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, March 2012


Friday, March 30, 2012

Good for Pope Benedict!

Good for Pope Benedict! During his trip to Cuba this past week, not only did he criticize Cuba’s embrace of Marxism and the Castro regime’s infringements on religious liberty and civil liberty, he also condemned the 50-year-old U.S. embargo on Cuba. He pointed out that the aim of greater freedom in Cuba was not helped by economic measures that “unfairly burden” Cuba’s people.

Don’t you just love it when American Christians proudly proclaim that America is a Christian country while they continue to support their government’s embargo on Cuba? Would one Christian — just one — care to explain how the U.S. government’s cruel and brutal embargo against Cuba can be reconciled with Christian principles?

Let’s see. There is the commandment that says that one should love his neighbor as himself. Christ said that that was the second-greatest commandment. Please, American Christians, show me how a government policy that is designed to inflict massive economic harm on innocent people — and that has inflicted such harm — and that continues to inflict such harm — can be reconciled with that commandment.

It can’t be. Those American Christians who wear their religion on their sleeves while, at the same time, supporting the U.S. embargo on Cuba are nothing more than hypocrites, just like those that Christ had to deal with when He walked upon this good earth.

What is the U.S. government’s justification for the embargo? Here’s how U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded to Pope Benedict’s condemnation of the U.S. embargo: “Our Cuba policy is focused on improving relations between the American people and the Cuban people.”

What? That’s obviously just a crock, nonsensical statement. It’s just one of those big lies that corrupt governments throughout history tell, knowing that many of their citizenry will just accept without question. Hey, maybe we should be grateful that at least Toner didn’t mention the standard “national security” crud we’ve heard since 1960 to justify the U.S. invasion of Cuba, the embargo, the assassination attempts, the partnership with the Mafia, and the many acts of sabotage and terrorism against Cuba.

Hey, Toner, how about explaining to us exactly how your lovely little embargo improves relations between the American people and the Cuban people?

You can’t do it. You know as well as I do that your lovely little embargo is intended to hurt the Cuban people. It is intended to starve them to death. It is intended to kill them, just like your lovely little embargo on Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.

What’s the real reason for the U.S. embargo on Cuba? It’s personal, vengeful, and vindictive. For one thing, the CIA has never gotten over its failure to effect regime change with its invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. And the U.S. government has never gotten over the fact that its 50 years of inflicting suffering on the Cuban people with its embargo has never succeeded in effecting regime change in Cuba.

That was the purpose of the embargo in the first place — to cause so much suffering among the Cuban people that they would finally get angry and initiate a violent revolution that would oust Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and their communist comrades from power and re-install a pro-U.S. dictator, like the one that preceded Castro into power.

Never mind that countless Cubans would die in such a revolution. In the minds of the U.S. national-security establishment, their deaths would be considered “worth it” — that is, worth replacing Castro with a pro-U.S. dictator.

Moreover, the CIA and the Pentagon are undoubtedly still upset that the Cuban military has never ousted Castro in a coup and established a pro-U.S. military dictatorship, like the U.S.-supported military dictatorships in Guatemala, Chile, Pakistan, and Egypt.

The fact is that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has no legitimacy whatsoever. No constitutional legitimacy and no moral legitimacy. It is an act of aggression against a sovereign and independent regime, one that has never attacked the United States, never initiated assassination attempts against U.S. officials, and never engaged in acts of terrorism against the United States.

Of course, the CIA and the State Department would undoubtedly claim that the U.S. government has the legal and moral authority to inflict harm on people who happen to be living under a communist regime.

Oh? And where does that authority come from? I certainly don’t see it in my copy of the Constitution? And from a moral or religious perspective, since when can a political regime inflict harm on another nation’s citizenry simply because their government officials hold a particular political or economic philosophy?

Oh, and I have another question for you, Toner: How does the embargo on Cuba expand the freedom of the American people? Don’t your people in the Justice Department go after Americans who travel to Cuba and spend money there without the required U.S. government-issued license? Don’t they prosecute them criminally and ask the federal judge to send them to jail for a long time for daring to travel to Cuba and spend money there without a government-issued license? How can a legal requirement to get a license that enables a person to spend his own money be reconciled with basic principles of freedom? How can being put in jail for spending your own money without government permission be reconciled with the principles of economic liberty?

Let’s face the uncomfortable truth, Toner: Your cruel and brutal embargo on the Cuban people is nothing but a socialist-fascist type of economic control that is used not only to harm the Cuban people but also to control and punish the American people.

After all, Toner, how are your economic controls on the American people different in principle from those of Fidel Castro? Aren’t you controlling Americans’ economic activities in the same manner that Castro controls the economic activities of the Cuban people with his socialism?

Oh, and by the way, Toner, you do realize, don’t you, that one of Castro’s socialist pride and joys is his government-provided healthcare system? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what you people in the U.S. government are fighting for too?

Admit the truth, Toner: Your cruel and brutal embargo does nothing to improve relations between the Cuban people and the American people. It is nothing more than a hypocritical, immoral, vengeful, personal attack on the freedom and well-being of both the Cuban people and the American people.

After all, what better way to improve relations between the Cuban people and the American people than by simply lifting the embargo? In that way, the American people would then be free to travel to Cuba and spend money there — free to interact with the Cuban people — free to visit with them — free to share ideas and perspectives with them — free to share music with them — free to associate with them.

In other words, Toner, pray tell: What better way to combat Cuba’s communist and socialist system than through American freedom? Why in the world have you people in the U.S. government adopted communist, socialist, and fascist methods to defeat communism and socialism? How does that benefit the American people? How does it benefit the Cuban people?

American Christians will soon be going to church in droves on Easter. While they celebrate the risen Christ, unfortunately they will continue to do what they were taught in American public schools. They will continue to defer to the authority of Caesar by supporting Caesar’s 50-year-old program of inflicting as much economic harm on the Cuban people as possible, in flagrant violation of God’s sacred laws and commandments.

Good for Pope Benedict for issuing a much-needed condemnation of the U.S. government’s evil, immoral, unconstitutional, and hypocritical assault against the Cuban people.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bernanke’s Gold-Standard Nonsense at GWU

In his recent lecture (pdf) condemning the gold standard to students at George Washington University, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that speculators had “attacked” central banks in the 1930s, forcing them to abandon the gold standard. Bernanke told the students:

Indeed, the Bank of England was famous for keeping, as Keynes called it, a thin film of gold. The British Central Bank only kept a small amount of gold, and they relied on credibility to stand by the gold standard under all circumstances to — so that nobody ever challenged them about that issue. But if for whatever reason, if markets lose confidence in your willingness and your commitment to maintaining that gold standard relationship, you can get a speculative attack. That is what happened in 1931 to the British. In 1931, for a lot of good reasons, speculators lost confidence that the British pound would stand gold, so just like a run on the bank, they brought all their pounds to the Bank of England and said, ‘Give me gold.” And it didn’t take long before the Bank of England was out of gold they didn’t have all the gold they needed to support the money supply and then, there was essentially — they’ve essentially had to leave the gold standard, so there was a lot of financial volatility created by this attack on the gold standard.

Unfortunately, Bernanke was not being completely forthright with the students about the nature of that so-called speculative attack on the gold standard. What was actually happening is that people were figuring out that the government couldn’t pay its debts, largely because it had attempted to effectively defraud the people through the over-issuance of debt instruments. The problem wasn’t that the central bank “didn’t have all the gold they needed to support the money supply,” as Bernanke indicated. The problem was that the government didn’t have the money (gold and silver coins) to pay its debts. What Bernanke calls a “speculative attack” was simply a demand by people that the government live up to the promises that it had made in its debt instruments.

By suggesting that speculators had “attacked” the central bank and forced it to abandon the gold standard, Bernanke is obviously implying that the gold standard was a system that was based on paper money that was somehow “backed” by gold, a common misconception that has long been taught in government schools across the land. The speculative “attacks,” Bernanke intimated to the students, left the central bank no choice but to leave the paper-money system in place but no longer “backed” by gold.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As I pointed out in a previous post entitled “Gold versus Paper,” the gold standard was not a system in which paper money was “backed” by gold. Instead, the gold standard was a system in which gold coins and silver coins were the official money of the country.

Within that system, both private companies and the government would borrow money. What they would be borrowing is people’s gold and silver coins, which was the official money of the country. To evidence the debt, the company or the government would issue promissory notes promising to pay the money back on a date certain in the future, plus interest.

Let’s take a simple example. You come to me and ask to borrow $10,000 in gold coins. I agree to the deal. I give you the coins, and you sign a promissory note promising to repay me $10,000 in gold coins one year from now, plus 2 percent interest. When the note comes due, I’m expecting you to pay me back my $10,000 in gold coins. When you do, I mark the note “paid” and give it back to you.

That’s the way private companies operated. They would borrow money from the public and issue notes or bonds (which were just longer term debts, such as ones payable 100 years from the execution of the note).

Notice something important here though: Under such a system, everyone understands that the notes and bonds are not money. They are instead promises to pay money. The money is the gold and silver coins. That was the official money of the country.

In principle, it was no different with respect to government borrowing. The government would borrow gold and silver coins from the public and deliver written notes and bonds to evidence the debt.

Again, however, everyone understands that the notes and bonds are simply evidence of indebtedness — evidencing a promise to repay a debt of gold and silver coins. The money being borrowed is the gold and silver coins. The notes and bonds are written evidence of the indebtedness.

In other words, the government’s notes and bonds are not “paper money backed by gold.” Instead, they are written promises to repay money that has been borrowed. The money borrowed and to be repaid is the gold and silver coins.

The government would also issue short term notes that were called bills. Bills were still promises to repay gold and silver coins. The only difference between bills and notes was the maturity dates. Bills, for example, could be payable on demand. Notes might not come due for, say, 5 years.

Over time, however, people found it convenient to use the government’s bills as money substitutes. For example, suppose I want to purchase some merchandise priced at $1,000. Let’s say that I’m holding $1,000 in government bills that are payable on demand. I could go to the central bank and demand payment of the debt represented by the bill. I would give the bank the bills and it would give me $1,000 in gold and silver coins. Then, I would take the gold and silver coins and give them to the seller of the merchandise.

However, there’s another option. Suppose I went to the seller and said, “I have these $1,000 in government bills that are payable on demand. Would you be willing to accept them in lieu of the gold and silver coins?” The seller, confident that he could take the bills to the government and get repaid for them in gold and silver coins, accepts the bills.

Notice, again, something important here though: The bills are not money. They are promises to pay money. By using them to buy the merchandise, they are a substitute for money but they are not money themselves.

How would the government get the money to repay its debts? One way was to maintain a stock of gold to pay back creditors as the bills, notes, and bonds became due. Another way was through the power of taxation.

What happened, however, was that like all public officials in history, British and U.S. officials liked to spend money. Rather then raise the money through taxation, which sometimes tends to make taxpayers angry, the officials decided to just print up and issue an ever-growing number of paper instruments of indebtedness to pay for their grandiose government projects, figuring that not everyone would show up to demand repayment at the same time.

It was essentially a scheme based on fraud. The government was over-issuing instruments of indebtedness to fund its projects, implicitly misrepresenting to people that it had the money or the wherewithal to repay its debts.

People finally figured out the fraud. They figured out that the government didn’t have the money or the wherewithal to pay its ever-increasing debts. Not wanting to get caught holding bad debt, people rushed in to demand payment of the debt instruments.

That’s what Bernanke and other monetary statists call a “speculative attack” on the central banks. They make it look like the “speculators” are bad people and that the central banks are innocent victims of such attacks. Actually, it was the government that had attacked people with its fraudulent misrepresentations. The people were simply trying to protect themselves from the government’s fraud by demanding that the government honor its loan commitments.

Soon after taking office, President Franklin Roosevelt decreed an end to the gold standard. That did not mean that a system based on paper money backed by gold was being abandoned, as Bernanke intimated to those students. It meant that gold and silver coins would no longer be the official money of the American people. And the reason was because the federal government could not honor its debts and also so that the government would be able to spend to its heart’s content in the future by using irredeemable paper instruments of debt that promised to pay nothing. Roosevelt’s decree held that the government’s paper instruments of indebtedness, promising to pay nothing, would now be the official money of the United States. That’s why a dollar bill states at the top “Federal Reserve Note.” Unlike under the gold standard, however, the Federal Reserve Note now promises to pay nothing.

Roosevelt nationalized gold at the same time as he imposed a paper-money system on the American people. He made it illegal for Americans to own gold even though that had been the official money of the country established by the Constitution and which had been the system for more than a century.

Why did FDR do that? After all, it’s obvious that he could have simply imposed the paper-money system and continued permitting Americans to own gold and silver coins, which is the situation we live under today.

My hunch is that the reason that FDR and his statist cronies made gold ownership a felony offense is so that they could, over 3 or 4 generations, smash out of the consciousness of the American people what the gold standard really was — the decision by the American people to use gold and silver coins as their official money. Within a few generations, people would have forgotten that important principle, enabling government officials to fill people’s minds with the same type of statist nonsense about the gold standard that Bernanke inserted into the minds of those GWU students.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rejecting the CIA’s Communist Methods

In a series of interviews in 1977, television journalist David Frost asked Richard Nixon about the legality of his actions as president. Nixon responded, “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”

That mindset has also long been a guiding principle for the CIA, and unfortunately the American people have gone along with it, in the name of the Cold War, “national security,” and now the “war on terrorism.”

The result has been a life of the lie, a life that purports to constitute “freedom” and “limited government” but that in reality constitutes much of what occurred under communism — state kidnappings, assassinations, military coups, arbitrary arrests, secret prisons, torture, secret detentions, extra-judicial executions — and, most important, the assurance, implicit or explicit, of absolute immunity from criminal prosecution.

The idea, which has long been taught to American students in government-approved schools, has been that when regimes like China and the Soviet Union do these sorts of things, that constitutes communism and, thus, is evil and immoral. But when the CIA does them, Americans and the world are expected to consider them pro-freedom and good and moral.

The CIA is now discovering, much to its chagrin, that not everyone in the world holds the Nixonian mindset. A good example involves Poland, a country where people suffered under decades of communist tyranny and, therefore, are quite familiar with the types of actions the CIA has been engaged in.

The CIA used this former communist country to set up some of its post-9/11 “black sites” as part of its much-vaunted “war on terrorism.” These were the chain of secret gulags around the world in which the CIA would deposit its kidnap victims, secretly incarcerate them, torture them, and deny them access to lawyers, the judiciary, family, the Red Cross, and the press. The whole process conjures up the period when the KGB, which was the Soviet Union’s counterpart to the CIA, would exile prisoners to prison camps in Siberia.

Polish authorities have now criminally charged the former head of the Polish intelligence service with working with the CIA to establish some its black sites and torture system in Poland. As this article in the New York Times states, it is “the first high-profile case in which a former senior official of any government has been prosecuted in connection with the agency’s program.”

The Polish press is reporting that charges might also be pressed against one of Poland’s prime ministers during the time that prisoners were allegedly tortured at the prison.

The CIA’s reaction? The Times reports that it is terribly distressed over the fact that the entire matter has been made public because “foreign officials were assured that their assistance would always remain secret.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a foreign country has filed criminal charges arising out of the CIA’s “pro-freedom” criminal escapades. Recall that when the CIA kidnapped a man in Italy as part of its “war on terrorism,” the CIA officials involved in the kidnapping were charged and convicted of felonious criminal offenses in that country. Of course, by that time the defendants had vamoosed from the country and have steadfastly refused to return to face justice.

Has the U.S. Justice Department instituted criminal actions against the CIA for its criminal actions in either Poland or Italy?

Please, don’t make me laugh! The Justice Department, not surprisingly, takes the same Nixonian position that the CIA does — that when the CIA does it, it isn’t illegal.

That, of course, includes torture and murder. Think about the people who have been taken into custody by the CIA since 9/11 and then tortured or even executed. Has anyone been charged with torture or murder in those cases? Of course not because, you see, it’s not illegal when the CIA does it.

Moreover, let’s not pretend that this is a new phenomenon. Go back to the year 1973, when the CIA helped murder a young American journalist in Chile named Charles Horman during the U.S.-supported coup that brought a military dictatorship into power.

Is there evidence of CIA complicity in Horman’s death? Why, yes there is. After many years of false denials on the part of U.S. officials, the U.S. State Department released a memo indicating that the CIA had in fact played a role in Horman’s murder.

Wouldn’t that be enough for any honest prosecutor to begin issuing grand-jury subpoenas? Why, of course it would. But not when it’s the CIA that does the murdering. The Justice Department wouldn’t touch Horman’s murder with a 10-foot pole, and it still won’t despite the fact that there is no statute of limitations for murder.

Good for the Poles. Good for the Italians. The people of these two countries, who suffered under both fascism and communism, are reminding Americans that there are objective standards of morality and right conduct, standards that not even the CIA should be permitted to violate.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Egypt and the Perversion of American Values

The current controversy over U.S. foreign aid to Egypt highlights perfectly the moral bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy and what such a policy has done to our nation.

For the past three decades, the U.S. government has been funneling billions of dollars to the military dictatorship in Egypt.

Notice the operative word in that sentence: dictatorship.

Why is that word important?

Because dictatorship equals tyranny. There is simply no way around it. A dictatorship is a tyrannical regime, one that oppresses its own citizenry, oftentimes brutally.

The fact that this particular dictatorship is a military dictatorship makes the situation even worse. Military dictatorships are renowned for their brutality, tyranny, and oppression, always under the guise of maintaining “order and stability” within the nation.

Some thirty years ago, the military dictatorship in Egypt declared a state of emergency, owing to the terrorist assassination of Egypt’s president. As with all such emergencies, it was supposed to be temporary. As part of the emergency, the military dictatorship assumed extraordinary powers, including the authority to arrest and incarcerate people without due process of law or trial, torture them, and execute them.

Today, those tyrannical powers are still in existence. In fact, the military dictatorship’s exercise of such powers for the past 30 years is one of the reasons that Egyptian citizens finally took to the streets in revolution.

The military dictatorship was obviously hoping that by offering up Egypt’s longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, the people would be satisfied. That would leave the military dictatorship in place and in continued control of the country.

In fact, the military has made it clear to the Egyptian people that it has absolutely no intention of relinquishing power. It is permitting the Egyptian people to establish a democratic system but only with the understanding that that the military, not the democratically elected officials, will ultimately in charge.

For the last 30 years, it has been the U.S. government, with monies extracted from the American taxpayers through the IRS, that has been helping to maintain this dictatorial regime. The discomforting truth is that the tyranny under which the Egyptian people have long suffered has been maintained, supported, and embraced by the U.S. government.

And it cannot be said that such support has come reluctantly. On the contrary, the militaries of both countries have worked arm in arm to maintain the dictatorship’s hold on power. The Pentagon has helped train military personnel of the dictatorship and, again, the U.S. government has funneled tens of billions of dollars in cash and weaponry into the regime, all of which has helped the dictatorship to continue its brutal control over and oppression of the Egyptian people.

In fact, don’t forget that when the CIA kidnapped a suspected terrorist in Italy, it renditioned the man to Egypt to be tortured, not only because the Egyptian military dictatorship is one of the U.S. government’s partners in its “war on terrorism” but also because U.S. officials have to be thoroughly familiar with Egyptian military’s skill at extracting information from people through torture.

Of course, through it all, neither Egyptian officials nor U.S. officials have viewed the dictatorship’s actions as tyrannical. On the contrary, in the eyes of the Egyptian national-security state and the U.S. national-security state, the Egyptian dictatorship has been doing nothing more than maintaining “order and stability” and protecting the nation from the “terrorists,” in partnership with the U.S. national-security state.

Recently the annual payment of $1.3 billion (with a “b”) in U.S. foreign aid to the Egyptian dictatorship was coming due. The problem is that in order to make the payment, the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is required by law to certify that the recipient of the aid isn’t infringing on human rights and freedom.

However, the law has an escape clause. The secretary of state can issue a waiver of the requirement, enabling the foreign aid to flow into Egypt without making the required certification.

There were some people within the government opposing the waiver owing to Egypt’s current prosecution of several foreign organizations for engaging in “pro-democracy” political activity without the legally required government registration. Apparently, that’s the only reason they’re objecting — not because the money is going to fund a tyrannical military dictatorship.

However, in the end Clinton decided to issue the waiver.

Why did she do that?

One reason is that the Egyptian regime, having been threatened with a cutoff of the aid, decided to release the American defendants charged in the non-registration criminal proceedings.

But there is another fascinating aspect of this tale of horror. It turns out that the Egyptian military supposedly lacked the funds to pay American arms suppliers for the weaponry they had agreed to purchase from them. They said they needed the $1.3 billion to make the payments under their weapons contracts. A default in those contracts would require the companies to lay off workers, which obviously would not be a good thing in an election year in which Clinton’s boss, President Obama, is running for reelection on the basis that he would be a better job-creator-in-chief than his Republican opponent.

To confirm their longstanding support of the Egyptian regime, Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s spokesman, was quoted in a March 23, 2012, New York Times article: “The secretary’s decision to waive is also designed to demonstrate our strong support for Egypt’s enduring role as a security partner and leader in promoting regional stability and peace.”

Do you see what I mean? Do you see anything in that statement that would demonstrate a reluctance to fund a tyrannical military dictatorship or a regret for having funded a brutal dictatorship for decades? Do you even see an acknowledgement that this is a brutal, tyrannical military dictatorship that is being funded?

No. Again, the national-security state in both countries view all of this not as tyranny but instead as a means to maintain “order and stability and to protect the nation from the “terrorists.”

As the Times article points out, there was a pressing deadline — the money that needed to pay international arms sellers like Lockheed Martin: “A looming deadline for payments, however, forced the issue before then, and the White House and Pentagon pressed for a waiver, officials said. A White House spokesman referred questions to the State Department, and the Pentagon did not respond to requests for comment.”

What was Lockheed Martin’s role in all this? It is supplying warplanes and military tanks to the Egyptian military dictatorship and getting paid for it with the foreign aid that now will be sent to Egypt. As Laura F. Siebert, a company spokeswoman put it, “Lockheed Martin values the relationship established between our company and the Egyptian customer since the first F-16s were delivered in the early 1980s.”

“Customer”? That’s quite a “customer.” Never mind that the “customer” is a brutal, tyrannical, military dictatorship. And never mind that the warplanes and tanks being delivered to this “customer” enable the “customer” to maintain its tyrannical hold over the Egyptian citizenry. It’s obvious that Lockheed Martin sees things just as U.S. officials do — that the Egyptian and U.S. governments are just good partners who are maintaining “order and stability” and protecting Egypt and the United States from the “terrorists.”

Another fascinating and revealing aspect of this entire phenomenon is how the U.S. military-industrial complex has divided up the manufacture of the component parts of the military tanks that are being delivered to the Egyptian military dictatorship. According to the Times, “The M1A1 components are built in factories in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, several of them battleground states in an election that has largely focused on jobs.” Obviously, that gives people in more states a greater financial stake in the outcome.

Make no mistake about it: If Egyptian citizens ever retaliate for the U.S. government’s role in their oppression, U.S. officials will simply respond with, “They just hate us for our freedom and values.”

That’s what passes for freedom and values in today’s America.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mali: Another Imperialist “Success” Story

Sometimes the adverse effects of the U.S. government’s pro-empire, pro-interventionist foreign policy take years to manifest, long after the original intervention that engendered them. By that time, many Americans will have forgotten about the original intervention, and statists can get them to believe that history begins with the adverse effects of the intervention rather than with the intervention itself.

A good example of this phenomenon is Iran. American statists tell Americans that the history of bad relations between Iran and the United States date back to 1979, when Iranian students took U.S. diplomats hostage and held them in captivity for more than a year.

Not so, however. The history of bad relations between Iran and the United States actually began some 26 years earlier, in the year 1953. That was when the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from power and installed the brutal, unelected dictatorship headed by the Shah of Iran. The CIA then proceeded to train and support the Shah’s secret police, the Savak, which the Shah used to brutalize, torture, and oppress the Iranian people for the next 26 years.

That’s why the Iranians finally revolted against the tyranny of their own government. That’s why they took the U.S. diplomats hostage. They were angry for having been made to suffer under a cruel and brutal dictatorship for a quarter of a century, complements of the U.S. government, which had destroyed their experiment with democracy with the CIA’s coup.

Unfortunately, what replaced the Shah’s dictatorship was another dictatorship rather than the democratic system that the CIA had destroyed with its coup in 1953. Not surprisingly, many Iranians are certain that the U.S. government is now doing its best to accomplish what it accomplished in 1953 — regime change in which another pro-U.S. dictatorship is established in Iran.

Sometimes, however, the adverse effects of the U.S. government’s imperialist and interventionist foreign policy manifest themselves immediately. A good example of that is now occurring in the African country of Mali.

Recall President Obama’s humanitarian military intervention in Libya. That was where U.S. bombs and missiles killed people with the aim of bringing democracy to those who survived the death and destruction. Never mind that the country is now mired in all sorts of kidnappings and shootings, as this New York Timesarticle documents. Not exactly a paradise.

In any event, after Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi ’s fall, foreign fighters known as the Tuareg, who had been supporting Gaddafi , escaped the country but not before grabbing lots of high-powered weaponry from Qaddafi’s arsenal, as this article from the New York Times points out.

The fighters returned to Mali, where they joined an armed insurgency against the democratically elected government. Immediately, the tide began turning in favor of the rebels, thanks to the weaponry and fighting skills that the Tuareg fighters had brought with them.

The rebel successes on the battlefield motivated a Mali army captain named Amadou Haya Sanogo to institute a military coup against the Mali regime. It seems that the captain was acting in the interests of national security because he believed that the civilian regime was incapable of saving the country from the insurgents.

This might come as a blow for the U.S. Empire and its global “war on terrorism” because according to this article in the New York Times about the coup, “Mali and the United States have had close military ties in recent years as part of America’s counterterrorism programs.”

Gosh, who would have known?

However, all might not be so bad for the U.S. Empire because guess where Capt. Sanogo was trained. You guessed it — the United States — by the U.S. military as part of the “war on terrorism”! It turns out that Sanogo attended English language training courses at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas from 2004-2005 and then again at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, in 2008. According to the Times, he also “attended the Army’s prestigious infantry course at Fort Benning, Georgia, from August 2010 to December 2010.”

And don’t forget that the U.S. government loves military dictatorships because they provide “order and stability” to nations. That is why U.S. officials have funneled billions of dollars into Egypt’s military dictatorship and continue to do so. It’s also why they supported the Musharraf military dictatorship in Pakistan. Indeed, it’s why they ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala and installed a military dictatorship in his stead only a year after the CIA had replaced Iran’s democratically elected prime minister with the brutal dictatorship of the Shah.

How much of this destructive nonsense will the American people tolerate before they finally say, “Enough is enough”? What will it take for Americans to finally abandon the imperialist, interventionist paradigm under which our nation operates and restore a constitutional republic to our land?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gold versus Paper

In a recent lecture to an undergraduate class at George Washington University, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Benanke, not surprisingly, blasted the gold standard and praised paper money and the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. He said that it would be impractical to return to the gold standard and that the Federal Reserve is necessary to address economic crises.

Unfortunately, Bernanke’s pronouncements are nothing but standard statist monetary propaganda.

Contrary to popular misconception, the gold standard didn’t involve some sort of exchange rate between gold coins and paper money. Instead, the gold standard simply meant that gold coins and silver coins were the official money of the United States.

Thus, the gold standard didn’t involve some sort of exchange rate between paper dollars and gold coins because there were no paper money (with some periodic exceptions at the state level). I repeat for emphasis: the gold standard simply meant that the American people had chosen gold and silver coins, rather than paper money, as their official money.

From the inception of our nation, our American ancestors rejected paper money in favor of gold and silver coins. The Constitution expressly delegated to the federal government the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof. It’s obvious that the term “coin” refers to coins, not to the printing of money. After all, one does not coin paper money. One prints paper money. The Constitution did not delegate to the federal government the power to print paper money.

To make the matter even clearer, the Constitution expressly prohibited the states from making anything but gold and silver coins the official money for people to use in the states. Moreover, the Constitution expressly prohibited the states from printing paper money (i.e., from emitting bills of credit, a term that meant paper money).

The intent to have gold and silver coins as America’s official money, as expressed in the Constitution, was demonstrated soon after the federal government was called into existence. The Coinage Act of 1792 established the gold and silver coinage of the United States.

So, where did U.S. bills and notes come into play?

The Constitution also provided the federal government with the power to borrow money.

So, when the government borrowed money, what was it borrowing? It was borrowing gold and silver coins, which was the nation’s official money. That indebtedness was reflected by bills and notes promising to repay the debt in gold and silver coins.

So, to recap: the money is gold and silver coins. The government borrows gold and silver coins and promises to repay the money (gold and silver coins) to the creditor. That’s what bills and notes were all about — promises to pay money, and the money was gold and silver coins.

The problem was that as the U.S. government entered the era of the welfare-warfare state, federal officials wanted to spend lots more money than when the government was a small, limited-government republic. To do so, federal officials could raise taxes, but that usually makes people angry. They could increase borrowing, but they knew that ultimately the debts would have to be paid back (in gold and silver coins), which would, again, mean higher taxes.

To spend to their heart’s content, the statists needed a way to change the official money of the United States from gold and silver coins to irredeemable paper money. In that way, they could print bills and notes as much as they wanted without having to repay anything to anybody.

They got their chance during the Great Depression, which even Bernanke now acknowledges was caused by the Federal Reserve, which ironically had been brought into existence in 1913 supposedly to stabilize the monetary system. Don’t forget, after all, that U.S. officials for decades falsely told students and everyone else that the Great Depression was caused by the failure of America’s free enterprise system when, in fact, it had been caused by the Federal Reserve.

Seizing on that crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered an abandonment of gold and silver coins as the official money of the United States. That’s right — the system that the people of the United States had established through the Constitution was abandoned and changed without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment.

Even worse, Roosevelt ordered the nationalization and confiscation of everyone’s privately held gold. What had been the official money of the American people for more than 100 years now became a federal felony to own. And make no mistake about it: In the land of the free and home of the brave, if FDR and his cronies caught any citizen with gold, they would prosecute him and do their best to send him to jail.

And then they made paper bills and notes the official money. Yes — the bills and notes that ostensibly promised to repay money (i.e., gold and silver coins) to people were now substituted as the new money, and they now promised to pay nothing.

Examine a dollar bill in your billfold. Notice at the top it says “Federal Reserve Note.” But a note is a promise to pay something, right? What is the Federal Reserve Note promising to pay? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s now nothing but a sad reminder of a bygone era, one in which the U.S. Constitution established a monetary system based on gold and silver coins, a system that was changed without any constitutional amendment.

As we have learned, the new paper money system enabled public officials to spend and borrow to their heart’s content for the welfare-warfare programs they were implementing throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. All they had to do was continue printing the paper money to pay for it all, a process of continuous debasement of the money. It was a nice way to secretly and surreptitiously plunder and loot the citizenry, the same way that governments throughout history have done.

That’s what the Framers were trying to avoid with their constitutional monetary system. They had had experience with paper money. They knew what politicians do with paper money. That’s what the pre-Constitution Continental Currency was all about — the currency that produced the term “Not worth a Continental.”

Today, a bag of silver coins with a face value of $1,000 sells for around $20,000 in irredeemable paper money. It’s just a stark reminder of what the statists have done with their unconstitutional, immoral paper-money, Federal Reserve scheme.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Not Permanently Terminate Foreign Aid to Egypt?

A March 17 Washington Post editorial entitled “A Bad Decision on Egypt” criticizes a decision by U.S. officials to consider renewing foreign aid to Egypt, given that the Egyptian government is still prosecuting certain non-governmental political organizations for operating in violation of Egypt’s registration requirements.

After U.S. officials had threatened a cut off of the aid unless Egypt terminated criminal proceedings against Americans, Egypt permitted the Americans to leave the country, causing U.S. officials to now consider renewing the aid.

In order to renew the aid, however, U.S. officials must grant a “national security waiver” exempting the State Department from issuing a congressionally required certification that Egypt is “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.”

The Post opposes such a waiver because it would “send the wrong message,” especially since the prosecution of the NGOs is resuming in April, albeit without the Americans who were permitted to leave the country. The Post says that such a waiver would indicate that the U.S. government is concerned only about American citizens and not about underlying principles of freedom and democracy.

But since when has the U.S. Empire been concerned about freedom and democracy in Egypt and about the well-being of the Egyptian people?

For some 30 years, Egypt has been ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. That’s been the nature of its political system — a military dictatorship. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a military dictatorship is the opposite of a democratic political system.

A military dictatorship is run by military officials, none of whom stands for election. Under such a regime, the entire country is run just like the army — in a top-down, command-and-control manner. The economic system is centrally planned, with the military at the center of everything. Rules and regulations are the order of the day. In Egypt the military has come to play as big a role in the Egyptian economy as the U.S. military plays here in the United States.

That’s the military dictatorship that was headed by Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, the brutal dictator who served as ruler of Egypt for decades and who was finally ousted from power by the Egyptian protestors. Since Mubarak’s ouster, the military has made it clear that any new political system in Egypt must accept the military, and all its commercial enterprises, as the foundation of Egyptian society.

If the military gets its way, it will continue to reign in Egypt albeit with a façade of democracy by virtue of the fact that the citizenry will be permitted to elect certain public officials. But the ultimate power will still reside with the military.

Unfortunately, the Post editorial failed to point out that for the past 30 years, the U.S. Empire has been the principal supporter and enabler of Egypt’s military dictatorship. Billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been funneled into the dictatorship in the form of both money and armaments, which have been used to maintain “order and stability” within the country.

What has such “order and stability” meant for Egypt? Tyranny! Yes, a brutal tyranny, plain and simple. That’s what military dictatorships are all about — brutal and vicious tyranny.

Oh, sure, the Egyptian military officials never saw things that way. They viewed their brutal oppression in terms of maintaining “order and stability” — in terms of protecting people from the “terrorists” and other threats to “national security.”

Over time, tyrannical regimes inevitably begin expanding their conception of “terrorists” and threats to “national security” to encompass those who question and challenge the dictatorship and what’s it is doing to the citizenry. That means arbitrary arrests, round-ups, assassinations, torture, executions, military dungeons and prison camps, spying on the citizenry, arbitrary searches and seizures, and indefinite incarceration without due process or trial.

Not surprisingly, that’s what the Egyptian military dictatorship has been all about for 30 years. Why do you think the Egyptian people finally risked their lives in peaceful rebellion? It’s because they were willing to die than suffer any more under a brutal, mean, vicious, tortuous regime.

That’s the regime that the U.S. Empire has supported for decades, knowing full well what it was doing to the Egyptian people. The fact is that U.S. officials not only knew what the dictatorship was doing to the Egyptian people, they embraced it — they supported it — they loved it. In their minds, they agreed with the Egyptian military officials — that all this was absolutely necessary to maintain “order and stability” and to keep the country safe from the “terrorists” and to protect Egypt’s “national security.”

Do you recall that guy the CIA kidnapped in Italy? Why do you think the CIA chose Egypt as the country to rendition the guy to? The CIA was fully aware of the Egyptian military’s torture facilities and its extremely efficient and brutal methods of torture. After all, that’s part of what those billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid, year after year, had gone into building and maintaining. They wanted the best torturers, and they knew that Egypt’s torturers were among the best in the world.

The Post recommends that U.S. foreign aid be suspended until Egypt complies with U.S. demands to dismiss the criminal prosecution of those NGOs and until it’s clear that the military has surrendered power to a democratic regime.

But such a suspension is unlikely because, as the Post editorial points out, a production of F-16s here in the United States might have to be shut down because Egypt needs the U.S. foreign aid to pay for them. How’s that for a moral justification for continuing foreign aid to a brutal military dictatorship?

It’s time for Americans to raise their vision to a higher level, especially given out-of-control federal spending and debt that is threatening the economic well-being of the American people.

The right thing to do is not condition U.S. foreign aid on Egyptian compliance with the demands of the U.S. Empire. The right thing to do is for U.S. officials to apologize to the Egyptian people for having funded and enabled their military dictatorship for some 30 years and the horrible tyranny that came with it. The right thing to do is to terminate all foreign aid to Egypt and, for that matter, every other foreign regime, permanently. Indeed, the right thing to do is to dismantle America’s vast overseas military empire and restore a constitutional republic to our land.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Permanent War Economy

In an era of unrestrained federal spending and debt, one of the most ludicrous arguments made by statists is that reducing the military budget would be harmful to the economy. Their suggestion is that military spending is beneficial to the economy — that it creates jobs. Reducing military spending, they say, would result in laying off troops and downsizing of firms that supply uniforms, guns, etc. to the military.

Like I say, that is an absolutely ludicrous argument.

In fact, the Castro regime in Cuba is faced with much the same situation. In that country, the government employs not just the military but also everyone else in society. Not long ago, the government proposed laying off 500,000 government employees. Undoubtedly, Cuban statist economists said the same thing about that proposal that American statists say about reducing U.S. military spending — that it would increase the unemployment rate and hurt the Cuban economy, where everyone is on the verge of starvation.

Let’s assume that we lived in a society in which there was no income tax, one in which people kept everything they earned. Let’s also assume that 99 percent of the populace is employed in the private sector.

That means that most everyone in society is in the productive sector — that is, the sector that is producing goods and services for everyone in society. That’s one of the main reasons that everyone’s standard of living in that society is rising.

One day, the federal government announces that it has selected 25 percent of the population to be in a privileged class of people who no longer have to work. From that point on, the government levies a 25 percent tax on those who are still in the private sector and gives the money to those in the privileged class.

Notice that there is a doubly negative effect in this scenario. One negative effect is that the productive sector has been reduced by 25 percent. With less people producing goods and services, everyone’s standard of living grows more slowly. The other negative effect is that 25 percent of the income of those still in the private sector is taken away from them — income that could have gone into capital (e.g., tools and equipment) that would have made people even more productive.

That’s effectively what the federal government has done with its ever-growing massive military machine that was left in existence after World War II. The federal government drew a large number of people out of the private sector and into the public sector, and it has used the money seized from the people left in the private sector to fund them.

One possible response is that the military machine was necessary to keep us safe. That’s a separate issue and highly disputed by libertarians. But simply because it’s necessary from a military standpoint doesn’t make it beneficial from an economic standpoint. The fact remains that an enormous military machine — just like any other enormous government bureaucracy — is an horrible parasitic drain on the economic well-being of a nation.

Consider how extensive the military-industrial complex has become in American life. One of the most ingenious strategies employed by the complex is spreading its military projects through congressional districts all across America. In that way, communities all across the land can be threatened with a loss of their projects (i.e., jobs) in the face of military cutbacks.

You’ve also got the domestic-base syndrome. Communities that have a nearby military base have conniption fits whenever anyone suggests that the base be closed.

And then there are the countless suppliers to the military of such things as bombs, bullets, planes, drones, tanks, uniforms, coffee, meals, medals, and so forth.

Whenever one proposes cuts in military spending, everyone who has become dependent on the largess goes into action by calling on their congressmen to stop the proposed reductions, at least insofar as they affect their particular area.

Of course, they always couch their argument in terms of the public interest, not their own parasitic dependencies. They cry, “This is no time to make such reductions. We need more federal spending and debt, not less. If we cut back now, it will mean layoffs, both among the troops and the suppliers. That would hurt the economy.”

But let’s work backwards to show how fallacious that argument is.

Suppose that the government lays off the 25 percent that are in the military sector, sending them into the private sector.

The result of that scenario will be doubly positive for two reasons:

One, those people will now be in the private sector — that is, the productive sector. They will now be producing goods and services for everyone in society, thereby contributing to people’s standard of living.

Two, people will no longer have 25 percent of their income taken away from them to fund the military. That 25 percent can be added to the pool of capital, making people more productive, causing standards of living to rise.

Reflect again on the Cuban situation. What would be the ideal solution for Cuba, where the state employs most everyone? It should immediately lay off millions of people in the public sector, sending them into the private sector. Overnight, there would be tremendous economic vitality, as people move toward opening businesses or going to work for new businesses. Over time, the overall standard of living of the Cuban people would soar.

The same principle applies to the public sector here in the United States. The best thing Americans could ever do, from an economic standpoint, is to immediately dismantle the federal government’s welfare-state programs and bureaucracy and its warfare-state, imperialist programs and bureaucracy and eliminate the taxes that fund them. That’s the key to economic well-being and to ever-increasing standards of living.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Conservative Responsibility for Iraq and Afghanistan
by Jacob G. Hornberger

Among the favorite mantras of conservatives is “With freedom comes responsibility.” They love to hurl it at liberals whenever they point to the disastrous failure of the welfare state. When liberals cry, “Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our policies,” conservatives respond, “No, good intentions mean nothing. What matters is the damage and destructiveness your policies have caused. You liberals must take personal responsibility for what you have wrought.”

That’s all fine and good, but there is at least one big problem here: The refusal of conservatives to apply their mantra to themselves — their refusal to take personal responsibility for the damage and destructiveness of their own policies.

A good example is now playing out in Afghanistan. In the wake of the massacre of 16 people in Afghanistan, including women and children, and the burning of those Korans, an increasing number of conservatives are finally saying that it’s time to pull the troops out of Afghanistan.

But how many of them are accepting personal responsibility for the horrific consequences of the U.S. Empire’s undeclared wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Answer: Not one single one of them.

After all, while the neocons were the principal cheerleaders for the Afghan and Iraq wars, the truth is that the conservative movement was right behind them. When we libertarians opposed the wars on both countries, conservatives went on the attack.

With respect to Iraq, conservatives placed their full faith in President Bush’s pronouncements that Saddam Hussein was about to unleash a WMD attack on the United States. When we libertarians pointed out the ridiculous and deceptive nature of the president’s claims, conservatives accused of us being unpatriotic and weak.

Then, when those WMDs failed to materialize, conservatives went on the attack again, seamlessly shifting to a welfare rationale for the Iraq invasion — that the U.S. invaded to bring democracy to the Iraqi people.

What are conservatives saying today? One thing they’re doing is dredging up the standard line on the U.S. invasion of Vietnam — that the troops haven’t been permitted to “win the war” — that they’ve had to fight with one hand tied behind them — that the generals should have been given free rein without interference from the politicians.

But conservatives are engaging in deception, including self-deception, just as they did during the Vietnam War.

First of all, it’s not a war in Afghanistan. It’s an occupation. The war in Afghanistan ended some 10 years ago on the day that the Afghan government was defeated and removed from power. The war in Iraq also ended around a decade ago when the Saddam Hussein regime was defeated and removed from power.

On those days, the U.S. government won the wars. The president could have then ordered all U.S. troops to return home. But, conservatives say, that would have been a bad thing to do because then the “bad guys” could return to power. It was necessary, they said, that U.S. troops occupy both countries in order to install friendly, pro-U.S. regimes, even if they were unelected, fraudulent, dictatorial, and just as brutal as the regimes they were replacing.

So, occupations was always inextricably interlinked with the invasions. This is one of the things what we libertarians kept telling people prior to the invasions, but conservatives claimed that it would all be pretty, paradisiacal, and cheap.

How many people have been killed and maimed in Iraq? We don’t know. While claiming to be acting for the good of the Iraqi people (after those scary WMDs failed to materialize), the U.S. Empire steadfastly refused to keep count of the Iraqi wounded and dead. All that mattered were U.S. casualties. The attitude was that any number of Iraqi dead and maimed would be worth bringing democracy to the country and the Middle East. We’re doing it for them, conservatives cried.

Keep in mind that of all the Iraqis killed, maimed, tortured, humiliated, and abused, not one single one had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Keep in mind also that the reason that the U.S. Empire invaded Afghanistan is not that Afghanistan participated in the 9/11 attacks by “harboring terrorists.” That’s just more deception. It invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban regime refused to comply with President Bush’s unconditional extradition demand for Osama bin Laden.

Keep in mind also that under our form of government, both of these wars were illegal given that they both lacked the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

Conservatives are now saying that that Army sergeant “snapped” because of his multiple deployments to Iraq. But it was conservatives who were supporting those multiple deployments. During the past 10 years, whenever we libertarians called for supporting the troops by bringing them home, we were reviled by conservatives, who said, “Support the troops! Keep them right where they are!” With supporters like that, who needed enemies?

In their heated analysis of that sergeant’s recent actions, conservatives fail to consider one important factor: guilt — deeply seated guilt. After all, most people are not cut out to kill other people without cause. That’s what conscience is all about. How can ordinary people kill other people, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, and not expect that it’s going to have an adverse psychological effect on the killers? Where in the Bible does God say that it’s okay to kill people for the sake of democracy?

The federal officials who used the troops for these two imperialist, welfare escapades — along with their conservative and neoconservative cheerleaders — are co-responsible for the horrific consequences of these misadventures. Iraq should never have been invaded and occupied. The Iraqi people, including the countless dead, had a right to be left alone by the Empire.

And as conservatives are hopefully starting to realize, we libertarians were right about Afghanistan too. It was a horrible mistake to employ a military “solution” to address the 9/11 attacks, specifically through the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan people who have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. They had the right to continue living their lives unmolested by the Empire. All that death and destruction has done nothing but produce a machine of anger and hatred, which has manifested itself in the perpetual threat of terrorist counterattacks, which have then been used to suspend our civil liberties here at home.

Moreover, conservatives are wrong about the troops having had one hand tied behind them. For 10 years, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has been given free rein to kill as many people as it wanted. The problem is that the more people it killed and maimed, the more people became angry and vengeful. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq became the greatest terrorist-producing machine in history.

As the occupation of Afghanistan begins to inevitably wind down, we libertarians must renew our battle to dismantle America’s military empire and restore a constitutional republic to our land. The imperialists, including big government conservatives, will undoubtedly oppose us, even as they do their best to stir up new crises to justify the existence of their big-government military empire. Unfortunately, while doing so, they repeating the refrain of their liberal big-government counterparts: “Please, judge us by our good intentions, not by the actual results of our policies.”

P.S. Yesterday, I wrote about the panel I participated in last weekend at the Left Forum, a big liberal conference in New York City. Kelley Vlahos, who was one of the panelists, has written a nice article about the panel and the conference. It can be accessed here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Speaking at a Leftist Conference

For two years in a row — 2010 and 2011, The Future of Freedom Foundation participated in the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. Ordinarily, we would never do something like that, given how ardently conservatives support such things as foreign interventionism, militarism, empire, undeclared wars, wars of aggression, torture, the war on terrorism, and the denigration of civil liberties, all of which are anathema to libertarians.

But during those two years, Ron Paul and his campaign-inspired Campaign for Liberty, along with hundreds of college-age libertarians, had a giant presence at CPAC. The Campaign for Liberty asked us to join them at the conference with an exhibit table on “Liberty Row” and also to present panels giving the libertarian case for a non-interventionist, non-imperialist foreign policy and the case for the vital importance of restoring civil liberties to our land. One of our panels was entitled, “Why Real Conservatives Oppose the War on Terrorism.”

Well, this past weekend, I had the same sort of experience but at the opposite end of the political spectrum. I participated in a big conference at Pace University in New York City called “The Left Forum.” I was invited to participate in a panel entitled “Prospects for a Left-Right Alliance in the Fight against Empire.”

I arrived early and walked around the exhibit hall. Rather than the standard pro-torture, pro-war, pro-assassination, anti-civil liberties books that you’d find at a conservative conference, the place was filled with books extolling the virtues of Marxism, socialism, and communism and condemning capitalism. Not surprisingly, there weren’t any economics books that would interest libertarians, such as ones by Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman, or other free-market types. Needless to say, it was quite an interesting experience going through that exhibit area after having attended many conservative and libertarian conferences over the years.

Our panel addressed the issue of liberals/progressives working with conservatives and libertarians on shared opposition to foreign interventionism, empire, wars of aggression, torture, and the like. The panel included a conservative, Kelly Vlahos, who writes for American Conservative magazine and Fox News, two ardent liberals, John Walsh, a physician whose articles appear on the liberal site Counterpunch and Chip Berlet, a former analyst at a progressive organization named Political Research Associates, and me, the libertarian on the panel. The moderator for the panel, and the person who put the panel together, was Evan Siegel, a liberal activist who opposed the Vietnam War and has long opposed U.S. interventionism in Latin America and the Middle East.

Of course, I let everyone know during my presentation that FFF has been at the forefront of drawing on conservatives, liberals, and, of course, libertarians to make the case for a limited-government foreign policy and for the restoration of civil liberties in America. I pointed out that in our two big conferences on this theme, we had such notable liberal speakers as Robert Scheer, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Joanne Mariner, Jesselyn Radack, and others, all of whom gave great presentations presenting positions that, in effect, mirrored that of libertarians on these particular issues. In fact, Scheer, as I told the audience, actually received a standing ovation at the FFF conference at which he spoke.

While there were, not surprisingly, some differences among the panelists on how best to advance our positions, everyone on the panel got along really well and were in fundamental agreement on the central point — the importance of working with people of difference political ideologies to bring an end to America’s disastrous experiment with imperialism and interventionism..

After the panel, the four panelists and the moderator went out for an informal lunch, where we had some more great informal discussion.

It was a great panel, lasting 1 hour and 50 minutes, which provided lots of time for Q&A. The audience wasn’t large — about 20 people — but it made for a very interesting and friendly discussion. They videotaped the session and so when they post it online, we’ll include the link in our FFF Email Update.

Thanks to Evan Siegel for putting the panel together and inviting me to participate in it. And thanks to all the other panelists for a very positive, enlightening experience!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Where’s the Declaration of War on Iran?

Given all the talk about the possibility of President Obama initiating another war of aggression, this one against Iran, now would be a good time to review the illegality of such an operation, a point that will likely be forgotten once the standard war fever and warped sense of patriotism hits the media and the mainstream public. Under our system of government, the president is prohibited from waging war without first securing a declaration of war from Congress.

Yes, I know — U.S. interventionists hate that part of the Constitution, just as they hate the part that prohibits the federal government from depriving people of life without due process of law or that part that requires a search warrant as a prerequisite for peering into people’s private affairs or that part that prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments on people.

But the law is the law. If interventionists don’t like the law, they can initiate the process to get the law changed. That means a constitutional amendment. But until they do that, the president and other U.S. officials are supposed to obey the law. When they don’t, they are lawbreakers.

We should keep in mind how the federal government came into existence. It hasn’t always been with us. The Constitution called it into existence. If the American people had not approved the Constitution, then the federal government would not have come into existence.

Our American ancestors were not terribly excited about the Constitution and the new federal government it was calling into existence. They were concerned that it might become a dictatorial type of government, even with democratically elected officials — that is, a government with unconstrained powers. They feared that if they permitted the federal government to come into existence, it would inevitably become the biggest threat to their freedom and well-being. In fact, that’s why they demanded passage of the Bill of Rights as a condition for approving the Constitution.

The proponents of the Constitution and the federal government assured the people that there was nothing to be concerned about. They said that the new federal government would be subject to the terms and conditions of the document that was calling it into existence — that is, the Constitution. Among those terms and conditions was that the federal government’s powers would be extremely limited — that is, limited to those powers that were expressly enumerated and delegated within the Constitution. If a power wasn’t enumerated and delegated in the Constitution, it could not be exercised.

Given that assurance, the American people were finally persuaded to go along with the deal, but only on the condition that the Bill of Rights be enacted, which provided express protection of people’s rights, liberties, and guarantees.

Among the most important constitutional constraints dealt with war. The Framers understood the propensity of political rulers to wage war against rulers.

More important, they understood that war was the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry — at the hands of their own government. War centralizes power within the government and provides all sorts of excuses to infringe on people’s freedom, in the name of winning the war and keeping the people safe.

Moreover, there is the financial aspect. Wars are expensive. They entail taxes, debt, and inevitably inflation — i.e., debasement of the money. Nations go broke fighting wars, especially when the wars are perpetual in nature.

Therefore, it was vitally important to our ancestors to divide the war power into two separate powers. Congress was given the power to declare war — that is, to determine whether the nation would, in fact, be going to war against another nation-state.

The president, for his part, was given the power to wage war but only after Congress declared war. If Congress failed to declare war, the president was prohibited by the Constitution from waging war.

Keep in mind that the Constitution is the law that we the people have imposed on federal officials.

Once the federal government came into existence, it began imposing laws on the citizenry, laws that we the people are expected to obey, on pain of fine and imprisonment.

For example, the federal government has imposed brutal drug laws on the people. Many people don’t believe that such laws are legitimate in a free society. Nonetheless, the federal government’s position is: You can believe anything you want but if you are caught violating our drug laws, we will punish you severely with jail time and fine.

The same principle applies, however, to our law — the law that we the people have imposed on federal officials. They’re supposed to be obey our law — the Constitution — just as they expect us to obey their laws.

For all too long, however, they have ignored the people’s law. Ever since World War II, which was the last time a U.S. president complied with the higher law requiring a congressional declaration of war, U.S. presidents have knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately ignored the law by waging war against nation-states without the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war.

What can be done about that? I don’t know.

One option would be for Congress to make it clear that from here on out, any president who violates the law by waging war without a congressional declaration of war will be impeached. Unfortunately, however, Congress has shown little interest in doing so.

Another option would be for the federal judiciary to their job and, upon an interested citizen filing a lawsuit, enforce the Constitution by ordering the president to cease hostilities. Unfortunately, however, the federal judiciary long ago made it clear that it would not enforce this part of the Constitution, no doubt because it knew that the president, who has control over the military, wouldn’t comply with the court’s judgment anyway.

I suppose a third option would be to seek a constitutional amendment stating: “The president shall be prohibited from waging war without a congressional declaration of war, and this time we mean it.”

In the meantime, however, what we need to do is continue reminding the president, the members of Congress, the federal judiciary, and all U.S. officials that we the people are fully cognizant of their law-breaking and to make clear that we the people do not approve of it, including the waging of another undeclared war of aggression, this time against Iran.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Confronting Guatemala’s Military Massacres

Ironically, while the U.S. military is grappling with the cold-blooded killing of 16 Afghans, including women and children, the Guatemalan people are dealing with a military massacre of their own. A Guatemalan court has just sentenced a former member of Guatemala’s special forces, Pedro Pimental Rios, to a jail term of 6,060 years.

Pimental was convicted of participating in a military operation at a Guatemalan village named Dos Erres. According to the Guardian, “In December 1982, several dozen soldiers stormed Dos Erres and systematically killed men, women, and children. Soldiers bludgeoned villagers with a sledgehammer, threw them down a well, and raped women and girls before killing them, according to court papers filed in a case brought by US prosecutors against another former kaibil.”

Pimental denied being at the massacre, claiming that he was preparing enrollment papers for the U.S. military’s School of the Americas when the massacre took place.

That’s also ironic, given that the School of the Americas is the notorious U.S. military school that trained the military forces of Latin American dictatorships for decades. In fact, many Latin American soldiers who tortured and raped people during military operations received their training at the School of the Americas, including from the school’s infamous torture manual.

For its part, the School of the Americas has always maintained that it shouldn’t be held responsible for the atrocities committed by its graduates because it didn’t train them to commit such atrocities.

Of course, that defense is ridiculous. The School of the Americas knew that it was training the military forces of brutal dictatorships, including military dictatorships. The U.S. military clearly understood the nature of these dictatorships, including the fact that the military forces of such dictatorships often committed atrocities with impunity, including torture, rape, and cold-blooded murder.

The fundamental problem is that the U.S. military, the CIA, and the U.S. government in general believed in these dictatorships and loved them. For them, the fact that the military was running Latin American countries was fantastic. Military regimes, they felt, brought “order and stability” to Latin American countries.

Equally important, such regimes killed communists and terrorists. Sure, sometimes the troops got out of hand, but what mattered was the war on communism — keeping the people safe from communist control.

Guatemala, of course, is a perfect example of this mindset. In 1954, the CIA engineered a coup in which the democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, was ousted from power and replaced by a succession of military generals. According to U.S. officials, Arbenz was a communist, a point exemplified by his intent to take unused land away from a giant U.S. corporation named United Fruit and give it to the poor.

The U.S. national-security state was ecstatic over its success in destroying Guatemala’s democracy. In the minds of the CIA and the U.S. military, the United States had saved Guatemala and possibly even the United States from communism.

The coup ended up producing a civil war that lasted for decades, which ended up killing more than a million Guatemalans. Of course, the U.S.-supported Guatemalan military dictatorship justified those deaths by saying that the people they were killing were nothing but no-good communists and terrorists.

The Guatemalan people are confronting their tragic past and the horrific role that U.S.-installed military dictatorships played in it. If only the American people would do the same.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Time for Soul-Searching Has Arrived

How ironic. Countless American Christians supported the U.S. government’s war of aggression on Iraq, and now consider this headline from last Sunday’sNew York Times: “Exodus from North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline.”

And now we learn that an American soldier went on a killing rampage in Afghanistan, walking into people’s homes in a brutal shoot-up that ended up killing 16 people, including women and children.

How come so many Americans still can’t recognize that the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been disasters? Why must they feel compelled to support some type of mythical, delusionary picture that has nothing to do with reality?

Look at Iraq. At first U.S. officials convinced Americans to support an invasion of the country under a principle of preventive self-defense. Recall that U.S. officials said the same thing about Iraq that they’re now saying about Iran. Saddam Hussein is on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon. He intends to attack the United States. We have to attack now. The smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud rising over American cities.

All too many Americans simply deferred to authority, as they had been taught to do in the government-approved schools they were forced to attend. U.S. officials have access to information that we don’t have, they said. They would never lie to us. They don’t want to go to war against Iraq. They’re just protecting national security.

How many Americans even considered the possibility that this was all a charade, one designed to oust Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a pro-U.S. dictator? It wasn’t that difficult to see. Don’t forget that that’s what those 11 years of brutal sanctions were all about—the sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. The invasion of Iraq was intended to achieve what the sanctions had not achieved. It wasn’t difficult to frighten Americans into falling for anything after 9/11.

Indeed, what happened after it was determined that there were no WMDs in Iraq? Did Americans feel bad about having supported a war in which countless people had been killed and maimed, given that the U.S. government was wrong in its WMD assessment? Did soldiers have crises of conscience for having killed and maimed innocent people — that is, people whose government never intended to attack the United States with WMDs — people who were entirely innocent of the 9/11 attacks. Wouldn’t that have been the time for a massive congressional investigation into whether U.S. officials had intentionally deceived the American people regarding those WMDs?

Nope. Instead, people simply deferred to authority when U.S. officials shifted to the alternative justification for invading Iraq — that U.S. officials actually loved the Iraqi people so much that they wanted to bring them freedom and democracy through a deadly military invasion and occupation. And to prove their love of the Iraqi people, U.S. officials made it clear that they were willing to kill and maim as many Iraqis as necessary to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq.

What a crock. If they loved the Iraqi people so much, how come there was never an upward limit on the number of Iraqis they were willing to kill and maim to achieve regime change? How come they treated Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison the way that Saddam Hussein treated them? Is that the way you treat people whom you love?

And look at the result in Iraq. U.S. officials, along with their loyal interventionist supporters, continue to tell the American people that Iraq is now a paradise of freedom, democracy, and prosperity.

Oh? If Iraq is now such a paradise, then why is there an exodus of Christians from Iraq?

The reality is that Iraq is not a paradise. It is an absolute disaster. It is a wasteland of death, destruction, depression, and impoverishment. And it is headed by a dictatorial regime that is doing all the things that the Saddam Hussein regime was doing — killing people who resist the dictatorship, incarcerating people without trial, torturing them, and executing them. Worst of all, from the standpoint of the interventionists, the regime is more pro-Iran than it is pro-U.S.

It’s no different in Afghanistan. That country is another wasteland of death, destruction, impoverishment, and depression. The Karzai regime is nothing but a crooked, corrupt, brutal pro-U.S. dictatorship.

Sure, it’s horrible that that U.S. soldier killed those 16 people, but that’s what U.S. forces have been doing ever since they invaded the country. Just think about all the wedding parties they’ve bombed and killed. Think about that Wikileaks video showing that helicopter gunship firing at people who were doing nothing more than rescuing people who had been injured from a U.S. attack. Think of all the people who have been killed, maimed, tortured, and incarcerated — that is, people who had nothing to do with 9/11 and whose worst crime wastrying to rid their nation of an unlawful invader and occupier. Think about all the people who have been languishing in Bagram prison for years without trial.

Oh, but we’re not supposed to think about such things. We’re supposed to blindly accept the government’s pronouncements. We’re supposed to support the troops. We’re supposed to turn a blind eye to the reality of U.S. foreign policy. We’re supposed to suppress our consciences and simply look down, remaining silent or, better yet, supportive of whatever the government is doing.

Speaking of the law, where are the congressional declarations of war against Iraq and Afghanistan that the U.S. Constitution requires? Interventionists can rail against that requirement all they want, but the law is the law. If they don’t like the law, they have a remedy — get it changed through constitutional amendment. As long as it’s the law, it is supposed to be followed. If it’s now, that makes the U.S. government the law-breaker.

The law wasn’t followed, not in Iraq and not in Afghanistan. That makes both wars illegal under our form of government. The U.S. government is a lawbreaker in both instances. The invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have killed and maimed so many people and destroyed both countries, have both been conducted in violation of the highest law of our land, the Constitution, the law that we the people have imposed on our public officials.

And look at what these illegal wars, together with U.S. foreign policy before 9/11, have done to freedom in our country. We now live under the iron umbrella of a massive national security state, one that resembles that of the Soviet Union. The U.S. government now wields the authority to monitor and spy on Americans, in the name of national security and the war on terrorism. That’s what the KGB and, for that matter, the Gestapo did too.

The government also now wields the authority to round up Americans, incarcerate them for life without trial, torture them, and even execute them. The Gestapo and the KGB had the same authority.

Indeed, the government now wields the omnipotent power to assassinate Americans and everyone else in the world. Did the KGB and Gestapo have that authority? I would assume so but I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, Americans continue singing about how free they are. They continue praising the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for “defending our freedoms.” No people in history better exemplify the words of Johann Goethe than the American people of our time: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

The endless question for “national security” has destroyed all sense of morality and freedom in America. While the national security state continues to plunge our nation into moral debauchery through its antics overseas — in the name of “national security” — it continues to tighten the noose here at home with respect to our freedom. The tighter the noose is drawn, the more Americans sing about how free they are.

Meanwhile, the Empire is bankrupting us. Most Americans are struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, federal spending and debt continue to soar, with the Federal Reserve doing what it’s done since its founding in 1913 — printing the money to pay off the government’s ever-increasing debt — the decades-long process of monetary debasement. Nonetheless, while Americans lament the spending and debt, they continue celebrating the warfare state, which is in large part responsible for America’s fiscal problems.

How long will the American people permit this to go on without finally putting a stop to it? How many more Afghans must be killed before Americans say enough is enough? How many more infringements on our freedom at home must be implemented before Americans say enough is enough? How many angry, murderous rampages by U.S. troops must U.S. soldiers undertake before Americans say enough is enough? How many more suicides of U.S. troops before American say enough is enough. How many Christians must exit Iraq before American say enough is enough.

It’s time for Americans to do some serious soul-searching. It’s time they look deep within themselves for answers rather than to the supercilious pronouncements of their government officials. It’s time for Americans to challenge what their government is doing to people over there and what it’s doing to Americans here at home. It’s what genuine patriotism is all about. It’s what genuine morality is all about. It’s what individual responsibility is all about. It’s what conscience is all about. It’s what a free society is all about.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Foreign Aid and the Empire

The pro-empire crowd sometimes claims that the U.S. Empire is different from other empires in history in that it doesn’t try to acquire foreign lands. They fail to grasp the real nature of the U.S. Empire. It isn’t about acquiring foreign lands, it’s about acquiring control over foreign regimes. And its model is based pretty much on how the Soviet Empire handled its domain in East Germany and Eastern Europe — by putting into power pro-U.S. regimes composed of local officials whose loyalty to the empire is then purchased with U.S. foreign aid, much of which ultimately finds itself in the bank accounts of such officials.

A good example of how the U.S. Empire operates occurred recently in Egypt, where a brutal military dictatorship has ruled the country for decades. It is a dictatorship that has received billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid, in the form of both cash and armaments, which the dictatorship has used to oppress the Egyptian people.

Recently, the Egyptian regime charged several U.S.-government-financed nonprofit organizations with criminal offenses for operating without the license required by Egyptian law. Several of the American principals in the firms ensconced themselves within the American embassy in the hopes of evading the prosecution.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government was demanding that the prosecutions be dismissed.

What were the legal grounds for the government’s demand?

There were no legal grounds at all. That is, U.S. officials did not enter into an Egyptian courthouse and file legal motions to dismiss. They made no claim of sovereign immunity in the court. They didn’t argue that the Egyptian registration laws were unconstitutional. They didn’t even argue that the defendants were innocent of the charges.

They didn’t bother to make any judicial arguments at all. Instead, their demand was based on raw political power — power that comes with Empire. Their argument was this: If you want your annual payment of $1.3 billion dollars in U.S. foreign aid, then you will let these Americans go regardless of whether they violated the law or not. If you persist in prosecuting them, you will no longer receive the money.

In the end, the defendants were allowed to leave the country under bond and a promise to return for trial.

It was a raw display of imperial power, one that demonstrated the real purpose of U.S. foreign aid. No, foreign aid is not about helping the poor, needy, and disadvantaged, as pro-empire types like to claim. In fact, very little of foreign aid ever reaches the poor. The purpose of foreign aid is control. It is essentially a means of blackmail and extortion: Do as we say or we cancel your dole.

Of course, pro-empire types say that the criminal charges against the nonprofit organization were ridiculous. What they fail to recognize, however, is that the U.S. government has the same types of registration requirements here in the United States and sometimes enforces them fiercely. The Foreign Agents Registration Act is a federal law that requires agents of foreign governments to register with the U.S. government. According to Wikipedia, as recently as 2011 a Pakistani man named Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested for failing to register as an agent of the Pakistani government

Suppose a group of Iranian, Venezuelan, and Cuban citizens were caught here in the United States trying to influence public opinion in their direction without having complied with U.S. registration requirements. What do you think the response of the U.S. government would be? We all know what the response would be. They would go after them with great ferocity.

To summarize, the Empire supports Egypt’s military dictatorship for decades, providing its military and intelligence forces with billions of dollars in money and armaments that they use to brutally oppress the Egyptian people

But now that the Egyptian people are revolting against their U.S.-supported tyranny, the U.S. Empire wants to make it appear that it’s on the side of the people. Thus, it funds the “pro-democracy” NGOs even while it continues to fund the military dictatorship.

When the dictatorship sees that the NGOs might be engaging in activity that threatens the military’s control over the country, they prosecute them under Egyptian registration laws. And immediately the Empire goes into action, not by intervening in Egypt’s judicial system with legal arguments but instead through a raw display of foreign-aid blackmail that threatens the termination of billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid if the criminal prosecutions are permitted to continue.

The situation with those U.S.-government-funded NGOs in Europe provides the American people with a valuable demonstration of how the U.S. Empire operates.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Persecution of Lynne Stewart

Today’s Los Angeles Times has an interesting editorial on the Lynne Stewart case. Stewart is a 72-year-old criminal defense lawyer from New York who is now serving a 10-year sentence in a federal penitentiary. She was convicted in 2005 of supporting terrorism, an offense that arose during her defense of Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical Islamic cleric known as the “blind sheik.”

The Times’ editorial addressed the length of Stewart’s sentence. She was originally sentenced to a term of 28 months. The government appealed that sentence, however, claiming that it was too short, saying that Stewart should have received a higher sentence for three reasons: (1) that she supposedly committed perjury when she testified at trial; (2) that she abused her role as an attorney; and (3) that she wasn’t remorseful for what she had done.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the government and remanded the case to the District Court, ordering a reconsideration of Stewart’s sentence in light of those three factors. The District Court then proceeded to increase Stewart’s sentence from 28 months to 10 years.

Why did the government, the Court of Appeals, and the District Court feel that Stewart wasn’t remorseful for her crime? After receiving the original sentence of 28 months, Stewart told supporters outside the courthouse that while she thought the sentence was fair, she also declared, “I can do that standing on my head.” A few days later, she was asked by a journalist if she regretted the conduct that led to her conviction, and she replied, “I might handle it a little differently, but I would do it again.”

Stewart is appealing her resentencing on First Amendment grounds. Represented by one of the country’s premier First Amendment lawyers, Herald Price Fahringer, Stewart is arguing that she should not be punished for simply speaking out about her sentence. The case is now back in the hands of the Court of Appeals, where it was argued last month.

The Times states: “But her actual comments don’t justify a quadrupling of her sentence. The appeals court needs to make sure that the harsher punishment wasn’t a reaction to Stewart’s assertiveness or her ideological identification with her client.”

It seems to me that there’s another factor here. At Stewart’s original sentencing, the judge had the responsibility at that time to determine the degree of her remorsefulness. If he failed to make an accurate determination of that factor or even failed to take it into account, that’s his fault. Why should any statements made by a defendant after sentencing be allowed to affect his original sentence? Suppose Stewart had expressed her sentiments two years after sentencing. Could the judge go back and increase her sentence then?

Moreover, why should a perjury claim by the government affect Stewart’s sentence? That’s not what she was charged with. If the government believed that she committed perjury, the government had a remedy — secure another grand jury indictment and prosecute her for that. Then, if she is convicted, sentence her for that. Why should she receive a higher sentence for the original offense of supporting terrorism based on an unproven assertion by the government on a completely different offense?

The third ground for increasing her sentence seems the most ridiculous of all — that she abused her role as an attorney. Isn’t that a completely different matter from what she was convicted of? Why, as far as I know, that’s not even a criminal offense. Moreover, she got punished for that with automatic disbarment. Where is the justice of getting punished again with a higher sentence for a civil offense that she’s already getting disbarred for?

The most fascinating point of the Stewart prosecution, however, involves why she was convicted in the first place. Her offense, for which she is now serving 10 years in jail, reveals a lot about the U.S. government’s pro-empire foreign policy and its “war on terrorism.”

Stewart was charged violating what was called a “special administrative measure,” some sort of regulation that the government instituted after 9/11 which governed terrorist suspects and their legal counsel. As part of that regulation, Stewart agreed not to pass messages between Abdel Rhaman.and third parties, including the media. What she was ultimately charged with doing was releasing a statement to the media by Abdel Rhaman blessing the resumption of violence against the government of Egypt, which at that time was headed by President Hosni Mubarak.

Yes, the same Hosni Mubarak who was later ousted from power by the Egyptian protestors and who is currently on trial for violent crimes against the protestors!

The Egyptian people have long suffered under one of the most brutal dictatorships in history, a military dictatorship that was long headed by Mubarak.

But understand something important here: This brutal dictatorship has long been an important ally and partner of the U.S. government. In fact, part of what has sustained the dictatorship has been U.S. taxpayer money and weaponry in form of U.S. foreign aid. During the past 30 years of the dictatorship, the U.S. government has plowed billions and billions of dollars and armaments into the dictatorship, helping it not only to survive but to do so by brutally oppressing and suppressing the Egyptian people.

In fact, one of the major ways that the dictatorship has been able to keep people in line is with its department of torture. The regime is renowned for the brutality and effectiveness of the manner in which it tortures Egyptian critics of the regime. That’s in fact why the U.S. government chose the regime to serve as a rendition partner, one that would torture suspected terrorists on behalf of the U.S. government.

Recall that when the CIA kidnapped a suspected terrorist in Italy, they renditioned him to Egypt for torture, a violent crime that the CIA agents were later convicted of in Italian courts. Unlike Stewart, however, those CIA agents are not serving any time for their crime because they refused to return to Italy to face the music.

During the last 30 years of Egypt’s military dictatorship, both the Pentagon and the CIA have treated Egypt’s dictatorial regime as a close friend and partner of the United States. Through it all, U.S. funds and weapons have flowed into the regime.

When the Egyptian people rose up in revolt against their nation’s tyrannical dictatorship, the U.S. government ended up turning on their own friend and ally Mubarak but not on Egypt’s system of government. The U.S. government continues to support the military dictatorship, implicitly agreeing with the regime that this is the best way to keep the nation safe from terrorism and to maintain “order and stability.”

In fact, the irony is that the post-9/11 powers that the U.S. government, including the military and the CIA, now wield over the American people — the power to assassinate them, round them up, torture them, and execute them — have long been wielded by Egypt’s military dictatorship over the Egyptian people. The Egyptian protestors have demanded a relinquishment of such powers, so far without success.

Thus, it seems that the U.S. government’s position was that any Egyptian group that used violence to overthrow Egypt’s tyrannical dictatorship was a terrorist group.

That seems strange for a country that prides itself on its Declaration of Independence, which expressly states that people everywhere have the right to violently overthrow a tyrannical government.

What better example of a tyrannical government than a military dictatorship, especially one that uses its omnipotent powers to round up critics of the government, incarcerate them, torture them, and execute them?

It seems that under the U.S. government’s pro-empire foreign policy, if a tyrannical regime is a friend and ally of the U.S. government and a recipient of U.S. foreign aid, any citizen of that country who is committed to violently overthrowing the tyranny will automatically be considered a terrorist not only by the foreign dictatorship by also by its supporter, the U.S. government.

Strangely though, the U.S. government seems to take the same position with respect to China, which is also ruled by one of the most brutal and tyrannical regimes in history, a communist regime. For years the U.S. government incarcerated without trial at its prison camp in Cuba a group of people called the Uighurs. There was never any indication that the Uighers were anti-American terrorists. Their sole “crime” was their wish to violently overthrow China’s communist regime.

For that, the U.S. government labeled them terrorists and kept them incarcerated without trial for years in Cuba, which would seem somewhat strange since China is not a partner in the U.S. government’s war or terrorism or a recipient of U.S. foreign aid, as the Egyptian military dictatorship is. Perhaps it’s because the Chinese communist regime is one of the U.S. government’s principal creditors, having loaned the U.S. government the money to invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thus, it seems that Stewart was convicted of passing a message from a client that told people in Egypt that it was okay by him if they violently overthrew Egypt’s military dictatorship, a tyrannical dictatorship that was a close partner and ally of the U.S. government and a recipient of its money and armaments.

The U.S. government’s pro-empire foreign policy and its “war on terrorism” sure produce fascinating results sometimes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Assassination as Speech Suppressor

As most everyone knows, after President Obama’s reelection, most liberals went silent with respect to the defense of civil liberties and condemnation of the war on terrorism. Of course, there have been a few notable exceptions, such as Glenn Greenwald and the ACLU and others, but by and large liberals ended up doing what conservatives do when their man is in office. They sealed their lips.

But there is another factor that Americans now have to consider with respect to criticism of the president, the Pentagon, the CIA, or any other of the activities of the federal government in general.

That factor is the government’s publicly proclaimed power to assassinate Americans, along with the government’s lesser power to round up Americans, cart them away to concentration camps or military installations, incarcerate them indefinitely without trial, torture them, and even execute them as enemy combatants in the war on terrorism.

Sure, it’s true that so far the Pentagon and the CIA have exercised these extraordinary powers against only a few Americans, including the American they assassinated while he was riding in a car in Yemen at the start of the war on terrorism and, more recently, Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son.

There’s also the case of Jose Padilla, the American citizen who was removed from federal court jurisdiction and transferred into the custody of the military, which kept him incarcerated for some 3 years in a military dungeon, where the military employed techniques of psychological torture, including isolation and sensory deprivation, knowing that such torture would be likely to cause permanent mental damage.

But the number of victims is not the point. The point is that everyone knows that the federal government now possesses these extraordinary powers. If they can legally exercise such powers against a few Americans, they can employ them against all Americans. All they need is the right crisis or emergency to make it politically palatable.

Let’s not forget that the federal courts have upheld what they did to Padilla knowing that the holding would apply to all Americans. Let’s also not forget that the federal courts denied Awlaki’s father’s request to prevent them from assassinating his son.

The point is this: Everyone now knows that given the right crisis, U.S. officials now wield the omnipotent power to round up, detain, and torture large numbers of Americans and to even assassinate them, right here in the United States because, as U.S. officials have emphasized ever since 9/11, in the war on terrorism the entire world, including the United States, is the battlefield.

Who are the people likely to be targeted for such actions in an extreme crisis, such as a major war or some devastating terrorist attack?

The answer: The critics of government. They are the ones that government officials inevitably view as potential or real enemies — fifth columnists — people who are hurting the war effort — people who are demoralizing the troops — people who are encouraging the enemy with their criticisms of the government.

Would federal officials do such a thing?

Well, they did it at the outset of World War II, when they rounded up thousands of Americans of Japanese descent and carted them away to concentration camps.

And in World War I, they prosecuted, convicted, and punished people for simply questioning the draft or advocating “un-American” beliefs.

Combine those powers with the post-9/11 powers to assassinate Americans or to round them up, take them to concentration camps, detain them for life, torture them, or execute them as enemy combatants.

How can Americans not consider such things today even though the government is so far employing such powers against only a small number of Americans?

After all, the FBI was compiling secret lists of potential American enemy sympathizers long before America entered World War II. During the Cold War, they kept lists of suspected communists and did their best to destroy those Americans. Most everyone knows that the government today has compiled a secret list of people to be assassinated.

Thus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that speaking out against the military’s and the CIA’s conduct today — or indeed the conduct of any federal agency — could well subject the critic to severe retribution in the midst of some future crisis or emergency.

Consider the military dictatorship in Egypt, which has long been a favorite of both the Pentagon and the CIA. Ironically, that dictatorship has long possessed the same omnipotent powers over the Egyptian people that the U.S. government now possesses over the American people.

Egypt’s military dictatorship has justified such powers with the same rationale that the U.S. regime has justified its post-9/11 powers: the war on terrorism.

Who have been the ones targeted by the Egyptian military dictatorship? Critics of the regime, which the regime has labeled terrorists and enemies of the state. They’re the ones who have been rounded up for some 30 years, incarcerated without trial, tortured, and even executed. That’s why the one of the principal demands of the Egyptian protestors has been the relinquishment of such powers, a demand that the dictatorship steadfastly refuses to grant.

Through it all, the U.S. government has continued to subsidize Egypt’s dictatorship with billions of dollars in foreign aid, knowing full well how it was employing its omnipotent “emergency” powers against the Egyptian people. In fact, don’t forget that the CIA even chose the torture branch of Egypt’s military dictatorship to torture the suspected terrorist that the CIA kidnapped in Italy and renditioned to Egypt.

Or recall the Pinochet military dictatorship in Chile, which the Pentagon and the CIA and other U.S. officials enthusiastically supported. After assuming office in the midst of an “emergency,” it proceeded to round up thousands of “enemy sympathizers,” detained them without trial, tortured them, and executed them, all without a peep of protest by U.S. officials. Indeed, the CIA even participated in the assassination of a young American journalist, Charles Horman, in the midst of the Chilean “emergency.”

Libertarians have long been ardent defenders of civil liberties and continue to be. Undoubtedly, we would be among those targeted in a major crisis or emergency. Obviously that possibility has not dissuaded us from continuing to speak out, in the hopes that we can change the direction of the country and restore a constitutionally limited republic to our land before it’s too late.

Conservatives have always been a disaster when it comes to civil liberties. Therefore, it’s no surprise at all that they have been fully supportive of President Bush’s and President Obama’s assumption of the powers of indefinite detention, torture, and assassination.

Liberals, however, have traditionally been supportive of civil liberties. That tradition, however, came to a screeching halt with Obama’s election. One reason obviously was a warped sense of political loyalty. But who can say that the federal government’s post-9/11 powers to round up, detain without trial, torture, execute, and assassinate haven’t played a role in the silence as well?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Holder’s Ridiculous Justification for Assassination

With Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech attempting to justify the president’s omnipotent power to assassinate Americans, we are seeing, once again, the consequences of having permitted U.S. officials with getting away with the sham of converting a criminal offense, terrorism, into an “act of war.” In his speech at Northwestern University, Holder claimed that when the president’s forces kill Americans or anyone else, it’s not assassination at all. Instead, he said, it’s just part of “war.” After all, he intimated, in war that’s what both sides do — they kill each other.

The indisputable fact, however, is that terrorism is a criminal offense. Not even Holder can deny that, given that the Justice Department he heads regularly brings accused terrorists to trial in federal court. When the Justice Department does that, it secures an indictment from a federal grand jury alleging a federal criminal offense relating to the commission of terrorism. The Justice Department then prosecutes the defendant for that crime, and a federal judge presides over the prosecution. After hearing all the evidence, the jury is asked to determine whether the defendant is guilty of the federal crime of terrorism. If the defendant is convicted, he is sentenced to serve time in a federal penitentiary for having committed the federal criminal offense of terrorism.

So, where does Holder get off with his war talk?

That’s where the sham comes in. After 9/11, President Bush simply decreed that terrorism was now going to be considered by U.S. officials as either a criminal offense or an act of war, at their option. That decree, they said, now permitted them to circumvent the constitutional protection that protected people from being killed by federal officials without due process of law.

That guarantee stretched all the way back to Magna Carta. Prior to the Great Charter, King John and his predecessors were wielding the power to use their military forces to seize British citizens, cart them away to the Tower of London, torture them, and execute them.

Magna Carta put a screeching halt to the wielding of such arbitrary and omnipotent power. At the point of a sword, King John publicly acknowledged that his power to kill the citizenry was no longer omnipotent. He conceded that the king no longer had the power to kill a citizen in violation of “the law of the land.”

That phrase — law of the land — gradually evolved over the centuries into the phrase “due process of law,” a phrase that, not surprisingly, found its way into the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Why is that not surprising? Because when the Framers presented the Constitution, which would call the federal government into existence, to our American ancestors, our ancestors were not very excited about the idea. They believed that this new federal government very well might become the biggest threat to their freedom and well-being. Undoubtedly, their concerns included the possibility that the new government would end up arbitrarily torturing and killing them, as King John and many other kings had done to their own citizens.

The proponents of the Constitution assured our ancestors that they had nothing to fear. The government’s powers would be limited to those enumerated in the Constitution. Since there was no power to assassinate Americans enumerated in the Constitution, the government would be precluded from exercising such a power.

The people finally went along with the deal, but not before they received assurances that the Constitution would be amended soon after its approval. Among the amendments was the Fifth Amendment, which prohibited the government from exercising the power that King John had exercised prior to Magna Carta.

Ever since then, that principle has been the law of the land in the United States … until 9/11. That’s when everything changed in a revolutionary way — and without even the semblance of a constitutional amendment that repealed the Fifth Amendment.

That was when, as I stated above, that federal officials finally figured out a way to circumvent the constitutional straitjacket that had constrained federal officials for more than two centuries. All they had to do was declare war on a criminal offense — terrorism — and voila! — the Fifth Amendment was now a nullity at their option.

In other words, they didn’t decree that terrorism was no longer a crime. They made clear that it would continue to be a crime. What changed is that they decreed that terrorism would also now be considered an act of war, at their option. They could decide to go either way. Some suspected terrorists would get the federal court route. Others would get the enemy combatant route, subjecting them to torture and execution.

Of course, the same thing could have been done with the federal drug offenses. Now that the precedent has been set with terrorism, the same thing can be done with drug offenses. Since federal officials have already declared a war on drugs, they wouldn’t have to do that again. All they would have to do is decree that from this day forward, drug offenses will now be considered either criminal offenses or acts of war, at their option. If they wished to bring suspected drug dealers to trial, they would have that option. If they wished to simply assassinate them, they would have that option too.

One of the more amusing aspects of Holder’s speech was when he suggested that due process has nothing to do with judicial process. He intimated that when the president, the military, and the CIA consult over who should be killed and how, that’s “due process.”

Yeah, that’s what those English barons had in mind with Magna Carta. They just wanted King John to consult with his military forces before seizing people, taking them to the Tower of London, torturing them, and executing them. They were just tired of King John doing these things on his own, without consulting with his military officials.

Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? Due process has always been inextricably interwoven with the judiciary. Look at the four amendments dealing with the government’s power to seize people and do bad things to them: The Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. The defendants right to counsel. The right of trial by jury. Warrants for searching. No cruel and unusual punishments. Right to bail.

Do you notice the role of an independent judiciary in there? Indeed, I wish Holder had expressed his thinking as to why the Framers created three branches of government rather than just two — the legislative and the executive.

Due process, at a bare minimum, has always meant notice and hearing — the right to be formally notified of why the government is coming after and the right to defend yourself in a hearing or trial. That’s what grand jury indictments are all about. That’s what the presumption of innocence is all about. That’s what trial by jury is all about.

The discomforting fact is that we now live in a country in which the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA now wield the power to assassinate anyone they want, including any American. They can do it right here on American soil because, as U.S. officials have constantly reminded us ever since 9/11, the whole world is the battlefield in the “war on terrorism.”

In the minds of these people, the “war on terrorism” trumps everything. It trumps the Constitution. It trumps the Fifth Amendment. It trumps anything Congress does. It trumps freedom.

It’s time that everyone faces that. It’s time for everyone to decide whether this is the type of government that they want to live under — a government that now wields the same omnipotent powers over the citizenry that every totalitarian dictator in history has wielded.

Indeed, the Egyptian military dictatorship, which the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA have long supported and continue to support, wields the same powers that President Obama, the Pentagon, and the CIA now wield over the American people. How ironic is that? Ominously, the Egyptian dictatorship is exercising such powers not only with respect to terrorism offenses but also drug offenses.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the Constitution was bringing into existence, he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Alas, Americans living today did not keep it. The president’s post-9/11 power to assassinate Americans and others is the best proof of that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Thank-You System

In an economic transaction, who should be the one saying thank you — the buyer or the seller? Or in an employment relationship, who should be thanking the other — the employer or the employee?

In real life, we see all four saying thank you. Sometimes, the cashier in the grocery store will say, “Thank you” to the customer, sometimes it’s the customer saying, “Thank you,” and sometimes it’s both. When a person is given a job by an employer, sometimes one or the other or both will thank the other.

The reason for this phenomenon revolves around the principle of subjective value. In every economic trade, both sides are giving up something they value less for something they value more. We know this is true because otherwise the person wouldn’t enter into the trade.

Suppose I have ten apples and you have ten oranges. I offer you 2 of my apples if you’ll give me 5 of your oranges. You decide to make the trade. Am I the “winner” and are you the “loser” given that I only had to give up 2 apples while you had to give up 5 oranges?

No! We are both winners because we each gave up something we valued less for something we valued more. You placed a high value on 2 apples than you did on 5 oranges, which is why you made the trade. I placed a higher value on 5 oranges than on 2 apples, which is why I made the trade.

Both of us benefited from the trade. By making the trade, we both improved our economic conditions.

It’s no different with respect to employment relationships. If I hire you at a wage of $3.00 per hour, I place a higher value on your labor services than I do on the money I’m paying you. And by accepting the job, you are placing a higher value on the money I’m paying you than you do on your time and energy and the opportunities you passed up by taking the job.

Thus, there are some important economic principles here. People in society improve their standard of living through the simple act of exchange. The more people are free to trade with others, the greater their ability to improve their respective economic conditions.

There is an obvious corollary principle: To the extent that government interferes with peoples’ freedom to trade with others, to that extent the government impedes people’s ability to improve their lot in life. That’s why it’s in everyone’s interests that all such interferences be removed and that government be prohibited from enacting them.

There is another factor to consider in a “thank you” economic system — the gratitude that people, in their roles as consumers, have that others are supplying their needs and wants — and the gratitude that people, in their roles as consumers, have that others are patronizing their businesses.

Consider, for example, the grocery store business. People, as consumers, don’t need to bother with growing their own food. They can walk into an array of grocery stores, each competing for their business, whose shelves are filled with tens of thousands of food items, both packaged and fresh, along with countless other things, such as cleaning supplies, medicines, and perhaps even automotive products.

At the same time, other people, in their roles as suppliers, offer other food-related services to others, in their role as consumers — such as restaurants, fast food, home delivery of meals, and many others.

That’s something for people, as consumers, to be grateful for. Countless businesses serving consumers by producing goods and services that they need and want.

By the same token, the operation of those businesses require tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars in building, interest, rent, payroll, insurance, and other expenses. The continued existence and prosperity of the businesses depend on other people, in their role as consumers. As everyone knows, consumers can be fickle and ruthless. Sometimes they switch their tastes or business preferences on a dime. Thus, businesses are grateful to their customers for helping them stay in business and prosper.

Everyone should be grateful for a free market. Everyone should begrudge governmental interference with a free market.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Don’t Invade Portugal

We can only hope that President Obama doesn’t order a military invasion of Portugal for refusing an extradition request by the U.S. government to extradite a convicted murderer to the United States.

The case involves 68-year-old George Wright, who was convicted by a New Jersey court for a 1962 killing of a gas station attendant during a robbery. Wright had served only part of his 15-30 year prison sentence when he broke out of a jail and went on the lam. U.S. officials claim that Wright escaped the country by helping to hijack a plane but he was never convicted of that crime.

By comparing fingerprint records in Portugal, where all citizens are required to be fingerprinted, with Wright’s fingerprints, U.S. officials were able to confirm that Wright, who had assumed a new name, was the man they were looking for.

The Portuguese courts, however, recently denied the extradition request based on the notion that the statute of limitations had expired under Portuguese law. The U.S. government has apparently accepted the ruling and is conceding that the case is now closed.

Doesn’t that mean that a convicted murderer goes free? Yes, it does. Doesn’t it mean that he could commit more murders, including by returning to the United States and committing them? Yes again.

But the law is the law. And under the law, people who wrongfully kill others often go free for what some would call legal technicalities.

Could the U.S. government take another approach? Sure. It could do what it did with Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. It could order a military invasion of Portugal, with the intent of capturing or killing Wright. Or it could fire a drone missile at Wright’s home or drop a bomb on it. None of that would be legal but there is little that Portugal could do about it if the United States pursued that route.

Of course, that’s the route that the U.S. government chose to pursue after the Afghan government refused President Bush’s extradition demand for Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s extradition demand is of critical importance because it reveals why he decided to order an invasion of Afghanistan. After all, many in the mainstream media and many interventionists continue to claim that the reason Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan was because Afghan officials had participated in the 9/11 attacks by knowingly “harboring” bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Bush’s extradition demand demonstrated that that simply wasn’t the case. If U.S. officials had evidence indicating that the Taliban had knowingly participated in the 9/11 attacks, Bush would never have bothered with seeking bin Laden’s extradition. He would instead have simply ordered an attack on Afghanistan on the principle of self-defense.

In principle, there is no difference between the Wright murder case and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sure, there were many more people killed on 9/11, but the number of people murdered does not affect the underlying principles of the two cases. If Wright had murdered 100 people as part of his robbery attempt, it would have been the same as murdering one. If the 9/11 attack had killed 10 people, the legal principles would have been the same as killing hundreds.

The fact is that the 9/11 attacks, like Wright’s killing of that gas-station attendant, constituted criminal offenses. Whether the 9/11 attacks are considered murder or terrorism, the fact remains: we’re still dealing with criminal offenses, not acts of war. That principle was manifested by the fact that Zacharias Moussaoui, one of the 9/11 co-conspirators, was convicted of the crime in federal district court.

One problem that Bush had was that unlike the case with Portugal, there was no extradition treaty between Afghanistan and the United States. That meant that legally the Afghan government was under no obligation to honor or even consider Bush’s extradition demand.

Nonetheless, the Afghan government did consider Bush’s request. It responded that it would consider delivering bin Laden to an independent tribunal upon receipt of evidence showing that bin Laden had orchestrated the attack, evidence that would have been required in an official extradition proceeding.

Bush refused to deliver such evidence and made it clear to the Afghan government that his extradition demand for bin Laden was unconditional. When the Afghan government refused to comply with Bush’s demand, Bush ordered his invasion.

What Bush was doing was employing the military to enforce criminal laws — and illegally at that, given that Afghanistan was under no legal requirement to agree to Bush’s extradition demand. Bush’s use of the military in this instance was no different in principle from the use of the military to enforce drug laws in Latin American countries. In such cases, the matter remains a criminal-justice problem even though it’s the military, rather than the police, that is being used to address the problem.

Countless innocent people have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan in the process of trying to kill or capture bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members. The U.S. military has now been occupying Afghanistan for some ten years, with no end of violence in sight. Thanks to the U.S. invasion and occupation, Afghanistan has also been converted into the biggest terrorist-producing machine in history.

Compare that to how the U.S. government addressed the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center. The government addressed that bombing in much the same way it addressed the Wright case. One of the WTC co-conspirators, Ramzi Yousef, escaped to Pakistan. Rather than bomb or invade Pakistan in an attempt to arrest Yousef, U.S. officials chose to simply wait him out, figuring that he might pop up somewhere down the line.

Sure enough, after a couple of years or so, Yousef popped up in Pakistan. The police, acing in concert with U.S. officials, surrounded him, took him into custody, and remanded him to the United States for trial. He was prosecuted in federal district court and convicted, and is now serving time in a federal penitentiary. Pakistan was never bombed or invaded in the process of getting Yousef.

Invading Afghanistan to get bin Laden was the very worst thing the U.S. government could ever have done, just as invading Portugal to get George Wright would be. The best approach on matters relating to criminal justice is to leave the military out of them.

Friday, March 2, 2012

What about the Debt Ceiling?

Let’s not forget the big debate several months ago over whether the debt ceiling should be raised. It’s important that we periodically revisit this issue before the new ceiling is reached in couple of years from now, at least to show the fraud that U.S. officials and the mainstream media engage in each time the ceiling is reached.

First of all, why the ceiling? What’s its purpose?

The debt ceiling is an acknowledgment that when the government incurs too much debt, that is not a good thing for the country. By setting a debt ceiling, public officials are essentially saying that the amount of debt now owed by the government will be so large that the government will be prohibited from incurring any more debt on top of the existing debt. The ceiling sets the maximum amount of debt that the government will be permitted to incur.

Thus, when the debt ceiling was reached several months ago, the government was prohibited from adding more debt onto the amount of the existing debt. That would necessarily have required the government to make massive spending cuts to match the amount being collected in taxes, which would have enabled the government to avoid borrowing any more money.

So, the debt ceiling is an acknowledgment and a protection — an acknowledgement that the government has already incurred an excessively large amount of debt and a protection for the American people that the government won’t go over that amount of debt.

But we all know it’s just a fraud. After all, a ceiling is a ceiling. If it’s going to be raised each time it’s reached, then it’s not really a ceiling at all.

Yet, that is exactly what happens every time the debt ceiling is reached — it’s raised and a new debt ceiling is then set. Everyone knows that when the new ceiling is reached in a couple of years, the ceiling will be lifted again.

In the meantime, the amount of debt owed by the government continues to grow, which, as the debt ceiling acknowledges, is not a good thing for the country.

Recall all the angst displayed by the mainstream media during the last debt ceiling debate. The world would collapse, the media cried, if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised. They were making all sorts of dire predictions as to what would happen if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised.

Of course, each time the ceiling is approached some Republicans promise that they’re not going to vote to raise the ceiling. Every time, they assure us that they are “fiscally conservative” and that they’re not going to break their promise. But everyone knows that that’s precisely what they are going to do. They back down every single time, especially when the mainstream press starts screaming at them to raise the ceiling.

The whole process is nothing but a sham — a charade. The statists want the federal government to continue spending as much as it has been spending plus more, both on the warfare state and the welfare state. Oh, sure, they’re hoping for “growth,” which means they’re hoping for more tax receipts, but if that doesn’t happen their position is spend and borrow and spend and borrow.

Consider the mainstream media’s position since the debt ceiling was raised the last time. Do you see them calling for massive reductions in federal spending in preparation for the new debt ceiling that will be reached in a couple of years from now? Do you see them saying, “Look, we were lucky that the Republicans caved the last time but now we have a real debt ceiling in place, one that cannot be raised the next time”?

Of course not. In fact, most of the mainstream media is telling us how important it is that the federal government continue spending and borrowing no matter what. They’re saying that it’s the key to economic prosperity. And they know that the Republicans will cave again under the pressure of the mainstream media.

What’s going to happen in a couple of years from now, when the new debt ceiling is reached? The whole charade will start all over again. There will be tremendous angst, and the mainstream media will once again pull out all their dire predictions and exclaim how urgent it is to raise the ceiling again. Never mind that they didn’t give a whit about reducing federal spending for the previous 2-3 years. And of course, the Republicans will promise that this time they’re not going to raise the ceiling even though everyone knows they will end up folding and do precisely that.

If truth be told, the statists, both in office and in the private sector, would love nothing more than to abolish the debt ceiling and then just let federal officials continue spending and borrowing to the heart’s content. After all, don’t forget that the debt ceiling is an express acknowledgement that too much debt is a bad thing. Each time it’s reached, Americans are reminded that public officials, with the full backing of the mainstream press, are doing something really bad to our country.

Just ask the Greeks. They’ll be happy to talk about the consequences of too much government debt.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Suppressing Insurgencies in Syria and Afghanistan

It’s quite amusing to see President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and other U.S. officials exclaiming against the brutality of the dictatorship in Syria. One reason, of course, is that the U.S. government partnered with the Syrian dictatorship precisely because of its brutality. That’s the reason the CIA, which is a central part of the U.S. government, delivered Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured. U.S. officials knew that the Syrian dictatorship would do an excellent job of torturing Arar, which it did for an entire year of the man’s life.

There is also the fact that the U.S. government loves other brutal dictatorships, so long as they are pro-U.S. Examples include the dictatorships in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan under Musharraf.

But there is another reason for amusement: The dictatorship in Afghanistan, whose primary enforcement arm is the U.S. military, has been doing the same thing for years that the Syrian dictatorship has been doing — killing people who are trying to violently overthrow the government.

In fact, the Syrian dictatorship is doing what every government in the world, dictatorial or not, would do to people who were trying to violently overthrow it. If the U.S. government were faced with multitudes of citizens who were trying to violently overthrow the government, make no mistake about it: the full force of the U.S. government, including the military, the CIA, and the FBI, would come crashing down on the rebels, and no options for suppressing them would be removed from the table.

After all, look at what U.S. officials did to Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge and to the Branch Davidians at Waco, and they weren’t even trying to overthrow the government, even though a few paranoid types might have thought they were. Actually, the Weavers and the Branch Davidians were simply trying to be left alone by the government. Nonetheless, the feds went after them with the same degree of viciousness and brutality that the Syrian dictatorship is displaying toward the Syrian rebels. They shot Weaver’s son in the back and his wife in the head, killing them both. They attacked the Branch Davidian compound with a military tank (yes, here in the United States) and injected flammable gas into the building, knowing that most everyone, including children, would be killed once it was ignited, which they were.

Indeed, consider the War Between the States. The brutality displayed by the Syrian dictatorship pales in comparison to what Sherman, Grant, and Lincoln did to the people of the South. And don’t forget that the Confederates weren’t even trying to overthrow the government, as the Syrian rebels are trying to do. They were simply trying to secede — leave — the Union. For that “crime,” the U.S. government killed almost 100,000 of them, with another 164,000 dying from war-related disease and other such things.

And let’s not forget the Smith Act, which the U.S. government enacted in 1940. It made it a federal felony offense to simply advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Yes, simple speech was enough to bring the full force of the federal government down upon people. More than 200 people were indicted under the law and countless more learned to keep their mouths shut.

What’s the difference between what has been going on in Afghanistan for the past 10 years and what is currently going on in Syria? Hasn’t the Taliban been trying to violently overthrow the Karzai regime, after the U.S. government violently overthrew the Taliban regime with its military invasion of Afghanistan? And hasn’t the pro-U.S. Karzai regime been killing untold numbers of insurgents, plus lots of bystanders, for the past decade for trying to violently overthrow the government? How is that different from what the Syrian dictatorship is doing?

U.S. officials might respond, “But Afghanistan is a democracy while Syria isn’t.” But that’s palpable nonsense. Afghanistan is no more a democracy than Syria is. After all, didn’t they just have an election in Syria in which constitutional reforms were enacted? Most everyone would agree that Syrian democracy is a sham — a rigged game. But how can anyone seriously argue that it’s any different in Afghanistan. The last presidential election involved countless fraudulent ballots. What good is a fraudulent election? It is equivalent to no election at all, which makes the Afghan government as illegitimate as the Syrian regime.

Moreover, simply because a regime is democratically elected doesn’t mean it’s not a dictatorship. The U.S.-supported regime in Afghanistan has all the dictatorial powers that the Syrian dictatorship has: the power to round people up without warrants, detain them indefinitely without trial, torture them, and execute them, just as the Syrian regime does.

With the U.S. military serving as its primary enforcement force, the Afghan regime exercises its dictatorial powers to the full extent. It is impossible to know how many people it has killed, detained, tortured, maimed, executed, and assassinated during the past 10 years, but the number is far in excess of the number killed by the Syrian regime.

What should the U.S. government do about the situation in Syria? It should butt out of the Syrian conflict. Syria belongs to the Syrians, not to the U.S. government.

For that matter, the U.S. government should also butt out of Afghanistan. If the crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, illegitimate Karzai regime cannot stand on its own after ten years, that’s its problem. The U.S. government needs to immediately stop serving as the enforcement agency of the Karzai dictatorship and immediately withdraw from Afghanistan. It’s time for the U.S. government to stop its hypocritical preaching and lead by example.

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.