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Aid and Comfort

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 20 years ago, in 2004, on the World Wide Web.

Thanks to our War President, equating political dissent with an act of treason has become something of a national pastime in Republistan. Tom Tomorrow has already commented on this phenomenon in connection with televised sociopath Ann Coulter, but while Coulter is certainly a dangerous lunatic there is at least this one point in her favor: a significant part of her book is devoted to documenting what she takes to be overt acts of war, and material assistance to the enemies of the United States (especially the Soviet Union). Of course, her case is based mainly on distortions, fabrications, and nonsense; but it still puts her a step above the foot-soldiers of tyranny who simply drag out the language of “aid and comfort to the enemy” explicitly and directly on the basis of nothing more than peaceful dissent from the President’s war policy.

Consider, for example, a fellow named Dan Kuykendall, who (during my time in the Auburn Peace Project) decided that it would be best to notify the Opelika-Auburn News that rallies opposing the war on Iraq give aid and comfort to the enemy, and mused that Isn’t the definition of treason giving aid and comfort to the enemy? Since then, the rhetorical tactics haven’t changed much; consider this contribution to Blockheads for Bush, commenting on Ted Kennedy’s recent missives against Mr. Bush’s war:

Let us be clear about this – there are legitimate criticisms to be made about the liberation of Iraq; about whether or not we should have gone in, and about the manner in which we went in, and about how we have performed since we went in; there are, however, no legitimate criticisms to be raised about the reason we went in, nor can there be any legitimate point for an American to make other than that we should be doing more to win this fight. To criticise the reasons we went in and/or to do anything which indicates an unwillingness to see this thing through to final victory is the statement of a fool, or a traitor. No two ways about it.

We’ve given the left a pass long enough – its [sic] time for those who are of leftwing opinion to make their final call: which side of the river are you on? If you’re on America’s side, then you want total and overwhelming US victory – and just to really spell it out; this means that our enemies are dead or begging for mercy. I challenge you – choose, and let you be known for what you are by what you choose – patriot, or traitor.

(Subsequent comments make it clear that most of the Bush League takes the traitor horn of the dilemma. Some offer the charitable suggestion that Ted Kennedy might be both stupid, and a traitor.)

I sent a letter to the editor of the Opelika-Auburn News in reply to Mr. Kuykendall back in April 2003; since the underlying rhetoric hasn’t changed any in the ensuing year, the reply was a useful template for my comment on the BfB article:

Treason is a federal crime, defined in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution, which says Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Apparently at least some of the commentators on this weblog have read the passage, as they refer to the aid and comfort language. Unfortunately, it seems that they have also failed to read Amendment I, which reads Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Founders did their best to make very sure that the Constitution prevented the government from using charges of Treason to suppress peaceful dissent. That is why the language of the article clearly states that the law of treason to be invoked only for overt acts with the intent to wage war on the United States, or to provide concrete, material assistance to those who do.

If anyone has evidence that Ted Kennedy has committed such a serious federal crime, they should contact the FBI field office in Boston at (617) 742-5533. Otherwise, baseless insinuations against Mr. Kennedy, for nothing more than disagreeing with George W. Bush’s foreign policy, amounts to little more than a shameful proposal for tyranny. You have every right to agree or disagree with Mr. Kennedy’s policy; you have no right to make such scurrilous attacks against fellow citizens on the basis of mere political disagreement.

Posted by: Rad Geek at April 10, 2004 11:51 AM

The comment has been posted directly on the Blockheads for Bush article; we’ll see how long it remains in their echo chamber as it was posted.

5 replies to Aid and Comfort Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Mark Noonan

    Well, if you check you’ll note that you post is still there at Blogs for Bush – because, in reality, the right does not suppress dissenting ideas (thats the business of the left), but we do, of course, take out posts which are off-topic, vulgar or spread known lies.

    What you fail to see is that while treason is, necessarily, defined narrowly under the US constitution (experiance shows that accusations of treason are the nuclear weapon of democratic politics, so the Founders made it very difficult), treason is not just what is defined – we cannot prosecute Ted Kennedy, but traitor his is. Our enemies lapped up his words and went forth we faith that the Americans were on the verge of quitting. Then, we killed them…

    Americans, Iraqi’s; dead – partially as a result of Kennedy’s intemperate, irrational and treasonous remarks.

· June 2004 ·

  1. Rad Geek

    Credit where credit is due: Mark Noonan is quite right to point out that my comment (as well as my follow-up comment to a poster who invoked the Sedition Act of 1798 (!!) in defense of their position) is still on the Blogs for Bush page where it was linked. Good for them–open, honest, vigorous debate is what is needed more desparately than anything in the American polity today; and I hope that my comments contributed somewhat to that. However, I can’t quite agree with Mark when he claims (by implication) that I had no reason to suspect my comments would be removed or that Blogs for Bush only removes “posts which are off-topic, vulgar or spread known lies”. For example, see:

    1. How NOT to Run a Blog (Daily Kos 2004-02-03)
    2. Open Letter to the Blockheads for Bush (Hairy Fish Nuts 2004-29-02)
    3. What is a troll? (ReadMe 2004-04-17)
    4. Censor (ReadMe 2004-04-17)

    … and so on. Complaints about articles deleted simply because the author vigorously disagreed with the sentiments in the post are widespread, and were already widespread at the time that I made my post. (Of course, Blogs for Bush can — as they are fond of pointing out when challenged on this point — run their own comment section however they damned well please; it’s their web space, not mine. But most people — including BfB boosters — seem to think that there are certain standards of open dialogue that are virtuous to follow in most forums, even if they are not enforceable; that is, I take it, why BfB includes the following statement atop every comment form: “Remember, varying opinions are welcome, and no comment will be deleted solely for presenting an opposing view.” I leave it open to the reader whether BfB has consistently followed the policy that they have set out.

    Moving on to Mr. Noonan’s comments on the substance of my critique: I am not sure at all what Mr. Noonan means when he says “treason is not just what is defined.” All words that have a definition are strictly limited to just what that definition covers; otherwise what they have is not a definition, but rather some fuzzy guidelines for use.

    If I had to hazard a guess at what Mark means here, it is that the appropriate definition for treason is wider than the formal criteria for legal application of the term as set out in the U.S. Constitution. That would be to say that there are things legitimately called treason which nevertheless cannot, under Article III, be prosecuted as such, because allowing them to be prosecuted would damage civil liberties beyond repair. Maybe so; but then why invoke the “aid and comfort” language of Article III (as Mark does when he asks “is Senator Kennedy a traitor who says things which give aid and comfort to the enemy”, and as several comments do themselves or endorse by implication when they endorse Mark’s option of “traitor”)? If you claim to be using the word “treason” in a broader sense then the legal criteria for it, then why invoke “aid and comfort”, if you know that that means something entirely different from the cases you are invoking it for?

    As for whether Kennedy’s remarks were intemperate, irrational, or had a pernicious effect–it seems like the question to ask first is whether they were true or false. Judging from the posts made to Mark’s blog and to mine on this subject, I doubt that we’re very likely to agree on that question; the point here is not to convince Mark, but rather to point out that if Kennedy is right that the Bush administration’s justifications for the war were based on manipulation and deception, then it’s very hard to see what possible reason there could be to demand that he tailor his statements to protect the resolve and morale of an unjustified military adventure based on lies. If Kennedy is right, then the deaths are not his fault for pointing out the actual state of affairs, but rather the fault of those (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld…) who brought that state of affairs about.

    Of course, if Kennedy is wrong, then he should be held accountable not only for uttering falsehoods, but for the consequences that those falsehoods have. But first you’ll have to convince me that he is wrong. And furthermore that the various tendencies involved in the guerilla war against American soldiers in Iraq are so closely attuned to the attitudes expressed by New England Senators that Ted Kennedy’s utterances on the matter would embolden or demoralize them one whit.

    Finally, even if you were to convince me that Kennedy is entirely in the wrong, I could not possibly see it as an instance of the general principle that you set out: “If you’re on America’s side, then you want total and overwhelming US victory — and just to really spell it out; this means that our enemies are dead or begging for mercy.” It could not be an instance of that principle because the principle is jingoistic claptrap that is obviously and wretchedly false–not to mention dangerous to basic points of republican virtue.

    The highest form of love is the love of the virtue in the beloved, and those who are truly “on America’s side”–in any sense of the word that would make it an attitude worth having–are those who want America to live up to its better self. Whether that involves victory in war or not depends entirely on whether the war in question is just or unjust; even if you are right (as I think you are not) that support for this war is righteous, the idea of extending unconditional support for victory in any war that the United States government has committed itself to strikes me as nothing more than belligerent foolishness.

· August 2004 ·

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    The Conservative Tradition

    Isn’t it great to know that the intellectual bodyguard of the party currently in power in Washington stands for limited government and individual liberty? So…

— 2005 —

  1. Tony

    I’m just curious about “your” opinion, because everybody has them these days, but how long should The President should sit back and allow Himself to be called and liar and a murderer?

    Which has sadly led to most people in America, these days, by ALL the polls don’t you know, and the democratic politicians who have turned around, and have led prople to TRUSTING sadam hussein MORE than The President?

    Just AMAZING that our politicians have taught American people to TRUST sadam hussein MORE than The President of These United States.

    (“United” States, what a joke! There’s so many selfish people out there dividing this Country it’s pathetic!!)

    By the way, have you ever heard of Gen. Marks, the “Point Man” for searchhing sadams 924 WMD sites. (He’s ONLY been on TV ONCE, for some strange reason.) But, He’s the General who found ingredients and mechanics and even yellow cake just after the war began.

    He said sadam, “absolutly had the stuff; and that it was confirmed thru the physical exploitation of a number of these sites”; and that the mechanisms were in place to for a weapons of mass destruction capability”!

    Did sadam have enough to justify going to war, which he refused to answer because that was a “political” question, but said sadam, “had the ability and the ingrediants to make them; and what I saw on the ground was sufficient and compelling evidence, that he had the mechanism�s to put them together.”

    Naturally, this WMD was ALL most likely from 1991, and reesolution 687, when sadam began his LYING about WMD and deceived THE WORLD about same.

    Amazing that sadam LIED thru his teeth ALL the way from resolution 687 thru resolution 1441, and he deceived the world about his WMD, and The President of The United States, after 9/11, gets called a LIAR, and a murderer, just for simply protecting US from the monster who had been LYING for 10+ years to THE WORLD; who could have very easily handed some terrorist just 1 little suitcase of anthrax or ????

    Because no matter who you are, you simply can’t make 5%-10% of sadams UNACCOUNTED for WMD from 1998, be accounted for, just because “you” want to. Even Mr. Ritter, who hates the Iraq war, has HAD to admit such. And Gen. Marks HAS ALREADY found some WMD, and The President and all his lying intelligence was RIGHT AFTER ALL.

    Point is, IF you sadly TRUST sadam hussein MORE than you do President Bush, you are either insane, or just blinded by your own selfish motives.

    Either way, The US Military is STILL at war and in harms way. And ALL your slander and defamation of The Presidents Charactor, which has been ONGOING FOR 2 YEARS NOW, has been quoted by bin laden and the boys; and not to mention sen. durbin’s statments on the Senate Floor, equating Our Military actions to Nazi’s & Pol Pot and the killing fields, is JUST IRRESPONSIBLE!

  2. Rad Geek


    I’m just curious about “your” opinion, because everybody has them these days, but how long should The President should sit back and allow Himself to be called and liar and a murderer?

    That depends on a couple of things. First, is it true that he’s a liar and a murderer? If it is then he should sit back and take it as long as it goes on. He has, after all, no right to deference or politeness that he hasn’t earned.

    If, on the other hand, it’s false — a claim which you haven’t yet defended — then the answer is that it depends on what you mean by “allow Himself [sic] to be called a liar and a murderer.” If “allow” means “refrain from using force to stop” (e.g., by not filing prosecutions under the law of Treason, which is the topic of this post) then of course he has absolutely no right to anything but allow it. Nobody has the right to jail or otherwise attack people for harsh criticism, even if that criticism is injudicious, unfair, or harmful. If, on the other hand, by “allow” you just mean “remaining silent in public rather than defending himself”, well, that’s between him and his political handlers. If the accusations are false (which you haven’t argued) and your meaning when you say “allow” is peaceful (which you haven’t made clear) then he has every right to speak up in his own defense in the manner that he feels is most expedient and proper.

    If, on the other hand, you really did mean to ask when Bush can imprison people who say mean things about him (under the law of Treason or on some other pretext), the answer is obviously never. Anything else is a shameful proposal for tyranny.

    Incidentally, contrary to the apparent beliefs of some of the God-and-Country set, George W. Bush is a mortal creature just like you or I. In a republican polity the officials who serve in our name don’t need or deserve the titles and trappings of nobility; far less do they need or deserve capitalized pronouns usually reserved only for God.

    As for Durbin’s statements on the Senate floor, he did not say that the U.S. military’s actions were the same as those of the Nazis or Pol Pot. What he said is that the known and documented abuses committed in U.S. detention centers — Abu Ghraib, Camp X-Ray, and elsewhere — were the sort of violent abuses of power that were routine in the gulag, the Nazis, or Pol Pot. If you’ve read The Gulag Archipelago or anything in particular about prison camp systems you’d know that this is true; it does not mean (what is not true) that the U.S. military is just as bad as genocidal maniacs or even that the U.S. prison camp system is just as bad as the gulag. Of course, you can agree or disagree with me, and with Durbin on this point, but you’ll have to back up that disagreement with some argument; merely pointing to the fact that it suggests bad things about some actions by some people in the U.S. military, and snivelling about how the military is “STILL at war and in harms way” is not any kind of answer.

    As for the rest of your rambling tirade, who cares? This post hasn’t got anything to do with Saddam Hussein, or how comparatively trustworthy Hussein and Bush are. I, personally, wouldn’t trust either of them any further than I can kick them. But what has any of that got to do with the abuse of the term “Treason”?

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