Ron Paul: Defeat of USA FREEDOM Act is a victory for freedom

It will not shock readers to hear that, quite often, legislation on Capitol Hill is not as advertised. When Congress wants to do something particularly objectionable, congressmen tend give it a fine-sounding name. The PATRIOT Act is perhaps the best-known example. The legislation had been drafted well before 9/11 but was going nowhere. Then the 9/11 attacks gave it a new lease on life. Politicians exploited the surge in patriotism following the attack to reintroduce the bill and call it the PATRIOT Act. To oppose it at that time was, by design, to seem unpatriotic.

At the time, 62 Democrats voted against the Act. On the Republican side there were only three “no” votes: then-Representatives Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Butch Otter (R-Idaho) and I.

The abuses of the Constitution in the PATRIOT Act do not need to be fully recounted here, but Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both claimed authority based on it to gut the 4th Amendment. The PATRIOT Act ushered in the era of warrantless wiretapping, monitoring of our Internet behavior, watering down of probable cause, and much more. After the revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, we know how the NSA viewed constitutional restraints on surveillance of American people during the PATRIOT Act period.

After several re-authorizations of the PATRIOT Act, including some cosmetic reforms, Congress last October unveiled the USA FREEDOM Act. This was advertised as the first wholesale PATRIOT Act Reform bill. In fact, the House version was watered down to the point of meaninglessness; and the Senate version was not much better. The final straw was the bill’s extension of key elements of the PATRIOT Act until 2017.

Fortunately, last week the USA FREEDOM Act was blocked from further consideration in the U.S. Senate. The procedural vote was significant and important, but it caused some confusion as well. While some well-meaning pro-privacy groups endorsed the FREEDOM Act as a first step to reform, some anti-liberty neoconservatives opposed the legislation because even its anemic reforms were unacceptable. The truth is, Americans should not accept one more extension of the PATRIOT Act and should not endorse its continued dismemberment of our constitutional liberties. If that means some Senators vote with anti-liberty colleagues to kill the extension, we should still consider it a victory.

As the PATRIOT Act first faced a sunset in 2005, I had this to say in the debate over whether it should be re-authorized:

When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the emotional aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a sunset provision was inserted in the bill that causes certain sections to expire at the end of 2005. But this begs the question: If these provisions are critical tools in the fight against terrorism, why revoke them after five years? Conversely, if these provisions violate civil liberties, why is it acceptable to suspend the Constitution for any amount of time?

Reform is often meant to preserve, not repeal bad legislation. When the public is strongly opposed to a particular policy you will almost never hear politicians say “let’s repeal the law.” It is always a pledge to reform the policy or law. The USA FREEDOM Act was no different.

With the failure of the FREEDOM Act to move ahead in the Senate last week, several of the most egregious sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to sunset next June, absent a new authorization. Congress will no doubt be under great pressure to extend these measures. We must do our very best to make sure they are unsuccessful!

–Ron Paul

 

Ron Paul: A winner for Sheldon Adelson, a losing bet for the rest of us

Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.

For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.

Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists. But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.

A federal online gambling ban would overturn laws in three states that allow online gambling. It would also end the ongoing debate over legalizing online gambling in many other states. Yet some have claimed that Congress must pass this law in order to protect states’ rights. Their argument is that residents of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized.

Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that “states’ rights” justifies creating new federal crimes turns the 10th Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.

Many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed. However, the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.

Even if there was some moral distinction between gambling online or in a physical casino, prohibiting behavior that does not involve force or fraud has no place in a free society. It is no more appropriate for gambling opponents to use force to stop people from playing poker online than it would be for me to use force to stop people from reading pro-war, neocon writers.

Giving government new powers over the Internet to prevent online gambling will inevitably threaten all of our liberties. Government bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the PATRIOT Act to justify mass surveillance.

The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state. Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.

What the midterm elections really mean for peace and liberty

Did the election last week really mean that much? I took to my Twitter account on Tuesday to point out that the change in control of the Senate from Democrat to Republican actually means very little, despite efforts by politicians and the mainstream media to convince us otherwise. Yes, power shifted, I wrote. But the philosophy on Capitol Hill changed very little. The warfare/welfare state is still alive and well in Washington.

Some were critical of my comment that, “Republican control of the Senate equals expanded neo-con wars in Syria and Iraq. Boots on the ground are coming!”
But, unfortunately, my fears were confirmed even sooner than I thought. Shortly after the vote, President Obama announced that he would double the number of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and request another $5.6 billion to fight his war in the Middle East.

The president also said on Wednesday that he would seek a new authorization for the use of force in Iraq and Syria. He said that a new authorization was needed to reflect “not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.”

That sounds like boots on the ground in an endless war.

Senate Democrats had been competing with Republicans over who would push a more aggressive foreign policy. This may explain their miserable showing on Tuesday: It is likely the honest, antiwar progressives just stayed home on election night. But with the Republican victory bringing to leadership the most hawkish of the neoconservatives like John McCain, the only fight over the President’s request to re-invade Iraq will be Republican demands that he send in even more soldiers and weapons!

Likewise, the incoming Republicans in the Senate have expressed a foolhardy desire to continue resurrecting the Cold War. They demand that Russia be further sanctioned even as the original reason for the sanctions — claims that Russia was behind the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 — has been shown to be false. They want to send weapons to the U.S.-backed government in Ukraine even through it will result in more civilians killed in east Ukraine. Their dangerous Russia policy may even turn the new Cold War into a hot war, which would be catastrophic.

On the domestic front, I do not hold out much hope that the next Congress will give more than lip service to reducing spending. What is more likely is Republicans will support dramatic increases in welfare spending as long warfare spending is increased by an equivalent, or greater, amount. That is what is called “compromise” in Washington.

One positive development from Tuesday is the slightly improved chance for a roll-call vote on “Audit the Fed.” Most of the Senators who are likely to assume leadership roles next year are co-sponsors of the bill. However, special interests that benefit from Fed secrecy are very influential in both parties, so it will be up to the people to continue to pressure Congress for a Senate vote.

Elsewhere, there may also be some rollbacks and reforms of some of the worst parts of Obamacare, but a full repeal of the bill is unlikely. This is not just because there are still not the votes to override an inevitable veto. The insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies that benefit from Obamacare are equally influential in both parties and have very deep pockets.

I ended my comments on election night by pointing out that while it may have been an important election, it was not most important ever. Ideas are what really count. And that is where we are winning!

Ron Paul: More guns plus less war equals real security

The recent tragic shootings in Canada and Washington state are certain to lead to new calls for gun control. The media-generated fear over “lone-wolf terrorists” will enable the gun control lobby to smear 2nd Amendment supporters as “pro-terrorist.” Marketing gun control as an anti-terrorist measure will also enable gun control supporters to ally with those who support any infringement on liberty done in the name of “homeland security.”

As with most infringements on liberty, gun control will not only make us less free, it will make us less safe. Respecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms is the original and best homeland security policy. Restricting the right of people to arm themselves leaves them with no effective defense against violent criminals or a tyrannical government.

Every year, thousands of Americans use firearms to stop violent criminals. One notable example occurred in September, when Oklahoman Mark Vaughan used a rifle to stop a knife-wielding co-worker who had already killed one person and wounded another. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage focused on speculation that the assailant was motivated by “radical Islam” rather than on Vaughan’s use of a firearm to protect innocent lives.

It is no coincidence that states that pass “concealed carry” laws experience a drop in crime. Since passing concealed carry in Texas in 1995, murder in the state has declined by 52 percent. In comparison, the national murder rate declined by only 33 percent.

Perhaps the best illustration of the dangers of gun control is that federal regulations forbid pilots from having guns in their cockpits. Ironically, this rule went into effect shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. Had pilots had the ability to carry guns on 9/11, the hijackers may well have been stopped from attacking the World Trade Center and Pentagon or persuaded to not even try.

Shortly after 9/11, I introduced legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms in the cockpits. Congress eventually passed a bill allowing pilots to carry firearms if they obtain federal certification and obey federal regulations. Aside from the philosophical objection that no one should have to ask government permission before exercising a right, the rules and expensive approval process discourage many pilots from participating in the armed pilots program.

It should not be surprising that the anti-gun Obama Administration wants to eliminate the armed pilots program. I actually agree that the program should be eliminated, so long as pilots who can legally carry a firearm in their states of residence can carry a firearm on the planes they fly. Allowing pilots to carry guns is certainly a more effective way of protecting our security than forcing all airline passengers to endure the TSA.

Both gun control and foreign interventionism disregard the wisdom of the country’s founders.

An interventionist foreign policy like gun control threatens our safety. A hyper-interventionist foreign policy invites blowback from those who resent our government meddling in their countries, while gun control leaves people defenseless against violent criminals. Returning to a foreign policy of peace and free trade and repealing all federal infringements on the 2nd Amendment will help guarantee both liberty and security.

–Ron Paul

Ron Paul: Once-peaceful Canada turns militaristic; blowback follows

In 1968, the government of Canada decided to openly admit Americans seeking to avoid being drafted into the U.S. war on Vietnam. Before, would-be immigrants were technically required to prove that they had been discharged from U.S. military service. This move made it easier for Americans to escape President Johnson’s war machine by heading north.

Although a founding member of NATO, Canada did not join the United States in its war against Vietnam. The Canadian government did not see a conflict 7,000 miles away as vital to Canada’s national interest; so Canada pursued its own foreign policy course, independent of the United States.

How the world has changed. Canada’s wise caution about military adventurism even at the height of the Cold War has given way to a Canada of the 21st century literally joined at Washington’s hip and eager to participate in any bombing mission initiated by the D.C. interventionists.

Considering Canada’s peaceful past, the interventionist Canada that has emerged at the end of the Cold War is a genuine disappointment. Who would doubt that today’s Canada would, should a draft be re-instated in the U.S., send each and every American resister back home to face prison and worse?

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out this past week, Canada has spent the past 13 years proclaiming itself a nation at war. It actively participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and was an enthusiastic partner in some of the most extremist war on terror abuses perpetrated by the U.S.

Canada has also enthusiastically joined President Obama’s latest war on Iraq and Syria, pledging to send fighter jets to participate in the bombing of ISIS (and likely many civilians in the process).

But Canada’s wars abroad came back home to Canada last week.

Though horrific, it should not be a complete surprise that Canada found itself hit by blowback last week, as two attacks on Canadian soil left two Canadian military members dead.

Greenwald again points out what few dare to say about the attacks: Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

That is the danger of intervention in other people’s wars thousands of miles away. Those at the other end of foreign bombs — and their surviving family members or anyone who sympathizes with them — have great incentive to seek revenge. This feeling should not be that difficult to understand.

Seeking to understand the motivation of a criminal does not mean that the crime is justified, however. We can still condemn and be appalled by the attacks while realizing that we need to understand the causation and motivation. This is common sense in other criminal matters, but it seems to not apply to attacks such as we saw in Canada last week. Few dare to point out the obvious: Canada’s aggressive foreign policy is creating enemies abroad that are making the country more vulnerable to attack rather than safer.

Predictably, the Canadian government is using the attacks to restrict civil liberties and expand the surveillance state. Like the USA PATRIOT Act, Canadian legislation that had been previously proposed to give the government more authority to spy on and aggressively interrogate its citizens has been given a shot in the arm by last week’s attacks.

Unfortunately, Canada has unlearned the lesson of 1968: Staying out of other people’s wars makes a country safer; following the endless war policy of its southern neighbor opens Canada up to the ugly side of blowback.

–Ron Paul

Ron Paul: National service is anti-liberty and un-American

Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently called on the government to force young people to spend two years either “serving” in the military or performing some other type of government-directed “community service.” Neoconservative Senator John McCain has introduced legislation creating a mandatory national service program very similar to Reich’s proposal. It is not surprising that both a prominent progressive and a leading neocon would support mandatory national service, as this is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right.

Proponents of national service claim that young people have a moral obligation to give something back to society. But giving the government power to decide our moral obligations is an invitation to totalitarianism.

Mandatory national service is not just anti-liberty, it is un-American. Whether or not they admit it, supporters of mandatory national service do not believe that individuals have “inalienable rights.” Instead, they believe that rights are gifts from the government and that, since government is the source of our rights, government can abridge or even take away those rights whenever Congress decides.

Mandatory national service also undermines private charitable institutions. In a free society, many people will give their time or money to service projects to help better their communities, working with religious or civic associations. But in a society with government-enforced national service, these associations are likely to become more reliant on government-supplied forced labor. They will then begin to tailor their programs to satisfy the demands of government bureaucrats instead of the needs of the community.

The very worst form of national service is, of course, the military draft, which forces young people to kill or be killed on government orders. The draft lowers the cost of an interventionist foreign policy because government need not compete with private employers for recruits. Anyone who refuses a draft notice runs the risk of being jailed, so government can provide lower pay and benefits to draftees than to volunteers.

As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to suggest that U.S. troops on the ground may be needed to fight “Operation Inherent Resolve” in Iraq and Syria. A major escalation requiring a large U.S. troop deployment will likely add pressure to consider a military draft.

The only real way the American people can protect their children from the military draft is to demand an end to the foreign policy that sees the U.S. military as the solution to any and every problem — from ISIS to Ebola — anywhere in the world.

Some who share my opposition to a militaristic foreign policy support the draft because they think a draft will increase public opposition to war. However, the existence of a draft did not stop the American government from launching unconstitutional wars in Vietnam and Korea. While the draft did play a role in mobilizing political opposition to Vietnam, it took almost a decade and the death of thousands of American draftees for that opposition to reach critical mass.

It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.

Ron Paul: Liberty can contain Ebola better than more government

According to Forbes magazine, at least 5,000 Americans contacted healthcare providers fearful they had contracted Ebola after the media reported that someone with Ebola had entered the United States. All 5,000 cases turned out to be false alarms. In fact, despite all the hype about Ebola generated by the media and government officials, as of this writing there has only been one preliminarily identified case of someone contracting Ebola within the United States.

Ebola is a dangerous disease, but it is very difficult to contract. Ebola spreads via direct contact with the virus. This usually occurs though contact with bodily fluids. While the Ebola virus may remain on dry surfaces for several hours, it can be destroyed by common disinfectants. So common-sense precautions should be able to prevent Ebola from spreading.

It is no coincidence that many of those countries suffering from mass Ebola outbreaks have also suffered from the plagues of dictatorship and war. The devastation wrought by years of war has made it impossible for these countries to develop modern healthcare infrastructure. For example, the 14-year civil war in Liberia left that country with almost no trained doctors. Those who could leave the war-torn country were quick to depart. Sadly, American foreign aid props up dictators and encourages militarism in these countries.

President Obama’s response to the Ebola crisis has been to send 3,000 troops to West African countries to help with treatment and containment. Obama did not bother to seek congressional authorization for this overseas military deployment. Nor did he bother to tell the American people how long the mission would last, how much it would cost, or what section of the Constitution authorizes him to send U.S. troops on “humanitarian” missions.

The people of Liberia and other countries would be better off if the U.S. government left them alone. Leave it to private citizens to invest in African business and trade with the African people. Private investment and trade would help these countries develop thriving free-market economies capable of sustaining a modern healthcare infrastructure.

Legitimate concerns about protecting airline passengers from those with Ebola or other infectious diseases can best be addressed by returning responsibility for passenger safety to the airlines. After all, private airlines have a greater incentive than does government to protect their passengers from contagious diseases. They can do so while providing a safe means of travel for those seeking medical treatment in the United States. This would remove the incentive to lie about exposure to the virus among those seeking to come here for treatment.

Ebola patients in the U.S. have received permission from the Food and Drug Administration to use “unapproved” drugs. This is a positive development. But why should those suffering from potentially lethal diseases have to seek special permission from federal bureaucrats to use treatments their physicians think might help? And does anyone doubt that the FDA’s cumbersome approval process has slowed down the development of treatments for Ebola?

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company has successfully contained the spread of Ebola among 80,000 people living in Harbel, the Liberian town housing employees of Firestone’s Liberian plant and their families. In March, after the wife of a Firestone employee developed Ebola symptoms, Firestone constructed its own treatment center and implemented a program of quarantine and treatment. Firestone has successfully kept the Ebola virus from spreading among its employees. As of this writing, there are only three Ebola patients at Firestone’s treatment facility.

Firestone’s success in containing Ebola shows that, far from justifying new state action, the Ebola crises demonstrates that individuals acting in the free market can do a better job of containing Ebola than can governments. The Ebola crisis is also another example of how U.S. foreign aid harms the very people we are claiming to help. Limiting government at home and abroad is the best way to protect health and freedom.

Ron Paul: The real status of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq

After 13 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest in U.S. history — the U.S. government has achieved no victory. Afghanistan is in chaos and would collapse completely without regular infusions of U.S. money. The war has been a failure, but Washington will not admit it.

More than 2,000 U.S. fighters have been killed in the 13-year Afghan war. More than 20,000 Afghan civilians were also killed. According to a study last year by a Harvard University researcher, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost in total between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. There is no way of looking at the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and seeing a success.

So in light of this failure, what does the Obama administration do? Do they admit the mistake? Do they pull the remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and try to avoid making matters even worse? No! As with all U.S. government programs, if the desired result is not achieved they just pump in more resources and continue with the same policies. The past 13 years have been an utter failure, so this past week the U.S. government signed on for 10 more years of war!

U.S. troops were legally required to be out of Afghanistan by the end of this year, according to a status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan. The U.S. was unsuccessful in negotiating a new status of forces agreement with outgoing president Hamid Karzai. The Afghan leader had grown critical of the U.S. military presence — which has actually increased under President Obama. So the U.S. needed a new puppet in government.

As international correspondent Eric Margolis pointed out recently, the elections in Afghanistan earlier this year were a farce. The candidates were hand-picked by the U.S. government. Furthermore, wrote Margolis, “[t]he largest, most popular party in Afghanistan, Taliban…[has] been excluded as ‘terrorists’ from the current and past elections.”

But they got their new status of forces agreement. U.S. troops will remain through 2024.

The United States’ war on Iraq has also been a failure. The neocons want to blame the current disintegration of Iraq on President Obama for pulling U.S. troops out. This is historical revisionism at its worst. The real blame goes to those who put the troops in in the first place.

In fact, Obama didn’t even want to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. He had tried to renegotiate a new status of forces agreement with the Maliki government in Iraq, but Maliki hesitated to extend immunity from prosecution to the remaining U.S. troops. The U.S. responded by turning on Maliki, eventually demanding that he step down even though he had been elected.

Maintaining U.S. troops in Iraq would not have prevented the current unrest there for the simple reason that it was the presence of U.S. troops in the first place that caused the unrest. It was the U.S. invasion that led to the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremist Islamist groups. This should not have been a surprise to war planners: Saddam Hussein had been using brutal means to keep these groups at bay for decades. The same is true with Afghanistan.

The Taliban government of 2001 in Afghanistan did not attack the United States. Al-Qaida did. But the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq under false pretenses removed a leader who had fought ruthlessly against al-Qaida and other radical Islamist fighters. The result was that the al-Qaida we were supposed to be fighting in Afghanistan flourished in post-invasion Iraq, along with other even more brutal groups. Will our government ever learn that invasion and occupation are not the solution, but rather the problem? No new status of forces agreement can change that basic fact.

Ron Paul: Scottish independence vote gives reason for hope

Even though it ultimately failed at the ballot box, the recent campaign for Scottish independence should cheer supporters of the numerous secession movements springing up around the globe.

In the weeks leading up to the referendum, it appeared that the people of Scotland were poised to vote to secede from the United Kingdom. Defeating the referendum required British political elites to co-opt secession forces by promising greater self-rule for Scotland, as well as launching a massive campaign to convince the Scots that secession would plunge them into economic depression.

The people of Scotland were even warned that secession would damage the international market for one of Scotland’s main exports, whiskey. Considering the lengths to which opponents went to discredit secession, it is amazing that almost 45 percent of the Scottish people still voted in favor of it.

The Scottish referendum result has done little to discourage other secessionist movements spreading across Europe, in countries ranging from Norway to Italy. Just days after the Scottish referendum, the people of Catalonia voted to hold their own referendum measuring popular support for secession from Spain.

Support for secession is also growing in America. According to a recent poll, one in four Americans would support their state seceding from the federal government. Movements and organizations advocating that state governments secede from the federal government, that local governments secede from state governments, or that local governments secede from both the federal and state governments, are springing up around the country. This year, over one million Californians signed a ballot access petition in support of splitting California into six states. While the proposal did not meet the requirements necessary to appear on the ballot, the effort to split California continues to gain support.

Americans who embrace secession are acting in a grand American tradition. The Declaration of Independence was written to justify secession from Britain. Supporters of liberty should cheer the growth in support for secession, as it is the ultimate rejection of centralized government and the ideologies of Keynesianism, welfarism, and militarism.

Widespread acceptance of the principle of peaceful secession and self-determination could resolve many ongoing conflicts. For instance, allowing the people of eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine to decide for themselves whether to spilt into two separate nations may be the only way to resolve their differences.

The possibility that people will break away from an oppressive government is one of the most effective checks on the growth of government. It is no coincidence that the transformation of America from a limited republic to a monolithic welfare-warfare state coincided with the discrediting of secession as an appropriate response to excessive government.

Devolving government into smaller units promotes economic growth. The smaller the size of government, the less power it has to hobble free enterprise with taxes and regulations.

Just because people do not wish to live under the same government does not mean they are unwilling or unable to engage in mutually beneficial trade. By eliminating political conflicts, secession could actually make people more interested in trading with each other. Decentralizing government power would thus promote true free trade as opposed to “managed trade” controlled by bureaucrats, politicians, and special interests.

Devolution of power to smaller levels of government should also make it easier for individuals to use a currency of their choice, instead of a currency favored by central bankers and politicians.

The growth of support for secession should cheer all supporters of freedom, as devolving power to smaller units of government is one of the best ways to guarantee peace, property, liberty — and even cheap whiskey!

Straight Talk: Congress votes for more war in the Middle East

Ron Paul’s weekly column is originally published each Monday by the Ron Paul Institute.

Last week, the House and Senate voted to rubber stamp President Obama’s war plans for the Middle East. Both bodies, on a bipartisan basis, authorized the U.S. to begin openly training and arming the rebels who have been fighting for three years to overthrow the Assad government in Syria.

Although the Syrian government has also been fighting ISIS and related extremist groups for three years, the U.S. refuses to speak to the Syrians and has warned Assad not to interfere with the coming U.S. attack on sovereign Syrian territory

President Obama promised that airstrikes alone would “degrade and destroy” ISIS, telling the U.S. military in a speech last week that:

“The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission… I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”

But of course any U.S. troops sent into a war zone are “combat” troops. And more are on their way.

While the president was swearing that there would be no boots on the ground, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, was in open disagreement. Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that U.S. forces would need to embed with Iraqi or Kurdish troops in combat situations under certain circumstances.

The limited mission the president promised just weeks ago has already greatly escalated and now threatens to become another major regional war. In reality, however, this is just a continuation of the 24-year U.S. war on Iraq that President George Bush began in 1990 and candidate Obama promised to end as President.

Under last week’s authorization bill, the president would have authority to train 5,000 fighters in Saudi Arabia for insertion into the civil war in Syria. This is in effect a rearrangement of the deck chairs. To this point, the training was carried out by the CIA in Jordan and Turkey. Now, the program will be moved to the Pentagon and to Saudi Arabia.

The CIA training of the rebels thus far has resulted in a direct pipeline of weapons from “vetted moderates” to the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front and to the very ISIS that the administration claims to be fighting. In July, a full brigade of 1,000 fighters from a U.S.-backed rebel group joined ISIS! Of course, they took their U.S.-provided weapons and training with them, some of which will certainly be used against the rapidly increasing U.S. military personnel in the region.

That Saudi Arabia is considered a suitable place to train Syria’s future leaders must be some kind of sick joke. While ISIS was beheading two American journalists — as horrific as that is — the repressive Saudi theocracy was beheading dozens of its own citizens, often for relatively minor or religious crimes.

If we want to stop radical terrorists from operating in Syria and Iraq, how about telling our ally Saudi Arabia to stop funding and training them? For that matter, how about the U.S. government stops arming and training the various rebel groups in Syria and finally ends its 24-year U.S. war on Iraq.

There are 200 million people bordering the countries where ISIS is currently operating. They are the ones facing the threat of ISIS activity and expansion. Let them fight their own war, rather than turning the U.S. military into the mercenary army of wealthy Gulf states. Remember, they come over here because we are over there. So let’s not be over there any longer.

Will The Swiss Vote To Get Their Gold Back?

On Nov. 30, voters in Switzerland will head to the polls to vote in a referendum on gold. On the ballot is a measure to prohibit the Swiss National Bank (SNB) from further gold sales, to repatriate Swiss-owned gold to Switzerland, and to mandate that gold make up at least 20 percent of the SNB’s assets. Arising from popular sentiment similar to movements in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, this referendum is an attempt to bring more oversight and accountability to the SNB, Switzerland’s central bank.

The Swiss referendum is driven by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the conduct not only of Swiss monetary policy, but also of Swiss banking policy. Switzerland may be a small nation, but it is a nation proud of its independence and its history of standing up to tyranny. The famous legend of William Tell embodies the essence of the Swiss national character. But no tyrannical regime in history has bullied Switzerland as much as the United States government has in recent years.

The Swiss tradition of bank secrecy is legendary. The reality, however, is that Swiss bank secrecy is dead. Countries such as the United States have been unwilling to keep government spending in check, but they are running out of ways to fund that spending. Further taxation of their populations is politically difficult, massive issuance of government debt has saturated bond markets, and so the easy target is smaller countries such as Switzerland which have gained the reputation of being “tax havens.” Remember that “tax haven” is just a term for a country that allows people to keep more of their own money than the U.S. or the EU does, and doesn’t attempt to plunder either its citizens or its foreign account-holders. But the past several years have seen a concerted attempt by the U.S. and the EU to crack down on these smaller countries, using their enormous financial clout to compel them to hand over account details so that they can extract more tax revenue.

The U.S. has used its court system to extort money from Switzerland, fining the U.S. subsidiaries of Swiss banks for allegedly sheltering U.S. taxpayers and allowing them to keep their accounts and earnings hidden from U.S. tax authorities. EU countries such as Germany have even gone so far as to purchase account information stolen from Swiss banks by unscrupulous bank employees. And with the recent implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Swiss banks will now be forced to divulge to the IRS all the information they have about customers liable to pay U.S. taxes.

On the monetary policy front, the SNB sold about 60 percent of Switzerland’s gold reserves during the 2000s. The SNB has also in recent years established a currency peg, with 1.2 Swiss francs equal to one euro. The peg’s effects have already manifested themselves in the form of a growing real estate bubble, as housing prices have risen dangerously. Given the action by the European Central Bank (ECB) to engage in further quantitative easing, the SNB’s continuance of this dangerous and foolhardy policy means that it will continue tying its monetary policy to that of the EU and be forced to import more inflation into Switzerland.

Just like the U.S. and the EU, Switzerland at the federal level is ruled by a group of elites who are more concerned with their own status, well-being and international reputation than with the good of the country. The gold referendum, if it is successful, will be a slap in the face to those elites. The Swiss people appreciate the work their forefathers put into building up large gold reserves, a respected currency, and a strong, independent banking system. They do not want to see centuries of struggle squandered by a central bank. The results of the November referendum may be a bellwether, indicating just how strong popular movements can be in establishing central bank accountability and returning gold to a monetary role.

Ron Paul: Nixonian Abuse Of Power Is Now The Presidential Norm

Forty years ago many Americans celebrated the demise of the imperial presidency with the resignation of Richard Nixon. Today it is clear they celebrated too soon. Nixon’s view of presidential powers, summed up in his infamous statement that, “when the president does it that means it is not illegal,” is embraced by the majority of the political class. In fact, the last two presidents have abused their power in ways that would have made Nixon blush.

For example, Nixon’s abuse of the Internal Revenue Service to persecute his political opponents was the subject of one of the articles of impeachment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. As bad as Nixon’s abuse of the IRS was, he was hardly the first president to use the IRS this way, and the present administration seems to be continuing this tradition. The targeting of Tea Party groups has received the most attention, but it is not the only instance of the IRS harassing President Barack Obama’s political opponents. For example, the IRS has demanded that one of my organizations, Campaign for Liberty, hand over information regarding its major donors.

Nixon’s abuse of federal power to spy on his “enemies” was abhorrent, but Nixon’s abuses of civil liberties pale in comparison to those of his successors. Today literally anyone in the world can be spied on, indefinitely detained, or placed on a presidential “kill list” based on nothing more than a presidential order. For all his faults, Nixon never tried to claim the power to unilaterally order anyone in the world detained or killed.

Many today act as apologists for the imperial presidency. One reason for this is that many politicians place partisan concerns above loyalty to the Constitution. Thus, they openly defend, and even celebrate, executive branch power grabs when made by a president of their own party.

Another reason is the bipartisan consensus in support of the warfare state. Many politicians and intellectuals in both parties support an imperial presidency because they recognize that the Founders’ vision of a limited executive branch is incompatible with an aggressive foreign policy. When Republicans are in power “neoconservatives” take the lead, while when Democrats are in power “humanitarian interventionists” take the lead. Regardless of party or ideological label, they share the same goal — to protect the executive branch from being constrained by the constitutional requirement that the president seek congressional approval before waging war.

The strength of the bipartisan consensus that the president should have limitless discretion in committing troops to war is illustrated by the failure of an attempt to add an article dealing with Nixon’s “secret bombing” of Cambodia to the articles of impeachment. Even at the low point of support for the imperial presidency, Congress still refused to rein in the president’s war-making powers.

The failure to include the Cambodia invasion in the articles of impeachment may well be the main reason Watergate had little to do with reining in the imperial presidency. Because the imperial presidency is rooted in the war power, attempts to rein in the imperial presidency that do not work to restore Congress’ constitutional authority to declare war are doomed to fail.

Repealing Nixon’s legacy requires building a new bipartisan coalition in favor of peace and civil liberties, rejecting what writer Gene Healy calls “the cult of the presidency,” and placing loyalty to the Constitution above partisanship. An important step must be restoring congressional supremacy in matters of war and peace.

Ron Paul: Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good!

Last week, President Obama admitted that his administration has not worked out a strategy on how to deal with the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a dominant force in the Middle East. However, as ISIS continues its march through Syria and Iraq, many in the US administration believe it is, in the words of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a threat “beyond anything we have ever seen.”

Predictably, the neocons attacked the president’s speech. They believe the solution to any problem is more bombs and troops on the ground, so they cannot understand the president’s hesitation.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon made it clear that fighting ISIS is going to cost a lot more money and will bring U.S. forces back to Iraq for the third time. The post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan peace dividend disintegrates.

McKeon said last week: “ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time.”

What does this mean in practice? If the neocons have their way, the Federal Reserve will “print” more money to finance another massive U.S. intervention in the Middle East. In reality this means further devaluation of the U.S. dollar, which is a tax on all Americans that will hit the poorest hardest.

A new U.S. military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the U.S. Treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!

McKeon and the other hawks act as if they had only recently become aware of the ISIS. Or if they noticed it, they pretend U.S. policy had nothing to do with its rise.

McKeon also said last week, “… the ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time.”

In fact, U.S. regime change policy in Syria was directly responsible for the rise of ISIS over these past three years. As journalist Eric Margolis observed recently, the emergence of ISIS is the “mother of all blowback.” The neocons who want us to get tougher on ISIS, including a U.S. attack on Syria, are the same ones who not long ago demanded that we support groups like ISIS to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. U.S.-trained and funded “moderates” from the Free Syrian Army joined the Islamist militias, including ISIS, taking U.S. weapons and training with them.

Three years of supporting any force that might overthrow the secular government of President Bashar Assad has produced a new monster in the Middle East that neocons insist the U.S. must slay.

Why can’t they just admit they were wrong? Why can’t the interventionists just admit that their support for regime change in Syria was a terrible and tragic mistake?

If ISIS is as big a threat as they claim, why can’t they simply ask Assad to help out? Assad has never threatened the United States; ISIS has. Assad has been fighting ISIS and similar Islamist extremist groups for three years.

Why does the U.S. government insist on aligning with theocracies in the Middle East? If there is anything that contradicts the U.S. Constitution and American values, it is a theocratic government. I do not believe that a majority in the Middle East wants to live under such a system, so why do we keep pushing it on them? Is that what they call promoting democracy?

A lack of strategy is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the president will finally stop listening to the neocons and interventionists whose recommendations have gotten us into this mess in the first place! Here’s a strategy: Just come home.

Ferguson: The War Comes Home

America’s attention recently turned away from the violence in Iraq and Gaza toward the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of Michael Brown. While all the facts surrounding the shooing have yet to come to light, the shock of seeing police using tear gas (a substance banned in warfare) and other military-style weapons against American citizens, including journalists exercising their First Amendment rights, has started a much-needed debate on police militarization.

The increasing use of military equipment by local police is a symptom of growing authoritarianism, not the cause. The cause is policies that encourage police to see Americans as enemies to subjugate, rather than as citizens to “protect and serve.” This attitude is on display not only in Ferguson, but in the police lockdown following the Boston Marathon bombing and in the Americans killed and injured in “no-knock” raids conducted by militarized SWAT teams.

One particularly tragic victim of police militarization and the war on drugs is Bounkham “Baby Boo Boo” Phonesavah. This toddler was severely burned and put in a coma by a flash-burn grenade thrown into his crib by a SWAT team member who burst into the infant’s room looking for methamphetamine.

As shocking as the case of Baby Boo Boo is, no one should be surprised that empowering police to stop consensual (though perhaps harmful and immoral) activities has led to a growth of authoritarian attitudes and behaviors among government officials and politicians. Those wondering why the local police increasingly look and act like an occupying military force should consider that the drug war was the justification for the Defense Department’s “1033 program,” which last year gave local police departments almost $450 million worth of “surplus” military equipment. This included armored vehicles and grenades like those that were used to maim Baby Boo Boo.

Today, the war on drugs has been eclipsed by the war on terror as an all-purpose excuse for expanding the police state. We are all familiar with how the federal government increased police power after 9/11 via the PATRIOT Act, TSA, and other Homeland Security programs. Not as widely known is how the war on terror has been used to justify the increased militarization of local police departments to the detriment of our liberty. Since 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has provided more than $35 billion in grants to local governments for the purchase of tactical gear, military-style armor and mine-resistant vehicles.

The threat of terrorism is used to justify these grants. However, the small towns that receive tanks and other military weapons do not just put them into storage until a real terrorist threat emerges. Instead, the military equipment is used for routine law enforcement.

Politicians love this program because it allows them to brag to their local media about how they are keeping their constituents safe. Of course, the military-industrial complex’s new kid brother, the law enforcement-industrial complex, wields tremendous influence on Capitol Hill. Even many so-called progressives support police militarization to curry favor with police unions.

Reversing the dangerous trend of the militarization of local police can start with ending all federal involvement in local law enforcement. Fortunately, all that requires is for Congress to begin following the Constitution, which forbids the federal government from controlling or funding local law enforcement. There is also no justification for federal drug laws or for using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to treat all people as potential criminals. However, Congress will not restore constitutional government on its own; the American people must demand that Congress stop facilitating the growth of an authoritarian police state that threatens their liberty.

Ron Paul Explains Three Decades Of Failed U.S. Policy In Iraq

We have been at war with Iraq for 24 years, starting with Operations Desert Shield and Storm in 1990. Shortly after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait that year, the propaganda machine began agitating for a U.S. attack on Iraq. We all remember the appearance before Congress of a young Kuwaiti woman claiming that the Iraqis were ripping Kuwaiti babies from incubators. The woman turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. and the story was false, but it was enough to turn U.S. opposition in favor of an attack.

This month, yet another U.S. president – the fifth in a row – began bombing Iraq. He is also placing in U.S. troops on the ground despite promising not to do so.

The second Iraq war in 2003 cost the U.S. some two trillion dollars. According to estimates, more than one million deaths have occurred as a result of that war. Millions of tons of U.S. bombs have fallen in Iraq almost steadily since 1991.

What have we accomplished? Where are we now, 24 years later? We are back where we started, at war in Iraq!

The U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein in the second Iraq war and put into place a puppet, Nouri al-Maliki. But after eight years, last week the U.S. engineered a coup against Maliki to put in place yet another puppet. The U.S. accused Maliki of misrule and divisiveness, but what really irritated the U.S. government was his 2011 refusal to grant immunity to the thousands of U.S. troops that Obama wanted to keep in the country.

Early this year, a radical Islamist group, ISIS, began taking over territory in Iraq, starting with Fallujah. The organization had been operating in Syria, strengthened by U.S. support for the overthrow of the Syrian government. ISIS obtained a broad array of sophisticated U.S. weapons in Syria, very often capturing them from other U.S.-approved opposition groups. Some claim that lax screening criteria allowed some ISIS fighters to even participate in secret CIA training camps in Jordan and Turkey.

This month, ISIS became the target of a new U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq. The pretext for the latest U.S. attack was the plight of a religious minority in the Kurdish region currently under ISIS attack. The U.S. government and media warned that up to 100,000 from this group, including some 40,000 stranded on a mountain, could be slaughtered if the U.S. did not intervene at once. Americans unfortunately once again fell for this propaganda and U.S. bombs began to fall. Last week, however, it was determined that only about 2,000 were on the mountain and many of them had been living there for years! They didn’t want to be rescued!

This is not to say that the plight of many of these people is not tragic, but why is it that the U.S. government did not say a word when three out of four Christians were forced out of Iraq during the ten year U.S. occupation? Why has the U.S. said nothing about the Christians slaughtered by its allies in Syria? What about all the Palestinians killed in Gaza or the ethnic Russians killed in east Ukraine?

The humanitarian situation was cynically manipulated by the Obama administration — and echoed by the U.S. media — to provide a reason for the president to attack Iraq again. This time it was about yet another regime change, breaking Kurdistan away from Iraq and protection of the rich oil reserves there, and acceptance of a new U.S. military presence on the ground in the country.

President Obama has started another war in Iraq and Congress is completely silent. No declaration, no authorization, not even a debate. After 24 years we are back where we started. Isn’t it about time to re-think this failed interventionist policy? Isn’t it time to stop trusting the government and its war propaganda? Isn’t it time to leave Iraq alone?

Ron Paul Warns That U.S. Sanctions On Russia Could Sink The Dollar

The U.S. government’s decision to apply more sanctions on Russia is a grave mistake and will only escalate an already tense situation, ultimately harming the U.S. economy itself. While the effect of sanctions on the dollar may not be appreciated in the short term, in the long run these sanctions are just another step toward the dollar’s eventual demise as the world’s reserve currency.

Not only is the U.S. sanctioning Russian banks and companies, but it also is trying to strong-arm European banks into enacting harsh sanctions against Russia as well. Given the amount of business that European banks do with Russia, European sanctions could hurt Europe at least as much as Russia. At the same time the U.S. expects cooperation from European banks, it is also prosecuting those same banks and fining them billions of dollars for violating existing U.S. sanctions. It is not difficult to imagine that European banks will increasingly become fed up with having to act as the U.S. government’s unpaid policemen, while having to pay billions of dollars in fines every time they engage in business that Washington doesn’t like.

European banks are already cutting ties with American citizens and businesses due to the stringent compliance required by recently-passed laws such as FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). In the IRS’s quest to suck in as much tax dollars as possible from around the world, the agency has made Americans into the pariahs of the international financial system. As the burdens the U.S. government places on European banks grow heavier, it should be expected that more and more European banks will reduce their exposure to the United States and to the dollar, eventually leaving the U.S. isolated. Attempting to isolate Russia, the U.S. actually isolates itself.

Another effect of sanctions is that Russia will grow closer to its BRICS (Brazil/Russia/India/China/South Africa) allies. These countries count over 40 percent of the world’s population, have a combined economic output almost equal to the U.S. and EU, and have significant natural resources at their disposal. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and supplies Europe with a large percent of its natural gas. Brazil has the second-largest industrial sector in the Americas and is the world’s largest exporter of ethanol. China is rich in mineral resources and is the world’s largest food producer. Already Russia and China are signing agreements to conduct their bilateral trade with their own national currencies rather than with the dollar, a trend which, if it spreads, will continue to erode the dollar’s position in international trade. Perhaps more importantly, China, Russia, and South Africa together produce nearly 40 percent of the world’s gold, which could play a role if the BRICS countries decide to establish a gold-backed currency to challenge the dollar.

U.S. policymakers fail to realize that the United States is not the global hegemon it was after World War II. They fail to understand that their overbearing actions toward other countries, even those considered friends, have severely eroded any good will that might previously have existed. And they fail to appreciate that more than 70 years of devaluing the dollar has put the rest of the world on edge. There is a reason the euro was created, a reason that China is moving to internationalize its currency, and a reason that other countries around the world seek to negotiate monetary and trade compacts. The rest of the world is tired of subsidizing the United States government’s enormous debts, and tired of producing and exporting trillions of dollars of goods to the US, only to receive increasingly worthless dollars in return.

The U.S. government has always relied on the cooperation of other countries to maintain the dollar’s preeminent position. But international patience is wearing thin, especially as the carrot-and-stick approach of recent decades has become all stick and no carrot. If President Obama and his successors continue with their heavy-handed approach of levying sanctions against every country that does something US policymakers don’t like, it will only lead to more countries shunning the dollar and accelerating the dollar’s slide into irrelevance.

Straight Talk: Why Won’t Obama Just Leave Ukraine Alone?

President Obama announced last week that he was imposing yet another round of sanctions on Russia, this time targeting financial, arms, and energy sectors. The European Union, as it has done each time, quickly followed suit.

These sanctions will not produce the results Washington demands, but they will hurt the economies of the U.S. and EU, as well as Russia.

These sanctions are, according to the Obama Administration, punishment for what it claims is Russia’s role in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and for what the President claims is Russia’s continued arming of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Neither of these reasons makes much sense because neither case has been proven.

The Administration began blaming Russia for the downing of the plane just hours after the crash, before an investigation had even begun. The Administration claimed it had evidence of Russia’s involvement but refused to show it. Later, the Obama Administration arranged a briefing by “senior intelligence officials” who told the media that “we don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality,” of who brought down the aircraft.

So Obama then claimed Russian culpability because Russia’s “support” for the separatists in east Ukraine “created the conditions” for the shoot-down of the aircraft. That is a dangerous measure of culpability considering U.S. support for separatist groups in Syria and elsewhere.

Similarly, the U.S. government claimed that Russia is providing weapons, including heavy weapons, to the rebels in Ukraine and shooting across the border into Ukrainian territory. It may be true, but again the U.S. refuses to provide any evidence and the Russian government denies the charge. It’s like Iraq’s WMDs all over again.

Obama has argued that the Ukrainians should solve this problem themselves and therefore Russia should butt out.

I agree with the President on this. Outside countries should leave Ukraine to resolve the conflict itself. However, even as the U.S. demands that the Russians de-escalate, the United States is busy escalating!

In June, Washington sent a team of military advisors to help Ukraine fight the separatists in the eastern part of the country. Such teams of “advisors” often include special forces and are usually a slippery slope to direct U.S. military involvement.

On Friday, President Obama requested Congressional approval to send U.S. troops into Ukraine to train and equip its national guard. This even though in March, the president promised no U.S. boots on the ground in Ukraine. The deployment will be funded with $19 million from a fund designated to fight global terrorism, signaling that the U.S. considers the secessionists in Ukraine to be “terrorists.”

Are U.S. drone strikes against these “terrorists” and the “associated forces” who support them that far off?

The U.S. has already provided the Ukrainian military with $23 million for defense security, $5 million in body armor, $8 million to help secure Ukraine’s borders, several hundred thousand ready-to-eat meals as well as an array of communications equipment. Congress is urging the President to send lethal military aid and the Administration is reportedly considering sending real-time intelligence to help target rebel positions.

But let’s not forget that this whole crisis started with the U.S.-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected President back in February. The U.S. escalates while it demands that Russia de-escalate. How about all sides de-escalate?

Even when the goals are clear, sanctions have a lousy track record. Sanctions are acts of war. These sanctions will most definitely have a negative effect on the U.S. economy as well as the Russian economy. Why is “winning” Ukraine so important to Washington? Why are they risking a major war with Russia to deny people in Ukraine the right to self-determination? Let’s just leave Ukraine alone!

Ron Paul: End Torture, Shut Down the CIA!

Remember back in April, 2007, when then-CIA director George Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes, angrily telling the program host, “we don’t torture people”? Remember a few months later, in October, President George W. Bush saying, “this government does not torture people”? We knew then it was not true because we had already seen the photos of Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib prison four years earlier.

Still the U.S. Administration denied that torture was torture, preferring to call it “enhanced interrogation” and claiming that it had disrupted so many terrorist plots. Of course, we later found out that the CIA had not only lied about the torture of large numbers of people after 9/11, but it had vastly exaggerated any valuable information that came from such practices.

However secret rendition of prisoners to other places was ongoing.

The U.S. not only tortured people in its own custody, however. Last week the European Court of Human Rights found that the U.S. government transferred individuals to secret detention centers in Poland (and likely elsewhere) where they were tortured away from public scrutiny. The government of Poland was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to two victims for doing nothing to stop their torture on Polish soil.

How tragic that Poland, where the Nazis constructed the Auschwitz concentration camp in which so many innocents were tortured and murdered, would acquiesce to hosting secret torture facilities. The idea that such brutality would be permitted on Polish soil just 70 years after the Nazi occupation should remind us of how dangerous and disingenuous governments continue to be.

This is the first time the European court has connected any EU country to U.S. torture practices. The Obama Administration refuses to admit that such facilities existed and instead claims that any such “enhanced interrogation” programs were shut down by 2009. We can only hope this is true, but we should be wary of government promises. After all, they promised us all along that they were not using torture, and we might have never known had photographs and other information not been leaked to the press.

There are more reasons to be wary of this Administration’s claims about rejecting torture and upholding human rights. The President has openly justified killing American citizens without charge or trial and he has done so on at least three occasions. There is not much of a gap between torture and extrajudicial murder when it comes to human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior current and former CIA officials are said to be frantically attempting to prepare a response to a planned release of an unclassified version of a 6,500 page Senate Intelligence Committee study on the torture practices of that agency. The CIA was already caught tapping into the computers of Senate investigators last year, looking to see what information might be contained in the report. Those who have seen the report have commented that it details far more brutal CIA practices that have been revealed to this point.

Revelations of U.S. secret torture sites overseas and a new Senate investigation revealing widespread horrific CIA torture practices should finally lead to the abolishment of this agency. Far from keeping us safer, CIA covert actions across the globe have led to destruction of countries and societies and unprecedented resentment toward the United States. For our own safety, end the CIA!

Ron Paul Explains What Media Won’t Report About Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

Just days after the tragic crash of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine, Western politicians and media joined together to gain the maximum propaganda value from the disaster. It had to be Russia; it had to be Putin, they said. President Obama held a press conference to claim – even before an investigation – that it was pro-Russian rebels in the region who were responsible. His ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, did the same at the UN Security Council – just one day after the crash!

While western media outlets rush to repeat government propaganda on the event, there are a few things they will not report.

They will not report that the crisis in Ukraine started late last year, when EU and U.S.-supported protesters plotted the overthrow of the elected Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Without U.S.-sponsored “regime change,” it is unlikely that hundreds would have been killed in the unrest that followed. Nor would the Malaysian Airlines crash have happened.

The media has reported that the plane must have been shot down by Russian forces or Russian-backed separatists, because the missile that reportedly brought down the plane was Russian made. But they will not report that the Ukrainian government also uses the exact same Russian-made weapons.

They will not report that the post-coup government in Kiev has, according to OSCE monitors, killed 250 people in the breakaway Lugansk region since June, including 20 killed as government forces bombed the city center the day after the plane crash! Most of these are civilians and together they roughly equal the number killed in the plane crash. By contrast, Russia has killed no one in Ukraine, and the separatists have struck largely military, not civilian, targets.

They will not report that the U.S. has strongly backed the Ukrainian government in these attacks on civilians, which a State Department spokeswoman called “measured and moderate.”

They will not report that neither Russia nor the separatists in eastern Ukraine have anything to gain but everything to lose by shooting down a passenger liner full of civilians.

They will not report that the Ukrainian government has much to gain by pinning the attack on Russia, and that the Ukrainian prime minister has already expressed his pleasure that Russia is being blamed for the attack.

They will not report that the missile that apparently shot down the plane was from a sophisticated surface-to-air missile system that requires a good deal of training that the separatists do not have.

They will not report that the separatists in eastern Ukraine have inflicted considerable losses on the Ukrainian government in the week before the plane was downed.

They will not report how similar this is to last summer’s U.S. claim that the Assad government in Syria had used poison gas against civilians in Ghouta. Assad was also gaining the upper hand in his struggle with U.S.-backed rebels and the U.S. claimed that the attack came from Syrian government positions. Then, U.S. claims led us to the brink of another war in the Middle East. At the last minute public opposition forced Obama to back down – and we have learned since then that U.S. claims about the gas attack were false.

Of course it is entirely possible that the Obama Administration and the U.S. media has it right this time, and Russia or the separatists in eastern Ukraine either purposely or inadvertently shot down this aircraft. The real point is, it’s very difficult to get accurate information so everybody engages in propaganda. At this point it would be unwise to say the Russians did it, the Ukrainian government did it, or the rebels did it. Is it so hard to simply demand a real investigation?

Ron Paul Explains What’s Missing In The Current Immigration ‘Crisis’ Debate

Over the past several weeks we have seen a significant increase in illegal immigration, as thousands of unaccompanied minors pour across what seems an invisible southern border into the United States. The mass immigration has, as to be expected, put an enormous strain on local resources, and it has heated up the immigration debate in the U.S.

Most liberals and conservatives miss the point, however, making the same old arguments we have all heard before. Liberals argue that we need to provide more welfare and assistance to these young immigrants, while conservatives would bus them to the other side of the border, drop them off, and deploy drones to keep them out.

Neither side seems interested in considering why is this happening in the first place. The truth is, this latest crisis is a consequence of mistaken government policies on both sides of the border.

In fact much of the problem can be directly traced to the U.S. drug war, which creates unlivable conditions in countries that produce narcotics for export to the U.S. Many of those interviewed over the past several weeks have cited violent drug gangs back home as a main motivation for their departure. Because some Americans want to use drugs here in the U.S., governments to the south are bribed and bullied to crack down on local producers. The resulting violence has destroyed economies and lives from Mexico to Nicaragua and beyond. Addressing the failed war on drugs would go a long way to solving the immigration crisis.

I understand the argument of some libertarians that there should be no limits at all on who comes into the United States, but the reality is we do not live in a libertarian society. We live in a society where healthcare is provided — often by over-burdened emergency rooms that cannot legally turn away the sick — “free” education is provided, and other support via food stamp programs is also made available for “free” to illegal immigrants. Many even argue that they should be allowed to vote!

In a free society where the warfare-welfare state ceased to exist, immigration laws would be far less important. A free market would seek workers rather than immigrants to add to its welfare rolls. Voting itself would decline in significance. If 20 people lived on a privately-owned island, for example, one owner could decide to have a guest on his property without bothering the other 19. Were we to move in this direction in the U.S., the current immigration crisis would be a thing of the past.

Over many years while I was in Congress, I met with scores of employers in my district who faced terrible red tape just to be allowed to bring in temporary agricultural workers who would willingly return home once the work was finished. How ironic that Americans willing to provide jobs for immigrants seeking honest work were thwarted by the same government that has now opened the door to a flood of immigrants seeking welfare and other assistance.

One thing we can be sure about: as Republicans and Democrats tussle over “reform” bills, more money will be thrown at the symptoms produced by past bad policies instead of addressing the real causes of the current crisis. The president’s $4 billion supplemental request to address the issue is a costly mix of welfare and enforcement that will do very little to solve the problem because it treats the symptoms instead of the cause. Real reform means changing a failed approach, and until that happens we can count on more expensive mistakes.

Hobby Lobby Decision Creates Small Island Of Freedom In Ocean Of Statism

This week, supporters of religious freedom cheered the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. The Court was correct to protect business owners from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by paying for contraceptives. However, the decision was very limited in scope and application.

The Court’s decision only applies to certain types of businesses, for example, “closely-held corporations” that have a “sincere” religious objection to paying for contraceptive coverage. Presumably, Federal courts or bureaucrats will determine if a business’s religious objection to the mandate is “sincere” or not and therefore eligible for an opt-out from one Obamacare mandate.

Opponents of the Court’s decision are correct that a religious objection does not justify a special exemption from the Obamacare contraception mandate, but that is because all businesses should be exempt from all Federal mandates. Federal laws imposing mandates on private businesses violate the business owners’ rights of property and contract.

Mandated benefits such as those in Obamacare also harm those employees who do not need or want them. Benefit packages resulting from negotiations between employers and employees are much more likely to satisfy both the employer and employee than benefit packages imposed by politicians and bureaucrats.

Opponents of the Court’s decision argue that Obamacare gives employees a “right” to free birth control that trumps the employers’ property rights. This argument confuses rights with desires. Successfully lobbying the government to force someone else to grant your wishes does not magically transform a desire into a “right.”

Redefining rights as desires to be fulfilled by the government also means that the government can modify, limit, or even take away those rights. After all, since your rights are gifts from government, there is no reason why you should object when the government takes away those rights for the common good.

Those who believe Congress can create a right to free contraception that overrides property rights should consider that the government may use that power to create and take away rights in ways they find objectionable. For example, if our rights are gifts from the government, then there is no reason why Congress should not limit our right to privacy by allowing the NSA to monitor our phone calls and Internet use.

The politicization of healthcare benefits is a direct result of government policies that not only encourage people to think of healthcare as a right, but to expect their employers to provide health insurance. Government policies encouraging over-reliance on third-party payers is the root of many of our healthcare problems.

Opponents of the Hobby Lobby decision are correct when they say that their bosses should not decide whether their healthcare plans cover contraceptives. However, like all supporters of Obamacare, they are incorrect in seeking to fix the problems with healthcare through more government intervention. Instead, they should join those of us working to create a free-market healthcare system that gives individuals control of their healthcare dollars. In a true free market, individuals would have the ability to obtain affordable healthcare without having to rely on government mandates or subsidies.

The debate over which, if any, businesses deserve an exemption from Obamacare’s contraception mandate is rooted in a misunderstanding of property and contract rights. All businesses and all Americans deserve an exemption not just from Obamacare, but from all mandates. Individuals should be given the freedom and responsibility to obtain the healthcare coverage that meets their needs without relying on the government to force others to provide it.