, he popped up in the news over the weekend with an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “The Smart Way to Beat Tyrants Like Chavez.”

Let me first give Rumsfeld some credit. In his op-ed, he does not call for invading Venezuela to get rid of Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez. Perhaps he learned something in Iraq — that when military means are used to get rid of a foreign dictator, hundreds of thousands of people have to be killed in order to get rid of the dictator. With estimates of Iraqi dead reaching in excess of a million, perhaps the deepest recesses of Rumsfeld’s conscience are starting to prick at him for the death and destruction that he and President Bush have wrought in Iraq.

There certainly didn’t seem to be much conscience working in the early days of the war. Wasn’t it Rumsfeld who said that “freedom” wasn’t tidy when he confronted with the massive unrestrained looting of Iraqi museums? But of course at that point, it was necessary to send a message to the world: This is what happens to countries that refuse to oust independent dictators and replace them with dictators that we like.

After all, who can forget the famous photograph of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein? Of course, that was during the time that U.S. officials loved Saddam, even to the point of sending him those infamous weapons of mass destruction that Rumsfeld was diligently looking for many years later when his troops invaded Iraq.

Thus, the only real beef that Rumsfeld has with Chavez is not that Chavez is a dictator but simply that Chavez doesn’t take his orders from Washington. In fact, the Rumsfeld mindset toward Chavez is no different than the U.S. government’s decades-long obsession with removing Castro from power. They’ve never liked Castro simply because Castro doesn’t take orders from Washington.

Look at Pervez Musharraf. Did Rumsfeld dare to mention his military crackdown in Pakistan, a crackdown that has involved the dissolution of the Supreme Court and the jailing of lawyers, judges, and dissidents? Of course not. Musharraf is a personal friend and ally of U.S. officials, just as Saddam was when Rummy had his photograph taken with him. He’s “our” despot and, thus, that makes him different from Chavez. The same holds true for the many Latin American dictators that U.S. officials have installed or supported over the years.

In his op-ed, Rumsfeld says that yesterday’s constitutional referendum in Venezuela threatened to destroy “the few remaining vestiges of Venezuelan democracy.” (By the way, Venezuelan voters defeated the referendum.) But Rumsfeld fails to give credit where credit is due. At least Chavez put his power grab up the voters in a vote involving a constitutional amendment. Did Rumsfeld’s boss, President Bush, bother to do that after 9/11? Nope. He simply assumed the omnipotent, dictatorial power to jail suspected terrorists as “enemy combatants” and deny them trial by jury, right to counsel, due process of law, protection from cruel and unusual punishments, and habeas corpus. In fact, does Chavez even claim to wield the “enemy combatant” power that Bush now wields?

In his op-ed, Rumsfeld suggests that “free trade” is the key to dealing with despots like Chavez. Unfortunately, he’s not talking about “free trade” with Venezuela. Instead, he’s talking about “free trade” with neighboring countries as a way to counteract Chavez’s influence.

Of course, it’s not truly free trade that Rumsfeld is talking about. Instead, he’s talking about managed trade — trade that is entered into by political agreements between governments and whose intent is to serve the imperial ends of Washington.

In fact, Rumsfeld’s op-ed perfectly reflects the imperial mindset that guides Washington. These people always see all sorts of international threats facing America — communism, Islam, terrorism, rogue nations, despots, dictators — and then figure out ways for the U.S. government to extend its octopus-like reach all over the world to protect the nation from all these “threats.”

What these people cannot see, however, is that their interventionist machinations only make things worse for our nation. As John Quincy Adams pointed out, there will always be plenty of monsters all over the world, but for more than a century the U.S. government did not go abroad to slay them. By abandoning that non-interventionist philosophy, the interventionists have plunged our nation into a state of perpetual crisis with perpetual enemies requiring a state of perpetual war with a perpetually plunging dollar as a result of perpetually rising expenditures for a perpetually growing military-industrial complex.

Rumseld is on the right track in talking about free trade but his warped and paranoid way of looking at the world prevents him from seeing the real road our nation needs to be traveling. The best way for America to deal with foreign dictators and despots is simply by dropping all trade barriers with every single nation, unilaterally, including with nations that are ruled by despots, dictators, and monsters. No agreements. No managed trade. No treaties. Just free the American people to trade with whom they want to trade and travel wherever they want to travel and spend their money any way they choose.

Consider Cuba, for instance, where the U.S. embargo has harmed the Cuban people for decades in the hope that the Cuban people will finally oust Castro from office and replace him with a U.S.-approved stooge. Why not simply lift the embargo and stop threatening Americans with criminal prosecution for traveling to Cuba and spending their money there? What better way to fight foreign despotism than by strengthening the economic and non-economic relationships that private Americans have with the citizens of countries suffering under despotism?

Why fight foreign despotism with economic despotism over the American people? Wouldn’t it be better to fight despotism with freedom?

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

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Venezuelan Sheep and the Magic Word
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Whatever else might be said about Venezuela’s president Hugh Chavez, no one can deny that he is an astute politician. For example, at election time he hands out federal grants to the voters, knowing that this will purchase their votes, just as President Bush and other American politicians do with American voters here in the United States.

And he also loves to conjure up the constant threat of an imminent foreign attack as a way to get the people to patriotically rally ’round the flag and support their government and its troops, just as President Bush and other American politicians do here in the United States.

But Chavez may have made a major political mistake in his latest grab for more power. Thousands of Venezuelan citizens, including some of his own supporters, are protesting Chavez’s proposed constitutional amendments that would centralize even more power in the presidency.

For example, Ivonne Torrealba, a 29-year-old hairdresser exclaimed, “Chavez is delirious if he thinks we’re going to follow him like sheep.”

So, what was Chavez’s mistake? While he has labeled opposition to his constitutional amendments as “treason,” he failed to use the magic word as part of his sales pitch for more power. If he had just mentioned the magic word — “terrorism” — who can doubt that the Venezuelan masses would indeed have followed him like sheep?

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.