Monday, January 05, 2009

Do we live in a nation of laws?  Do the laws of the United States apply to those both high and low, members of congress, president and citizen? Or is our form of government hypocrisy rather than democracy? 

In 1994 congress passed a law that allows authorities to charge citizens with atrocities committed abroad - - to prosecute citizens for acts of torture committed in foreign lands.  In a rare instance of the use of that law, a jury in Miami recently convicted Roy M. Belfast Jr., also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, of violating that law by committing torture in the cause of his father’s murderous regime in Liberia.  


Now that we know about the law, and now that the law has been used so recently on a citizen, will the law also apply to those in positions of power?


It is well documented, and the whole world knows, that the United States has been torturing captives all over the world.  You need only call up the image of that Iraqi man, standing on a box, with a hood over his head and electric wires hanging from his body.  The whole world has seen that image.  A new torture report, just released by the Senate Armed Services Committee, has shown, conclusively, that the sickening campaign of torture waged by the US military and the CIA had its origins in the White House.  Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell, and a host of other administration officials, acting on Bush’s executive order of 7 February 2002, initiated an official policy of state torture.  In our name.  Rampant, brutal, lawlessness! That fills me with outrage.  IN OUR NAME!!!  Have we, as Joseph Welch said over fifty years ago to Senator Joseph McCarthy, have we, at long last, no sense of shame?


“It has become conventional wisdom,” Dave Lindorff has written, “that Barack “no Drama” Obama will not seek or even allow any prosecution of Bush administration officials for crimes committed over the past eight years, no even for authorizing and promoting the illegal use of torture on captives of America’s wars.”  It would be, said a New York Times editorial, doubtful that Obama “will take such a politically fraught step.”  I think Obama needs to be reminded that, as Lindorff points out, “failure to prosecute torture violations is itself a war crime - - making Obama himself potentially culpable should he fail to act.”


Obama has sadly disappointed many of his supporters with his appointments so far, including the prominent place the bigoted Rick Warren will have at the inauguration.  The Democratic Congress too pulled a bait-and-switch on us after the 2006 election - - anyone remember the promise to end the Iraq occupation?  Anyone recall the failure to impeach Bush and Cheney?  We can’t count on Congress or Obama to restore the rule of law.    

Richard Nixon told David Frost that when presidents do “it,” it’s not against the law.  Dick Cheney said basically the same thing a couple weeks ago in an interview with Fox news as he admitted authorizing torture.  Are they right?  We used to think no one was above the law.  We used to think that the laws applied to all.  We must demand that the crimes of the last eight years do not go unpunished, that Bush and Cheney and all the other despicable criminals who have been in charge of this country for the last eight years find themselves in the dock wondering for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for you George and Dick.  


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