Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Meanwhile, back here at home. . .

While it is all well and good that a “very ruly crowd” of some 500 lawyers gathered yesterday outside the county courthouse in lower Manhattan for a brief rally to show solidarity with lawyers and judges jailed and persecuted since General Perves Musharraf declared martial law in Pakistan, I can’t help but wonder why a crisis abroad has them so hot and bothered.

After all, for more than six years now, the law has been under assault here at home. Where were the lawyers when the ironically named “USA Patriot Act” papered over or watered down about half of the Bill of Rights? Where were the lawyers when it was revealed that the Bush Administration had ignored the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Security Act and illegally spied on their fellow citizens? Where were they when the administration, and then the Republican Congress, eliminated Habeas rights for, well, for practically anyone that The Decider decides is an enemy? Where were they during the politicization of the entire federal justice system, from the US Attorneys, through the Courts of Appeals, all the way up to the Supreme Court? Where were they during the confirmation of Attorney General Ashcroft? Attorney General Gonzales? Attorney General Mukasey?

For that matter, where were they after Justices Scalia and Thomas refused to recuse themselves (because of blatant conflict of interest) in Bush v. Gore?

While some members of the bar in this country fight, and fight hard, every day for an end to torture, to rendition, and unlawful detention, while some fight, and fight hard, for a restoration of Habeas Corpus and FISA, and in defense of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments, far too many of those with direct experience and a detailed understanding of the laws of the land have chosen to go about their business as if nothing much has changed here in the United States. And while American jurists are far from the only citizens who have come up light on the outrage scale, I am hard-pressed to think of a group that is better positioned—in terms of education, employment, status, and first-hand knowledge—to make a less than joyful noise about what has happened to this country’s legal principles and protections.

The jurists of Pakistan have been out in the streets everyday, protesting in the face of beatings and mass arrests, so, by all means, stand in solidarity with them--they deserve your support. But beyond shouting “No more Musharraf,” beyond simply supporting the Pakistani lawyers, it might be good to learn from them, too. How about regular gatherings of American jurists to stand in solidarity with our Constitution? How about shouts against the myriad ways that our less than legitimately elected President has abused the law and its practitioners right here at home?

. . .

I heard the head of the New York Bar on the radio speaking in support of Pakistani lawyers because, he said, the Musharraf government had tortured some of them. Well, the American government is torturing people, probably every day, probably for some six years now—do they have to torture lawyers to get you to stage protests of your own government’s behavior?

(cross-posted on Daily Kos and The Seminal)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home