The wretched mind of the American authoritarian

In multiple newspapers, Jonah Goldberg asks: "Why isn't Julian Assange dead"?

Topics: WikiLeaks, Washington, D.C.,

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry.  A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that?  There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic.  In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg — the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader — headlined:  ”Why is Assange still alive?“  It begins this way:

I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

It’s a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that “it wouldn’t do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web” — whatever that means — and reluctantly acknowledges:  ”That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.”  What he wants the Government to do to “stop” Assange is left unsaid — tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean — but his question (“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?”) was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn’t as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:



Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States. . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: . . .Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

I emailed Whiton and told him I’d like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied:  ”Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day.”  I replied that it didn’t have to be the next day — I’d be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him — and he then stopped answering.  As I said, the real objective is for them to beat their chest in public and show everyone how tough they are — take ‘em out, Whiton roared — but they then scamper away when called upon to be specific about what they mean or to defend it (let alone to participate in the violence they relentlessly urge).   Whiton was just echoing his fellow war cheerleader, torture advocate Marc Thiessen, who wrote this in The Washington Post, under the headline “WikiLeaks Must be Stopped”

The government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

“Military assets”:  apparently, according to this brave and battle-tested warrior — Marc Thiessen — the U.S. can and should just send a drone over London or Stockholm and eradicate Assange, or just send some ground troops into Western Europe to abduct him. 

Speaking of war cheerleaders, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg today points to an Editorial by The New York Sun‘s Seth Lipsky which fantasizes — as Goldberg puts it — that “Lincoln, and FDR as well, would have pretty much tried to hang the Wikileaks founder for treason.”  Apparently, the fact that Assange is not and never was an American citizen is no bar to hanging him for “treason”:  when you wallow in self-centered, self-absorbed imperial exceptionalism, everyone on the planet has the overarching duty of loyalty to your own government, and you think everyone is under the auspices of American rule.

There are multiple common threads here:  the cavalier call for people’s deaths, the demand for ultimate punishments without a shred of due process, the belief that the U.S. is entitled to do whatever it wants anywhere in the world without the slightest constraints, a wholesale rejection of basic Western liberties such as due process and a free press, the desire for the President to act as unconstrained monarch, and a bloodthirsty frenzy that has led all of them to cheerlead for brutal, criminal wars of aggression for a full decade without getting anywhere near the violence they cheer on, etc.  But that’s to be expected.  We lived for eight years under a President who essentially asserted all of those powers and more, and now have a one who has embraced most of them and added some new ones, including the right to order even American citizens, far from any battlefield, assassinated without a shred of due process.  Given that, it would be irrational to expect a citizenry other than the one that is being molded with this mentality.

* * * * * 

One of the most progressive ads of the election cycle comes — ironically, sadly, and revealingly enough — from Alaska’s GOP incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski, against GOP nominee and tea party candidate Joe Miller:

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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