Not Revenge, Senator Leahy — Love

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

(cross-posted from the orange)

Well Saturday is Valentine’s Day, so maybe this is appropriate — a Valentine to those revolutionaries who gave no quarter to tyranny.

In a comment to his diary, Senator Patrick Leahy described his view of prosecution of those in power who have committed crimes:

Would not rule out prosecution… A failed attempt to prosecute for this conduct is the worst result of all as it could be seen as justifying and exonerating abhorrent actions.  Given the steps Congress and the executive have already taken to shield this conduct from accountability, that is a likely result of an attempt to prosecute.

Of course, I would not rule out prosecution in appropriate cases, particularly for perjury.

I’m glad that Senator Leahy would not rule out prosecution in cases of perjury.  And I am very well aware of what an enormous task it would be to prosecute those who held the highest powers in the land, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc., for war crimes, for torture.  I am aware that the Bush misAdministration spent a great deal of time building legal roadblocks to their prosecution and in their defense they would not hesitate to tear our national dialogue apart, smear anyone they could, and obstruct justice any way they could.

Sure, this is a huge fight we have on our hands.

But to say a “failed attempt to prosecute … is the worst result of all” is one of the most disingenuous opinions there can be.

I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions over Bush/Cheney, et al., as most of us have, outrage, hatred, almost insanity.  At this point none of those emotions are relevant to me in the context of having those in power be accountable for their actions.

It is love that guides me now, not hatred.  Not love of the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law.

Our founders risked everything, their lives, their property, families, everything, to be independent of tyranny.

If, as Senator Leahy says, we cannot find a way to fight the protections the Bush/Cheney misAdministration built to protect their privilege, then we are in great danger of once again continuing to live under tyranny, where those most vulnerable feel the full force of the letter of the law while those who destroy its very spirit are left free and the mechanism by which they stay free, the “unitary executive,” remains in place to be abused again.  This is not about George Bush or Dick Cheney personally, not any more, not as far as I’m concerned.

Senator Leahy also says:

Prosecuting all those responsible for the abuses of the past eight years could take over a decade and distract Congress from the pressing problems facing our country right now, including fixing our broken economy.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it took years to clean up this mess, and I’m not only speaking of prosecutions.  The notion that fixing our economy is not affected by restoring real justice in our country is breathtaking to me, as though there were a wall of separation between the two.  There isn’t.

I’ve quoted this diary before by Felix Culpa, Fear of Knowing in my diary entitled The Courage to Know (emphasis mine):

The most salient point of the Fear of Knowing is its ubiquity, at least as far as I am concerned.  It’s not, that is, merely a cultural defect that I mean to point to, but a personal defect that I mean to bring to light.  It is the illness of our times and of myself.  

As previously described, the Fear of Knowing is expressed in the image of Hamlet’s Dilemma… such is a personal expression.  More generally, Hamlet’s Dilemma can be seen in Jeffserson’s Sense of Duty: the Duty, that is, to make revolution in the face of tyranny.  This duty, when experienced by some significant – which is to say, effective – group within a population has been termed The Spirit of ’76.  Fear of Knowing is a fear of that Spirit, for the Spirit of Liberation promises to destroy the world.  Use only in cases of emergency… which Jefferson rather idealistically imagined occurring once every couple generations.

This is the Change we can believe in, and it is striking to reckon how cosmetic such change has become.  One of the great flaws in the original essence of America seems poised on the verge of symbolic repair: a Black man might be president.  Yet the legal fabric of the Republic is threadbare where it is not in tatters.  Likewise, we are as a culture able to access information and interrelate on a scale that seems virtually unlimited, yet our discussions achieve remarkably less than they promise.  It’s a pattern that seems endemic to an imperial democracy: universal suffrage requires universal mental control, assisted by technological manipulation of the vote.

All of this conspires in creating a sense of profound dysfunction, of permanent frustration that is too frightening to recognize.  We become ghost dancers at best, responding to the march of historical inevitability with a warrior’s sense of style.  We take the moral high ground: not as an improved vantage point for attack, but as a refuge.  A shelter from the storm.

I am not asking for miracles.  I am indeed asking for our laws to be applied equally.  If we give those in power a fair trial and we cannot convict, then that is something we all ought to know about, all of us.  Because that means individuals by the power entrusted to them by the citizens of this country were able to put themselves above the law.  And how can we find that out without the fight itself?  We can’t.

If our laws cannot deal with the power of the “unitary executive,” then what’s the point of a truth and reconciliation commission?  I wish to know the truth as much as anyone — but when it comes to fighting tyranny, our Constitution is our greatest defense.

This is not about punishment or anger or hatred.  This is about love — of our neighbors, so many of whom have suffered the harshest treatment under the letter of our laws, in our overfilled  privately owned and run prisons, those who have lost loved ones in a war that never seems to end and had no justification to begin with, those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods, who have been horribly wounded in our neglected cities.  This is about love — of our Constitution, love of freedom from tyranny, of concepts so sacred our brothers and sisters have risked and given their lives for them.  This is about love of equality, that no one is above the law and no one should be unprotected by it.

If our laws cannot stand up to the roadblocks and obstructions of those who practiced tyranny, then they will only be used to punish those without power, the most vulnerable in our society.  There is no way the tyranny of the “unitary executive” and other vile practices of the past misAdminstration can be stopped without using those very laws.

Senator Leahy is correct — this will be a long and difficult battle.  That does not mean we shouldn’t fight it.  Quite the contrary.

I don’t think prosecutions alone will restore our Constitution, the fight is far bigger than that.  But using our laws to confront law-breaking and power-grabbing is crucial and there is no substitute that will satisfy our love of freedom and our utter rejection of tyranny.


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  1. … I know I keep coming at this story from every angle I can think of.

    Just can’t quit it for some reason.

  2. ponderance of prosecutions, NPK.

    I agree that it is a love that drives us in our quest for investigations and prosecutions, without which, we will surely have lost a major “wedge” to preserve this country. The legal and moral impetus is overwhelmingly in favor of these investigations.

    Most of our represented officials seem to try and find a “softened” manner in which we proceed, if we proceed.  They just really don’t want to deal with it, for the most part, even though the laws make it incumbent upon them to do so. But, they want the “easy way out.”  

    And, honestly speaking, there is so much already established evidence in terms of war crimes — it would NOT be a long, drawn out process, certainly, not anywhere as long as what Leahy envisions.

    We have to keep insisting — over and over and over.

    Thanks for this, NPK!  

  3. to what I just put up in orange.

    This is an excellent essay. You raise an excellent point.

    If our laws cannot deal with the power of the “unitary executive,” then what’s the point of a truth and reconciliation commission?  I wish to know the truth as much as anyone — but when it comes to fighting tyranny, our Constitution is our greatest defense.

  4. The constitution is our only defense. Our heritage in the form of our sacred documents, our laws, do not belong to the moment the situation or those who grab power, they belong to humanity. Calling crimes, abuses, is a mockery of the law. It is ass backwards just as saying we have the people’s work to do so we can’t prosecute or investigate. We the people… have no work other then this. I would also say that these obstructions Leahy talks about, should be removed, honestly and openly.

    The so called laws that the Bush administration put in place to legalize their crimes need to be repealed. The Constitution trumps politics which is why our system works. ‘Long and difficult’ is the story against tyranny which culminated in the writing of these documents. Truth is impossible without removing the obstructions. Reconciling seems to mean we accept that the law belongs to political power, that is tyranny. If they let these crimes stand then they are leaving the ‘abuses’ in place and moving forward in collusion with the criminals. Perhaps the fact that the Congress did in fact fund and codify these crimes has something to do with their reluctance to restore the law and truly apply the remedy needed . The Law is King.                            

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