War on Terror
The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.
More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.”
Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?
“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation.” — Igor Birman
Late last year, I ran across video of Igor Birman, who immigrated to the United States with his family as the Soviet Union was collapsing, warning against a more centralized government healthcare system. Birman, who now serves as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), was explaining that the Soviet system relied on rationing of healthcare, which would be the end result of ObamaCare.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Birman to discuss his story, the transformation of the United States into a police state, ObamaCare, the budget, and other destructive economic policies that are being pushed by the White House.
When asked about the recent filibuster in the Senate, Birman applauded Sen. Rand Paul and noted that it was refreshing to hear a politician be so passionate. He also compared the policies implemented as part of the “war on terror” to life in the Soviet Union, where the government frequently searched homes of ordinary citizens without cause, which he called a “fact of life,” noting that “you just accepted it as much as you did the cold weather and the long lines for the basic staples of food and water.”
Birman experienced this first-hand. “A week before we left for the United States, we went to say goodbye to my uncle in St. Petersburg and when we came back, we found our apartment just absolutely ravaged,” recalled Birman. “The authorities must have been looking for whatever lame excuse they could find to either delay or disrupt our departure.”
Lindsey Graham has declared war on the Constitution (on the same day Kim Jong Un declared war on his enemies… hmm…). What’s especially funny is that he couldn’t have chosen a less popular time to do so, as the Constitution — courtesy of #StandwithRand — is trending. With overwhelming support for Rand Paul’s filibuster coming from conservatives, libertarians, and even many Democrats; Graham, joined by John McCain, has decided that the possibility of the government killing Americans on American soil without due process is a non-issue.
Graham told POLITICO:
“I do mind our party taking a position completely different than we had with President Bush. I didn’t hear any of these people say anything during the Bush administration. Where were they? I just think it’s politics. I think it’s creating a straw man, creating a situation that doesn’t exist.”
First of all, let’s look at the issue of droning under President Bush. Not once did Senator Paul praise President Bush during his filibuster. Unlike his colleague, Senator Graham, Paul is able to look at an issue based on constitutionality instead of on which political party is at stake. If Senator Graham cared to remember those “good old days”, he might remember the huge anti-war movement that arose during Bush’s War on Terror. Much of that movement was directed at tactics such as waterboarding and use of drones, but the movement was against a Republican president. As a party-line opportunist, I guess it’s not all that surprising that there’s a bit of a memory gap for the senator.
Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Will sequestration undermine U.S. national security? Hardly. Today, the Cato Institute released a new infographic putting these minor cuts in perspective.
Military spending will remain at roughly 2006 levels—$603 billion, higher than peak U.S. spending during the Cold War. Meanwhile, we live in a safer world. The Soviet Union has been dead for more than two decades; no other nation, or combination of nations, has emerged since that can pose a comparable threat. We should have a defense budget that reflects this reality.
To be clear, sequestration was no one’s first choice. But the alternative—ever-increasing military spending detached from a legitimate debate over strategy—is worse. We should have had such a debate, one over the roles and missions of the U.S. military, long before this day of reckoning. And politicians could have pursued serious proposals to prudently reduce military spending. Instead, they chose the easy way out, avoiding difficult decisions that would have allowed for smarter cuts.
Since the first armed drone strike in Yemen 2002, the United States has been leveraging the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed on September 18, 2001, presumably for use in Afghanistan, to justify the use of drone warfare in numerous countries. Drones have since been used in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Mali, but mostly in Pakistan, where strikes began in 2004, and accelerated in 2009; with more than 300 strikes, there have been six times more drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama than under Bush.
In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious. It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.
As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens. The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.
After last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, politicians have made loud calls for increased gun control measures, including a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban — nevermind that the .223 Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza wouldn’t have been covered under that law.
Politico notes this morning that President Barack Obama, who has previously called for more gun control measures, has announced that he will form a “guns task force” to presumably look at gun control policies that the White House could pursue. Of course, pro-Second Amendment advocates see this tragedy being politicized by policitians who have long clamored for increased gun control measures.
We’ve hear gun control advocates talk about how these mass shootings are on the rise. Despite the rhetoric, the facts just don’t bear that out. In an article published the day after the shooting at Shady Hook, the Associated Press explained:
“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.
The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.
Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf gives us a disturbing glimpse of what American schoolchildren are being taught about the War on Terror, in the form of excerpts from a widely-used high school history textbook. The whole piece is a disturbing catalog of hilarious propaganda presented as fact to kids who are increasingly too young to remember much about the immediate aftermath the 9/11 attacks, but I figured I’d focus on the paragraph dealing with the Patriot Act, which manages to get a truly impressive number of things wrong in a short space.
The President also asked Congress to pass legislation to help law enforcement agencies track down terrorist suspects. Drafting the legislation took time. Congress had to balance Americans’ Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure with the need to increase security.
[UPDATE - 7:23pm] The United States Senate passed the NDAA this evening by a vote of 86 to 13. It will now head to President Obama’s desk for approval.
As noted yesterday, House and Senate conferees were moving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) forward to the final action in both chambers with compromise legislation that kept in controversial language that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens and legal residents of the United States.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed the NDAA overwhelmingly last night by a vote of 283 to 136. You can see how your representative and the members of your state’s delegation voted here. It now heads to the Senate for final passage.
For those of you that are just now catching up on this, the House basically voted last night to suspend the right to due process, the right to a trial by a jury of an accuser’s peers, and the right to habeas corpus. And now that the so-called “war on terror” has been expanded to include not only al-Qaeda but also the Taliban and other “associated forces.” Given the war on terrorism has become an open-ended war with civil liberties being offered by Congress on the alter of the “national security,” this provision will be no doubt be abused; if not by this administration than the next.
It was also noted that the White House asked for the language, at least according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). So it should come as no surprise that the White House has backed off veto threats of the NDAA:
This evening, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives against Section 1021 — the indefinite detention language — of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed this evening. You can read my comments on this provision below the video:
I rise in opposition to Section 1021 of the underlying Conference Report (H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act).
This section specifically affirms that the President has the authority to deny due process to any American it charges with “substantially supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban or any ‘associated forces’” – whatever that means.
Would “substantial support” of an “associated force,” mean linking a web-site to a web-site that links to a web-site affiliated with al-Qaeda? We don’t know. The question is, “do we really want to find out?”
We’re told not to worry – that the bill explicitly states that nothing in it shall alter existing law.