By Ron Paul | April 14, 2013
Earlier this month, entertainers Jay-Z and Beyoncé were given a license by the US government to travel to Cuba. Because it is not otherwise legal for Americans to travel to Cuba, this trip was only permitted as a “cultural exchange” by the US Treasury Department. Many suspect that the permission was granted at least partly due to the fame, wealth, and political connections of the couple.
Some Members of Congress who continue to support the failed Cuba embargo, demanded that the Administration explain why these two celebrities were allowed to visit Cuba. The trip looked suspiciously like tourism, they argued in a letter to the White House, and American tourism is still not allowed in Cuba. They were photographed eating at the best restaurants, dancing, and meeting with average Cubans, which these Members of Congress frowned on.
Perhaps it is true that this couple used their celebrity status and ties to the White House to secure permission to travel, but the real question is, why can’t the rest of us go?
The Obama administration has lifted some of the most onerous restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed under the previous Bush administration, but for the average American, travel to the island is still difficult if not impossible.
However, even those who are permitted to go to Cuba are not allowed to simply engage in tourist activities — to spend their money as they wish or relax on a beach.
The US government demands that the few Americans it allows to travel to Cuba only engage in what it deems “purposeful travel,” to “support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities.” They must prove that they maintain a full-time schedule of educational activities, according to Treasury guidelines for “people-to-people” travel.
Leave it to the federal government to make the prospect of visiting that sunny Caribbean island sound so miserable.
The reason the US so severely restricts and scripts the activities of the few Americans allowed to travel to Cuba is that it believes travel must promote the goal of taking “important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens.”
Although I have no illusions about the Cuban government – or any government for that matter — it is ironic that the US chose to locate a prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba because the indefinite detention and torture that took place there would have been illegal on US soil. Further, the US government continues to hold more than 100 prisoners there indefinitely even though they have not been found guilty of a crime and in fact dozens are “cleared for release” but not allowed to leave.
Does the administration really believe that the rest of the world is not annoyed by its “do as we say, not as we do” attitude?
We are told by supporters of the Cuba embargo and travel ban that we must take such measures to fight the communists in charge of that country. Americans must be prohibited from traveling to Cuba, they argue, because tourist dollars would only be used to prop up the unelected Castro regime. Ironically, our restrictive travel policies toward Cuba actually mirror the travel policies of the communist countries past and present. Under communist rule in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere it was only the well-connected elites who were allowed to travel overseas – people like Jay-Z and Beyoncé. The average citizen was not permitted the right.
Although the current administration’s slight loosening of the restrictions is a small step in the right direction, it makes no sense to continue this nearly half-century old failed policy. Freedom to travel is a fundamental right. Restricting this fundamental right in the name of human rights is foolish and hypocritical.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul says the US is “obsessed with” keeping Iran under illegal sanctions, while pushing for furthering the embargoes in, what he calls, an “act of war” against the Islamic Republic.
Addressing Congress on Wednesday, Paul accused Washington of “marching into a determination to have another war.”
“When you put on sanctions on a country, it’s an act of war and that’s what this is all about,” he said.
“I think this bill would be better named Obsession with Iran Act 2012,” Paul said, referring to a bill, which has been approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, targeting Iran’s energy sector.
In a statement, released by the White House, US President Barack Obama has said the existing illegal sanctions on Iran’s oil industry has been expanded “by making sanctionable the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products.” He said that the US sanctions will apply to any financial institution that allows Iran to access the international financial system.
However, Paul said, “What we continue to be doing is obsess with Iran and the idea that Iran is a threat to our national security.”
He asserted, “The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and our CIA said they are not on the verge of a nuclear weapon. It is so similar to what we went through in the early part of this last decade, when we were beating the war drums to go to war against Iraq. And it was all a façade. There was no danger from Iraq.”
The new embargoes build on Iranian crude sanctions, signed into law in December and approved in March, that penalize other countries for buying or selling Iran’s oil. The sanctions took effect on June 28.
The US sanctions are meant to pile up pressure on Iran over its nuclear energy program, which Washington, Tel Aviv, and some of their allies claim may include a military aspect.
Iran refutes the allegation and holds that, as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
When we look at all the things that the Israel Lobby has been up to, we sometimes lose sight of the big picture. There has been a virtual flood of action by Congress to help Israel, much of it moving very much under the radar with no real debate and suspensions of rules to expedite the voting. Look at what has happened in the past month: HR 4133 passes through Congress on a 411 to 2 vote giving Israel a virtual blank check on the US Treasury and requiring the White House to prepare an annual report demonstrating how the Administration has guaranteed the Israeli military’s “qualitative edge” over its neighbors. It also provided military equipment — refueling tankers and bunker buster bombs — that can only be used for an attack on Iran. Only Ron Paul spoke out against the bill and even Justin Amash, a Palestinian American and Ron Paul supporter, voted yes, explaining “Our national defense benefits from Israel’s ability to defend itself and to serve as a check against neighboring authoritarian regimes and extremists.” According to Amash, it is constitutional to pay for Israel’s defense because of “Congress’s power to raise and support armies.” The Founders were not thinking of foreign armies to be sure, so Justin had better check on what he has been drinking from the House of Representatives water cooler. A few days later, $1 billion appeared in the 2013 Defense Appropriation Bill to fund Israel’s Iron Dome defense system — something that had been recommended in 4133. No coincidence there.
And then there is Iran. House Resolution 568 passed last week by a suspension of rules vote 401 to 11. Ron Paul spoke against the bill and also voted no. It ties the president’s hands on negotiating with Tehran, explicitly rejecting a “containment” policy relating to an Iranian nuclear program and also rejecting any compromises or concessions on the part of the United States if Congress in all its wisdom determines that Iran is pursuing a nuclear device. So if you want to understand how war with Iran is virtually guaranteed thanks to the US Congress, put the two bills together.
And then there is the little stuff. A bill proposed by Brad Sherman of California will give Israelis visa waivers, which means that they can travel freely to the United States, unlike their Arab neighbors. And not just as tourists — they will be able to do business. Why and why now? Because “Israel is our closest friend and democratic ally in the Middle East,” according to Sherman. And it will result in “more business.” For the Israelis.
And then there is an amendment by the redoubtable Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois which passed from committee on May 24th by unanimous vote which will reduce the number of Palestinian refugees by over 99% by declaring that only actual Palestinians who directly lost their homes in 1948 are actual refugees. Their children and grandchildren, also living in refugee camps, do not count. That would mean that there would be virtually no Palestinians left who might have some legal claim to return to their homes in Israel (roughly 30,000 are still alive of the 750,000 who were originally displaced). Kirk’s bill is a prime objective of the Israel government, i.e. to delegitimize the Palestinian diaspora. Given that the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with the American people, one can once again seriously question what parliament Kirk thinks he works for and what people he represents.
Certain names keep popping up in the pro-Israel legislation. Mark Kirk to be sure, who has received more than $1 million in pro-Israel PAC contributions, but also Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ben Cardin, Brad Sherman, Howard Berman, Joe Lieberman, Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham, and Carl Levin. The Israel firsters in Congress are both shameless and relentless. We Americans who do not share their views should mark them out and hope for the day when they will be voted out of office and eventually prosecuted as the useful idiots and betrayers of our constitution that they most surely are.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
Have certain parts of the Constitution become irrelevant, as a former Republican leader once told me at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing? At the time, I was told that demanding a Congressional declaration of war before invading Iraq, as Article I Section 8 of the Constitution requires, was unnecessary and anachronistic. Congress and the president then proceeded without a Constitutional declaration and the disastrous Iraq invasion was the result.
Last week, Obama administration officials made it clear that even the fig leaf of Congressional participation provided by the 2003 “authorization” to use force in Iraq was to be ignored as well. In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated clearly and repeatedly that the administration felt it was legally justified to use military force against Syria solely with “international permission”. Such “international permission” could come by way of the United Nations, NATO, or some other international body. Secretary Panetta then told Senator Sessions that depending on the situation, the administration would consider informing Congress of its decision and might even seek authorization after the fact.
While Senator Sessions expressed surprise at the casual audacity of Panetta in making this statement, in reality his was just a bluntly stated explanation of what has been, de facto, the case for many years. When President Obama committed the US military to a pre-emptive war against Libya last year, for example, Congress was kept completely out of the process. Likewise, military action in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and so on, proceed without a Congressional declaration. In fact, we haven’t had a proper, constitutional declaration of war since 1942, yet the US military has been engaged in Korea, Lebanon, Iraq, Bosnia, Liberia, Haiti, and Libya with only UN resolutions as the authority. Congress’s only role has been authorizing funds, which it always does without question, because one must “support the troops”.
Of course we should reserve our harshest criticism for Congress rather than the Administration. If the people’s branch of government abrogates its Constitutional authority to the Executive branch, who is to blame? Who is to blame that Congress as a body will not stand up and demand that the president treat the Constitution as more than an anachronistic piece of paper, or merely a set of aspirations and guidelines? The Constitution is the law of the land and for Congress to allow it to be flouted speaks as badly about Congress as it does about a president who seeks to do the flouting.
Just last week the administration announced that it would begin providing material support to the rebels who seek to overthrow the Syrian government. Was Congress involved in this decision to take sides in what may develop into a full-fledged civil war? And what of reports that US special forces may already be operating inside Syria? Still, Congress sits silently as its authority is undermined. Does anybody really wonder why approval numbers for Congress are so low?
Many of my colleagues who stood by as then-President Bush used the military as a kind of king’s army are now calling for Congress to act against this president for openly admitting that is his intent. I agree it is time for Congressional action in response to these attacks on our Constitution, but the solution is simple and Constitutional. The solution is simply voting to withhold funds, since Congress has the power of the purse. No money for undeclared wars!
- ‘Impeach Obama’ Bill: Use of military without Congress approval ‘high crime’ (rt.com)
- Obama Impeachment Bill Already in Congress (VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Coup D’etat: Pentagon & Obama Declare Congress Ceremonial (wrc559.com)
- Leon Panetta: Toady Of Tyranny (thecampofthesaints.org)
There is a constituency for the right to assemble and protest in this country, but it appears as if that constituency has very little representation in the U.S. Congress. The Senate unanimously passed a law that has significant ramifications for the Occupy movement or anyone else that wants to exercise their First Amendment rights. H.R. 347 is also known as the Trespass Bill. Only three members of the House voted against it, all of them Republicans, including presidential contender Ron Paul. None of the major civil liberties organizations raised a fuss, either, but the silence will surely come back to haunt us.
The bill makes it a federal crime punishable by a year in prison for “trespassing” on places where someone under protection of the Secret Service is also present, and up to ten years if a weapon is involved, or someone is seriously injured. The restrictions cover not just the president, but also presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries and heads of state. The new version of the law makes protesters subject to felony prosecution even if they were unaware that people protected by the Secret Service were in the area. Rather than demonstrators freely congregating to protest the presence of their least favored presidential politicians, or to loudly demand that visiting foreign leaders go back home, would-be protesters would be best-advised by their lawyers to stay as far away as possible or face a long stretch in prison. Surely, that stands the right to peacefully assemble on its head.
Even more ominously, the new law allows the Department of Homeland Security to designate whole areas as part of a so-called National Security Event Zone, off limits to protest. The United National Anti-War Coalition and others that are planning to demonstrate at the meeting of NATO nations, in Chicago, in late May, will almost certainly be confronted with, not only Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive protest containment policies, but a Homeland Security declaration putting large areas under a federal protective bubble, with even more serious criminal consequences. In the real, often chaotic whirl of mass outdoor protest, with police pushing crowds from place to place, and protesters trying to make themselves heard, large numbers of demonstrators could find themselves in a federal no-go zone. Under the old rules, the harshest penalties could be imposed only on those who “willfully” crossed into a National Security Event Zone. The new Trespass Bill omits the word “willfully,” so that anyone who is caught “trespassing” in the Zone, whether they knew it was restricted or not, is liable for felony prosecution. This brings to mind the mass arrests of Occupy demonstrators on Brooklyn Bridge, last year. Many in the crowd thought they were being escorted across the bridge by police, and were not willfully trespassing. Under the federal bill, lack of willfulness is no excuse.
What is more disturbing than the potential Bill of Rights-eroding aspects of the legislation, is the Congress’s cavalier attitude towards civil liberties. There was no debate. The only No votes came from Tea Party Republicans. Democrats behaved as if nothing important was happening, just as when President Bill Clinton first came up with the idea National Security Event Zones – where the public, by law, has nothing to say.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- One year after FBI subpoena, civil liberties protections in US frighteningly eroded even further (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Goodbye, First Amendment: ‘Trespass Bill’ will make protest illegal (alethonews.wordpress.com)
There are distressing signs that some antiwar progressives are withdrawing support for Obama as the 2012 election draws near. A few have gone so far as to whisper a begrudging respect for Ron Paul, although they have scrupulously refrained from acting on it. It is high time to stem this tide carrying votes away from our president, to take a stand, to show some ovarian fortitude and to slog on for Obama. In just such a spirit this pledge is offered for anti-interventionist progressives, a term redundant under Bush but edging closer to oxymoronic under Obama.
I pledge in the year 2012 to link the fight against war to the fight for justice and to do so without exception. With equal vigor I pledge to fight for justice with total disregard for the fight against war whenever it suits me. I pledge to follow the MoveOn segment of the Occupy Wall Street movement in so doing. I pledge that this will be the cornerstone of my approach, to be known henceforth as Van Jones Logic.
I pledge to exclude potential allies who do not share my notions of justice from the antiwar movement. After all the antiwar movement belongs to progressives. I pledge to keep at bay libertarians, paleoconservatives and, above all, the average American Jane and Joe, with an unscalable Chinese Wall of political correctness. Let’s keep out the riff-raff. For this I pledge to look for leadership to “Progressive” Democrats of America, UFPJ, Peace Action and Juan Cole.
I pledge neither to sponsor nor to join any large antiwar marches or demonstrations this election year. For if there are antiwar marches, it is a sure sign that there are wars. I pledge, if forced into such marches of folly in order to preserve my credibility or my donor base, to censor any mention of Obama. I pledge to treat impeachment as a taboo subject.
I pledge until November 7, 2012 to keep far from my consciousness the unspeakable suffering being visited on the darker peoples of the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia by my president with his sanctions and bombs. These sufferings are as nothing compared to the purity of my movement and the hollow promises of Obama for better social programs.
I pledge to avoid like the plague any consideration of Ron Paul. I pledge to tear him down with bogus charges of racism based on guilt by association. I fully recognize that Ron Paul is especially dangerous, because every day he converts more to the antiwar cause and thereby threatens a breach in the wall that keeps antiwar barbarians out of the movement we own. I thought libertarians respected property rights. If pressed, I may whisper a word or two of praise for Ron Paul but never a full throated endorsement – and never, ever anything good without walling it off with airtight condemnation. I pledge most of all never to aid Ron Paul by money or action. After all, what would my friends say?
I pledge never to think tactically when it comes to Ron Paul, as many progressives do with their favorite candidates, forgiving piddling shortcomings – like voting for DoD funding.
I pledge to work with others to keep a serious challenge to Obama from emerging in the Democratic primaries. I recognize that this work is largely done with the passing of the New Hampshire primary and Iowa Caucuses; and I find myself on occasion smiling with satisfaction at this feat. I pledge to remain vigilant nonetheless. If our man, Obama, becomes even more embarrassing to the antiwar movement, I pledge to support a candidate from the moribund Green Party or some other entity cobbled together quickly, with no extensive organization and no hope of winning. If we cannot bring ourselves to vote for Obama, let’s get out there and waste our votes.
I pledge in the year 2012 to hold fast to wishful thinking – Obama is our man. I pledge to remind one and all that Obama is keeping secret his loyalty to the progressive cause to avoid criticism by Republicans. And he is proving damned good at it. I pledge to believe that combat troops left Iraq because Obama wanted it, not because Bush signed an agreement to do so (and to ignore the fact that Obama wanted to stay but Maliki refused). I pledge to believe that those troops returned to the US (and ignore the fact that most of them were transferred to other countries). I pledge to believe that the NDAA is the Republican McCain’s idea (and ignore the fact that is was Obama’s baby according to Carl Levin). In general, I pledge to ignore reality, and to believe in the virtual world presented to me by the progressive authorities and gatekeepers. It will be as easy as doing my yoga or meditation. And besides Obama is sure to change course in his second term.
In sum, I pledge to ignore Obama’s Patriot act, his numerous wars, his bloated military budget, his deficit, his service to Wall Street and to the insurance industry. This is his dazzling plan to protect us from Republicans by tricking them into thinking that he is their man, so they will vote for him – our man! It is nothing less than brilliant.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
- Skewed Coverage by Democracy N ow! (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Prison Planet.com ” Oliver Stone: I Would Vote For Ron Paul Over Obama (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- 10 reasons why even democrats, liberals and progressives are choosing Ron Paul over Obama (ephraiyim.wordpress.com)