That we are a country governed by The Rule of Law flows off their lips like sugar. The politicians, the judiciary, the lawyers, teachers, citizens: they all say it as though it were true. They say it as though the United States is governed by The Rule of Law as an ambient being everywhere; in every state, at the federal level and in every local courtroom. Well, I have been studying the matter because I have time to do so, and you don't. You are busy. So, brace yourself! We are NOT a country governed by The Rule of Law. Here is but a small example.
The Law: The current state of the debate is that we, the United States, do not torture. Our current Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, though the words were barely believable, said we do not torture in a Congressional hearing. President George W. Bush has said, many times, on the record, that we do not torture. The law and the 1984 Convention against Torture says that Americans can't torture. Torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment have been internationally outlawed since the end of World War II under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It states that : "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." It has no exceptions. Both laws are binding on the United States. Phillippe Sands, Lawless World, Viking Press (2005), pp 206-7
The Question before the House: Let me take you back to another time and another place. For reasons that escape me, the Republican Party extolls the virtues of President Ronald Reagan. Reagan lied, he raised taxes and he approved torture.
In 1988, the Reagan presidency and his contra (read ex-Dictator Somoza's National Guard) war was winding down. William Meara was the chief political officer and special assistant to Washington's ambassador in the U.S Embassy in Honduras where the CIA was running the contra war in Nicaragua against the ruling Nicaraguan Sandinista (named after a former deceased Nicaraguan rebel) government. "The Americans paid for virtually every aspect of contra army operations and wielded tremendous control that comes with complete financial backing." Sam Dillon, Comandos, The CIA and Nicaragua's Contra Rebels, Henry Holt and Company, (1991) p 5 The question before the house in Nicaragua was whether the United States would sanction the torture being carried on by the contra army.
The Facts: The contra legal investigator, Luis Fley, was a Nicaraguan man of integrity. He had learned that the American-paid contra commander of counterinsurgency was routinely raping young female contra warriors, was abusing other prisoners subject to questioning, and had, perhaps, even killed those subject to interrogation who were in a segregated camp much like Guantanamo Bay. When he reported these documented abuses to the American officials and asked for instructions, he was told by the American in charge, William Meara, "We don't want to hear any more about it." "Just don't talk about it." The Nicaraguan contra soldier was stunned, but investigated anyway. He learned, among other things, that some contra soldiers subject to suspicion "...were dragged out of the(ir) hut and down...to a marshy swamp...where it had become routine to torture prisoners by holding their heads under the surface....until they were drowning--and then (they were) revived" Comandos at p 19.
The Rule of Law: Wikipedia says that The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. History tells us that The Rule of Law is contrasted with The Rule of Men. This comparison is first found in Plato's Statesman and Aristotle's Politics. Aristotle opined that "The Rule of Law is preferable to that of a single citizen: even if it be a better course to have individuals ruling, they should be made law-guardians or ministers of the laws." Ernest Barker, The Politics of Aristotle, The Oxford Press, (1962) p. lv
The Point: United States President Ronald Reagan approved water-boarding in 1988 in Nicaragua among his other illegal acts while he was in office. President George W. Bush has clearly violated The Rule of Law by allowing water-boarding torture of prisoners in United States custody during his presidency.
True patriotism occurs when good people criticize their government. There is much to criticize. If we are a country subject to The Rule of Law then citizens must not sanction the breaking of the law by our leaders because The Rule of Law is preferable to single citizens.
"Laws, like the spiders' web, catch the small flies and let the large ones go free." Honore' de Balzac