Friday, April 24, 2009

Government 101: If It Walks Like a Duck…

A law exists which strictly bans a particular act without exception. Deciding to break that law is not a policy decision, it is a criminal act. When the law in question comes from an international treaty which has been ratified by the government of the United States, then those who engaged in the act must be charged with crimes against humanity. If those who engaged in the banned act did so on direct orders from their superiors in the government, then those superiors also must be charged with crimes against humanity.

Changing the name of a banned act from “Torture” to “Enhanced Interrogation Method” does not turn it into something else. As George Carlin observed, “Shell Shock,” “Battle Fatigue,” “Operational Exhaustion,” and “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” are all the same thing. As Shakespeare noted, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And finally, as Cheech and Chong explained, if it looks, feels, smells, and tastes like shit, don’t step in it. In all too many ways this nation intentionally stepped in it and members of the former administration rubbed the entire world’s faces in it for years like the bullies they are.

Machiavelli’s nostrum that “the ends justify the means” is not how the United States operates. If we are a nation of laws, if our current administration wishes to re-establish that principle as a fact declared to the nation and the world, if Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Condolleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush believed they were correct by intentionally deciding to authorize, in the name of the United States, the use of techniques long-recognized as torture, against anyone, then that principle should be tested in the wide open light of day in a court of law, for all to see. Any principle worth following must be able to withstand any challenge brought before it or it should be discarded. If the notion of a former vice president and president in the dock is a bit uncomfortable, so what? No more uncomfortable than those, guilty and not guilty, who were subjected to acts deemed inhumane by civilized nations.

The rule of law is not a convenience that can be ignored at will or there is no law. By his constant TV and radio appearances, Dick Cheney is daring the current administration to put him on trial. That is what bullies do. Arrest him, try him, and the rest of the “policy makers” of the former administration, and if they are found not guilty, acknowledge it. If they are found guilty, put them in jail for the rest of their lives and let all who come again into high office know that We The People as a nation are indeed as good as the Constitution which embodies it.

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