December 05, 2008
The Rule of Law
Remarkably, this is from a former federal judge and the current attorney general of the United States. Something very similar could have been said, and no doubt was, by the legal enablers working for Hitler, Stalin, and the Spanish Inquisition.
“There is absolutely no evidence anybody who rendered a legal opinion either with respect to surveillance or with respect to interrogation policy did so for any reason other than to protect the security of the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful,” Mukasey said.
Try it yourself the next time you’re picked up for speeding. Explain to the the cop that your lawyer told you the speed limit was 95 and let me know how it works out.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at December 05, 2008 09:55 AM
If he wasn't deceiving himself, he'd probably have said they'd just been following orders.
I prefer Scott Horton at Harper's No Comment's approach. He does some wonderful analysis of these "men" that we are talking about, including Mukasey and many of the rest. Horton has had contact with Mukasey so he knows him literally and has declared him both a decent man and sometimes as something bordering on a monster (maybe not bordering).
You can still go to testimony from the Nuremberg trials and find men, just as Hannah Arendt described, justifying all their actions or swearing that they had no idea what was going on in Germany from about 1932 onward. The citizens of Germany are said to have largely known nothing (as in that famous character from the popular American TV show of the late 1960's or so, Hogan's Heroes, which had a character named Schultz who constantly declared "I know nothing"). I'm sure many didn't, just as many of my neighbors who listen to the TV commentators who repeat the Bush lie that "we don't torture" believe to this day.
Peter, you would probably not be familiar with this as it was a popular American show in the 1960s and 1970s, but Schultz was the show's dunce. We have plenty of Schultz's in America today because they watch television and don't read the blogs like Harper's No Comment and other similar blogs, hundreds or thousands of them, our modern versions of the White Rose.
At least in America we still have the information available to us if we just seek it out. Perhaps the intellectuals who received the White Rose letters were afraid of being sent to a concentration camp. Talking about it in Germany would get one killed. And those who lived close to those places had to know. As did those who saw the emaciated workers marching from place to place throughout Germany.
But Mukasey is not much different than the men who testified at Nuremburg for the defense and as described by Hannah Arendt. He has no idea of course. He's just another "ordinary man". We have plenty of them.
And I have been told that America made it a point to reeducate the Germans after World War Two (I'm assuming this wasn't another lie told to me in school. Howard Zinn tells me there were plenty of them told to me in school, so maybe it's not true.) I don't know, but I've seen the pictures of the citizens marching through the concentration camps so I assume it's not a lie.
But we may have dodged a larger bullet. I have this feeling that the American people are about to be educated as the Germans were, not only financially but in a real sense. I hope I'm not wrong. Let's just hope they don't overdo the financial part. It could cause a backlash similar to the one that allowed Hitler to rise up from the financial devastation wrought by Versailles and that our truly horrid history is ahead of us and not behind us. Worse things could happen here too.
I'm just not sure of how close the financial crimes and the physical crimes and murders are related. Probably more than we want to know.
I'm hoping that the next administration will be sensible and teach all Americans what we have done. The persons Obama has appointed who previously served in Clinton's administration better get their act together better than they had it in the 1990s. As the rest of us must.
And if we don't do our part to demand that a reeducation happen, we are all guilty. And that will mean we are all responsible for the horrors to come. Every single one of us.
I'm leaving out the crimes of Americans in WWII for this discussion, such as Dresden or Hiroshima or Nagasaki or the starved German prisoners of the post war era. But I recognize that all those things, and many more happened too.
And so it goes.
I've been reeducated already, Buck. I was about to object that it's the Brits who are culpable for the Dresden bombing, not me, but fortunately I googled first, to find that that war crime was a joint effort.