Saturday, September 16, 2006

Legalizing impunity


I learned the meaning of "impunity" from my work with Central and Latin Americans, usually persons made refugees by their own criminal governments that were supported by mine. The organization Derechos describes the concept:

Impunity. Perhaps no word defines the experiences of Latin America as well as this one. Lack of punishment, of investigation, of justice. The possiblity [sic] of committing crimes - from common robberies to rape, torture, murders - without having to face, much less suffer, any punishment. And therefore, the implicit aproval [sic] of the morality of these crimes. Forgiving and forgetting without remembering - or remembering too well, but not caring - that what is forgotten will be repeated. As thus what is done without any punishment, can be repeated without fear.

Our president is now seeking to make impunity for torturers the law of the land. To judge by his press conference on Friday, some of the hired help must have been afraid they might eventually be prosecuted; Bush wants the Congress to make torture safe for its perpetrators.

As usual, Billmon nails what is at stake in the current pulling and hauling over legalizing torture:

What will be on the table then is the question of whether a nation as powerful and potentially dangerous to others as America (the proverbial bull in the china shop) can survive on brute force alone -- without moral legitimacy or political prestige, without true allies (save for the world's other leper regimes) and without "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind."...

What this amounts to ... is the final decommissioning of the myth of American exceptionalism -- once one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Without it, we're just another paranoid empire obsessed with our own security and willing to tell any lie or repudiate any self-proclaimed principle if we think it will make us even slightly safer.


Hat tip to Mahablog for pointing to the press conference video.

1 comment:

Arcturus said...

I'm afraid the myth's demise is being heralded a tad too soon. "Impunity" has always been an aspect of exceptionalism. Teflon wasn't Reagan's private possession.

Giorgio Agamben teaches us that the concepts implicit in a State of Exception are nothing new.

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