Michael Reagan. If you’ve heard the thick, slurred intonations of Michael Reagan on his radio show or during one of his increasingly infrequent “Political Consultant” guest spots on TV, it will help you understand why I am so gratified that he shares no genetic material with one of my heroes, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who was Michael’s adoptive father. Such is the hunger for celebrity in America that this benevolent familial connection was enough to propel the adult Michael into the public view where he never shrinks from an opportunity to display his shallow grasp of reality and his lazy thought processes. Could it be that this man is actually stupid? Yes.
In a syndicated column appearing today in my local newspaper and entitled “Call it Treason”, Michael Reagan likens Julian Assange and Bradley Manning to peas in a pod, judging that both should be “tried for treason and when found guilty stood up before a firing squad.” No doubt in Michael’s mind. Not “if” found guilty, but “when.” I guess we should be grateful that he’s willing to hold still for a trial. He goes on to excoriate them for “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” and for being party to “unspeakable crimes.” Michael repeats in several paragraphs that he would like to see both men executed. In some he mentions the firing squad, but hanging would also apparently suffice.
I don’t mean to pick on Michael Reagan. He’s just today’s convenient example of other commentators, politicians, and pundits who have expressed similar desires regarding Assange and Manning without checking their emotional rants for intellectual content or testing their polemic for logical validation. Fifty years ago, I would have said “That’s OK. It’s a free country.” Today, I say “That’s OK. They’re free to be idiots.”
Bradley Manning. For the record, I don’t like ANY of these three men. I don’t like what they do, or how they do it. Of Michael Reagan and Assange, I can say I don’t like their voices or their style. I don’t know about Manning’s, and probably none of us ever will, because I doubt he’ll ever be seen again where he has the freedom to present himself. And that’s as it should be.
Manning swore an oath upon enlistment in the U.S. Army that went like this: “I, Bradley E. Manning, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” I know that oath. I took that oath, and so did most of my male friends. I was proud to do it, and I am still.
Though vitriolic and thoughtless, Michael Reagan’s scorn for Manning is justifiable. Yes, he had a troubled childhood. His parents divorced when he was 13, and he went to live with his Welsh mother in the UK. He had trouble in the U.S. Army as well, attributed to the problems of being homosexual under the apparently brutal “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy. He was busted from Spec4 to PFC for assaulting another soldier, and was scheduled to be discharged early, probably under “less than honorable conditions.” WAAH. Boo-friggin’-hoo. I had a tough life too, and lots of adolescent problems. Many people do. The Army was for me an opportunity to take responsibility for myself, to be a man, to stop blaming my poor background for my problems. I knew lots of guys like me in the Army. If what is alleged is true (unlike Michael Reagan, I am willing to suspend judgement until Manning’s court-martial and/or civilian trial is concluded) then none of Manning’s difficulties justify the breaking of his solemn oath and subsequent betrayal of his country. Would I have him executed in that case? Yes. The betrayal is massive, and the damages will outlive me. What is alleged is, in fact, treason. And though you may take a dim view of our current military conflicts (I do), we are in fact at war. However, Manning has not been charged with treason, and almost certainly won’t be. As currently charged, he has jeopardy for a maximum penalty of 52 years in confinement.
Julian Assange. On the OTHER hand, though Julian Assange may very well be a disgusting, America-hating, leftist twerp of the most despicable kind, there are also many things that he is NOT.
He is NOT a citizen of the United States of America, owes no fealty to our nation, has made no oaths or promises to be loyal to it. He can NOT therefore be guilty of treason against the United States of America. Period. In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the most serious acts of betrayal of one’s sovereign or nation. If one were Julian Assange, one would be a citizen of Australia, and might be found guilty of treason only if Australia recognizes such a thing, and only for acts against Australia. In any case, it’s up to the Australians to decide, isn’t it?
He is NOT a person who purloined secret documents from a secure repository as a thief in the night, or as an agent entrusted with them by his sovereign or nation.
He is NOT a spy, who worked secretly on American soil against American interests on behalf of a foreign government.
In fact, I can’t logically draw a meaningful distinction between Assange and publishers of the New York Times or the U.K. Guardian, since both media outlets have eagerly published the very same documents made public by Assange, who might very well be an asshole, but not a traitor unless Australia says he is. Since reporters and publishers of the New York Times ARE (presumably) American citizens, why aren’t THEY collectively guilty of treason as the word is defined, and as Michael Reagan imagines it? Would Reagan agitate for the reporters, editors, and publishers of the New York Times to be “tried for treason and when found guilty stood up before a firing squad”? (Frightening, but he just might.) Does he dream of a Hellfire missile strike on the offices of the Guardian at Number 1 Scott Place in Manchester, UK to punish them for their “treason”?
I have never visited WikiLeaks in my life until today, having spent several days reading about and listening to the draconian (and often fatal) things being proposed for Assange by Michael Reagan, Bill O’Reilly, Rep. Peter King R-NY et al.
Let’s face it, Assange is despised and hated by our own American ruling class because he was instrumental in exposing “lying, corrupt and murderous leadership from Bahrain to Brazil” and because these elite pooh-bahs have been damned by their own words. How embarrassing for them. By all means, then, let’s kill Assange. (Yes, assassination has also been wished for him by these high-toned, phony-moralists.)
This blood-lust for Assange is diversionary, deflecting attention from the real culprits in this case. It’s what Big Brother does best. Don’t our government and military officials have an obligation to secure things, documents, media, and activities that are or would be harmful to the security of the United States? Having failed to take reasonable or even elementary measures to secure the same or to provide diligent, unwavering oversight at every level, aren’t these elected officials and military leaders at least as culpable as some pencil-necked Aussie media Utopian for the resulting damage? Maybe we’d do better arresting the American government idiots who allowed a disgraced U.S. Army PFC with well-known social and emotional problems to waltz into secure facilities, where he brazenly and openly copied “secret” documents onto CDs, DVDs, and flash drives, then bragged about how easy it was. At the very least these people are lazy, slovenly, boobs. More likely they have been criminally negligent.
But that’s always been the way of government, hasn’t it? To kill the messenger who brings bad news.