Why Are We Pardoning President Bush and Punishing Chelsea Manning?


The most important standard of justice is that the law should apply equally to everybody. Lady Justice is "blind" and does not show favoritism to money, power, or privilege. In the last few years, however, the law has been used more and more to prosecute and oppress private individuals while the far more heinous crimes of public officials are excused and ignored.

A week before Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking information to WikiLeaks that detailed government corruption, corporate conspiracies, and war crimes, the Obama administration filed a petition with a San Francisco federal court arguing that former president George W. Bush and his advisors enjoy "absolute immunity" against any possible civil or criminal charges from the Iraq War.

The motion was filed after Sundus Shaker Saleh tried to sue the former president. Saleh, an Iraqi refugee, who was driven into exile in Jordan, is one of the millions of people that were either killed, maimed, or displaced thanks to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Rupa Bhattacharyya, director of the Department of Justice's Torts branch, argued that Bush and his co-conspirators are immune because "each was acting within the scope of their federal office or employment" when they knowingly lied and distorted evidence in order to wage an unprovoked, aggressive war in Iraq.

The timing of the Obama administration's motion could not be more ironic. In the midst of a high-profile case against an Army whistleblower in which they attempted to accuse and convict her of "treason" and "aiding the enemy," tortured her, and delayed due process for over three years, the Justice Department acted with intense swiftness to make sure that those who engaged in torture and war crimes were immune from the law.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.

Political operatives looking out for each other is not something new in America. President Obama is well aware that by preventing Bush from being prosecuted, he will be immune as well. But in the last decade the sharing power of the Internet and the level of corruption and secrecy needed to maintain an aggressive, militaristic foreign policy has made its prevelance clear.

After President Bush built the foundation for the massive NSA surveillance state in collusion with some of the largest telecommunication companies, those companies received retroactive immunity. Almost a decade later, the whistleblowers who helped expose these unconstitutional and illegal activities have been fired, disciplined, ridiculed, or forced to hide out in another country.

One of the first things President Obama did upon taking office was to grant immunity to those under the Bush administration that has broken federal law and authorized torture. Additionally, many officials that were complicit in these crimes, as well as many other crimes in previous administrations, unsurprisingly found a quick path to the top of the Obama administration's legal team.

And the whistleblower who helped shine a light on the medieval, barbaric torture regime that continues to this day? Well he is currently in prison, serving a 30-month sentence.

How can this blatant hypocrisy and perversion be allowed to exist with such brazen defiance of justice? Is it that "might makes right"? Or the corruption and arrogance of a lone, unrestrained superpower? Is it an apathetic public? Likely, it's a blend of all three factors.

Digging even deeper, the national security state — indeed, the entire political apparatus — is defined by a perversion of law and justice. It is the state's supposed duty and obligation to commit acts that would land private actors in jail. Theft becomes "taxation" and "civil forfeiture," debasing the currency and bank bailouts are "monetary policy," and starting wars that cause massive civilian deaths and property damage is just "foreign policy."

And conspiracy to wage aggressive war is "acting within the scope of their federal office or employment."

Whether knowingly or unknowingly, this is what whistleblowers attack when they act in good conscious to reveal these secrets to the world. Constitutional government bound by the rule of law depends upon the consent of the governed; how we can give our consent to a government that acts in near-complete secrecy? And how we can consent to give government powers and rights that we ourselves do not have?

As Manning said in her plea to President Obama, "Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal."

Equal justice would mean that war criminals, not whistleblowers, are locked in cages — and where no is immune from the consequences of illegal behavior.