I had the pleasure
to attend a seminar in late June 2007 entitled Potential Remedies
for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity*
that was sponsored by the Arizona State Bar during its annual convention.
One of speakers was Benjamin
B. Ferencz, a former chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes
Trials. When I saw that he would be speaking (along with Eric A.
Seitz, Esq., counsel for Ehren K. Watada, and Claire Tixeire, Esq.,
an international law/rights advocate), I immediately signed up.
is a brilliant, vibrant, and captivating speaker — even at the age
of 87. One of his comments (that I was sure to write verbatim) continues
to resonate in my brain. Near the end of his presentation he said:
"The foot of the tyrant gets so heavy on the neck of the public
that they rise up." What bothers me most about his statement
is that many Americans remain ignorant that there is a tyrannical
boot pressing their necks into the pavement. Perhaps misinformation
and propaganda in our era is so effective (or the foot's pressure
so subtly imposed over time) that many cannot see through its thick
haze. For our American public to rise up, that public must first
awaken to our present reality. Are we really safer with TSA's
charade; warrantless (and illegal) spying and wire tapping (on
you!); the onerous-sounding Department of Homeland Security; nonsensical
threat warnings (always elevated or high to keep us on edge);
torture; the draconian Patriot Act; the preposterous and un-winnable
alleged global war on terror; our illegal and tragic military blunder
in Iraq; our military bases in nearly every country and territory
on the planet; our trillion dollar defense (offense?) budgets; and
our foreign policy of hyper-aggression? The founders of this formerly
great Republic would have been disgusted with us. They would have
reached for their swords and muskets long ago.
At this point
in our history "the foot of the tyrant" is very
heavy and more so every passing day. Never in my life of 44 years
would I have imagined that this great country could be lied into
a war so blatantly, yet there is so little power in we the people
to stop the death and destruction and torture and misery and mayhem
and hatred and economic peril that war represents. And we pay
for it through taxes, inflated fiat currency, the limbs and
lives of our citizens, and our collective reputation worldwide whether
we consent to it or not. At the same time, war planes fly over our
sporting events and people wave and cheer; flags fly proudly in
front of houses; Support our Troops magnets adorn our vehicles;
public speakers thank our troops for supposedly "fighting for
our freedoms" (as those freedoms are extinguished); aspiring
presidential candidates parrot all the "right" garbage
just to get elected to grab the reigns of power (with the lone exception
of Ron Paul); and the entire time we are despised by the world for
our meddling and wrongful interventions and we are actually a lot
less safe because of the virulent hatred we have incubated.
The road of
critical thinking on these issues leads to only one place: our government
is a cruel monster that destroys lives and property and absolutely
cannot be trusted with any power, let alone the power to kill millions
with the literal press of a button. Yet here we are in late 2007
and we are witnesses of and conspirators to the very death, destruction,
and mayhem that we supposedly oppose at all costs. Does it make
any sense whatsoever that we must "rid the world of tyranny"
as our president tells us, yet our global military adventures and
misadventures kill millions? Was dropping those horrific WMD on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki really
necessary for the safety and security of this country? Did those
hundreds of thousands (perhaps many more) of Cambodians that died
from our then secret
bombing campaign really represent any threat to us? How about
the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden? Fallujah? Did those horrific
and hateful actions really get us closer to a world without tyranny?
What have we become; exactly where are we going?
Do we hate
ourselves so much that it is easy for us to stereotype others simply
because they are different in race, creed, color or religion, or
because they live in another part of the world where most Americans
have not been and perhaps could not find on a map? Or because well-connected
political elites have financial
interests to preserve/protect? Or because the delusional and
dangerous Dick Cheney lies to us and says they are a threat to our
security and safety? Or because the sickening media parrots lies
and hysterically command that we must bomb country _______ (insert
country to bomb du jour) because it's an imminent threat to us?
Are we that infantile and naïve that we are mustered to hate
and kill because twisted, evil, pathetic souls like George Bush,
Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld say we should? And when the lies
that yanked us to war are clearly exposed, we express almost no
outrage as a nation. We the people stand mute.
What have we
become, sitting idly in front of our big-screen propaganda boxes
watching the figurative lynching of Michael Vick for his alleged
dogfighting escapades while many
thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians die from our collective
actions? Let there be no mistake whatsoever: the greatest threat
to our collective safety and security is our own corrupt, evil,
soulless federal government to which we are connected like Siamese
twins. By extension, our complacence makes us equally guilty; we
the people have the blood on our collective hands. Perhaps the real
tyrant resides in us; it resides in our collective disinterest and
ignorance as a citizenry to stand up and say that we have had enough
death and destruction. We have become our own tyrants. We have become
our own jailers. We are leading ourselves like lemmings off a cliff.
If we ever
awaken and realize that there is a slimy foot squeezing down on
our necks, what exactly does Mr. Ferencz mean by "rise up"?
Because of the substantial inertia of our nationalistic-corporate-military-government-propaganda-hate
machine, it would seem that the awakening must occur at the individual
and at the collective level with a focused energy. Maybe that process
is beginning and if we are lucky, it will continue unabated. One
brave voice standing alone may provide the shove to get us to seriously
alter our words and deeds as a nation. Only then can we return to
our Constitutional Republic that once inspired the world.
That one lone
voice for me has been Ron Paul. I don't believe I have ever witnessed
a more inspirational act of selfless courage than that of Ron Paul
when he said the words that our government/media hate machine refuses
to recognize — even though it is a big, fat, smelly, purple elephant
sitting in the middle of the room. The world hates us and we have
been attacked (and we may be attacked again) because
of our actions overseas — because of our foreign policy of aggression.
Ron Paul was viciously attacked for those words, but he refused
to back down. As a result, his popularity has escalated and he is
now a very real force in the 2008 presidential election. He may
not win, but he is certainly impacting many hearts and minds in
the process. His
challenge to Giuliani (the alleged security expert) to read
the 9/11 Commission
Report was masterful and inspirational. Ron Paul's words and
actions have catalyzed and crystallized the process of awakening
and rising up that this great country needs during a very dark time
for all peace and freedom-loving Americans.
the people now live under a stated foreign policy of preemptive
war, even to the extent that our military probably intends to use
in a preemptive manner. Do you want this blood
on your hands? On the Subject of preemptive war, Dwight D. Eisenhower
said that "preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly,
I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked
about such a thing." Benjamin B. Ferencz says that preemptive
war is in violation of the Nuremberg precedents. Mr. Ferencz writes:
"The most important achievement of the Nuremberg trials, after
over 40 million people had died in World War Two, was the confirmation
that war-making was no longer a national right but had become, and
henceforth would be condemned, as an international crime.
That great historical step forward toward a more rational and humane
world order under law must not be allowed to perish." [Emphasis
mine]. As Mr. Ferencz's Web
site also reads: "Law. Not war" and "Remember
the first and last rule: Never give up!" Maybe we do have a
chance to awaken, rise up, and avert the future horrors that await
us and especially our progeny, but it all begins with each and every
one of us. I loathe to even consider our alternative fate unless
the people drastically alter our present course.
Bar 2007 Annual Convention "Potential Remedies for War Crimes
and Crimes Against Humanity" seminar materials, "Enabling
the International Criminal Court to Punish Aggression,"
by Benjamin B. Ferencz.
Smalanskas [send him mail]
is a construction attorney who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his
wife Carrie and their sons Devlin and Connor.