PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE?
Nine Obama Pardons Mock Equity and Justice
by Stephen Lendman
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Obama engaged in holiday season political grandstanding for people he neither knew of or cared about. Why not pardon innocent political prisoners? What are his principles? After the annual Thanksgiving Day turkey "pardoning" travesty, Obama granted nine executive pardons, a December 3 White House press release announcing them by name, date of sentencing, and offense committed.
They date from Russell James Dixon's June 23, 1960 two years probation for a felony liquor law violation to Scoey Lathaniel Morris' May 21, 1999 three years probation and $1,200 restitution for passing counterfeit obligations or securities.
The others were for:
--minor illicit drug related charges;
--illegal possession of government property;
--conspiracy to defraud the US by making false statements to the FDA;
--mutilation of coins;
--passing bad checks.
Besides one bad conduct military discharge/24 months confinement sentence, another imprisonment for one year/one day, and one 30 day jailing, the others involved probation (five years maximum), and/or fines. All were minor offenses, hardly warranting pardons, especially compared to what demands executive exoneration and restitution but never comes.
They involve gross criminal injustice, falsely imprisoning innocent people, some for murders they didn't commit, hundreds of others for political advantage, and two or more times involving human rights lawyers for defending unpopular clients too vigorously. Prominent examples are listed below.
On December 3, New York Times writer Charlie Savage headlined, "In a First for Obama, Nine Pardons Are Granted," saying:
"For the first time since taking office nearly two years ago, President Obama exercised his clemency powers on Friday by granting pardons to nine people."
White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said:
"The president was moved by the strength of the applicants' post-conviction efforts at atonement, as well as their superior citizenship and individual achievements in the years since their convictions."
In fact, he engaged in holiday season political grandstanding for people he neither knew of or cared about, compared to responsible action not taken. Previously he denied hundreds of commutation petitions and dozens requesting pardons, many for deserving victims. Why these now are unrelated to justice, what this or most past executives never considered.
Dozens of previous articles addressed wrongfully imprisoned victims, mostly men, several women, and two human rights lawyers - Lynne Stewart and Paul Bergrin. Both defended unpopular clients too vigorously. As a result, they were targeted and railroaded for doing their job honorably, heroically, and effectively. Mumia Abu-Jamal was falsely sentenced to death for a 1981 murder he didn't commit. He remains on death row.
In 1977, Leonard Peltier, an innocent man, got two life sentences for the deaths of two FBI agents during a 1975 Pine Ridge Indian Reservation incident.
Sami Al-Arian, a prominent Muslim scholar/activist, was targeted for supporting equity and justice for oppressed Palestinians and other democratic value/social justice issues.
Ramsey Muniz, a prominent Latino activist, was framed on bogus drug charges, given life without parole in 1994.
Oscar Lopez Rivera was imprisoned for supporting Puerto Rican independence, sentenced to 70 years in 1981.
A memorable line from Joseph Heller's "Catch-22" explains much, saying:
Clevinger "was guilty, of course, or he would have not been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was (the prosecutor's) patriotic duty to do so."
In other words, guilty by accusation, jurors intimidated to convict, justice always denied.
Most false imprisonments targeted Muslims for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, political activism, and/or charity - for political advantage to incite fear, maintain war on terror hysteria, and enlist popular support for imperial adventurism, rampaging out-of-control globally and increasingly at home repressively against anyone challenging state policy.
Other false imprisonments victimized environmental, animal rights, Black, Latino, and other civil and human rights activists.
All are innocent. None guilty. None should be imprisoned. All should be unconditionally pardoned with public apologies and full restitution. Some deserve Presidential Medal of Freedom or other honors, not hard prison time, often involving long-term isolation and grotesque abuses, including torture, rape, and other forms of mistreatment.
In contrast, nearly always, undeserving notables get presidential honors, most recently on November 17. In a White House ceremony, 15 Medals of Freedom were awarded to:
--GHW Bush, an unindicted war criminal;
--billionaire Warren Buffett, recently saying:
"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."
In his case, Forbes magazine, in 2010, listed him the world's third-ranked billionaire, his net worth an estimated $47 billion.
--German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a released WikiLeaks diplomatic cable calling her weak, saying she's "risk averse and rarely creative;"
--former AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, notable for selling out rank and file members for privilege, power, and a seat at the table with corporate CEOs;
--two retired sports figures, Bill Russell and Stan Musial;
--plus poet Maya Angelou, cellist Yo Yo Ma, holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein, John H. Adams (co-NRDC founder), former Irish ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, Rep. John Lewis, civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, and Tom Little, an optometrist killed in Afghanistan.
Except for perhaps Mendez and Angelou, none deserve Medal of Freedom honoring, the nation's highest civilian award, recognizing individuals who've made:
"an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
Waging war, making billions, selling out workers, ill governing, dunking basketballs or hitting home runs hardly qualify, unlike a lifetime commitment to democratic values, universal equity and social justice.
US governments flaunt these principles at home and abroad, including wrongfully imprisoning innocent victims while, at the same time, honoring some of our worst and undeserving - a record of shame and disgrace, Obama perpetuating it, mocking justice by his December 3 pardons and Medal of Freedom awards.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is http://sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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