- Viet Dinh's Letter
- 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 LewRockwell.com 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 LewRockwell.com.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Paul Craig Roberts's Response
- I stand by my characterization of Viet
Dinh's remarks in his debate with Bob Barr at the recent CPAC annual meeting
and by my statement that conservatism has morphed into brownshirtism.
- Viet Dinh is one of the authors of the
so-called "PATRIOT Act," an anti-American piece of legislation
recognized throughout the civil libertarian community as an assault on
American civil liberties. Former Republican congressman Bob Barr
has fought to restrain the act's more egregious intrusions into the constitutionally
protected privacy of American citizens.
- Even Republican US senators, such as
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, are concerned about
the Bush regime's proclivity for warrantless spying in violation of the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Senator Specter is drafting
legislation with which he hopes to curtail President Bush's illegal activity.
As far as I can tell, the legal community recognizes that Bush's warrantless
spying is illegal, except for members of the Republican Federalist Society,
a group of lawyers dedicated to concentrating unaccountable powers in the
- There are several news reports on the
CPAC conference and the debate between Bob Barr and Viet Dinh. My
observations follow from these news reports.
- Writing in the Washington Post on February
11, "Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?," Post reporter Dana Milbank,
for example, reports that Barr asked the CPAC audience, "Are we losing
our lodestar, which is the Bill of Rights" to the Bush regime's zeal
in its war against terror?
- Barr confronted the conservatives: "Do
we truly remain a society that believes that every president must abide
by the law of this country" or "are we in danger of putting allegiance
to party ahead of allegiance to principle?"
- Barr's questions were greeted with silence
followed by booing. According to Milbank, "Dinh brought the
crowd to a raucous ovation when he judged: 'The threat to Americans' liberty
today comes from al Qaeda and its associates and the people who would destroy
America and her people, not the brave men and women who work to defend
- How else are we to interpret Viet Dinh's
words? Clearly, he is saying that it is more important for Bush to
seize powers to protect America from Osama bin Laden than to obey the law
and abide by the separation of powers. The entire position of the
Bush regime is that protecting the country from terrorists is more important
than loyalty to habeas corpus, the Geneva Conventions, the proscription
against torture, open government, and an accountable executive.
- Dinh himself endorsed the Führer
Principle and urged it upon the conservatives when he declared, "The
conservative movement has a healthy skepticism of governmental power, but
at times, unfortunately, that healthy skepticism needs to yield."
Yield to what? To the Leader who works "to defend this country."
- That's exactly what Hitler said following
the Reichstag fire, a staged incident that he used to remove himself from
- Milbank notes that by turning the debate
into the issue of who do you fear George Bush or Osama bin Laden,
Viet Dinh employed "the sort of tactic that has intimidated Democrats
and the last few libertarian Republicans who question the program's legality."
- Milbank reports that Viet Dinh's tactic
did not work on Bob Barr who nailed Dinh: "That, folks, was a red
herring. This debate is very simple: It is a debate about whether
or not we will remain a nation subject to and governed by the rule of law
or the whim of men."
- In fairness to Viet Dinh, coming as he
does as an immigrant from a country without a constitutional tradition,
without a Bill of Rights, and without a judiciary empowered to enforce
civil liberties, Dinh may only naturally confuse patriotism with loyalty
to leader. Trust the Leader, Dinh told the conservatives. They seemed
to agree. This certainly is not America's way.
- Destroying America does not mean blowing
up buildings. It means destroying the US Constitution, the Bill of
Rights, the separation of powers. Al Qaeda is powerless to bring
about such destruction. Only our own government, enabled by the public's
and Viet Dinh's and Attorney General Gonzales' endorsements of the Führer
Principle can destroy America.
- February 23, 2006
- Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is Chairman
of the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent
Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal,
former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant
secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good
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