The Anatomy of Treason
Scripps-Howard News Service 11.13.01
Thank you, President Clinton! For some time I have been considering a column on the subject of treason, but there was no apropos. Your speech to the students of Georgetown University has supplied the perfect example.
I hasten to add that I do not have in mind treason as a crime punishable under Article IV, Section 2 - or, in case of presidents and civil officers, under Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. Rather, it is my hope that the following will help to draw a sharp line between two very different things. One is the freedom to think and speak, which for the mind is like the oxygen we breathe is for the body. The other is to serve the interest of America's enemies - thereby weakening America's defenses - which is all too often confused with free speech.
Beginning with the rise of Adolf Hitler, America has had its own Nazis before and after World War II. Before December 1941, and after May 8, 1945 (VE-Day), they might have been detestable, loathsome, an embarrassment to the nation. But they were exercising their First-Amendment rights. Between the two aforementioned dates, however, they represented the interests of a side with which the United States was at war. During that period, whether prosecuted or not, they were guilty of treason.
Beginning with the rise of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, America has had its own Communists before and after the Cold War. Before April 1948 (the Berlin Blockade), and after December 1991 (the fall of the Soviet Union), they might have been detestable, loathsome, an embarrassment to the nation. But they were exercising their First-Amendment rights. Between the two aforementioned dates, however, they represented the interests of a side which sought the annihilation of the United States. During that period, whether prosecuted or not, they were guilty of treason.
And so, it is particularly important to face the unpalatable reality: whether it is the Rosenbergs who were executed, or the "Hollywood Ten" who are now venerated daily, they were all guilty of treason by siding with America's enemy. The sole appropriate course of action for people who had joined the Communist Party out of their infantile belief in the "better world," promised by blood-soaked terrorists, would have been to rejoin the American side no later than May 1948.
In other words, at times of active conflict, weakening in any way America's ability to prevail is treason, the First Amendment notwithstanding. The right to free speech is not a license to suspend sound judgment, and it does not remove the obligation citizens have toward the country which is their home, and the soil from which they receive nourishment.
On a personal note, I might add my unflagging amazement that apparently intelligent, educated, and perceptive people spend their lives criticizing America - not from within, which is a splendid American tradition, but from the perspective of an outsider.
This brings us to the still much-debated anti-Vietnam protest from which the Clintons derive their relationship with America.
Every former protester I know passionately defends the actions of the 1960s and early '70s as "exercising our First-Amendment right to criticize government policies." None seems to have read the First Amendment to the end where it speaks about "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government." More importantly, even in their advanced years, many seem incapable to confront the reality of having served the interest of America's enemies.
In their defense, in all likelihood, few would have realized at the time their behavior amounted to treason. Most were not in the Jane Fonda mold, but simply had the wool pulled over their eyes by the communists who ran the show. Sadly, after decades have passed, the wool seems to be glued to their temples, apparently forever.
And, in 1992, two of them made it into the White House. One of the more remarkable aspects of the Clinton era was the phenomenon of an American president who, for the first time in history, did not convey the impression America really meant something to him. In all his eight years as president, Mr. Clinton displayed no emotion for America one way or the other. The same has been true about Mrs. Clinton.
But, on November 7, addressing students at Georgetown University, Mr. Clinton crossed the line. The choice of date - the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 - may have been chance. The choice of words was not. The former president's every word misrepresented history in order to imply, infer, insinuate that America deserved what it got on September 11. To do so is a service to an enemy sworn to do maximum harm to this nation and its people.
Presumably, Mr. Clinton will not be tried for treason in a court of law. But when the writing of history returns into the hands of honest scholars, they will hardly miss the opportunity he presented to America's enemies, foreign and domestic.
Balint Vazsonyi, concert pianist and director of the Center for the American Founding, is a columnist for the Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.