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What James Foley’s Murder Says about the U.S.

James Foley

Given that the Islamic State subjected American citizen James Foley to physical abuse, waterboarding, and extra-judicial execution, U.S. officials and American interventionists, including those in the mainstream media, are describing the Islamic State as savage and barbaric.

But wait a minute! When the U.S. government was doing those same things, weren’t U.S. officials and American interventionists saying that such actions weren’t any big deal? Didn’t they continuously refer to physical abuse and waterboarding of U.S. captives as nothing more than “harsh interrogation techniques”?

I’ll bet that when Foley was being physically abused and waterboarded by his captures, he didn’t think to himself, “Oh well, it’s nothing more than a harsh interrogation technique that I’m being subjected to.” I’ll bet he believed he was being brutally tortured. And it seems that U.S. officials and American interventionists believe the same thing.

Yet, isn’t that what the U.S. government has been doing to its captives at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and its super-secret prisoner installations in Poland and elsewhere? Hasn’t it been subjecting its captives to physical abuse and waterboarding? Indeed, haven’t many U.S. captives been kidnapped and whisked away for indefinite detention without trial and torture?

And let’s not forget rendition. That’s the program by which U.S. officials were sending people into the clutches of friendly dictatorial regimes to have them do the torturing instead. That’s what the partnership between the U.S. government and the Assad regime in Syria was all about—to enable a foreign team of friendly torturers to torture U.S. captives so that the U.S. government could say that they weren’t torturing people.

Kidnapping? That’s what ISIS did to Foley and its other captives. It’s a brutal criminal offense and has long been recognized as such by all civilized people.

But what about the U.S. government’s kidnapping of people? According to U.S. officials and American interventionists (including those in the mainstream media), when the U.S. government kidnaps people, it’s not really a crime because, well, it’s the U.S. government that is doing it for purposes of “national security.”

Recall the brutal kidnapping in Italy a few years ago committed by several CIA agents. They kidnapped a guy who they then transported to the Egyptian military dictatorship, which was serving as a partner in the U.S. government’s torture-rendition program, where he was brutally tortured. The Italian courts indicted and convicted the CIA agents of kidnapping, which, needless to say, is a criminal offense under Italian law, just as it is under U.S. law.

But did the CIA agents face justice in Italy for their crime? Did the U.S. government extradite them to Italy to face justice? Of course not. The reason is that under U.S. national-security state doctrine, either their kidnapping wasn’t considered a crime or, if it was, they were considered immune from criminal prosecution because they were engaged in a “national security” operation.

The execution of James Foley? A brutal murder, no doubt about it, as U.S. officials and American interventionists, including those in the mainstream media, are saying.

But where were those people when we libertarians were speaking out against the CIA’s murder of Manadel al-Jamadi, the Iraqi military officer who was a POW being held at Abu Ghraib prison? The CIA murdered him in cold blood, and yet no one ever been charged with that offense. That’s because it’s the CIA that murdered him, and no one is going to jack with the CIA, which has long had a license to kidnap, detain, assassinate, and execute anyone with impunity, at least insofar as they related it to “national security,” the term that has come to trump constitutional provisions, criminal law, civil law, and basic moral principles.

And let’s not forget the U.S. government’s assassination program, by which it kills people without any trial or due process of law. Is extra-judicial assassination really any different in principle from extra-judicial execution?

Ever since 9/11, libertarians have been arguing against the U.S. government’s moving our nation into the dark side as part of its “war on terrorism.” We have ardently opposed such things as kidnapping, torture, murder, assassination, and other criminal offenses.

Interventionists have scoffed, claiming the dark side was necessary to fight the “war on terrorism.” Of course, they said the same thing during the Cold War, when the U.S. national security state was embracing Nazis, subjecting unknowing Americans to drug experiments, entering into assassination deals with the Mafia, assassinating innocent people, partnering with brutal dictatorships, and engaging in other communist-like actions.

If the Cold War and the war on terrorism really necessitated moving into the dark side, then that, in and of itself, should cause Americans to question the entire Cold War and “war on terrorism” paradigms because nothing can justify such actions as kidnapping, torture, and murder, regardless of who is committing them. What the Islamic State did to Foley should serve as a wake-up call for what the U.S. national-security state and its pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy have done to America.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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