Sunday, November 18, 2012


Anybody out there ever watched Judgment at Nuremberg? It's Stanley Kramer's version of the trials of the German judges after WWII. One of the defendants at the dock is Ernst Janning. Lawyer, teacher, writer, internationally respected and the former head of the German Ministry of Justice under Hitler. In that capacity he turned his back on much of what he believed and stood for. For the good of the nation; supporting measures that started out as temporary and became tragically, inhumanly permanent. 

"...The principle of criminal law in every civilized society has this in common: any person who sways another to commit murder, any person who furnishes the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime, any person who is an accessory to the crime - is guilty. Herr Rolfe further asserts that the defendant Janning was an extraordinary jurist and acted in what he thought was the best interest of this country.

There is truth in this also. Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and the death of millions by the Government of which he was a part. Janning's record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial: If he and all of the other defendants had been degraded perverts, if all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake, or any other natural catastrophe.

But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary - even able and extraordinary - men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them: men sterilized because of political belief; a mockery made of friendship and faith; the murder of children. How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country too who today speak of the "protection of country" - of 'survival'. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient - to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being."
- "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961)

What can I say? We've come a long way baby. In the totally wrong direction. Not just the wars of convenience, the Patriot Act or the TSA. Walmart is currently conducting an internal investigation of its own business practices. And what started out as an investigation into bribes paid to make it easier to build stores in Mexico is expanding to include other countries such as India and Brazil. 

When the story broke there was comment after comment "well, they do things differently in other countries and if this is what it took to get the job done...." Fill the political expedient of your choice and look out for nightmares. 

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