Saturday, May 11, 2013

Justice in Guatemala

Yesterday in Guatemala we saw an example of just what democracy is all about. In a court of law former Guatemalan strongman Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide for the slaughter of more than 1700 peasants during the country's dirty war. The judge sentenced Rios Montt to 80 years in prison.

The verdict is a vivid demonstration that in a democracy, no one is above the law - even a former military dictator. Could you imagine if a former president stood accused of human rights violations in this country?

It's a sad commentary when a country that has spent most of its history under repressive regimes gives us a lesson in democracy and the rule of law.

President Obama ordered the murder of an American citizen in Yemen. As a result of his orders, two more Americans were killed in Yemen. He has also been complicit in the torture and illegal detention of prisoners of war in Guantanamo.

President Bush (the Younger) committed countless violations of human rights in the torture program his administration cooked up as part of the American arsenal in the war on everything terror. He also ordered air strikes in Iraq that killed hundreds of innocent civilians as part of his cooked up war against Iraq.

President Clinton sent the war planes into Balkan air space and bombed the hell out of men, women and children who had nothing to do with the civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

President Bush (the Elder) was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Panamanians when he ordered bombing raids on populated areas during his invasion of Panama.

Under each of these presidents, covert operations were launched in countless nations around the world that resulted in the deaths of innocent men, women and children were nothing more than collateral damage in the eyes of our leaders.

And every time a new president is elected he tells the American people that it's time to look ahead and not argue about the past. No president has ever ordered an investigation into the human rights abuses committed by a former occupant of the White House. It's not because he wants to try to bring the country together in a common mission -- it's because it's tacitly understood that if you ignore what the guy before you did, the guy after you will ignore what you did in kind.

I have no faith that we will hold our leaders accountable for their actions. I have no faith that any former president will have to stand and defend himself against charges that he committed gross human rights violations. And, until it finally happens, there will always be those who are above the law.

What a sorry lesson to teach our children.

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