Monday, January 01, 2007

Justice for Just-Us--Holy Name 2007

Yes, Glenn Greenwald and Atrios have already noted it, but I had said before that "We don' need no steenkin' due process! And I noted this at Fr. Jake's place; I just didn't have the details:

Interestingly, the execution occurs while other, major crimes are in pending trials. And it occurs without appeal, without review, without reconsideration.

The mark of a justice system is not that people are punished or that the guilty are caught. And, certainly, contrary to the President's repeated statements, the mark of justice is not that the state executes prisoners (he always says "justice" was done when someone is executed by state or military action). The mark of a justice system is that the conduct of legal proceedings is fair. The purpose of an appellate process is to be sure the legal proceedings are fair. Courts don't care about guilt; that is left to the trier of fact (the jury). Courts ensure the trial itself is fair. That is the purpose for judicial review.

Which is completely absent in this case. The judgment was a foregone conclusion, and no attempt at an appeal is even offered. This is not justice. This is not law. This is an eye for an eye, a death for the dead. Which doesn't even get us to the reasonableness, if any, of the death penalty.

After all, "Justice has been done." Thus sayeth the President
Well, now we know how far they were willing to go to do "justice:"

Told that Mr. Maliki wanted to carry out the death sentence on Mr. Hussein almost immediately, and not wait further into the 30-day deadline set by the appeals court, American officers at the Thursday meeting said that they would accept any decision but needed assurance that due process had been followed before relinquishing physical custody of Mr. Hussein.
“The Americans said that we have no issue in handing him over, but we need everything to be in accordance with the law,” the Iraqi official said. “We do not want to break the law.”

The American pressure sent Mr. Maliki and his aides into a frantic quest for legal workarounds, the Iraqi official said. The Americans told them they needed a decree from President Jalal Talabani, signed jointly by his two vice presidents, upholding the death sentence, and a letter from the chief judge of the Iraqi High Tribunal, the court that tried Mr. Hussein, certifying the verdict. But Mr. Talabani, a Kurd, made it known that he objected to the death penalty on principle.

The Maliki government spent much of Friday working on legal mechanisms to meet the American demands. From Mr. Talabani, they obtained a letter saying that while he would not sign a decree approving the hanging, he had no objections. The Iraqi official said Mr. Talabani first asked the tribunal’s judges for an opinion on whether the constitutional requirement for presidential approval applied to a death sentence handed down by the tribunal, a special court operating outside Iraq’s main judicial system. The judges said the requirement was void.

Mr. Maliki had one major obstacle: the Hussein-era law proscribing executions during the Id holiday. This remained unresolved until late Friday, the Iraqi official said. He said he attended a late-night dinner at the prime minister’s office at which American officers and Mr. Maliki’s officials debated the issue.

One participant described the meeting this way: “The Iraqis seemed quite frustrated, saying, ‘Who is going to execute him, anyway, you or us?’ The Americans replied by saying that obviously, it was the Iraqis who would carry out the hanging. So the Iraqis said, ‘This is our problem and we will handle the consequences. If there is any damage done, it is we who will be damaged, not you.’ ”

To this, the Iraqis added what has often been their trump card in tricky political situations: they telephoned officials of the marjaiya, the supreme religious body in Iraqi Shiism, composed of ayatollahs in the holy city of Najaf. The ayatollahs approved. Mr. Maliki, at a few minutes before midnight on Friday, then signed a letter to the justice minister, “to carry out the hanging until death.”
Everyone involved in this has even more blood on their hands. I said earlier that we had a moral responsibility for Iraq. We still do; we just don't know what to do with it:

While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught in the double bind that has ensnared them over much else about the Maliki government — frustrated at what they call the government’s failure to recognize its destructive behavior, but reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Mr. Maliki and worsening the situation.
Dahlia Lithwick'a comment on the planned $125 million legal complex for Guantanamo Bay, so court ordered hearings can be held for the prisoners there, is applicable here as well: "The government has now officially put more thought into the design of Guantanamo's court bathrooms than the charges against its prisoners." Justice just doesn't concern us; all we are worried about is repercussions:

American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.
Ms. Lithwick's list of "The 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006" makes clear that Bush never talks about "justice" except when he's referring to the state killing people; either through judicial action, such as executions, or military action. Social justice, justice for people in New Orleans or on the Gulf Coast, for the poor, the orphan, the homeless; it would appear from his public statements he has no concept of such things as "justice" at all. Indeed, his justice is almost "just us," as in "just those of us" who don't get caught on the wrong end of the legal system or the war-making power of the US.

Well, now the whole world can see what the US considers "justice."

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