Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times suggests that: “President Obama is resisting calls for an investigation into torture and other abuses during the Bush years, so the chance to learn from our mistakes is slipping away. Mr. Obama understandably wants to focus on economic recovery rather than a dissection of the past. Why fritter political capital on an inquest that would antagonize Republicans and imperil our economy and his agenda? But as George Santayana, the eminent Harvard philosopher wrote: “Those who forget history are destined to repeat it.” (January 28, 2009.)

It is funny how little justice is independent in the USA. What happened to the “separation of powers”? Is it just propaganda? Is it just make-believe for naive foreigners? American “justice” seems to be all about the President deciding to do whatever he wants to do. Maybe the President feels that he wants to be just today, or may be the President feels economical. If the President feels just today, the USA will apply justice. Or the President wants to be expedient about economics today, and justice will not be a consideration today, or tomorrow. Is the USA just about expediency? Is the USA just about one man? Is the USA a res-publica, a republic, a public thing, or is the USA just a one man thing? Is the USA a monarchy? A one man show? If economics is more important than justice in the USA, does that mean that money is more important than the rule of law in the USA?

Aside from that constitutional question, if the President decided to use his autocratic power to allow a selected few to live and prosper as outlaws, the consequences for the respect other countries have for the USA would be dire. A republic that allows a certain class of its citizens to knowingly break the most fundamental laws without fear of consequences, cannot ask others to consistently apply their own laws and constitution. Verily, that would make the USA a banana republic, and it does not matter how big it is: it’s a big piece of brainless vegetal matter, soon it will rot, and stink.

To hide behind economic pretexts should fool no one: so far no drastic solution has been proposed for solving the financial and economic crises and the republican support has been both small and irrelevant, and will stay so. Hence, the truth may simply be that seducing the American elite is overwhelmingly irresistible to those that the American electoral process selects, or that this electoral process and its honors make them so. Thus justice becomes something to be disposed of, as soon as possible for such elected officials. Justice is just an abstract ideal, and  that does not pay back enough. American politics is all about money, it has long been characterized by a lucrative breathing of politicians, in and out of the private sector, where they make their fortune [but only with those who are really nice to the plutocracy].

Meanwhile, in France, the most recent Head of the Constitutional Court, Prime Minister and President have been, and are, prosecuted (the Court Head had to resign). Overall, the French republic, long confronted to extreme wars with major enemies, prosecuted internal corruption with a ferocity the USA has never known (thousands of collaborators were executed after W.W.II, including a famous writer and a Prime Minister). The USA would be well advised to understand why. The USA is increasingly viewed by non Anglo-Saxons observers as extremely corrupted, and Washington first of all.

There are Rubicons in the minds, just as there is one in Italy. Once those are crossed, it’s hard to come back, because one has done in public what one should have never done. The urge to cover up becomes so great that a strange logic of enormity appears: often the easiest way to cover enormous crimes up is by doing worse, in the hope of persuading the public that what was done previously was not that bad (since the miscreant is deliberately doing more that is worse for all to see). Thus one enters a logic of covering bad with worse.

Julius Caesar is one of the best historical example: the Senate pondered the question of whether he had committed war crimes as commander in Gaul, and thought about indicting him. Caesar reacted by moving menacingly towards Rome, as if he had the right to be indignant about the allegation that he would have broken the law (a way to try to make everybody in Rome believe that he could not have possibly broken the law since he was so indignant about the idea). The Senate enjoined him not to cross the Rubicon, but Caesar marched across it with a legion in the small hours of the morning, covering real bad with much worse.

If Obama decided to seduce his friends the other worthies, instead of respecting the rule of law, he would have gone to the Dark Side.  Besides, after such an enormity, it would be difficult for him to stick to any lofty ideal. A small boy among the sharks, becoming one of them in the hope of thriving ever more. The most pathetic aspect of it all is the banality of evil thus exhibited: just to seduce a few crooks, the very basis of the State of Law would be denied.

The lack of economic vision in denying justice would be colossal. THE USA HAS ENTERED A GREAT DEPRESSION, PRECISELY BECAUSE JUSTICE WAS DENIED. Among others, social justice was denied, to the point plutocracy rolled, unrestrained, devouring all and any in its way, including the very industrial and intellectual tissue that allowed the US economy to add most of value, ruining its trade balance, health care, education, infrastructure, decency, etc… Denying justice is the very cause of the disaster. Those who want justice to be denied, want more Bushes.

As a case in point, the Bush family made colossal money from Auschwitz (this is only a slightly shortened description, to the major point, of what really happened). But there was never any inquest. Instead the USA prefers to be led by Bushes, and to ask for inquests in other countries: truth, but not here.  

The State of Law, as defined by a reigning Roman empress, 15 centuries ago, is a State where no one, not even the sovereign, is exempt from the law. She pointed that out about herself, using the majestic plural. Conversely, where money is greater than justice, there is no state of law. But, if what Kristof asserts is true, Obama would be putting a naive, short term vision of economics, or money, above the law. A version that many other countries call corruption. That the USA is a State of Law is, at the very least, an implicit part of the US Constitution.

If the very basis of the State of Law would be denied, respect for the USA will be denied  too. And that would have long term economic and financial consequences.

Those who deny justice will suffer from the judgment of history.

Patrice Ayme



1) French President Jacques Chirac reigned seven years, and then was reelected to a second five year term [the Constitution having been modified], with more than 80% of the vote [and heavy participation]. Chirac is now the object of a long and thorough formal inquest to find out if he does not have more money than he should have, hidden somewhere. Now, of course, this money is only a fraction of the money someone like Clinton has. But the attitude towards turning politics into personal gain is very different in France than in the USA. In general, money has become the measure of everything in the USA. Man is not. Increasingly, in the USA, the more money one has, the more worthy one is. So, the richer the politician, or the corporate officer, or the lobbyist, the more, intuitively valuable the person is perceived to be. Thus one does not prosecute people in the USA because, although they earned small official salaries, they ended up with giant fortunes.  

2) The rest of the world is tired of listening to the USA talk grandiloquently with one side of its mouth, while biting the world with the other. As pointed out in the Davos World Economic Forum of 2009 by the Prime Ministers of Russia and China, this persistent behavior will have consequences in business and investment. Ultimately money is trust, and there can be no trust in those with forked tongues and extremely variable law that does not apply to themselves.

Now the USA saves not. The saving rate in Germany is 11%, it’s higher in France or Japan; whereas in recent years the US savings rate has become negative. This means that the USA is surviving from the good graces of others. Those will become less giving as the law reveals itself to be a secondary consideration in the USA, as the giant financial corruption crisis has already made plenty clear. It’s not like there are no other countries to invest in.


  1. barrie Says:

    it’s global WARMING, not global HEATING in english, patrice.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thank you for telling me this. But I am not confusing warming and heating. Verily, warming is something innocent that happens by the fire, as the gentle flames caress the glowing logs, and one feels cuddly below the nice greenhouse blanket. So far planetary warmth has gone up by less than one degree over the 3,000 year baseline. So it’s all very nice. It seems indeed possible that, as some have suggested, anthropogenic Neolithic methane production prevented a fall into a glaciation.

      But it is going to change. It’s going to be 4 degrees Celsius by 2099. Some models have that by 2050. I personally believe that we are one big methane belching away, and a multi-degree HEATING could occur within a few years. It will not be nice. Most of the planet would be devastated (See New Scientist of early March 2009).

      Semantics matter. Warming is a change, heating a death threat. It’s the later we are facing.


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