Writing behind the Times Select firewall, Paul Krugman describes the assault on dissent since 9/11:
But an almost equally important aspect of the project has been the attempt to create a political environment in which nobody dares to criticize the administration or reveal inconvenient facts about its actions. And that attempt has relied, from the beginning, on ascribing treasonous motives to those who refuse to toe the line. As far back as 2002, Rush Limbaugh, in words very close to those used by The Wall Street Journal last week, accused Tom Daschle, then the Senate majority leader, of a partisan "attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism."
Those of us who tried to call attention to this authoritarian project years ago have long marveled over the reluctance of many of our colleagues to acknowledge what was going on.
Exactly right. If anything, Krugman underplays the severity of the rhetoric. Here's an updated timeline of Republican attacks on dissent since the 2001 terrorist attacks (drawn from my previous posts on the subject):
December 2001: In response to Democratic plans to question parts of the USA Patriot Act during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, John Ashcroft suggests that people who disagree with the administration's anti-terrorism policies are on the side of the terrorists. "To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."
February 2002: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle expresses mild disagreement with US anti-terror policies, saying US success in the war on terror "is still somewhat in doubt." In response, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) says that Daschle's "divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country."
May 2002: After the disclosure that President Bush received a general warning about possible Al Qaeda hijackings prior to 9/11, Democrats demand to know what other information the administration had before the attacks. In response, White House communications director Dan Bartlett says that the Democratic statements "are exactly what our opponents, our enemies, want us to do."
September 2002: Campaigning against Democrats who did not support his legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security (a department whose creation he had previously opposed), President Bush said that "the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people."
September 2004: As John Kerry steps up his criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq and the war on terror, Republicans repeatedly suggest that he is emboldening the enemy. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) says that "while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief." President Bush says, "You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed message... You send the wrong message to our troops by sending mixed messages." And Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claims that terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry," adding that Democrats are "consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there."
July 2005: Senator Dick Durbin states that a description of US interrogation procedures at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility sounds like something "done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others." Presidential adviser Karl Rove responds by suggesting that Durbin and other liberals seek to put US troops in danger, saying that "Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."
November/December 2005: With critics of the war in Iraq growing increasingly vocal, Republicans lash out, suggesting that Democrats are encouraging the enemy and want to surrender to terrorists. President Bush says that "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) states that "Many on the Democratic side have revealed their exit strategy: surrender" and Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) says that "[T]he liberal leadership have put politics ahead of sound fiscal and national security policy. And what they have done is cooperated with our enemies and are emboldening our enemies."
After DNC chairman Howard Dean says "The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," Republicans reiterate the same line of attack. House Speaker Dennis Hastert says Dean "made it clear the Democratic Party sides with those who wish to surrender" and GOP chairman Ken Mehlman says Dean's statement "sends the wrong message to our troops, the wrong message to the enemy, the wrong message to the Iraqi people."
January 2006: President Bush suggests that "defeatists" on Iraq are disloyal by contrasting them with a "loyal opposition," stating that the American people "know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right."
March 2006: Senator Russ Feingold introduces a motion to censure President Bush. In response, Republicans suggest that he is harming national security and endangering US troops. RNC chairman Ken Mehlman says that "Democrat leaders never miss an opportunity to put politics before our nation's security" and that they would "would rather censure the President for doing his job than actually fight the War on Terror," refers to "repeated Democrat attempts to weaken these efforts to fight the terrorists and keep American families safe," and states that "Democrats should to be focused on winning the War on Terror, not undermining it with political axe-grinding of the ugliest kind." Senator John Cornyn adds that the resolution would "make the jobs of our soldiers and diplomats harder and place them at greater risk."
June 2006: In response to Democratic calls for a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, President Bush suggests that Democrats want to surrender. "There's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done," he said. "They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off, and the world will be worse off." However, Bush adviser Dan Bartlett is unable to name a single Democrat to which this description applies.
Over and over, the treason card has been played to silence dissent since 9/11. And remember, this timeline only includes statements by the White House, Republicans in Congress, and the chairman of the Republican National Committee. A comparable timeline covering attacks on dissent by pundits and interest group leaders would run for tens of thousands of words, and include a range of nearly unspeakable vitriol, such as talk radio host Melanie Morgan's suggestion that New York Times editor Bill Keller be sent to the gas chamber for treason.
The combination of these attacks on dissent and the Bush administration's assault on the press and the powers of the other branches of government is disturbing indeed.