The rogue regime of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney-so widely condemned for its unconstitutional, criminal Iraq war, its spying on Americans illegally, its repeated illegal torture practices, its arrests and imprisonment of thousands in this country without charges and its pathological secrecy and corporate corruption-still has not felt the heat of the 800,000 practicing lawyers and their many bar organizations.
Lawyer jokes aside, the first defense outside of government against the rejection of due process, probable cause and habeas corpus should come from the officers of the courts-the attorneys of America. With few exceptions, they have flunked, asleep at the switch or loaded with excuses.
The exceptions are a number of law professors such as David Cole (Georgetown University) and Jonathan Turley (George Washington University) and the magnificent one-year presidency of Michael Greco at the conservative American Bar Association.
Mr. Greco, appalled at the outlaw nature of the Bush White House, now wallowing in the pits of the public opinion polls, organized former counsel to the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI, among others, to produce detailed reports and resolutions assailing the Bush government for repeatedly violating the constitution in numerous ways. (http://www.abanet.org/)
Reports were sent to Mr. Bush personally. He did not even bother to acknowledge receipt. The ABA has over 400,000 members and is the largest bar association in the world. Not even a courtesy reply from George Bush, the American Caesar.
Unfortunately, the courage of Greco and his colleagues has not been contagious with hundreds of thousands of lawyers throughout America or the 50 state bar associations who might have taken some action or position to stand after the ABA stood tall in 2005-2006.
Mind you, the climate for lawyers defending the rule of law is quite enabling. Seventy percent of the American people want out of Iraq and nearly as many would like to see this Presidency end. A poll of soldiers in Iraq back in January 2006 registered 72% of them wanting the U.S. out of Iraq within six to twelve months.
In addition, scores of former Generals and high military officers, retired intelligence officials and diplomats have openly criticized the intransigence, incompetence and harm to the U.S. national security. These leaders include the national security advisers to Bush’s father, Brent Snowcroft, the anti-terrorism advisor to George W. Bush, Richard Clark, and many others who served in high government office.
With all this in mind, I have been asking lawyers why they do not become directly active in challenging what they themselves believe is a reckless above-the-law Presidency and its enormous concentration of unlawful power. Here are some examples of their replies.
–real estate attorney with a sterling civil liberties background says “I am just too busy.”
–numerous retired lawyers of considerable accomplishment simply say they are retired.
–mid-career business attorneys say they have too many clients who might object (too much wheeling and dealing to uphold the rule of law in Washington, D.C.).
–public interest lawyers say it is not within their declared mission-eg. environmental, consumer, poverty or law reform work.
–“Too controversial,” and “I’m not up to it,” announced a prominent trial lawyer.
–“I wouldn’t know where to start and I just need my leisure time,” replied a highly specialized estate and trusts attorney.
And so it goes. Too preoccupied, too many deals in the works, too controversial, too retired
The Democratic leadership in the Congress has given Bush/Cheney a giant nod by taking a pass on holding them accountable through impeachment, through conditions in budget bills, through making them answer subpoenas by playing hardball on Bush’s nominees, such as his new choice for Attorney General.
It is up to the lawyers to rally for the Republic. This is deep patriotism, for without upholding our constitution, and the laws of the land, what will become of our country?
What will our children and their grandchildren inherit-a bankrupt government that contracts out more and more of its core functions to staggeringly expensive giant corporations seeking limitless profits, while they finance and corrupt politicians to turn their back on the peoples’ needs?
Lawyers are supposed to know how to apply law to raw power. They know how to use the courts, lobby (there are hundreds or thousands of attorneys in each of most Congressional Districts). They can cut through the arcane camouflage of legalese. They know when the laws are being violated and what the remedies are for the violators. They know how to draft legislation. They have contacts and money and are not supposed to be frightened of conflict. The super-lawyers invariably get their calls returned.
Where are the lawyers of America?
Two major terrorist strikes, with a messianic, compulsively-obsessed President, can do to America what 9 months of nightly bombing by the Nazis could not do to England-move us much closer to a police state.
Where are the stand-up lawyers of America?
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions