Conservative outrage over the WikiLeaks release of secret State Department cables has reached a fever pitch, with Rep. Pete King (R-NY) — who will chair the Homeland Security Committee in the new Congress — demanding the group be declared a terrorist organization. Former GOP Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum echoed King yesterday, saying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is guilty of “terrorism,” while a number of Republican lawmakers have called for treason charges against suspected leaker Bradley Manning. Meanwhile, a number of conservative figures have fantasized about committing bodily harm to Assange.
But former Bush speechwriter-cum-leading torture advocate Marc Thiessen took this outrage to comic heights last night on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show. Proving that neoconservatives never miss an opportunity to call for war, Thiessen suggested that if diplomacy fails to capture Assange, the U.S. should “go and get him” — with or without his host country’s permission:
THIESSEN: There are plenty of tools at our disposal. … But failing that, we can act unilaterally. We can go and get him without another country’s permission. We did it with General Noriega — there’s authority within the Office of Legal Counsel and that we can go and take anybody anywhere in the world.
Assange has said he travels constantly to avoid arrest, but WikiLeaks’ base of operations is in Sweden — a close ally of the U.S. — and Assange is believed to spend some time there. Thiessen also mentioned Iceland, a NATO member, which considered offering asylum to Assange, as did Switzerland, another U.S. ally. More recently, Assange, a citizen of U.S. ally Australia, has been living in London and traveled to Berlin. But today, Ecuador offered Assange residency “with no problems and no conditions.” Perhaps Thiessen would be more comfortable invading Ecuador than England or Germany.
It’s worth noting that going and getting Gen. Manuel Noriega, the former narco-dictator of Panama, as Thiessen suggested, involved a full-scale invasion of the country with 25,000 American troops. Former President George H.W. Bush “broke both international law and [U.S.] government policies” in ordering the invasion in 1989, which resulted in the loss of 23 American servicemembers and the wounding of another 325, the death of hundreds of Panamanians, and major lasting damage to Panama’s economy and capital city. “There was a lot of euphoria because we got rid of Noriega,” Julio Sosa, a former Panamanian diplomat who now lives in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle last year. “But the people have preferred not to remember it. It’s a painful passage for a lot of people. There were a lot of innocent lives lost.”