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, April 2008


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Heroes at Guantanamo
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Just as Eastern European and Russian dissidents who opposed the Soviet Empire’s tyrannical system are today celebrated as heroes, so it will be with those Americans who have opposed the Pentagon’s system at Guantanamo Bay. Among the heroes will be Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who formerly served as the Defense Department’s chief prosecutor for terrorism cases.

This week Davis took the witness stand under oath in a hearing at Guantanamo Bay involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, an alleged driver for Osama bin Laden. Davis’s sworn testimony exposed how the Pentagon’s “judicial” system at Gitmo is nothing but an elaborate sham that has nothing to do with justice.

According to the Washington Post, Davis’s testimony “offered a harsh insider’s critique of how senior political officials have allegedly influenced the system created to try suspected terrorists outside existing military and civilian courts…. Davis told Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, who presided over the hearing, that top Pentagon officials, including Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England, made it clear to him that charging some of the highest-profile detainees before elections this year could have ‘strategic political value.’”

Confirming that the presiding judges would be expected to return predetermined verdicts of guilty, Davis testified that Defense Department counsel William J. Haynes II bristled at the suggestion that there could be acquittals at Guantanamo Bay. According to Davis, Haynes said, “We can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals. We have to have convictions.”

So, what’s the purpose of having a trial? Just for show. Pentagon officials know that it might not look good to simply line up the “terrorists” at Guantanamo in front of a firing squad and kill them. Many Americans and most of the world would feel squeamish or outraged over such Soviet-like behavior.

Thus, better to convene a kangaroo court, one where loyal and obedient military judges can be expected to “do their duty” to their superiors by returning verdicts of guilty and preferably doing so right around election time so that pro-war-on-terrorism political candidates can garner some favorable publicity.

Pentagon officials make no apologies. Since they’re “certain” that the people they’re holding at Guantanamo are “guilty,” what difference does it make if they’re not given a fair trial? As Comdr. Pauline A. Storum, the spokeswoman for Guantanamo, bluntly put it, “We are holding the right people, in the right place, for the right reasons, and doing it the right way.”

Never mind that over the years the Pentagon has released a number of prisoners from its Guantanamo gulag, which would indicate that mistakes have been made. Never mind that juries in the United States have returned verdicts of acquittal in cases where U.S. officials were “certain” that the defendants had committed terrorist acts. And never mind that the very purpose of a fair trial is to determine whether the government’s allegations are true.

No, none of that matters. All that matters is that military officials are “certain” that the people they’re holding at their prison camp at Guantanamo Bay are guilty of the crimes for which they are being accused and, therefore, deserve to be punished for their actions. The ends justify the means, including kangaroo tribunals whose verdicts are predetermined and timed for maximum political benefit.

Davis, who currently heads the Air Force Judiciary, must realize that his military career is now over, which is undoubtedly why he now plans to retire. Although the Pentagon no doubt views him as a “bad guy,” Davis’s actions are as heroic as those exhibited by Eastern European and Soviet dissidents during the era of Soviet tyranny. The American people and the people of the world owe Morris Davis a deep debt of gratitude for his courage and heroism.

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

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Presumption of Guilt at Guantanamo
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the principle differences between the Pentagon’s military-tribunal system and the U.S. federal-court system for prosecuting accused terrorists involves the presumption of innocence. In the federal-court system, the accused is presumed innocent while in the Pentagon’s system, the accused is presumed guilty and treated accordingly.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times reflects how the Pentagon treats accused terrorists. Prisoners at Gitmo are held in isolated cells for extended periods. Family visits, televisions, and radios are prohibited. A new policy will permit one telephone call a year.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who is accused of being Osama bin Laden’s driver, has been imprisoned for more than six years. He has had two phone calls to his family and no visits during that time. “Conditions are asphalt, excrement and worse. Why, why, why?” he wrote his lawyers.

Prisoners at Gitmo cannot see the outside from their cells. Two hours of recreation each day are sometimes offered in the dark. One prisoner, Abdulghappar Turkistani, said to his lawyers, “Losing any contact with anyone also being forbidden from the natural sunlight, natural air, being surrounded with a metal box all around is not suitable for a human being.”

Taking a page from jails run by the Soviet Union and China, the Pentagon does not permit reporters or Amnesty International to visit with detainees at Guantanamo.

The result of the mistreatment is that many of the prisoners at Guantanamo have gone insane or become mentally unstable, causing their lawyers to file motions relating to their inability to properly defend themselves under such conditions. Of course, since the judges who will be ruling on such motions are military personnel, the chance that such motions will granted are slim and none, especially given that Pentagon officials are, not surprisingly, denying any mistreatment of prisoners as well as claims of mental disorder.

The implicit justification for the mistreatment of Guantanamo prisoners is the Pentagon’s presumption of guilt. Since all these prisoners are dangerous terrorists, the reasoning goes, what’s wrong with treating them as such? Never mind that they’ve never been convicted of terrorism in a fair trial. Never mind that the Pentagon has released many accused terrorists from Guantanamo over the years, which might indicate that mistakes have been made. And never mind that many accused terrorists who were accorded the federal-court route have been acquitted. The Pentagon is “certain” that its prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp are guilty and so, the reasoning goes, there’s nothing wrong with treating them as guilty.

As Comdr. Pauline A. Storum, the spokeswoman for Guantanamo, bluntly put it, “We are holding the right people, in the right place, for the right reasons, and doing it the right way.”

Of course, in the federal-court system, federal officials could never get away with treating accused terrorists in the way that the Pentagon treats accused terrorists. Given even a hint of mental or physical torture or sex abuse, a criminal-defense attorney would immediately file a motion with the federal judge presiding over the case, who in turn would immediately schedule a hearing on the matter.

If the evidence at the hearing shows that an accused terrorist (or any other accused prisoner) is being mistreated, the federal judge will immediately order a stop to it. If they know what’s good for them, federal agents and prison officials will immediately comply with the judge’s order.

The primary reason that the federal courts will ensure the proper treatment of an accused prisoner is the presumption of innocence. Until the government proves beyond a reasonable doubt in a fair trial, usually one involving a jury, that a person has committed a crime, he remains as innocent in the eyes of the law as everyone else.

Thus, it should surprise no one that such terrorists as Ramzi Yousef (1993 WTC attack) and Zacharias Moussaoui (9/11 WTC attack), both of whom received federal-court treatment, did not receive the horrible abuse that accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay have received. The federal judges who presided over their prosecutions would never have permitted it, no matter how convinced prosecutors were of their guilt.

Of course, that’s not to say that some accused defendants don’t have to remain in jail until their trial. Oftentimes, bail is denied for various reasons. But even in jail, accused criminal defendants in the federal-court system are entitled to be treated humanely, which means visitors, meetings with attorneys, and no mental and physical torture, sex abuse, or extended periods of isolation. Perhaps most important, they are entitled to a speedy trial to ensure that innocent people are not held in prison indefinitely.

With its denigration of the presumption of innocence, right to speedy trial, protection from cruel and unusual punishments, and denial of other due-process protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights, the Pentagon’s criminal-justice system closely resembles that of Fidel Castro. How appropriate that the Pentagon located it in Cuba rather than in America.

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

Friday, April 25, 2008

False Altruism for Muslims and Jews
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ever since invading U.S. troops failed to find those infamous WMDs that Saddam was supposedly about to unleash on the United States, U.S. officials have claimed that their primary objective in invading and occupying Iraq, a predominantly Muslim country, has been an altruistic one: They did it out of love and concern for the Iraqi people, nobly sacrificing more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers, countless Iraqis, and billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money for the sake of “democracy” and “freedom.”

However, it is difficult to reconcile that purported altruism with the U.S. government’s refusal to permit Iraqi refugees to immigrate to the United States.

Due to the devastation that the U.S. invasion and occupation have wrought in Iraq, there are 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, a country headed by a regime that is considered evil by U.S. officials, and Jordan, which is ruled by an authoritarian regime that U.S. officials consider a good ally of the U.S. government.

Guess how many Iraqi refugees the altruists in the U.S. government admitted to the United States from 2003 to 2007. The grand total of 466. That’s right — less than 500 Iraqi refugees. (See:http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/continued/3611/they_cant_go_home_again.)

In early 2007, U.S. officials promised to admit 25,000 Iraqis to the United States. That number then fell to 7,000, and then again to 2,000. By the end of 2007, the grand total of 1,608 Iraqi refugees had been admitted into the U.S. by federal altruists. Today, the total number of Iraqi refugees who have been permitted to enter the U.S. is less than 5,000. (See:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/opinion/22abramowitz.html.)

Compare that 5,000 figure to the 1.5 million — yes, million — that Syria and Jordan, both of which are predominantly Muslim countries, have admitted. Indeed, compare that 5,000 figure to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that have been killed or maimed as a consequence of the purportedly altruistic U.S. intervention in Iraq.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that immigration controls have been used for keeping out people that the U.S. military was supposedly trying to save. How often do we hear U.S. officials glorifying World War II as the “good war” because of the purported attempt by U.S. officials to save the Jews from the Holocaust?

Yet, as I pointed out in an article I wrote in June 1991 entitled “Locking Out the Immigrant,” the truth is that U.S. officials, during the purportedly altruistic regime of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, intentionally and deliberately used immigration controls to prevent Jews from immigrating from Germany to the United States.

As I wrote in that article, “The sordid facts and details are set forth in two books:While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy by Arthur D. Morse and The Holocaust Conspiracy: An International Policy of Genocide by William R. Perl.

As Morse observed,

“The United States not only insisted upon its immigration law throughout the Nazi era, but administered it with severity and callousness. In spite of unprecedented circumstances, the law was constricted so that even its narrow quotas were not met. The lamp remained lifted beside the golden door, but the flame had been extinguished and the door was padlocked.”

Perl writes:

“Anti-Semitism … was certainly a part of the anti-immigration mood of the country, but it was not the sole cause. This was 1938, the U.S. was still on the fringes of the 1929 depression and fear that newcomers would take away jobs needed from those already in the country was genuine.”

The truth and the reality are that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq no more had anything to do with an altruistic love and concern for the Iraqi people, most of whom are Muslims, than U.S. entry into World War II had anything to do with an altruistic love and concern for the Jewish people. But how else could the American people have been made to feel good about all the death, maiming, torture, and destruction in Iraq, especially after Saddam’s infamous WMDs failed to materialize?

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

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kangaroo Tribunals versus Trial by Jury
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ever since 9/11 the U.S. government has maintained a criminal-justice system that enables it to treat suspected terrorists in two alternative ways: as criminal defendants in federal district court or as unlawful enemy combatants in the Pentagon’s military system. It would be difficult to find a better example of denial of equal protection and a violation of the rule of law than this optional, ad hoc, discretionary power to treat accused terrorists in two completely different ways.

One of the reasons that the Pentagon has tried its best to shunt accused terrorists into its system is the right of trial by jury, a critically important right that, prior to 9/11, used to be guaranteed to all people accused of terrorism. The reason the Pentagon is so prejudiced against trial by jury is that unlike trials in which military judges are deciding the guilt or innocence of an accused, a jury of regular citizens injects an element of “conscientious unpredictability” into the proceedings.

In military-tribunal proceedings, such as those that are supposed to take place in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp sometime in the future, President Bush and his team of military prosecutors can safely count on the judges to render the guilty verdict that prosecutors are seeking. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the fact that a prosecution in a military tribunal is even taking place itself sends a direct message to the military judges who are deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused: the president and his subordinates are convinced that the accused is a person who is guilty of terrorism and that he deserves to be convicted and punished.

The judges on the military tribunal are military personnel. As such, their careers depend on the information and reports that are placed in their files, which follow them throughout their careers. Every military person knows that negative reports in his career file inevitably hurt his chances for promotion and advancement, especially when he gets to the higher grades of rank (e.g., colonel, general, etc.).

So, how likely is it that military officials serving on military tribunals are going to buck their commander in chief and their superiors in the Pentagon by essentially ruling, “Mr. President, you and your people are wrong. You have accused, tortured, and abused this innocent man for more than five years. I am voting ‘not guilty’”?

Not very likely at all, unless the president and his subordinates in the Pentagon have signalled that an acquittal would be acceptable to them.

On the other hand, as our American ancestors understood so well, a jury of regular citizens is much more likely to take a critical look at the government’s evidence in a criminal prosecution. One big reason is that their careers don’t turn on their verdict. Thus, they are likely to take their responsibilities as independent determiners of the guilt or innocence of the accused much more seriously and critically than military judges.

This phenomenon was recently confirmed in an article entitled “Few Clear Wins in U.S. Anti-Terror Cases” in the April 21 issue of the Washington Times. The article pointed out that jurors in various federal terrorism prosecutions have failed to buy the government’s case, resulting in either acquittals or a hung juries.

One big example is the famous Miami terrorism case involving a supposed conspiracy to blow up the Chicago Sears Tower, which Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez had stated, amidst considerable fanfare, “represented a new brand of terrorism [that] may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda.”

After hearing all the evidence that federal prosecutors presented, the first jury in the Miami prosecution acquitted one defendant and was unable to reach a verdict with respect to the other defendants. In the second trial, which was recently held, the jury was again unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Federal prosecutors have just announced that they’re going to try a third time. As Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington’s Law School (who will be a speaker at FFF’s June 6-8 conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties”) put it, “These are the types of prosecutors Las Vegas is built on. They keep returning to the table with the same losing hand.”

If the Miami terrorist prosecution had been brought instead in a military tribunal, the result, almost certainly, would have been entirely different. For one thing, if the defendants had been subjected to the same treatment accorded to terrorist suspects in CIA and Pentagon custody at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, they would have been tortured or sexually abused into making confessions or incriminating admissions that would have been admissible at their trials. More important, the possibility that military judges would go against their commander-in-chief’s military prosecutors is virtually non-existent.

Our American ancestors brought into existence the finest criminal-justice system in history, one in which criminal defendants, regardless of crime or nationality, are accorded such important procedural rights as right to counsel, presumption of innocence, right to confront witnesses, freedom from self incrimination, protection against cruel and unusual punishments, trial by jury, and due process of law.

What a shame that in post-9/11 America the Pentagon has hijacked that great judicial system in favor of one involving torture and sex abuse, presumption of guilt, coerced confessions, hearsay evidence, denial of due process, and kangaroo military tribunals with predetermined verdicts.

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Censorship as Freedom
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Conservatives are reigning supreme in Afghanistan and the United States, especially in their advancement of censorship.

In Afghanistan, a country whose regime was installed thanks to the U.S. invasion of that country several years ago, the minister for information and culture, Abdul Karim Khurram, an Afghan conservative, has ordered television networks to stop broadcasting five soap operas because they were not consistent with “Afghan religion and culture.”

Meanwhile, Khurram’s counterparts in the United States — the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), all of whom have been appointed by President Bush, an American conservative — are fining U.S. television networks for “fleeting” use of profanities on live awards shows.

Thank goodness for conservatives! How else would people be protected from inappropriate words and programs on television? We wouldn’t expect people to take personal responsibility for what they choose to watch on television, would we? How in the world could we trust them to make the “correct” choices? What if lots of people made the “wrong” choices, as they were doing in Afghanistan, given the enormous popularity of the soap operas that were canceled?

Hey, maybe we ought to extend the jurisdiction of the FCC to newspapers, magazines, and books sold in the United States. After all, should we trust the same people who can’t be trusted with television choices to make choices on what to read and look at in publications?

Addressing the FCC matter, the Nashville Tennessean put it well in an editorial: “Once the government can decide what is obscene, they can easily move on to what is ‘dangerous’ speech because it disagrees with the politics of the current administration. The other word for it is censorship, and that is a dirty word, indeed.”

Don’t tell that to U.S. officials. They’re still convinced that their military invasion and occupation have brought “freedom” to Afghanistan, the same type of “freedom” that the FCC brings to America.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Will the CIA Kill or Oust Ecuador’s President?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa may not be long for this world, both in a political sense and in genuine life-or-death sense. He recently fired his defense minister, army chief of intelligence, and commanders of the army, air force, and joint chiefs.

Why might those firings cost Correa his job or even his life? Because the reason he fired them was that Ecuador’s intelligence systems were “totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA.” As other rulers around the world, including democratically elected ones, have learned the hard way, bucking the CIA is a real no-no that sometimes leads to coups and assassinations.

What’s the CIA doing infiltrating Ecuador’s military intelligence systems? Good question! Maybe it’s because the CIA still fears the threat of communism. Don’t forget that that was the apparent rationale for the U.S. government’s support of Operation Condor, the campaign of assassination and torture co-sponsored by the brutal regimes in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru during the 1970s. Don’t forget also that many of the brutal military personnel in those regimes received their training at the U.S. Army’s infamous School of the Americas, famous for, among other things, its torture manuals.

To make matters worse for Correa, he promises to throw the U.S. military out of his country when the U.S. government’s lease at its base in Manta expires in 2009. The U.S. government spent $60 million to build the base in 1999, securing a 10-year lease that provided no rent to be paid to Ecuador.

So, why does the U.S. military have a $60 million military base in Ecuador? The base is part of the U.S. government’s much-vaunted 30-year-old war on drugs, one of the U.S. Empire’s never-ending wars around the world. The base houses Awacs surveillance planes whose purported mission is to search for international drug smugglers.

What irked President Correa is that apparently his CIA-infested intelligence services fed classified information to Colombian officials that led to a Colombian military attack on a Colombian rebel camp that was located inside Ecuador. One big problem was that when Correa’s intelligence services leaked the information to Colombia, they left Correa (their boss) out of the loop.

The final nail in Correa’s coffin might be the fact that he is an ally of Venezuela’s Marxist president Hugo Chavez, who himself is a likely target of CIA ouster or assassination.

The good news for Americans in all this is that the Ecuadorian people are doing their best to rid their country of the CIA and the U.S. military. Maybe the Ecuadorans will start a trend in which all other countries will do the same. While it would obviously be best if the American people were to dismantle their government’s overseas empire themselves, having foreigners do it instead by throwing the CIA and the Pentagon out of their countries would be just as effective and beneficial — to both the United States and the people of the world.

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

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Monstrous Cancer of the Military-Industrial Complex
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A front-page article in yesterday’s New York Times reminds us of the ominous 1961 warning of President Dwight Eisenhower, a warning that unfortunately the American people decided to ignore. Eisenhower wrote:

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Yesterday’s New York Times article, details the monstrous cancer of the military-industrial complex that has come to infect the American body politic. The article details the intricate connections between the Pentagon and the “independent” military analysts who appear on the major television networks, analysts who also serve as representatives for the contractors who are vying for military contracts as part of the “war on terror” and the war on Iraq.

As most anyone who watches television knows, ever since 9/11 the television networks have relied upon a group of military analysts consisting mostly of retired generals and colonels. The job of these analysts has been to provide television viewers with “independent” expert military analysis.

As the Times investigative article points out, however, the analysts were not quite as independent as one might believe. They were actually part of an orchestrated Pentagon propaganda campaign to mold the minds of the American people into accepting and embracing the official government line with respect to both the “war on terrorism” and the war on Iraq.

How did the Pentagon convert the analysts into propaganda puppets? When generals and colonels retire, they sometimes feel a need to supplement their government pensions. What better way to do that than by joining a firm that is vying for all those fat military contracts or by joining a lobbying firm that represents such firms, especially after 9/11 when military spending started going through the roof?

A lobbyist’s value is going to depend on how successful he is in securing government contracts. Such success depends on having access to the people who have the power to award the contracts, i.e., officials in the Pentagon.

So, in order to gain the required access to Pentagon officials, the analysts were expected to spout the official government line on the television networks on which they were appearing. If they criticized or challenged any official Pentagon position, they knew that Pentagon officials would simply stop granting them access, which would mean no more military contracts for their companies or clients. The more appearances they made on television spouting the official government line, the more brownie points they received from Pentagon officials.

Consider, for example, the run-up to the Iraq war, a war that was waged against a country that never attacked the United States. According to the article, “In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive ‘war of liberation.’”

Later, the analysts were told the importance of converting Iraq to a central role in the global war on terror. Lately, they’ve been told to emphasize Iran as a major threat in Iraq.

The scenario was the same with respect to the Pentagon’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. To counteract negative press about the camp, including Amnesty International’s reference to the camp as a gulag, the Pentagon flew many of the analysts into Cuba, after which they dutifully returned to the United States to report how well the prison camp was being run.

The entire process, which stinks to high heavens, reminds me of what Republican presidential candidate George Romney said after he returned from a fact-finding trip to Vietnam: “When I came back from Viet Nam, I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.”

The ominous part of the process, however, is not the successful effort to convert those “independent” military analysts into Pentagon puppets but rather the orchestrated Pentagon effort to brainwash the American people, especially through the use of the major television networks.

Unfortunately, the television networks are most likely going to remain silent about this story, for obvious reasons. According to the article, CBS News, NBC News, and ABC News either declined comment or issued innocuous statements regarding their conflict-of-interest policies. A spokesman for Fox News, which has heavily relied on the military analysts, said executives “refused to participate” in the New York Times article.

Every American concerned about liberty owes it to himself to read this article. It is extremely long but it provides an excellent, detailed description of the monstrous cancer about which President Eisenhower warned us almost 50 years ago.

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

Friday, April 18, 2008

Apply the Free Market to Drugs and Immigration
by Jacob G. Hornberger

While recently appearing as a guest on a radio talk show on the subject of immigration, a listener called to say, “We already have open borders in this country, as evidenced by the 13 million illegal aliens living here in the United States.”

What he’s referring to, of course, is the black market, not legally functioning open borders.

Consider, for example, the war on drugs. During the past 40 years that this federal war has been waged, there have been those who have proclaimed, “The problem is that the drug laws are simply not being enforced. We’ve got to crack down in order to finally win the war on drugs.”

But the fact is that there have been increasing crackdowns in the war on drugs during the past four decades. For example, there have been ever-increasing military attacks on drug gangs in Mexico and in the United States such measures as mandatory minimum sentences in the U.S., severe assaults on the Fourth Amendment, and extradition of foreign drug lords to the U.S. None of these measures have brought “victory” any closer in the drug war. The black market has always reigned supreme, just as it did during Prohibition.

Is it theoretically possible to “win” the war on drugs? Possibly. For example, my bet is that there is a very low level of distribution and consumption of illicit drugs in North Korea. The price to be paid for that “success,” however, is extremely high, especially with respect to the establishment of a total police state and the concomitant loss of liberty.

It’s no different in the war on immigrants. People who live along the border know that the war is being waged fiercely. Border towns are filled with INS agents and Border Patrol agents (and DEA agents). Americans traveling north, especially brown-skinned ones, must show their papers to officials at government checkpoints north of the border and at airports, even if they have never left the United States. There are searches and seizures on the highways by roving Border Patrol agents. The Border Patrol also enters onto farms and ranches along the border without any warrant or probable cause.

Among the most recent measures in the war is the building of a Berlin Fence along the border and the forcible taking of people’s land against their will to build the Fence. Recently, U.S. officials also conducted a series of raids on American-owned businesses thousands of miles away from the border in order to arrest and deport hundreds of illegal immigrants who have found work in such businesses.

Make no mistake about it: The war on immigrants is being waged as fiercely as the war on drugs. The problem is that just as with the drug war, people circumvent the war on immigrants through the black market. This includes the hiring of illegal guides (coyotes) to help them get to America, most often through dangerous means, such as crossing the Arizona desert.

Is it theoretically possible to “win” the war on immigrants? Possibly. Again, the model would be North Korea, which has totally sealed borders. The price, however, would be as high as it would be in “winning” the drug war — the establishment of a total police state and the loss of liberty.

Thus, this is what many in the anti-immigrant crowd fail to acknowledge — that the very policy of controlled borders that they advocate leads toward the very result that they purport to abhor — big government, big spending, and big police state because there’s really no other way to “defeat” the black market that inevitably forms in response to making a peaceful activity illegal.

It’s no different in the war on drugs. There, the feds in both Mexico and the U.S. are just getting a good start in adopting ever-fiercer police/paramilitary measures, despite 30 years of failure, violence, death, and destructiveness.

Is there a solution to all this? Yes, and it’s a very simple one — the free market, which means the legalization of all drugs and the legalization of free movements of people. To put it another way, it involves a legal recognition of fundamental or natural rights, including the right of people to ingest whatever they want to ingest, no matter how harmful, and the right of people to travel and move in the pursuit of happiness.

Not only would the application of free-market principles to the areas of drug usage and immigration help restore harmony, peace, and prosperity to our land, it would also help restore a sense of moral principles as well, especially with respect to the Golden Rule and God’s commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself.

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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict on Bush’s War on Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Unfortunately, during his private meeting with President Bush yesterday, it doesn’t seem that Pope Benedict repeated the sentiments on the president’s war on Iraq that he expressed prior to the president’s invasion of Iraq five years ago.

According to an article in the Houston Catholic Worker, prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Benedict (as Cardinal Ratzinger) had been asked whether a war on Iraq would be just. “Certainly not,” he answered. “The damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save.”

He also stated, “All I can do is invite you to read the Catechism, and the conclusion seems obvious to me…. ‘The concept of preventive war does not appear in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.’

According to the article, “Even after the war, Cardinal Ratzinger did not cease criticism of U.S. violence and imperialism: ‘It was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction…It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world.’”

Addressing Catholic neo-con supporters of the war, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.”

Given that it would be difficult to find a better example of a war of aggression, a type of war punished as a war crime at Nuremberg, than Bush’s war on Iraq, I can’t help but wonder how many Catholic soldiers who kill or have killed Iraqis are at least a bit troubled by the Pope’s opposition to the war. Of course, much more important for Catholic soldiers to consider is the fact that obedience to orders never trumps obedience to the laws of God.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trying CIA Kidnappers and Torturers in Absentia
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Twenty-six CIA agents are scheduled to go on trial today for kidnapping. Unfortunately, all of them will be tried in absentia because the Bush administration, which has long claimed to be against torture, refuses to send the accused kidnappers to Italy, where the prosecution is taking place.

The Italian indictment alleges that in June 2005 the CIA officials kidnapped Hassan Osama Nasr, who is known as Abu Omar, in Italy and then forcibly carried him against his will to Egypt for torture. Nasr claims that Egyptian torturers then tortured him brutally.

The Italian torture trial also involves nine Italian defendants who allegedly conspired with the CIA agents to kidnap Omar and rendition him to Egypt. They include Gen. Nicolo Pollari, the former head of SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service, who was forced to resign over the Omar kidnapping, as well as his former deputy, Marco Mancini.

Hopefully, the trial will shed more light on the CIA’s kidnapping, rendition, and torture scheme.

According to a Reuters news dispatch, successive Italian governments have “so far refused to seek the extradition of the 26 Americans who have been charged in the case” apparently because they view the prosecution “as a hindrance to Italian-US relations.” Not that this would matter since the Bush administration has said that it would not honor an extradition request anyway.

Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch (who will be speaking at The Future of Freedom Foundation’s upcoming June 6-8 conference “Restoring The Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties”), stated in a Reuters news dispatch: “The new Italian government should reconsider past refusals to request the extradition of the 26 Americans. It should show the world that Italy does not give get-out-of-jail-free cards to kidnappers. The CIA’s rendition program should be on trial in the United States. But since the US Department of Justice has utterly failed in its responsibility to investigate and prosecute these serious crimes, it is up to Italy to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

To date, neither Congress nor the Justice Department has shown any interest in conducting a serious investigation into any criminal wrongdoing by the CIA, including its kidnapping, secret prisons, rendition, and torture schemes. That’s because in the minds of U.S. officials nothing that the CIA does can ever be considered criminal, especially since here in the United States the CIA is not just above the law, it is the law. Fortunately, Italian prosecutors feel differently.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Wars on Drugs, Terrorism, and Immigrants
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ironically, the war on drugs has some interesting parallels with the war on terrorism and sometimes integrates with the war on immigrants.

Recently, Norberto Ramirez, a 44-year-old Mexican father of five in the isolated village of Nocupetaro, Mexico, was kidnapped and brutally tortured by Mexican soldiers. The reason? Drug lords recently ambushed a Mexican army unit whose mission was to implement a brutal crackdown in the war on drugs. According to an article in the Washington Post, after the ambush Mexican soldiers, angry and vengeful, swooped into the area, “strapped villagers to wooden posts and robbed homes…. Mexico’s human rights commission cited physical evidence that four girls, all under 18, were raped.”

Among the villagers taken into custody was Norberto Ramirez. The soldiers tied a plastic sack over his head and cinched it around his neck, tightening and loosening it to create the sensation of suffocating. He was beaten so badly that he had to undergo surgery to repair severe damage to his liver and intestines.

Now, one might be tempted to argue that the solution to such a travesty is simply to “rein in” the military, forcing it to conform to well-established norms of military and police behavior with respect to civil liberties and human rights.

Unfortunately, that type of solution doesn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the drug war itself. Making the possession and distribution of drugs illegal gives rise to the black market, which in turn gives rise to violent drug lords who are able to reap exorbitant black-market profits from drug operations. The government responds to the drug lords by waging war against them. The drug lords retaliate. The army is called in to smash the drug lords. The drug lords ambush an army unit. Soldiers go ape and kidnap, torture, sexually abuse, and rape the citizenry. The government blames it all on a few “bad apples.” The government inevitably apologizes and exclaims that accidents are bound to happen in any war, especially a violent war such as the war on drugs.

The real solution to all this is simply to repeal the initial intervention, which is the drug laws themselves. Legalizing drugs would immediately end the black market in drugs. That would restore a normally functioning market in drugs, immediately putting the drug lords out of business. No more war on drugs. No more military waging war on drugs. No more brutal assaults on the citizenry.

It’s really no different in the war on terrorism. In the wake of the CIA’s and Pentagon’s kidnapping, torture, sex abuse, kidnapping, and rendition scandals (which they sometimes blame on a few “bad apples”), one approach would be to rein in the CIA and military, forcing them to comply with the Geneva Convention and fundamental principles of human rights.

But just as with the war on drugs, that wouldn’t get to the root of the problem, which is the U.S. government’s foreign policy of empire and intervention. As part of such foreign policy, the U.S. government does very bad things to people overseas, including deadly embargoes and sanctions, support of brutal dictators, assassinations, coups, invasions, and occupations. The victims of such actions become angry and vengeful, and they retaliate with terrorist attacks. The government then declares a war on terrorism, which entails more of the same foreign-policy measures that gave rise to the terrorism (e.g., invasions, occupations, assassinations, coups, embargoes, sanctions, etc.) as well as such anti-liberty measures as torture and sex abuse, kangaroo military tribunals, infringements on civil liberties, denial of due process, cancellation of habeas corpus, domestic spying, and denial of trial by jury.

By dismantling the government’s pro-empire, pro-intervention foreign policy, the results would be similar to those that would be achieved through the dismantling of the government’s drug laws. Anger and hatred among foreigners against the United States would diminish. No more terrorism. No more war on terrorism. No more excuses to infringe upon or suspend people rights and liberties.

What about Norberto Ramirez, the Mexican man who was brutalized by the Mexican military as part of the war on drugs? His medical bills from the torture are so high that he plans to travel to the United States to look for work. If Mexican soldiers do not return the U.S. green card that allowed him to work in the United States, according to the Post, “Ramirez said he has another plan. He’ll jump into the Rio Grande and swim.” If he dies as part of the U.S. war on immigrants, I wonder how many people will realize that his death was rooted in the war on drugs.

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

Monday, April 14, 2008

Iran as the New Official Enemy in Iraq
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Uh, oh! It seems as though U.S. official are preparing the mindsets of the American people to accept a new official enemy in Iraq — Iran.

You’ll recall that when the U.S. government invaded Iraq five years ago, the official enemy was Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials did everything they could to mold the mindsets of the American people into believing, falsely, that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash mushroom clouds and other weapons of mass destruction on America. The success of that propaganda campaign was what caused the great majority of Americans to support an invasion that has resulted in the deaths and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people, none of whom ever attacked the United States.

After Saddam was captured, U.S. officials unleashed a new propaganda campaign intended to switch people’s mindsets to a new official enemy in Iraq — “the terrorists,” which consisted of Iraqi people who were resisting the wrongful invasion of their country.

As an increasing number of Americans became somewhat confused over why a person who is resisting the wrongful invasion of his country should be considered a “terrorist,” U.S. officials came up with a new official enemy to justify their indefinite occupation of Iraq — al Qaeda.

But now it seems that U.S. officials, for some reason, are trying to shift people’s mindsets to a new official enemy in Iraq, which is Iran. According to an article in Saturday’s Washington Post, “Last week’s violence in Basra and Bahgdad has convinced the Bush administration that actions by Iran and not al-Qaeda, are the primary threat inside Iraq, and has sparked a broad reassessment of policy in the region, according to senior U.S. officials…. The intensified focus on Iran coincides with diminished emphasis on al-Qaeda in Iraq as the leading justification for an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq.”

As the Post article also points out, “During their Washington visit, Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker barely mentioned al-Qaeda in Iraq but spoke extensively of Iran.”

Why would U.S. officials begin shifting people’s mindsets to Iran as the new official enemy in Iraq? Who knows? But we can only hope that the reason is not to generate support for a bombing campaign against Iran. Not only would such action kill countless more innocent people — that is, people whose government has never attacked our country — it would also produce greater chaos in Iraq, the potential for new terrorist blowback against the United States, more federal infringements on our liberty and well-being, and even deeper monetary crises than we’re already experiencing. And, of course, it would once again confirm the U.S. government’s solid placement within the ranks of regimes that wage wars of aggression against other countries, a type of war that U.S. officials themselves condemned as a war crime at Nuremberg.

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

An Immigration Problem with Italian Food
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Uh, oh! There is a big immigration problem occurring in Italy, specifically with Italian food being served in Italian restaurants. You see, it might not be Italian food after all. Why? Well, that’s where the immigration problem comes in. It seems that some of the best Italian restaurants in Italy are being run by — horror! — immigrants! What in the world could be worse than that, at least from the perspective of Italians who want genuine Italian food served in their Italian restaurants in Italy?

According to an New York Times article entitled “Is Cuisine Still Italian Even If the Chef Isn’t?” Gambero Rosso, a prominent reviewer of restaurants, recently awarded an Italian restaurant named Antico Forno Roscioli a first-place award for best carbonara, a famous Italian dish.

The problem is that the chef for this winning restaurant, Nabil Hadj Hassen, is an immigrant from Tunisia, who arrived in Italy at age 17. After washing dishes for more than a year, he went on to train with some of Italy’s best chefs. Can Hassen’s carbonara really be considered genuine Italian food given that he is an immigrant from Tunisia?

Also, should we just ignore the fact that Hassen displaced some potential future Italian chef when he began washing dishes on arriving from Tunisia? Apparently the problem is a big one because the article states, “With Italians increasingly shunning sweaty and underpaid kitchen work, it can be hard to find a restaurant where at least one foreigner does not wash dishes, help in the kitchen or, as is often the case, cook.”

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Rosso awarded the second-place award for best carbonara to L’Arcangelo, whose head chef is from … India!

Frencesco Sabatini, 75, who owns a restaurant in Rome, says that in his opinion the national origin of the chef is irrelevant. What counts is the training and “keeping alive Italy’s culinary traditions.”

Others argue, however, that “foreign chefs can mimic Italian food but not really understand it.” Loriana Bianchi, co-owner of La Canonica in Trastevere says, “Tradition is needed to go forward with Italian youngsters, not foreigners.”

The article points out that the restaurant business “has been an undeniable boon to Italy’s new immigrants.” For example, twelve years ago a young Jordanian immigrant named Abu Markhyyeh, after apprenticing with a Neopolitan pizza maker, decided to open his own pizzeria. Today, he owns 11 restaurants in Milan, 2 in Cyprus, and franchises in Dubai, Egypt, and Shanghai. Given his success, no doubt his customers are pleased as well.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Federal Dole Brings Federal Control
by Jacob G. Hornberger

American colleges and universities are discovering that there’s a price to be paid for going on the dole: federal control over their activities.

According to an article in Army Times, the Defense Department is implementing a new “get-tough policy” with colleges and universities that refuse to give the Pentagon equal access to their student directories. The military needs cannon fodder for their multiple wars and occupations around the globe and considers college campuses a perfect place to find it.

What happens if a college or university says no? That’s where the dole comes in. According to the article, “Federal funding can be cut off if colleges and universities do not give recruiters and ROTC programs campus access. While student financial assistance is not at risk, other federal aid, especially research funding, can disappear if a school does not cooperate.”

Whoops! I’ll bet those colleges and universities thought that all that federal IRS-collected money was “free.”

Why would the federal government distribute all that loot to schools, businesses, farmers, politicians, and foreign tyrants? Maybe those college and university administrators thought it was because of the government’s deep love for the poor, the needy, and the disadvantaged. As those administrators are now belatedly discovering, however, the dole is all about control. As every welfare recipient should know by now, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Military’s Disintegrating Family Life
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Last Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Styles section had an article entitled, “After War, Love Can Be a Battlefield” by Leslie Kaufman. The article was about the stresses and strains that the invasion and occupation of Iraq have placed on soldiers’ marriages.

Major Levi Dunton told the Times that “he had trouble being involved with his family. He didn’t find joy in being a parent to his two boys, 3 and 5 months. Little things made him angry.” He made it clear, however, that other soldiers had it a lot worse.

According to the article, “Divorce rates for its personnel have been on the rise since 2003, the first year of war, when they were 2.9 percent. In 2004, divorce rates in the Army soared to 3.9 percent, propelled by a sharp rise in divorce among the usually much more stable officers corps. That rate has dropped, according to Army demographics, to 1.9 percent for officers and 3.5 percent for the entire Army in fiscal year 2007 — which represents roughly 8,700 divorces in total. Female soldiers are the exception; they divorce at a rate of about 9 percent.”

The Pentagon is trying to address the problem by holding marriage retreats in which they are encouraging spouses to have better communication with each other.

The military’s diagnosis of the problem will undoubtedly revolve around the horrors of war and the effect that war has on the psyche of the individual.

That diagnosis is undoubtedly true but perhaps only partly. Unfortunately the military won’t be able to have its soldiers confront another probable cause for their depression and malaise — deeply seated guilt over the wrongful killing of other human beings.

American soldiers serving in Iraq know that they will never be criminally prosecuted for killing Iraqis. In their minds, they are loyally serving their government by obeying the orders of their commander in chief. On the conscious level, they convince themselves that they are fighting to preserve America’s freedom and values. They are convinced that they are risking their lives for a noble and heroic cause — helping the Iraqi people.

Any priest or psychiatrist will tell you, however, that a person’s conscience and subconscious mind cannot be tricked so easily. When a person has engaged in grave wrongdoing, it is virtually impossible for him to escape the consequences of a conscience that begins to eat away at him. Moreover, the subconscious mind begins bedeviling him, producing all types of aberrant and dysfunctional behavior.

While it’s true that some people, such as pathological serial killers, seem to experience no guilt or crises of conscience when they kill people, most of the soldiers in Iraq are ordinary Americans for whom the concept of right and wrong is very important to their lives.

My hunch is that U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq who are experiencing despondency, depression, malaise, and disintegrating family life are suffering from much more than post-traumatic-stress-disorder arising from rough battlefield conditions. My hunch is that they are also suffering the consequences of severe guilt arising from being part of a military force that attacked another country needlessly.

Every U.S. soldier knows that none of the people he killed (or maimed) ever attacked the United States and neither did their government or any of their countrymen. Deep down, every U.S. soldier in Iraq knows that he had no moral or legal right to kill the people he killed.

How can the wrongful killing of another human being, even if not subject to criminal prosecution, fail to produce depression, despondency, guilt, and malaise in most soldiers who have done the killing?

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

P.S. Today’s FFF Email Update contains articles by six of our 20 speakers at our upcoming June 6-8 conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.”: James Bovard, Joanne Mariner, Glenn Greenwald, Ron Paul, Bruce Fein, and Andrew J. Bacevich.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Motivates the Terrorists?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Immediately after 9/11, U.S. officials, led by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, announced that the attacks were motivated by hatred for America’s freedom and values.

Not so, responded we libertarians. Instead, the anger and hatred that people have in the Middle East for the United States is rooted in U.S. foreign policy, specifically the bad things that the U.S. government has done to people in that part of the world.

What libertarians were referring to were such things as the ouster of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, the support of Saddam Hussein, the Persian Gulf intervention, the intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants, the more than a decade of brutal sanctions, the statement by UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” the illegal and deadly no-fly zones, the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the support of authoritarian monarchies, and the unconditional financial and military support of the Israeli government.

Recently, eight British Muslim men were put on trial for terrorism in London. Consider the following statements made by these men, as reported in an article in last Saturday’s Washington Post:

“This is revenge for the actions of the U.S.A. in the Muslim lands and their accomplices, such as the British and the Jews.”

“This is a warning to the nonbelievers that if they do not leave our lands, there are many more like us.”

“Sheik Osama has warned you many times to leave our lands or you will be destroyed, and now the time has come for you to be destroyed.”

“Stop meddling in our affairs.”

“I say to you disbelievers that as you bomb, you will be bombed, and as you kill, you will be killed. And if you want to kill our women and children, then the same thing will happen to you.”

Now, I ask you: In all those statements, how much hatred for America’s (or Britain’s) freedom and values do you find? On the other hand, how much anger and hatred for U.S. (and British) imperial and interventionist foreign policy do you find?

At the very least, don’t the American people and the British people owe it to themselves to accept reality with respect to their governments’ foreign policies rather than live lives of falsehood and delusion? At least then, they would have a better grip on what their troops and citizenry are killing and dying for and what they are losing their liberty for.

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

Monday, April 7, 2008

Going After the Lawyers
by Jacob G. Hornberger

In her Sunday column yesterday, St. Petersburg Times columnist Robyn Blumner tells an ominous story that describes the Bush administration’s attitude toward criminal-defense attorneys, an attitude that is remarkably similar to that held by Bush war-on-terrorism partner Pervez Musharraf, the brutal military dictator of Pakistan.

Roy Black is one of the most prominent and successful criminal-defense attorneys in the nation. He was the lawyer who represented William Kennedy Smith on charges of rape many years ago, winning an acquittal. He also represented Rush Limbaugh on charges relating to alleged misuse of OxyContin. He serves as a professor at the University of Miami School of Law.

As part of the never-ending enactment of new interventions to finally “win” the drug war (after 30 years of interventions and failure and no end in sight), the feds have made it a criminal offense for a lawyer to accept money in payment of a fee if the money was obtained through drug sales. The idea, of course, is that if they can prevent drug dealers from hiring attorneys, they can more easily gain convictions (as if that would finally “end” the drug war).

This obviously places every criminal-defense attorney in a very precarious position. As soon as he accepts a fee from an alleged drug dealer, he places himself at risk of a federal criminal indictment.

Black was hired to represent Colombian drug kingpin Fabio Ochoa Vasquez on drug-war related charges for an agreed-upon fee of $5.2 million. Not surprisingly, Black conducted himself with an overabundance of precaution, knowing that there is nothing the feds would love to do more than to go after a criminal-defense attorney as successful as he. So, prior to accepting the fee, Black hired another prominent criminal-defense attorney in Florida, Ben Kuehne, to conduct an independent investigation into the source of the money.

As part of his investigation, for which Black paid him $200,000, Kuehne traveled to Colombia, where his investigation concluded that the funds had originated in legitimate sales of cattle, horse, and real estate sales. He determined that ownership of the Ochoa family ranch predated Ochoa’s drug activity.

Today, Kuehn is under federal indictment charged with laundering drug money. The accusation is that Kuehn knew that his opinion as to the source of the money was false. Apparently the feds are relying on the testimony of a Colombian accountant and a Colombian lawyer to make their case against Kuehne.

According to Blumner as well as members of the Florida bar, Kuehne ranks among the best attorneys in Florida. John Nields, a partner in a Washington, D.C., firm that is representing Kuehn, said, “They have indicted one of the finest attorneys in Miami.”

According to an article on law.com, “Other lawyers angrily denounced the charges. ‘It’s now official: It’s a crime to be a criminal defense attorney,’ Miami criminal defense attorney Milton Hirsch said…. ‘They picked a guy who sleeps with wing-tipped shoes on and indicted him for going above and beyond to make sure legal fees paid to a different lawyer are clean.”

Another Florida lawyer, Jon May, distributed a statement that said, “To target an adversary like Ben Kuehne, who is held in such high regard by the community and whose integrity is unquestioned, sends a message that any lawyer is at risk.”

By the way, among Kuehne’s clients was Al Gore, who he represented in the famous Florida vote recount controversy in the 2000 presidential election.

At his arraignment, the magistrate’s courtroom was too small to hold the overflowing crowd in support of Ben Kuehne.

No one should operate under any pretentions that the Kuehne indictment is about “winning” the war on drugs. The war on drugs can never — and will never — be “won.” Instead this 30-year-long war, including all of its various and sundry rules, regulations, and interventions, is about power — federal power— power that is designed to provide federal officials with the ability to indict, prosecute, incarcerate, and ruin anyone they want. It’s no different in principle from the power to steamroller and destroy that exists in the war on terrorism, the war on immigrants, the war on guns, and all the other wars in which the U.S. government is involved.

As most everyone knows, in Pakistan military strongman Pervez Musharraf has done to Pakistani criminal-defense attorneys what Bush’s Justice Department has done to Ben Kuehne. Musharraf’s goons have arrested attorneys, charged them, incarcerated them, and ruined them. Nonetheless, the Pakistani bar has risen up against Musharraf and taken one of the most heroic stands against tyranny and abuse of power in history.

Unfortunately, ever since 9/11 most private attorneys in the United States have taken a different position than their Pakistani counterparts. With sheep-like silence, they have either acquiesced or supported the Bush administration’s “war on terrorism,” including the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the NSA spying, the kangaroo military tribunals, the CIA kidnappings and renditions, torture, the CIA’s secret overseas prison camps, and the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

It is encouraging that some American attorneys are now rising up and conducting themselves like the Pakistani bar, even if it’s only part of the war-on-drugs indictment of attorney Ben Kuehne.

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

Friday, April 4, 2008

Are the Basra Deserters Bad Guys Too?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

According to a front-page article in today’s New York Times, more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, including military officers as high as colonel, refused orders to participate in the Iraqi government’s assault on Basra.

The deserters either had no stomach for killing fellow Iraqis or they feared the later consequences (i.e., deadly retaliation) for doing so.

Not surprisingly, the refusal to kill fellow Iraqis is causing U.S. officials to doubt the “effectiveness” of Iraqi forces. One senior U.S. military official, who chose to remain anonymous, said that he expected the Iraqi government to deal firmly with the deserters. That’s not surprising, of course, given that it is standard U.S. military doctrine that soldiers are expected to obey the orders of their commander in chief to kill people, even if the soldiers believe that the killings are wrongful.

That’s, of course, what the Pentagon’s criminal prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada is all about.

Watada, an American officer, refused orders to deploy to Iraq where he would be expected to kill Iraqis. The reason that he refused to obey such orders is that since Iraq had never attacked the United States, killing Iraqis in a war of aggression would be morally wrong.

The U.S. government’s response to Watada: We don’t care about your crisis of conscience. Obey orders to deploy to Iraq and kill Iraqis or be punished severely.

So, this is what we have come to in the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq — encouraging Iraqis to kill fellow Iraqis and expecting them to be punished for refusing orders to do so, even while punishing American soldiers for following their conscience by refusing to kill people in a war of aggression, a type of war that was punished as a war crime at Nuremberg.

It’s all just one more reflection of the moral debauchery into which U.S. foreign policy has plunged our nation.

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

Three postscripts:

(1) We’re sending all of our email subscribers today a promotional email for our upcoming conference “Restoring the Republic 2008: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.” Please forward this email to all your friends and acquaintances. With our fantastic lineup of speakers, the conference is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and important events in libertarian history. We would greatly appreciate your helping us bring the conference to the attention of as many people as possible.

(2) We have added a “News” button to the top of our conference website. It includes links to articles authored by conference speakers and articles about our speakers.

(3) Three articles in today’s FFF Email Update by or about conference speakers are worth a read: “The Presidency” by Bruce Fein; “Why Doesn’t the 9/11 Commission Know About Mukasey’s 9/11 Story?” and “The Folly of Attacking Iran: An Interview with Steven Kinzer.”

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Was Killing Iraqi Children Worth It?
by Jacob G. Hornberger

A snapshot of the opening scene in the U.S. invasion of Iraq provides an excellent insight into the immorality and horror of the entire operation, from start to whenever it finally finishes.

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, at the outset of the invasion the U.S. military dropped bombs on a palatial compound in which Saddam Hussein was hiding. The article states:

“But instead of killing the Iraqi dictator, they had killed Mr. Kharbit’s older brother, Malik al-Kharbit — the very man who had led the family’s negotiations with the C.I.A. to topple Mr. Hussein. The bombings also killed 21 other people, including children, and the fury it aroused has been widely believed to have helped kick-start the insurgency in western Iraq.”

Now, that episode has at least two important lessons.

First, prior to the invasion the popular mantra among U.S. officials and many private Americans was the need to “get Saddam.” But as we often pointed out here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, it was never going to be just a question of “getting Saddam.” Instead, it was going to be a question of how many Iraqi people, including children, U.S. forces would have to kill before they “got Saddam.”

The article doesn’t state whether the U.S. military had actual knowledge that there were innocent people, including children, in the compound that it bombed. But it is a virtual certainty that they did have such knowledge. After all, if their intelligence was sufficiently good to know that Saddam was hiding in the compound, it had to be sufficiently good to know that there were other people living in the compound, including children.

Thus, when the U.S. military dropped those bombs, it had to be with the full knowledge that they would be killing innocent people in the process, including the children. And even if they didn’t “know” that there were innocent people in the compound at the time they dropped the bombs, they knew that there were dropping the bombs in reckless disregard of whether there were innocent people there or not.

The fact is that U.S. officials didn’t care whether there were innocents, including children, in that compound. Those children and their parents were obviously considered a small price to pay if Saddam Hussein had been killed at the outset of the war.

Of course, this attitude would match the attitude taken by U.S. officials throughout the period of the brutal sanctions that were enforced from 1991 to 2003. As tens of thousands of Iraqi children were dying year after year from the sanctions, the U.S. attitude was that those deaths were a small price to pay for ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein. That’s why UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, upon being asked whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi from the sanctions were worth it, she replied that yes — they were “worth it.” She was expressing the sentiment of the U.S. government, a sentiment that manifested itself again in the bombing of the compound in which those Iraqi children and their families were killed.

Second, the killing of those children and their families is just one example of how U.S. foreign policy has engendered anger and hatred for the United States, which produces the threat of terrorist retaliation, which brings about the “war on terrorism,” which results in more interventions, more massive military spending, and ever-increasing loss of liberty at home.

Let me repeat what the Times article said: “The bombings also killed 21 other people, including children, and the fury it aroused has been widely believed to have helped kick-start the insurgency in western Iraq.”

Now, ask yourself: Why has the U.S. government been occupying Iraq for the past 5 years? Didn’t they already “get” Saddam? Hasn’t he already been executed?

The answer is that U.S. officials, having “gotten” Saddam must now “get” the “bad guys” in Iraq. And who are the “bad guys?” They’re the Iraqis who are angry over the killing of Iraqis, including women and children, who had to be killed in the process of “getting Saddam.”

As they continue to bomb all these “bad guys,” they continue to kill more innocents, including more Iraqi children and their families, which then incites more fury, which then causes more “bad guys” to join the insurgency. Those additional “bad guys” are then used as the excuse to continue the occupation of Iraq, an occupation that for obvious reasons will go on indefinitely.

To state what I consider self-evident moral truths, it was morally wrong and a grave violation of God’s laws to:

(1) attack a country whose government and citizenry had never attacked the United States;

(2) kill Iraqis, including children and their families, in order to achieve regime change in Iraq; and

(3) kill Iraqis, including children and their families, in order to spread “democracy” to Iraq.

One can only wonder whether the American people, in crises of conscience, will ever confront such issues.

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

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Immigrants, Work, and Welfare
by Jacob G. Hornberger

One of the common laments of the anti-immigration crowd is that illegal immigrants are coming to the United States just to get on welfare.

I suppose the idea is that illegal immigrants are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to an illegal guide to take them on a dangerous trek across the desert or have them transported in the back of a tractor-trailer is so that they can be taken immediately to a local welfare office to begin collecting a welfare check.

But if that is true, then why is it that you never hear of illegal immigrants getting busted at the welfare office? How come they’re always getting busted working in private businesses?

Is it possible — just possible — that Americans, who do have a deep and abiding love for welfare, project their love-of-welfare feelings on illegal immigrants, who in reality seem to have a deep and abiding love for a strong work ethic instead?

How is it that illegal immigrants are able to find their way into the U.S. job market, especially when there are lots of Americans reporting to the welfare office everyday? If there are no jobs, which the Americans in the welfare line will tell you is the case, how is it that illegal immigrants are able to find jobs that supposedly don’t exist?

What all too many Americans fail to realize is that immigrants, especially the illegal ones, contribute mightily to economic prosperity. Not only do they bring a dynamism that is lacking in many Americans, they also produce increased levels of prosperity with their consumption patterns. They’re buying used cars, housing, clothing, and the like, which increases better-paying job opportunities for Americans in those types of sectors.

There is also the division of labor that immigrants bring, which contributes to people’s higher standard of living. Suppose, for example, an 80-year-old man spends 3 days blowing leaves off his big back yard every fall. One fall day, two illegal immigrants show up at his door and offer to blow the leaves away for $20 total. The man might well find it in his own self-interest to agree to the deal. If so, his standard of living has increased.

There are those who argue that illegal immigrants are burdensome to government-owned schools and government-owned hospitals. As my associate Sheldon Richman has suggested, notice that it’s only the public (i.e., government) sector that considers too many customers to be a burden. When was the last time you heard Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or McDonalds complaining that too many customers are a burden? If schools and hospitals were turned over to the same private-property, free-market forces under which other businesses operate, wouldn’t they have the same positive attitude toward customers that other private businesses have?

There’s also an amusing aspect to the lament that illegal immigrants are burdening the public schools. The idea is that Americans don’t want to be paying taxes to fund the schooling of illegal immigrants.

One reason this is amusing is that Americans have rigged the system with compulsory-attendance laws. Since most immigrant families are unable to homeschool and since they cannot afford private schools, the compulsory-attendance laws leave them no choice but to send their children into the system. Why not simply repeal compulsory-attendance laws (or, better yet, separate school and state entirely), which would relieve the illegal immigrant from burdening everyone by putting his children into government schools?

Another reason it’s amusing is that the Americans who issue the lament are themselves guilty of the very thing they’re complaining about with respect to immigrants. For example, I personally don’t have children. Yet, people in my county have no reservations about using the tax system to plunder and loot me to subsidize the schooling of their children. Then after looting me and other similarly situated in such a fashion, they exclaim, “Please stop the illegals from looting me because I don’t want to pay for the schooling of their children.”

The third reason that it’s amusing is that immigrants do pay taxes, including property, sales, and income taxes.

Their employers withhold money from their paychecks for both income taxes and Social Security taxes. I would assume that many illegal immigrants file for income-tax refunds but surely there are some that are too scared to do so, which means a free “gift” from the illegal immigrant to the U.S. Treasury.

On Social Security, the illegal immigrant clearly receives the short end of the stick. As defenders of Social Security often put it, the immigrants are “paying in to the system.” Yet, many of them return to their home countries, never to make a claim on Social Security. Thus, there is a “free” gift to current U.S. Social Security recipients, whose money comes from current Social Security payers.

In fact, according to an editorial in today’s New York Times, “We’re not talking chump change. According to the report, the taxes paid by other-than-legal immigrants will close 15 percent of the system’s projected long-term deficit. That’s equivalent to raising the payroll tax by 0.3 percentage points, starting today.”

This, it’s ironic that some of the most ardent anti-immigrant types are elderly people on Social Security. You would think they would say to themselves, “Thank goodness for the illegal immigrants or otherwise my children and grandchildren would have to be paying even higher Social Security taxes to fund my retirement.”

Isn’t it ironic, then, that while some Americans complain that immigrants are coming to America just to get on welfare, the reality is that not only are they coming to America to work, their efforts not only contribute to America’s economic prosperity but also to its socialistic welfare state?

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Abandonment of the Rule of Law
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailana, a citizen of Tanzania, is learning first-hand what it’s like to be the victim of the U.S. government’s post-9/11 regime of the “rule of men,” as compared to the “rule of law.”

Some people believe, incorrectly, that the term “rule of law” means that people are expected to obey the law. What it actually means is that people should have to answer to a well-defined law for their conduct rather than the arbitrary whims of government officials.

Thus, the “rule of law” is contrary to what is often called “the rule of men.”

Let me provide an example. Suppose government officials had the power to define anything they wanted as a crime on the spur of the moment. They see a person charging $10 for a gallon of milk. Immediately, they order his arrest, declaring that such a price constitutes “price-gouging.”

The defendant is hauled into court to answer to the charges. He says to the judge, “But there wasn’t any law on the books that prohibited me from selling milk at $10 a gallon. How can I be guilty of something that isn’t against the law?”

The judge responds: “But it is against the law. It became illegal at the moment the government official declared it to be illegal. In our society, each government official can decide what is legal or illegal without having to enact a law in advance proscribing such conduct.”

That type of system would be described as one based on “the rule of men.” The reason is that how people are treated for criminal offenses is subject to the arbitrary whims of government officials.

Now, suppose the legislature enacts a law that says, “Anyone who sells milk for $10 a gallon shall be guilty of price-gouging.” In this case, we have the “rule of law” because everyone knows in advance what the criminal offense is. If a person charges $9 for the milk, the government lacks the power to charge him with a crime, even if some government official thinks that price is outrageously high. Under the rule of law, it doesn’t matter what the government official thinks because all the milk seller has to do is cite the duly enacted law and show that his conduct hasn’t violated it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that a society based on the rule of law is a free society. Obviously, if the law punishes people for charging a certain price for their milk, their economic liberty is violated. It is simply to say that the rule of law is a necessary, but not sufficient, prerequisite to achieving a free society.

What does all this have to do with Ahmed Khalfan Ghailana? Ten years ago, he was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly participating in the 1998 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. Four other defendants were convicted of the charges in federal court and are now serving life sentences. Ghailana was a fugitive at the time of the trial.

In 2004 Ghailana was taken into custody by the CIA, which transferred him to one of its secret prisons instead of returning him to the U.S. for trial. He later was transferred to the Pentagon’s prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he is now awaiting trial before a military tribunal.

Military tribunal? Why isn’t he instead being sent to the jurisdiction of the federal district courts for trial, especially given that he is still under criminal indictment there?

The answer lies in the fact that after 9/11, the U.S. government abandoned the “rule of law” in terrorism cases and instead adopted a regime based on the “rule of men.” From that point on, the president and the Pentagon had the authority to decide whether a terrorism suspect would be entitled to go down the federal-court route or the military-tribunal route.

The determination as to which route is decided upon is totally arbitrary and ad hoc. Some terrorist suspects receive the federal court route, such as Zacharias Moussaoui, Jose Padilla, and others. Other terrorist suspects receive the military-tribunal route. It all depends on the whims of government officials. There is no duly enacted, established law that requires every terrorist suspect to be treated to the same process.

Of course, the ones who receive the military-tribunal route get the short end of the stick. As most everyone except the Pentagon recognizes, the military-tribunal route is nothing more than a political kangaroo proceeding in which the rules of procedure are made up as they go along and in which the outcome will be preordained or even ordered. It is also a process by which officials will even be able to use evidence acquired by torture and other illicit means to secure convictions, unlike the situation in federal courts.

The point is obviously of importance to those who are the accused. But the point is also important to Americans, for by adopting a regime based on the “rule of men” in terrorism cases, the United States has abandoned one of the most important and essential prerequisites to a free society — the “rule of law.”

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

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.