Saturday, July 04, 2009

Top Honduran military lawyer: We broke the law.

Digby makes a great point regarding the recent removing of President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras by the military and the subsequent confession from the military that what they did was illegal. Their reasoning:

''We know there was a crime there,'' said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. ``In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.''


So when the powers of state united in demanding his ouster, the military put a pajama-clad Zelaya on a plane and sent him to Costa Rica. The rationale: Had Zelaya been jailed, throngs of loyal followers would have erupted into chaos and demanded his release with violence.

''What was more beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras or present him to prosecutors and have a mob assault and burn and destroy and for us to have to shoot?'' he said. ``If we had left him here, right now we would be burying a pile of people.''

Digby points out:
I think this is a natural outgrowth of the example the US has set over the past few years. People no longer believe that the rule of law is something they must adhere to as long as they can justify their actions as being done to "protect the country." I suppose it was always so, but America has made a fetish out of this excuse through this decade so I think it's taken on a new veneer of legitimacy. Certainly, it has made it impossible for any American leader to condemn this sort of thing with even the slightest bit of credibility.

This is the paternalistic view espoused by Henry Hyde during the Iran Contra scandal, in which he claimed that if the executive broke the law for the good of the country it wasn't a crime. (He said this to justify his view that Reagan's breaking of the laws was ok while Clinton allegedly lying in a deposition was an impeachable offense.) I suppose this concept is also an outgrowth of Nixon's famous statement that if the president does it it's not illegal.
That's the defence that Dick Cheney and his daughter are currently spouting to justify torture - it works, it saved American lives! - as if this is more important than whether or not what they did was legal.

The person who committed the crime is certainly allowed to tell us of the mitigating circumstances which caused them to commit that crime and any court of law would take this into consideration when deciding their case; however, what we are now witnessing in the American political culture are mitigating circumstances being put forward as a defence. The argument being that, if a mitigating circumstance exists, it would be wrong to proceed with prosecution.

But, in reality, their excuses have no more validity than the burglar who claimed his kids were hungry which is why he turned to crime. Maybe a court would decide that I am talking nonsense and acquit Cheney, but the main point is that these matters should be decided by courts.

Obama has stated that the US is a country of laws, but he has done nothing to bring self confessed war criminals to trial, because they are making the very same argument which the leader of the Honduran armed forces is making.

"Keeping the country safe" appears to be the same as a "get out of jail free" card.

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