View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Mike Gonzalez has a nice article in the OpinionJournal this morning, discussing Don Rumsfeld's ongoing ruffling of European feathers in the defense of freedom. In fairly blunt terms, he laid out the natural consequences of Belgium, NATO host, allowing the political prosecution of NATO generals. He pointed out that NATO can't work if its generals and political leaders can't visit headquarters without fear of being arrested. Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, took the German and French line, accusing Rumsfeld of bullying. Mr. Gonzalez makes the point that Rumsfeld wasjust stating facts, and that now, with the construction of a new headquarters building set to begin, is a propitious time to deal with the problem.

This raises another pointof longish-term concern. If Belgium succeeds in making extraterritorial jurisdiction, or universal jurisdiction, accepted practice, what's to keep a newly constituted EU from prosecuting American speech it doesn't care for? It already has a general in the dock for defending his actions during the Algerian War. Not for those actions themselves, mind you, but for defending them in print.

I'm also afraid that the traditional defenders of free speech here are primed to accept this sort of thing, or even to support it. They already actively promote speech codes on campuses, and harassment seminars at work which brook no dissent. They shout down speakers with whom they disagree, or riot in anticipation of their being heard. They steal campus newspapers with headlines they don't like. They're clearly not above limiting the speech of those with whom they disagree. Who's to say there might not be substantial portions of the Left who actually support EU prosecution of columnists they don't like?

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