Skip to comments.Dare Call It Treason
Posted on 05/24/2004 6:14:07 AM PDT by stainlessbanner
Few traditions are more American than freedom of speech and the right to dissent. But an equally powerful American tradition has been the effort by government and private "patriots" to suppress free expression in times of crisis. During the fighting in Iraq, former military leaders who criticized planning for the war were denounced for endangering troops in the field and warned to remain silent. A number of scholars, including myself, were branded "Traitor Professors" on a television talk show. If criticism of a war while it is in progress makes one a traitor, that category will have to include Abraham Lincoln, who denounced the Mexican War while serving in Congress in 1847; Mark Twain, who vehemently attacked government policy in the Spanish-American and Philippine wars at the turn of the last century; and Martin Luther King Jr., who eloquently called for an end to the war in Vietnam.
With the exception of World War II, every significant war in American history has inspired vigorous dissent. Many colonists remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. Most New Englanders opposed the War of 1812. Numerous Americans considered the Mexican War an effort to extend the territory of slavery. Both North and South were internally divided during the Civil War. World War I and Vietnam produced massive antiwar movements. This is part of our democratic tradition.
Equally persistent, however, have been efforts to suppress wartime dissent. The Alien and Sedition Acts during the "quasi-war" with France in 1798 allowed the President to deport aliens and made it illegal to criticize the government. Both Union and Confederate governments suppressed opposition newspapers and jailed critics. World War I witnessed a massive repression of freedom of speech, with critics of the war, socialists and labor leaders jailed or deported, those suspected of disloyalty rounded up by private vigilantes and the speaking of German banned in some places. Universities, including my own, fired professors who opposed American involvement.
Self-proclaimed patriots not only seek to determine the boundaries of acceptable speech about the present but rewrite history to create a more politically useful past. During World War I, the Committee on Public Information, a government propaganda agency, published pamphlets demonstrating the "common principles" of Oliver Cromwell, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson in order to create a historical lineage for the Anglo-French-American military alliance. Today, statements about history that in normal times would seem uncontroversial have been labeled treasonous. Daniel Pipes said in his syndicated newspaper column that I "hate America" because I noted that Japan invoked the idea of pre-emptive war to justify its attack on Pearl Harbor (a point also made by that well-known anti-American, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.). My comment to a reporter that the United States has frequently embarked on military ventures without being attacked, as in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Vietnam, prompted accusations of treason in the media.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a far greater crisis than the war on Iraq, the Supreme Court in the Milligan case invalidated the use of military tribunals to try civilians. The Court proclaimed that the Constitution is not suspended in wartime: "It is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace." Alas, we have not always lived up to this ideal. The history of civil liberties in the United States is not a straight-line trajectory toward ever-greater freedom. It is a complex story in which victories can prove temporary and regression can follow progress.
Our civil liberties are neither self-enforcing nor self-correcting. Historians today view past suppressions of free speech as shameful episodes. But we are now living through another moment when many commentators, both in and out of government, seem to view freedom of expression as at best an inconvenience and at worst unpatriotic. The incessant attacks on dissenters as traitors are intended to create an atmosphere of shock and awe within the United States, so that those tempted to speak their mind become too intimidated to do so.
George W. Bush has claimed that America's enemies wish to destroy our freedoms. If we surrender freedom of speech in the hope that this will bring swifter victory on current and future battlefields, who then will have won the war?
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University.
June 30, 2003
THAT 'HATE AMERICA' EGGHEAD!
Here are three quotations for your readers:
Columbia Daily Spectator, Nov. 7, 2002, Eric Foner: "This doctrine of what they [i.e., the Bush administration leaders] call preemption or preventive war is a complete repudiation of the whole notion of international law, of the international rule of law. It takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle. It's a throwback to the days before the United Nations, before notions of international standards of conduct. This is exactly the same argument that the Japanese used in attacking Pearl Harbor. This is exactly the justification they gave for the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a preemptive strike against the United States because the United States was becoming more and more threatening to Japan."
New York Post, Nov. 12, 2002, my column, titled "Profs Who Hate America":"Eric Foner, professor of 19-century American history at Columbia University, states that a preemptive war against Iraq 'takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle' and deems this 'exactly the same argument' the Japanese used to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor."
The Nation, June 2, 2003, Eric Foner's editorial, "Dare Call It Treason": "Daniel Pipes said in his syndicated newspaper column that I 'hate America' because I noted that Japan invoked the idea of pre-emptive war to justify its attack on Pearl Harbor."
No, Professor Foner, that is not what I wrote. You hate America not because of your comments on Japanese actions but because you accuse the U.S. government of acting according to "the rule of the jungle" and because you see it as comparable to the Hideki Tojo dictatorship. Your misquoting me on this simple matter points out the incompetence (or duplicity) of your research. It is one more mark of shame you bring to Columbia University.
New York City
Not satisfied with his syndicated column, website and frequent television appearances, Daniel Pipes now subjects Nation readers to an example of his poisonous attacks on those he considers disloyal. But readers will recognize that to Pipes, "hating" America means disagreeing with the policies of the Bush Administration.
Let me suggest that Pipes add the following to his database of quotations. It was written by Henry Steele Commager in 1947, another time when self-appointed arbiters of patriotism used charges of disloyalty to try to silence dissent:
"What is this new loyalty? It is, above all, conformity. It is the uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of America as it is ... The concept of loyalty as conformity is a false one. It is narrow and restrictive, denies freedom of thought and of conscience ... What do men know of loyalty who make a mockery of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights?"
DIssent is one thing.
Accepting funds from Saddam Hussein (as ANSWER and Moveon.org did)*is* treason!
Dissent is one thing, but ANY action taken by any American citien which give aid and comfort to the enemy is still TREASON. If this action or actions cause the death of any American forces, it is TREASON. The left needs to figure out that politics stops at our shorlines, and the only acceptable time for outright dissent is after the conflict is over. Not during the conflict. Just ask the VietCong how much they appreciated Kerry's tesimony in 1971. That was TREASON.
Vallandigham might be surprised that Foner cites Lincoln as an example of free speech.
The one where Abrahmam "Foner/Kerry" Lincoln states "like the half insane mumbling of a fever-dream is the whole war part of his late message!"
Sounds like he was on drugs himself.
That Foner could consider Lincoon a proponent of free-speech is ludicrous.
Bullshit and balderdash. Was everybody who opposed our involvement in Kosovo "traitors"?? How about everybody who criticized Clinton while we still had troops in Somalia?? Are they all traitors??
The First Amendment is not part-time, applicable only in times of peace and prosperity. It is part of what makes America different.
Whoever gave Chalabi "highly-classified" information that can get our troops killed, which he then passed on to Iranian Intelligence, THAT'S a traitor.
Kerry's testimony in 1971 was not treason. It was SEDITION, defined as openly advocating the defeat of America or the victory of our enemies. Insofar as I can tell, he should have been prosecuted for contempt of Congress, perjury, lying under oath, sedition, and defamation of American troops.
Kerry apparently committed treason later when he met with Viet Cong or other North Vietnamese operatives.
The first thing to understand is that Saddam BROKE THE CONDITIONS OF HIS SURRENDER in the first Gulf War. Thus, when he broke his surrender, the US was justified at any point in going to war against him.
Exactly. There was nothing preemptive about going into Iraq. The fact that we didn't go in several years earlier is simply due to the corrupt and completely incompetent bungling of the cowardly and self-serving Pres. Clintoon.
The fools are loyal to an America that doesn't exist - one that's "enhanced" by a multitude of languages and cute ethnic villages, one where sex is without consequences; where corporations happily pay taxes through the nose to support the rest of us who don't want to work, and where our military is only window-dressing.
When these fools speak out, it still damages this country and helps our enemies, but they're just fools, after all. The problem is the schools and the media, and they are the enemy.
Our decades-long war is still in its infancy. If we don't establish some behaviors now, how will we ever get through the rest of it?
Eric needs to go "dissent" in France!
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