All posts by Jacob G. Hornberger

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.

More US Dictatorship Against Cuba

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Lamenting dictatorship in Cuba, the US government has decided to tighten restrictions on the freedom of Americans to travel to Cuba. Never mind that the restrictions were not enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. When it comes to fighting totalitarian dictatorship, the reasoning goes, it’s necessary to adopt dictatorial policies here at home.

Freedom of travel has long been considered a fundamental, natural, God-given right with which no government, not even the US government, can legitimately infringe. Recall the Declaration of Independence, which Americans will be celebrating on the Fourth of July. It holds that liberty is among the rights with which all people have been endowed by their Creator. When God endows people with certain rights, including the right of freedom of travel, it goes without saying that Caesar behaves illegitimately when he infringes on such rights.

The US national-security establishment, which has long been the driving force behind the US government’s forever war against Cuba, would no doubt point to the fact that Cuba is still headed by a communist regime. That of course was the mindset of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA throughout the Cold War, when, US officials maintained, the communists from Russia, China, and elsewhere were coming to get us and take over our nation as part of a supposed worldwide communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow. Cuba, they steadfastly maintained, was part of that worldwide communist conspiracy — a communist dagger pointed at America’s neck from only 90 miles away.

The reasoning was idiotic at the time and continues to be idiotic. The communists were never coming to get us and they are still not coming to get us. And communist Cuba is not going to stab us in the neck.

You’d have a hard time, however, convincing the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA of that. Along with Trump, they have succeeded in initiating a new Cold War against China, especially with Trump’s trade war, which is designed to produce economic impoverishment in China. And of course there is the ongoing effort to reignite another Cold War against Russia.

There are problems, of course, with this anti-communist narrative. Notwithstanding the supposed nuclear threat posed by communist North Korea, which is used to justify keeping thousands of US troops in Korea, President Trump has stated that he has fallen in love with North Korea’s communist dictator. As the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA are learning, it’s difficult to get Americans all hyped up about the threat that a poor Third World nation supposedly poses to “national security” when the president and that country’s dictator are loving and embracing each other.

Of course, there is also communist Vietnam, which is situated in a part of the world where more dominoes could begin falling to the communists any day now. Okay, sure, South Vietnam fell to the Reds more than 40 years ago and more dominoes have not yet started falling. But that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t start falling tomorrow. Maybe the Pentagon and the CIA should present a secret invasion plan to the president, one that could entail bombing Hanoi and mining Haiphong harbor. There could also be an Operation Northwoods or Operation Tonkin to make it clear that we are just defending ourselves from a communist attack on the United States.

Isn’t it time for Americans to demand a stop to all this anti-Cuba, anti-China, anti-Russia, anti-North Korea, anti-Vietnam, anti-Venezuela, anti-Nicaragua, and anti-communist idiocy, especially given that so many Democrats and their supporters are now self-avowed socialists? What business does the US government have trying to increase the suffering of the Cuban people or waging a forever war against communism when we could easily end up with a socialist in the White House?

More important, isn’t it time for Americans to demand a stop to the destruction of their own liberty, even when it’s done in the name of protecting our liberty from a supposed communist threat? Isn’t it time for Americans to clarify that they have the natural, God-given right to travel anywhere they want and trade with whomever they want anywhere in the world? What is the point of celebrating the Declaration of Independence when the president and his minions have omnipotent dictatorial rein to destroy our natural, God-given rights whenever they want and without even the semblance of a law enacted by Congress? Given that the US government has become the biggest destroyer of our freedom, isn’t it time to exercise the right in the Declaration of Independence for Americans to alter our form of government by dismantling its post-World War II national-security state structure and restoring the limited-government republic originally envisioned by the Framers and that remained our form of government for more than 150 years?

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Repeal the Espionage Act

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World War I is the gift that just keeps on giving. Although the US government’s intervention into this senseless, immoral, and destructive war occurred 100 years ago, the adverse effects of the war continue to besiege our nation. Among the most notable examples is the Espionage Act, a tyrannical law that was enacted two months after the US entered the war and which, unfortunately, remained on the books after the war came to an end. In fact, it is that World War I relic that US officials are now relying on to secure the criminal indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks head who released a mountain of evidence disclosing the inner workings and grave wrongdoing on the part of the US national-security establishment, especially with respect to the manner in which it has waged it undeclared forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Some news media commentators are finally coming to the realization that if the Espionage Act can be enforced against Assange for what he did, it can be enforced against anyone in the press for revealing damaging inside information about the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Therefore, they are calling on the Justice Department to cease and desist from its prosecution of Assange.

Of course, they are right, but the problem is that they don’t go far enough. Their mindsets reflect the customary acceptance of the status quo. The mindset is that we Americans simply have to accept the way things are and plead with the government to go easy on us.

That’s just plain nonsense. It is incumbent on the American people to start thinking at a high level, one that doesn’t just accept the existence of tyrannical laws and instead calls for their repeal. After all, isn’t that what our Declaration of Independence says — that when government becomes destructive of the legitimate ends for which it was formed, it is the right of the people to alter or even abolish it and form new government?

What does that mean with respect to the Espionage Act? It means that the law should simply be repealed and that Americans need to start demanding repeal rather than simply pleading with the Justice Department to enforce it in a more judicious manner.

Let’s keep in mind that the law is the fruit of a rotten foreign intervention. Hardly anyone defends the US intervention into World War I. That war was, quite simply, none of the US government’s business. President Wilson, however, was hell-bent on embroiling the US in the conflict. Wilson believed that if the force of the US government could be used to totally defeat Germany, this would be the war to finally end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy.

Wilson’s mindset, of course, was lunacy. Sure enough, the US intervention resulted in Germany’s total defeat, which was then followed by the vengeful Treaty of Versailles, which Adolf Hitler would use to justify his rise to power. Nazism and World War II soon followed. So much for the war to end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy. Tens of thousands of American men were sacrificed for nothing.

Moreover, Wilson had to force American men to fight in World War I. He conscripted them. Enslaved would be a better word. When a government has to force its citizens to fight a particular war, that’s a good sign that it’s a bad war, one that shouldn’t be waged.

In fact that was one of the reasons for the Espionage Act—not to punish people for spying but rather for criticizing the draft and the war. The law converted anyone who publicly criticized the draft or attempted to persuade American men to resist the draft into felons. And make no mistake about it: US officials went after such people with a vengeance, doing their best to punish Americans for doing nothing more than speaking.

One example was Charles Schenck, who was prosecuted and convicted of violating the law after circulating a flier that opposed the draft. When the case reached the US Supreme Court, the Court upheld the conviction, one of the earliest examples of judicial deferment to the military, a deference that would become virtually complete after the US government was officially converted to a national-security state after World War II.

Another example was Eugene Debs, who got convicted for criticizing the war and for encouraging men to resist the draft. President Wilson called Debs “a traitor to his country.”

How in the world can such prosecutions and convictions possibly be reconciled with the principles of a free society? Freedom necessarily entails the right to criticize government for anything, including its wars, its enslavement of people, its tyranny, and anything else. Perhaps it is worth nothing that both Schenk and Debs were socialists, something that today’s crop of Democrat presidential candidates might want to take note of.

Longtime supporters of FFF know that one of my favorite stories in history is the one about the White Rose, a group of college students in Germany who, in the midst of World War II, began distributing pamphlets calling on Germans to resist their own government and to oppose the troops. (See my essay “The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent.” Also, see the great movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.) When they were caught and brought to trial, the members of the White Rose were berated by the presiding judge, who accused them of being bad German citizens and traitors, just as Wilson, the Justice Department, and the US Supreme Court had said of Americans who were violating the Espionage Act.

Today, any US official would praise the actions of the White Rose, but that’s just because it was foreign citizens opposing an official enemy of the US government. The fact is that if the White Rose members had done the same thing they did in Germany here in the United States, US officials would have gone after them with the same anger and vengeance as German officials did. And they would have used the Espionage Act to do it.

It’s time to acknowledge that the horror of US intervention into World War I and the horrible consequences of that intervention. It’s also time to rid our nation of the horrific relic of that intervention, the Espionage Act. We need to continue demanding the dismissal of all charges against Assange. But let’s not stop there. Let’s repeal the tyrannical World War I-era Espionage Act under which he is being charged to ensure that this cannot happen to others.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Repeal the Espionage Act

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World War I is the gift that just keeps on giving. Although the US government’s intervention into this senseless, immoral, and destructive war occurred 100 years ago, the adverse effects of the war continue to besiege our nation. Among the most notable examples is the Espionage Act, a tyrannical law that was enacted two months after the US entered the war and which, unfortunately, remained on the books after the war came to an end. In fact, it is that World War I relic that US officials are now relying on to secure the criminal indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks head who released a mountain of evidence disclosing the inner workings and grave wrongdoing on the part of the US national-security establishment, especially with respect to the manner in which it has waged it undeclared forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Some news media commentators are finally coming to the realization that if the Espionage Act can be enforced against Assange for what he did, it can be enforced against anyone in the press for revealing damaging inside information about the national-security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. Therefore, they are calling on the Justice Department to cease and desist from its prosecution of Assange.

Of course, they are right, but the problem is that they don’t go far enough. Their mindsets reflect the customary acceptance of the status quo. The mindset is that we Americans simply have to accept the way things are and plead with the government to go easy on us.

That’s just plain nonsense. It is incumbent on the American people to start thinking at a high level, one that doesn’t just accept the existence of tyrannical laws and instead calls for their repeal. After all, isn’t that what our Declaration of Independence says — that when government becomes destructive of the legitimate ends for which it was formed, it is the right of the people to alter or even abolish it and form new government?

What does that mean with respect to the Espionage Act? It means that the law should simply be repealed and that Americans need to start demanding repeal rather than simply pleading with the Justice Department to enforce it in a more judicious manner.

Let’s keep in mind that the law is the fruit of a rotten foreign intervention. Hardly anyone defends the US intervention into World War I. That war was, quite simply, none of the US government’s business. President Wilson, however, was hell-bent on embroiling the US in the conflict. Wilson believed that if the force of the US government could be used to totally defeat Germany, this would be the war to finally end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy.

Wilson’s mindset, of course, was lunacy. Sure enough, the US intervention resulted in Germany’s total defeat, which was then followed by the vengeful Treaty of Versailles, which Adolf Hitler would use to justify his rise to power. Nazism and World War II soon followed. So much for the war to end all wars and to make the world safe for democracy. Tens of thousands of American men were sacrificed for nothing.

Moreover, Wilson had to force American men to fight in World War I. He conscripted them. Enslaved would be a better word. When a government has to force its citizens to fight a particular war, that’s a good sign that it’s a bad war, one that shouldn’t be waged.

In fact that was one of the reasons for the Espionage Act—not to punish people for spying but rather for criticizing the draft and the war. The law converted anyone who publicly criticized the draft or attempted to persuade American men to resist the draft into felons. And make no mistake about it: US officials went after such people with a vengeance, doing their best to punish Americans for doing nothing more than speaking.

One example was Charles Schenck, who was prosecuted and convicted of violating the law after circulating a flier that opposed the draft. When the case reached the US Supreme Court, the Court upheld the conviction, one of the earliest examples of judicial deferment to the military, a deference that would become virtually complete after the US government was officially converted to a national-security state after World War II.

Another example was Eugene Debs, who got convicted for criticizing the war and for encouraging men to resist the draft. President Wilson called Debs “a traitor to his country.”

How in the world can such prosecutions and convictions possibly be reconciled with the principles of a free society? Freedom necessarily entails the right to criticize government for anything, including its wars, its enslavement of people, its tyranny, and anything else. Perhaps it is worth nothing that both Schenk and Debs were socialists, something that today’s crop of Democrat presidential candidates might want to take note of.

Longtime supporters of FFF know that one of my favorite stories in history is the one about the White Rose, a group of college students in Germany who, in the midst of World War II, began distributing pamphlets calling on Germans to resist their own government and to oppose the troops. (See my essay “The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent.” Also, see the great movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.) When they were caught and brought to trial, the members of the White Rose were berated by the presiding judge, who accused them of being bad German citizens and traitors, just as Wilson, the Justice Department, and the US Supreme Court had said of Americans who were violating the Espionage Act.

Today, any US official would praise the actions of the White Rose, but that’s just because it was foreign citizens opposing an official enemy of the US government. The fact is that if the White Rose members had done the same thing they did in Germany here in the United States, US officials would have gone after them with the same anger and vengeance as German officials did. And they would have used the Espionage Act to do it.

It’s time to acknowledge that the horror of US intervention into World War I and the horrible consequences of that intervention. It’s also time to rid our nation of the horrific relic of that intervention, the Espionage Act. We need to continue demanding the dismissal of all charges against Assange. But let’s not stop there. Let’s repeal the tyrannical World War I-era Espionage Act under which he is being charged to ensure that this cannot happen to others.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

The Drug War Is Totally Idiotic

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Pardon me for being blunt, but it would be difficult to find anything more idiotic than the war on drugs, an ongoing federal program that has been enacted and enforced by both Republicans and Democrats for decades. The program is sheer idiocy in that its supporters continue to keep it going despite the manifest failure, violence, ruination of lives, expense, racism, and destruction of liberty and privacy that this federal program has produced and continues to produce.

But hope springs eternal in the minds of the drug war’s supporters and enforcers. Each new drug bust over the decades, oftentimes accompanied with a large amount of hoopla from the mainstream press, provides these people with confirmation that victory is just around the corner. Just a few more drug busts and the long drug-war nightmare will finally be over.

It has never happened, More important, it will never happen. And to believe it will happen is, well, sheer idiocy. There is a simple reason why victory is impossible in the drug war: the laws of supply and demand. Although the members of Congress, having heard of the laws of supply and demand, oftentimes think they can be repealed by Congress, that’s just more idiocy. That’s because these laws are natural laws, not man-made laws. Like the law of gravity, the laws of supply and demand cannot be repealed by the members of Congress.

In the absence of drug laws, the prices for drugs would be set by the laws of supply and demand, much like the price of alcohol is set. In a free market — that is, a market that is free of government regulation — if an item is scarce, the price will tend to be higher, assuming it is in demand by consumers. But that high price then encourages producers to produce more of it to capitalize on the profits that can be made by selling it. The increased supply of the item tends to bring the price down.

Today, booze is reasonably priced. By that I mean that a wino is able to afford a cheap bottle of wine by making a relatively small legal effort, like working an odd job or doing some panhandling. It’s not worth it to him to mug someone, burglarize a house, or rob a bank to get the money to buy a bottle of wine because the risk of getting caught and the potential consequences of getting caught far outweigh the small effort to legally acquire the money to buy the bottle.

Now, suppose the price for a cheap bottle of wine suddenly goes from $5 to $250. The situation for the wino now changes. Assuming he is unable to break his addiction, he now is compelled to get a much larger sum of money to satisfy his addiction. Odd jobs and panhandling won’t cut it. He now must revert to violent crimes to get the money to pay for his wine.

That’s what drug illegality has done. It has caused the price of illicit drugs to soar. In the absence of the drug war, drugs would be reasonably priced, so that drug addicts would be able to afford to pay for their addiction. Once drugs are made illegal, they don’t disappear. Instead, they continue to be sold on the black or illegal market. But because of the scarcity that illegality produces, the black-market price is much higher than it was when the drugs were legal. And the fiercer the crackdown — i.e., the more drug busts they make and celebrate as “progress” — the higher the price goes. That means more muggings, robberies, and thefts to get the money to finance the addiction.

The drug warriors believe that they will be able to continue the crackdown to such a point that they squeeze all the drugs out of society. However, that’s just more idiocy, The reason is because as the black-market price soars, more people are tempted to become drug sellers to capitalize on the big money that can quickly be made in the drug trade. That’s why the drug warriors can never “win” the war on drugs. The more they fight, the bigger the problem becomes.

Consider, for example, a 42-year-old Japanese man identified only as Uno N. On a recent flight from Colombia to Japan, he began having seizures and died mid-flight. An autopsy revealed that he died from a swelling of the brain caused by a drug overdose. During the autopsy, 246 plastic bags of cocaine were found lodged in his stomach and intestines. Apparently one or more of them ripped open during the flight.

Now, why would anyone do such a thing, knowing the life-and-death risks involved? The most likely reason is money. I don’t know how much money 246 bags of cocaine would bring in Japan but my hunch is a very hefty sum. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that Uno N was in financial straits and was looking to make a big score.

If a man is willing to risk his life to smuggle bags of cocaine inside his body, it is impossible to imagine all the other ways that drugs are being smuggled around the world. And remember: the more they crack down, the higher the price, which then induces more people to enter the trade.

There is but one solution to this drug-war idiocy: end drug prohibition, just as previous Americans ended alcohol prohibition after it produced nothing but failure, death, violence, ruination of lives, corruption, and destruction of liberty.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Impeach Trump But Only for the Right Reason

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Notwithstanding the fact that their Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after a long detailed investigation, found no evidence that President Trump illegally conspired with Russian officials in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Democrats are still hell bent on impeaching Trump. The problem with their position, however, is that they want to impeach him for invalid reasons, reasons that do not amount to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard set forth in the Constitution.

For one thing, while “conspiring” or “colluding” to establish normal and friendly relations with Russia is considered a cardinal sin by the US national-security establishment and the Republican-Democrat political establishment, it does not constitute a “high crime or misdemeanor” under the US Constitution.

Realizing that, Democrats are falling back on the notion that President Trump engaged in “obstruction of justice” with respect to Mueller’s investigation. The problem with that charge, however, is that “obstruction of justice” is the federal government’s counterpart to local governments’ offense of “disorderly conduct.” It’s a classic example of a nebulous crime that turns on subjective interpretation, one whose purpose is to enable officials to target anyone they don’t like whenever they want.

And if anything is clear, it’s this: Democrats hate Trump so much that they are willing to do anything they can to remove him from office before his term is up, including employing the nebulous crime of “obstruction of justice” to do it.

But no matter how much Democrats and others might dislike Trump, the fact is that he won the election. He defeated Hillary Clinton by securing more electoral votes than she did. Under our system of government, he has the right to be president. Using the “crimes” of conspiring to establish normal relations with Russia or “obstruction of justice” to remove him from office would be akin to Third World coups that oust democratically elected leaders who are disliked by their military-intelligence establishment or by political elites within the nation.

This is especially true given the possibility that it was the US deep state that illegally meddled in the US presidential election in an effort to get Hillary Clinton, who had a vehement anti-Russia mindset, elected president. Trump is absolutely right to want a full investigation into that possibility.

Does that mean that Trump should not be impeached? No. Trump should be impeached, but only for the right reason.

What is that reason? Illegally waging war against foreign regimes without the congressional declaration of war that is required by the US Constitution.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land. It is the law that we the people have imposed on US officials, including the president. When Congress enacts laws, such as drug laws, we the people are expected to obey them. By the same token, federal officials are supposed to to obey our law, the law set forth in the Constitution.

It is undisputed that Trump is waging wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It is also undisputed that Congress has not issued a declaration of war against any of those nations. Those wars are killing people. Just last week, US bombers killed 18 Afghan police officers who were engaged in a firefight with the Taliban. The Pentagon has called it a “tragic accident.” But one thing is for sure: If Trump was not waging this illegal war, those police officers would not have been killed by US bombs. Trump’s undeclared wars in Syria and Iraq have also killed people in those two countries. With respect to Yemen, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out in his May 18 column:
It is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that drop the bombs on Yemen, but Washington supplies weaponry and intelligence that allow this war to drag on indefinitely. American policy is to support the starvation of Yemeni children because they are ruled by a faction with ties to Iran.
By waging wars without a congressional declaration of war, Trump is knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately violating the Constitution. By doing so he is committing a “high crime,” one that clearly warrants impeachment.

That’s what Trump should be impeached for — illegally waging war without the constitutionally required declaration of war — not for some trumped-up charges of conspiring to establish normal relations with Russia or “obstruction of justice.” 

It is crystal clear that the federal judiciary isn’t going to enforce that particular provision of the Constitution. Therefore, it is up to Congress to enforce the declaration-of-war provision in the Constitution through impeachment.

If Trump were impeached for waging illegal wars under our system of justice, he and his lawyers would undoubtedly defend by claiming that other presidents, including Democratic presidents like Truman, Johnson, and Obama, did the same thing. But under well-established principles of criminal justice, the fact that some people have violated the law with impunity does not serves as a license for other people to also violate the law.

Also, the fact that previous presidents have violated the law without being impeached for it does not constitute a de-facto amendment of the Constitution nullifying the declaration-of-war requirement.

The problem, of course, is that Democrats, no matter how much they hate Trump and want to see him removed from office, are not about to impeach him for waging illegal wars in foreign lands. That’s because they simply want a Democrat to take his place as president so that they can be the ones waging these illegal undeclared wars, just as Truman, Johnson, and Obama did.

Needless to say, on this issue the Republican members of Congress are on the same page as their Democrat counterparts. The last thing any Republican member of Congress wants to do is impeach Trump for the right reason — waging illegal wars in foreign lands. That includes those Republicans who claim to revere the Constitution and those who refer to themselves as “strict constructionists.”

The discomforting fact is that when it comes to enforcing the higher law that we the people have imposed on the president with respect to waging war without a congressional declaration of war, the Republican members of Congress are as big a disaster as their Democratic counterparts. All of them — Republicans and Democrats alike — should be impeaching and convicting Trump but only for the right reason: waging illegal undeclared wars under our form of constitutional government.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.

Iraq Déjà Vu with Iran

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Given US National-Security Advisor John Bolton’s war-provoking antics with Iran, I’m getting that déjà vu feeling with how President George W. Bush and his team of interventionists took the US to war with Iraq.

Of course, the first question that naturally arises is: Who’s the real acting president, Donald Trump or John Bolton? The Washington Post reports that Trump is lamenting that Bolton wants to get him “into a war.” So, who’s in charge — Bolton or Trump?

The second question that arises is whether Bolton will succeed in achieving a war with Iran, either by provoking an Iranian attack on “US interests” or by just concocting an attack, which would then enable him to exclaim, “We have been attacked! We are innocent! We had no idea that this was going to happen! We are peaceful regime! We are a force for good in the world! Unfortunately, we now need to carpet-bomb Iran to defend ourselves.”

After all, isn’t that what happened with Iraq, a country whose government never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people killed, tortured, maimed, or injured. Countless homes, businesses, industries, roads, and bridges bombed and destroyed. A brutal and ruthless multi-year military occupation to protect a crooked, corrupt, and tyrannical puppet regime, all billed under the false label “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” All of which gave rise to ISIS, which then became a new official enemy with which to scare the American people and embark on a new imperialist adventure. And all against a country whose government never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.

When the reports began coming out about the torture and sex abuse conducted by US forces in Abu Ghraib prison, I read an account of one Iraqi man who exclaimed during his torture words to the following effect: “Sir, why are you doing this to me? Sir, please stop.”

The first thing that hit me was his use of the word “Sir” to his US torturers. It was a sign of respect for US officials. The second thing that hit me was the genuine sincerity in asking the question. The man really didn’t know why he was being tortured and abused. Neither he nor his government had ever attacked the United States. Why torture or abuse a person who hasn’t done anything against you? That’s why he wanted to know why US officials, who he obviously respected by his use of the word “Sir,” were doing that to him.

Of course, US officials still maintain, with straight faces, that the invasion was just a honest mistake. The idea is that public officials, like everyone else, make mistakes and that this was one of those instances. They say that President Bush and his minions really believed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and that that was the reason they invaded. It was just an honest mistake, they say.

But then how does that explain the brutal and ruthless multi-year occupation of the country, an occupation that continued killing, injuring, torturing, and destroying people whose government had never attacked the United States? When a mistake is made, the natural thing to do is so acknowledge the mistake and apologize for it. If Bush and his cohorts had really just made a mistake, they would have said they were sorry and immediately brought all US troops home. They didn’t do that. They kept them there, knowing that there were bringing ever more death, maiming, torture, and destruction to people who had never attacked the United States–and for several years after the initial invasion!

It’s also important to place the Iraq invasion into context. Faced with the loss of the Soviet Union as an official enemy of the United States with the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, converted Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, into America’s new official enemy as part of the Persian Gulf intervention. Easily defeating Saddam’s Third World War army, Bush decided not to send US forces to Baghdad in a regime-change operation, which left Saddam in power.

That enabled US officials to use Saddam as their new official enemy throughout the decade of the 1990s. Saddam became a national obsession. For some 10 years, interventionists constantly lamented that Bush Sr. had not gone all the way and removed Saddam from power. That’s what the brutal sanctions on Iraq were all about, which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children. Their purpose was to squeeze the Iraqi people to death in the hopes of regime-changing Iraq.

By the time the 9/11 attacks came in retaliation for what the US government was doing in Iraq and the Middle East, it was clear that the deadly sanctions were not going to succeed in achieving regime change. But what the attacks did accomplish was to instill deep fear in the American people that Bush Jr. and his regime-change cohorts knew they could use to their advantage. They knew that Americans would automatically, without any questions, believe and trust whatever Bush and his cohorts said once they conjured up an image of “mushroom clouds” over US cities.

That’s when Bush and his fellow interventionists decided to abandon sanctions as a way to oust Saddam and instead use the more direct route of a regime-change invasion. Since Saddam refused to provide them with an attack on “US interests” in the Middle East, they simply concocted the WMD scare to justify their invasion of Iraq. Countless Americans supported the invasion based on the notion that Bush must have had access to information that he was not permitted to share with the American people.

Through it all, Bush also claimed that his invasion was also simply designed to enforce UN resolutions against Saddam’s supposed possession of WMDs. Never mind that only the UN can enforce UN resolutions and that the UN opposed Bush’s invasion. And never mind that reliance on that alternative rationale for invading obviously weakens the “Saddam is about to attack us” rationale for invading.

Why were Bush and his people so convinced they would “find” WMDs? Because they had the receipts for them! It was the US and other Western allies of Saddam who had furnished him with the WMDs in the first place, to enable him to use them to kill Iranians in his war of aggression against Iran in the 1990s.

Which brings us full circle back to Iran, where John Bolton is pulling another Iraq with his war-provoking antics against Iran. If he is successful, the same massive death and suffering that the US government unleashed on the Iraqi people will be unleashed on the Iranian people. Did I mention that Bolton served in both the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations? Déjà vu indeed.

Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.