December 29, 2010

The Eroding Justice

Many western foreign ministers, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, are voicing concern about the equal application of justice in Russia after the conviction of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. They say it's retribution for Khodorkovsky's funding of opposition political candidates to Putin and his resistance to a Russian oil pipeline monopoly, both of which are true.

But, if I'm not mistaken, Khodorkovsky gained his position through organized crime, and he is not alone. Many years ago Putin cut a deal with powerful organized crime figures; they stay out of politics and the Kremlin looks the other way. Khodorkovsky reneged on the deal and now he's paying the price. Sounds like big boy street justice to me... he could have simply been shot or blown up.

That aside, the US has an eroded moral foundation for its criticism of Russian justice. The US was just caught obstructing German and Spanish justice systems by using extortion tactics to stop their investigations into illegal renditions and torture at Guantanamo... all of this thanks to leaked State Department cables.

But we didn't need the cables to know that the US beacon of justice is eroding. Guantanamo itself is right in our faces... so big and obvious it's easy to forget. The, the irony.... Bradley Manning, the army private presumed to have leaked the cables, is being held without charge in conditions designed to erode his senses. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is facing very uneven treatment by the western justice system, there is even talk of retroactively creating a law to go after Assange; we've recently seen laws that retroactively erase crimes (war crimes, privacy crimes by ATT and other telecom corporations) but creating a law to make a past act illegal... that rings new to me. Meanwhile very serious criminal behavior, by George Bush and his cohorts, can't be addressed because we have to look forward, not backwards. Never mind the Wall Street tycoons who walk free and the litany of other examples.

WARNING: Step back and look at the big picture. The world is loosing its moral compass; some would say "has lost." People are now rolling their eyes at the United States' criticism of Russia and US officials will bristle at this. But over time US officials could become used to such criticisms. Given a little more time on this path of our eroding justice system and they might admit they are in no position to make such criticisms. Gradually, with only a small number of people jumping up and down waiving their arms trying to warn others, we will become an undeniable police state; some would say "have become."