All posts by Jacob G. Hornberger

The Pentagon’s Upcoming Kangaroo Show Trial in Cuba

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After 18 years, there is a possibility that the Pentagon is finally going to permit a “trial” of five men who are accused of conspiracy to commit the 9/11 attacks. If so, the proceedings will prove what a charade the Pentagon’s entire “judicial system” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been and continues to be. In fact, the trial, if it is even permitted to take place, will serve as a mirror for how “trials” are conducted in communist China or, for matter, in communist Cuba.

Let’s review how the Pentagon’s “judicial” system got established in the first place. After the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon decided to establish a prison, torture center, and “judicial” system for accused terrorists that it would be capturing and kidnapping around the world. It decided to locate this center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Why Cuba rather than somewhere in the United States? The Pentagon wanted to make certain that it would have omnipotent power to run its center any way it wanted, without having to bother with the rights and guarantees enumerated in the Constitution, especially in the Bill of Rights. It also didn’t want any interference with its operation from the U.S. Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary. In other words, the Pentagon wanted a Constitution-free zone in which to operate its prison, torture center, and “judicial” system.

Ultimately, much to the Pentagon’s chagrin, the Supreme Court ruled that it did have ultimate jurisdiction over the Guantanamo operations. However, while the federal judiciary has accepted some petitions for writ of habeas corpus from Guantanamo inmates, overall it has followed its longtime policy of deference to the national-security establishment when it comes to matters of “national security.”

What the Supreme Court should have done from the very beginning was to order a complete shutdown of the Pentagon’s prison, torture center, and “judicial” system at Guantanamo Bay. There is a simple reason for that: the Constitution, which is the higher law that controls the actions of federal officials, including the Pentagon, does not authorize the Pentagon to operate such a center.

It is critically important to keep in mind that terrorism is not an act of war. Instead, it is a federal criminal offense. That is why there are terrorism trials in federal courts in New York, Washington, D.C., Virginia, and elsewhere. Terrorism is listed among federal crimes in the U.S. Code. In fact, the Pentagon’s upcoming “trial” in Cuba is itself an acknowledgement that terrorism is, in fact, a criminal offense, one that here is being prosecuted by the Pentagon in Cuba rather than by the U.S. Justice Department in federal district court here in the United States.

Two different systems

It is also critically important to recognize that the Constitution does not provide for two separate judicial systems to try criminal cases, one run by the military and the other run by the federal courts. The Constitution provides for only one judicial system for all criminal offenses, including terrorism cases.

It is also critically important to recognize that the principles being followed in both systems — the federal court system and the military system — are as different as night and day.

In the federal court system, people who are accused of terrorism or any other crimes are presumed innocent. Judges and law-enforcement personnel are prohibited from torturing people or inflicting other “cruel and unusual” punishments on them. An accused has the right to remain silent — i.e., no forced confessions. Communications between attorney and client are confidential. The accused has the right to confront his accusers — i.e., hearsay evidence is inadmissible. Trials can be by jury, where ordinary citizens, not a judge, decide the facts of the case and the guilt or innocence of the accused. Trials must be speedy — i.e., no 18-year delay, as there has been in the Pentagon’s system.

Things are the exact opposite in the Pentagon’s system, which is precisely it established its system in Cuba rather than the United States. Remember: the Pentagon’s goal is establishing its center in Cuba was to avoid the principles of the Constitution and the interference of the Supreme Court.

Why would the military want to avoid the principles of the Constitution, especially given that military personnel take oaths to support and defend the Constitution? The answer lies in the conservative military mindset that has long held that the Bill of Rights consists of constitutional “technicalities” that permit guilty people to go free. By establishing an independent prison, torture center, and “judicial” system at Gitmo, the Pentagon was going to show the American people and the world what a “real” judicial system should look like, one where “the guilty” had what was coming to them and where there was no possibility of an acquittal by some ignorant jury.

Thus, under the Pentagon’s system, the accused are presumed guilty. They are subject to being brutally tortured, not only to secure information but also confessions. Forced confessions are admissible at trial. There is no right of trial by jury. A tribunal of military personnel, all of whom are answerable to the President, decide the facts in the case and the guilt of innocent of the accused. Communications between attorney and client are secretly monitored. Hearsay evidence is admissible. Trials can be delayed indefinitely, even forever. The outcome of the “trial” is not in doubt.

There is something else that is of critical importance to recognize: When an accused terrorist is taken into custody, U.S. officials have the discretionary authority to decide into which system to send him. They can select the federal court system, which protects the rights of the accused through the Bill of Rights and where he could possibly win an acquittal. Or they can send him into the military system, where no such rights exist and where the outcome is preordained. There is no way that that type of discretionary and dual system of justice can possibly be reconciled with “the rule of law,” which requires everyone in similar circumstances to be treated in the same manner. There is also no way to reconcile such a dual, competing system with the U.S. Constitution. Finally, there is no way to reconcile such a system with any reasonable definition of the term “justice.”

The Pentagon’s upcoming “trial” at Gitmo won’t be a trial at all. It will be a kangaroo proceeding, one that is no different from those in totalitarian regimes. Along with the Pentagon’s prison and torture center in Cuba, its upcoming kangaroo proceeding will only bring more shame and ignominy to our country.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Spending on Defense Is One Great Big Lie

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Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson is worried. He thinks that maybe — just maybe — the US government is not spending enough on defense. In a column entitled, “Here’s Why We Could Be Under-Spending on Defense,” Samuelson has come up with a complicated formula that has caused him to fear that China and Russia might actually be spending more money on their militaries than the United States. Bringing to mind the famous missile-gap controversy during the Cold War, Samuelson wrote, “Our reputed military superiority might be exaggerated or a statistical fiction.”

I won’t delve into Samuelson’s complicated formula for arriving at his scary conclusion because, well, it is complicated, a point that even he concedes:
The only way to find out is to estimate our and their defense budgets, using an unconventional methodology called 'purchasing power parity' (PPP). To do that, Congress should create a task force of experts that would examine Russia’s and China’s defense spending and compare it with our own.
So, I’ll leave his main point to that task force of experts. I do wish, however, to confront the other major point in Samuelson’s analysis, one to which he, like so many others in Washington, D.C., is obviously oblivious: that US spending on the military and the rest of the national-security establishment is for defense. That is one great big delusion and falsehood.

After all, defense means that one is defending. In a personal context, that means that when someone comes up to you and throws a punch, and you respond by raising your hands to block the blow, you are defending. He is the attacker and you are the defender. In an international context, if one nation invades another nation, the invading nation is the attacker and the invaded nation is the defender.

During the last 70 years, the US government has spent trillions of dollars for “defense.” But it hasn’t really been for defense because no other nation has ever invaded the United States during that time. Of course, the US has been embroiled in several foreign wars that have cost a lot of money, but none of those wars involved defense since the opposing nations never invaded the United States.

Consider the Korean War. North Korea never attacked the United States. The same holds true for North Vietnam. And Panama. And Grenada. And Cuba. And Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Syria. And Libya. And many more. None of them ever invaded the United States.

Equally important, no nation state is threatening to invade the United States. No foreign regime even has the money to undertake such an invasion. They are all broker than the US government. No Latin American nation has the military capability or even the interest in invading the United States. And no nation state in Europe, Asia, or Africa has even the remotest military capability of successfully crossing the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and invading and conquering the United States.

So, what have all those trillions of dollars been spent on if not defense? The answer is: empire and intervention, which oftentimes encompass instances where the US government, ironically, is the attacker and invader and the targeted nation is the defender.

Iraq is a good example. After the 9/11 attacks, which were not the first step in an invasion of the United States but rather a retaliatory act for US empire and intervention in the Middle East, President George W. Bush and the US national-security establishment decided to attack and invade Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States. That’s because 11 years of US economic sanctions, which had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children in the 1990s, had nonetheless failed to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. Bush’s invasion and long occupation of Iraq made the US the aggressor power and Iraq the defending nation. There is no way that anyone can rationally argue that the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the Iraq War were for “defense.”

Of course, this gigantic lie is manifested in the name “Department of Defense.” It is clearly a false name but one that hardly anyone questions. It really should be named the “Department of Empire, Interventionism, and War.”

Why is it important to US officials that Americans be made to believe that all this massive military spending, year after year, is for “defense.” What better way for the national-security establishment to keep sucking ever-increasing monies from American taxpayers than to continue making them believe that US aggression, interventionism, and empire constitute “defense.”

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

End Foreign Aid to Israel and Everyone Else

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Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are calling on the US Congress to reevaluate US foreign aid to the Israeli government. Their reason? Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denied entry into Israel for the two of them, owing to their public support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, a global protest against the Israeli government’s longtime mistreatment of Palestinians.

Omar stated:
We give Israel more than $3 [billion] in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.
Unfortunately, however, Omar and Tlaib, like the rest of their Democratic counterparts, just don’t get it. In fact, neither does their nemesis, President Trump, and his Republican cohorts. Not only should the US government stop foreign aid to the Israeli regime, it should stop it for every other regime in the world.

For one thing, consider that the Trump administration is spending $1 trillion this year more than it is bringing in with taxes. The difference? He’s borrowing it, thereby adding another trillion dollars to the $22 trillion dollars in federal debt that is already hanging over American taxpayers.

In fact, just recently Trump and his Democratic cohorts in Congress struck a mutually beneficial deal in which they agree to lift the debt ceiling to permit them to saddle American taxpayers with even more debt and, even worse, agreed to extend the debt ceiling until after the presidential election so that it would not be an issue for either party.

What better place to slash spending than by ending US foreign aid to every regime that is on the US dole? Yet, not one single Democrat or Republican thinks on that level. They just want to use foreign aid as a way to force foreign regimes to bend to the will of the US Empire.

After all, let’s face it: US foreign aid has nothing to do with helping the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged” in foreign countries. Instead, it has everything to do with bribery, blackmail, and extortion. The money or military armaments (or both) is given to foreign regimes with the aim of making them dependent on US foreign-aid largess, sort of like when a heroin dealer hands out free samples to prospective customers.

Then, once the regime becomes dependent on the dole, it is expected to do what the US Empire wants it to do. If it refuses to do it, there is a threat of an immediate cutoff of its dole. That usually is enough to get the foreign regime in line, especially because many foreign officials use the money to line their pockets and Swiss bank accounts as well as those of their bureaucratic and military-intelligence cohorts within the regime.

A good example of this phenomenon occurred in 1990. Yemen, which was one of the Empire’s dole recipients, voted in the UN against the Empire’s request of the UN to authorize the use of military force to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from power. US Secretary of State James Baker told Yemeni officials that their vote would be the most expensive vote they had ever cast. The Empire then proceeded to cut off its foreign aid to Yemen.

If Netanyahu suddenly relented and permitted Omar and Tlaib to be allowed to enter Israel without restrictions, there is little doubt that the two congresswomen would cease calling for a reexamination of foreign aid to Israel. And even if they persisted in calling for such a reexamination, all that they would want to do is redirect the money to their favorite regimes.

The most important argument against foreign aid is the moral one. The Empire forcibly takes money from Americans — the people who have earned it — and gives it to foreign government officials, to whom it does not belong. Americans, like everyone else in the world, have the moral right to keep their own money and decide for themselves what to do with it.

Abolish foreign aid to Israel and to everyone else. It’s the morally right and fiscally responsible thing to do.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Give Guantanamo Back to Cuba

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The US Empire, which controls much of the world through hundreds of military bases in foreign countries, through foreign regimes run by domestic US puppets, and through foreign dependency on US foreign aid, got its start in 1898 during the Spanish American War. It was that war that enabled the Empire to acquire its imperialist domain in Cuba known as Guantanamo Bay, which is now the Empire’s premier international indefinite-detention prison, torture center, and kangaroo judicial system.

The late 1800s were a time of worldwide empires. Great Britain, France, Spain, and others were empires, possessing and oftentimes brutally controlling people in faraway colonies. Although the US Constitution had called into existence a limited-government republic, by the time the latter part of the 19th century had arrived, many Americans had been swept up in the pro-empire fervor, owing largely to the Progressive movement, which was also influencing America toward embracing the worldwide move toward socialism and interventionism. The Progressive idea was that in order for the United States to become a great nation, it needed to become an empire, just like other empires.

In 1898, Cuba and other possessions of the Spanish Empire were fighting for their freedom and independence. Since this was a time in which US officials were still following the Constitution’s declaration-of-war requirement, President William McKinley sought and secured a declaration of war against Spain, with the ostensible aim of helping the Spanish colonies win their freedom and independence.

It was a lie and a double cross of those who were fighting for their freedom and independence. In fact, the real aim was to replace the Spanish Empire by defeating it and taking possession and control over its colonies, with the aim of making America great by converting it into an empire.

Upon winning the war, the US took control of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Filipinos kept fighting, this time against the world’s newest empire, the United States. For a good account of that war and what it did to American values, see “America’s Other Original Sin” by Andrew J. Bacevich, which appeared this week in the American Conservative.

The Cubans, on the other hand, surrendered to US power. As part of its victory, the new US Empire forced Cuban officials to entire into a lease that granted the empire a perpetual lease of the 45-square-mile property known as Guantanamo Bay.

The lease provided for payment of $2,000 per year in gold coin. After President Franklin Roosevelt nationalized gold in the United States, in 1934 US officials forced Cubans to accept a modification of the lease that enabled the Empire to pay Cuba $4,000 in US paper money, an amount that, needless to say, has significantly decreased in value over the decades owing to the Empire’s inflationary financial policies.

The Cubans don’t cash the checks the Empire sends them because their position is that the lease isn’t valid anyway.

From a legal standpoint, the Cubans are right. Since the lease agreements for Gitmo were made under conditions of force, fraud, and duress, they have been null and void from their inception. Moreover, since the leases provide for no fixed expiration date, that also makes them null and void under the law.

Of course though, the law is irrelevant. All that matters is force. Since the US Empire is much more powerful than the Spanish Empire was, there is absolutely nothing the Cubans can do to regain their property.

Beyond the illegality of the US Empire’s control of Gitmo, Americans need to ask a critically important question: What business does the US government have owning and operating an imperialist military outpost in a foreign country? America was founded as a limited-government republic, not an empire.

Moreover, the Progressives have been proven wrong in the assertion that the way to national greatness lies in empire. It’s the exact opposite. An empire weakens, corrupts, and ultimately destroys a nation, not only through the out-of-control spending and debt required to sustain it but also through the moral degradation that comes with forcibly controlling and brutalizing people in faraway lands.

After all, look at the stain of immorality that the US national security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA — has brought to our nation because of Guantanamo Bay. How can a nation whose government establishes an indefinite detention prison, a torture center, and a kangaroo judicial system in an overseas imperialist outpost, with the express intention to avoid the Constitution and the Supreme Court, be considered a great nation? That’s the sort of thing that totalitarian nations, not great ones, do.

It’s time to dismantle the US Empire and restore our founding principle of a limited-government republic to  the United States. A great place to start would be by giving Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, followed by a termination of all foreign aid, a closure of all foreign military bases, and an end to regime-change operations around the world.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

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Gun Violence in California

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Upon hearing that a man dressed in a military-style outfit was shooting people with an assault rifle at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California on Sunday, I imagine that there were at least some Californians saying to themselves, “That’s impossible. It’s illegal in California to take an assault rifle into a public festival.” Indeed, according to Wikipedia, “The gun laws of California are some of the most restrictive in the United States.” So, what are gun-control advocates in California going to do now? Make their gun laws even more restrictive?

For 20 years, I have been writing that people who are going to kill other people with guns don’t give a hoot about gun laws. After all, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, if a person doesn’t care about obeying a law against murder, he’s not going to care about violating a law against taking an assault rifle into a food festival.

But ordinary, law-abiding people do care about obeying gun laws. That’s because many of these laws make it a felony offense to violate them. That means jail time, big fines, and a serious criminal record. Even when it’s just a misdemeanor offense, oftentimes a conviction can also mean jail time.

For most people, violating the law in order to have a means of self-defense is just not worth the risk. The chances of being caught in a place where some mass murderer is indiscriminately shooting people is relatively low and, therefore, not enough to justify the risk of a felony conviction if caught with, say, a concealed handgun for self-defense.

Thus, as we learn, once again, gun-control laws destroy people’s natural, God-given right of self-defense by disarming them, while, at the same time, do nothing to dissuade a mass murderer from wreaking his deadly mayhem on innocent, disarmed victims.

Of course, the deeper question is why this sort of thing continues to happen in the United States.

Here is my personal thesis as to the series of mass killings in America, one that I have set out in previous articles. Keep in mind that I am not a psychiatrist and, therefore, that this is just a personal theory. But I remain convinced that it is a valid one.

I believe that America’s forever wars, sanctions, embargoes, and assassinations overseas are triggering some sort of mechanism within the minds of people who are bit off kilter mentally, which is causing them to wreak the same sort of violent and deadly mayhem here at home that the US government, specifically the Pentagon and the CIA, is wreaking in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

For some 30 years, US officials have led the American people into believing that all the death and destructive wreaked on people overseas would have no effect on American society. After all, since the killings happen thousands of miles away from American shores, how could that affect the American people?

For three decades, there have been two separate worlds. One world is thousands of miles away and entails constantly killing people with sanctions, embargoes, bombs, shootings, invasions, occupations, wars of aggression, occupations, undeclared wars, coups, and alliances with violent dictators. Hundreds of thousands of people killed, maimed, or exiled or have their homes and businesses destroyed by US forces.

The other world is here at home. Americans go to work. They go on vacation. They go to sports events and concerts. They engage in their hobbies. And whenever they see a person in military uniform, they go out of their way to thank him for his service, which purportedly consists of protecting the freedoms here at home by killing people abroad.

But the truth is that the freedom of the American people has never been threatened by any of the hundreds of thousands of people they have killed overseas. At worst, Americans have been threatened by terrorist strikes in retaliation for the death and destruction the US government wreaks overseas.

Through it all, there has been a remarkable lack of concern for the sanctity of human life over there. Who cares, for example, about the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed at the hands of US forces, beginning with the Persian Gulf War, continuing through the 11 years of deadly sanctions, followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq based on those supposed WMDs? The deaths of all those people just don’t matter.

During the many years of the Iraq occupation (labeled “Operation Iraqi Freedom”), church ministers all across the country exhorted their congregations to pray for US troops in Iraq but never for their victims, even though it is undisputed that neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. Even while constantly reminding people of the sanctity of life when it comes to the unborn, church ministers have forgotten that in the eyes of God, the lives of the born, including the foreign born, is just as sacred as the lives of the unborn.

US sanctions and embargoes target innocent foreign citizens with death, with the aim of achieving a political end, i.e., regime change. And there is never an upward limit on the number of people who can be killed in the process of trying to achieve that political end. Any number of deaths is considered “worth it,” the words used by US Ambassador to UN Madeleine Albright to justify the deaths of half-a –million Iraqi children from US sanctions.

What does all this have to do with the California shooting and, for that matter, other instances of mass violence in America? I believe that when a nation’s government has been killing people continuously for three decades, all that death and destruction is inevitably going to seep into the subconscious of individual citizens, even though it’s happening thousands of miles away and even though the government tries to keep us immune from it. Most of us can handle it but my thesis is that there are some people who are a bit off-kilter mentally who cannot handle it. I believe that the massive death and destruction ultimately triggers something within them that causes them to mirror here in the United States what the US government is doing overseas. In their off-kilter minds, they are unable to do what US officials do — place a high value on the sanctity of American life and no value on foreign life. For the off-kilter people, all life is equally valueless. The fact that some of these mass killers are military veterans and may even have participated in the oversea death, destruction, and mayhem makes the psychological situation even more problematic.

There is an easy way to test my thesis: bring the forever wars to an immediate end and bring all US soldiers home immediately. Even if my thesis isn’t correct, it’s the morally right thing to do anyway.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Ruler of the World

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Recently released secret documents from Chinese company Huawei provide insights into how the US Empire rules the world. According to the Washington Post, the documents reveal that Huawei secretly helped North Korea “build and maintain the country’s commercial wireless network.”

What’s wrong with that? you ask.

It violates US sanctions against North Korea!

What do US sanctions have to do with commercial relations between a Chinese company and North Korea?

Well, as the ruler of the world — or, in common parlance, as the world’s sole remaining empire — the US Empire’s rules and regulations apply to everyone in the world. If anyone anywhere in the world is caught violating them, he will be summoned to the United States to face criminal and civil prosecution.

What about President Trump’s lovefest with North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-Un?

Irrelevant! Just because the president of the United States has fallen in love with North Korea’s communist dictator and salutes his communist generals, that still does not relieve foreigners from complying with the Empire’s edicts prohibiting commercial ties with North Korea without the official permission of US officials.

That’s how the Empire works — its rulers are free to fall in love with anyone they want but that still doesn’t relieve foreign governments and foreign companies of their duty to comply with and obey the rules and regulations of the US Empire.

Anyway, everyone is supposed to know that North Korea is a communist regime and that communism is bad. That’s in fact why the Empire has maintained a harsh economic embargo against the Cuban people for more than 50 years. Since the Cuban people have refused to oust their communist regime with a coup or a violent revolution, the US Empire has continued to target them with impoverishment and death through economic sanctions, the same thing they are doing to the North Korean people and, well, for that matter, the Iranian people.

Like Huawei’s helping North Korea to build and maintain a wireless commercial network, woe to the foreigner who does business with communist Cuba in violation of the US embargo. He will be prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned for daring to violate the rules and regulations of the Empire.

In fact, woe to the American citizen who travels to Cuba and spends money there without the official permission of his rulers. He too will be viciously prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned by the Empire.

Notice the operative words: “without the official permission of his rulers.” You see, apparently trading with the Cuban Reds is not bad per se because US officials do grant official permission to some Americans — the privileged ones — to travel to Cuba and spend money there. That’s how the Empire works — if you approach it, show respect, bend the knee, and plead for permission to trade with others, they might (or might not) let you. What’s important is that you ask permission. That’s how “freedom” works under an Empire.

Of course, there is a big exception when it comes to trading with the communists. That exception is North Vietnam or, excuse me, Vietnam, a country that is headed by a communist regime that killed more than 58,000 American men who were sacrificed by the US Empire in a violent war against communism. Apparently Vietnam’s communism is not so bad anymore because US Empire officials have granted Americans official permission to trade with the Vietnamese Reds. 

In his Fourth of July, 1821, address to Congress, entitled “In Search of Monsters to Destroy,” US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams accurately predicted what would happen if the US government were ever to abandon its founding principle of non-interventionism in favor of a worldwide interventionist empire:
The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world.
Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Hating America After 9/11

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Listening to President Trump accuse Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of supporting al-Qaeda reminds me of how conservatives behaved toward libertarians who dared talk about motive immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

At the time of those attacks, some of us libertarians understood that this was a watershed event in US history, one that would inevitably adversely affect the rights and liberties of the American people. Fueled by deep anger and fear, the overwhelming sentiment among the American people was to support the desire of federal officials to lash out against “the terrorists” anywhere and everywhere they could be found in the world. That’s, of course, how we got the ongoing, never-ending “war on terrorism.”

Equally important, it was a time when Americans were ready and willing to sacrifice whatever liberties they had to the federal government in order to keep them safe from the terrorists. Not surprisingly, US officials were eager and willing to adopt whatever totalitarian and dark-side measures they deemed necessary to keep America “safe.” That’s how we got those secret surveillance schemes, the USA PATRIOT Act, the TSA at the airports, and the formalized assassination program, all of which shredded the protections our ancestors had enacted in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. It’s also how we got the undeclared forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the regime-change efforts in Libya and Syria, which have killed, maimed, and destroyed hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

On September 27, 2001— about 2 1/2 weeks after the attacks — I posted my article “Is This the Wrong Time to Question Foreign Policy?” on The Future of Freedom Foundation’s website. The article called on Americans to examine the role that US foreign policy had played in motivating the terrorists to carry out the 9/11 attacks.

i have never been inundated with more nasty emails and letters in my life, mostly from conservatives, accusing me of hating America and loving the terrorists. Many suggested that I leave America and go live with the terrorists. Some wished some very bad things for me. Many of them said that they were going to do everything they could to stop people from donating to FFF, with the intent of putting our educational foundation out of business.

Their angry diatribes were, of course, entirely logical. For conservatives, the federal government and America are one and the same thing. Moreover, for many conservatives, the federal government is like a god or an idol, one that can do no wrong. Thus, once one mentally conflates the federal god with America the country, it is logical that he will immediately jump to the conclusion that if a person is criticizing a certain practice or policy of the federal government, that constitutes conclusive and irrefutable proof that he hates America.

What conservatives are unable to do is engage in critical thinking when it comes to “America’s” fights against foreigners. Once the 9/11 attacks occurred, the standard conservative mindset was, “We are now at war. The time for criticism is over. We need to rally around the government until we win the war,” which, again, for them is equivalent to rallying around the country.

Thus, conservatives could not grasp the concept of motive. As soon as some of us libertarians said: Let’s examine what what the US government was doing in the Middle East to see how such actions motivated the 9/11 attackers, conservatives immediately concluded that we were defending the terrorists and justifying what they had done. That’s what caused conservatives to conclude that libertarians loved the terrorists and hated America.

Even though motive is not an essential element in criminal offenses, in many criminal prosecutions prosecutors will talk to the jury about what motivated the accused to commit the offense. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, in doing so the prosecutor isn’t supporting and defending what the accused did. After all, he’s prosecuting him! Instead, he is simply providing the jury with a rational explanation as to why the accused committed the offense.

It was no different with libertarian analysis of the 9/11 attacks. We were explaining motive. For ten years, the US government had been killing hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq with its brutal system of sanctions, with total indifference to the massive death toll, which was producing deep anger across the Middle East. This anger was manifested by Ramzi Yousef at his sentencing hearing in 1996 in US federal court. He was one of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, some 8 years before the 9/11 attacks.

In the same year that Yousef was sentenced —1996, President Bill Clinton’s US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, told Sixty Minutes that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions, although difficult, had been “worth it.” By “it,” she meant US regime-change efforts against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who, ironically, had been the federal government’s partner and ally in the 1980s.

While Clinton and other US officials expressed indifference to Albright’s pronouncement, perhaps because they agreed with it, not surprisingly her statement reverberated around the Middle East, where rage was already bubbling over with the constant death stream of Iraqi children. The sanctions continued killing Iraqi children for several more years, until the US government invaded Iraq in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

There were the US troops who US officials had intentionally and knowingly stationed near Mecca and Medina, the holiest lands in the Muslim religion, again with total indifference to the adverse reaction this was producing among Muslims in the Middle East.

There were the “no-fly zones” over Iraq, where US planes were periodically firing missiles to kill even more Iraqis, including one teenage boy who was tending his sheep. This was on top of the multitudes of Iraqis who had been killed in the Persian Gulf War and who had been killed by the sanctions.

There was also the unconditional support that the US government was providing to the Israeli government, no matter what it did to the Palestinian people, which was producing even more anger in the Middle East. Indeed, if any libertarian or anyone else criticized this support, conservatives would accuse him of hating Jews, given that conservatives conflate the Israeli government with Jews in general, just as they conflate the federal government and America.

All of these actions on the part of the US government worked to produce the anger and rage that brought terrorism to America, starting with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and then continuing with the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the US embassies in East Africa, the 9/11 attacks, and the post-9/11 attacks here in the United States.

But that’s not what federal officials wanted Americans to hear because that would have interfered with their agenda. They wanted Americans to believe that the attacks were motivated by hatred for America’s “freedom and values” and that the US government had been an innocent babe in the woods the entire time. They wanted to seize upon the 9/11 attacks as a way to consolidate and expand the totalitarian-like powers of the federal government, especially the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which already were the most powerful branch of the federal government. They also wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as a way to effect the regime change in Iraq that 11 years of sanctions and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children had failed to achieve.

Thus, when some of us libertarians began showing the real motive of the 9/11 attackers, US officials and their conservatives supporters were outraged and came after us with a vengeance, saying that we loved the terrorists and hated America and were justifying what the terrorists had done. Even though it didn’t succeed when it came to FFF and some other libertarian organizations, it was a brilliantly malicious strategy designed to suppress criticism of their foreign policy of interventionism and to expand their totalitarian-like, dark-side practices, policies, and programs.

If we are to restore America’s founding principles of a limited-government republic and a non-interventionist foreign policy, it is incumbent on us libertarians to continue speaking truth to power and not let silly conservative diatribes and attacks dissuade us from continuing on that road. If we are to restore a society of liberty, peace, prosperity, harmony, normality, and morality, it is necessary for us to continue informing people of what the conversion of the US government to a national-security state and its adoption of an interventionist and imperialist foreign policy has done to America and to people around the world.


Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Pompeo’s Big Lie on Iran

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In a tiff over whether Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his delegation would be permitted to enter the United States as part of a meeting of the United Nations and over whether they would be free to travel freely around New York City, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a whopper, one that might have even embarrassed Pinocchio. Expressing a desire to be invited to appear on Iranian television, Pompeo said that he would tell Iranians that “we care deeply about them, that we’re supportive of the Iranian people, that we understand that the revolutionary theocracy is not acting in a way that is in their best interest.”

Why, that’s just a lie, a plain old, downright, old-fashioned lie.

When Pompeo is using the pronoun “we,” he is referring to US officials. And the fact is that US officials, from President Trump on down, couldn’t care less about the well-being of the Iranian people. All that US officials care about is re-installing a pro-US dictatorship in Iran, no different from that of the Shah, who US officials made Iran’s brutal dictator in 1953.

After all, look at the US sanctions on Iran. They target the Iranian people for economic impoverishment and even death. The idea is that if the US government can squeeze the life out of the Iranian people, they will rise up in a violent revolution against the ruling regime and replace it with one that is acceptable to US officials.

There is no maximum limit on the impoverishment or death toll that would cause US officials to lift their sanctions. That is, even if sanctions were causing thousands of people to die every week from starvation, illness, or plane crashes owing to the sanctions, US officials would not lift the sanctions. No price in terms of suffering or death of the Iranian people could be high enough to cause US officials to cease and desist.

Moreover, even though a violent revolution would cost the lives of thousands of Iranians, US officials couldn’t care less. All that matters to them is regime change. If thousands of Iranians have to be sacrificed for that goal, so be it.

How in the world can such a cruel and brutal policy be reconciled with Pompeo’s claim that he and his cohorts “care deeply” about the Iranian people? It can’t be. It’s a flat-out lie.

We saw this same phenomenon when US officials, with the same banality-of-evil mindset, enforced their system of sanctions against the Iraqi people for 11 years. Every year, the sanctions were killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, mostly children. Keep in mind that during the Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon ordered US bombers to destroy Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants, with the aim of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi populace. After the war was over, US officials used their sanctions to prevent the plants from being repaired. The sewage-infested waters were one of the factors leading to the massive annual death toll among the Iraqi people.

Did US officials care about the well-being of the Iraqi people? Are you kidding? No more so than they care about the well-being of Iranians. When Sixty Minutes asked US Ambassador Madeleine Albright in 1995 whether the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children were “worth it,” she responded that while it was a difficult issue, the deaths were, in fact, “worth it.” By “it,” she meant the attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a pro-US dictator, the same goal that US officials have in Iran. The sanctions on Iraq continued for another six years, until US officials used the 9/11 attacks as the excuse for invading Iraq and ousting Saddam from power, something they had failed to accomplish with 11 years of sanctions and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.

When an American named Bert Sacks took medicine to Iraq to help the Iraqi people, US officials went after him with a vengeance, first fining him and then spending many years in an obsessive quest to get their money from him. Make no mistake about it: If any American violates US sanctions against Iran by trying to help the Iranian people, US officials will go after him with all guns blaring, this time with both harsh criminal and civil penalties.

Think about what US officials did to the Iranian people in 1953. The CIA knowingly, intentionally, deliberately, and secretly ousted Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and vested full dictatorial power in the Shah of Iran. The CIA trained the Shah and his secretive SAVAK police force, which was a combination Pentagon, CIA, and NSA, into one of the most tyrannical agencies in history. Torture. Assassination. Indefinite detention. Secret surveillance. Arbitrary arrests. Suppression of free speech. All of the things that were in the US national-security state’s playbook were vested in the Shah and his SAVAK.

After around 26 years of suffering under this horrific US-installed and US trained tyranny, the Iranian people finally violently revolted. The shame, however, was that they were unable to replace the Shah with the democratic regime that US officials had destroyed in 1953. They ended up with a theocratic tyranny.

Thus, it was with great ironic hypocrisy that Pompeo also recently derided the Iranian regime for its tyrannical practices. The irony and hypocrisy are three-fold: One, US officials are responsible for the theocratic tyranny under which the Iranian now suffer. Two, the US-installed Shah was every bit as tyrannical as the current Iranian regime is. And three, US officials have adopted some of the same dark-side practices here in the United States, e.g., torture, assassination, indefinite detention, denial of trial by jury, denial of due process of law, and denial of speedy trial, that are engaged in by dictatorial regimes.

US officials caring about and supporting the Iranian people? Don’t make me laugh. Just more lies from a deeply hypocritical interventionist and imperialist regime, one that targets the innocent with death and impoverishment with the aim of achieving a political goal.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Americans Should Adopt Unilateral Free Trade

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Given the ongoing destruction of liberty and prosperity from President Trump’s trade wars, tariffs, sanctions, and embargoes, it’s time to think at a higher level, one that goes beyond mere criticism of Trump’s trade antics. It’s time to think in terms of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government, all of which translate to the idea of unilateral free trade.

What does unilateral free trade mean? It means that the US government should simply lift, dismantle, abolish, repeal, and end all of its tariffs, trade restrictions, sanctions, embargoes, import quotas, and trade wars. No meetings. No negotiations. No demands. No “free trade” agreements. Just free the American people to travel wherever they want and trade with whomever they want.

Does this mean that other nations will do the same? Nope. Other nations might follow suit but not necessarily. Should that affect America’s decision to adopt a policy of unilateral free trade? Absolutely not! Americans should be liberated to travel and trade with others regardless of what foreign regimes are doing in their particular nations.

First and foremost is the principle of liberty. When people are living under a regime that wields the power to control the economic exchanges they enter into with others, there is no way for those people to be considered genuinely free. Freedom necessarily entails the right to travel wherever one wants to travel and trade with whomever he wants to trade. Any infringement on freedom of travel and freedom of trade, whether through tariffs, import quotas, trade restrictions, sanctions, embargoes, and trade wars, constitutes a severe violation of the principles of liberty.

Secondarily is the concept of prosperity and rising standards of living. It is an axiom that in every trade, both sides benefit, from their own individual perspective. That’s because in every trade, a person is giving up something he values less for something he values more. Every time a shopper buys any item from another person, he has improved his standard of living, and so has the seller. At the moment of the trade, they have both given up something they value less for something they value more.

Thus, whenever the government adopts rules, regulations, policies, or laws that interfere with the freedom of people to trade with others, the government is harming people’s economic well-being and reducing their standard of living.

Throughout history, people have been forced to live under regimes that wield the power to control trade. It’s time for one nation to lead the rest of the world out of this statist morass. I say that that nation should be America. Here is what I propose: A constitutional amendment stating the following: “No law shall be enacted, by either the federal government or the state governments, respecting the regulation of trade, or abridging the free exercise thereof.”

The advantage of a constitutional amendment, as compared to simply repealing, ending, abolishing, and dismantling Trump’s sanctions, embargoes, trade restrictions, tariffs, and trade wars is that the American people would no longer have to concern themselves with some president or Congress imposing, willy-nilly, some new restriction on their freedom to travel and their freedom to trade. If Trump, for example, wakes up some morning and suddenly and impulsively decides to start a trade war against China, someone can quickly file suit in federal court to get his trade war enjoined as a violation of the free-trade clause in the Constitution.

On July 4, Americans celebrated the Declaration of Independence, a document that points out that everyone, including Americans, possesses the natural, God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Isn’t it time for Americans to recapture those rights by prohibiting their own government from infringing upon them? A good place to begin would be the adoption of a policy of unilateral free trade and a constitutional amendment enshrining it into law.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Trump Reminds Us That America is a Military Nation

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President Trump is being criticized for surrounding himself with tanks, armored vehicles, flyovers, and generals and admirals during his Fourth of July celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. Critics say that it was unseemly for the president to be showing off the federal government’s military process on Independence Day. Some said it conjured up images of the Soviet Union, when that communist regime would showcase its tanks and military hardware in parades in Moscow’s Red Square.

But the fact is that America is a military nation. As Trump pointed out in his Independence Day address, the United States has the most powerful military in history, one that can pulverize any other nation on earth. His critics don’t have any problem with that. They just don’t want Trump to highlight it.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. In extolling America’s position as a military nation, Trump left out something important in his talk: America did not start out as a military nation. In fact, quite the contrary. America was founded as a limited-government republic, not a military nation.

In fact, the people who founded the United States abhorred the concept of a military nation. That’s one of the reasons they chose to revolt against their own government, which was a military nation, one whose officials extolled its military prowess, just as Trump does today with America.

It’s easy to think of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence as great Americans. They weren’t. The reason they weren’t was that they weren’t Americans. They were British citizens. They were every bit as British as Americans today are Americans.

Americans today praise the signers of the Declaration as patriots. But I will guarantee you that their government didn’t consider them to be patriots. They considered them to be terrorists, criminals, and traitors. If the government had won, the rebels would have been long forgotten,

What about the British troops? Not surprisingly, the government exhorted the British colonists to support the troops. They pointed out what Trump pointed out yesterday — that it is the duty of the citizenry to support the troops because they are protecting the nation and the freedom of the citizenry.

And in fact, it has been estimated that about one-third of the British colonists did end up supporting the troops during the Revolution. They sided with their government and cheered the troops as they tried to put down the rebellion by killing the British citizens who were doing the rebelling.

The British revolutionaries, on the other hand, absolutely refused to support the troops. On the contrary, they chose to shoot and kill the troops. They wanted the troops to surrender and return to England so that they could establish their own nation, one that would not be a military nation like the one against which they were rebelling.

So, who were the real patriots — the ones who supported the troops or the ones who shot and killed the troops? In the movie The Patriot, which starred Mel Gibson, the answer was that the patriots were those who are willing to stand up to the wrongdoing of their own government, which sometimes means standing up to the government’s troops.

When the rebels prevailed in the conflict and formed their own government, the last thing they wanted was a military nation, the type of nation that Trump extolled in his Fourth of July speech. The reason they opposed a military nation was because they were convinced that the greatest threat to the freedom and well-being of a citizenry lies with their own government, not some foreign threat. They also understood that the way that people’s own government is able to destroy their freedom is through the force of a powerful military, one that can easily put down revolts and force people to submit to the tyranny of their own government.

That’s why our American ancestors were so opposed to a “standing army,” which was their term for a powerful, permanent military-intelligence establishment. Consider, for example, the following:

James Madison: “A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty….”

Patrick Henry: “A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

Commonwealth of Virginia in 1788: “… that standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty…”

Those warnings would be repeated more than 150 years later, when President Dwight Eisenhower would warn the American people in his Farewell Address in 1961 that their recently established “military-industrial complex” posed a grave threat to their freedoms and democratic values.

When the Constitution called into existence the federal government, there was only a small, basic military force, one whose primary purpose was to suppress Native Americans. At no time did it ever come close to attaining the size, power, influence, and largess of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, which are the three principal components of America’s national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto the federal government at the end of World War II.

In fact, if the American people after the Constitutional Convention had been told that the Constitution was going to bring into existence a military nation, they would have thought it a joke. They never would have approved such a deal and would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, a type of governmental system in which the federal government’s powers were so limited that it didn’t even have the power to tax.

Last week, President Trump stated that America’s military forces protect our “freedom.” In actuality, it’s the opposite. America’s military forces are part of the national-security governmental apparatus that has destroyed our liberty, in the name of “keeping us safe” from “enemies,” many of which have been produced by the national-security state’s policy of intervening and meddling in the affairs of other nations. After all, how can people truly be considered free when they live under a regime in which government officials wield the omnipotent, totalitarian-like powers to assassinate them, incarcerate them indefinitely in military dungeons and concentration camps, torture them, execute them, embroil them in forever wars in faraway lands, and tax and spend them into penury to fund the ever-growing military-intelligence establishment.

One of the ironies in all this is that while Americans live under the most powerful military in history, as Trump pointed out, the American people are the most frightened people in the world. They are scared to death that everyone is coming to get them — the Muslims, terrorists, communists, illegal immigrants, and drug dealers — and that it’s only the national-security establishment that is preventing this from taking place. Americans have traded their liberty for “security,” have ended up with neither, and, worst of all, don’t even realize what they have done.

Trump wants to make America great again. His mistake is in believing that he can accomplish that by making the national-security part of the federal government even more powerful than it already is. A powerful government inevitably results in a frightened citizenry and a weak nation. The way to make America great again is by making the American people free and independent, which necessarily entails a restoration of a limited-government republic, one that reflects America’s founding antipathy toward a military nation.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.