"The phrase "rule of law" is no pious aspiration from
a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands
between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power
by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others, while strengthening the common good." - Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL); Sept. 11, 1998
Imagine a day, after the demise of the human race,
when aliens from a distant planet read Mr. Hyde's
statement supporting articles of impeachment against
Bill Clinton. Their first impression would be that
ours was a rational, civilized society. They'd think
we'd risen above our prejudices and pettiness to
attain a level of legal fairness unrivaled upon the
But if alien anthropologists dug deeper and excavated
the reality beneath the rhetoric, the stench of
hypocrisy would waft far and wide. These beings would
soon see that if such concern about the rule of law
ever existed, articles of impeachment against George
W. Bush would rain like water and flow like a mighty
Imagine the confusion of these interplanetary
visitors. They'd wonder why one president was
impeached for arguably lying about a consensual
adulterous affair in a civil case, while another
president was free to invade a sovereign nation in
violation of international and constitutional law.
The alien observers would wonder why one president was
vilified for wagging his finger and denying sexual
relations with that woman, while no one challenged a
president who told lie after lie to justify an
These galactic scientists would eventually exhume our Constitution and learn that Congress had sole power to declare war, even though George Bush waged war like a monarch. They'd also be surprised to find that our Constitution binds us to international treaties, even though Bush unilaterally violated (or withdrew from) such treaties.
Then they'd read the U.N. Charter and the Geneva
Conventions to which we're bound and learn that a
trial took place in Nuremberg for crimes against peace
- a turning point that gave birth to an imperfect but comprehensive body of international law. Curiously, they'd find that fragile body - once nurtured by America - was buried by America.
The aliens would also be puzzled by the disparity
between our claim as a moral nation and our invasion
and occupation of Iraq. They'd note the clash of this
claim with the 2,000-plus Iraqi civilians killed by
our bombs, the tens of thousands of Iraqi military we slaughtered, the over 100 American souls who needlessly perished, the thousands of physically or mentally damaged human beings who survived, and the brutality we wielded to enforce Iraq's "liberation."
The alien anthropologists' investigation wouldn't end
there, however. They'd soon uncover the crackdown on
domestic dissent, the expansion of unwarranted police
powers, and the governmental use of torture - all of
which violated the Bill of Rights.
They'd also learn about the cloak of secrecy that
enveloped government, the secret detainment and
deportation of immigrants, the gulag of Camp X-Ray,
military tribunals, and the imprisonment of U.S.
citizens denied due process.
And it wouldn't be long before they discovered that
American minorities and the poor populated a virtually
separate nation, where justice was rarely blind to
their color or their class.
Eventually, the alien researchers would wonder why the
American people thought it even possible to export
democracy to Iraq when the well was running dry at
home. Ultimately, they'd ask why we didn't rise up and
demand that George W. Bush be impeached and then tried
before the Senate for his crimes.
What would these creatures conclude about citizens who
saw the rule of law desecrated before their eyes, but
allowed it to happen? What would they say about a
society so captivated by the concept of law that lip
service comfortably substituted for substance?
My suggestion? The alien anthropologists could borrow
this passage from Pink Floyd's song "Sheep" - then
engrave it into the museum wall next to their exhibit
What do you get for pretending the danger's not real?
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well-trodden corridors into the valley of steel
What a surprise
A look of terminal shock in your eyes
Now things are really what they seem
No, this is not a bad dream
Spokane resident Mike Kress (email@example.com) is a veteran and a member
of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane.