The Curse of Precedence
– by David Matthews 2
In 1942, two months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Government carried out a plan to arrest every American citizen of Japanese ancestry and place them in interment camps. They weren’t the only ones either. There were also internment camps for Italians and Germans. The excuses used by the federal government were fear and necessity. The Supreme Court would accept those excuses in 1944, citing Article 1 Section 9 of the US Constitution, stating that the writ of habeas corpus can be suspended in cases of rebellion or invasion.
It was an unconscionable act, based entirely on fear and bigotry, and one that the federal government finally atoned for decades later. It was thoroughly condemned.
But it could also happen again. There is no law, no constitutional prohibition, nothing in this world from stopping the United States of America from doing it again.
The movie “The Siege” opened up that very possibility. Done just a few years before 9/11, the movie focuses on a fictional terrorist attack in New York City, and a power-mad neo-con solider played by Bruce Willis who used terrorist attacks to violate the Posse Comitatus Act and require the forced internment of male Muslims in the city.
And the justification? Well we did it in 1942. It’s precedence.
And I’m sure that there were many after 9/11 that wanted to do just that. I’m sure that there were many people who wanted to hunt down and find every Muslim in the country and raid every mosque and put them all in the same kind of internment camps that we put Japanese and Italians and Germans.
And what would have stopped them? The media? Please! Those ego-driven ratings-happy institutions know when to shut up. They did just that in the 1940’s. The ACLU? Yeah, right. You can see how successful they have been in stopping some of the other Orwellian programs that have come out of the rectums of Dick Cheney and his neo-con friends. Public sentiment? After 2001, are you kidding? We were scared and pissed-off at the same time.
When we are not running around like a bunch of lions with thorns in our paws, we like to pretend that our government is governed by the Rule of Law. They can only do what they are allowed to do by law, and nothing beyond it. But going beyond the Rule of Law is another and more primitive justification for government action: the Rule of Precedence. They’ve done it before, and unless there is otherwise something concrete preventing them, they are free to do it again at any time.
An abusive spouse will ALWAYS find a way to abuse his or her victim, no matter how many times they apologize for doing it, no matter how many times they promise to never do it again, no matter how many times they are given restraining orders and threatened with jail or worse. The only way to stop an abusive spouse from preying on their victim is to put them in prison or put them in the grave.
Likewise, an abusive government will ALWAYS find a way to abuse its people, no matter how many times they apologize for it afterwards, no matter how much money they give in reparations afterwards, no matter how many times they are threatened and condemned for doing it afterwards. The only way to stop an abusive government is to put the perpetrators themselves either in prison or in a grave.
The later option is called either insurrection or revolution. The former option is called JUSTICE.
There is a reason why the first ten amendments to the US Constitution were created and ratified. They weren’t there to make government difficult. They were put in place to PREVENT the government from becoming abusive.
Every single limitation of government power that makes up what is commonly called the Bill of Rights is there because at some point in history, that power was ABUSED by agents of the government. The limitations are there to make sure that those abuses DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.
Unfortunately what America’s founding fathers failed to do was to follow through with that chain of thought. What happens WHEN those limitations are breached and agents of the government do what they are supposedly barred from doing? They never really ponder that possibility. They instead default on the belief that “the people” would once again rise up and put an end to it. Never mind that at that time it took “a long train of abuses and usurpations” (to quote Thomas Jefferson) to get to that point, and even then not everyone agreed with it.
What happens is that barring criminal convictions, those encroachments that are never supposed to happen become the exceptions to the rule.
Freedom of Speech is supposed to be the rule… EXCEPT in the case of the Federal Communications Commission, or the US Postal Serivce. The Fourth Amendment can be voided in the name of the Drug War or terrorism. The Fifth Amendment protection against abuses of eminent domain can be voided in the name of better property taxes.
And even WHEN wrong, agents of the government continue to get away with what they do by invoking that outdated notion of “sovereign immunity”. Sure some inept cops and a corrupt prosecutor deprived a man of his property and freedom, but just pay him a few thousand dollars and be done with it. Don’t worry about the corrupt system, though. They’ll have to answer to their actions somewhere.
Unfortunately that only serves to reward the corruption and abuse. The abuse is tolerated and even condoned, with what can only be a glorified bribe offered for “compensation” after-the-fact. But don’t go after the abuser! Oh, no, don’t do that! That abuser is one of “us”. That abuser is “protected”.
Like the mafia, the people in government look after their own; and they pompously feel that only THEY can deal with their own.
And that concept of protecting one of “their own” transcends any notion of justice, any concept of fairness or balance. It is about camaraderie and it is about the perpetual assertion that whatever they do, THEY CAN DO NO WRONG! Everything that they do is automatically justified simply BECAUSE they are in the government, and the government CAN DO NO WRONG!
A glory-hungry police officer arrests hundred of people that only he claims were dealing drugs. The only evidence comes from the supposed eyewitness testimony of that officer. The prosecutor says its good enough, the judge says its good enough, and the jury says its good enough, and the people are convicted and sentenced to years in prison. Then it comes out that the officer made up many of the allegations. The evidence was planted, the people he says were dealing drugs were actually someplace else at the time, and one by one the officer’s record is shown to be more fiction than fact.
But what happens? In a truly just society, that officer would not only be removed from his job and be deprived of his pension, but that officer would be the one having to serve every year behind bars for each and every person he put there through his fabrications. And the prosecutor who looked at that evidence and didn’t raise any questions about it would also lose his or her job.
But those two groups are agents of the government, and they don’t want to be held responsible for their actions! And the people they work with don’t want them to be held responsible either, because it would mean that THEY could also be held responsible for their own possible abuses.
So what happens is that there is now precedence for allowing abuse… on the fear that carrying out justice would set a DIFFERENT form of precedence that could hurt THEM.
And thus we come to the federal level of government. And here we find a whole new world of abuse being not only tolerated but even sanctified and condoned.
There is a game that goes on with the White House, and it doesn’t matter whether it is under Democrat or Republican control, that says that any kind of power and authority they assume, by hook or by crook, must be sustained AT ALL COSTS!
Remember those warrantless wiretaps? The “accidental” searches that weren’t authorized? Executive privilege? Guess what? Despite the complaints made from Democrats over these abuses of power, the Obama Administration wants to CONTINUE using them!
Remember the calls for hearings? Criminal charges? Impeachment? Suddenly everyone in Washington is mute. Justice? Oh, no, no, no… maybe a “truth and reconciliation” committee, but not CHARGES! That would mean holding someone… ACCOUNTABLE… and they can’t have that!
Worse yet, that would actually take power AWAY from the current government, and that would be absolutely unthinkable!
Let’s get brutally honest here… ANY time an abuse of government goes unanswered, it commits TWO crimes against society.
First those that fail to bring justice when they have the power to do so are GUILTY of facilitating that abuse. They become accomplices to the crime by aiding the criminals in getting away with their actions. They are just as responsible for them as if they were right there alongside the criminals.
Second, those that fail to bring justice when they have the power to do so not only sanction that abuse, but also help destroy even the pretense that the system is based on an impartial and objective Rule of Law… and instead establishes that it is based on a very subjective and bigoted Rule of Man. There is nothing more that can hasten the destruction of ANY system of government than by turning an objective rule into a series of temperamental exceptions.
Imagine what would have happened if, instead of excusing and apologizing for the interments of 1942, the government brought CRIMINAL charges up against those that instigated the action? Do you think that any future administration would even consider letting history repeat itself? Or would they suddenly develop a newfound appreciation of the rights and freedoms they give lip service to?
The criminals in government are no different than their counterparts on the streets in that they share one thing: the fear of judgment for their actions. That’s why they hide behind pillars of power, because they believe it will give them immunity from judgment. The only way to keep them honest, then, is to take away that immunity.