Monday, December 15, 2014
Rules of Law (for some)
In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision and the subsequent street protests and rioting, Obama weighed in with the following third-grade civics cliché’: "First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law."
Apart from the fact that this response to the grand jury decision was so utterly inadequate to the significance of the event, most Americans know this tired claim is entirely false. Some are prosecuted for breaking the law – like selling untaxed cigarettes on the streets of Staten Island -- while others are given a free pass – like the entire financial sector that blew up the US and world economy. Social class is always the leading predictor of who gets what from the criminal justice system. [See Matt Taibbi’s Divide for the latest on this long-running story of American criminal injustice.]
The hypocritical double standard is not confined to the national level. U.S. distain for the application of the rule of law to the privileged and powerful is now on full global display. With the release of the Senate report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, the obvious question from the international community is: who will be prosecuted for the crimes of torture?
The United States is a signatory of The United Nations Convention Against Torture, on which according to Zeid Raad al Hussein, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights:
“It is “ crystal clear..It says – and I quote – ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture….It is now time to take action. “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.”
But don’t expect the Obama administration to live up to our obligation to the UN Convention. As Obama has stated many times, the United States will "leave these techniques where they belong - in the past".
This means no one will be brought to justice and no one will be held accountable. In short, we will arrogantly violate the closest thing we have to international law. This will simply be a continuation of the long-time U.S. practice of assuming global moral superiority and a special status that allows occupations, invasions, drone assassinations, and, in the name of national security, torture.
But there is one thing we can also be sure of. The next time we hear the U.S. invoking international law and “norms of civilized conduct” it will be as the pretext to another American military adventure in a far off location.