Arnett
April 2, 2003 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Arnett a traitor? Republican senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky thinks the Daily Mirror's newest contributor ought to be "arrested at the border" if he ever tries to come back to the U.S. Is it just me, or is the right going a little far these days?
posted by kgasmart (44 comments total)
 
Um.. isn't there such a thing as "Freedom of Speech", or are the Republicans trying to do away with that as well?
posted by zanpo at 2:52 PM on April 2, 2003


When do you deal with and pander to something as hysterical, stubborn and ignorant as the American public for a living, you often have to to talk in a hysterical, stubborn and ignorant manner to survive.
posted by xmutex at 2:53 PM on April 2, 2003


Is it just me, or is the right going a little far these days?

They're merely fearful of anything that contradicts their limited worldview. It's a physically scary world for these folks. Hence the attempts at censorship or pressure against alternative viewpoints. Hence the hysterical cries of "traitor" at any dissent.

Sympathy, if not pity, is more appropriate than anything else for Bunning and his ilk.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2003


Heh heh, you said "ilk".
posted by zanpo at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2003


He praised the Iraqi military and encouraged them on Iraqi national television. What do you think that did to any Iraqi soldiers able to hear it? What do you think it did to anyone hoping to rise up against Saddam - hearing an American citizen and journalist say that Saddam's forces were doing well and weren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon, and that seeing reports of Iraqi civilian casualties would encourage anti-war activists around the world - maybe even ending the war without ending the regime?
posted by techgnollogic at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2003


They're merely fearful of anything that contradicts their limited worldview.

That's certainly never been characteristic of the anti-war protesters, though, right sweetheart?

And yes, zanpo, all Republican politicians in the country are, in fact, out to "do away with free speech" wholesale. They're discussing it right now in a secret meeting in the basement of the Senate. Weren't you told? :)
posted by dhoyt at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2003


Article III Section 3 Clause 1: 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.

Here's some analysis of the situation by Eric Muller, Professor at UNC Law School.
posted by gyc at 3:05 PM on April 2, 2003


see also Jane Fonda and Don Rumsfeld:

As Rumsfeld continued to talk, what he said got worse. He suggested that the administration and NATO were playing "into [Milosevic's] hands" and might be bluffing. "I would not say that we've been effective in this campaign because it seems to me that the goal in life is to avoid crises, not to manage them once you're in them. And I feel that this was an avoidable -- probably an avoidable situation."

It seems that the right feels fine about bad mouthing strategy when a dem is CinC
posted by tellmenow at 3:07 PM on April 2, 2003


No, I wasn't told... those evil Republicans! America is plus plus good.
posted by zanpo at 3:08 PM on April 2, 2003


Peter Arnett gave his personal opinion in an interview with a network that he was not actively reporting for.

Geraldo Rivera disclosed troop information.

I'll take "context" for $100, Alex.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:09 PM on April 2, 2003


Well, dhoyt, I can tell you who was meeting yesterday to try to shut people up:

General McCaffrey made his comments just moments after Senator Warner, who is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, emerged from a meeting with General Myers and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and proposed a new standard of etiquette for retired military officers.

Those darn ex-generals...
posted by pitchblende at 3:13 PM on April 2, 2003


No, I wasn't told... those evil Republicans! America is plus plus good.
posted by zanpo at 3:08 PM PST on April 2

That would be "double plus good".
posted by Mitheral at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2003


Although I don't think he committed treason, you must admit it wasn't the best of ideas to give an interview on Iraqi state TV.
posted by gyc at 3:21 PM on April 2, 2003


He praised the Iraqi military and encouraged them on Iraqi national television. What do you think that did to any Iraqi soldiers able to hear it? What do you think it did to anyone hoping to rise up against Saddam - hearing an American citizen and journalist say that Saddam's forces were doing well and weren't likely to go anywhere anytime soon, and that seeing reports of Iraqi civilian casualties would encourage anti-war activists around the world - maybe even ending the war without ending the regime?

all well and good, but.. he can still say it without fear of being arrested, if you ask me. maybe not if you ask mr bunning.
posted by oog at 3:25 PM on April 2, 2003


Here's the plan: 1) Senator waits for the dude at the border. 2) Senator carries out citizen's arrest. 3) Senator (and, optionally, authorities) get laughed out of court. 4) Watch senator look like idiot. 5) PROFIT!
posted by kaemaril at 3:30 PM on April 2, 2003


bunning is obviously an inbred moron unfit to serve in congress.
posted by quonsar at 3:38 PM on April 2, 2003


Baseball metaphors, anyone?
posted by ed at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2003


bunning is obviously an inbred moron unfit to serve in congress.

Really? I'd say that puts him in excellent company in Congress.
posted by Vidiot at 4:06 PM on April 2, 2003


I just love living through history...

"They danced to 50 Cent while America burned..."

Sorry, just starting a textbook chapter for some poor soul 50 years from now.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 4:14 PM on April 2, 2003


Um.. isn't there such a thing as "Freedom of Speech", or are the Republicans trying to do away with that as well?

Um, maybe they're actually exercising it? Arnett has no problem using "freedom of speech" in a way that actually strengthens a US enemy's resolve to fight. Guess what, the Senator also has freedom of speech, and can hold any damn opinion about Arnett that he wants - including the thought that he is a traitor, and ought to be arrested (something he is not exactly alone in thinking).

All sorts of anti-war folks seem to have no problem saying George Bush should be arrested for war crimes (in fact, a lot of posters in every rally assert this pretty clearly). They are free to say it. Of course, they can't arrest him - any more than Bunning can arrest Arnett. Kind of hard, however, to say that Arnett can publicly state any opinion he wants, in any forum he wants, because of his right to "freedom of speech" - at the same time as saying a US Senator does not have the same freedom.

Probably also worth mentioning - while we're discussing "freedom of speech" - that Bunning's colleagues on the floor all have the freedom to agree or disagree with him just as publicly. What would happen again if someone attempted to disagree with Arnett in the warm loving Iraqi regime? To suggest, for instance, that he was either misinformed or flat out lying when he spoke of "growing opposition" to Bush in the US (when, if anything, polls show support strengthening)? Oh yeah, they'd be shot, tossed in the chipper, and the segment never aired.
posted by MidasMulligan at 4:19 PM on April 2, 2003


Not worth arresting...just public shunning of him and his employer...

While we're at it, though...what exactly DOES a "citizen's arrest" consist of? Can anyone do it? Can I do it? Do you need anything other than a voice? Just wondering.
posted by davidmsc at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2003


Midas, of course everyone has the right to say what they think about who is a traitor and who isn't. I think the point being made is that it's it's pretty ridiculous to say that Arnett should be hanged for treason (it is, after all, a capital offense) for saying that he thought the war was going badly. The fact that at least one of our nation's lawmakers appears to be advocating this viewpoint strikes me as at least mildly disturbing.

I don't think we have to worry too much about the poor people in Congress being repressed or executed by the government for their political views. We probably don't have to worry much about this happening to reporters either, but even one moron in Congress advocating this view is one too many.
posted by boltman at 4:41 PM on April 2, 2003


I've generally considered Bunning to be somewhat thoughtful, so this is disappointing. And he doesn't even have the excuse of being someone who regularly suffers from "foot in mouth" disease, as Alan Simpson did.

There are many irritating angles of this whole Arnett situation. First off, while I think Arnett is probably right about the Iraqis fighting harder "for Sadaam" than generally expected, and that his experience in Iraqi matters makes him qualified to talk about that angle, his analysis of the administration's goals and whether they're being met was inappropriate since he's in no situation to judge. He got involved in this silly little expectations game that the media and administration engage in and the military is dragged into, where the number one topic is never how the war is going but how the war is going compared to expectations. And Arnett, not exactly known for his sources in the Bush administration and not located in a place where it's easy to keep up on this stuff, couldn't be in a worse situation to play the game. As a result, I found To the Iraqi station what he had to say inappropriate as a result of its stupidity.

Then there's MSNBC and friends. What exactly changed between their announcement of support of Arnett and his firing? Oh, right - they had a chance to look more closely at Arnett's in-depth analysis and found extra commas. They should've either stood by him or fired his ass. Changing positions because an uproar grows is unacceptable. Of course, what else would one expect of MSNBC, a network that seems to spend most of its time debating how high to wear their socks.

And then there was Arnett's apology. Except that anybody who bothered to listen clearly understood that Arnett never apologized for anything he did. "I'm sorry there was an uproar" is not an apology. I found Arnett's speech to be worded quite well - and thus completely disingenuous. It is not okay sound like you are sorry if you are not sorry. It was a great speech for a defense attorney to make in defense of a client by expressing sympathy while technically admitting to an ounce of wrongdoing. But Arnett is not a defense attorney, and the site of Arnett spinning like that was nauseating. Of course, the media didn't bother to listen, and promptly reported that Arnett had apologized in about a million places. Arnett gave up that fiction as soon as he landed the new job.

I realize I may sound more than a bit naive in expecting high standards in these days of cable news networks that don't even have journalistic standards, but i refuse to believe that the solution is to let everyone lower themselves to tabloid status.
posted by gspira at 4:44 PM on April 2, 2003


*sigh* No one is denying this congressman's right to make an ass of himself, son't be paranoid. We're just pointing out said asssmaking and wondering what the implications of this newly-made ass being in public office are.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:50 PM on April 2, 2003


Is it just me, or is the right going a little far these days?

It's just you. Now get back to work and stop asking questions.
posted by spazzm at 4:52 PM on April 2, 2003


Kind of hard, however, to say that Arnett can publicly state any opinion he wants, in any forum he wants, because of his right to "freedom of speech" - at the same time as saying a US Senator does not have the same freedom.

Hrm. Isn't this a straw man? I looked over the entire discussion and no one has said that Bunning should not be permitted to speak his mind. In fact, I rather appreciate it when people like Bunning do speak their mind and reveal how clueless they really are about democracy. Perhaps the accusation of treason would be a bit more relevant if it were not for the recent tendency by certain members of the right to label any public disagreement with consevativism to be both anti-American and treasonous.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:06 PM on April 2, 2003


The sad truth is that his comments will only make him more popular in his home district.

And ed, I'd say "We gotta play it one day at a time."

Opps, that was a baseball cliche. Sorry.

Well, I'd say Jim was justing brushing back Arnett. The batter has been on the back end of a solid career. Bunning is a seasoned pitcher who knows how to get the crowd roaring. His team is behind him to a man. No umpire is going to give Arnett any slack on this field.

Oh, sorry. Play-by-play. I just can't get a metaphor out tonight. Off to the showers.
posted by ?! at 5:24 PM on April 2, 2003


midas, people saying bush should be punished are claiming he should be punished for actions. Bunning is claiming arnett should be punished for speech.

Both are free to state their claims; no one's denying that. The issue is the claims themselves, which aren't comparable, since we are guaranteed greater liberty with regard to speech than with regard to action. Bush oughtn't have freedom to do whatever he wants, but perhaps arnett ought have the freedom to say whatever he wants.
posted by mdn at 5:38 PM on April 2, 2003


Some worthwhile context: Lord Haw-Haw, an Irish-born fascist executed by the British for his propaganda broadcasts from Germany, and Ezra Pound, whose broadcasts from Rome led to his confinement in St. Elizabeth's.

Clearly Arnett's remarks do not go as far as the deliberate, continuing examples above. They do, on the other hand, fall in the same category as Jane Fonda's visit to Vietnam: Someone who should have known better allowing their words and their celebrity to be used in propaganda. For the record, I think Pound committed treason (of the sort worth a stint in jail or a fine), and Fonda didn't (well, maybe a fine). As such, Arnett -- once a somewhat-respected journalist -- allowed himself to become a stooge. In particular, the statement that his reporting would galvanize the anti-war movement was extremely poorly considered and permanently damaged his credibility. If he'd merely said that he reported facts and they could support or hearten either side ...

From a criminal standpoint, treason is in a doubtful condition due to vacillation and incoherence among various Supreme Court rulings. It would seem unlikely that a charge of treason this slight -- that is, without intent or overt acts -- could be upheld in the courts.

Politically, anyone can call for any prosecution they like, whether or not it's substantiated by law. (Liberals, of course, do it all the time, as any MeFi reader may observe.) A legislator is not a prosecutor, and we're all the better off for it.

gspira: Regarding his carefully worded "apol
posted by dhartung at 5:40 PM on April 2, 2003


I may be asking an obvious question here, but what citizenship does Peter Arnett hold?
I know he was born in New Zealand [who aren't part of the coalition], and if he's still holding New Zealand citizenship, how can he be held for treason against the US?
posted by X-00 at 6:21 PM on April 2, 2003


Just out of interest, wouldn't accusing somebody of treason when it's not true (assuming it's not true) be actionable? Would it not be slander and/or libel? That's a pretty heavy accusation to be slinging around...
posted by kaemaril at 6:39 PM on April 2, 2003


With regards to citizenship, Arnett was a New Zealander, but he later became a naturalized US citizen, and therefore can be held.
posted by unreason at 8:31 PM on April 2, 2003


Let's see:

Violation of allegiance toward one's country: check!

purposely acting to aid its enemies: check!

A betrayal of trust or confidence: check!

Yep, that's treason!
posted by hama7 at 8:33 PM on April 2, 2003


kaemaril, I don't know libel law at all, so I'm just guessing, but I would imagine that there's a distinction between making factually inaccurate statements about a person's actions and drawing a conclusion of law about actions that nobody disputes actually occurred. Bunning is really making a statement about what he thinks the law is or ought to be -- not a statement about Arnett.

Also, I believe there's a distinction between statements directed at private citizens and statements directed at public figures like Arnett, but I could be wrong about that.
posted by boltman at 8:41 PM on April 2, 2003


If you think Arnett deserves to be arrested, think again. You might be next when you have a dissenting opinion.
posted by skinsuit at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2003


I really can't see what all the brouhaha around Arnett is all about.

As far as I can see, he hasn't lied, he hasn't revealed classified information, and after all - being on TV is his job.

It seems that people are most pissed off at him because he spoke to the Iraqis, which isn't really that big a deal in my book.
The information he gave was the same that has been broadcast by every news media outside the states since the invasion started slowing down.
posted by spazzm at 9:26 PM on April 2, 2003


I am curious when people jump all over someone as a traitor because they dissent from the official point of view.

In the 'my country, right or wrong' department, is there anything the government could do that you would not blindly condone out of patriotism?

I'm not trolling or being rhetorical, I am genuinely curious. I think certain things we do are right and certain things are wrong. But there seems to be a fairly large element around the country that would let the government do anything; especially, when 'our fighting boys' lives are on the line. Even though they're the ones who put them there. Is allegiance more important than ratiocination?
posted by umberto at 11:18 PM on April 2, 2003


The Viet Cong Admiration Society Retreats: by Ann Coulter
posted by hama7 at 11:41 PM on April 2, 2003


OT: Doesn't anyone else think the idea of trechery is wrong? Your country doesn't own you. If you think your country is wrong and another is right, shouldn't you be allowed to follow your conscience?
posted by Summer at 1:08 AM on April 3, 2003


Did the Iraqis learn anything from Arnett that they couldn't have learned with an internet connection, or satellite TV?
Bunning: "Mr. Arnett can apologize all he likes for being a `useful idiot' for Saddam and his barbaric regime."
Preferable to being a useless idiot for George and his regime?
posted by asok at 1:12 AM on April 3, 2003


You know, umberto, that's a helluva question, and one about which I've wondered since all of this began.

Is everything America does correct and right by virtue of the fact that it is, well, America?

And MidasMulligan, I've got no problem with Bunning saying what he thinks (assuming he does think, and this whole business makes me wonder). But the different between me accusing, say, the president of treason and Bunning accusing Arnett is that I don't have the wherewithal to have my office call the Justice Department and make some inquiries as to the feasibility of turning my free speech into action.

No idea whether Bunning has gone as far as this, but he could - which makes what he has to say less of a free comment than a threat.
posted by kgasmart at 6:31 AM on April 3, 2003


Sympathy, if not pity, is more appropriate than anything else for Bunning and his ilk.

Ahh, cut him a little slack, foldy. He did pitch a perfect game, which is greater achievement than any other politico can make. :)

I actually used to work with Bunning's nephew at a bookstore in Norwalk, CT. He was a nice guy, leaned to the left politically and was a vegetarian. He still got along well with his uncle from what I gathered although they seemed to differ politically.

And war for what it's worth has people of all political stripes saying incredibly stupid shit. So let's not get anymore wound up over this than we need to.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 AM on April 3, 2003


If you think your country is wrong and another is right, shouldn't you be allowed to follow your conscience?

If you are actively and purposefully working to bring destruction and death upon your own country by another country, then it's hard to see how you're much different than an enemy combatant. In fact, you're arguably worse than an enemy combatant because you are posing as a non-combatant U.S. civilian.

Arnett's actions don't even come close to treasonous, but that doesn't mean such a crime should not exist. For example, if, because of your opposition to the war, you're letting Iraqi suicide bombers live in your house while they prepare to blow up some U.S. targets, then I'd say you are pretty clearly guilty of treason (and probably a bunch of other crimes too).

More broadly speaking, if you are living in the U.S. and taking advance of the benefits that it's government and society provide to you, I think most people would agree to have a basic obligation in return not to work toward its destruction or the death of its agents, which, after all, fight on behalf of the citizenry as much as our political leaders.
posted by boltman at 12:09 PM on April 3, 2003


One of the things that is disturbing about this is the tendency to yell "traitor" and "terrorist" at the drop of a hat. While I may find many of the ideas fronted by neo-conservatives to be repugnant, and incompatable with basic ideas fundamental to democracy, I at least recognize that they are motivated by a different vision of what an ideal American culture would be like.

To be fair, the decline in our ability to differentiate spoken disagreement from treason was perpetuated by the Clinton administration's use of "eco-terrorism" to describe acts of banal vandalism. But recently, with everyone who disagrees that the perpetual war being labeled treasonous, calling Arnett a traitor just does not carry much impact any more. It is ludicrous to place a journalist expressing an unpopular opinion in the same category as the real traitors who sold secrets to Russia during the cold war.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:03 PM on April 3, 2003


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