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What's Wrong With This Picture?

By Paul Wright

A judge in Maryland recently sentenced a university student to six months in jail after the student was discovered to have cheated on his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is the test used for college admissions. The student cheated by paying another student to take the test for him. The judge stated this was necessary to safeguard the integrity of the college testing program and to teach him responsibility.

We can contrast the judicial and political system's concern with "integrity" and "responsibility" in this country by the treatment of high-ranking government officials accused and convicted for their roles in the Iran-Contra affair. In the mid 80's the U.S. congress passed a law called the Boland amendment, which prohibited the US from providing funds to its mercenary forces in Central America, which were seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Since about 1980 the US had created, armed, trained and supplied the contras. The US's involvement in the war against Nicaragua included the mining of Nicaraguan ports, bombings, and a civil war that left over 30,000 dead and many more wounded and crippled. When Congress cut off funding for the contras the CIA and executive branch of the government simply sought out other sources of funding. At this time the U.S. was secretly supplying arms to Iran for use in its war against Iraq. The arm sales to Iran were also supposed to secure Iranian cooperation in seeking the release of Americans held hostage by Muslim guerrillas in Lebanon. This didn't prevent the U.S. from massively overcharging the Iranians for the weapons involved and then skimming the profits to support the contras. This end run around congress was done at the highest levels of government with the full knowledge it was illegal.

After a Lebanese newspaper broke the story and the arms for hostages and illicit contra funding become known, the U.S. government tried to cover it up. Numerous government officials lied, before and after the story was public, about the government's involvement in these illegal activities.

Lawrence Walsh, a Republican former judge was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the affair. To date Walsh has prosecuted over a dozen high ranking government officials including national security advisor John Poindexter, Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams, CIA clandestine operations chiefs Alan Friers, Clair George and defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. To date not a single government official convicted of wrongdoing has done a day in jail, nor will they. On Dec. 22, Bush pardoned seven officials convicted of, or waiting trial on charges stemming from the Iran-Contra coverup.

The lawlessness of the system is apparent from the fact that even when charged with criminal offenses these officials are being charged with the "crimes" of lying to congress, obstructing justice, perjury, etc., in the effort to cover up U.S. involvement in these bloody schemes.

They have not been charged with the substantive offenses of waging an illegal, undeclared war against a sovereign country that resulted in 30,000 people murdered and billions of dollars in property damage. Or the craven greed and duplicity that resulted in billions of dollars of arms flowing to Iran which prolonged the gulf war, at the same time the government's official policy was a "tilt" towards Iraq to prevent an Iranian victory. Lying to the American people isn't a crime and to a large degree we expect the government to lie to us. The World Court found the U.S. government guilty of waging an illegal war against Nicaragua. The U.S. for its part has refused to recognize World Court jurisdiction in the case.

The message of all this is if you're a college student and lie about a test you can expect to go to jail. If you're just a government official committing crimes against humanity, and lying about it under oath to congress, expect a slap on the wrist if you get caught and lucrative book, TV and movie deals. American justice at its finest.

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