American politicians and citizens seem to have conveniently forgotten the triumph of free speech and information with Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, but Ron Paul reminded everyone on the House floor.
There is a lot to admire in the Texas Representative Ron Paul. He calls himself a Libertarian, but that designation is really just a semantic term for what he actually is—an Anarcho-Capitalist. Granted, Paul’s absolute faith in the sustainability of markets over the long-term is problematic, but he is in other respects a champion of freedom. An anomaly on the House floor, Paul is a man whose disgust in the status quo is manifest in his near total aversion to modern lawmaking as an exercise in over-legislation, and his venomous attacks at the Federal Reserve recall Andrew Jackson’s brilliant invective against a room of bankers in Philadelphia:
“Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time, and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you out.”
One might say that Ron Paul is the modern equivalent of not only Andrew Jackson, but Thomas Jefferson as well, who was none to fond of banks himself, saying:
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
Let us not dwell on Ron Paul’s personal crusade against the Federal Reserve and the banking system in the United States, in general, because Paul represents something far beyond that most worthy struggle. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, in between or on the fringes, you must admit Paul represents the very lonely stand against the twin leviathans of government and finance that have rendered American personal liberty an hallucination.
And as the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks narrative unfolded with the leaked cables—as every politician either remained silent (President Barack Obama), called for Assange’s execution like Spanish inquisitors (Sarah “Moose Vagina” Palin, Mike Huckabee) or maneuvered to undercut the organization’s ability to operate (Senator Joe Leiberman), Ron Paul alone expressed his outrage at all three types by taking to the House floor and publicly supporting Assange and WikiLeaks.
He begins by noting that the “hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news.” Paul goes on to note that the information “has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government.” And this is the critical point that must be understood. Wade through all the other distortion from politicians and pundits and it will become readily apparent that this “national security” dust-up is merely an issue of power.
Paul says as much in the following quote, ”Losing a grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neo-conservatives in charge.” By neo-conservatives, it would seem that he is calling out any supporter–Democrat or Republican–of the Bush Doctrine of military, diplomatic and economic leverage abroad, seemingly permitted and always excused by the events of 9/11 (a mutated strain of the Monroe Doctrine).
The following excerpt of Paul’s House speech is most important in understanding the government’s reaction to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange as an individual:
“But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government should prosecute an Australian citizen for treason for publishing U.S. secret information that he did not steal? And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well… The New York Times, as a results of a Supreme Court ruling, was not found guilty in 1971 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg never served a day in prison for his role in obtaining these secret documents. The Pentagon Papers were also inserted into the Congressional record by Senator Mike Gravel, with no charges of any kind being made of breaking any national security laws. Yet the release of this classified information was considered illegal by many, and those who lied us into the Vietnam war, and argued for its prolongation were outraged. But the truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack. which perpetuated a sad and tragic episode in our history.”
Many of us have come to the same conclusions on our own, but Ron Paul is clearly the only official brave enough to come to the defense of the free flow of information, and who can doubt Paul’s patriotism—he being a man who regularly invokes the Constitution and the spirit of men like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson?
Paul goes on to present nine points, though I’ll only highlight a few (and direct readers to the video for Paul’s entire list):
“Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?… Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?… Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?… Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?”
We expect such boldly sick and authoritarian behavior from the likes of Sarah Palin and Joe Lieberman (who is the principle author of the so-called “Internet Kill Switch” bill), but many of us expected more from a Harvard Law School graduate. We expected a defense of free speech from a man who was Harvard Law Review editor, and who surely knows the precedent set in cases against the New York Times and Daniel Ellsberg following publication of the Pentagon Papers.
Instead we get a Texas Representative, an Anarcho-Capitalist or Libertarian (however you want to describe him), standing up for the human rights of free speech and free information. Somebody had to inject some sense into the public debate from the legislative end.
If Obama had half the courage of Ron Paul, the banks would be out on their asses and this whole issue of WikiLeaks would be laid to rest.
Obama’s a politician, though, and in the realm of free speech, a complete let-down. Too calculating. No strength of conviction.
Vive le Ron Paul!