“The Penalty of Treason is Death”

So proclaimed supposed left-winger Bill Maher to the applause of his supposed left-wing audience Friday night. The question: a brief consideration of Ron Paul’s critique of Obama’s assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. Seth MacFarlane commented that while he trusted Obama with this power, he would be troubled with the exercise of such power by someone like Michelle Bachmann. Salman Rushdie, apparently unbothered by any consideration of irony regarding unilateral issuance of death edicts, informed us that those who commit treason forfeit any claim to rights, a comment which prompted Maher’s succinct editorial conclusion: “…And the Penalty of Treason is Death.”

That was the cue for the audience applause, but it also served as a reminder that what supposedly passes for “liberal” is usually anything but. The liberal would have corrected Rushdie that US presidential edict is not sufficient to establish the crime of treason. It has to be substantiated in open court. And the liberal would have reminded Bill Maher that death is not the only the punishment prescribed by congress for this crime. The penalty for those convicted is either death or imprisonment not less than five years. However, the liberal would also be quick to remind both Rushdie and Maher that “treason” hitherto has been a very rare charge/prosecution in American history, with conviction even rarer still, and execution yet even rarer. Indeed, there have been as many pardons1 of “treason” convictions as executions.

Convicted and Executed:
Herbert Hans Haupt: German-born naturalized U.S. citizen, convicted of treason in 1942.

Civil War:
(i)Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt, conviction by military tribunal concerning the Lincoln Assassination
(ii) William Bruce Mumford: convicted of treason and executed for tearing down a United States flag

John Brown Slave Revolt(technically, tried by the commonwealth of Virginia and not the Feds):
(i) John Brown
(ii) Aaron Dwight Stevens

Those pardoned of the crime of Treason
(i) Tokyo Rose, pardoned by Gerald Ford
(ii) Tomoya Kawakita, deported by JFK in lieu of execution

Civil War:
(i) Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other leading confederates given amnesty from indictment or trial of Treason by Andrew Johnson

Dorr Rebellion:
Governor Thomas Dorr, guilty treason verdict in 1844 anulled in 1854

Whiskey Rebellion:
Philip Vigol and John Mitchell pardoned by George Washington

The liberal, then, rather than clapping to Maher’s assertion, dampens the Obama celebration with the point of objection: “Actually Bill, up to now in American History, the penalty of Treason, as a convicted crime, has just as likely resulted in a pardon than execution. This is what is supposed to separate us from the barbarians, such as Iran, right Salman?”

Then the liberal, amidst the onset of partisan booing, proceeds to set the actual historical and legal meaning straight: this power the US Executive claims actually has nothing to with usurping the constitutional parameters of treason. It goes way beyond that. It’s claim of extrajudicial power to murder overturns the entire liberal legal tradition. We’ve returned to the original historical meaning of “outlaw,” which denoted someone declared outside the sphere of legal protection. Any person saddled with this designation was fair game, meaning anyone was “legally” sanctioned to do anything they wanted to against that person, including murder.

The liberal legal tradition ultimately derives from the principle of the Great Writ, habeas corpus, which subjugates any “legal sanctioned” punishment to due process. This simply means that the State, the King, or the Authority cannot sanction any punishment against the accused as “legal” without “due process,” that is, without some mechanism in place for the accused to challenge the accusation. Habeas corpus puts an end to the historical meaning of outlaw because the State does not have the legitimate power to legally define someone as “fair game.”

The liberal will then point out the final egregious error of the partisan Obamatard defenders, such as Mother Jones. If you are liberal, it is far better to deal with a Bush/Cheney regime that operates under a unitary executive principle that any action by the President is legal by virtue of the office itself than with an Obama regime that legitimizes it under the “rule of law.”

Let me spell out the problem for liberalism: The “rule of law” under the “liberal State” has now re-legitimized the old historical legal concept of the “outlaw,” a legal concept, specifically, it’s abolition, that more or defines the raison d’etre of the liberal State itself.

Mother Jones attempt to legitimize Obama under the “rule of law” only reminds us of the validity of the libertarian critique. The “rule of law” phrase itself means shit; the historical definition of “outlaw” was enforced by two thousand years of interpretation regarding the “rule of law.”

Eventually, the honest liberal comes to understand that “eternal vigilance” largely means nullifying the “rule of law.” “Outlaw,” however, cannot be nullified in the court. The American revolutionaries, under charge of “outlaws,” didn’t nullify it in King George’s court of law. They nullified it on the battlefield.

Here’s the current reality. The people of the world, under the rule of “American Exceptionalism,” now largely despise their governments. Thus, there shouldn’t be any surprise that the US wields the greatest unaccountable secret intelligence/military complex in the history of the world. And it shouldn’t be any surprise that American law now has resurrected the historical legal sanction of “outlaw.”

In the end, we should understand what is meant by American Exceptionalism: the liberal legitimization of “outlaw.”

1 The term Pardon here, for brevity, has a more expansive meaning than it’s actual technical meaning. In this context, it refers to pardon, deportation, amnesty, or anullment.

10 thoughts on ““The Penalty of Treason is Death”

  1. Moreover:

    “George the Third called our ancestors traitors for what they did at that time. But they were not traitors in fact, whatever he or his laws may have called them. They were not traitors in fact, because they betrayed nobody, and broke faith with nobody. They were his equals, owing him no allegiance, obedience, nor any other duty, except such as they owed to mankind at large. Their political relations with him had been purely voluntary. They had never pledged their faith to him that they would continue these relations any longer than it should please them to do so; and therefore they broke no faith in parting with him. They simply exercised their natural right of saying to him, and to the English people, that they were under no obligation to continue their political connexion with them, and that, for reasons of their own, they chose to dissolve it.

    What was true of our ancestors, is true of revolutionists in general. The monarchs and governments, from whom they choose to separate, attempt to stigmatize them as traitors. But they are not traitors in fact; inasmuch as they betray, and break faith with, no one. Having pledged no faith, they break none. They are simply men, who, for reasons of their own – whether good or bad, wise or unwise, is immaterial – choose to exercise their natural right of dissolving their connexion with the governments under which they have lived. In doing this, they no more commit the crime of treason – which necessarily implies treachery, deceit, breach of faith – than a man commits treason when he chooses to leave a church, or any other voluntary association, with which he has been connected.”

    — Lysander Spooner, http://praxeology.net/LS-NT-1.htm

  2. Next you’ll be saying anyone who assassinates the President deserves a medal and a victory parade. Yes, any American who makes war with them becomes an enemy and not a mere criminal to be tried.

    1. Gil:
      “any American who makes war with them becomes an enemy and not a mere criminal to be tried.”

      That’s not what the Constitution says:
      Article III, Section 3 –

      “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.”

      But now it seems that the Constitution is obsolete, since the president can simply kill people and justify it afterward by declaring them “enemies–” without even a proper suspension of habeas corpus.

  3. Sorry for the snafu. Anyway, who believes this crap? Who has seen even a badly photo-shopped head shot or corpse shot, like they recently trotted out for bin Bogeyman, who has been dead since late 2001? Talk about a manufactured “mainstream” Goebbels-style “story.” Actually, I think that even Goebbels would think that these imbeciles have way overstepped the boundaries of acceptable BS. Even a dead Village Idiot would question this baloney.

    Jesus Muttmunching Christ.

  4. Gil, how far are you willing to take the definition?

    Should political opponents be included? Is it treason to overthrow the president by defeating him in an election? Is it treason to speak out against his unlawful actions? Or, upon election, do his whims become national interests, to be defended by any means available?

    Just where do you think the line should be drawn?

    Is it possible that an individual might have a personal beef with the office-holder? Should they decide to escalate their dispute with him/her, would that make them a traitor to the nation?

  5. What is truly frightening in this situation is how readily people such as Gil are willing to believe politicians–i.e. professional liars–who make accusations. Saying makes it so, Gil? You don’t need any evidence? Great, if that’s the country you want to live in, good luck with that. Just don’t be surprised when your turn comes.

  6. >Treason includes the remarkable ‘penalty’ of instant death by a superior within the chain of command under ‘cowardice in the face of the enemy’.
    An officer has the option to execute anyone under or within their command who demonstrates the above…
    Therefore a commander in chief gets around the legalities using this methodia.
    Insert the justice department/legal advisors in here…
    Remember ‘enemy combatant’?
    -This is an unqualified and self proclaimed military assualt by a person who is unaffiliated with a recognized military.
    >The other aspect is that of any action that diminishes the constitution, limits its enforcement, or precludes its basis for any judiciary guidence.
    I give you The Homeland Security Act and ALL who voted for it at any time.
    Any executive or other action that diminishes America’s sovereignty, etc.
    >Regression to our founding documents, their meaning, and legal impacts would be a great start towards regaining our Freedoms!
    ->note : balance is a law of nature, therefore, a balance between all things is required. Man is not exempt from this same law, especially since man understands.
    Hence; everyone must be under this control, or as in nature, die, fail, etc.
    The order of forming a better union does not disqualify the document it was taken from, rather it reinforces its own basis.
    The question and quest for balance shows that the Freedom of Will becomes a decision and its subsequent action.
    The problem is The Oath of Office.
    It is because of this that there is any question of the actions of a ruler/president/official…
    I suggest, either follow the rules or else.
    >Remember, this is nothing more than a distraction from the real issues everyone is afraid to or allowed to face.

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