Ask Steve


Since I started writing for LRC, I’ve received a constant stream of emails from readers around the world. Every so often, I come across a few interesting ones that I feel obligated to share with the readership:

Dear Steve,

I’m the highest-ranking woman in the American government, and I recently took a trip to Syria. I had a wonderful time, but now I’m the target of ugly accusations and calls for my prosecution (for violating the "Logan Act").

Was I wrong to go?

Sleepless in San Francisco

Dear Sleepless,

Before we proceed with the specifics of this allegation, I should make one point perfectly clear: The Logan Act is a load of horse manure.

Specifically, it states:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

When America was a free country, a citizen had the right to go wherever he wished and to say whatever he damned well pleased.

But those days are long gone. The Logan Act directly impinges on our freedom of speech and our freedom of travel, and it proscribes this speech and travel for expressly political purposes. As such, it is an utterly un-American law and is completely unconstitutional.

You are the leader of a co-equal branch of government. The constitution grants you numerous powers for the conduct of foreign policy (the Bush Administration’s claims that only the executive branch is authorized to conduct foreign policy are also a pile of horse manure).

The American public is becoming impatient with a belligerent administration that refuses to talk to its enemies or listen to its friends. Our country is bogged down in two no-win wars and is teetering on the brink of a third. The people have lost confidence in this president and his cronies, and they desperately want someone to find better ways to deal with the problems of the Middle East. By opening a channel of communication with the Syrian government — a secular regime in no way allied with Osama bin Laden — you have advanced the cause of peace and helped to undermine the more Neanderthalic elements inside this administration.

As for the possibility of your being prosecuted, don’t worry. In the run-up to the Iraq War, the president violated numerous statutes, disregarded the Constitution, trampled the norms of international law, and flouted the basic principles of the Christian religion he claims to embrace.

If he indicts you, then you should impeach him.

We’ll see which one sticks.


Dear Steve,

Just a few short years ago, I was the highest-ranking African American in the history of the United States military and the first African American Secretary of State. The media loved me, the public loved me, and I was everyone’s golden boy.

But nowadays, I can’t get arrested.

What gives?

Woeful in Washington

Dear Woeful,

Let’s start with the positives. Over the course of your career, you did some amazing things. You served with distinction in Vietnam and then climbed the ladder of success to its very highest wrung. You occasionally provided a voice of reason in the face of ignorant belligerence. Along the way, you overcame many roadblocks and never stopped believing yourself and in the American dream.

I mention these things because I don’t want rest of my comments to minimize your accomplishments.

But unfortunately, the job of an advice columnist often requires "tough love."

You were inside the corridors of power when the Iraq War was being planned. You saw the scams, the lies, and the distortions. You knew from your experience in Southeast Asia that a war of occupation usually ends badly. You even accurately predicted this disaster with your “Pottery Barn” analogy.

Nevertheless, when the time came to make a decision, you sold out. You went to the United Nations and gave a presentation on Iraqi WMDs that you knew was complete twaddle. At that crucial moment, when everything hung in the balance, you decided to be a "team player" instead of standing up for what was right.

You are a good man who was called upon by history to be a great one, and you didn’t deliver. Now, everything you have accomplished will be overshadowed by your complicity in the sordid run-up to the Iraq war.

I feel badly for you, but not nearly as badly as I feel for those who have lost their lives, their health, or their loved ones to this wretched war.


Dear Steve,

I’m the leader of the world’s largest jihadi organization. After our attack on 9/11, I had a close brush with the US military at Tora Bora. They had us surrounded and were moving in for the kill, but for some strange reason they declared a cease-fire. During the lull, I successfully slipped across the Pakistani border to plot my comeback.

While I praise Allah for my luck, I still don’t understand what happened. Why did the Americans do something so stupid?

Bewildered in Baluchistan

Dear Bewildered,

As strange as it may seem, your attack on 9/11 was seen in some quarters as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Many powerful interest groups used the shock and horror of the incident to their own advantage.

The military-industrial complex, for instance, wanted a long, drawn-out "war on terror." The decades-long Cold War had been an endless money machine for them, and when it ended they were forced to suffer through years of relative peace (and lower defense budgets).

AIPAC and various groups of religious zealots saw Israel’s geopolitical situation slipping badly in the 90’s. They knew that something had to be done to "shake up the game board" and turn the situation in a more advantageous direction.

The oil industry wanted control of the Iraqi oil fields and pipeline routes through the Middle East.

The imperialist ideologues in our media and think-tanks wanted to construct an American Empire — complete with "lily pad" bases across central Asia — to facilitate American "full spectrum dominance."

The government’s national security apparatus exploited the public’s fears and pushed Congress into passing draconian new laws permitting the torture of prisoners, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, and the suspension of habeas corpus.

None of this would have been possible if you had been captured or killed in the early days of the war. If you had been eliminated, the American people would have rightly assumed that the war was over. They would have taken a deep breath, thanked God you were gone, and expected things to go back to the way they had been before 9/11.

That would have been a disaster for those who harbored ulterior motives. How could they have justified the invasion of Iraq? The suspension of civil liberties? The doubling of the defense budget? The proliferation of no-bid contracts?

Do you have any idea how many hundreds of billions of dollars were at stake?

These groups needed an endless "war on terror" to achieve their objectives, and they required a poster boy/boogeyman to keep the people scared.

You can thank Allah if you like, but the facts suggest a simpler explanation: They let you go.