Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Memo to Fox’s Bolling: America Isn’t Iran

In an interview with former Governor Sarah Palin, Fox’s Eric Bolling–in speaking in part about the National Security Agency surveillance program–said, “It feels to me like we’re either in Iran or Communist China.”

He’s serious.

Mr. Bolling may want to take some time to read this State Department report on Iran. It points out that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic republic. Its surveillance and monitoring of citizens’ online activities belongs in an entirely different category than what is being done in America. (As Max Boot points out, the NSA’s surveillance programs “are hardly rogue operations. Both programs were initiated by President George W. Bush and continued by President Barack Obama with the full knowledge and support of Congress and continuing oversight from the federal judiciary.”) And on Iran there’s also this (courtesy of the State Department report):

The most egregious human rights problems were the government’s severe limitations on citizens’ right to peacefully change their government through free and fair elections; restrictions on civil liberties, including the freedoms of assembly, speech, and press; and the government’s disregard for the physical integrity of persons whom it arbitrarily and unlawfully killed, tortured, and imprisoned. Other reported human rights problems included: disappearances; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, including judicially sanctioned amputation and flogging; politically motivated violence and repression, such as beatings and rape; harsh and life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities, with instances of deaths in custody; arbitrary arrest and lengthy pretrial detention, sometimes incommunicado; continued impunity of security forces; denial of fair public trials, sometimes resulting in executions without due process; political prisoners and detainees; the lack of an independent judiciary; … arbitrary interference with privacy, home, and correspondence; severe restrictions on freedoms of speech (including via the Internet) and press; harassment of journalists; censorship and media content restrictions; severe restrictions on academic freedom; severe restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, association, and religion; … legal and societal discrimination and violence against women, children, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons based on perceived sexual orientation and gender identity; incitement to anti-Semitism and trafficking in persons; and severe restrictions on the exercise of labor rights. 

Call me an old-fashioned conservative, but when those on the right begin to put the United States in the same category as Iran and Communist China, it’s problematic. This is a variation of the kind of thing one heard in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the Weather Underground, the Chicago Seven, and Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorn (though thankfully without the calls for an “armed struggle”).

I agree on the need for vigilance when it comes to potential abuses in the NSA program. And I know, too, that there are serious people who object to what the NSA is doing. But the kind of unreasonable and uncontrolled rhetoric we’re hearing from some on the right is quite stunning. America, even under Barack Obama, is not Iran or Communist China; and the last people in the world who should have to be informed of that fact are conservatives.