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When words become weapons 

When the left begins to discuss integrity and ethics, you should immediately check your wallet, credit cards, spouse, and probably your dog, as nothing is safe once they begin to prognosticate upon morality in politics. Remember, these are the same folks who re-defined the very definition of perjury before a federal magistrate as not really being a crime if the offender is only talking about sex (everybody lies about sex, right?). For the uninitiated, I refer to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.

There is of course Act 2, with candidate Hillary Clinton violating a host of national security laws, regulations and policies with an unsecure private email system over which classified and diplomatically sensitive information flowed freely during her tenure as secretary of state. The recent disclosure about monitoring of the Trump campaign, however incidental by American intelligence agencies, should alert doubters to the fact that for Clinton’s four-year tenure as top diplomat, the Russians likely read every word she said, granting them a mother lode of political insight into the inner workings of the Obama administration. She bears no responsibility (of course) and will so enlighten us in her forthcoming book. A good subtitle might be, “It’s not my fault.” The death of an ambassador and three other Americans was also properly shoved under a diplomatic rug with a compliant media reassuring all “there’s nothing there, nothing to see.” Fortunately for the republic, the American people aren’t that stupid and dodged a bullet on Election Day.

That brings me to the current pathetic state of political discourse in which any suggestion of civility regarding the Trump administration has vaporized. It’s absurd in the extreme to ask if “our constitutional democracy will survive the authoritarian degradation of Donald Trump’s presidency,” as my colleague Michael Latner did in last week’s column.

One would think an authoritarian presidency would rule by decree, irrespective of the law, and ignore the other two branches of government. Yet, upon issuance of an executive order similar to that of several predecessors restricting immigration, a single judge impaneled 5,000 miles distant was able to block that order with a single pronouncement from the bench. Trump obeyed the order and lawyers, not secret police nor soldiers, fought the ruling inside courtrooms, not in the streets and not with violence. Not a single illegal order usurping legal authority has emanated from the White House; no illegal arrests or violations of civil liberties have occurred. Yet, listening to the rhetoric of the left, you’d think we were in Venezuela, complete with massive food shortages and Cuban-trained internal security forces destroying the last vestiges of democracy.

The rhetoric continues to escalate with pure hatred gushing from what should be the responsible voices of reason. During the campaign, it was extreme leftist college professors who urged their students and outside agitators to instigate egregious civil rights violations against Trump and his supporters. I refer to the anti-Trump crowds and assaults upon women and elderly persons attempting to hear his message during the campaign. America witnessed a college professor “mace” a young female Trump supporter on live TV as she was being interviewed; we saw women and elderly persons punched, cornered and beaten by leftist mobs determined to prevent Trump from speaking as local police did nothing. In February, a Fresno State University history professor openly called for the assassination of Trump and the killing of Trump supporters and Republicans in general.

Words can have consequences, as the recent Bosnian civil war attests. I served as a peacekeeper there in 1997, investigated war crimes and atrocities on a scale unimaginable to most Americans. What many don’t know is the war was instigated by the “intelligentsia,” college professors who inflamed public opinion, stirring ancient hatreds with bloodstained results.

I walked the streets of Brcko (pronounced “birch-co”), a tinderbox of ethnic hatred, with Bill Johnson. Bill was a Special Forces qualified Army Reserve major assigned to the UN High Commissioners Office in Brcko. Bill was the tip of the spear for President Clinton’s policy, daily walking streets with only a sidearm, resolving ownership of destroyed housing laden with explosive traps or landmines replaced nightly by ethnic Bosnians, Serbians, or Croatians contesting official decisions. Brcko was the scene of a concentration camp similar to the Nazi death camps of WWII, complete with unimaginable atrocities.

My role in Brcko as chief of counterintelligence was to gain some ground-truth on our policies; it was discouraging at best, but the peace was holding, thanks in large part to Bill’s efforts. He had a staff of two junior officers; such is the reality of American foreign policy. The point I’m trying to make here is that once ethnic or political hatred transforms into violence, it’s very hard to stop. What people, “neighbors,” did to each other in this civil war, as in so many others, cannot be written in this column. What started the violence was an irrational, unrelenting hatred for “the other,” a symptom that is beginning to emerge in America.

Rhetoric to the contrary, Trump was legitimately elected president during a time of increasing international threats. The republic stands as do the checks and balances on presidential power. The rhetoric of irrational hatred, not Trump, poses the greatest internal threat to the survival of our republic.

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

-- Al Fonzi - Atascadero

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