Comments: My Country

Dear Mr. Roberts,

I write as a bewildered fan. A fan because I truly admire your past service to our nation as a government official and your past contributions to our intellectual culture. Bewildered because your recent posting on compares America’s defense against terrorism to Nazi Germany and because, even more inexplicably, your opinion appears to be based on total fiction.

I woke up this last Saturday to the following message on my email:

"Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden" Paul Craig Roberts

If you are so enamored with totalitarianism, maybe you ought to return to your ancestral home.

I resisted the temptation to dismiss the message as another bigoted attack and asked for a source citation to what I assumed to be a made-up quotation. No reply. So I researched and to my surprise discovered that the cowardly email had indeed quoted your post on

As it is obvious that you are writing without any first-hand knowledge of the facts, let me be very clear about what was said and what was not said. I did not, nor did anyone at CPAC to my knowledge, say that “the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.” Nor was there any standing ovation. I would have thought, before your post, that an accusation against an individual, an entire audience, and indeed a nation’s anti-terror strategy of being akin to Nazism would require a bit more responsibility to the facts.

Assuming some fealty to the truth remains, let me recount what I said during my debate with Bob Barr at CPAC. I acknowledged that conservatism derives from a tradition of healthy skepticism of governmental power. However, I said, “At times that healthy skepticism must unfortunately yield to a greater threat to our national security.” I posit that the question is not whether the President is above the law but rather whether anyone, including Congress, is above the Constitution, and specifically noted that “no one without operational knowledge of the details of the NSA program can come to a definitive conclusion as to its propriety or legality.”

Finally, I concluded, “At this time, the greatest threat to American liberty comes from al Qaeda and its associates who would seek to destroy this nation, not from the brave men and women who defend America and her people.”

If you disagree with any of the above points, I would love to engage you in a conversation. If you were there and differ in your recollection, I would ask to see your notes or better, that you check your facts with Bob Barr. If you were not at CPAC and did not observe that which you purported to describe, I hope you will come clean.

But nothing—nothing, sir—justifies your spurious accusation of “brownshirtism” against anyone, least of all against one who has suffered the tyranny of totalitarianism.

Thank you.

Viet D. Dinh

Posted by komatir at February 22, 2006 03:30 PM