Government officials are only people, subject to all the infirmities and limitations involved with being human. Some are insane, others myopic, others power hungry, and a few are men and women of good purpose. The problem with government officials being fallible is that, in the case of the United States, 300 million people depend upon them always doing the right thing.
But government officials are fallible and not infrequently they are murderous. Hitler was. Stalin was. Mussolini was. Mao Zedong was. Idi Amin was. Pol Pot was. Hideki Tojo was. Leopold II of Belgium was. Kim Jong-ll was. Gadhafi was. Robert Mugabe was. Saddam Hussein was. And a hundred others were. In fact, Rudolph J. Rummel, author of “Death by Government,” estimated 170 million people have been murdered by their own governments in the 20th century.
This might lead a person of ordinary prudence to think what the founders of our country thought: it’s best not to concentrate too much power in the federal government. Hence, the Second Amendment.
But no logic, no history, no reasoned fear of overreaching can persuade a typical progressive that such malfeasance can happen here. “We will never be slaughtered by our own government,” they say.
If that is true, it is not because the people who run government are trustworthy. They are simply human beings, which, by definition, are not trustworthy. It could only be because those in government are constrained by checks and balances, the genius of our Constitution.
To a conservative, respectful as he or she may be to the Constitution, it is, nonetheless, too slender a reed to trust when lives are at stake. Best have an autoloading rifle in the closet to back up what we believe to be the constraint required of government.
To progressives, this is insane. Since the government will never kill its own people (pretend that Ruby Ridge, Waco, Benghazi and Fast and Furious never happened), one need not go to the extreme of owning firearms.
Fortunately, the Obama administration has resolved the dispute. In fact, Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States gives us the answer.
Holder is the first Attorney General of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress. On the face of it, this would seem to confirm that the system works; if one branch of government misbehaves, another branch will correct the misbehavior. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
The House has referred Holder’s criminal contempt citation to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution. This person works for Holder and has already stated there will be no prosecution of Holder:
“Deputy Attorney General James Cole confirmed in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that the department would not pursue prosecution. The attorney general’s withholding of documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, he wrote, ‘does not constitute a crime.'”
“Therefore the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general…”
The House has also found Holder in civil contempt. The House itself may bring an action in federal court to enforce this citation, but the process is cumbersome and likely to be drawn out. Congressional Research Service, Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure.
So Holder goes free, at least for now, and that may be all he needs since Obama’s reign is nearing an end. Bad actors in government don’t need to be protected until the end of time. They only need cover until they have accomplished their task (genocide, mass murder, crimes against the people) or until governments change and political will evaporates. Thus, our Constitution cannot protect us from the malfeasance of people like Obama and Holder because the miscreants have devised ways to circumvent immediate constitutional safeguards. The implication, of course, is that government cannot protect us from any abuse by any government official.
As Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote above, Holder was held in contempt because he refused to turn over documents subpoenaed by House investigating committees. Why would he do that? Why would he rather go down in history as the only Attorney General to be found in Contempt of Congress rather than simply fulfill his oath of office and comply with legal orders of the courts and of congress? I do not know the answer to this question, but perhaps most people would agree that he apparently has something to hide. Obama may have something to hide too, for he has declared that the items subpoenaed are protected by executive privilege.
The subject matter of the congressional investigation was the police operation called Fast and Furious, carried out by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms people, who report to Holder. This was an operation in which the ATF watched while approximately 2,000 guns were purchased in the United States and transported to Mexico. The agency’s explanation was that they were hoping to trace the sale of the guns to the drug cartels in Mexico and arrest those involved in the illegal trafficking of guns.
Unfortunately, this explanation does not explain anything. The government of Mexico had no idea of the operation and U.S. law enforcement had no authority to operate in Mexico. They could hardly make arrests where they had no authority to be present.
Besides that, this illegal operation was carried out at great cost: Numbers of these guns have appeared at homicide scenes both in this country and Mexico, where hundreds of Mexicans and at least one U.S. border patrol agent were killed.
Since the government is answerable to the people for its actions, and since the Congressional Hearing was the people’s inquiry into what happened, the Attorney General and the President are duty bound to answer this inquiry. Why won’t they?
The commonly accepted speculation is that Obama and Holder conspired to plan this operation, predicting that they could arrange for the guns, originating in the United States, to show up at various murder scenes, publicize the horror, and then use that to promote their well-known program for draconian gun control.
“Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert operation “Fast and Furious” to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.”
If this explanation is true, then Holder and Obama would be subject to impeachment and possibly prosecution for crimes (conspiracy to commit murder, violation of laws concerning the purchase and export of firearms, abuse of office, official oppression, misuse of public funds and personnel, etc.). That would be a good reason Obama and Holder may not want to comply with the subpoena.
In any case, Holder’s refusal to comply with the congressional subpoena is a fail-safe measure: he may be held in Contempt of Congress, but his subordinate is not going to prosecute him.
So maybe even this does not bother progressives. But they should be bothered, for Holder has illustrated better than any conservative could argue that constitutional safeguards, including those which protect a citizen’s personal safety, are no safeguards at all where those in positions of power are willing to abuse that power and circumvent those safeguards.
It is this ultimate failure of safeguards that account for 170 million deaths of citizens at the hands of their own government. And this reality isn’t limited to the twentieth century; it is alive and well right now in the Ukraine:
“The U.S. has said it could impose stronger sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy unless Moscow halts attempts to destabilize its neighbor and withdraws its forces from Ukraine’s borders. EU foreign ministers were to meet on Monday, but have been reluctant to get tougher because of the bloc’s close economic ties with Russia.”
“Ukraine Orders Troops East as Pro-Russian Forces Extend Grip,” Wall Street Jrnl, April 14, 2014.
“The bloc’s close economic ties with Russia.” Holder’s close political ties with Obama. This is what defeats checks and balances; it is what defeats safeguards against governments murdering their own people. That’s why they have done it so often.
This brings us back to the autoloading rifle in the closet.