Ramsey Clark and Lynne Stewart

I have been thinking about Michael’s and Neil’s posts, and I find both of them persuasive and compelling. Although I am not sure whether I agree with Michael’s “some” or Neil’s “almost all” characterization of U.S. foreign policy, I would like to add to the list of outrageous omissions that rightly includes Rwanda and Sudan the U.S. failure to lift a finger to slow down operation of the Nazi death camps during World War II (prior to the U.S. becoming a direct target of Axis aggression). Though the U.S. ultimately participated in liberating the camps, many people perished because it waited so long, clinging to its isolationism (a term that is now, disgustingly, invoked by some Bush supporters to characterize critics of our policy in Iraq – as though it follows if one opposes isolationism that one must support all military adventures, however ill-conceived). In keeping with the theme of those who exhibit foolish and reprehensible loyalties (i.e., Ramsey Clark), I recalled an experience I had after writing a column. The column discussed Lynne Stewart, the attorney who represented Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing and who subsequently was tried and convicted for faciliatating Abdel-Rahman's communications with fellow terrorists after agreeing not to convey his messages to the public. I suggested in my column that if Lynne Stewart did what she was accused of doing, then she is not a hero. What she was accused of doing was pretending to discuss Abdel-Rahman's case through a translator, while actually permitting Abdel-Rahman to provide messages (encouraging the termination of a "cease fire" by a radical Islamic group in Egypt classified as a terrorist organization both by the U.S. and by Egypt) that would later be broadcast to his supporters. I argued in my column that behavior of this sort would qualify Stewart as an accomplice in any violence that might follow, much in the way that an attorney working for organized crime and relaying instructions for a "hit" would be. I received some very hostile email after that column posted, much of it from self-described "leftists" who believed that I had "lost my way" in not recognizing Lynne Stewart's heroism for challenging fascistic limitations on attorney speech. As Neil pointed out, Ramsey Clark is a great gift to Bush supporters who suggest that opponents of the war in Iraq must be supporters of Saddam Hussein. Lynne Stewart, I think, represents a similar gift to those who wish to censor attorney speech: she acted in a manner so irresponsible and reckless that it made then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's policy of silencing attorneys look sensible and wise. To paraphrase Voltaire, if Ramsey Clark and Lynne Stewart did not exist, right-wing extremists would have been forced to invent them.