Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Act as a sovereign individual; always. Not as a slave of the State

On 25 January, 2013, John Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison for exposing torture in Guantanamo Bay. He served every day of that 30 month sentence.  He is the only man who ever went to prison because of the CIA torture program.

At the time, General David Petraeus (a man of no great moral authority), who was then CIA director, stated "This case ... marks an important victory for our Agency, for our Intelligence Community, and for our country. Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws".

That's the argument that was used by the defendants at the Nuremberg trials ... that their oath of allegiance to the State, and to serve as an instrument of that state, absolved them of responsibility for their own actions.  They were hanged anyway ... the judgement of the court being that we are all, individually, responsible for our own actions.  Not the State, the Marine Corps, the First Baptist Church, or the Boy Scouts of America.  

Moral autonomy is having the freedom and possessing the courage, and the will, to make moral decisions on one's own, individually.  It's standing on one's own two feet; and sometimes that requires sacrifice.

Moral autonomy is at the root of what is termed "character."  Character is always individual.  You don't display character by joining a group.  Moral autonomy is the ability to choose the right course of action, by oneself, without any outside pressure or influence.

Our first allegiances, as men and women of characters, should always be to our principles, and to our families, those who depend on us, not to some oath of allegiance to a State.   To put the powerful above our principles is to act as a tool of an authority that seeks only to enrich and empower itself at our expense; in other words, to act as a slave, rather than a man. It is not just a choice to act amorally, giving over our moral choice to another; it is moral cowardice to refuse to do what we believe is right, using our "oath of allegiance" to excuse that choice.

Ironically, it was under US leadership that the Allies prosecuted not only leaders of the Nazi Party but also industrialists, doctors, and prison commandants. The Americans and Soviets also wanted to prosecute the people who had created the legal framework for the Nazi regime, but British and French leaders objected. Consequently, the United States, acting on its own, convened a separate Nuremberg tribunal to try lawyers, judges, and legal policymakers. In doing so, it established the principle that anyone who violated international laws against harming prisoners in wartime could be prosecuted as war criminals, no matter how many internal memos they had written to the contrary or how much they claimed they were "only doing their jobs."

The precedent for dealing with war crimes was set by Americans.  And they're fully prepared to walk away from that precedent now.  It is not only a glaring hypocrisy to the whole world ... it is a demonstration of weakness.  And a clear indication of how far the nation has fallen, morally. 

So, my verdict on war resisters like Justin ColbyKimberley RiveraDean Walcott, Edward Snowden:  heroes, by virtue of retaining their autonomy as human beings when all around them grovelled, claiming they had no choice other than to act as a helpless tool of authority.