So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? It’s a serious question.
~ Jonah Goldberg’s thoughts on how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be dealt with, October 29, 2010 (Chicago Tribune)
I glanced beyond my history books the other day and see America continues to surf a surging wave of insanity. This is no surprise and it’s bound to continue; the longer any people are at war the more the crazy that’s usually deep within comes rising to the surface, bloated, fish-eaten, yet lively. And now floats up a Mr. Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of National Review Online and one of our country’s more prominent political commentators, his rational sense abandoned and a large part of what makes him human rotted away. He’s gone mad, if he were a dog he’d be foaming at the mouth.
To prove my point the Chicago Tribune printed an article by Mr. Goldberg with the blunt title "Why Is Assange Still Alive?" wherein the author calls for the murder of the founder of WikiLeaks and scourge of the Pentagon, Mr. Julian Assange. Murder, as in to rub out. To be blunt he writes, "I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?"
I’d like to ask a simple question: Does Mr. Goldberg hug his mother with the hands that typed those words?
Of course he does, and I’d bet good money that should one meet Mr. Goldberg he’d seem a reasonable, polite man who chews with his mouth closed. Yet, seemingly reasonable, polite men have caused most of the world’s misery and bloodshed. I’d bet good money, too, that many of the guards in our last wretched century’s myriad concentration camps seemed reasonable when they weren’t manning the watchtowers. In order to work up to a murder any rational person must make himself believe the irrational; they’d otherwise never be able to live with themselves. Mr. Goldberg doubtless believes what he believes, and with such vigor he’s willing to call for murder to defend it.
Anyone may say what they will about Mr. Goldberg’s call to rub out a man who is, he admits, "a hipster Australian Web guru" but you cannot say his views and outlook are out of step with widespread contemporary opinion in America or its historical behavior during times of conflict. So Mr. Goldberg can happily and openly gab about his thuggish idea — there’s plenty of others who share the same mad look in their eyes; so many in fact they’ve made him a best-selling author and a darling of a major political party. Sad to say, Mr. Goldberg is no fringe player in 2010 America.
To be frank he also has our entire country’s history as precedent to fall back on. From the sacking and burning of Canadian border towns during the War of 1812, Sherman’s devastating March to the Sea through the Civil War South, the terror bombing of German and Japanese cities in the Second World War, and the retaliatory leveling of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, the America way of war has always been defined by a ruthless disregard of any restraint, and the longer you stay at war the more barbaric the actions that will be countenanced in the name of its successful prosecution. So here we’ve arrived at Mr. Goldberg’s call for blatant, outright murder.
Mr. Goldberg laments in his column that "assassinating a hipster Australian Web guru as opposed to a Muslim terrorist is the kind of controversy no official dares invite" but here he is holding it up for everyone to give it a good think over. He himself is, to be frank, rather taken with the whole idea but then in the very last paragraph of his essay he displays a sudden lack of courage in his convictions and completely reverses course. He’s so afraid of being accused of holding the idea he takes the overwhelming bulk of his essay to argue for that he lets the air out of his own tires by ending with a "That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange." Really?
As for "the law" that Mr. Goldberg somehow believes is protecting Mr. Assange, there is no such law. The President of the United States has granted himself authority to assassinate American citizens at his pleasure. (Congress and everyone else seem perfectly fine with it.) Assassinations and kidnappings are part of post-Nine Eleven America’s New Normal; it is no secret that US government agents grab foreign nationals from every spot on this globe and spirit them to secret Black Sites for God knows what.
So what makes Mr. Goldberg believe an American president who has declared he can have any American citizen "garroted in his hotel room" (so to speak) merely on his word hesitate to do the same to a foreign one? The War of Terror Mr. Goldberg champions displays a singular lack of any respect for law or care for any restraint upon the use of political power. This, too, is no secret. For all his coyness, Mr. Goldberg must be aware his call for the murder of Julian Assange will have a number of heads nodding approval in the halls of imperial D.C.
Jonah Goldberg is a far more dangerous and influential creature than the Barack Obama he despises with such fanaticism because unlike Mr. Obama he is a fountain of ideas, a weaver of schemes and plans and crusades that he makes float off a computer screen to set the mob to vile deeds. He is the man who yells not "fire!" in a crowded theatre but "Kill him!" in the last moment before the blood really starts to flow. Iraq was laid waste to an extent because of Jonah Goldberg’s pen, and now he calls for the murder of an Australian Web guru. While I make no claim to sainthood believe you me: come Judgment Day I’m gonna be one happy boy for not standing in Mr. Goldberg’s shoes.
For all his popularity and accomplishments Mr. Goldberg has excused himself from polite society — he belongs in the Looney corner with the skinheads, Klansman, Black Nationalists, idiots in Che t-shirts, and all the others who are foaming at the mouth, mad and dangerous. His call for murder is simply beyond the pale, and all the more hypocritical for the deaths that have flowed from the tip of his pen. This latest call for blood is not his first nor will it be his last: they’ll soon enough be other enemies equally deserving in Mr. Goldberg’s eyes to be "garroted in his hotel room."
So forgive me for saying but if I had to choose between Assange and Goldberg whom I would rather see "garroted in his hotel room" may God in His mercy bless and protect Mr. Assange, a man who’s done nothing more than shed light into the dark corner of America’s madness.
CJ Maloney [send him mail] lives and works in New York City. He blogs for Liberty & Power on the History News Network website and the DailyKos. His first book Back to the Land (on Arthurdale, West Virginia during the New Deal) is to be released by John Wiley and Sons in February 2011.