Has the phrase “rule of law” lost its meaning in this country or does it only apply according to somebody’s whim? The president signs bills into law but suggests in signing statements that he will only operate in accordance with laws when he deems them appropriate and as circumstances permit. We the people are just supposed to trust this man and his administration to do the right thing, all evidence to the contrary in his conduct of the war, the economy, homeland security, Medicare and the sheer incompetence of his crony appointments.
In a disturbing development, after the conviction of Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, Jr. in the death of a prisoner he was questioning, Welshofer received no jail time even as charges against him were reduced from murder to manslaughter. It isn’t that he was cleared of the charges, just that he won’t be punished as most civilians would be under similar circumstances. This is a man who placed a prisoner headfirst in a sleeping bag, sat on his chest with his hand over the prisoner’s mouth causing his death. Besides suggesting that the prisoner had a heart condition his defense team said in addition that the officer had been told the “gloves were to come off” because the usual interrogation techniques weren’t working. Obviously this technique didn’t work either because as we all know, dead men can’t talk.
The point is that, even under the tortured torture definition the president’s Justice Department has come up with, it is clear that the procedures followed by Welshofer could be defined as torture in that they either caused organ failure or, in the final analysis, the prisoner’s death. As courtroom onlookers clapped and his wife said she was proud of him for fighting the charges, it is left for the rest of us to ponder if the rule of law still has meaning and to fear that we are slowly giving over the moral high ground upon which we have based our actions and proselytized about our democratic ideals to the rest of the world.
The erosion of our constitutionally-based system of government and our respect for the law is becoming more certain with each presidential bypass of Congress, every recess appointment, every corrupt deal crafted in legislation written by special-interest lobbyists and the pap we are fed day after day. Scott McClellan tells us it’s no big deal that Jack Abramoff may appear in photographs with the president because his picture is taken with thousands of White House visitors; others bring up the fact that former first ladies, for example, have been pictured with various bad actors. That may be so, but, then again, none of those previous picture-mates participated in transition-team meetings in the White House as Jack Abramoff did in the Bush White House.
Denying the obvious is a specialty of this administration, and they are often successful at getting others to join them in denial. But over time, the president’s credibility has suffered which is why it is difficult now for even longtime supporters to buy into warrantless domestic ‘wire taps’. Not only do such actions fly in the face of the FISA law, no matter what weak justifications the president and his team assert, but many fear there is more to this issue than appears on the surface. If the program were justifiable there shouldn’t be any problem in conducting a surveillance and then seeking FISA approval. However, if it ranges into gray areas involving American citizens it might not win approval from the court, in which case the president wants to keep on keepin’ on regardless.
As more domestic intrusions come to light those who would be guardians of our rights have begun to call attention to various sorts of surveillance that seem way beyond what is acceptable to most Americans. Infiltrating a Quaker group in Florida, spying on peace activists or writing up a group protesting outside of Halliburton about war profiteering can hardly be said to fall under the umbrella of a war on terrorism?
We don’t seem to stand for the principles so often spoken of as being part of our heritage anymore. It is disappointing and sad for our country that this administration and those who represent us both at home and abroad are so willing to flout our Constitution and our system of laws and to show so little respect for international standards of decency as well.

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