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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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My Government, Never Wrong


Conservatives are berating the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Boumediene case, where the Court held unconstitutional the federal government’s attempt to cancel habeas corpus rights to the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The conservative reaction to the decision reflects, once again, how conservatives have come to view the federal government — and, more specifically, the executive branch — as a deity, one which is never wrong.

For example, how often do we see conservatives condemning the federal government for prosecuting Zacharias Moussaoui in federal district court, where he was accorded all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, along with such non-enumerated rights as the presumption of innocence?

Answer: Never. Yet, wasn’t Moussaoui, as one of the government’s many 20th hijackers on 9/11, just as dangerous as the detainees at Guantanamo Bay? Why shouldn’t he have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay and deprived of the rights and guarantees of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? Why shouldn’t his conviction be vacated and why shouldn’t he be sent to Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant?

Conservatives have no answer to those questions because to even contemplate the questions tends toward questioning the perfection of their deity, the federal government.

The same questions, of course, hold true for Timothy McVeigh, a terrorist who bombed a federal building in retaliation for the federal massacre at Waco, killing and injuring dozens of federal employees and their children. Do conservatives ever argue that McVeigh should have been treated as an enemy combatant rather than as a criminal defendant? No, because again that would entail criticizing their beloved deity.

Or take the classic case — that of Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist who did the same thing that the 9/11 terrorists did. Eight years prior to 9/11, he attacked the World Trade Center in retaliation for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. He was arrested in Pakistan (without the dropping of bombs or invasions and occupations, which would have killed countless innocent people) and returned to the United States, where he was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced in a federal district court.

Do conservatives ever condemn Yousef’s federal-court prosecution? Do they ever claim that his conviction should be nullified and that he should be sent into the clutches of the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay as an “enemy combatant”? Nope. Again, that would constitute criticism of their deity, a deity that is never considered to be wrong.

One case that has confounded the religious convictions of conservatives is that of Jose Padilla. When Padilla, an American citizen, was being held by the Pentagon as an enemy combatant, conservatives were effusive in their praise of federal officials. Then, when the feds transferred Padilla to federal-court jurisdiction, where he was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced, conservatives remained supportive. No matter which way they go, the feds can never be considered wrong because, in the conservative mind, deities are never wrong.

Viewing the federal government as their deity is the main reason that conservatives get so upset when libertarians point out that the 9/11 attacks were terrorist blowback from the bad things that the U.S. government has been doing to people in the Middle East. Just think back to the conservative reaction to Ron Paul’s pointing out the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and terrorist blowback in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Do you recall how angry and outraged conservatives became? Pointing out the relationship between U.S. foreign policy and terrorist blowback implies that the federal government has done wrongful things to foreigners. That’s considered blasphemy among conservatives because their federal deity is incapable of doing bad things to anyone.

This is also the reason that conservatives will not entertain any suggestion that federal officials might have lied about the infamous WMDs that Saddam Hussein was supposedly about to unleash on the United States. It’s also why conservatives fully supported the blind grant of immunity for tortuous or murderous acts committed by the CIA while fully supporting the president’s proclamation, “We don’t torture.” In the mind of the conservative, the federal deity is incapable of wrongdoing or even lying about it.

Ironically, many conservatives are Christians, oftentimes even wearing their religion on their sleeves. They simply see nothing inconsistent in worshipping dual deities and even having them work in conjunction with each other — for example, in such areas as helping the poor, needy, and disadvantaged with such welfare-state programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, foreign aid, corporate grants, and SBA loans. What better way to fulfill God’s commandment to love one’s neighbor than by using the power of coercion wielded by His co-deity, the federal government?

Libertarians, who would never consider deifying the federal government, take the view that what matters, first and foremost, is the exercise of conscience, which means that sometimes a person has to take a firm stand against the wrongdoing committed by his own government. Conservatives rail against the libertarian view because it suggests that their deity is capable of wrongdoing. Thus, the conservative mindset steadfastly maintains, “My government, never wrong.”

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.