Friday, February 16, 2007

Hang the traitors

One of the critical steps in the progression of eliminationist rhetoric occurs when it proceeds from beyond mere radio talkers and their intellectual equals -- the average barroom lout -- and into the halls of officialdom.

Well, earlier this week Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska did the honors, reminding his fellow House members, considering an antiwar resolution, of a supposed quote from Abraham Lincoln:
"Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

As both Greg Sargent and Glenn Greenwald have pointed out, the quote in fact is entirely bogus, having been concocted by a Washington Times op-ed writer.

A Fairbanks News Miner piece explains:
However, the words Young attributed to Lincoln were written by J. Michael Waller, a professor at the Institute of World Politics. They metamorphosed into the illegitimate Lincoln quote on Dec. 23, 2003, in a column that Waller wrote for Insight, a conservative weekly magazine published by the owners of The Washington Times.

Waller, contacted Thursday afternoon, said a copy editor at the Times put quotes around the words, making them appear to have come from Lincoln.

Waller said he actually wrote the words as a provocative summary of the Lincoln administration’s decision to prosecute two men who urged desertion from the Union Army during the Civil War.

The magazine declined to correct the quotation mark error at the time, Waller said.

"I'm obviously really upset that that editing error was never corrected and a lot of people have been fooled by that," Waller said.

Most of the commentary has focused on the quote's inaccuracy, which is bad enough. As Barbara at Mahablog notes, Lincoln in fact was a noteworthy dissenter during the Mexican-American War, most famously in the form of a fiery speech in which he attacked the current administration's repeated lying about the war and the rationale for engaging in it.

Everyone (but Atrios and Glenn Greenwald) seems to be missing the bigger issue here: Young not only repeated a phony Lincoln quote, he actually called for fellow members of Congress to be hung for dissenting on the war.

Moreover, even though he now acknowledges that the quote was phony, he very much meant to say exactly what he said:
Young will not repeat the quote, Kenny said, but stands behind the point he was making.

So now, by the Don Young Standard, anyone who dissents from the Bush administration's approach to the war in Congress should be subject to capital punishment. Lord knows what to do with average rabble, but one must presume concentration camps and Zyklon play a role.

None of this is surprising, of course. Young has long been one of the most extreme members of Congress, with a notable anti-environmentalist record. He was a leader of of the same anti-endangered-species crowd that played a quiet role in helping to foment the formation of militias in the 1990s.

Indeed, Young was noteworthy back then for promoting "New World Order" conspiracy theories -- the metier of the militias -- including the claim that the United Nations was plotting to seize American lands in the name of environmental preservation. For that alone, Young was broadly celebrated among the militias, who often touted his "American Land Sovereignty Act" as a bulwark against NWO encroachment.

The militias, of course, were the leading manifestation of the proto-fascist impulse in America in the '90s. It shouldn't surprise us, I suppose, that their lingering advocates should be making their marks a decade later with genuinely fascist politics.

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