A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 152 with Naomi Wolf.
ROCKWELL: Well, how thrilling to have as our guest this morning, Naomi Wolf. Naomi — I was going to say she’s one of the most interesting writers and thinkers in America in the Progressive tradition but really she spans more than that; she appeals to Libertarians and Conservatives. Her last book, The End of America, which was about the rise of Fascism under the Bush regime, was extraordinary. Her new book is even more wonderful, Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries.
But, Naomi, we’re going to link, of course, to all your books on the page, to your movie, to your Facebook page, your own page. But, you know, one might get the impression that you’re suspiciously involved in the new media, the sort of thing that President Obama recently denounced as giving Americans too many arguments they shouldn’t be considering, too much information –
– they shouldn’t be listening to, which harmed our country and harmed our democracy.
WOLF: He really said that? Wow. I must have — I must have –
ROCKWELL: He said that, yes, at the Hampton College commencement just this last weekend.
ROCKWELL: And he said it was very unfortunate that so many Americans had iPads and iPods.
ROCKWELL: Yes, he did. And he also said — (laughing) — that it was unfortunate that people had Xboxes and Sony PlayStations. So these were involving people in things they should not be involved in.
WOLF: I’d have to see those remarks in context but I certainly don’t agree that citizens shouldn’t have access to information technology. I’m very shocked to hear that, especially the commencement address. It’s funny, this weekend I’m going to SUNY Oswego for a commencement address that I’ll be giving, and I’ll be telling them kind of the opposite. I’ll be telling them what I said in Give Me Liberty, which is to use everything at your disposal to make your own media, your conduit, to not leave it to the talking heads, not leave information to the gatekeepers.
ROCKWELL: Naomi, I must say, you’re one of the very few American thinkers with the courage and the independence of mind to attack both Fascism under the Bush regime and now Fascism under the Obama regime. And I can’t believe I was naïve enough to think that things might be actually not quite so bad. But I get a feeling, anyway, that the police state is even worse today than it was under Bush. And, of course, we have horrible people like Lieberman and McCain advocating that if you’re suspected of whatever the hate crime of the moment is that you lose all your citizenship rights and can just be taken to Guantanamo, tortured and kept indefinitely.
WOLF: I’m so glad you’re raising the alarm about that, Lew, because the mainstream media has been completely silent on it. And it is exactly the kind of legislation that, you know, citizens need to be especially vigilant to, to stop in its tracks. Once a law like that passes, there really is no turning back. Just to advocate against it, you become suspect or you can have your own rights stripped away. You’re quite right, Lew.
And I have to say, it’s stunning, when you were introducing me as in the Progressive tradition, I do come from that tradition but I am increasingly finding, as my theses develop and as I have wonderful conversations with people like you and others on both sides of the, quote/unquote, “divide,” that I don’t identify with any of the labels any more except probably trending more and more Libertarian. You know, there’s some work of social networks but — (laughing) — advocating those social welfare nets. But let’s table that.
You are right. What I’m seeing now is that the Bush administration — it’s like you said, its certain entities it would appear. Bush sort of institutionalized and introduced a number of markers for a closing society or a closed society. And I, too, was naïve enough to think, “Oh, the pendulum swings in America. We can get fresh leadership. They’ll be housecleaning. Certainly, Obama campaigned on a basis of closing Guantanamo.” That was one of his first gestures, an executive order, as I recall, to close Guantanamo. He campaigned on restoring the separation of powers, denounced the stripping of liberties, now torture; said rightly that torture was shaming up in the eyes of the world. I had extremely high hopes. And what is so terrifying is that this is clearly a constitutional scholar. I doubt that he voluntarily is eager to shred the Constitution on a personal ideological basis. Clearly, the American president no longer has the autonomy. He or she needs to work with Congress to defend our liberties. Because what we’re seeing under the Obama administration is the institutionalization of impunity and the ratcheting up of one after another after another of the initiatives that the Bush team set in motion. And I could just — you know, if we were to go down the list, it would be shocking.
Elena Kagan, the new pick for the Supreme Court, she has spoken in support of preventive detention — forever. This means holding people forever with no trial, no witnesses, no resolution. That goes so far beyond anything that the worse of the Bush cabal ever floated. And it confirmed my certainty that the people they want to hold forever in Guantanamo are people who are being held forever because of the crimes committed against them. In terms of torture and abuse, are so perverse and so severe that it would make a mega-scandal if they ever were allowed to tell their stories. So that’s so terrifying.
You’ve got McCain and Lieberman advocating this bill that you rightly described, which is a pathway to put all of us in the media in jeopardy simply for having a conversation like this one. You’ve got Obama — when I was in Guantanamo last July, I saw that, under Obama, they were building it up. There was millions of dollars of fresh construction going on. And I thought, “He’s not going to close Guantanamo.” And sure enough, now, not only is he abandoning talk of closing Guantanamo but he’s trying to reproduce Guantanamo here in the United States.
The PATRIOT Act still stands. Again and again, when there’s a challenge to torture or rendition, his Justice Department advocates the same nonsensical state-secrets claims that the Bush Justice Department did. And now they’re trying to take the Miranda rights.
And let me just say to everybody listening, always I say to people, “If you think this is about, quote/unquote, ‘the terrorists,’ think again. It’s about you.” The reason John Adams defended the worst, quote/unquote, “terrorists” of his time, the people — the British soldiers accused of committing the Boston Massacre, is that he understood that the worst of the worst have to get a fair trial in this country if you’re not going to have a situation in which any citizen can be stripped of his or her rights. And if you’re going to take an American citizen, which is the guy who has been accused of the latest car bomb issue in Times Square, and you’re going to hold him and interrogate him without reading him his rights or getting counsel there, that is a half step from that illegal pattern that’s forming. And once that is gone, you know, really — I think really this is the hallmark of a police state or it sounds like a police state.
Under Obama, we had such a militarized response to demonstrators in Pittsburgh. People were rounded up. People were beaten by police officers that were not domestic police officers but who were sort of unidentifiable Homeland Security personnel. We had police-state tactics in Pittsburgh.
So, I mean, I guess I should stop talking here. But I’m sorry that there aren’t many, many more voices from the left and the right coming together to say this is — this thing is a monster. And right now, we need to transcend partisanship and come together as Americans to defend our liberties.
ROCKWELL: This is a global empire, the U.S. empire, the biggest, most powerful empire ever to exist. More and more openly militaristic with the Pentagon even sometimes being open about what general should be appointed where and what war should be fought, and the whole notion of civilian control seeming to be, if not of the past, at least much more tenuous. I don’t agree with these people but there are some people who think of 9/11/01 as almost being a military coup. I don’t think that’s correct. But certainly, the military has taken — just like the internal security force has taken advantage of that horrible incident, so has the military. And there are aspects of a military dictatorship to this regime as well. Very, very disturbing.
WOLF: Yes. Yeah, I have to say I really agree with you. Let me give you one example. I have this wonderful community on my Facebook, quote/unquote, “Fan page” — I hate that word; I prefer community page. But it’s people who care about liberty from all backgrounds and all races and all walks of life and from all over the world. And you can imagine how lovely it is to have a forum where people can communicate like that, simply concerned about freedom. So we get this post from a guy in Pakistan and he’s talking about how terrified his daughter is going to school, how children in the village were injured by our drones. He’s saying to us on Facebook, “Please do anything you can to stop these Predators from bombing our village. We’re innocent people. We’re not doing anything. My daughter is traumatized. Please, please, please, make it stop. Please restore the America that all of us around the world grew up admiring.” So this breaks my heart. And what I’m thinking as an American is, “When did I tell my representative to bomb that guy’s village”? I don’t remember that. You know?
And also, there’s, as I understand it, a new initiative — I don’t recall the legal form it took — that basically gives the Obama administration the right to call anyone in Pakistan a terrorist and kill him or her without trial. So I had warned about exactly this in America. I have said, “If they can render a proven terrorist off the streets of Milan, what’s going to keep them from rendering an E.U. minister.” So at that time, that seemed really farfetched. But here they are saying, anyone in the world, anywhere, that we don’t like, we can call you a terrorist and kill you. How is that not a kind of satanic, rogue empire that is holding the whole world hostage?
Right now, there’s this benign ignorance and racism kind of masking this for Americans, who say, “Well, they’re Pakistani, whatever. We don’t really even know who they are. It could be al Qaeda. I’m sure the military knows what they’re doing.” This guy — we get these reports from people out there in Pakistan like pleading for their lives, and there’s no review, there’s no transparency. Who is being killed? We just don’t know. There’s no accountability. We’ve sent assassins — our president has sent assassin groups around the world. You know, Iran/Contra, those hearings took place because you’re not supposed to send assassins on the loose around the world without — I mean, illegally. So I just want to try and say to people, “Wake up, wake up, wake up. If they can do this to brown people overseas, they can do it to you and me at home.”
You know, racism only kind of delays our understanding of what this means. If you’ve got a regime that’s willing to execute people with no review, anywhere they want around the world, why do you think that we at home are safe. I mean, all of us have to wake up and restore our accountability and our checks and balances.
This is so much worse than even, Lew, when you and I talked the last time.
ROCKWELL: Thank goodness you’re doing what you’re doing.
And I want to recommend that everybody take a look at The End of America. Still a very great and important book. Especially take a look at Give Me Liberty. Take a look at Naomi’s fan page. Everything will be linked on LRC, her movie, the trailer to her movie. And take a look at all her books.
And, Naomi Wolf, we can’t thank you enough for all you’re doing, and being such a bright light in a very dark time.
WOLF: Well, thank you, Lew.
And before we sign off, I just want to express my gratitude to you because our last conversation really helped kind of raise the level about these issues and enlightened me about Libertarianism in a new way. So I appreciate your mentoring as well.
ROCKWELL: Thanks, Naomi. Bye-bye.
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