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December 8, 2008

If Only US Law Applied to the US Government


by Paul Craig Roberts

The U.S. government does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy, but no other government can match the hypocrisy of the U.S. government.

It is now well documented and known all over the world that the U.S. government tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and that the U.S. government has had people kidnaped and "renditioned," that is, transported to Third World countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Also documented and well known is the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice provided written memos justifying the torture of detainees. One torture advocate who wrote the DOJ memos that gave the green light to the Bush regime's use of torture is John Yoo, who somehow secured a U.S. Justice Department appointment and a tenured professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law.

Members of Berkeley's city council believe that Yoo should be charged with war crimes. The U.S. government has charged lesser offenders than Yoo with war crimes. Yoo helped the DOJ achieve the Bush regime's goal of finding a way around the torture prohibitions of both U.S. statutory law and the Geneva Conventions.

The way around the law that Yoo provided for the sadistic Bush regime was closed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, which voided Yoo's arguments, and Yoo's torture memo was rescinded by the Department of Justice. Nevertheless, Yoo's obvious constitutional incompetence, which in Yoo's case is total, has not affected his position as professor of constitutional law at Berkeley. Can you imagine the harm Yoo is doing by teaching future cadres of lawyers and government officials that torture is consistent with the Constitution and the law of the land? How many of us will suffer from this ignorant man's teachings?

But I digress. Even as the U.S. government was torturing people, the U.S. government was prosecuting the son of Charles Taylor, the former ruler of Liberia, for torturing political opponents of his father's government. The U.S. government did not employ the Yoo torture memo to justify Liberia's use of torture against those who wished to overthrow the Liberian government or commit terror against it. The U.S. government's position is that Liberia's government had no right to use torture to defend itself. Only an "indispensable nation" such as the U.S. has the right to torture people who are imagined to threaten it.

I use the word "imagined" because approximately 99 percent of the detainees tortured by America were totally innocent people picked up at random or sold to the stupid Americans by warlords as "terrorists." (The U.S. government offered rewards for terrorists, like the bounty offered for outlaws in the "Wild West." The result was that warlords in Afghanistan and Pakistan grabbed whoever was not one of them and sold their captives to Americans as "terrorists.")

According to Carrie Johnson, a Washington Post staff writer, on Oct. 30, 2008, a federal jury in Miami convicted Charles Taylor's son, Chuckie, of torture. Chuckie will be sentenced by the indispensable Americans in January for torture, conspiracy, and firearms violations. He may spend the rest of his life in an American prison.

While Chuckie's trial was underway, the Bush regime was torturing people.

The Washington Post writes that Chuckie's conviction is "the first test of an American law that gives prosecutors the power to bring charges for acts of torture committed in foreign lands." In other words, U.S. law against torture applies to the entire world, to every other country except the United States. The hubris is unimaginable no country can torture except the U.S.

Anyone else who tortures gets life, or, in the case of Saddam Hussein, gets hung by the neck until dead.

Isn't it great to be an American? Our laws don't apply to us, only to every other nation. This is what it means to be the moral light of the world, the unipower, the salt of the earth.

Neither poor Carrie Johnson nor her editors at the Washington Post see the irony or the paradox. Johnson writes that the U.S. prosecutors "accused Taylor of taking part in atrocities and directing subordinates to torture victims using electrical devices from 1999 to 2002." That charge practically overlaps in time with Bush's, or Cheney's, or Yoo's, or the DOJ's, or Rumsfeld's, or whoever's direction to subordinates to torture people detained by Americans at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and in various CIA rendition sites. By now everyone in the world has seen the photograph of the hooded Iraqi with electrical wires attached standing on that box in Abu Ghraib.

If only American laws applied to the American government. Then the criminals who have been in charge for eight years could be prosecuted for their extreme violation of United States laws. But, of course, the great, moral American government is far above the law. American law only applies to dispensable nations. America is not answerable to law, not to its own law and not to international law. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey affirmed that the U.S. government is above all law when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that there would be no investigation or prosecution of those Bush regime officials who authorized torture and those who carried out the sadistic acts.

The American government, the government of the great, indispensable nation, has a free pass. The strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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