21 Nov 2006

Janet Reno’s Morality

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When it came to incinerating gunowners;

or, when it came to repatriating children to live under Communism;

Janet Reno did not have a lot of qualms.

But, suddenly, here’s Janet Reno questioning the right of the Bush Administration to deny illegal combatants, captured overseas bearing arms aganst the military forces of the United States, the identical Constitutional Rights possessed by United States citizens in times of peace.

Bloomberg

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Dominique R. Poirier

According to this article, Janet Reno has made herself a common point between three cases which are, at first glance, totally unrelated each with another. As suggests this article, and for the record, these three points are:

1. actions relating to the Branch Davidian standoff, siege and fire in Waco, Texas;
2. the deportation of Elián González;
3. questioning the right of the Bush Administration to deny illegal combatants, captured overseas bearing arms against the military forces of the United States, the identical Constitutional Rights possessed by United States citizens in times of peace.

Now, the other common point between these three cases, or issues, is that each of them may easily call for contradictory proposals and/or forms of logic. Each and all of them challenge the American set of values. Each and all of them share the common point to be exception to the “rule”. As a result, one may be, at the same time, right and wrong, while expressing any statement about any of these three cases or issues. Whatever one may think about Janet Reno, the fact is that this person, at some point, has been directly or indirectly involved, in each of these three issues. Three quite tricky issues, I think.

For example, everyday one may find abuses questioning freedom of though and speech, while the mere idea to question the 1st amendment would be detrimental to the American set of values. The 1st amendment frees anyone to express one’s point of view, whichever it is. Now, at which point one’s point of view becomes hostile and punishable propaganda or disinformation, according to this same amendment?

The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of laws passed by the Federalists in 1798 during the administration of President John Adams. They were designed to protect the United States from alien citizens of enemy powers and to stop seditious attacks from weakening the government. The (Democratic-Republican Party/Democratic-Republicans), and later historians, have seen them as stifling criticism of the administration. They became a major political issue in the elections of 1798 and 1800. One act – the Alien Act – is still the law in 2006, and it has frequently been enforced in wartime. The others expired or were repealed in 1801. Thomas Jefferson held them all to be unconstitutional and void, and released all who were imprisoned by them.

The Alien and Sedition Act were enacted in time of grave crisis in America.

For the record, The Sedition Act made it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or its officials. Enacted on July 14, 1798, with an expiration date of March 3, 1801, the Sedition Act was in total contradiction with the 1st amendment and if it hadn’t been repealed the authors of moveon.org and Michael Moore, for example, would have been indicted and sent to prison for what they did publicly allege and spread.

In enacting the Military Commission Act of 2006, signed on October 17, George Bush puts himself today in the same uncomfortable position John Adams did in 1798. He took exceptional provisions due to exceptional circumstances. History only will tell us whether the Military Commission Act of 2006 will ultimately meet the same fate the Sedition Act of 1798 did meet, or will never be repealed. As for the case of the Sedition Act, it is true that the Military Commission Act is, all at the same time, in contradiction with the fundamental set of American values, and a necessary, prophylactic, and drastic provision considering the exceptional circumstances.

Subsequently, and as for the case of Elián González, and this of the Davidians, I find no way to state that the Military Commission Act is right, or wrong. For it happens, often, in the case of state affairs, that our notions of wrongfulness or rightfulness, however they are based upon religious considerations or not, are totally incompatible with – and would be detrimental to – an exceptional disposition we call the “national interest.” By essence, the notion of national interest (formalized first in Italy during the Renaissance period) overwhelms our notions of “wrong” or “right” when it comes to the interest of the nation as taken as a collective entity. In European countries, where it originated the notion of national interest is commonly named the “reason of state” or “reason of the state.” The reason of state correspond to an overriding concern, usually the interests of the country concerned, that justifies political or diplomatic action that might otherwise be considered reprehensible.

In order to provide an another way of seeing things to those who feel uncomfortable with the notion of national interest, I will go to such length as to say that, in the case of America, the thought of Adam Smith happens to be, to some extent, in tune with this notion. “From the individual will comes the common good.” For it implies that the existence of said-to-be “wrongs” actions partakes to the common good of the American people the same way “right” actions do.

The U.S. Constitution, and the way the three powers are shaped, organized, and work each with another, have made America fortunate in the sense that they preclude the national interest from giving way to abuses; while, in many other occidental and said-to-be democratic countries the national interest is often misused as a way to cover blunders and misdemeanors made by the governing elite.

As long as Representatives, Senators, Governors, and even President, are regularly called to testify in courtroom, are indicted, are sentenced, are effectively jailed, or are impeached; we have the guarantee that the national interest does not serve such disputable purposes in the United States of America.
That why I think, as a conclusion to this comment, that the three cases presented in this article are each and all relevant to national interest, and as such have little to do with what Janet Reno, as an individual, may say, state, or think about it. Now, the very fact she is questioning to day the validity of the Military Commission Act is all relevant to democracy, to my point of view.



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