Above the law?

May 22, 2004

Justice Dept wonks put Americans worldwide in jeopardy with shocker memo

The occupation of Iraq is going badly enough, even without the photos of American soldiers torturing their captives, undermining what has until now been a universally perceived commitment on the part of the US to human rights and rule of law.

Now we learn that this practice is the outcome of a Justice Dept memo arguing that international law is applicable to everyone else except the US. "Counter-intuitive," the clever memo writers say of this advocacy of double standards, but ostensibly logical.

Gone in one fell blow are the days when the US can preach human rights to other countries, when long-suffering victims of abuse in the rest of the world could look to the US as a shining beacon of noble ideals. At a more practical level, more worrisome is the possibility that the enemies of the US will take this Justice Dept memo as signalling open season on US citizens. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. That isn't counter-intuitive. And that's what America's enemies will be acting on, because the one principle they're familiar with is reciprocity. When the best and brightest are too smart for their own good, who do we have to turn to any more?


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