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Should we prosecute sedition?
Posted By Benjamin Shapiro On 02/16/2006 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Last Sunday, former Vice President Al Gore spoke before the Jiddah Economic Forum. He told the mostly Saudi audience that the United States had committed “terrible atrocities” against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He stated that Arabs had been “indiscriminately rounded up” and detained in “unforgivable conditions.” He criticized America’s new immigration policy, which more carefully scrutinizes Saudi visas, explaining, “The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake.” Finally, he concluded, “There have been terrible abuses, and it’s wrong … I want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country.”
These are outrageous statements. And the silence from the left is deafening. The Democratic National Committee told me they had not released a statement regarding Gore’s speech and had no plans to do so. The New York Times editorial board, the official outlet of the American left, wrote nary a word about the speech.
It is now considered bad form to criticize those who commit seditious acts against the United States. Challenging the patriotism of a traitor draws more ire than engaging in treasonable activities. Calling out those who undermine our nation creates more of a backlash than actually undermining our nation.
Let us consider, however, the probable consequences of Gore’s mea culpa on behalf of the “majority” of his countrymen. No doubt his words will fuel the massive tide of propaganda spewing forth from Muslim dictatorships around the globe. No doubt his words will be used to bolster the credibility of horrific disinformation like the Turkish-made, Gary-Busey-and-Billy Zane-starring monstrosity “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” which accuses American troops of war atrocities and depicts a Jewish-American doctor (Busey) slicing organs out of Arab victims and shipping the body parts off to New York, London and Israel. No doubt Gore’s speech will precipitate additional violence against Americans in Iraq and around the globe.
And Gore is not alone. Much of the language of the “loyal opposition” has been anything but loyal. In September 2002, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., called President Bush a liar on Saddam Hussein’s turf, then added that Hussein’s regime was worthy of American trust. On “Face the Nation” back in December, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., stated that American troops were “going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the – of, of, of historical customs, religious customs …” Howard Dean, the head of the DNC, averred in December that the “idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.”
At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say “enough.” At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition.
“Freedom of speech!” the American Civil Liberties Union will protest. Before we buy into the slogan, we must remember our history. President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and allowed governmental officials to arrest Rep. Clement Vallandigham after Vallandigham called the Civil War “cruel” and “wicked,” shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers, and had members of the Maryland Legislature placed in prison to prevent Maryland’s secession. The Union won the Civil War.
Under the Espionage Act of 1917, opponents of World War I were routinely prosecuted, and the Supreme Court routinely upheld their convictions. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes rightly wrote, “When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” The Allies won World War I.
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans, as well as allowing the prosecution and/or deportation of those who opposed the war. The Allies won World War II.
During the Vietnam War, the Supreme Court repeatedly upheld the free-speech rights of war opponents, whether those opponents distributed leaflets depicting the rape of the Statue of Liberty or wore jackets emblazoned with the slogan “F— the Draft.” America lost the Vietnam War.
This is not to argue that every measure taken by the government to prosecute opponents of American wars is just or right or constitutional. Some restrictions, however, are just and right and constitutional – and necessary. No war can be won when members of a disloyal opposition are given free reign to undermine it.
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