Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vice and Virtue

Talk about "vice" and "virtue" is just trouble-making. When you are part of a team, your duty is to "be a team player."

Spain in this generation is a fine democracy led by a moderate regime, a place open-minded Americans (Americans not yet addicted to empire) may look up to as something of a model, but today Spain's most famous judge--Baltasar Garzon--is being taken to trial with the threat of being jailed essentially for the rest of his life because he is challenging the Spanish conspiracy to pretend that fascism never existed in that land [Vicky Short, "Judge Baltasar Garzon suspended for investigating Franco's crimes," World Socialist Website 5/27/10].

The case is causing consternation both in Spain and abroad, mainly because it was brought by three ultra right-wing organizations. Among these were the Falange Española, the Fascist party once presided over by Franco himself -- whose military coup of 1936 sparked the bloody, three-year Spanish Civil War, and culminated in a long dictatorship that ended only with his death in 1975. Historians estimate that Franco's postwar reprisals cost the lives of 100,000 people.

Garzón's many supporters have responded to the case with dismay, moved by its outrageous symmetry: a highly respected judge brought to trial, for attempting to try crimes, on an accusation by the disciples of the regime that perpetrated those crimes in the first place.
[Julius Purcell, "Baltasar Garzon, "General Franco's latest victim," The  5/29/10]

In the U.S. today not one former official is on trial for having lied about the reasons for launching a war of aggression, not one person is being forced in court to justify advocating "preventive" war, not one official is being called to account for supporting death squads, not one official is being tried for undermining constitutional guarantees of civil liberties, not one is facing a hearing for attacking a city or providing arms to a state practicing collective punishment against an ethnic minority or a class of poor farmers sitting on land needed by rich cattle barons., not one has even been fired for advocating nuclear war against a non-nuclear country. Hardly a single judicial action exists today against those who cut corners and gambled with the existence of the Gulf of Mexico as a biosphere; hardly a single judicial action is investigating the possible criminal behavior of individuals whose financial gambles put millions out of work and certainly none are hauling to court officials who passed laws designed to facilitate those gambles or officials whose job it was to regulate the gamblers.

There is nothing new about this dilemma.

From the most ancient times justice has been a two-part concept: virtue triumphs, and vice is punished.

We have been fortunate enough to live to a time when virtue, though it does not triumph, is nonetheless not always tormented by attack dogs. Beaten down, sickly, virtue has now been allowed to enter in all its tatters and sit in the corner, as long as it doesn't raise its voice.

However, no one dares say a word about vice...."Why open old wounds?"....

What kind of disastrous path lies ahead of us if we do not have the chance to purge ourselves of that putrefaction rotting inside our body?...

What are we to do? Someday our descendants will describe our several generations as generations of driveling do-nothings. First we submissively allowed them to massacre us by the millions, and then with devoted concern we tended the murderers in their prosperous old age....

But let us be generous. We will not shoot them....But for the sake of our country and our children we have the duty to seek them all out and bring them all to trial! Not to put them on trial so much as their crimes....

It is unthinkable in the twentieth century to fail to distinguish between what constitutes an abominable atrocity that must be prosecuted and what constitutes that "past" which "ought not to be stirred up."

We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to oppress others. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. [Aleksandr SolzhenitsNY: Harper Perennial, 2007, 175-178)]

Meanwhile back in the West, heroic nuclear whistleblower Moredechai Vannunu is going back to jail; his 18-year sentence was not enough. In the U.S., Wall Street fraud-investigating whistleblowers ["Silencing the whistleblowers," Democracy Now 5/20/10] were fired. Protect the guilty; punish the trouble-makers. And we wonder why our country seems so confused.

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