Patriotic Shame

An Independence Day Reflection on the Commutation of Scooter Libby's Sentence

July 2nd is always an occasion for reflection on the nature of our nation’s founding and the great good fortune of genius among our founders.

Historians will attest that July 2nd is our true Independence Day. It was the day the declaration of independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. Two hundred and thirty one years later, as we observe an assault on our democratic ideals on all fronts — from
executive usurpation of monarchical powers to a judicial aristocracy to congressional abdication of war powers — it is fitting that we celebrate not the act of independence but the ceremony.

We have become a nation that embraces the façade of freedom, justice and democracy even as our elected leaders and their judicial appointees betray those core principles at every conceivable turn.

It is fitting that on July 2nd — true Independence Day — our president, without doubt the worst in our nation’s history, announced the commutation of the prison sentence of convicted liar Lewis “Scooter” Libby in an act so brazen and defiant of judicial process that even the
president’s staunchest supporters must blush at its implications.

Reminiscent of Gerald Ford’s pardon of disgraced former president Richard Nixon (a contingency we now know was broached by Nixon’s advisors prior to Ford’s selection to replace the ousted vice president Spiro Agnew), we need not wait 20 or 30 years for the Freedom of Information Act to reveal what we already know: There was a quid pro quo.

Scooter Libby, vice president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, lied and obstructed justice in the Valerie Plame case (the exposure of a CIA agent on a political vendetta) because he held a trump card in the vest pocket of his three-piece suit. He was curiously stoic, undaunted and
unafraid during the trial because he knew he would never have to spend a day in prison, he would never want for money, and he would emerge from his day in court the new Oliver North — not a disgraced traitor to all the republic holds dear (namely, an independent judiciary and the
rule of law) but rather the “patriotic” darling of the new right.

Scooter Libby held himself above the law because he knew that the president would deliver what the vice president demanded: unequal justice.

On this Independence Day, we truly have much for which we can be grateful:

* Most of us will never be detained, renditioned or tortured, without reasonable cause or judicial review.

* Most of us will not be sent to foreign lands to fight wars of aggression that congress never declared for other nations’ oil.

* Most of us will not lose our livelihoods for speaking out against abuse of power.

* Most of us will not lose our homes to the deadly combination of a natural disaster (triggered by global climate change) and government indifference.

* Most of us will never have to worry about minorities claiming our spots in institutions of higher learning for the gates are already closed to all but the privileged class.

* Most of us are not dissidents, activists, Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent and will not be rounded up with the usual suspects to be tried, convicted and incarcerated without the possibility of pardon, commutation or parole, on trumped up charges like Mumia Abu-Jamal or
Leonard Peltier.

* Most of us will never evade our tax responsibilities with offshore accounts or phony shelters.

* Most of us will not knowingly sacrifice our living wages, health care and retirement benefits to a new world order of the corporate elite.

* Most of us will never find ourselves above the law and beyond the consequences of our actions.

* In America, land of forgotten freedoms and neglected rights, few of us will ever appreciate the kind of privilege that our president, vice president and their loyal minions in the White House presently enjoy.

For those of us who remember our nation’s founding and the sacred promise it held forth to the world, we will not hold up our flags this Fourth of July Independence Day with patriotic pride but rather with patriotic shame.

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by Dissident Voice and others. Read other articles by Jack, or visit Jack's website.