Sunday, April 26, 2009

Prolong a divisive debate?

Next time you get arrested, try telling the coppers that "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past". See where that takes you.

"We're all equal before the law", right? When the other day Barack Obama exposed years of dodgy CIA interrogation methods, including the White House-endorsed torturing of terror suspects, you'd have thought that prosecution would be the next step. Such interrogation techniques, "waterboarding" but one of them, have been deemed illegal (including by the US itself) since WWII.

Obama may have called it a "a dark and painful chapter in our history" and promised that America will never repeat the same mistakes, but he also pledged that no-one will be prosecuted. "Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past", he said, a sentiment echoed by Alexander Chancellor in Friday's Guardian. "There are more urgent priorities", he wrote, adding that "Putting people on trial will [...] distract the Obama administration from its essential business".

Now, try and apply the same concept to all aspects of law and daily life. A burglar gets caught and then released without charges "because, there's no point in dwelling, let's just move on". Or a serial rapist. Why subject the poor victim to the stress of reliving her trauma in court? You could argue that it's "time for reflection and not retribution" and that the victim should simply get down to their daily business.

Or a fraudster. Again, a company may have been severely damaged by his or her illegal dealings, but, rather than bringing the crook to account and getting bogged down with legal quibbles, wouldn't the firm's shattered resources be better employed in dealing with their most "urgent priorities"?

So there it is. Next time you get caught, no matter which heinous crime you may have committed, just quote President Obama and tell the coppers that "they shouldn't be spending their time and energy laying blame for the past".

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