Free Speech Down the Rabbit Hole

by Lydia Howell

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” — Alice in the novel “Alice in Wonderland”

We are living in a time in which things are increasingly upside down.

On June 21, the Supreme Court ruled in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Center that promoting nonviolent political activity and the rule of international law could get you jailed for “giving material aid to terrorism.”

Yet it is U.S. Government policy to pay warlords and Taliban warriors as “subcontractors for security” in Afghanistan. The court said nothing about that policy. Rather, it voted to restrict the activities of people seeking roads to peace.

Ralph D. Fertig, retired U.S. administrative judge and clinical associate professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, is president of the Humanitarian Law Center.

“I have fought violence and terrorism all my life, but it is my fear that the vagueness of the statute will inhibit human rights groups from helping oppressed people to use non-violence to resolve their conflicts simply because they may be represented by organizations designated as terrorist,” Fertig said. “It would be a great loss if we could no longer work toward peaceful resolution of conflicts because we fear criminal prosecution by our own government for trying to help. This seems to work exactly counter to our interests…”

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