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Jacob G. Hornberger

Why Foreign Interventionism?

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What is the point of US foreign interventionism?

Why are US troops killing and dying in faraway countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia?

Why does the US government have 165,000 troops stationed in more than 150 foreign countries?

Why is the US government enforcing economic sanctions and embargoes against the people of Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and other countries?

Why are US officials waging trade wars against foreign nations?

Why do the CIA and the Pentagon assassinate foreigners?

Why are US officials provoking conflicts with Iran and Venezuela?

Why is regime change a core feature of US foreign policy?

Why do US officials partner with tyrannical foreign regimes?
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Regime Change through the Drug War

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The Justice Department’s securing of a criminal indictment of Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro reminds us that when it comes to the US government’s regime-change operations, coups, invasions, sanctions, embargoes, and state-sponsored assassinations are not the only ways to achieve regime change. Another way is through a criminal indictment issued by a federal grand jury that deferentially accedes to the wishes of federal prosecutors.

The best example of this regime change method involved the president of Panama, Manuel Noriega.

Like many corrupt and brutal dictators around the world, Noriega was a partner and ally of the US government. In fact, he was actually trained at the Pentagon’s School of the Americas, which is referred to in Latin America as the School of Assassins. He later served as a paid asset of the CIA. He also served as a conduit for the US government’s illegal war in Nicaragua, where US officials were using the Contra rebels to effect a regime change in that country.

But like other loyal pro-US dictators, Noriega fell out of favor with US officials, who decided they wanted him out of office and replaced with someone more to their liking.

The big problem, of course, is the one that always afflicts US regime-change aspirations: Noriega refused to go voluntarily.
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More Dying for Nothing in Iraq

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Two more US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Yes, that Iraq — the Iraq that never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so — the Iraq that the US government invaded and has occupied for umpteen years under the rubric of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

What did those two soldiers die for? They died for the same thing that 58,000 US soldiers died for in Vietnam — nothing.

They certainly didn’t die for freedom. Just as the North Vietnamese were never threatening the freedom of the American people, neither is anyone in Iraq, including ISIS, the group that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq brought into existence.

The Pentagon announced that it has retaliated for the killings by bombing an “Iranian-backed militia” that the Pentagon is “confident” was responsible for the killing.

And then what? Then that Iranian-backed militia retaliates by killing more US soldiers, which then motivates the Pentagon to retaliate again, which causes the Iranian-backed militia to retaliate again.
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Lift the US Embargo on Cuba

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The US embargo on Cuba has been in effect for 60 years. It’s time to end it.

The embargo makes it a criminal offense for any American to spend money in Cuba or to do business in Cuba. If an American travels to Cuba and spends money there or does business there, he is subject to criminal prosecution, conviction, fine, and imprisonment by his own government upon his return to the United States.

The purpose of the embargo is regime change. The idea is to squeeze the Cuban people economically with the aim of causing discontent against Cuba’s communist regime. If the discontent gets significant enough, US officials believe, the population will revolt and re-install a pro-US regime into power.

Where is the morality in targeting the civilian population with death and impoverishment with the aim of achieving a political goal? Isn’t that why we condemn terrorism?
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Drug War Obtuseness

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Sometimes I wonder how super-smart people can be so obtuse when it comes to the drug war. A recent example of this phenomenon is Ioan Grillo, a contributing editor for the New York Times. Grillo is the author of two books on the drug war: El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency, which was translated into five languages and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, and his new book Gangster Warlords.

Clearly, Ioan Grillo is a super-smart person.

The problem is that he, like so many other super-smart people in the mainstream press, is also super-obtuse when it comes to the war on drugs.

Grillo thinks he has found a way to win the war on drugs. In an op-ed entitled “Dismantling Mexico’s Narco State,” he says that the secret is for the Mexican and US governments to start targeting for criminal prosecution Mexican government officials who protect the drug cartels. The corruption within the Mexican government would then be ended, which would mean an end to the official protection for the drug cartels and drug lords, which would enable law enforcement to finally — finally — shut them down. Victory in the drug war!

Why, that’s ingenious! Why didn’t anyone come up with this brilliant idea before now?

Maybe because it is so ludicrous.
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US Lies and Deaths in Afghanistan

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Last December the Washington Post published secret Pentagon documents showing the official lies that have undergirded the US war on Afghanistan for the past 18 years. The opening paragraph of the article puts the matter bluntly: “A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.”

I can’t help but wonder whether Sgt. First Class Javier Gutierrez, of San Antonio, Texas, and Sgt. First Class Rey Rodriguez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, read that article. Both men were killed last Saturday in an attack on a joint-US military operation in Afghanistan. Both were 28 years old.

In fact, I can’t help but wonder whether their families read the article. If so, what will be going through their minds at the funerals of both men, when some Pentagon spokesman states that they died fighting for “our freedom.” Won’t both families know deep down that that’s just one more lie piled onto all the other lies?
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Do We Need the First Amendment?

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Many years ago, I was giving a lecture on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to a class at a public high school here in Virginia. During the course of my talk, I made the following statement: “The First Amendment does not give people the right of free speech.”

I asked the students whether my statement was correct or incorrect. Everyone immediately told me that I was wrong. They said the First Amendment did in fact give people the right of free speech.

I held my ground. I said it didn’t, and I pressed the students to figure out why I was maintaining my position. They were just as steadfast in their position, until a girl raised her hand and said, “Mr. Hornberger is right. The First Amendment does not give people rights. It prohibits the government from infringing on rights that preexist the government.”

She was absolutely right.

The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Notice that the Amendment does not give people rights. Instead, it prohibits Congress from enacting laws that abridge people’s rights.
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Interventionism Makes Americans Less Safe

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There is something important to note about US interventionism in faraway lands: None of the people that the US government is killing, maiming, or destroying is invading and trying to conquer the United States. Neither are the governments of the nations in which the victims are citizens. No one is invading and trying to conquer the United States.

There is something else important to note about US interventionism in faraway lands: It makes Americans less safe. Let us count the ways.

1. American tourists and business people traveling abroad are now subject to angry and vengeful retaliation for the death and destruction that the US government is wreaking in those faraway lands.

Yes, I am fully aware that American tourists and business people are not responsible for the death and destruction that is being inflicted by the Pentagon and the CIA in places like Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen,  Afghanistan, and other countries. But the problem is that many victims of the Pentagon’s and CIA’s deadly and destructive crusade don’t separate private American citizens and the US government. Like many Americans do, they conflate the federal government and the American people. Thus, when they exact revenge by killing or maiming American tourists or American business travelers abroad, say with well-placed bombs, in their minds they are exacting revenge against the US government.

2. Americans here at home are now subject to angry and vengeful retaliation by American citizens here at home and foreigners living in the United States who sympathize with the victims in those faraway lands. That’s where the threat of domestic terrorism comes into play.
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Our American Ancestors Didn’t Trust the Federal Government

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The US Constitution brought into existence a federal government whose powers were limited to those enumerated in the Constitution itself. If a power wasn’t enumerated, it simply could not be exercised.

That’s because our American ancestors didn’t trust governmental power. They clearly understood, based on both historical knowledge and life experience, that the greatest threat to their freedom and well-being lay with their very own federal government.

That’s why there was such a deep antipathy toward a type of government that had an enormous and permanent military-intelligence establishment. Our American ancestors knew that a government of that nature would wield the power to destroy their liberty and well-being.

Even though the American people ended up accepting the Constitution and its concept of limited power, there were still very leery of the new federal government. For more than 10 years before they accepted the Constitution, they had operated under a type of governmental system called the Articles of Confederation, under which the powers of the federal government were so weak that it wasn’t even given the power to tax.
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The Pentagon’s and CIA’s Power to Assassinate Americans

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Pentagon officials are assuring Americans that the Pentagon’s recent assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani will make Americans safer. There is at least one big problem with that formulation, one that, unfortunately, many Americans still don’t recognize. That problem is this: the power of assassination wielded by the Pentagon and the CIA extends to American citizens.

Why is that a problem?

Because there is no way to reconcile a government’s power to assassinate its own citizens with the principles of a free society. A free society necessarily is one in which the government lacks the power to assassinate its own citizens.

Our American ancestors clearly understood this aspect of a free society. That’s why they demanded the enactment of the Fifth Amendment as a condition for accepting the new limited-government republic that was being proposed by the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment reads in part: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” That phrase — due process of law, which stretches back to Magna Carta — has come to mean notice and trial, including trial by jury.
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