Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 101 – Harry Reid

Well, our Nevada Senator, Harry Reid, has really stepped in it this time. Like the boy who pointed out that the Emperor had no clothes, he has had the temerity to speak the truth that everyone knows about the Iraq war – it's lost – and now neocons from Washington to Incline Village are screaming for him to resign.


Let's see: Wolfowitz gets his girlfriend a promotion and a $60,000 raise, but he shouldn't resign, Gonzales participates in partisan firings and then obfuscates before Congress with the one form of perjury ("I don't recall") that can't be proved, but he's OK, Joe Wilson tells the truth about yellowcake and his wife the spy gets exposed by the Vice President's office in retribution and that's OK, but Harry Reid should resign and one Incliner accuses him of "sedition" and says we should look up what it means.


In 1798 the nascent US Congress passed the Sedition Act. This act said that anyone "opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States" could be imprisoned for up to two years. It was also illegal to "write, print, utter, or publish" anything critical of the president or Congress. This act was allowed to expire 1801 and subsequent court decisions have been based on the view that if it had been tested it would have been found to be an unconstitutional restraint of free speech. The dictionary defines sedition as open insurrection or rebellion. Neither of these facts has stopped the President's hard-core neocon supporters from crying "sedition" at Reid's effrontery, and a writer to the Bonanza last Friday repeats this canard and compounds it by invoking the hallowed "aid and comfort to the enemy" as evidence of sedition.


Actually, the phrase comes from Article 3 Section 3 of the Constitution, a document that the President and the neocons seem unfamiliar with. That Article 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." Since Senator Reid is unlikely to confess, we would have to have two people who would swear in court that they witnessed an overt act of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Not their opinion, mind you, but testimony of fact.


Let's look at that. It seems to me that the only ones who can say for sure whether Reid's statement gave aid and comfort to the enemy are the enemy themselves. But on more than one occasion Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda higher-ups have been reported to have said that the US presence in Iraq and the prolonging of the war there is to their benefit – that's the only testimony I know of that speaks directly to what "aids and comforts" the enemy. They don't need to win, they may not even want to win – as long as we are there and they are the underdog, they gain political traction in the jihadist world, so it seems reasonable to think that anything that prolongs the war and the US presence in Iraq aids the enemy and probably gives them comfort – they certainly seem more comfortable than we are.


So on the one hand we have Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, and the Democrats saying the war is lost and insisting on a plan for getting our troops out of harm's way so that as few as possible die in service of a lost cause, with the ancillary benefit that Al Qaeda would lose whatever they gain from our being there. On the other hand we have the President and the neocons in deep denial insisting on an open-ended commitment to a war they have no plan for how to win or how to get out of. And we have the enemy saying it's to their advantage that we stay there and they benefit from it.


So who's giving "aid and comfort?" And who should resign?


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