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, July 2010


Friday, July 30, 2010

An Open Border in My Hometown

I grew up in Laredo, Texas, a border town that no doubt causes no small degree of consternation to those who lament Mexican culture in the United States.

I’d estimate that when I was growing up, about 95 percent of Laredoans were of Mexican descent. When Laredoans were summoned for jury duty, I’d estimate that about 20 percent of every panel had to be disqualified because they couldn’t speak or write English.

Many of the streets of Laredo are named after Spanish, Mexican, or French historical figures, such as Hidalgo, Zaragoza, and Iturbide. Signs in stores are both in English and Spanish. Store greeters say, “Buenos Dias” or “Good morning” to customers based on whether they look Mexican or Anglo.

None of this bothered anyone in Laredo. No one ever cared what language people spoke. People adjusted, including the small percentage of Anglos in the town. My father, an Anglo who was born and raised in San Antonio, was never able to speak Spanish, and yet developed a successful law practice in town. My mother, a Mexican-American who had been born and raised in Laredo, was bilingual and was always nice enough to communicate in English with my father.

While Texas had been under six different flags, Laredo had been under seven. It had served as the capital of the Republic of the Rio Grande, until Mexican president Santa Anna suppressed that particular revolt. While San Antonio, which lies 150 miles to the north, represents what is probably a perfect balance of Anglo and Mexican culture, Laredo always had a predominately Mexican culture albeit one with an American orientation. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that today Laredoans watch more Spanish television programs than ones in English.

Who cares? It certainly doesn’t bother anyone in Laredo. Sure, there are the standard political fights that go on everywhere, but I grew up in a city in which there was virtually perfect harmony between Hispanics and Anglos.

For many decades, Laredo has had one of the country’s few big annual celebrations in honor of George Washington’s birthday. The center of the celebration is a big parade in downtown Laredo, with school bands, giant floats featuring the city’s debutants, and the like. The parade is led by a young woman riding a horse who is chosen to depict Princess Pocahontas. The Washington Birthday festivities also include a now-famous Jalapeno Festival. Here’s a good article from Salon.com about how Laredo’s George Washington Birthday celebration represents a confluence of Mexican and American cultures.

When I was a kid, on the morning of the parade dignitaries from Mexico and the United States would meet in a formal ceremony at the center of the international bridge connecting Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The American officials would extend their arms in friendship to the Mexican officials — the traditional “abrazo.”

At that point, you’ll never guess what would happen. The officials would step aside, and the border would be completely open. That’s right — no more customs, no more immigration, no more checkpoints. A completely open border … for a day.

The residents of Nuevo Laredo would flood into Laredo, lining the streets to watch the parade and partake in the festivities. Everyone got along and had a very festive time. Here is a link to the “History of the Bridge Ceremony,” which even mentions my grandfather, Matias de Llano, who was one of the longtime organizers of Laredo’s George Washington Birthday celebration.

Describing the open border between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo on day of the parade, the history states: “When the formalities at the bridge were over, the politicians were given graphic evidence that they were still servants of the people. The normal procedure was to open the Bridge for the paso libre — suspension of document checks — just as the speech making was terminating, and the rush of humanity was a sight to behold. John Keck remembered that one year when the crowd was let through, ‘it looked like Moses had parted the Red Sea to let the people through.’ The honor guests had to step lively to get out of the way.”

Did the Rio Grande disappear? Did Mexico lose its sovereignty? Did the city of Laredo, the state of Texas, or the U.S. government lose their sovereignties? Of course not. The “paso libre” or “free pass” simply meant that Mexican citizens were free to cross the border into the United States. When they did so, they were subject to local, state, and federal law.

When I was growing up, Americans were always free to cross into Nuevo Laredo. There was a checkpoint on Mexican side of the bridge but as long as people weren’t traveling into the interior of Mexico, they could freely visit Nuevo Laredo. It was a nice way for tourists to get a taste of old Mexico, until the war on drugs later made it too unsafe to do so.

Open borders simply mean that people are free to cross borders. The borders don’t disappear and neither do the governments on both sides of the border. Open borders free people to harmonize their interests with others and expand their opportunities to pursue happiness. They are entirely consistent with the Golden Rule, religious dictates regarding man’s relationship to man, and principles of economic prosperity. It’s the only way to go.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

From Freedom Fighter to Terrorist

The Washington Post yesterday profiled a Pakistani man named Hamid Gul, who served as head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency from 1987 to 1989. The article pointed out that Gul is viewed by U.S. officials as a terrorist, one who has been helping the Taliban oust U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

What makes the story interesting, however, is that it wasn’t always that way. Gul used to be a freedom fighter and a close friend and ally of the U.S. government.

What happened?

Back when it was the Soviet Union that was the foreign occupier of Afghanistan, Gul and the U.S. government were working together to end the Soviet occupation. As the Post points out, Gul “helped the CIA funnel Islamist fighters to fight the Soviets.” In fact, it was during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden came into Afghanistan and made a name for himself as a freedom fighter.

According to the Post, Gul “readily acknowledged that he has maintained friendships with former mujaheddin such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a onetime CIA-backed fighter whose network is now viewed as the coalition forces’ most lethal foe. ‘The Americans dropped him like a hot brick,’ Gul said. ‘Why should I drop him just because he is doing the same thing … that they did against the Soviet occupation? They are fighting for the liberation of their country.’”

The same Gul who was viewed by U.S. officials as a “pro-Western and moderate” freedom fighter is now viewed by the U.S. government as a “murderous terrorist agent.”

What accounts for the change in perspective? Before, Gul was helping the Afghans bring an end to the Soviet occupation of their country. That made him a freedom fighter. Now, however, Gul is helping the Afghanis bring an end to the U.S. occupation of their country, and that makes him a terrorist.

For his part, Gul maintains that his actions have been entirely consistent the entire time — helping the Afghanis end the foreign occupation of their country.

Which one is it? Is Gul a freedom fighter or a terrorist? The answer would seem to turn on who is doing the occupying and who is doing the labeling. As the old saying goes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Graveyard of Empires

They don’t call Afghanistan the graveyard of empires for nothing. Just ask Great Britain and Russia. It seems that the U.S. Empire, however, is bound and determined to prove that it’s the exception to that adage.

No matter how bad things get for the Empire, U.S. officials become more and more determined to stay the course and let the chips fall where they may, including the possibility of economic and financial bankruptcy for the United States. Governmental pride and military pride are at stake, after all. How could U.S. officials hold their heads up high around the world if the U.S. Empire exited Afghanistan without having established it as a firm, loyal, stable member of the Empire?

What to do in Afghanistan? On the one hand, U.S. officials know that the only way for a foreign occupier to succeed is to brutally conquer the populace. When resistance to an occupation surfaces, a brutal occupier sends out the message: Dare to resist us and prepare yourself to pay an enormously high price in terms of targeted killings, indiscriminate killings, arbitrary round-ups, long-term incarcerations, assassinations, bombings, torture, abuse, and even extra-judicial executions. On the other hand, submit to our conquest and our control, and you, your friends, and relatives will live to see another day.

Sometimes the brutality works. People simply lack the will or ability to resist or they figure that the price of resistance is just not worth it. They submit to the conqueror and go along with the conquest. Their governing regime becomes a loyal, dedicated member of the Empire, ready to do the Empire’s bidding when called upon.

But other times the brutality does not work. The invasion of Afghanistan provides a good example. The more the occupation brutality has increased — the more people who have been killed and maimed — the greater the resistance to the occupation has grown. The Empire kills 10 Afghanis today, and tomorrow 100 new people are recruited into the ranks of the insurgency.

The U.S. Empire is discovering what the British and the Soviet empires discovered — that while some Afghanis will inevitably cooperate with a foreign occupying force, a certain percentage of them remain committed to doing their best to uphold their long national tradition of making their country the graveyard of empires.

U.S. Empire officials are torn. On the one hand, they want to win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people, causing them to love and embrace the U.S. occupation of their country. “We’re good people, we’re here to help you, to guide you, to nurture you,” beseech U.S. officials. “Just submit and we can all get along.” And so, the occupiers lighten up on the brutality in the hopes of winning over the populace to their occupation.

But some insurgents keep fighting, which produces an ever-increasing death toll on U.S. soldiers, who in turn declare to their superiors, “Stop tying our hands! Let us lash out against this foe that is killing and maiming us!”

But unleashing the brutality to protect the troops leads to more deaths of brides, children, old people, and other innocents, thereby once again swelling the ranks of the insurgents.

In other words, there is no way to “win” in Afghanistan. The more people they kill, the worse it becomes. The more people they don’t kill, the worse it becomes.

There is but one solution to all this: Get out, now. Sure, governmental pride and military pride will be hurt, but so what? Why should we care that some federal politicians and bureaucrats won’t be able to hold their heads up high around the world? That just might be a good thing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yoo, Bybee, and the Taliban Prisoner

I wonder what torture-memo attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee are thinking regarding the report of a U.S. sailor who was apparently taken captive by the Taliban yesterday. Time will tell whether the sailor who was killed with him was actually the lucky one.

Would the Taliban torture the guy? It wouldn’t surprise anyone, but one thing is certain: the U.S. government unfortunately has no moral standing whatsoever to demand proper treatment of the soldier, given its own position and its own track record regarding torture and abuse.

Suppose, for example, the Taliban decides to waterboard that sailor 183 times. From what people say, being waterboarding even once would be a horrifying experience, much less 183 times.

How would U.S. officials respond if the Taliban began doing that to that American sailor? Could they object to and condemn the Taliban’s repeated waterboarding of him?

Well, they could but likely much of the world would just shake their heads in dismay over such arrogance and audaciousness. After all, don’t forget that that’s the number of times that U.S. personnel waterboarded accused terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

How would U.S. officials, with straight faces, claim to have moral standing to object to the waterboarding of a U.S. sailor 183 times when they continue to defend their own waterboarding activities?

Indeed, how could U.S. officials even claim that the Taliban was torturing the sailor through repeated waterboarding when they’ve denied that waterboarding even constitutes torture?

Or consider all the things that were done by U.S. forces to people held captive at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. You’ll recall that Abu Ghraib was the infamous prison at which Saddam Hussein tortured Iraqis. It’s also the prison at which U.S. military personnel and CIA agents tortured, sexually abused, raped, beat, and even executed Iraqis. And don’t forget: None of the victims at Abu Ghraib had ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. All them, along with their government, were entirely innocent of the 9/11 attacks.

Or consider the things that U.S. personnel have done to prisoners held at the U.S. military’s prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Or the things that have been done at all those secret CIA prisons around the world.

What moral standing would the U.S. government have in calling on the Taliban to treat that U.S. sailor in a proper manner? Answer: None.

Of course, torture should be condemned simply as a matter of morality. It’s wrong, and that’s all there is to it. But secondarily is the utilitarian argument: It doesn’t work and ends up producing unreliable information. It also opens the door to the torture, abuse, and mistreatment of U.S. servicemen when they’re taken captive, something that that U.S. sailor might now discover.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Abolish the Agriculture Department

Amidst the big dispute between liberals and conservatives over race in theShirley Sherrod controversy, I’d like to make a libertarian point: Rather than give Sherrod her job back at the Department of Agriculture, let’s instead simply abolish the Agriculture Department, along with all the socialist programs that enable those welfare-state bureaucrats to dole out other people’s hard-earned money to farmers.

Because we’ve been born and raised under the countless departments and agencies of the U.S. government, we automatically assume that they are a necessary part of our lives. Nonsense! Just because the only way of life we have ever known is that of a welfare state (and a warfare state) doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re saddled with this way of life into perpetuity. Every generation has the right to change its form of government. Just because previous generations have chosen to embrace welfare-state socialism and economic interventionism doesn’t mean that current generations are precluded from embracing economic liberty and free markets instead.

The misleading videotape that originated within conservative circles implied that Sherrod had denied agricultural assistance to a white farmer as part of her job at the Agriculture Department. The suggestion, false as it turned out, was that Sherrod was guilty of racism in determining agricultural assistance to that farmer.

But take notice of the conservative mindset: Conservatives are not upset with the fact that someone is distributing welfare largess to farmers. They’re just upset with how the program is being handled. The last thing they would ever think of doing is challenging the premises of agricultural welfare or the very existence of the Department of Agriculture.

Needless to say, liberals are no different. In fact, they think it’s great that the federal government is helping farmers. They consider welfare-state bureaucrats as caring, compassionate, saintly people, sort of like governmental Mother Theresas.

But the fact is that government has no more business providing welfare to farmers than it does to anyone else. Where is the morality in forcibly taking some people’s money from them and giving it to others? Who’s the compassionate saint in this process? The federal bureaucrat? The taxpayer? The IRS agent? Congress? The president? The voters?

Actually, none of the above. When “help” to another person is the result of force or coercion, the entire process is morally delegitimized.

Suppose I break into your house and steal $10,000 that you have hidden under your mattress. I take the money and give it to a farmer who is about to lose his farm in foreclosure due to recent crop failures. You discover that I’ve done this.

Are you going to call me a saint? Are you going to thank me for converting you into a good person? After all, don’t forget that it’s your money that saved the farmer.

No, you’re going to label me a thief, and rightfully so. It doesn’t matter if I helped the farmer save his farm. I had no right to steal your money to do it.

How is it any different, in a moral sense, if I run to Congress and persuade it to impose a $10,000 tax on you, which the Agriculture Department then turns around and gives to the farmer?

It isn’t any different at all. Congress has no moral (or constitutional) right to do that. As President Grover Cleveland put it when he vetoed a farm subsidy bill to help out struggling farmers in Texas:

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution; and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadily resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.

Instead of giving Sherrod her job back at the Agriculture Department, better to simply abolish the Agriculture Department.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do Critics of the Israeli Government Hate Jews?

Will America ever get to the point where Americans will be able to criticize the Israeli government without being accused of being anti-Semitic? Only when enough Americans finally come to the realization that the accusation is actually just a clever political ploy designed to suppress criticism of the Israeli government.

One of the commentators whose blogs I read regularly is Glenn Greenwald. He’s a liberal who blogs at Salon.com. I have the utmost respect for Greenwald. He is one of the nation’s foremost defenders of civil liberties, privacy, and due process of law and one of the nation’s foremost critics of torture, illegal NSA spying, prisoner abuse, indefinite detention, military tribunals, Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other aspects of foreign policy and the war on terrorism.

Unlike so many other liberals, Greenwald did not mute his criticism of the wrongdoing once the Obama administration began embracing what the Bush administration was doing. His analyses and criticisms have been consistent and relentless, no doubt earning him the enmity of many Obama supporters.

He also has spoken out firmly and forcefully against the federal government’s decades-long failed and destructive war on drugs, including authoring a major report published by the Cato Institute entitled, “Drug Criminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies.”

It was a big honor for us here at The Future of Freedom Foundation when Greenwald accepted an invitation to speak at our 2008 conference “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy and Civil Liberties.” He gave one of the best talks at the conference and was very well received by the predominantly libertarian audience. I highly recommend watching the video of his talk.

Greenwald has also been outspoken in his criticism of the Israeli government. A while back, I privately predicted that pro-Israeli government types would inevitably go on the attack with their standard ploy: That Greenwald (who is Jewish) must hate Jews given that he’s criticizing the Israeli government.

My prediction has turned out to be accurate. According to a blog post by Stephen M. Walt, some guy named Lee Smith has gone on the standard attack in a column published in a magazine called Tablet. Smith blasted not only Greenwald but also Walt, Andrew Sullivan, and Philip Weiss, accusing them of being anti-Semitic and calling them “career Jew-baiters.”

As Walt points out, however, Smith’s article “contains not a scintilla of evidence that Sullivan, Greenwald, Weiss, or [Walt] have written or said anything that is remotely anti-Semitic, must less that involves ‘Jew-Baiting.’ There’s an obvious reason for this omission: None of us has ever written or said anything that supports Smith’s outrageous charges.”

Of course, Smith, the attacker, must know this, just as every other person who resorts to this strategy must know it.

The purpose of the strategy, of course, is to suppress criticism of the Israeli government among the American people, in the hopes of keeping U.S. taxpayer foreign-aid largess flooding into the Israeli government’s coffers. By going on the attack against critics of the Israeli government by accusing them of being anti-Semitic, the idea is to try to inflict maximum harm on the critic and, in the process, send an important message to every other American: Dare to criticize the Israeli government and this is what will happen to you.

One of the ridiculous aspects to this entire charade is that in Israel itself, a sizable portion of the Jewish population is critical of the Israeli government. For some reason, the pro-Israeli-government brigade in the United States never levels its charges of anti-Semitism against them. They limit their blasts to American critics of the Israeli government.

Interestingly enough, you hardly ever see this strategy employed with respect to the Vatican. As most everyone knows, the Vatican has been under heavy attack for its handling of the Church’s pedophilia scandal. Yet, does this mean that every critic of the Vatican should be considered a Catholic hater? That, of course, would be ridiculous, as ridiculous as it is to accuse critics of the Israeli government of being a hater of Jews.

Several years ago, someone asked a particular U.S. Senator a pointed question, one that should be directed against every supporter of the Israeli government who resorts to what is becoming an old, tired, false and fake strategy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Note to Israeli government supporters: Before you attack me as anti-Semitic, keep in mind that I have not criticized the Israeli government in this article. I have criticized you! Does that make me anti-Semitic too?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Patricide: Another Legacy of the Iraq Occupation

Yesterday’s front page of the New York Times provides yet another horrible legacy arising out of the U.S. invasion, occupation, and war of aggression against Iraq, a country that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

Last month, an Iraqi named Hamid Ahmad was killed. At first blush, that obviously doesn’t seem very extraordinary. After all, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Iraq, both by the U.S.-enforced sanctions before the invasion and by the invasion and occupation themselves.

What was different about this particular killing and what makes it particularly horrible was the identity of the killer: Hamid Ahman’s very own 32-year-old son, Abdul Haleem.

What motivated Abdul Haleem to kill his father? His father was working with the U.S. military and supporting its occupation of Iraq. His son, on the hand, was an insurgent, an Iraqi who was committed to ousting his country of a foreign occupier.

“Everybody hated him because he worked for the Americans,” said Abdul. “I wanted to fight the Americans, to kick them out. I didn’t say anything to him. I just pulled the trigger and shot six or seven bullets.”

American interventionists, of course, tend to view the U.S. military as a benign force, one that invaded Iraq out of love and concern for the Iraqi people. “We had to get rid of Saddam,” they repeatedly point out. “He was a brutal dictator.”

One big problem, however, is that when foreign regime wages a war of aggression against another country and then occupies that country, there are going to be a certain number of citizens in the invaded country who are going to oppose the invader/occupier and with force. Such insurgents are going to view themselves as the patriots and are going to view their fellow citizens who cooperate with the occupier as treasonous Quislings.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that that phenomenon has occurred in Iraq.

The situation really wouldn’t be much different if Americans were faced with the situation that the Iraqis have been faced with. Suppose China started a war with the United States and that its military forces succeeded in defeating U.S. forces. Suppose millions of Chinese soldiers, reinforced by soldiers from North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela, began a long-term occupation of the United States.

Everywhere Americans went within the United States, they would encounter foreign troops, who wielded the same omnipotent power that U.S. troops wield in Iraq: the power to arbitrarily stop people and search their belongings, or to enter their homes whenever they wanted and subject all family members, including wives and daughters, to complete searches, to jail people for as long as they wanted, to torture and abuse them, and to confiscate any weapons they found.

Undoubtedly, there would be a certain percentage of Americans, both women and men, who would recognize the handwriting on the wall — that the Chinese had won the war and were going to be occupying America for the indefinite future. They would become the cooperators, the Quislings, the ones who would exhort their fellow citizens to support the new order of things.

Another percentage of Americans would remain neutral, just going with the flow of things.

But a certain percentage of Americans, perhaps small, would become insurgents. They would decide to risk their lives and well-being by taking on the occupiers, attacking them and killing them with the aim of ousting the United States of the Chinese, North Korean, Venezuelan, and Cuban communist troops and officials.

Who would be the patriots in such a situation? The American cooperators would consider themselves the patriots, pointing to the good things the Chinese, North Koreans, Cubans, and Venezuelans would be doing in America — e.g., bringing order and stability to American society. The American insurgents would consider themselves the patriots, pointing out that America was no place for foreign occupiers.

Of course, it’s impossible to know whether Hamid Ahmad would be alive today if the U.S. government had not invaded and occupied Iraq. But one thing is for sure: he would not have been killed by his own son for having cooperated with the U.S. invasion and occupation of his country.

Tuesday, July 19, 2010

Release Videotaped Interrogations in the Amiri Case

The CIA is claiming that Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri was spying for the CIA while he was living in Iran and then that he later voluntarily defected to the United States. Amiri, on the other hand, is claiming that the CIA kidnapped him while he was on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, drugged him, and forcibly brought him to the United States, where, he says, he was imprisoned and tortured.

Yesterday, my blog post called for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the matter, given the seriousness of the allegations against the CIA, which, if true, would involve federal criminal offenses under U.S. law.

I pointed out that several CIA agents were, in fact, convicted by an Italian court of kidnapping a foreigner in Italy and renditioning him to Egypt for the purpose of torture. In that case, the CIA falsely denied involvement in the man’s disappearance and even created a ruse to disguise its criminal wrongdoing. The CIA agents who were convicted are now felons and fugitives on the lam, and the CIA absolutely refuses to return them to Italy to serve out their sentences.

Thus, while the CIA’s unsworn assertions in the Amiri case have been enough for the mainstream press, with obvious nationalistic fervor, to quickly jump to the side of the CIA in the controversy, obviously the CIA has no credibility in the matter. The only way to get to the truth of what actually happened is with a special criminal prosecutor with the power to subpoena witnesses from the CIA and a federal judge with the courage to enforce them.

In the meantime, however, there is a way that the CIA could put much of the controversy to rest: by releasing videotaped CIA interrogations of Amiri after he supposedly defected.

It’s pretty clear that Amiri was flown out of Saudi Arabia to the United States on a U.S. military or CIA plane. Surely, the CIA would have been smart enough to have videotaped interactions with Amiri during that flight, if for no other reason than to protect itself from the possibility that Amiri might later claim that he was kidnapped and renditioned to the United States.

If Amiri had been spying for the United States and then was defecting, as U.S. officials claim, then such videotapes would most likely reflect a man casually interacting with CIA officials on that flight.

Moreover, after Amiri arrived in the United States, there had to have been numerous interviews and interrogations over the one-year period of time that he was here in the United States. Surely, the CIA would have videotaped them. Why not release them?

Of course, the worst thing the CIA could do is destroy any videotaped interviews and interrogations of Amiri, which is what the CIA did with its 92 videotapes of interrogations of accused terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashri. That destruction led to the appointment of a special criminal prosecutor, John Durham, to determine if criminal laws were violated in the destruction of those tapes.

Of course, if the tapes confirm the CIA’s account of events, that certainly isn’t going to do Amiri any good in Iran. But it would be ironic for the CIA to use that as a reason for refusing to release the tapes given its obvious attempt to retaliate against Amiri by trying to get him executed by Iranian authorities for spying and treason.

In fact, come to think of it, wouldn’t you think that Amiri might be somewhat reticent about returning to the brutal, dictatorial regime in Iran claiming he had been kidnapped, tortured, and renditioned while knowing that the CIA could easily release videotapes showing the contrary?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Appoint a Special Prosecutor in the Shahram Amiri Case

Not surprisingly, the mainstream press, including editorial boards and op-ed writers, has quickly jumped to the side of the CIA in the dispute over Shahram Amiri. The CIA claims that the Iranian scientist was a spy for the CIA and voluntarily defected to the United States before returning to Iran. For his part, Amiri claims that CIA operatives kidnapped him while he was on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, drugged him, flew him back to the United States, incarcerated him, and tortured him for information regarding Iran’s nuclear program, before finally releasing him to return to Iran.

There is one big problem, however, with the hasty conclusion reached by the U.S. mainstream press: It relies entirely on unsworn statements of CIA officials, who so far have chosen to remain anonymous.

Why is that a problem? Because if CIA agents did, in fact, kidnap, torture, and falsely incarcerate Amiri, it would be expected that the CIA would lie about it and create a ruse to cover up what it had done.

Why would they do that? Because the CIA’s actions would clearly constitute felony offenses under U.S. law, to wit: conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, torture, assault and battery, and false imprisonment. Since the offenses would have taken place in part on U.S. soil, U.S. courts would have criminal jurisdiction over them. Finally, since President Obama or other high U.S. officials would likely have played a role in the approval of such actions, the prospect of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors would come into play.

Notwithstanding the nationalist fervor of the U.S. mainstream press, when it comes to kidnapping, torture, and false arrest, the CIA is not entitled to automatic belief.

The case of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, whom the CIA kidnapped, falsely incarcerated, and renditioned to Egypt for the purpose of torture, is pertinent. Consider this excerpt from a Washington Post story about the Nasr case:

In March 2003, the Italian national anti-terrorism police received an urgent message from the CIA about a radical Islamic cleric who had mysteriously vanished from Milan a few weeks before. The CIA reported that it had reliable information that the cleric, the target of an Italian criminal investigation, had fled to an unknown location in the Balkans.

In fact, according to Italian court documents and interviews with investigators, the CIA’s tip was a deliberate lie, part of a ruse designed to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian refugee known as Abu Omar.

Did you catch the operative words and phrases in that excerpt: “deliberate lie” and “ruse”? In fact, the CIA knew that Nasr had gone to Egypt because that’s where the CIA took him after they abducted him off a Milan street. In Egypt he was tortured, on the request of the CIA, into providing information.

Consider the “defense” of CIA Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, who was convicted by the Italian court and received an 8-year prison sentence: “When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It’s a life of illegality…. But state institutions in the whole world have professionals in my sector, and it’s up to us to do our duty.”

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if the CIA lied about its criminal offenses in the Nasr kidnapping and created a ruse designed to cover them up, then it stands to reason that it might well do the same with the kidnapping of other people, especially when the illegality falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. criminal law.

Is it possible that the CIA is telling the truth in the Amiri case? Of course it is. But it’s also possible that it’s lying, especially since its statements on the case, the statements on which the mainstream press is relying, are unsworn and, therefore, not subject to perjury charges.

The only way to get to the truth is with the appointment of a special federal criminal prosecutor, much like the one that was appointed to investigate the Valerie Plame leak.

The Justice Department itself cannot be trusted to pursue an aggressive criminal investigation into the CIA’s actions with Amiri given the influence that President Obama, who could be facing the prospect of impeachment if it turns out that he approved the commission of felony offenses on U.S. soil, would have on the Justice Department, and the ongoing close relationship between the Justice Department and the CIA in the war on terrorism.

A nation that purports to stand by the rule of law cannot have its public officials committing felony offenses with impunity, including the kidnapping, torture, and incarceration of foreign citizens on U.S. soil. Given that the CIA has admittedly engaged in similar acts in the past, lied about them, and covered them up makes it imperative that a complete criminal investigation be made into whether the CIA committed felony offenses in the Amiri case. If the CIA is innocent of the charges, as it claims, it should have nothing to fear from an independent criminal investigation, which only a special prosecutor can assure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Opening the Borders to Peace, Prosperity, Harmony, and Liberty

In my recent posts calling for open borders, I have talked about how Americans are free to travel across state lines without encountering immigration officials at state borders. We all take this freedom for granted. But that’s only because we’ve grown up with it. If we had been born and raised under a regime in which each state could erect immigration controls, the thought of opening the state borders would be as shocking as the thought of opening international borders.

What is a border? It’s simply an artificial line demarking a particular government’s jurisdiction. Each government has the authority to enact laws that regulate the conduct of people within that jurisdiction. If a person commits a crime within a certain jurisdiction, he can be criminally prosecuted by that jurisdiction even if he is a citizen of another jurisdiction.

Simply because people are free to cross borders doesn’t mean that borders disappear or that governments disappear. It simply means that when people cross a border, they are then subject to the laws of the new jurisdiction.

Consider Italy and France. Suppose one day, the governments of both countries mutually agree to dismantle their respective checkpoints on both sides of the border. It is agreed that the citizens of each country will be free to cross the border to tour, visit, invest, work, open businesses, and, well, just live life as everyone else. The only condition is that everyone will retain his respective citizenship, unless he chooses to follow the approved application process for change of citizenship.

Immediately, countless Italians begin crossing into France, and countless French begin crossing into Italy, in much the same way that countless Marylanders and Virginians cross back and forth between their two states.

If an Italian breaks the law in France, he is subject to French law. If a Frenchman breaks the law in Italy, he is subject to being prosecuted by Italian officials.

Not too shocking, right?

Now, apply those principles to the United States and, say, Mexico. Admittedly, it’s more difficult but that’s only because it is so ingrained in us that border checkpoints are a necessary part of American life.

One humorous irony in all this is how people in two different countries are so fearful of being subjected to the unrestricted flow of people from the other country. For example, consider Mexico and the United States, both of whom have checkpoints on both sides of the border. In Mexico, the entire populace is free to travel around the country. In the United States, the entire populace is free to travel around the country. But suggest opening the border between the two countries and officials in both countries are suddenly stricken with fear that all those terrorists, drug dealers, and job-stealers who are freely traveling around the other country are going to enter their country.

Here’s another way to look at it. Suppose the U.S. government announced that it was going to permit an unrestricted number of tourists into the United States but only during the summer months. At the end of the summer, all foreign tourists would be required to return to their respective countries.

While some Americans would be alarmed at such a prospect, my hunch is that more Americans would say, “Fantastic! Let them in!” They would recognize the tremendous economic boon that a temporary influx of foreign tourists would bring to the United States. Does this mean that the entire world would come? Not likely because it costs money to travel to the United States, and it costs money once you get here, such as hotel, meals, transportation, and entertainment. As demand for such things goes up, so will the price, which will tend to inhibit others from coming.

In other words, the price system would serve to regulate the flow of summer tourists and also allocate where they travel within the United States. As prices of New York hotels began soaring, other summer tourists would choose to visit San Antonio to get a taste of Texas life.

Now, simply extend that principle to tourists who would be free to tour the United States for as long as they wanted, even for twelve months.

Then, simply extend that principle to tourists being free to get a job while they’re here. Or open a business.

But all the while, the foreign tourists would retain their foreign citizenship, unless they chose to follow the normal application process for becoming an American citizen.

Not so shocking after all, uh?

A world mired in socialism, interventionism, conflict, and war is desperately in need of leadership toward peace, prosperity, harmony, and liberty. Americans themselves can remain mired in this statist muck or we can lead the world to freedom and free markets, not to mention to religious and ethical principles regarding man’s relationship to man. What better place to start than by opening our borders to the free movements of goods, services, and people?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Lawless Regime of Unlimited Government

U.S. officials are denying claims by Shahram Amiri, an Iranian nuclear scientist, that CIA operatives kidnapped him, secretly transported him to the United States, tortured him, and kept him incarcerated for more than a year. The officials are saying that Amiri voluntarily defected to the United States and was paid some $5 million to provide information about Iran’s nuclear program, allegations that Amiri denies but ones that U.S. officials surely know would get him into hot water in Iran.

It’s a classic case of: Who are you going to believe — good, upstanding public officials of the U.S. government who are fighting to keep us safe or a citizen of a country belonging to what U.S. officials claim is an axis of evil.

There are one two big problems, however: One, U.S. officials are known liars, especially when it comes to matters that pertain to national security, and, two, Amiri’s claims are totally consistent with the modus operandi of the CIA.

Don’t forget, after all, that the same U.S. officials who are saying, “Believe us, not him” are the same U.S. officials who are knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately harboring convicted felons — that is, the CIA operatives who were recently convicted in Italy for doing the same thing that Amiri alleges they did to him. In Italy, they kidnapped a foreign citizen, conspired to torture him, and then delivered him to Egyptian government brutes who proceeded to incarcerate him without trial and torture him, at the express request of the CIA.

Have U.S. officials extradited these convicted felons to Italy to serve out their punishment? Of course not. Instead, they have chosen to harbor and protect them. The reason: these convicts are CIA operatives. Everyone knows that when it comes to the CIA, neither Congress, the Justice Department, federal judges, nor the mainstream press are going to touch the CIA.

Don’t forget about the CIA’s kidnapping, conspiracy to torture, and rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar. They turned him over to Syria pursuant to a formal torture agreement, even while U.S. officials were claiming not to talk to Syria because the Syrian regime is an official sponsor of terrorism.

Were there ever any indictments issued against the CIA operatives who did that to Arar? How about a congressional investigation? Do we know the names of the kidnappers, torturers, renditioners, and conspirators? Do we know who negotiated the torture agreement on behalf of the United States? Do we know whether the president of the United States signed off on the deal, even while telling the mainstream press that he doesn’t talk to Syria?

The answer is no to all those questions, and the reason, again, is the CIA. No one is going to jack with the CIA — not the Justice Department, not the Congress, not the federal judiciary, and certainly not the mainstream press.

This is the agency that wields and exercises unlimited power on behalf of the U.S. government, including the power to kidnap, torture, assassinate, rendition, incarcerate, and execute people anywhere in the world. With its omnipotent power to initiate force against anyone with impunity, the CIA is at the core of the U.S. Empire, and all other federal departments and agencies effectively operate in support of it.

We also shouldn’t forget the arrogance and supremacy that CIA officials have long shown toward the Iranian people. It was the CIA that initiated a coup that succeeded in ousting the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. It then installed into power the Shah of Iran, who proceed to use his CIA (the Savak) to torture and terrorize his own people for the next 25 years, with the full support of the CIA, until the Iranian people ousted the Shah from power in 1979.

Is it possible that U.S. officials are telling the truth about Amiri? Of course it is. Simply because they’ve lied in the past and simply because they will always lie in the interests of national security doesn’t automatically mean that they’re lying in this case.

But the only way to really get to the bottom of this is with a full criminal investigation or congressional investigation, with subpoenas issued directly to the CIA.

But we all know that that’s just not likely to happen. There is no moral outrage whatsoever within the Justice Department or Congress over the likelihood that the CIA has done to Amiri what the CIA has been doing for years — kidnapping, incarcerating, torturing, executing, and assassinating people. It’s all just par for the course in a lawless regime of unlimited government in post-9/11 America.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Immigration Attack on Stossel from the Right

Libertarian Fox News commentator John Stossel has recently been the subject of attacks from the left for taking the position that private owners have the right, under principles of freedom and private property, to discriminate. (See here andhere.)

Now, Stossel is under attack from the right for views on immigration that he recently expressed to Fox News conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly.

The right-wing attack comes from one Mark W. Hendrickson, a conservative academician at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Hendrickson’s attack, which is entitled “Libertarianism Fails against Illegal Immigration,” only goes to show how misguided conservatives are when it comes to the immigration issue.

First of all, Hendrickson gets it wrong in concluding that the immigration position advocated by Stossel in his conversation with O’Reilly was a libertarian position. It was nothing of the sort. Instead, Stossel was advocating the conservative position on immigration. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, simply because a libertarian advocates a particular position doesn’t necessarily make it a libertarian position.

The libertarian position on immigration is based on the principles of individual freedom and free markets. That position involves the rights to travel, move, migrate, freely associate with others, pursue happiness, sustain one’s life through labor, enter into contracts with others, trade, accumulate wealth, and do whatever one wants with his own money.

Libertarians hold that such rights are fundamental and inherent. They come from nature and God, not from government. They adhere in all men, not just Americans.

Thus, libertarians hold that people should be free to cross government borders in the exercise of these fundamental, natural, God-given rights. That’s why they favor free trade and open immigration, i.e., open borders.

By the same token, libertarians argue that freedom and free markets produce economic prosperity. Whenever people are entering into economic exchanges with others, including labor exchanges, they are improving their economic conditions. By entering into the exchange, both sides are giving up something they value less for something they value more, thus improving their respective situations.

Did Stossel call for open borders in his exchange with O’Reilly? No. Instead, while praising the value of immigrants, he called on the government to let more of them into the United States.

That is not a libertarian position but rather a conservative one, because it leaves immigration control in the hands of the government while asking government to exercise such control by letting in a larger number of immigrants than it is currently permitting.

As I have emphasized so many times (see here, for example), there is no immigration reform, including the one advocated by Stossel, that is capable of working. Nothing — repeat nothing — can or will ever make immigration control work.

Why is this so?

Because immigration control is based on an inherently defective paradigm, one of socialist central planning. As Mises, Hayek, and the Austrians showed long ago, central planning can never succeed because the planner can never possess the requisite knowledge to centrally plan a complex market, especially one as complex as an international labor market. All the planner inevitably does is produce chaos, distortions, and perversions into the market process.

For example, Stossel’s plan for solving the immigration crisis is for the government to let in more immigrants. Oh? How many immigrants? What should be their qualifications? What countries should they come from? Should the needs of employers be taken into account, and if so, how should that be done? What type of bureaucratic process should be enacted to coordinate all this? How long will it take to process the applications?

No matter what answers Stossel comes up with, there is one big problem with his plan: It can’t work. Even if you put 100 Harvard graduates on the central planning board and provide them with the speediest computers in the world, they simply are incapable of planning a complex labor market, especially given that market conditions are constantly changing.

As Mises, Hayek, and the Austrians have shown, that’s the beauty of the free market. It doesn’t rely on central planners. Instead, it simply uses the price system to enable people to coordinate their activities with others. Farm workers needed in Wyoming? The price of labor goes up. Mexican workers learn of the wage increase and immediately travel to Wyoming to earn the money. No central planner, but instead people planning and coordinating their own lives.

We see the phenomenon of open borders here within the United States, which is the largest free-trade, free-movement zone in history. Every day, countless people from Maryland and Virginia cross back and forth. No one knows the reason they’re coming and going. No one even keeps track of the numbers. No one worries that Marylanders are coming to Virginia to steal jobs or vice versa. No one worries about the trade deficit between the two states. No one worries about the possibility that some of the people crossing back and forth are murderers, robbers, terrorists, or rapists. No one worries that some of them are moving to secure better welfare benefits.

If we weren’t so accustomed to this open-border phenomenon, some people would consider this process to be chaos or anarchy. Actually, it’s neither. The border between Virginian and Maryland does not disappear simply because people are free to cross it. And the governments of Virginia and Maryland don’t disappear either.

Instead, the open border between Maryland and Virginia simply enables countless people to peacefully seek their own self-interests and coordinate their individual plans with others who are doing the same, without any governmental central planning agency. Everyone remains subject to the laws of the jurisdiction he finds himself in.

In fact, as any citizen in the former Soviet Union will attest, it is socialist central planning that produces chaos. It is what Mises termed “planned chaos.”

In his attack on Stossel, Hendrickson referred to the “violent anarchy in the southern Arizona desert.” But what he fails to realize is that his attack is on the “planned chaos” of socialism and interventionism in the form of both immigration controls (i.e., central planning) and the drug war (interventionism), both of which are conservative programs, not libertarian ones.

The reason that foreigners trespass on people’s private property along the border is because immigration controls make it illegal for them to cross normally at bridges or by plane. If borders were open, there would no longer be any reason for immigrants to risk their lives crossing the Arizona desert or ranchers’ private property. Instead, they would simply grab a bus or a flight and head north to take the job that some American businessman is offering them.

It’s no different with the drug war, which is perhaps conservatives’ most favorite government program. Yet what better example of government failure than the drug war? It’s been going on for decades and yet, what do conservatives say? They say that despite decades of manifest failure, it is more imperative than ever that the war be continued. When asked to justify such an irrational position, conservatives respond in the same way that liberals do when asked to justify the manifest failure of welfare-state programs, “Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our programs.”

But that’s just nonsense. The drug war has not only failed to achieve its purported end, it has actually produced a lot of negative externalities, such as massive death, destruction, corruption, constitutional violations, and infringements on freedom and privacy. Shouldn’t government programs be judged by their actual results rather than by the intentions of those who embrace them?

Hendrickson compares immigration to an invasion, but that is also sheer nonsense. An invasion is what the U.S. government did to Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, maimed, tortured, or incarcerated. Immigrants don’t come to America to do the types of things U.S. forces have done in Iraq. They come here to peacefully pursue happiness by engaging in mutually beneficial transactions with others, all with the aim of sustaining and bettering their own lives and the lives of their families.

Hendrickson points out that some immigrants commit violent crimes. Then, have the police go after them, just as the police do when violent criminals come from Maryland to commit crimes in Virginia, and vice versa. But don’t punish everyone simply because a few people decide to commit crimes.

Hendrickson says that he’s sympathetic to libertarian views on fiscal policy and seems to recognize that the federal government’s out-of-control spending is a serious threat to the well-being of the American people. But like the proponents of every other welfare-warfare state program, he wants to exempt his favorite programs — the drug war and the war on immigrants — from the federal spending ax.

In fact, Hendrickson’s plan (and O’Reilly’s) is to have the already debt-burdened federal government spend even more money by deploying military troops to the border. That’s all we need — more militarization of America. Surely Hendrickson is aware of what has happened on the Mexican side of the border, where the Mexican military has been deployed to wage the war on drugs. Why, I think the death toll is up to 23,000 since they did that. That’s a lot of dead people. Many Mexican citizens are now pleading with their government to take back its troops.

I grew up on the border. Ever since I was a child, I have witnessed these periodic paroxysms of immigration anxiety, in which some people go into emotional hyper-drive over the latest immigration “crisis” and propose new reforms to fix the crisis. Each new reform inevitably entails a greater infringement on freedom and inevitably gives rise to a new crisis. Weren’t such much-vaunted immigration reforms as criminalizing the transportation, harboring, or hiring of illegal immigrants suppose to be the final reforms that would fix the never-ending series of immigration crises? Isn’t that what those workplace raids were all about? Wasn’t that what the Berlin Fence was all about? Yet, here we are, back into emotional hyper-drive over a new crisis, one that revolves around socialism, interventionism, and the immigration reforms that were supposed to make them work.

Ironically, Hendrickson’s attack on Stossel was published on a website that focuses on Jesus Christ and Christian living. You’ll recall that He’s the one who said that the second-greatest commandment is, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Leave Them Alone

I have a modest ten-part proposal for the federal government, although some people undoubtedly will consider it radical.

1. Immediately vacate Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. government has had 8-9 years to do as much killing, injuring, maiming, and destroying as it wants in those two countries.

Time’s up. Enough is enough.

After all, let’s not forget that neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. That makes the United States the aggressor and Iraq the defending power. When you add the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died as a result of the 1991-2003 sanctions to the countless Iraqis who have been killed, maimed, tortured, and destroyed during the past 8 years, that adds up to a lot of misery inflicted on the Iraqi people.

And for what? Democracy? Where was devotion to democracy when the U.S. government supported such unelected dictators as the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet, Pervez Musharraf, and many, many more? Anyway, everyone knows that the Saddam Hussein regime has been replaced by nothing more than a kleptocracy — a crooked, corrupt, brutal, radical Islamic regime. That’s what American soldiers are killing and dying for.

It’s really no different in Afghanistan, the so-called good war. Interventionists continue to justify that invasion on the basis that because Osama bin Laden was presumably living in Afghanistan on 9/11, that meant that the Taliban government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks. “They harbored him,” has been the standard cry justifying 9 years of killing, maiming, torture, arbitrary arrests, and secret prisons.

Yet, U.S. officials have never provided one iota of proof that the Taliban had any participation in or even any foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. In fact, the circumstantial evidence establishes the contrary.

Would President Bush have demanded that the Taliban extradite bin Laden if the Taliban had conspired to commit the attacks? Would Bush have gone to the United Nations seeking authorization to use military force against Afghanistan?

Of course not. Bush would have simply ordered an attack (or properly sought a congressional declaration of war) under the concept of self-defense.

Fifteen out of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Did that make the Saudi government complicit in the 9/11 attacks? Why didn’t the U.S. government invade Saudi Arabia after 9/11? The reason is that the Saudi government wasn’t involved in the attacks notwithstanding the fact that some of the suspected terrorists were living in Saudi Arabia.

Why did Bush attack Afghanistan? Because the Taliban refused to unconditionally comply with his extradition demand for bin Laden, notwithstanding the fact that there was no extradition agreement between Afghanistan and the United States.

Today, American troops continue to kill and die in Afghanistan to preserve another kleptocracy — a crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, unelected regime that is doing nothing more than trying to preserve its power and line its pockets with U.S. taxpayer money. That’s nothing to kill or die for.

Interventionists say the U.S. government must continue to indefinitely occupy Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from regaining power. The idea is that even though the Taliban didn’t conspire to commit the 9/11 attacks, it is now so angry as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation that it will surely now provide a sanctuary for al Qaeda if it regains power.

But that’s sheer speculation, and speculation is no reason to continue killing, maiming, injuring, torturing, and destroying people. It’s just as possible that once the United States vacates Afghanistan, the Taliban will simply revert back to trying to establish its control over the country and leave the United States alone.

In fact, given that the reason that foreigners, including bin Laden, wish to commit terrorist acts against the United States is the U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy, once the interventionism comes to an end, the anger that motivates Middle Easterners to become terrorists will evaporate.

2. Dismantle the sanctions and end the threats against Iran. Leave the Iranian people alone.

3. Bring all the troops home from Europe. Leave Russia alone. Cold War is over.

4. Bring all the troops home from Korea, Japan, and the rest of Asia. Leave them alone.

5. End the drug war and bring all the troops home from Latin America. Leave them alone.

6. Bring all the troops home from everywhere else. Leave the world alone.

7. Discharge all those returning troops into the private sector.

8. Close unnecessary military bases all across America and discharge those troops into the private sector.

9. Liberate the American people — the private sector — to freely travel and trade with the people of the world. Start by immediately lifting all travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. The 50-year old embargo has caused enough suffering.

10. Leave the American people alone too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Luis Posada Carriles’ Insurance Policy

The former head of Cuba’s Department of State Security, Fabian Escalante, tells the Washington Post that accused terrorist Luis Posada Carriles has an insurance policy that ensures he will be provided excellent treatment at the hands of U.S. officials. According to an article in today’s Post, Escalante states, “He has a life insurance policy, which is what he knows about the Kennedy plot.”

Posada Carriles is the accused terrorist who is charged with the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 innocent people, including 24 members of Cuba’s national fencing team. For several years, he has been freely walking the streets of Miami because the U.S. government steadfastly refuses to grant an extradition request from Venezuela, which has jurisdiction over the bombing of the airliner.

Did U.S. officials at least indict Posada Carriles for the terrorist bombing of the Cuban airliner? After all, just recently U.S. officials charged two New Jersey men with conspiracy to “kill, maim and kidnap persons outside the United States.”

No, there’s been no indictment for Posada Carriles charging him with the terrorist bombing of that Cuban airliner. And there’s been no extradition of Posada Carriles to Venezuela. Instead, U.S. officials charged him with immigration fraud for supposedly lying to U.S. immigration officials when he entered the United States in 2004.

Why the lenient treatment? One reason could be that Posada Carriles used to work for the CIA. We all know what that means.

As the case of former CIA operative Michael Townley, who committed the terrorist murder of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit on the streets of Washington, D.C., confirms, when you’re former CIA you’re likely to get some special treatment. After serving a few years in jail for the murders, U.S. officials safely ensconced Townley into the federal Witness Protection Program, where he’s been ever since.

Also, the CIA agents who committed the terrorist kidnapping and rendition for torture in Italy a couple of years ago will attest how U.S. officials have bent over backwards to protect them.

For that matter, the CIA officials who participated in the murder of American citizen Charles Horman during the Pinochet coup in 1973 would undoubtedly confirm the protection from criminal prosecution provided them, but of course we don’t even know who they are.

And then there are the CIA officials who kidnapped and conspired to torture Canadian citizen Maher Arar. They’ve gotten a free pass too.

Was Posada Carriles working for the CIA when he allegedly conspired to bring down that Cuban civilian airliner with a bomb? Does he actually know anything about the Kennedy assassination, as Escalante alleges? We don’t know. But don’t count on anyone within the U.S. government, especially Congress and the Justice Department, to conduct any serious investigations into Posada Carriles’ alleged terrorist activities. After all, this is the CIA we’re talking about.

Over the years, I have written extensively about the Posada Carriles case. (Seehere.) It just seems to have a stench about it.

The year that Posada Carriles supposedly committed immigration fraud was 2004. That’s six years ago! Wouldn’t you think that six years would be sufficient time for prosecutors and defense lawyers to get prepared for trial, especially on a relative simple case involving immigration fraud?

Last month, the presiding judge in the case, Kathleen Cardone, announced that there would be no further delays in the case, an announcement that was somewhat laughable given that she also announced that she was setting the trial date for January of next year — another 7-month delay in a case that is six years old.

Why didn’t Cardone simply set a trial date for July or August 2010? Why delay the case another 7 months? After all, surely the judge recognizes that lawyers on both sides have had plenty of time to prepare for trial, especially given that the immigration fraud case originated some 6 years ago.

Meanwhile, there has been another interesting development pertaining to Posada Carriles. A man named Francisco Chavez Abarca, a close associate of Posada Carriles was arrested in Caracas last week and quickly extradited to Cuba for his alleged involvement in a terrorist bombing in Havana in 1997, the same period of time that Posada Carriles supposedly engaged in terrorist bombings in Cuba. It will be interesting to see what Chavez Abarca discloses, even if it’s in response to Cuba’s harsh interrogation techniques, which undoubtedly will rival those of the CIA.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Robert Byrd, Federal Bankruptcy, and Moral Debauchery

Mainstream commentators were extolling the effectiveness of Senator Robert Byrd, who recently died. They pointed out how successful he was in bringing federal largess to West Virginia. Their accolades reflect not only why the federal government is broke but also the moral bankruptcy into which our society has plunged.

Indeed, how much federal largess a member of Congress brings home to his district has become a standard measuring rod for the mainstream press over how effectively he has represented his district. Whenever a U.S. Representative or U.S. Senator announces a federal grant has been awarded his area, which oftentimes occurs during campaign season, the local mainstream press goes gaga over what an effective member of Congress they have representing them.

Let’s examine how this system works to see how sordid it is.

Through the federal income tax, the American people are forced to send a portion of their hard-earned income to the IRS. Although federal officials sometimes tell people that America’s tax system is “voluntary” (see this video, for example), nothing could be further from the truth. If you don’t pay your taxes, they will prosecute you and do their best to see that you go to jail. They will also pursue you with civil processes, including liens, foreclosures, garnishments, and attachments.

All that money that people send to the IRS ends up in a giant pool, which becomes available for distribution. The members of Congress are the ones who divvy it up. Those who have been there longer oftentimes get priority over the others. That is, they get a larger share of the loot to bring back home. The newer members have to settle for a smaller portion of the pie.

As campaign season rolls around, some federal department or agency to which Congress has allocated a share of the largess contacts a congressman running for reelection and tells him that the department has decided to award a grant to his district. The congressman and a bureaucrat then issue a joint announcement that, say, a new public housing project or a new community center is being awarded his district.

Wow! Why, this is free money. The local press goes ballistic. “Community gets a free center!” the headlines blare. “We have the most effective congressman in the country,” the local editorial writers declare.

What they fail to realize is that this process repeats itself all across the country. State and local politicians and local citizens all over the nation fight vigorously to get their hands on some portion of the federal loot that is available for distribution. And with rare exceptions, when a grant is awarded, the congressman for that particular district puffs out his chest and proudly announces the grant, so that he’ll get credit for bringing home the bacon.

Some congressmen get less and some get more, but most all of them get something. Byrd was in Congress a long time. That longevity brought home a lot of federal pork.

This entire process has turned the federal government into a rotten, corrupt center of financial bankruptcy and moral debauchery. While these people are praised for bringing all these good things to their districts, the fact is that they’re not being good with their own money. They’re being good with the money that the IRS has forcibly extracted with the American people, many of whom are just struggling to make ends meet. And the people who hope to be on the receiving end of the largess spend vast amounts of time, money, and energy bowing, kneeling, and scraping before those who have the power to give it to them.

The worst part of all this is when the victims of this process express gratitude to the congressman, fighting to shake his hand, look him in the eye, and admiringly say, “Thank you, Congressman, for performing this fine service for us.” It’s bad enough that Americans condone this type of system. It’s so shameful when they’re grateful for being serviced in this way.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why Not Revitalize the Economy with Pyramids?

Statists continue to argue that to dig its way out of its welfare-warfare financial crisis, U.S. officials should continue to spend massive amounts of money. The problem, of course, is that the U.S. government doesn’t have massive amounts of money. What it is already spending far exceeds what it is receiving in the form of taxes.

So, how do statists propose that government officials get the difference in order to cover its spending? In two ways: borrowing and inflation. They say that the spending of that borrowed or printed money will “revitalize” the economy, thereby bringing jobs to unemployed people who then will be paying the taxes to fund the welfare-warfare state. Happy days will be here again.

The statist arguments, however, are false and fallacious and lead in but one direction: economic doom, the same type of economic doom that has now hit Greece, where the government is, for all practical purposes, bankrupt — unable to pay its bills, unable to borrow the money to do so, unable to print the money to do so, and lacking a sufficient private base of wealth to tax.

In any society, there is a finite amount of capital. Let’s take a small, very poor nation, one in which people, say, have a total savings of $1,000,000. That’s all the money there is for capital.

Things are going well within the nation. Business is booming. Private business owners decide to expand operations by investing in equipment that will make their businesses more productive. This will mean more revenue for the firm, enabling the payment of higher wages, as well as lower prices for consumers.

To borrow the $1,000,000 that savers in the nation are willing to lend, the firms decide to issue bonds carrying an annual interest rate of 10 percent, which is the most they can afford to pay.

But just before the bonds go to market, government officials enter the picture and announce that they are going to embark on a massive public works campaign entailing the building of pyramids. They issue government bonds with an interest rate of 20 percent, twice what the private firms are offering. The savers decide to lend their money to the government.

The government uses the money to build its pyramids. It offers jobs to construction workers all over the country. New businesses spring up around the pyramid operations, such as restaurants, car dealerships, and clothing stores.

Government officials, along with the mainstream press, celebrate all this economic activity. “Jobs for your nation!” they proudly declaim “We’re the key to economic prosperity!” When the pyramid is finally finished, they proudly point to the tourists who come to visit it.

But there is something important that is missing here. It’s easy to point to the pyramid, the restaurants, the car dealers, and the tourists. But it’s not as easy to see all that is unseen: all the things that did not come into existence owing to the fact that the private businesses were prevented from borrowing the $1,000,000 in capital to expand their operations. Their level of productivity does not grow, which means no wage increases for the workers and no price decreases for consumers. The money that would have gone into private business expansion was used for the construction of a pyramid.

Moreover, the government is now saddled with $1,000,000 in debt that must now be paid back. Where does it get the money? From the people in the nation (including the savers) — through taxation.

What happens if tourists don’t come to visit the pyramid? Building a new pyramid obviously becomes problematic. But lots of people have become dependent on the pyramid business. Construction companies and suppliers engaged in the building of the pyramid start to go out of business. The same goes for all the nearby restaurants, car dealers, and clothing stores. That means massive unemployment.

In other words: recession or even depression! The statists cry, “Do something! Save us from recession and depression! Spend more money! You can’t stop now. You must continue doing it to keep the economy going. Borrow the money or print the money, but just keep spending.”

Thus, each year the government builds a new pyramid, and each year more and more businesses become oriented toward the pyramid operations. But finally, one day the government’s debt has become so large that people won’t lend it their money, fearing that they won’t get paid back. And there isn’t enough wealth in the nation to tax.

Nonetheless, the statists cry, “Save us from recession and depression! Keep spending money.”

Government officials respond, “We don’t have the money to spend. We’re flat broke. We can’t raise the money through taxes because people are flat broke too.”

Statists exclaim, “Then just print the money you need for new pyramids. Just don’t stop spending. Save us from recession and depression!”

And that’s when the inflation begins, the insidious process by which government plunders and loots people not through direct taxation but rather by debasing the value of their money. That’s when prices of most everything start soaring.

Finally, at the end of this long process, the government is broke, the people are broke, economic activity has come to a standstill, and there is no more savings in society. The Big Depression has finally hit.

What do the statists say then? That’s when they blame the whole thing on free enterprise and call on the government to nationalize and own all the gold, industry, and everything else in society, including, of course, the pyramids.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Welfare-Warfare Crackup

For decades, libertarians have been warning Americans of the coming crack-up of the welfare-warfare state. Of course, we couldn’t predict when the crack-up would finally occur. All we could do is to say that the road to statism, both welfare and warfare, was a road to national bankruptcy.

Keep in mind that the welfare-warfare state depends on a vibrant private sector. Why is this so? Because the welfare-warfare sector is fundamentally a parasitic sector. That is, unlike the private sector, the public sector produces no wealth. The public sector attaches onto the private, productive sector and sucks lifeblood out of it in order to survive.

Thus, a government that is committed to providing welfare and warfare must ensure that the private sector remains vibrant and productive. The parasite instinctively knows that if the host dies, there is no more lifeblood that the parasite can suck.

In the early days of the welfare state here in the United States, the free market had already produced a tremendously vibrant and prospering private sector. For more than a century, there was no income tax and no welfare system (including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) and so people were free to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth. There were also very few controls on economic activity.

This enormous free-market activity produced a huge base of income, wealth, productive capital, and economy prosperity. The socialists saw this and thought, “Wow! That’s a lot of money, and people don’t need all of it. The government should seize a portion of all that wealth to provide free money for other people.”

At first, the impact was relatively small because the wealth-producing capacity far exceeded what was being sucked out of the pockets of the productive sector. But over time — decade after decade — the parasitic sector keep getting larger and larger and its appetite kept becoming more and more voracious.

The problem became bigger and bigger, especially as the appetite of the warfare sector began growing as rapidly as that of the welfare sector. As the needs of the parasitic sector continue to grow, the increasing taxes and regulations begin forcing marginal businesses — those that were barely making it — out of business. As workers were laid off many of them would join the parasitic sector.

We libertarians kept saying that given the ever-increasing number of dole recipients in the welfare sector, combined with the ever-increasing number in the military sector, ultimately the private, productive sector would start to teeter, unable to withstand the weight and appetite of the giant, ever-growing welfare-warfare parasite.

The statists kept telling Americans: “Don’t listen to those libertarians. They’re just a bunch of doomsday proponents. Europeans do fine with their welfare state.”

We libertarians kept saying, “It’s just a matter of time.”

And now we have Greece. Bankrupt. The government is unable to unable pay the parasitic sector because the private sector cannot withstand the taxes needed to pay such expenses. Spain, Portugal, and Italy are in similar straits.

It’s no different with what is going on with several states here in the United States. See this New York Times article entitled “Illinois Stops Paying Its Bills, but Can’t Stop Digging Hole,” which points out that Illinois owes $5.01 billion and has stopped paying its bills. Other states and localities are facing the same problem.

Desperate to save their welfare-warfare programs, statists are calling for the same solution they have embraced for decades, “Raise taxes!” But today they’re showing a bit of fear about going down that road, and rightfully so, because they instinctively know that the private sector — the host — might not be able to withstand much more bloodsucking.

Meanwhile, many of the statists are calling on the Federal Reserve to print new money to bail out the states and localities as well as the federal government. They realize that the Constitution does not permit the states to resort to the printing press to pay their bills and so they’re hoping the federal government will do so.

And in fact that’s what the Fed has done for decades to resuscitate the private sector. It’s worked in the past but libertarians have continually warned that this is nothing more than a short-term fix, and a highly destructive one at that. In fact, even the statists are bit scared, given that the massive bailouts and stimulus plans implemented in the past couple of years have gotten them nowhere.

Inflation inevitably misallocates resources, diverting economic activity toward government-induced projects. When those projects come to an end, so does all the business activity that was oriented in that direction. That’s when the recession or depression once again raises its ugly head, motivating the statists to call for another round of newly printed money to keep the host alive.

But it’s like injecting adrenaline into a dying patient. It might keep him alive one time, two times, three times, but everyone knows that it can’t go on forever.

Statists ask, “What’s the libertarian solution for saving our welfare-warfare system?” Our response: “We don’t have one, because your system cannot be saved and it’s not worth saving anyway.”

Libertarians stand for an entirely different paradigm, one in which people are free to engage in economic activity without any government regulation (i.e., free enterprise), to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth (i.e., no income tax), and to decide what to do with their own lives and fortunes (i.e., no welfare programs), and no military empire, standing army, and foreign wars. That’s why we call for a dismantling, not a reform, of both welfare-state programs and warfare-state programs.

What matters to us libertarians is freedom, including economic liberty, along with the vibrant, growing, prosperous, and harmonious society that it produces.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Violent Christians and Iraq

Ever since the invasion of Iraq, I have been absolutely amazed by the position taken by many American Christians. Needless to say, I’m no theologian but it just seems to me that it would be difficult to find a clearer example of a violation of God’s prohibition against murder than what the U.S. government has done to the Iraqi people, with the full support of many American Christians.

You’ll recall that initially, the Bush administration justified its planned invasion of Iraq based on its infamous WMD scare. Bush and other U.S. officials strongly suggested that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was planning to attack the United States with the WMDs, weapons that, ironically, the United States and other Western nations had furnished him several years before so that he could use them against the Iranian people. (That’s why Bush and his people were so certain that U.S. troops would find WMDs in Iraq — they had the receipts!)

Prior to his invasion of Iraq, Bush’s goal was to implant a tremendous post-9/11 fear into the American people, a fear that would motivate Americans into supporting an invasion of the country without asking too many challenging questions.

And it worked. The vast majority of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq under the concept of self-defense. That is, people convinced themselves or permitted themselves to be convinced that because Iraq was about to attack the United States, the U.S government was justified in initiating a preemptive strike on Iraq. I recall many Americans saying, “The president has access to information that we don’t have. We have to trust him on this. He’s our president.”

Yet, after the invasion occurred there came a point where it was obvious that the fear of a WMD attack by Saddam was baseless and that all the evidence and insinuations by the Bush administration that a WMD attack was imminent were false and groundless.

At that point, one would ordinarily think that U.S. officials would have apologized for having invaded a country under false or baseless premises and quickly exited the country. One would also have thought that Americans would have expressed remorse and contrition over the killing, maiming, and torture of the Iraqi people up to that point.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the U.S. government announced that it intended to continue occupying Iraq and quickly shifted its primary justification for its invasion and occupation from WMDs to the benefits of bringing democracy to Iraq and the Middle East.

Many Americans, including Christians, embraced this new justification without skipping a beat. Since the day the WMD scare evaporated, countless Iraqis have been killed, maimed, and tortured, notwithstanding the fact that not one single one of them had anything whatsoever to do with 9/11.

This new justification that American Christians have relied on for supporting the killing of people in Iraq turns on an arithmetical calculation. The idea is that Iraqis who survive the invasion and occupation are better off today with democracy than they were under dictatorship and, therefore, the killing of countless Iraqis to accomplish that goal is morally and theologically justified.

Again, I’m no religious scholar, but I have a very difficult time believing that God approves of that sort of utilitarian approach to killing people. If God approved of such an approach, it seems to me that He would have said, “Thou shalt not kill unless the killing will bring democracy to everyone else.”

That’s not what He said. He said, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Now I can understand how one could arrive at a concept of self-defense from God’s commandment against killing. But for the life of me, I cannot understand how one can arrive at a conclusion that God supports the killing of some people (or even just one person) for the sake of bringing democracy to everyone else.

We saw this same utilitarian mindset prior to the invasion of Iraq, during the 11 years of brutal economic sanctions that the U.S. government and the UN were enforcing against Iraq. During that sanctions, Iraqi children were dying from illnesses from such things as sewage-infested waters. The attitude among U.S. officials, and the American Christians who supported the sanctions, was that the deaths were worth the effort to oust Saddam from power and replace him with a U.S.-supported ruler.

That mindset was reflected by U.S. official Madeleine Albright. She was asked by “Sixty Minutes” whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions had been worth it, and she responded that they had in fact been “worth it.”

Again, the mindset was: It is okay to kill people — in this case, children — for the greater, long-term good of the American and Iraqi people.

Is such a utilitarian calculation really consistent with Christian principles? I can’t see how.

What’s even more amazing to me is that there has never been an upward limit placed on the number of Iraqis who could be killed (or maimed or tortured) in order to achieve democracy in Iraq.

In fact, we don’t know even know how many Iraqis have been killed because early on U.S. officials announced that they would keep track only of the American dead, not Iraqi dead. That seems to me to be an unusual policy, especially when the U.S. government is supposedly doing all this for the benefit of the Iraqi people, or at least those who survive the invasion and occupation.

Doesn’t the failure to keep count of the Iraqi dead imply that the number of Iraqi dead doesn’t really matter? If it takes 10,000, or 100,000, or a million dead, it’s considered a regrettable but necessary step to achieving democracy. And if democracy is achieved, the deaths are to be considered “worth it,” just as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children were considered “worth it.”

Many American Christians claim that Muslims are inherently violent people. But it seems to me that such a description could easily be applied to those American Christians who see nothing wrong with killing an unlimited number of people for the sake of achieving such political goals as democracy and regime change.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Liberal Blind Spot

In another sign that liberals are becoming increasingly concerned with the growing popularity of libertarianism, a liberal named Daniela Perdomo has gone on the attack against libertarian John Stossel at Alternet.org, one of the major liberal (or “progressive,” as many liberals now label themselves) websites. In an article entitled “Is John Stossel More Dangerous Than Glenn Beck?” Perdomo has revealed a major blind spot within the liberal mind.

As I have pointed out time and time again in my articles on the minimum wage, liberals have a blind spot when it comes to economic understanding. Or to put it bluntly, when it comes to the field of economics, they have a woeful ignorance, and it is that ignorance that prevents them from recognizing the terrible harm they do to the poor, especially racial minorities, with such statist programs as the minimum wage.

In her attack on Stossel and libertarianism, Perdomo reveals another blind spot: the propensity to view a defense of freedom of choice as an endorsement of the bad, immoral, dangerous, or irresponsible choices that people end up making when they’re free to make choices.

What set Perdomo off was Stossel’s recent criticism of anti-discrimination laws. Like most other libertarians, Stossel argued that freedom entails the right of a bigot to be a bigot, including in the operation of his retail establishment.

What Perdomo’s blind spot prevents her from seeing is that one can defend freedom of choice as a principle without endorsing the wrongful choices that people make. To paraphrase Voltaire, we libertarians don’t agree with racist or bigoted choices but we will defend the right of people to make them, just as our defense of Nazi sympathizers to express their views in a public march in Skokie, Illinois, didn’t mean that we were endorsing their views.

Here is what Perdomo says about Stossel: “While he can make racist statements as well as the rest of them, he couches his particular brand of hate in his passion for libertarianism.”

Does Perdomo point to any racist statement or any expression of hate by Stossel? She does not, and the reason she doesn’t is because she can’t. Stossel didn’t make any racist statement or statement of hate. What Perdomo is essentially saying is that when a person calls for freedom of association on the basis of race, he is automatically, by virtue of taking such a position, guilty of making a racist or hate-filled statement.

Now, is that not ridiculous or what? That’s what passes for serious analysis within the liberal mind. That’s what comes from the 12-year-sentence in public (i.e., government) schools, where the mind is molded into conformity, memorization, and superficial analysis, stamping out any semblance of independent, critical thinking.

What’s really funny is that Perdomo combines her claims about Stossel’s “particular brand of hate” with his support for such things as “legalizing drugs, prostitution, abortion and assisted suicide,” which are typically liberal positions. In other words, she’s claiming that libertarianism, which shares some common positions with liberals, is a sinister way to sneak in the bigoted, racist, hate-filled right-to-discriminate position.

The reason this is so funny is because conservatives say the same thing that Perdomo and her fellow liberals say to libertarians with respect to such things as the drug war, prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide. They have the same blind spot that Perdomo has on those particular issues.

How many times have libertarians been attacked by conservatives for favoring drug usage and drug abuse simply because we favor drug legalization? And the same for the legalization of prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide.

The irony is that if one were to ask Perdomo whether she favors drug abuse, prostitution, abortion, and assisted suicide, she would probably say, “Oh no. As a liberal, I believe they should be legalized but that doesn’t mean I would endorse them.” The problem, again, is that her blind spot prevents her from applying the same principle to freedom of association.

Of course, this isn’t the only area where Perdomo and liberals have this particular blind spot. We libertarians see it all the time with respect to the welfare state. Whenever we call for the repeal, not reform, of such liberal socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, public housing, corporation bailouts, income taxation, and the like, and argue that people should be free to do whatever they want with their own money, what is it that liberals automatically say to us? They immediately exclaim: “You libertarians hate the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, and you would let them die in the streets!”

Again, they automatically jump to the conclusion that because libertarians favor freedom of choice in peaceful endeavors, they automatically endorse all the choices that people make.

An irony of all this in order to achieve a more moral, responsible, compassionate society, the worst thing people can do is use force to achieve it. It is through the widest ambit of freedom of choice that people are best able to achieve a higher level of conscience, consciousness, morality, and responsibility. Perhaps that’s what frightens statists, both conservatives and liberals, so much about libertarianism.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Obsequiousness of the Mainstream Press

Glenn Greenwald has done great work detailing how subservient and submissive the mainstream press is with respect to the U.S. government. Here’s his latest article on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/2dypdly.

In fact, reporters in the mainstream press might well be described as the classic success story of public (i.e., government) schools: the good, little citizen who never challenges federal authority and caters, kowtows, and bows down to federal officials in the hopes of continuing to find favor with them.

What I find fascinating is the extreme reluctance of the mainstream press to delve into matters regarding the CIA. It’s almost as if there is a mainstream press code of conduct that prohibits mainstream reporters from aggressively delving into matters relating to the CIA.

For example, consider the case of Maher Arar. He’s the Canadian citizen who the CIA kidnapped on American soil and renditioned to Syria for the purpose of torturing him.

Let me repeat the name of that country: Syria.

Why is that significant? Because for years, the U.S. government has designated the Syrian government to be a terrorist regime.

Consider this article about the relationship between Syria and the United States that appeared just yesterday in the New York Times. It points out that Syria is “a country with which the United States has long had icy relations” and that “Syria is still classified by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism and is subject to sanctions.”

In fact, throughout the George W. Bush administration, Bush repeatedly emphasized that his administration would not talk to Syria because the Syrian government was a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism.

Okay, fair enough. But an obvious question arises, one that the mainstream press, especially the White House press corps, has never deigned to ask of U.S. officials, from the president on down: Given your claim that you don’t talk to Syria because it is a state sponsor of terrorism, how did you arrange the torture deal for Mahar Arar without talking to Syria?

Wouldn’t you think that any reporter worth his salt would be curious about how such a deal was struck? How were the rendition and torture negotiations carried out? Who were the negotiators? Were the presidents of the United States and Syria involved in the negotiations? Did they sign off on the final deal? Was the agreement put into writing? What were the terms of the rendition and torture contract? Would U.S. officials be permitted to watch or participate in the torture? Did they do so? How was Arar’s transfer to be effected under the agreement?

As far as I know, not one single mainstream reporter asked about any of this. Questions like that might cause them to lose White House privileges or invitations to political parties or even earn them the silent treatment from federal politicians and bureaucrats.

A few years ago, it was disclosed that the federal Department of Education funneled $241,000 into the pockets of commentator Armstrong Williams to help promote the No Child Left Behind Law.

Sometimes I wonder whether the same arrangement has been made with other mainstream reporters. Maybe newspapers should require their employees to sign an annual affidavit stating that they are not on the federal dole. At least that would help show that the obsequiousness of mainstream reporters toward federal officials isn’t owing to the fact that they’re on the receiving end of federal monies.

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.