Elevate Difference

Rule of Law, Misrule of Men

In Rule of Law, Misrule of Men Elaine Scarry, a professor at Harvard, argues that the well being of the populace is the chief reason for a military. A proposition not much debated. She goes on to argue that after 9/11 the Bush administration did not focus on protecting the populace in the U.S., but instead focused on attacking people in other countries. She points out that U.S. military resources are so far beyond other countries (the U.S. spends more than the rest of the world combined on military) that opponents know they can’t use standard military measures, so they must resort to unconventional warfare and actions prohibited by international law. The U.S. doesn’t need to resort to that, but did under Bush. Scarry details multiple violations of international law in the process.

On the homefront, the acts of people should be private and those of government public. Instead the Bush administration reversed that theory by probing into the intimate details of citizens with the Patriot Act while the acts of the government were made private (e.g., secret renditions for torture, lies about yellow cake and weapons of mass destruction, prohibitions on pictures of dead American soldiers.) The Bush administration has been characterized as the most secret. They had a lot to hide.

It was not the Congress who stood up for the American people against these travesties, nor (by and large) did the courts. According to Scarry, the people stood up. Librarians across the country refused to turn in records. Town councils in 406 cities and eight states passed resolutions that they would not follow the Act. Two town councils issued indictments against Bush and Cheney, and promised to arrest them if they came into their jurisdiction. After ninety-two towns asked for impeachment proceedings, thirty-five articles of impeachment were introduced into Congress by Dennis Kucinich and Paul Wexler for both Bush and Cheney.

Rule of Law, Misrule of Men outlines many misdeeds of the Bush administration, but the greatest of these is torture—illegal without exception. The author names those responsible and those few who stood up. The Bush administration crossed the line. Failure to hold them accountable is, in itself, a domestic and international crime.

The actions of Bush put the entire concept of Rule of Law in the United States into question. It is not enough that Obama says he won’t do the same. The Rule of Law requires that the law doesn’t change from one president to another. One lawless president gives permission to others. To uphold the Rule of Law, the Bush administration must be held accountable in a court of law for their war crimes, urges the author. The United Nations, other countries, and international and domestic organizations have taken steps toward such accountability. No action has been forthcoming from the U.S. government, however.

What does all this have to do with women? Violence against women has become recognized internationally as torture since it meets the definition of intentional infliction of a high level of pain and suffering for no legitimate reason. Often, the activities that go on in the home are the same, or worse, than that which goes on in war zones. If torture can be legalized, can violence against women? The word patriotic comes from the same root as patriarchy–patri meaning father. Feminists have long said the root of the problem is patriarchy. So long as that is the organizing principle of society, women cannot achieve equal rights regardless of the Rule of Law.

Written by: Dianne Post, July 25th 2010