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Déjà vu With Santorum’s Attack on Ron Paul

Ron Paul [left] and Rick Santorumby Jacob G. Hornberger

Well, shades of 2008 and former presidential candidate Rudolf Guliani! During last night’s Republican presidential debate, it was déjà vu, all over again.

Taking a page from Rudy Guliani’s now-famous attack against Ron Paul in one of the early Republican presidential debates four years ago, Santorum went on the attack last night against Paul’s libertarian foreign-policy views.

Specifically, Santorum attacked Paul for his column this week entitled “Foreign Occupation Leads to More Terror.” In the column, Paul made the point that he made in his exchange with Guliani four years ago, a point that he has consistently made ever since and that libertarians have been making even before 9/11: that U.S. foreign policy is at the root of the anger and rage in the Middle East that produces the threat of terrorist retaliation.

Well, that concept set off Santorum, just like it did Guliani four years ago. Their attacks were essentially the same — that the terrorists just hate America for its freedom and values and that Paul was “blaming America” for the attacks.

Yawn. Isn’t it amazing that after 10 years, there are still people who believe such nonsense?

By the way, Santorum did much the same thing in the last presidential debate. He suggested that the bad relationship between the United States and Iran originated with the Iranian revolution in 1979, when the revolutionaries took U.S. diplomats hostage. Santorum was suggesting that the revolutionaries just hate America for its’ freedom and values, just like the terrorists.

In that debate, Paul informed Santorum that actually the history of bad relations between Iran and the United States was rooted in what happened in 1953. That was the year that the CIA instigated a regime-change coup that ousted Iraq’s democratically elected prime minister from power and installed in his stead a brutal unelected dictator. Then, for the next 25 years, that dictator brutalized the Iranian people, with the support of the U.S. government, to such an extent that they finally revolted in 1979. Filled with anger and rage over what the U.S. government had done to them and their country, they retaliated by taking U.S. diplomats hostage. U.S.-Iran relations have been bad ever since. (See my article, “Ron Paul’s Exchange with Santorum Says It All.”

After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government embarked on a campaign of actively and aggressively poking hornets’ nests in the Middle East, perhaps the most volatile region in the world:

(1) The Persian Gulf intervention, which killed countless Iraqis;

(2) The intentional destruction of Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants, with the specific intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people;

(3) Eleven years of brutal sanctions, which prevented the water and sewage treatment plants from being repaired, contributing to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children;

(4) UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous declaration that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” which expressed the sentiment of the U.S. government;

(5) The intentional stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, near Islamic holy lands, knowing the effect that would have on Muslims in the Middle East;

(6) The illegal and deadly no-fly zones over Iraq, which killed more Iraqis;

(7) The financial and military support of brutal Middle East dictators, including those in Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, and others.

(8) The unconditional financial and military support of the Israeli government.

How could all that not produce anger and rage within Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East? It would be difficult to come up with a better formula for producing such anger and rage … well, except for invasions, occupations, torture, indefinite detentions without trial, kangaroo tribunals, and assassinations—the things that the U.S. government did after 9/11.

So, what does Santorum say about such things? Does he say that people in the Middle East love it when their loved ones are killed, maimed, abused, kidnapped, tortured, and humiliated? We don’t know what he things about such things because he simply does not mention them or probably even think about them. Why think about such unpleasant things, especially when one’s mindset is “My federal government, never wrong, at least not in foreign affairs”?

We often hear that 9/11 changed the world. But actually it didn’t change anything the U.S. government was doing before 9/11. In fact, the U.S. government used 9/11 as an excuse to continue doing more of the same, only on a bigger, more deadly and destructive level. The invasions, occupations, kidnappings, indefinite incarcerations, torture, and assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have produced much more death and destruction — and much more anger and rage within people in the Middle East, along with the constant threat of terrorist retaliation, which has then been used to take away our freedoms here at home through such things as the Patriot Act, the enemy-combatant doctrine, the power to incarcerate without trial, torture, and assassinate Americans, and the authority to grope the bodies of the American people at airports, including those of children.

Why can’t people like Santorum and Guliani see all this? Because they don’t want to see it. They avoid seeing it by making the common mistake in conflating the U.S. government and our country. That conflation is manifested when they accuse libertarians of “blaming America” for the blowback from U.S. government foreign policy. Thus, since Santorum and Guliani think that the government and the country are one and the same thing, when a libertarian opposes the wrongdoing of their government, they perceive it as “blaming America” for the horrific consequences of the wrongdoing.

But the reality is that the federal government and the country are two separate and distinct entities, a phenomenon that is reflected in the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the federal government. In fact, when one confronts people like Santorum and Guliani with the fact that the Bill of Rights protects the American people from the federal government, they look stunned because for them the American people and the federal government are one great big entity.

One of the things that distinguish libertarians from statists is that we libertarians have a certain set of principles when it comes to liberty and the role of government in a free society. When government violates such principles of freedom, our position is that it is the duty of the citizenry to take a stand against such wrongdoing and to do our best to set the government back on the right track. To remain silent in the face of such wrongdoing, or, even worse, to support it out of fear of losing popularity, money, or credibility, is cowardice.

The irony is that four years ago, Ron Paul’s willingness to speak the truth about U.S. foreign policy — in the face of Guliani’s attack and even some booing among Republicans in the audience, just like what happened last night — was what launched his presidential campaign, attracted multitudes of young people, and generated the now-famous Internet money bombs.

It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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