Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman / Focus on the Corporation – 2005-10-21 08:41:43
Bill Bennett and Bob Bennett are brothers.
Bill Bennett is the social conservative pundit.
Bob Bennett is the white-collar criminal defense lawyer.
Bob Bennett is the lawyer for New York Times’ reporter Judith Miller.
As you might recall — and how could you forget? — Bill Bennett took to the airwaves a couple of weeks ago espoused that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” He then quickly added, “That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.”
Of course, Bill Bennett was talking about street crime. If he were to address the issue of white collar and corporate crime — the kind that his brother Bob defends every day for a very nice living — then he might have said something like — “you could abort every white male destined to go to Harvard Business School, and your crime rate would go down.”
Now that would be impolite.
But the reality is that crimes committed by the powerful — both in government and in corporations — inflicts far more damage on society than all crime committed by the powerless.
Let’s take the crimes of Harvard Business School graduate George Bush.
The President’s cronies are being investigated for leaking classified information to various reporters, including to Judith Miller. (By the way, we agree with Patrick Buchanan who was on MSNBC’s Hardball Show last night and observed that Bush and Cheney’s real success in the whole Judith Miller/Valerie Plame episode was turning “the New York Times, the newspaper of record in this country, into a propaganda organ for the war party.”)
Why not an investigation for war crimes?
In the words of former Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson — whom newly confirmed Chief Justice John Roberts says he “admires” — the supreme international crime is the war of aggression. And guess who are the architects of the most recent war of aggression? George Bush and Dick Cheney and their associates. With an assist from Congress — including Presidential hopefuls John Kerry and Hillary Clinton — which for voted to authorize the war.
Do you see any of the architects of the illegal war in Iraq on trial for mass murder?
If putting Saddam on trial for mass killing is a good thing, then putting the architects of the most recent war of aggression is a good thing too. (And by mass killing we mean approaching 2,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis in an unjustifiable war of aggression.)
Despite the wave of crime by the powerful that has swept over the country in recent years — and inflicted far more damage on society that all street crime combined — when people with the institutional megaphones like Bill Bennett use the word “crime,” they mean street crime.
(When Bob Bennett talks about crime, he invariably means white-collar and corporate crime — but that’s because his clients are paying him big bucks to clear their names.) As a result, this bias has been hard wired into our brains.
Here’s a quick test. We will write down a word. And you tell us the first image that comes to your mind.
Okay, and the first image to come to your mind? Do you conjure up a black kid in New Orleans wading through the waters with DVDs stuffed in his pockets?
Why not Conrad Black, also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour? Lord Black is under investigation along with his associates — by the same Patrick Fitzgerald who is investigating the Bush leak affair — of looting $400 million from Hollinger International, the esteemed publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post, among myriad other publications.
A special 513-report on the looting at Hollinger, issued by Richard Breeden, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, called Black’s management team at Hollinger a corporate kleptocracy.
That would be a bureaucracy of kleptomaniacs. (Credit for the looter imagery goes to Joe Loughran, a Republican white-collar crime pundit we interviewed recently.)
So the image of a looter is that of the black kid with some DVDs stuffed into his coat pocket. And not of Lord Black of Crossharbour?
And the image of the war criminal is that of Saddam Hussein. And not George Bush?
And Bill Bennett says that if we aborted all of the black kids, the crime rate would go down?
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, DC-based Multinational Monitor, and on the steering committee of the Center for Corporate Policy. Mokhiber and Weissman are co-authors of On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press).
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity
Next weekend, the first session of an International Commission of Inquiry on crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration will open, and we need to get the witnesses there. There is no foundation money for this necessary and daring act. It depends on the contributions of people like yourself.
The Commission will hear indictments and take testimony from a range of witnesses including Denis Halliday, ex-UN Assistant Secretary-General and former head of UN Humanitarian Mission In Iraq, Barbara Olshansky, Center for Constitutional Rights and coordinator of Guantanamo detainee defense, and Marcus Raskin, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies and member of The Nation’s editorial board.
The Commission itself has been endorsed by such outstanding figures as former Senator James Abourezk, Russell Banks, Prof. Richard Falk, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Gore Vidal, and Cornel West. For complete details and registration, see the expanded commission web site at www.bushcommission.org
A special section of this first session will deal with Bush administration’s egregious disregard for life in New Orleans, and its vicious condemnation of the victims themselves as criminals. In order to provide searing eye-witness testimony, we are trying to fly up to New York the following witnesses:
• Gloria N. : “I was devastated by the sight of bodies floating in the streets and the police and National Guard doing nothing. I was just going to get what my family needed, but on the way I saw people on the rooftops with the flood waters rising, pleading with us to save them. And that’s what we started doing.”
• Kimberly S.: “There was devastation all around us and the government did nothing. The Coast Guard was there and they just watched; the police were going around like marauding bands of criminals, if it hadn’t been for the young men they were calling thugs, I would have died and many other people would have died.”
• Abigail B.: bus driver from Houston who helped organize an expedition of bus drivers to take supplies to New Orleans and to transport people to safety, but who were prevented from helping by the military surrounding the city.
As well as Camilo E. Mejia, who was court-martialed for refusing to return to his unit in Iraq.
To get them and other witnesses to New York, we need your help. In the past, your generous contributions helped to publish the Not In Our Name statement of conscience at a moment when the voices of opposition in this country most needed to be heard.
Now we are at another such crucial moment. Are the actions of this government simply “bad policies” or “negligence,” or are they crimes? This is what the Commission with hear evidence on and decide. Through this we intend to spark a society-wide and change the very terms of that debate as well.