Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, comments, “It is impossible to underestimate the significance of the rule of law in a modern society”:
It is a profoundly inclusive concept. One that subordinates all social, economic, political, and individual behaviour to an agreed set of codes and regulations. To have meaning, these rules must not be the exclusive preserve of a privileged few. They must be the common property of all citizens. They must be clear to everyone, taught to everyone and applied to everyone in a uniform way.
No one can be above the law. And no one can be forgotten by the law or denied its protection.
That’s a quote from the Prime Minister’s speech in Shanghai last week (hat tip, Paul Wells).
The remarks were intended as an exhortation to the Chinese government, to clean up its act. How sad that the words are equally convicting when applied to the government of the United States of America.
“No one is above the law.” Except for the President, who can flout the U.S. Constitution any time he claims he is acting in the interests of national security.
“No one can be forgotten by the law or denied its protection.” Except for any person who is accused of terrorism, in whose case there is no presumption of innocence, and no right of habæus corpus. Such individuals can be held in prison indefinitely without ever proceeding to trial, or even being formally accused of a crime.
When I say, “How sad …”, I mean that phrase quite literally. The ethical degeneration of the U.S.A. in the aftermath of 9/11 is arguably the saddest geo-political development of my lifetime.
I remain hopeful that President Obama will undo the offenses against human rights committed by his predecessor in the office. Obama has made progress, but only on certain fronts. He has a long way to go yet, to undo the damage and blot out the stain on the U.S.A.’s reputation as a civilized, just nation.