The Case against Jane Fonda, Her Actions during Vietnam War.(BOOKS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 11, 2002 | Go to article overview
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The Case against Jane Fonda, Her Actions during Vietnam War.(BOOKS)

Byline: Mackubin Thomas Owens, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The case of Robert Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban," has resurrected the issue of treason. What constitutes treason? What are the precedents? Why wasn't Lindh, who was captured early in the war in Afghanistan, charged with treason? The answers to these and many other questions can be found in a very useful new book about another high-profile case involving an American citizen, who like Lindh, arguably "adher[ed] to [America's] enemies, giving them aid and comfort"- Jane Fonda.

"'Aid and Comfort:' Jane Fonda in North Vietnam" by Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer is a veritable sourcebook on treason. While the book is fairly short, it contains a great deal of documentation, including transcripts of Miss Fonda's propaganda broadcasts and other interviews, long passages from court decisions, and congressional testimony.

But the Holzers, both attorneys (Mr. Holzer is also professor emeritus at Brooklyn Law School) succeed remarkably well in making a notoriously difficult topic understandable to the non-lawyer.

The first part of the book, while interesting, is probably the least useful. Based on the work of other writers, it provides a summary of the evolution of Jane Fonda from young starlet to left-wing radical. The second part of the book examines the treatment of U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong and Miss Fonda's actions during her visit to North Vietnam in July 1972. The evidence against her is to be found in this section.

In the third and by far the most important section of "Aid and Comfort," the Holzers provide a history of the concept of treason and its place in constitutional law. This part is very helpful in thinking about the case of Lindh. Here the Holzers also make a very strong case that Miss Fonda should have been indicted on the charge of treason for her actions in North Vietnam. Indeed, the case against her is actually stronger than the one against Lindh.

As the Holzers point out, the constitutional and legal foundation for the crime of treason was laid in England nearly seven centuries ago during the reign of Edward III. The wording of the Statute of Edward served as the basis for treason legislation passed during the American Revolution and the text of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution, which defines treason as "levying war" against the United States, "or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Miss Fonda's defenders claim that her propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the North Vietnamese did not constitute treason against the United States because Congress did not declare war in the case of Vietnam. Besides, they claim, she was only exercising her right to free speech. The Holzers make mincemeat of these defenses.

They point out that Aaron Burr was indicted for the "levying war" prong of treason even though the United States was not at war with anyone at the time. This principle was reinforced in United States vs.

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