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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Nation-Building with a National-Security State


Most everyone is talking about the nation-building fiasco in Iraq, but no one is addressing the type of government that U.S. officials brought into existence in Iraq. That type of government is a big part of the problem in Iraq.

Keep in mind, first of all, that the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA had carte blanche to bring any type of government into existence that they wanted. This was like a dream-come-true for them. No pesky legislators to interfere with them. No judges to rule against them. No lawyers to sue them. They were going to be Iraq’s Founding Fathers, bringing into existence a type of government that would result in a paradise of prosperity, freedom, and harmony, one  that would serve as a model for the entire Middle East.

What about those who would resist their governmental creation? The troops had the unfettered authority to kill them with impunity, which they did, with bombs, missiles, and bullets. It never mattered how many Iraqis needed to be killed, incarcerated, and tortured. What mattered was that Iraq was going to be made into a model society for the entire Middle East. U.S. officials understood that sacrifices would have to be made, especially in terms of Iraqis killed, incarcerated, tortured, or executed, but in the end it would all be considered worth it, including by the surviving family members of those who were killed.

What type of government did U.S. officials bequeath to the Iraqi people?

One that was modeled on a national-security state apparatus that the U.S. government adopted after World War II.

What was the first thing that U.S. officials did after conquering Iraq? They immediately began reconstituting and rebuilding Iraq’s military. Their aim was to create a government with an enormous standing army, one that was well-trained and well-armed, just like the national-security state here in the United States.

Why a big standing army? To ensure “order and stability,” which entailed working with U.S. troops to kill other Iraqis who were resisting the new regime. Anyone who resisted the new order of things was considered a “terrorist,” someone who needed to be killed, incarcerated, tortured, or executed.

There was also a strong intelligence component to the new Iraqi government. In order to keep the people safe, the intelligence apparatus wielded exercised vast surveillance on the citizenry, just like the NSA does here in the United States.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iraq? A total joke, as Human Rights Watch has reported.

What about the judicial system that U.S. officials constructed as part of their new governmental system in Iraq?

It was modeled on the Pentagon’s and CIA’s judicial system in Guantanamo Bay. No jury trials. No due process. No judicially issued search warrants. No right to counsel. Indefinite detention. Torture. Executions.

None of this should surprise us. After all, the reason our ancestors demanded the enactment of the Bill of Rights soon after the Constitution brought the federal government into existence was that they knew the federal government would inevitably attract the type of people who would want the Gitmo type of judicial system here in the United States.

After all, why else would our ancestors have expressly required U.S. officials to accord people such procedural guarantees as trial by jury, the right to confront witnesses, the right to an attorney, due process of law, and others? They knew that if they didn’t expressly enumerate such rights, U.S. officials would establish a Gitmo-like judicial system here at home.

And how right they were! How do we know this? Because as soon as U.S. officials consider themselves free of constitutional restraints, what do they do? They do all the things that the Bill of Rights prohibits them from doing.

There are two important things to understand about this phenomenon.

First, U.S. officials truly believe in this type of governmental structure — that is, a national-security state structure. They’re convinced that it is the foundation of a free society, one based on “order and stability.” If a nation doesn’t have a national-security state structure — i.e., giant standing army and a massive intelligence apparatus (e.g., NSA or CIA) — it won’t be standing for long, U.S. officials believe.

In fact, that’s why they have long supported the military dictatorship in Egypt and have helped build, fortify, entrench, arm, finance, and partner with it. The governmental system in Egypt is another national-security state model for U.S. officials. In their minds, it brings “freedom, order, and stability” to the nation.

For that matter, it was also why U.S. officials helped bring into existence the national-security state apparatus in Chile under Army General Augusto Pinochet. A giant standing army with a vast intelligence force, which used its power to arrest, kidnap, torture, incarcerate, execute, rape, and assassinate people suspected of believing in communism and socialism. In other words, the power to bring “freedom, order, and stability” to Chile.

And that’s precisely the reason that U.S. officials helped to bring Pinochet’s national-security state apparatus to power in Chile. They believed in that governmental apparatus as ardently as Pinochet did. That’s also why they partnered with Pinochet and other Latin American dictatorships to establish a massive surveillance and assassination scheme that very well may have ended up serving as the model for the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism” many years later.

The second important thing to remember about this phenomenon is that while U.S. officials view a national-security state apparatus as essential to “freedom, order, and stability,” that’s not the way that many people who live under that type of system feel. For them, the system is the very model of tyranny and dictatorship.

In fact, that’s one reason why so many Iraqis are so easily surrendering to the Sunni insurgents. They’re sick and tired of the national-security state tyranny under which they have been suffering that U.S. officials bequeathed to them.

It was no different in, say, Iran, where U.S. officials, through the CIA, destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy and installed a national-security state system under the Shah of Iran, one that depended, once again, on a powerful army and intelligence force that employed terror, torture, kidnappings, incarceration, torture, and executions to bring “freedom, order, and stability” to Iran. While U.S. officials were proud of their accomplishment, the Iranian people weren’t very happy suffering under its extreme tyranny. That’s the reason the Iranian people finally revolted in 1979, much to the anger and chagrin of U.S. officials, who have never forgiven them.

Look at the Egyptian people — at least the ones who are still alive after the brutal crackdown by the Egyptian national-security state, which U.S. officials helped to bring into existence and continue to fortify. If anyone even makes a squeak of protest against the brutal tyranny, he is rounded up as a “terrorist” and thrown into jail or torture chambers — the same torture chambers that Egyptian military officials use when U.S. officials render a suspected “terrorist” to them for torture as part of the “war on terrorism” partnership between the Egyptian national-security state and the U.S. national-security state.

While many Americans are now questioning the concept of nation-building that has come to characterize U.S. foreign policy in light of the Iraq debacle, they would be wise to also reflect on the type of governmental system that U.S. officials are committed to — one that is based on the concept of a national-security state, a concept that was fully and completely rejected by the Framers and our American ancestors.

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.