No, the Republican Letter to Iran Isn’t Treason or Sedition

My Facebook feed has been filled up by people claiming that the idiotic open letter from 47 Senate Republicans to the leadership in Iran was treason. Some have claimed it was, instead, sedition. Such claims are total bullshit and are exactly the kind of wildly exaggerated rhetoric we hear from, and criticize on, the right. The constitution actually defines treason:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

None of those things apply. We are not at war with Iran, they are not our enemy and that letter certainly did not give them aid and comfort (quite the opposite, it annoyed the shit out of them). I think it’s a violation of the Logan Act, though I doubt such charges could actually stick in court. But it sure as hell isn’t treason. Nor does it fit the legal definition sedition, which means encouraging insurrection:

the federal crime of advocacy of insurrection against the government or support for an enemy of the nation during time of war, by speeches, publications and organization. Sedition usually involves actually conspiring to disrupt the legal operation of the government and is beyond expression of an opinion or protesting government policy. Sedition is a lesser crime than “treason,” which requires actual betrayal of the government, or “espionage.” Espionage involves spying on the government, trading state secrets (particularly military) to another country (even a friendly nation), or sabotaging governmental facilities, equipment or suppliers of the government, like an aircraft factory.

Not even close to applying. The letter was reckless and dumb. It was a clear attempt to subvert the separation of powers. It was massively hypocritical. And it was probably a violation of the Logan Act. It was not treason or sedition, not by any reasonable definition. This is tribalistic bullshit, the screaming desire to exaggerate everything that is done by the other tribe to make them look bad. Stop it.

"[Moore supporter]A woman cop ... in Alabama ... in 1977 ...?Sounds unbelievable already!"

AL Cop: We Were Told to ..."
"We have created the most advanced civilization with the greatest opportunity for individual advancementCheck out ..."

Crokin: Trump Was Sending a Message ..."
"Like Lyekka, angels are smooth around the bend."

Wiles: Gays Would Rape Angels if ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • karmacat

    Personally, I think we should just mock the 47 signers. These poor babies are not getting the attention they want. some of them must be particularly gullible to believe everything Netanyahu said.

  • dmcclean

    Amen.

  • colnago80

    We are not at war with Iran, they are not our enemy and that letter certainly did not give them aid and comfort (quite the opposite, it annoyed the shit out of them).

    Technically, we are not at war with Iran because there has been no declaration of war by Congress. However, de facto, I would argue that we are at war with Iran and have been so for 35 years. We and our pals in the Mossad have worked night and day to undermine the Iranian Government (Stuxnet anyone) and we supported Saddam in the 1980s against the Ayatollahs.

    The ill advised letter from the 42 Rethuglican assholes in the Senate (apparently there are 42 signatures, not 47 on the letter) certainly gave aid and comfort to the hard liners in Iran. Like Cotton and his colleagues, the Iranian hardliners want a war between Iran and the US/Israel.

  • mkoormtbaalt

    Since the Logan Act has never been and likely never will be enforced, why do we bother to keep the law in the books? All it does is create a talking point for rhetoric to sling at one another.

  • dugglebogey

    It was a tantrum by a diaper baby that has been in power for only 3 months and has no idea what his actual role in government is. The fact that it was written is no surprise at all. The fact that 46 other senators who should have known better signed it is the shameful part.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    If explicitly attempting to undermine the US government’s international negotiations doesn’t qualify as even a lay definition of “sedition”, it probably makes the cut as “subversion”.

    colnago80 @ # 3: …apparently there are 42 signatures, not 47 …

    Citation needed.

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca composer99

    Sedition usually involves actually conspiring to disrupt the legal operation of the government and is beyond expression of an opinion or protesting government policy.

    There are a few things the Republicans have done which are pretty close to resembling sedition. This is not one of them.

  • John Pieret

    Treason, according to the Constitution, requires an “overt act” of waging war … actually attacking the country or supplying the means for others to do so.

    Any “progressive” or “liberal” who wants to toss around the word “sedition” should inspect the shameful history of our own tribe in that regard in the case of Eugene Debs.

  • Alverant

    I think it gives aid and comfort to the enemy by showing just what lengths the GOP is willing to go just to spite Obama. Our enemies (maybe not Iran but others) know just what the GOP is willing to weaken the USA to show their contempt for the President.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Actually, their actions run afoul of the Beastie Boys Act (1994). Listen all y’all, it’s sabotage.

  • Doug Little

    We are not at war with Iran, they are not our enemy and that letter certainly did not give them aid and comfort (quite the opposite, it annoyed the shit out of them).

    And when you say annoyed you mean it gave them laughing fits.

  • cptdoom

    Personally, I think we should just mock the 47 signers. These poor babies are not getting the attention they want. some of them must be particularly gullible to believe everything Netanyahu said.

    Well, we could circulate a letter for the Iranian leadership explaining how we vote for each Senator every 6 years and there’s a good likelihood many of the signers of the previous letter will lose in the next couple elections. Would be good for a laugh.

  • colnago80

    Re Butler @ #6

    http://goo.gl/l8Cv5I

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    Actually, it is almost certain that the whiny children did NOT violate the Logan Act. Had they sent an attache, or begun counter-negotiations, or sent a private communication that promised threats, sure. But what the Whiny Children did was publish an open letter wherein they stomped their feet and made pouty faces. Faux Noize does worse every bloody day.

    They overstepped their constitutional authority, yes: the President and the President alone has the power to engage in foreign diplomacy. They grossly violated protocol, yes: as far as anyone has been able to tell, there is no precedent for almost half the Senate embarrassing the President so openly. Their actions endanger national security and world peace, yes: they should be held accountable, although I’m not holding my breath on that one. But their actions were not treason, and they fell well short of violating actual law.

  • Mr Ed

    This wasn’t a tantrum, it was a stunt. Like the high school jock who knocks the books out of the hand of a nerd to hoots and howlers of his sycophants these Senators pulled a stunt to whip up the rubes. Legislation is boring, governing is boring scoring points against Obama gets you on Fox News and increases contributions. If Paul or Rubio thought creating a congressional version of a reality show would fill the war chest they would do it without a second thought.

    Just like we tell the kids, there’s good attention and bad attention and we need to stop rewarding bad attention.

  • Georgia Sam

    So, apparently, those 47 senators are not guilty of sedition, but Cliven Bundy & his pals are.

  • colnago80

    Apparently, Senator Tom Cotton who instigated this turkey is, like E. W. Jackson, a graduate of Harvard Law School. What the fuck is going on up there in Cambridge?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    The link colnago80 supplied at # 13 goes to a HuffPo piece which makes that claim without any citations of its own.

    So I did a little DuckDuckGo-ing and came up with this, which in turn links to a pdf (not linked here to avoid triggering spam filters) – which does include only 42 (mostly illegible) signatures.

    I note that (a) my first link, to a reputable law blog by a Harvard law professor, mentions 47 signatories, and (b) the second link goes to a scan of the infamous letter, which shows three pages. The first has the text of the letter and two signatures, the others have twenty signatures* apiece, filling both sheets of paper; this leaves open the possibility of a fourth page not included in the posting with the putative remaining five. (However, I did find a <Bloomberg .pdf of the letter (link omitted for same reason) which also includes only 42 signatures on 3 pages.) Curiouser and curiouser…

    *One is just initials, with a smaller-lettered "FLA" – I think that one is Marco Rubio of Florida.

    Ah-hah: The WaPo provides a list of 47 signatories. It would take an hour to match scribbles to names to see whose names ended up on the last page not included in the other reports, and I’m running late on other things, so will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

  • raven

    Tom Cotton on MSNBC:

    “I think we have to have a credible threat of military force on the table but the real alternative … to a bad deal is a better deal,” Cotton said. “With more sanctions, with confronting Iran, with only giving them the choice that would completely disarm their nuclear weapons.”

    What Tom Cotton, the neocon wants is war with Iran. he says so himself.

    1. These are GOP neocons beating the drums of war. It’s exactly what happened in Vietnam and Iraq II. A lot of inflammatory rhetoric. Then Make Something Up. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution or Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    Next thing you know, a few hundreds of thousands or millions are dead, trillions of dollars are vaporized. And all for nothing to show for it.

    George Sanyana: Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

  • raven

    1. If we keep threatening Iran, we make developing nuclear weapons, a necessity rather than an option.

    It’s why and what Israel and South Africa did.

    2. Even if we won a war with Iran, which would cost maybe 4 or 5 triliion USD (It’s a large country with 77.5 million people), then what? FWIW, we don’t have the money anyway, not with all the tax cuts. We would have to raise taxes or write more IOU’s with an $18 trillion debt already.

    It would be like Vietnam or Iraq. Most likely we would win the battles and lose the peace.

  • parasiteboy

    The Daily Show had a good bit on the narrative switching between the right and the left on this letter and when Pelosi visited with Bashar al-Assad. I really wish actual news stations would point the flipping of the scripts. I think it would help people (some at least) recognize their political tribalism.

  • eamick

    @18: And to put this to rest once and for all, here’s the letter published in Air Force Magazine with the last page of signatures that the other source missed.

  • eric

    SLC:

    Technically, we are not at war with Iran because there has been no declaration of war by Congress. However, de facto, I would argue that we are at war with Iran and have been so for 35 years.

    Congress hasn’t formally declared war since WWII. Nevertheless, it is easy to tell the difference between a conflict like Vietnam or Iraq I (or II) and the more cold-war-like relations we’ve had with Iran since the revolution. Calling this ‘de facto war’ when our real de facto wars involve tanks, bombs, and troops on the ground just makes you look like an idiot.

    You want a de facto war with Iran, but no right now we don’t have one. And I’m sorry, but stuxnet simply doesn’t justify a claim that we have been at war with the country for 35 years straight. That would be like claiming Grigori Markov’s assassination is proof that the UK was actually having a hot war with the USSR throughout the 1970s.

  • theguy

    “This is tribalistic bullshit, the screaming desire to exaggerate everything that is done by the other tribe to make them look bad. Stop it.”

    I disagree – slightly. I don’t think we have to exaggerate what the right-wing says to make them look bad; they’ll do that all on their own.

    The definition of treason does not fit here, but I still insist the letter was hypocritical, an attempt at sabotaging the president, and even an attempt to make war with Iran the only option. At least, I think that’s what the letter is going at, saying how a future Republican president won’t accept any nuclear deal from President Obama.

  • colnago80

    Re eric @ #23

    We supported Iraq in the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s. We have supported Israel in its assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists, since they’re doing our dirty work for us, by supplying intelligence to the Mossad. It’s a low level war to be sure but it is still war. And I certainly don’t want a ground war against Iran (didn’t work out too well against Iraq). Another ground war in the Middle East would be sheer madness I think the president is to be commended for his reluctance to commit ground troops and I sincerely hope he hews to that line. As for the current negotiations, I don’t have enough information to comment on them.

    If the negotiations fail and Iran continues on the nuclear path, I would favor a bombing campaign and would not be timid about using nuclear weapons as a last resort if conventional munitions don’t do the job.

  • xuuths

    Let’s see… 18 U.S. Code § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy

    If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

    The only thing missing from what they did is “by force”… so I’d say that comes pretty close.

  • Phillip Hallam-Baker

    The reason people are calling it treason is that the 47 traitor Republican dogs were obviously stabbing their country in the back and the supporters of the Republican party who love to wrap themselves in the flag at every opportunity know this.

    Forcing the Republican supporters into saying ‘technically it isn’t treason’ is quite a victory. As with Mitt Romney’s ‘technically the dog wasn’t strapped to the roof of the car, that was the box he was in’.

    This was more than a blunder by the GOP. Every time they puff themselves up into a lather about the disrespect that Obama is allegedly showing Congress, Democrats will merely respond that Obama is entitled to since the Democrats now have a 46:7 majority in the Senate after the ‘treason 47’ are set aside

    This is a shiv that we are going to stick in their back at every opportunity. Again and again and again. Having gained control of Congress in the mid terms, the GOP strategy was to claim this meant Obama was morally obliged to defer to them. Now the 47 have disqualified themselves, the moral force is utterly extinguished. The Republican party has defecated on the flag.

    They are going to be so sick of it by the time Hilary takes the oath of office. And then they will find that its not over.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    The letter does not fit the LEGAL definition of “treason,” but let’s face it: it was a knowing betrayal of our country, by deliberately subverting its negotiating position in a matter of real national security interest. It INTENTIONALLY gave aid and comfort to real enemies of the US — specifically, the “blame America first, last and always” Islamists who want nothing but endless merciless conflict against the US, regardless of the cost, or who pays it.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    And no, chickenhawk, we are not currently “at war” with Iran. If bad and broken international relationships constitute “war,” then the US is also “at war” with Russia, China, and maybe even a few US territories as well.

    If the negotiations fail and Iran continues on the nuclear path, I would favor a bombing campaign and would not be timid about using nuclear weapons as a last resort if conventional munitions don’t do the job.

    Yeah, unprovoked genocidal bombing campaigns always work so well to enhance peace and regional stability. (That’s why we used them to keep China and the USSR from getting a nuclear…oh wait…) And when the fallout from such bombing campaigns blows into neighboring countries, I’m sure they’ll still be happy to work with us for peace and regional stability, right?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    The Daily Show had a good bit on the narrative switching between the right and the left on this letter and when Pelosi visited with Bashar al-Assad.

    How is that even similar to what the Republicans just did?

  • Kermit Sansoo

    raven says: George Sanyana: Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

    .

    “Those who learn from the lessons of history are doomed to watch others repeat them.”

    — some Political Cartoonist

  • Michael Heath

    I’m beginning to think the right sees the term ‘chickenhawk’ as a compliment. It’s a way of distinguishing themselves from the ‘unwashed’.