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Where Principles Go to Die

In America, Speaking the Truth is a Career-Ending Event

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

“The evidence is sitting on the table. There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.”

These are the words of Manfred Nowak, the UN official appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to examine cases of torture. Nowak has concluded that President Obama is legally obligated to prosecute former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

If President Obama’s bankster economic team finishes off what remains of the US economy, Obama, to deflect the public’s attention from his own failures and Americans’ growing hardships, might fulfill his responsibility to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld. But for now the interesting question is why did the US military succumb to illegal orders?

In the December 2008 issue of CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn, in his report on an inglorious chapter in the history of the Harvard Law School, provides the answer. Two brothers, Jonathan and David Lubell, both Harvard law students, were politically active against the Korean War. It was the McCarthy era, and the brothers were subpoenaed. They refused to cooperate on the grounds that the subpoena was a violation of the First Amendment.

Harvard Law School immediately began pressuring the students to cooperate with Congress. The other students ostracized them. Pressures from the Dean and faculty turned into threats. Although the Lubells graduated magna cum laude, they were kept off the Harvard Law Review. Their scholarships were terminated. A majority of the Harvard Law faculty voted for their expulsion (expulsion required a two-thirds vote).

Why did Harvard Law School betray two honor students who stood up for the US Constitution? Cockburn concludes that the Harvard law faculty sacrificed constitutional principle in order not to jeopardize their own self-advancement by displeasing the government (and no doubt donors).

We see such acts of personal cowardice every day. Recently we had the case of Jewish scholar and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein, whose tenure was blocked by the cowardly president of DePaul University, a man afraid to stand up for his own faculty against the Israel Lobby, which successfully imposed on a Catholic university the principle that no critic of Israel can gain academic tenure.

The same calculation of self-interest causes American journalists to serve as shills for Israeli and US government propaganda and the US Congress to endorse Israeli war crimes that the rest of the world condemns.

When US military officers saw that torture was a policy coming down from the top, they knew that doing the right thing would cost them their careers. They trimmed their sails. One who did not was Major General Antonio Taguba. Instead of covering up the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, General Taguba wrote an honest report that terminated his career.

Despite legislation that protects whistleblowers, it is always the whistleblower, not the wrongdoer, who suffers. When it finally became public that the Bush regime was committing felonies under US law by using the NSA to spy on Americans, the Justice (sic) Department went after the whistleblower. Nothing was done about the felonies.

Yet Bush and the Justice (sic) Department continued to assert that “we are a nation of law.”

The Bush regime was a lawless regime. This makes it difficult for the Obama regime to be a lawful one. A torture inquiry would lead naturally into a war crimes inquiry. General Taguba said that the Bush regime committed war crimes. President Obama was a war criminal by his third day in office when he ordered illegal cross-border drone attacks on Pakistan that murdered 20 people, including 3 children. The bombing and strafing of homes and villages in Afghanistan by US forces and America’s NATO puppets are also war crimes. Obama cannot enforce the law, because he himself has already violated it.

For decades the US government has taken the position that Israel’s territorial expansion is not constrained by any international law. The US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

The entire world knows that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that the US government made the crimes possible by providing the weapons and diplomatic support. What Israel and the US did in Lebanon and Gaza is no different from crimes for which Nazis were tried at Nuremberg. Israel understands this, and the Israeli government is currently preparing its defense, which will be led by Israeli Justice (sic) Minister Daniel Friedman. UN war crimes official Richard Falk has compared Israel’s massacre of Gazans to the Nazi starvation and massacre of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Amnesty International and the Red Cross have demanded Israel be held accountable for war crimes. Even eight Israeli human rights groups have called for an investigation into Israel’s war crimes.

Obama’s order to close Guantanamo Prison means very little. Essentially, Obama’s order is a public relations event. The tribunal process had already been shut down by US courts and by military lawyers, who refused to prosecute the fabricated cases. The vast majority of the prisoners were hapless individuals captured by Afghan warlords and sold for money to the stupid Americans as “terrorists.” Most of the prisoners, people the Bush regime told us were “the most dangerous people alive,” have already been released.

Obama’s order said nothing about closing the CIA’s secret prisons or halting the illegal practice of rendition in which the CIA kidnaps people and sends them to third world countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Obama would have to take risks that opportunistic politicians never take in order for the US to become a nation of law instead of a nation in which the agendas of special interests override the law.

Truth cannot be spoken in America. It cannot be spoken in universities. It cannot be spoken in the media. It cannot be spoken in courts, which is why defendants and defense attorneys have given up on trials and cop pleas to lesser offenses that never occurred.

Truth is never spoken by government. As Jonathan Turley said recently, Washington “is where principles go to die.”

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com