When does the perception of legality trump morality and ethics?
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | FEBRUARY 8, 2013
The dire consequences of having a lawyer as President of a country are well-known by now. According to many lawyers, legality, or the perception of legality trumps morality and ethics. Sometimes even in the absence of legality, immoral and unethical acts are committed and justified with little or no opposition from those who, in other cases, sustain the power of the laws when they benefit their baseless explanations.
The notion that a person or a person on behalf of a country or a group of people can award himself the power to murder others who he thinks are a threat, has no legal, moral or ethical standing. Lawyers, however will tell you the opposite. They will tell you that killing someone whose guilt is yet to be proven can be legal in some cases. They use criteria that is supposedly contained in international, constitutional and national security laws used as justification to execute someone without proving guilt or intention to commit a crime, and in doing so, the right to have due process and the benefit of being tried by a jury of peers is illegally denied.
The latest example of what I call the ‘idiocy of legalities’ is the perception expressed by Christopher Swift, Assistant Professor of National Security Studies at the University of Georgetown. During an interview where he was questioned about the legality, morality and ethics used to support the murder of Americans and thousands of innocents with drones, Swift poses that such action must be analyzed through three different microscopes. First, the legal aspect, where he stands along the murderous policies of the United States government.
In the case of Anwar al-Awlaki — an American citizen assassinated in Yemen by a drone attack — “it met international law,” says Swift, because the man was in a country which authorized the U.S. to use drones in the fight against Al-Qaeda. As we all know by now, al-Awlaki was a U.S. asset in the region. He was an agent of the U.S. government who dined at the Pentagon just days after the 9/11 attacks. He was a member of al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization created by the U.S. government back in the 1970s.
“It also meets constitutional legality,” adds Swift. He says that a U.S. president can order the death of a fellow citizen “even if he is in a foreign country that is at war.” Mr. Swift bases his assumption on the debunked claim that al-Awlaki was plotting to attack United States or an American ally. That claim comes from the same U.S. government who the cleric used to work for, in which case the people in need to be tried and or assassinated would be the members of government who sponsored, kept secret or aided al-Awlaki to supposedly carry out such attacks. In fact, there is a legal mechanism to do that very same thing when people are accused of Treason, which is what a group of hand-picked, high-level government official engage into.
Swift’s position on this issue shows three things. First, he is, at least publicly, a gullible loser who trusts his government. Second, he would kill anyone before awarding him the proper due process, just because there is a law that says so. Third, the perception of legality and constitutionality, as they were understood in the framework of the U.S. Constitution, has been changed by so-called legal experts, because while the document guarantees due process to anyone accused of a crime, those who read, study and interpret the law do not believe such right should be respected in some cases. To sum up, nowhere on the U.S. Constitution the government is allowed to capture, hold indefinitely or murder citizens without a trial, and any law created by politicians that says the contrary is simply unconstitutional. But lawyers make up laws and interpretations of the laws so that it is perceived that such actions are legal and constitutional.
“The Supreme Court upheld that it is legitimate to kill a U.S. citizen without violating the Fifth Amendment as long as it involves an imminent threat,” asserts Swift. The fact that the Supreme Court upholds the prerogative that the government gave itself to kill citizens at home or abroad does not have any legal, moral or ethical standing. Murder is always a crime and the idea that some questionable, bogus threat justifies murdering someone are really threatening to the legal pillars that sustain the United States as a Republic. Just because something is perceived or interpreted as legal, which is not the case here, does not make it constitutional, moral or ethical.
Mr. Swift then analyzed the legality of enhanced interrogations, better known as torture. In the case of the crimes committed by the previous administration, Swift does find the standing to call it illegal. “The authorization of the use of torture during the mandates of George W. Bush is completely illegal,” said Swift. It is important to remember that many of the torture sessions carried out by the United States government, which have been proven not to be useful tools to obtain relevant intelligence, ended up in the death of those who were tortured. In this sense, Swift sees murders committed by people flying high-tech toys as legal, while condemning murder by methods such as water boarding. Double standard?
When questioned about whether the Obama administration should change its strategy in its supposed attempt to fight terrorism, Swift quickly pointed out what according to him is the relevant aspect of the discussion. “The debate should not focus on the legality of drone attacks, but on its long-term effectiveness. How effective will the fight against terrorism be when done with a remote control? Not effective at all. The military success of the Army is not contributing to political stability that is what the U.S. intends to achieve in Yemen and Afghanistan.”
Clearly, Mr. Swift and the U.S. government have a lot in common. For example, they believe that the universal right to life does not exist when a person has brown skin, wears a turban and lives in a country thousands of miles away from the U.S., where he expresses hatred towards American politics. Also, legality and constitutionality are not what the founding documents of the United States say they are, but whatever lawyers say it is; no matter how badly those interpretations of what is legal or constitutional oppose the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Last but not least, legality trumps morality and ethics. One could even risk a guess and say that for people like Barack Obama, a constitutional lawyer himself, and Christopher Swift, the trait of humanity is simply meaningless if there is a legal backdoor that can be crossed to destroy it.
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