If you believe you are innocent, fight, Charlie, fight. Don’t quit “for the good of the country,” or “the good of the party.” If you feel this is pretty much all unfair, or unjust: fight. To hell with what fellow Democrats or Obama thinks. There’s something far bigger going on here than Charlie Rangel or any party.
Yet the topic for this edition of Inspection is neither Charlie, nor the Taliban, or even a confession driven by the threat of death by rape of a boy at Gitmo.
It is the corruption of basic concepts of American “justice.”
I started writing this edition before news broke that the judge in the court trying Omar Khadr, a prisoner at Gitmo who was captured at 15, has said that his confession to a murder will stand… even though Khadr was threatened with being raped to death unless he did confess: threatened over and over again.
This is “justice?” Not. Indeed, guilty as hell or innocent, it is the opposite of “justice.”
I would claim to be surprised; but I’m not. Our justice system: or lack thereof, has been being stripped of even the most common and decent vestiges of actual justice for a long time. And what we have been doing with, and to, those captured in our supposed “war on terrorism” is simply a precursor to what any “red blooded American” will be faced with in the future.
Luckily, since their blood is green, Vulcans will be safe. Wait. They’re aliens. Let’s gut them and serving them on our dinner tables simply for being aliens. Anyone see an actual Vulcan around here? “Just fiction?” Maybe Leonard Nimoy will volunteer for a somewhat different “roast” than they so often do for Hollywood types?
A few observations…
1. Once we arrest anyone, or try them in Charlie’s case, the concern should be guilt or innocence. Period.
2. Plea bargaining for a lesser sentence is, essentially, subverting the system. People in prison already shouldn’t be given deals to testify against others: by definition they are unreliable and highly motivated to say anything.
3. Trying anyone as an adult when they are a child because society considers what they did heinous is a perversion of justice, at best. If you want harder time change the laws for specific crimes when it comes to juvenile justice.
4. Killing another via drunk driving is not “murder,” unless you can improve intent: intent not just to drive drunk but to kill someone. Once again: beef up your other homicide-related laws if you want harsher penalties for something without intent.
5. Trying someone in civil court after criminal court for anything related to the crime they were found innocent of should be considered double jeopardy because… it is. Period.
6. Trying people in the press or by punditry is the opposite of “justice.” It’s attempting to raise a mob. It’s an attempt to encourage a lynching.
All this, and more, lets the incredibly guilty off easy and forces the innocent into wrongful incarceration. Why do we do it then? Because it greases the wheels and makes lawyers, pols and judges look good.
That’s not justice.
We are referring to very basic concepts of justice here.
But wait, wait, wait… what does any of this have to do with Charlie Rangel?
(Provide your own amusing attempt at mirth here by adding a trademarked Charlie “grate” to your voice. Don’t forget his Mel Brookish accent!)
We are rapidly moving towards a system of governance where once accused you are guilty by accusation, and Charlie has already been convicted if you listen to Dems, talking heads and pundits. President Obama has as much said Charlie should resign to leave his record and pride intact. Wouldn’t resigning do the exact opposite: smear his name forever? Of course no matter what he does that’s been achieved mostly by accusation. Hence the necessity of this edition of Inspection.
I don’t know how guilty he is, or innocent. I’m claiming neither. I do know we all deserve to face off our accusers and have guilt or innocence decided by an honest system, not by the media, or those we work with/serve with before the actual trial is done, as in Charlie’s case.
Do you see the connection? They often don’t even want to go though all the mess and bother of holding a complete trial, or proving guilty honestly. Why do that when “Charlie should just resign for the good of…” fill in the blank. Why do it when all you have do is convince a kid he’ll be raped to death if he doesn’t confess? Why change the law when we can simply say we’ll not follow the law in special cases?
We should not be using law like disposable toilet paper: as if it’s something to wipe society supposedly clean. Why? Because we have to use it in other cases you or I might wish to actually follow the letter of the law for. If you do you simply spread the filth and poison society by mangling a justice system that you yourself may need one day.
If you want kids to suffer the same consequences in some cases then change laws that relate to them.
If you want rape as a method of getting confessions then proudly advocate for that.
If you want any member just to resign whenever accused then don’t even bother having a damn democracy. Let’s have a dictator.
Yes, there are some horrible criminal acts out there. And some very corrupt public figures. Maybe Charlie is one. Maybe Omar is the other. But, even if they are, we get no where any sane person would want to go good by shredding our justice system through special exceptions, or not letting justice take its course.
I understand there are differences here: protocol in our political system, military justice vs. civilian, the abyss we have created so that we can treat anyone as less than human who someone might think might have the slightest connection to terrorism, or knowledge about it. But the differences here really just underline my point. All this, over the years, has been created, in part, because it is a way to circumvent the ideals we claim to live by: have more prosecution or defense lenient courts… or just lynch someone with little to no trial for being inconvenient.
One of the odd things going on in the war against terrorism is that many have been relying on the Taliban to decide their cases the past few years. In a Taliban court there’s no plea bargaining, or chopping off a head instead of a finger because some in society think one person’s crime of the same kind is worse than another. The people go to the Taliban because the results a predictable: you’re either guilty… or not. The punishment is what it is.
Can you imagine the following?
“Wait a minute Achmed, we’re not in the right Taliban court. If we judged him in the new court of Uncivil Justice we can cut off his genitals and then his head!”
Sure. I can imagine that too. But that’s not what the Taliban does. I deplore what they do to those found guilty. It’s barbaric. But process wise? They are more fair and civilized than we are.
So as Charlie resists “off with his head” suggestions, and Omar has been railroaded into having confessed through threats of rape, I begin to wonder. Why is it the brutal Taliban can have better system of justice in this sense than we? And exactly what kind of justice system do we have when being inconvenient can mean no trial, no justice, being tortured, resigning instead of being allowed to have a case completely heard, being punished in a manner a crime usually doesn’t call for legally? And why must we, as wrongly charged individuals, tolerate a moving, quicksand-like, legal system where you never know when you might start sinking into legal Hell because you are an inconvenience. While at the same time serving as an convenient vehicle for grandstanding pols, and lawyers sometimes seeking to be pols?
Trust me. Be charged with something you didn’t do and you’ll see how our system has fallen into that tar baby from Hell: guilt by mere accusation, the desire to exact revenge on someone: anyone, bribes to “make a case go away” or “keep it off your record.” At the same time the legally insane demand to get something: anything, that slightly resembles a guilty plea… no matter whether the person is really guilty or not.
What kind of “justice” system do we have?
Maybe a justice system by mob rule?
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved
I’m tired of hearing from the media, even MSNBC, how ‘bipartisan’ and ‘independent’ is this ethics panel that charged Rangel and Waters. If they’re so ‘bipartisan,’ why did they schedule Rangel’s hearing one day before the 2010 elections? That obviously benefits the GOP. If they’re so ‘independent,’ why are they only interested in investigating members of the House Black Caucus, apparently to the exclusion of other Congress-creatures? That smacks of old-fashioned racism. And, as Bartcop pointed out, some of the charges against Rangel are flat-out ludicrous — improper parking in the House garage is an ethics violation? Oh, brother. Finally, who in their right mind would install an in-the-tank Bush crony like Porter Goss as the co-chair of an ethics committee? It’s like having your sanity judged by Orly Taitz.