day in court…

Posted on Tuesday 30 June 2009

The judge sentence Madoff to 150 years in prison for his white collar crime. What do you think the punishment should be for Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Bradbury and the others for their terrible crimes against humanity? The media still doesn’t seem to want to shine a spotlight on the repulsive treatment of prisoners we are holding in the war on terror. We all know what awful things terrorist did on 911 and some of us were directly affected by 911 but there is no excuse for pouring gasoline on the fire and making all of us less safe with their actions in the excuse of making us safer (which we now know was a lie). To Torture people to get them to tell us things that weren’t true and then take us to war for all the wrong reasons and kill many thousands of innocent people (including our wonderful young men and woman in the service) is disgusting.
In the comments on my ramblings about The Dark Side [on being “bad guys”…], joyhollywood touches on something that I’ve been thinking about on the side of my mind since yesterday – the obvious connection between the Madoff sentencing and the treatment of the detainees at GTMO and "other places."

Bernie [and Ruth] were financial terrorists of the first order.They stepped over the line of human decency in a way that staggered us all. Unlike the financial terrorists like Joseph Casano at A.I.G., or Ken Lay at Enron, Madoff robbed the people he knew – his friends. And they were pissed! Left to their own devices, I expect that some of those nice old rich people he swindled would have been pleased to "waterboard" Bernie personally looking for their money [even knowing that he’d already spent it]. But it’s even bigger than Bernie’s personal crimes. He’s a symbol for the greedy jerks that impersonally raped our economy with their credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities – walking away rich while the rest of us look at our dwindling financial resources wondering what hit us. We can all feel some of the burning hatred that the Madoff victims feel.

There’s no sentence long enough for Bernie Madoff, we think. His long sentence means he can’t go to a minimum security, white collar prison. He’s got to do "hard time" with our street thugs. Good! we think – maybe they’ll show him a thing or two. And we’re outraged that his wife gets $2.5 million to keep. Let her be a bag lady! we think. It would serve her right.

It’s in all of us – the Talion Law ["an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth"]. Any parent knows that civil-ization is an acquired skill, and we all know that it can be over-ridden by any number of things. So we have Laws about what you can and what you can’t do. In fact, as much as it is still debated, laws that protect the guilty are a defining piece of our kind of civil-ization. We’re just not going to turn Bernie Madoff over to his victims to lynch, or torture. We’ll give him some bad days where he has to face them in court. The victims get their "day in court." We’ll put him in a small room for the rest of his life. But we’ve learned that turning him over to a mob may make some people feel good, but it ultimately leads to a corrupt society beyond our recognition – as in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Charles Manson’s "family,"  Timothy McVeigh’s bomb. So, we have Laws, and Courts, and Oversight, and Transparency. And it’s because there’s something about human beings that can heave our precious civilization right out the window in a second if we don’t watch it.

At Madoff’s sentencing yesterday, his lawyer says:
"As the victims have said, there is no doubt this is a tragedy. We represent a deeply flawed individual. But we also represent a human being… "Vengeance is not the goal here. The [sentencing] guidelines to the court do not speak of vengeance and revenge."
Lofty words, but vengeance and revenge were in the air in that courtroom [and in the judge’s sentencing]. We may be civil-ized, but we’re not that civil-ized. But it was all done in a public courtroom. Madoff has the right to appeal the harshness of the sentence. That’s his business. For now, if the sentence gives his victims some peace, good. But the point here in still that the "Rule of Law" not "the heat of the moment" was upheld. In a civil-ized world, the criminal has rights, even when he’s found guilty…

What does this have to do with The Dark Side? It’s obvious, but I want to say it anyway. The 9/11 attack on New York was beyond us all. We still don’t talk about it directly. It’s rarely shown on our television sets. It was too horrible to keep in the front of our minds for very long. In Jane Mayer’s book, at one point, she reports an interview where one of our interrogator’s mentions his behavior might have had something to do with his anger about 9/11. At that point, Mayer comments that this is one of the rare moments where anger about 9/11 was even mentioned in her  interviews. Somewhere inside, we all felt it. We wanted revenge – how could we have felt otherwise? And I expect that David Addington and Dick Cheney felt it too. I believe that they were counting on our anger and vengfulness when they set up their torture program. They thought we would go along with their casting our laws to the wind, because we felt the same mob hatred of the Terrorists that they did – and we wouldn’t mind brutalizing the ones we captured. It’s what Cheney keeps saying. "You have to remember what it was like" … in 2001 after it happened [as if any of us could ever forget].

Some of the Native American tribes had something called the "Blood Oath." If the Creeks raided a Cherokee Village and killed thirteen in the process, the Cherokee would kill thirteen Creeks – any thirteen they could find. Women, children, old people – it didn’t matter. The Talion Law was a "life for a life" in their version. And that’s what we did at GTMO. We viciously attacked the underlings because we couldn’t get at the leaders. Reading this book is agonizing, because of what we "civilized" Americans did. The authors of these programs had us do it in secret. It was a flop as an intelligence gathering move both because it was based on false premises and because the detainees didn’t know what Cheney and Addington wanted them to know. But over and above that, it was a corruption of our Rule of Law, a terrible betrayal and a mammoth mistake.

They were advocating that the uncivilized behavior of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda should be matched by our own descent into the world of the uncivilized. That is both insane and exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted us to do – to play on his field, the field of the Talion Law and the Blood Oath. We can’t avoid dealing with their transgressions. We just can’t. So back to joyhollywood’s question: "What do you think the punishment should be for Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Bradbury and the others for their terrible crimes against humanity?" Like with Madoff, there is not punishment adequate to the crime. On the other hand, there’s something to be avoided here. To quote Madoff’s lawyer, "Vengeance is not the goal here. The [sentencing] guidelines to the court do not speak of vengeance and revenge." What’s at stake here is the Rule of Law, and we lose the point if we misuse the Rule of Law in our zeal to uphold it. I don’t care much about their sentence. What I care about is having our "day in court"- a day to say "No" to their perversion of the only thing that separates us from the Terrorists in the first place – our Rule of Law…
    June 30, 2009 | 6:39 PM

    Amen. I could forego the vengeance I feel toward Cheney, et al and not put them behind bars — as long as we as a nation, and in public, and written into the official records, come together and make the judgment that what they did was wrong and that they violated not only the Constitution but our moral values as a nation and what we stand for.

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