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A Nation Of Law, Unless It's Inconvenient - Articles Surfing

We love law in this country even though we detest lawyers. Every chance we get we boast about being a nation of laws, pointing out with a certain drama and piety that law is what separates us from the less civilized. We smugly take the less civilized to mean everyone else.

It was not Bill Clinton's infidelity we nearly lynched him for, it was his 'lying under oath' that so outrageously offended our legal sensitivity. Likewise, Richard Nixon was pulled down from his damaged presidency, not for his more unpalatable failings, but for his abuse of law. We are, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, religious or atheist, one thing above all others'believers in law.

Unless, of course, belief in the laws of the land become inconvenient; maybe a little hard to swallow; burdensome to what has already transpired; a possible window left open to indictable activity.

Normally, that's called comeuppance.

'Ole John-Boy, he finally come dead flat up against his worrisome ways. Had ta happen. That ole boy finally got his comeuppance an' it's about time, mebbe way past time . . . '

We hear or read stuff like that and smile, either outwardly or on the inside. Justice at last and proof that even the most wiley schemers finally come undone. Another Ken Lay or Tom DeLay bites the dust.

Perhaps not always, no matter how blind we would hope justice to be. Perhaps not for George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and their supporting cast of thousands. Not if Alberto Gonzales has his way and, with a conservative majority in the Congress, the spineless and easily intimidated Attorney General may just have his way.

In Alberto-World, the laws of the land are scarcely discernable from the laws of modern architecture. Form follows function. Designing a building, that principle guides the shape of a space to its purpose. Gonzales easily makes the leap from the structure of buildings to the structure of law. The shape of a presidency guides the shape of the laws it seeks to rewrite.

A Leap of Faith. Not mine, perhaps not yours, but theirs.

This is a faith-based government, or so it claims. Its faith, up to the present moment, has been erringly in favor of an unfettered (some would say uncontrollable) presidency, wrapped in an unusual and unreferenced claim to legitimacy. That claim bases itself on the principle of presidential war powers and has, until now, intimidated any questions concerning its legitimacy with the fear of another terrorist attack.

The six-year double-whammy.

Gonzales, the creepiest Attorney General in memory, would now have the Congress draft new legislation (which he just happens to have in his pocket) to absolve this administration's violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996.

1996 is a fairly recent time in our history, even though it predates 9-11, when this president feels history began. 1996, a time when cooler heads prevailed and the constitution was other than the mere 'piece of paper' described by the current Oval Officer.

That law Alberto would have the Congress eat, shoelaces and all, criminalizes violations of the Geneva Convention. A sober law, well thought through and in line with international accords. This most gutless of Attorny Generals insists a shield is needed for what was wrought under the cover of a 2002 presidential order, which the Supreme Court declared illegal.

Illegal. He demands of the Congress a shield from the presidential breaking of a law the Congress defined and voted into the federal statutes. The War Crimes Act bars murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

No equivocation in that.

Like Nixon, these operatives who cut their teeth in the Nixon administration, knowingly and arrogantly broke the laws, hid from the public view as long as they were able that they had broken them and then continued to break them. Bush continues to break them today, if signing statements can be believed.

Gonzales would have Congress believe this shield is necessary to protect military personnel. That's a damned lie. The shield is demanded to specifically protect Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their merry band of co-conspirators. Their regard for military personnel is best illustrated by their feeding of non-coms to the lions.

The UN International Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands is the next stop for Americans unless we, as a nation, once again take charge of our laws. Allowing a sitting president to amend any and all laws he has broken, including international treaties ratified by Congress, after the fact and because he enjoys a congressional majority, is to lose all contact with reality.

The president is subject to the laws of the land, as are all citizens. Or he is not.

It cannot be both ways.

Submitted by:

Jim Freeman

As a political commentator, Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces have appeared on the pages of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The Jon Stewart Daily Show, The New York Review and a number of magazines. His commentary is available at http://www.opinion-columns.com/



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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