RON PAUL BLASTS OBAMA’S GLUTTONOUS MILITARY BUDGET AND CONTEMPT FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES.
by Robert Scheer by HUSTLER Magazine
I know it will come as an outrageous stretch to some, but Presidential aspirant Ron Paul reminds me a bit of George Washington. That’s because, upon ending his two-term tenure as the nation’s first President, the great Revolutionary War hero warned his countrymen to be on “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” In Washington’s view, expressed all too clearly in that first Farewell Address, the most dangerous enemies of the new republic were not foreign armies but rather homegrown demagogues eager to betray our freedoms in the name of national security.
It was a warning reiterated by another great general-turned-President—Republican Dwight David Eisenhower—who in his own Farewell Address sounded the alarm against the “military-industrial complex,” which jeopardizes our freedoms while playing the patriotism card in pursuit of profit. The last time you heard a major party’s Presidential candidate issue a similar warning was in 1972, when George McGovern, who had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism during Wold War II, was the Democratic nominee against that inveterate warmonger Richard Nixon.
Since then, Republicans and Democrats alike—particularly after the hysteria engendered by the 9/11 attacks—have cravenly catered to the whims of those beating the drums for bigger military budgets. Recently Barack Obama signed off on the $662-billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which also included provisions stripping away our fundamental freedoms in the name of stopping the terrorist enemy.
It remained for only one Republican primary challenger, the libertarian Ron Paul, to dare echo Eisenhower’s warning, telling an audience in Iowa soon after the Pentagon bill passed: “Watch out for the militaryindustrial complex—they always have an enemy. Nobody is going to invade us. We don’t need any more weapons systems.”
Why not? It has been almost two decades since the old Soviet Union collapsed, and then-President George H.W. Bush announced that the Cold War was over and ordered a one-third cut in defense spending as the springboard of a peace dividend.
It was a dividend we never got to enjoy because George H.W. Bush’s son George W. seized upon the trauma of 9/11 to increase the military budget to the point where we spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on ever-more sophisticated— and therefore costlier—weapons to counter a terrorist enemy with a technologically primitive arsenal.
But the cost to civil liberties has been even greater. Beginning with the USA PATRIOT Act under George W. and continuing with the 2012 NDAA signed into law by Obama, we have surrendered our once-inviolate freedoms in the so-called war against terrorism.
Again quoting Ron Paul: “Little by little, in the name of fighting terrorism, our Bill of Rights is being repealed. The Fourth Amendment has been rendered toothless by the PATRIOT Act. No more can we truly feel secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects when now there is an exception that fits nearly any excuse for our government to search and seize our property.
… The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act continues that slip toward tyranny and in fact accelerates it significantly. … [It] does to the Fifth Amendment what the PATRIOT Act does to the Fourth. … The dangers in the NDAA are its alarmingly vague, undefined criteria for who can be indefinitely detained by the U.S. government without trial.”
Yet despite those warnings, President Obama—who, as a former Constitutional law professor, should be expected to know better—signed off on a massive defense authorization bill that threatens the fundamental rights of American citizens while continuing military spending at Cold War levels. Obama knew the bill was rotten on both counts. When the President betrayed his own earlier commitment to oppose this onerous provision in the military spending bill, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney conceded: “While we remain concerned about the uncertainty that this law will create for our counterterrorism professionals, the most recent changes give the President additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.”
What bull. The point is not to hock our civil liberties to the discretion of the President, but rather to guarantee our freedoms even if a Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich should attain the highest office. As Ron Paul warned: “The Bill of Rights has no exemptions for ‘really bad people’ or terrorists or even noncitizens. It is a key check on government power against any person. That is not a weakness in our legal system; it is the very strength of our legal system. The NDAA attempts to justify abridging the Bill of Rights on the theory that rights are suspended in a time of war and [that] the entire United States is a battlefield in the War on Terror. This is a very dangerous development indeed. Beware.”
Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Before serving almost 30 years as a Los Angeles Times columnist and editor, Robert Scheer spent the late 1960s as Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. Now editor of TruthDig.com, Scheer has written such hardhitting books as The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America and his latest, The Great American Stick-Up: Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Love Them.
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