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
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
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.
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.