Abstract: Obama is the country’s first officer. He should defend the Constitution, and that means letting enquiries on whether prominent government officials violated the Constitution, proceed. It is time for some independence of the Executive and the Judiciary to show up.

Arguments of political expediency, to justify, once again, the lack of Justice, arise from a very deep misunderstanding of what Justice is. Contrarily to what the American philosopher Rawls famously suggested, Justice is not just about fairness. It has a more important function: TRUTH. In other words, figuring out what reality exactly is, something the USA has been increasingly disconnected with, an ominous fate.


In an excellent and very important essay, “Forgive and Forget?”, [January 16, 2008, New York Times], Paul Krugman expresses his alarm at the prospect that President Barack Obama may interfere with the prosecution of the Bush administration. Rightly so. The nature of American civilization, looking forward, is in the balance.

Indeed the Bush administration’s crimes are deep and numerous. Perhaps the worst part is that the whole planet saw them, and, if they are not prosecuted, the whole planet will decide that:
1) The USA speaks with a forked tongue, and its lofty discourse is just a way to put its victims to sleep before striking again.
2) The USA speaks about freedom, but knows only power. Indeed one cannot have freedom without justice.

Hence the American republic would lose considerable clout, and that, by itself, endangers national security.

The violation by the Bush administration of the Geneva Conventions were extensive, and apparently led directly to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

For those who know nothing about the subject, the four Geneva Conventions not only forbid torture and mistreatment of prisoners, but force a conquering power to leave in place enough of an administration and police so that the basic services of civilization can be maintained. Although the Nazis more or less respected this in the West [because Western countries and Germany had legislated the Geneva Conventions], they did not do so in Eastern Europe. Not respecting the Geneva Conventions led directly to the death of much more than ten million people in Eastern Europe alone. The Bush administration clearly and deliberately engaged in the destruction of basic services in Iraq [one of the ways used was to occupy Iraq rudely, destroying its administration, but with too small a military force to pacify it, thus creating, willingly or not, the conditions for civil war, perhaps because the Bush administration wanted to divide Iraq to better shatter it; that it all backfired is irrelevant, and no excuse: criminals, even in high office, are often stupid].

So the planet is watching what the USA will do. As Krugman puts it, Obama has to protect the Constitution of the USA, and that involves prosecuting those who violated it.

The USA talks loud about how exceptional it is. But, in the fullness of history, this only points out at racially based slavery [there were European republics before the USA, and the French and American republican Constitutions were written the same year, 1789; the French of course was more universal, because it recognized the right of vote to every man, independently of race, religion, or property].

In particular the claim of an independent justice system in the USA, for the whole planet to admire, seems quite shallow. As Paul Krugman points out, there is direct filiation between the Iran-Contra crime and those of the Bush administration.  Iran.Contra was a secret operation of the Reagan White House to smuggle arms to Iran and use the profits to fund illegal civil war in Nicaragua. It was perhaps more egregious than Watergate [because at the very least hundreds of people were killed by it], but it was not seriously prosecuted [Reagan ‘could not recall’, his subordinates were not talkative, and many, such as colonel North, were rewarded handsomely later].

Krugman says that the failure to prosecute properly Iran-Contra led directly to Bush’s excesses. He could have said that the even earlier pardon of Nixon did so. That pardon showed that, no matter what, American politicians could do whatever, if they reach high enough. As Nixon put it: “If the president does it, it is the law”. It is actually extraordinary that people that have not even be judged can be pardoned in the USA. This is a genuine American exception [Here! See? We found one!]. Even in the French Old Regime, the King could not do this: to shelter miscreants from justice, he had to send a “lettre de cachet”, which punished them outright [but more leniently!].

I have argued, in numerous writings, that the rot in the USA is way deeper than is usually assumed, and that, indeed, the lack of prosecution has allowed it to grow to ever larger proportions. Moreover that rot was THE major contributor to the Great Depression and W.W.II [and even Stalinism! In several ways!]. The fundamental reason being that, after sitting at the “peace” conference in Paris in 1919 that dismantled Germany and Austria to recreate independent nations in Eastern Europe, the USA took large helpings of Germany [for example the largest shipping company in the world was seized by the US government and then given to private US plutocrats; this means that gifts from the US government to Wall Street have a long tradition; the fundamental method being the institutionalized waltz of American plutocrats with Washington, DC].

These basically stolen German properties then came under the control of Wall Street and associated plutocrats [such as the Bush family!]. Because they were not prosecuted, hubris seized them, and a general moral ambiance that they could get away with anything came upon those directors of American minds. Their next folly was the deliberate bubble of the Twenties, that led to further hubris which caused the Great Depression [when Washington, DC decided to get out of the bubble by punishing the Europeans with rising tariffs]. Then the Americano-German plutocratic high command found that arming, financing and supporting Hitler and his Nazis, before, during and after the Second World War, was the gift that kept on giving.

Still no prosecution from the American People, so why not to keep on with further, ever bolder plots? The same crowd got the grandiose idea of resurrecting Muslim Fundamentalism to divide, and thus rule, the Middle East [starting in 1945 with Ibn Saud, then going on in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood (ancestor of Hamas), then Iran’s Shiite (to thrown down the democratically elected government of Iran that wanted to nationalize American-British oil in Iran), etc.]. This was a very long term policy, that messed up many countries, at the very least from Morocco to Pakistan. Still no inquest, thus, when one talks of these things with completely ignorant Americans, one is viewed as:
1) crazy.
2) deeply anti-American.

Unfortunately for the USA, some of the historical facts alluded to above are getting to be increasingly known, and believed, by the rest of the planet, leading Americans to view the rest of the planet as:
1) crazy.
2) deeply anti-American.

If President Obama wants to change this spiral down to hell, he may let his department of justice engage in the educational experience of finding out why the US democracy misfired so badly under Bush II. That is called justice. He could always pardon G. W. Bush when, after his conviction, he is heading to prison. If one wants beliefs one can believe in, one needs some convictions.

In Europe, violation of the Constitution were taken very seriously after World War Two and Nazism. The meta verdict, overall, of European Justice, was that civilization had failed in a way that was even worse than during the First World War. That was traced to a lack of serious prosecution of war criminals after that conflict. The German empire of 1914 committed very serious war crimes during the first few weeks of the First World War, starting with neutral Belgium. Belgium was not just attacked to get to France, but innocent civilians were assassinated, en masse. Although the crimes were denounced, and some of the perpetrators were sort of nearly prosecuted, no serious punishment was meted out. If it had been, no doubt that, a few years later, German officers would have been more motivated to make a coup against Hitler that would have worked.

Hence the Europeans did not want the same mistake to happen again in the aftermath of the Nazi defeat. The French republic had been betrayed in many ways, and was particularly relentless in the punishment of criminals.

After the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of French collaborators of the Nazis were put on trial, 120,000 were condemned, nearly 50,000 suffered “National Degradation” (loss of face and civil rights), and well in excess of 10,000 were officially executed (under diverse legal procedures; the astounding number of 40,000 has even been proposed, once all the speedy executions of obvious French Nazis were counted).

That may sound excessive to Americans, but the USA has never been occupied by Nazis, and suffered the rule of extreme traitors indulging in massive atrocities, contributing to the death of around one million people [taking into account assassinated refugees].

Although France was the most severe, she was not alone in the severity of her reaction. It was a pan European phenomenon. Even Germany, thus encouraged, came to prosecute Nazis with increasing enthusiasm. Several European countries, some of which had made the death penalty unconstitutional for more than a century (e. g., the Netherlands), reintroduced it, and judged and executed their own traitors and war criminals. In France some of the most famous Frenchmen were judged, and condemned to death, including a former head of state and a past prime minister (Laval). The famous writer Brasillach was condemned to death. He wrote movingly to the President to spare his life, denying he did anything really wrong, but for writing a bit too passionately. He was executed. Decades later, photographs were found of him looking at freshly assassinated victims of the holocaust, down a common grave.

One or two European countries (that will stay nameless, in a spirit of reconciliation) never prosecuted any Nazi collaborators. Why? Because they were themselves wholeheartedly, and fully, collaborating with Hitler (giving him most of his steel, for example).

Morality? Culprits will lie and deny. At some point, the truth has to be established. JUSTICE IS NOT JUST FAIRNESS, BUT ALSO TRUTH. [One of the small, recent American thinkers, made a lot of noise for himself by describing “Justice as Fairness”. A consummate professional, of the type Socrates would have hated, he forgot that justice, first, tries to establish the truth. This revealing omission insured his popularity with the plutocracy, which, first of all fears the naked truth.]

Truth can only be established in the past, so it can be hoped for, in the future. The USA never prosecuted the many US citizens who helped the Nazis before, during, and after W.W.II. This had many deep consequences for the deep gangrene of the republic. As Paul Krugman points out, a habit of not establishing the truth was taken. Another consequence has been the systematic rewriting of history, but a rewriting many people do not believe around the planet (since it was not certified by justice). For example, it is often alleged, worldwide, that many of the American secret services took the habit of self financing through drug trafficking (South East Asia, Pakistan-Afghanistan, South America), an Iran-Contra of drugs. It is even alleged that they used famous Nazi monsters (such as Klaus Barbie in Bolivia) to set up the drug networks. Now, the easy reaction of many Americans, when hearing of such things, is to deny it all, and condemn anti-Americanism. But so doing, by not projecting the power of truth and justice, they actually feed the Anti-American propaganda (just as well, or better, than Osama bin Laden).

Western republics are states of laws. They are not states of siege, as Bush tried to make them. If there is never any threat to apply the law, there will be no law. The law is hard, but it is the law, as the Romans said. Far from being above the law, politicians, being more visible, and having in their hands much more power, hence capability for mischief than average citizens, ought to lead exemplary, extremely lawful lives.

This ought to go with the territory: if one does not want to be scrutinized more, one should not be a politician.

In the French republic, in recent years, the head of the Constitutional Court was prosecuted and had to resign, and the latest president of the republic, Chirac, is being prosecuted (and had to answer judges’ questions many times). So is the preceding Prime Minister [Villepin]. No doubt the present French president, Sarkozy, does not feel above the law. One cannot fail to suspect that Americans officials do not want to prosecute preceding American officials because they intent to do just the same [and evidence number one would be the continual corruption alluded to above]. If the USA refuses to ever prosecute its worthies, it’s not really a democracy. Democracy means people-power, not people-noodle.

It would be very sad if Obama did not let the law be respected inside the USA. That would be more of the same: Bush deliberately violated the law outside the USA, now it would be violated inside. Maybe the USA should change its Constitution, so that justice can be much more independent of politicians. This is the case in France.

Otherwise the monster entanglement of politics and money and plutocracy will keep on going, ever stronger, as happened under the Roman republic, and the American democracy will slowly keep on decaying. More probably though, because the USA, differently from Rome, is far from a splendid isolation above the rest, a real revolution or a disaster will occur pretty soon. To keep control, Obama needs to break the cycle, and let justice be what it ought to be.

Patrice Ayme

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  1. Larry G Says:

    A historical quibble:

    It’s not true that the US and “French Republican” constitutions were written in the same year. The French Declaration of the Rights of Man, which did indeed proclaim the rights of all, was written in 1789 as you say. But when it came time to draft an actual constitution, the Assembly made something that was neither republican nor universal. The franchise was severely restricted. Free blacks and mixed-race people in the colonies were denied even a hearing in the deliberations. The monarchy was retained. And when a republican government was finally introduced a few of years later, it was the captive of (mainly) Parisian militants who terrorized the country until yet another government had to be introduced. Not much to crow about, in other words.


  2. Patrice Ayme Says:

    I disagree that there is nothing to crow about. The Universal Right of Man and the Citizen is something to crow about. One crows about its presence at the head of the United Nations.

    Now I agree that the expression “French republican” for 1789 may be viewed as abusive, by those that my context irritates. Therein a problem I encounter all the time: writing in two or three words what would take a huge book to describe. There is no fair way to do it logically. But linear logic is not the point always. Emotiona;l logic can be more cogent.

    Now one thing sentences of a few words are good at is to give emotional perspectives that are MORE correct than what people generally believe emotionally.

    For example, reading you above, someone who does not know at all what happened, would tend to believe that “the monarchy was retained”. Actually, not. The Absolute monarchy was completely destroyed, and replaced by a Constitutional monarchy. It was similar to Britain’s, a republic in disguise; unfortunately the King, who had been a strong partisan of very deep reforms, was trusted as head of the new state (for a number of accidental reasons, including the death by illness of the young Mirabeau, who had been leading the revolution; he was from Aix en Provence).

    It remains that the French State proclaimed the Universal Rights of Man (women nearly got the right to vote, BTW). In the American republic, there were many restrictions about who could vote, related to property, race, and even religion (States started to remove these restrictions in the following decades).

    Now your allusion to the so called, self described “terror” is rather supportive to a common emotional perspective that, although superficially true, does go to the root of the matter. As it was the Pitt family had two British PM, and they hated France. One of them became PM as a youth. They attacked the French First Republic on spurious grounds, and that had dreadful consequences. The National Assembly decided the execution of the (unfortunately treachorous) King at a one vote majority, making it legal. A century earlier, in similar events in Great Britain, the English King had begged (who he viewed as) his vassal, France’s Louis XIV, to intervene with his powerful French army to save his (English) throne. Louis XIV, in a rare outburst of wisdom, declined to intervene in English affairs (he had no such reservations with German affairs), and offered asylum instead.

    Anyway the British invasion of France during the revolution, helped by despots from all around Europe, had dreadful consequences, because fascists came to power in France to help defend the French republic. For example, Napoleon was magnificent, courageous, and wounded in combat, at Toulon, where his plan beat the British Navy and invasion force (thus he was promoted instantly from artillery captain to general).

    To answer another point, the Colonies had nothing to do with anything, being both too far and too much ruled by laws that had nothing to do with French (or “European”) law. To argue that France was racist and enslaving because the Colonies were racist and enslaving, is a bit like arguing Earth’s atmoshpere is unbreathable, because so is Mars’ atmosphere. The Colonies could not be controlled.

    My conclusion from all this? I think my usage of the expression “French republican” was amply justified. Removing that expression would also remove the American Constitution as “republican”. True there was a King nominally in power, in the begining, in France, which the USA did not have, but there was also, in France, full rights of vote for any man, independently of race, wealth, property, and religion, full rights of man, that the USA did not have either. Within less than four years the appearance of a King was gone.

    Anyway, I thank you for your contribution: it’s the healthy occasion to dispell some myths that haunt the USA, hence the world…


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