A Scofflaw in the White House: Undermining Respect for Law


The Ides of March are upon us and, much like the situation with Julius Caesar in ancient Rome, we have an imperialist, authoritarian chief resident in the White House. Please understand, I do not believe President Bush will be physically attacked and assassinated like Caesar. However, as a sneering scofflaw whose pre-emptive use of force and lack of respect for international law and rules of global justice sets an egregious example, Bush is Caesar-like. A disrespect for law sets off distraught and deranged home-grown killers like Brian Nichols and Bart Ross. Nichols and Ross took out their disdain for laws intended to serve the ends of justice on the most obvious symbols of law and justice available, as they targeted and killed officers of the courts and judges and their families in murderous rampages.

Nichols surrendered on March 12 after apparently killing the trial judge in his rape trial that was being retried after the first trial ended in a “hung jury”. He also will be charged with killing a court reporter, a sheriff’s deputy, and a special agent for the U.S. government. Ross was a 57 year old electrician and cancer victim who killed himself on March 9 after murdering the mother and husband of a U. S. District Judge in Chicago on February 28. The judge had dismissed his medical malpractice lawsuit and Ross had written a letter to President Bush “..warning the government once again not to violate my civil or human rights”.

The terror of Nichols and Ross raises questions about how the Bush war-on-terror has also become a war against the international rule of law and protocols for global justice. Will we ever have security if we do not secure and abide by global rules of justice?

On March 9, the Bush administration announced its decision to withdraw the United States from an International Court of Justice protocol on Consular Relations that the U.S. proposed in 1963 and ratified in 1969. We were the first country to invoke the measure to protect our citizens abroad after the taking of 52 U.S. hostages in Tehran, Iran in 1979. The Bush scofflaw gang in the White House made the decision to ditch the international agreement because opponents of the death penalty have been using it to fight death sentences of foreigners on death row in the U.S.

Examples of exceptionalism to rules of international law currently being flouted and abrogated by the Bush administration abound. “The International Covenant on Economic, Social. and Cultural Rights” asserts the right of all human beings to freely pursue their social and cultural development and promotes the right to work, the right to unionize and the right to receive “social security, including social insurance”, the right to have adequate living conditions, the right to be free from hunger and the right to education. We signed this covenant in 1977 and never ratified it, though 151 other nations have. “The Convention on Discrimination Against Women” that asserts equality of men and women and rejects discrimination against women, including women’s reproductive rights, was signed by the U. S. in 1980, and 179 nations have ratified it. We are the only industrialized country to fail to ratify it. The “Convention on the Rights of the Child” asserts broad and inalienable rights for children under 18 to be free from want, abuse and exploitation as well as to express their beliefs and ideas. The U.S. signed it in 1995 and 191 nations who signed have ratified. Only the U.S. and Somalia have not. The “UN Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol” are interesting testaments to the arrogance of the Bush scofflaw mentality when faced with the scientific reality of human over-use of fossil fuels causing global warming and climate change. We ratified the UNFCCC in 1992 and signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 but never ratified it. The Bush administration has now pulled out of negotiations. 189 other nations have ratified including Russia.. The “Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court(ICC) that has international jurisdiction to prosecute individuals (not states) for crimes such as genocide, as well as other crimes against humanity, has been signed by 120 nations, but Bush’s scofflaw gang does not want the U.S. to participate.

Makes you wonder why we would condone genocide.

The Bush administration has also ditched the “Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty” that has been ratified by 120 nations; the “Land Mine Ban Treaty”, ratified by 144 nations; and the “Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention”, ratified in its original form by 144 nations.

We should not be known as a “rogue nation” with a scofflaw in the White House who chases “security” at the point of a gun. Only by seeking and respecting global law and justice can we have an opportunity for justice and security at home and abroad.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

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