Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Sad State of Integrity and the Law in the US

James Fallows' blog has posted many times over the outrageous behaviour of Senator James Inhofe landing a plane at a closed airport endangering work crews on the runway and then browbeating the FAA into "forgiving" him his transgressions.

Fallows has raised a comment up to the level of a post because it identifies a very important point:
I'm surprised by how deeply saddened I am by this. On reflection I think I'm responding to the decreasing degree that we are a nation of laws, and the premise that no one is above the law. Nixon was pardoned to save the country the anguish of prosecuting him. And yet, look at what we've lost as a result: Had Nixon been prosecuted, would Bush/Cheney have been so cavalier? (And they, too, are being given a pass.) The CIA brazenly destroyed evidence they were under judicial instruction to preserve. (They are being given a pass.) CIA members have been given a pass because John Yoo told them they could perform acts that we prosecuted as war crimes 60 years ago. Remember when the "following orders" defense was not recognized at Nuremburg? Will anyone in power ever again feel the deterrent effect of the Law?

That a sitting senator would have the hubris to say that he did nothing wrong in a situation that no pilot could condone, speaks volumes. That he was given a pass speaks to a serious erosion in the integrity of the fabric on which our nation rests. The Law? That's just for the grunts at Abu Ghraib, not the superiors who set them up. Redress of grievances? Not if some politician merely utters the phrase "national security." Justice and Law in this country are becoming source of cynicism.

The Law is not real. It's an idea; it exists only in the human mind. It's nothing but ink squiggles on a piece of paper. It is only as honorable as the honor given to it by those in authority; it only deserves respect if it is applied with equity. And, like the creditability of the US dollar, the minute that we cease to respect and to protect it, it will be gone.
As far as I can tell "justice" in the US was never as respected and obeyed as it has been idolized. Any country that could proudly proclaim:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
But then write a constitution that ignored slavery except for some hard fought clauses over "importation" of slaves and "counting" of slaves:
Section 2 of Article I defined other persons as "three-fifths" of a person for calculations of each state's official population for representation and federal taxation
What an odd document. Slaves are legally not "persons" but "property" but for perposes of sharing in political power and enjoying pork barrel politics when that "property" became 3/5 of a person.

No, the US has never been really strong on integrity and lawfulness. But I fully agree with the commenter on Fallows' blog about the sad state of the law and government over the last 40 years.

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