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Electing a Torturer-In-Chief

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Republican presidential debate by Jacob G. Hornberger

The last Republican presidential debate — the one on foreign policy — was absolutely pathetic. Except for John Huntsman and Ron Paul, the candidates seemed to be fighting to show that they would be bigger and better torturers, aggressors, and assassins than President Obama.

While the dismal state of the economy is likely to hurt Obama’s chances at reelection, he has clearly outmaneuvered the Republicans by embracing their foreign-policy views. After all, I think most everyone would agree that on foreign policy, Obama’s first term is nothing more than George W. Bush’s third term.

The problem is that if Romney, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, or Bachmann were to be elected president, their term would be Obama’s second term, given that they all share the same perspectives on foreign policy, militarism, civil liberties, the war on terrorism.

So, given that they hold the same basic foreign policy views as Obama, the problem that Romney, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry, and Bachmann have is to convince people why they should vote for one of them rather than Obama. Obviously, when it comes to foreign policy, they feel that their best chance is to show people that they would be bigger invaders, occupiers, imposers of sanctions and embargoes, assassins, and torturers than Obama.

That’s what running for president has come to in the United States of America.

Consider Iran. The Republicans were stumbling over each other in a desperate attempt to show how much tougher they would be with Iran than Obama has been, some of them even signaling that they were ready to bomb Iran soon after taking office.

It was so refreshing to have Paul and, to a certain extent Huntsman, remind us that the empire/intervention/torture paradigm is not what America is all about. Their position is that it’s time to move America in a different direction — to end the occupations and bring the troops home and stop the torture, including waterboarding.

Not surprisingly, out of the hour-long televised debate, they gave Paul the grand total of 90 seconds — a bit more than they gave Gary Johnson (who wasn’t even allowed to participate in the debate), and I would estimate that it was pretty much the same with Huntsman. If a candidate is expounding libertarian views or views that are inconsistent with the statist views of the mainstream press, the last thing the statists want to do is provide him with much time to expound on his views.

In fact, did you notice that there wasn’t one question about the drug war, which has long been a core element of U.S. foreign policy, especially given the active role that the CIA and the Pentagon play in it? Hey, that would mean that they’d have to listen to Paul explain why the drug war is nothing but a federal model of failure, immorality, death, destruction, corruption, and loss of liberty. That’s the last thing statists want. They want the drug war to just keeping going and going and going, regardless of the results, just like their imperialism and, for that matter, their socialist domestic policies.

The regrettable part about all this is that when he assumed office, Obama could have done what Paul and Huntsman are doing, at least with respect to foreign policy and the drug war. When he came into office, Obama could have said:

My fellow Americans, President Bush and the Republicans have used the last 8 years to lead our nation into invasions, occupations, sanctions, embargoes, infringements on civil liberties, and aid to dictatorships.

They have had 8 years to fulfill their aims. That’s enough time. I wish to move our nation in a new direction. Therefore, I am ordering the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and from everywhere else.

The war on terrorism is hereby declared over, and I am requesting the Congress to immediately restore the civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

There will be no further kidnapping, torture, rendition, assassinations, executions, indefinite incarceration, denial of due process, or secret prisons. The military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay is hereby ordered closed. All people charged with terrorism will be prosecuted in federal court, as the Constitution requires.

I’m also ordering the termination of all CIA and military involvement in the drug war, and I am requesting Congress to end it immediately by legalizing drugs. Forty years of failure, death, destruction, corruption, and infringements on privacy and liberty are enough.

Obama had the chance to raise America’s vision on foreign policy to a higher level, as Paul and Huntsman are now doing, but instead he chose to remain mired in the muck of imperialism, militarism, and statism. By embracing the Republican vision on foreign policy, he may have outmaneuvered his Republican opponents, but he did a grave disservice to our nation.

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


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