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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Emergency Laws and Public-School Indoctrination


An interesting aspect of the Syrian protests shows, once again, the big success of public (i.e., government) schooling in America.

Syria is ruled by a brutal dictatorship. Everyone agrees on that. The world is witnessing the power of that dictatorship today, as it employs overwhelming police and military force to suppress dissent and anti-government demonstrations by the Syrian populace.

Syria’s dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, is attempting to placate the protestors by pledging to end the nation’s 48-year-old emergency law. According to the New York Times, the emergency law “gives the president and security forces expansive power to detain Syrians for any cause.”

The Syrian protestors have made lifting of the emergency law one of their major demands, especially since it is used round up and torture Syrian protestors.

What’s that have to do with the success of America’s public-schooling system?

The average public-school educated American can’t understand why the Syrian people would demand a lifting of the emergency laws because he’s been taught to believe that such emergency laws constitute “freedom” and “security.” And where else would such American have acquired such a belief except in the government’s public schools? That’s where, day after day and year after year, he was taught to be grateful that he was living in a free country, one in which the federal government is keeping him safe from the terrorists (and the drug dealers) and in which the troops are overseas fighting for our freedoms?

Consider the war on terrorism’s enemy-combatant doctrine. Didn’t that emergency measure come into existence during the “emergency” of the 9/11 attacks in New York City?

Don’t American public-school graduates (except libertarians) fervently believe in the enemy-combatant doctrine as much as they do, say, the Patriot Act? Don’t they consider the powers vested in federal officials by such measures as necessary means to protect our freedoms and to keep us safe? Don’t such Americans vehemently object to suggestions that such measures be ended here in the United States because of their fear that the terrorists will come and get us?

Yet, doesn’t the U.S. enemy-combatant doctrine empower U.S. officials to do the same things that Syria’s emergency laws do? Thanks to the 9/11 “emergency” 10 years ago, don’t the president and his military now wield the power to round up any American they want, incarcerate him indefinitely, torture him, and even execute him after some sort of kangaroo tribunal? Weren’t those emergency powers confirmed and upheld by the federal courts in the Jose Padilla case? Indeed, don’t the president and the military now wield the power to ignore verdicts of acquittal in federal court jury trials and take custody of acquitted Americans who the military nonetheless thinks are terrorists?

Oh sure, it’s true that U.S. officials still have to label the person a “terrorist” before they can just go out and pick him up, but big deal. All they have to do is decide who they want to target and affix the label of “terrorist” on him.

If the American prisoner files a habeas corpus petition, all the government has to do is come up with some minimal amount of evidence, perhaps through bribery or torture of some other suspected terrorist., in order to get past the habeas hearing, especially given that the federal judiciary is deferring to the commander in chief and the military during this “time of perpetual war.”

What would the average public-schooled American say to the average Syrian protestor? He’d say this:

Wait, Syrians! You are making a big mistake! Don’t you know that emergency laws that enable your government to arrest people, incarcerate them indefinitely, and torture them are freedom? Don’t you know that such laws keep you safe? You need to start trusting your public officials. They’re not perfect but they are looking out for your welfare.

Why, here in the United States, our president and his military have emergency powers too because of the 9/11 emergency that occurred 10 years ago. Like Syria’s 48-year-old emergency, our 10-year-old emergency is also temporary. Our officials have assured us that the emergency will end as soon as the last terrorist in the world is killed.

What you Syrians need to do is simply find a new president who is more benevolent than your current president. Our presidents — President Bush and President Obama — have been very cautious when it comes to the exercise of these emergency powers. They have been arresting, incarcerating, torturing, and killing real terrorists, not innocent people. You Syrians just need to find a president like Bush and Obama. But don’t get rid of the emergency powers. They’re making you free and safe.

Oh, by the way, Syrians, you might also want to take a look at our Patriot Act here in the United States, which empowers our president and his intelligence forces to arbitrarily search our banks, homes, and businesses. Sure, the government has to allege a link to terrorism, but that’s no big deal either. The Patriot Act us free and safe.

Freedom and safety, Syrians! Don’t make a mistake! Don’t let your president and his forces relinquish their emergency powers over you. Your freedom and personal security — indeed, your nation’s national security — are at stake!

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.