America is a Sick Country
In ways little and huge, it is clear that we live in a nation, a culture and a society that is terminally ill.
The latest outrage -- the execution of a Mexican convicted in Texas of the brutal slaying of a 16-year-old girl in blatant violation of a universally adopted international treaty that requires that as a foreigner he be able to notify his home country’s consulate of his case -- is evidence of this sickness, which appears to have both physical and mental aspects.
As a journalist I have traveled widely in the world, often in police states like China or Laos, and I have always been confident that if I ran afoul of those police, at least I could count on the fact that the authorities would be legally bound to notify my embassy, so that I could get international attention and, hopefully, legal assistance.
This point was made, belatedly and not particularly assertively, by the White House in the case of death-row inmate Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. in Texas, but the politically ambitious governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who is contemplating a run for the Republican presidential nomination, figured killing Garcia was a good career move, and he just ignored the president. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, declined to intervene, claiming, absurdly, that it hasn’t got the power to order a state government to halt an execution.
That’s just pathetic--the kind of illogic you expect from the likes of Antonin Scalia. The Constitution clearly states that only the federal government can negotiate and sign international treaties, and that once a treaty is signed and voted on by the Senate it is the law of the land, ergo the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is the law of the land. The state of Texas is in violation of that treaty, having arrested, tried, convicted and today executed Garcia without notifying his consulate of these actions. Clearly the state broke the law of the land, and the federal authorities had the right to call a halt to this atrocity. Yet none of the three branches of the government acted--a shameful ducking of responsibility to uphold the law. This means that any American who travels abroad, anywhere (and especially in Mexico), is at grave risk of being caught up in a dangerous legal situation, with the foreign government under no obligation to notify US authorities. (I'd sure think twice about traveling to Mexico now if I were a Texan!)
Then look at the Casey Anthony case. The woman, just acquitted by a Florida jury in a capital murder case where she was charged with murdering her daughter, never should have faced first-degree murder charges in the first place. Criminal neglect maybe, but not murder. The prosecutors had no evidence--not only of how the child had died, but that would have linked Anthony to the body. But this is America. Prosecutors want big trophies that are to be won in big media trials, and this one was a classic of the genre. The media piled on, ghoulish crime stalkers camped outside the courthouse trying to get a seat at the witch trial. Everyone outside the jury box was convinced she was guilty, guilty, guilty. And she walked. Why? Because in the one redeeming chapter in this sick saga, the jurors did their duty, and decided, in relatively short order, that the prosecution’s case was shot full of holes, and they could not say with a straight face that Anthony’s guilt had been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.”