[Rushtalk] From Cops to Clinton: Impunity Corrupts

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Tue Jul 19 17:48:12 MDT 2016

>From Cops to Clinton: Impunity Corrupts

        By Dan Sanchez | Defend Democracy Press| July 12, 2016

Wednesday, two shocking videos of police officers fatally shooting
civilians (Alton Sterling and Philando Castile) surfaced. The day
before, many were appalled to hear the Director of the FBI announce that
Hillary Clinton would not be charged for mishandling classified
information. The two events may seem unrelated, but at bottom, they
concern the same fundamental problem: impunity.

Impunity is the essence of power. What, after all, is power? Is it
simply the capacity to exert unjust force? The ability to impress one’s
will upon the flesh or belongings of another? No, it’s more than that.

Most anyone can wield unjust force. Anyone could walk out onto the
street right now and exert their will on somebody weaker: say, pushing
over an old lady or stealing candy from a baby. And the toughest, or
most heavily-armed guy in town can strong-arm just about any other
single person.

But isolated incidents of aggression do not constitute power. The
“reign” of the rogue rampager is generally short-lived. It only lasts
until the community recognizes him as the menace to society that he is
and neutralizes him.

Power isn’t simply about the exertion of unjust force. It is about what
happens next, after the exertion. Does the perpetrator generally get
away with, or not? Systematically getting away with it – or impunity –
is where power truly lies. And that is what makes agents of the State
different from any other bully. State agents can violate rights with
reliable impunity because a critical mass of the public considers the
aggression of state agents to be exceptionally legitimate. Impunity is
power, and as Lord Acton said, power corrupts.

The Impunity of the Badge

State impunity is at the root of the problem of police violence. As
agents of the exalted State, the police are seen as paladins of public
order. The populace grants cops a special dispensation to commit
violence that would be considered criminal if perpetrated by anybody
else. This privilege is enshrined in law most clearly as the doctrine of
“qualified immunity.” As Evan Bernick of the Institute for Justice

In the 1967 case of Pierson v. Ray, the Supreme Court held that police
officers sued for constitutional violations can raise ‘qualified
immunity’ as a defense, and thereby escape paying out of their own
pockets, even if they violated a person’s constitutional rights.

When victims of police violence or their heirs seek redress and are
awarded monetary payments, it is taxpayers, and not the cops, who pick
up the tab. Police officers are rarely even prosecuted for violence
inflicted while they’re on the clock. The worst that an offending
officer can generally expect to face is getting fired, but he will more
likely just get a paid suspension.

Thus insulated from responsibility, officer treatment of “mundanes” is
predictably often grossly irresponsible. Confident in being sheltered
from consequences by their “blue privilege,” officers are far more prone
to indulge in lethal cowardice: to place “officer safety” so far above
civilian rights that they are willing to gun down a stranger at the
slightest whiff of potential danger. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile
each carried a gun, as they have the natural right to do. Neither
threatened the officers with his weapon, or even brandished it. Yet in
both cases, merely becoming aware of the guns sent a cop into a
murderous panic. Both Sterling and Castile were fatally shot multiple
times in the chest.

The Impunity of High Office

State impunity not only corrupts the regime’s low-level enforcers, but
its elite policy makers as well. The FBI let Hillary Clinton off the
hook for secrecy violations she committed as Secretary of State, even
though these were much more egregious than violations that have earned
lower-level personnel decades in prison. She used technology that was
more open to being compromised by spies and hackers, while at the same
less open to legal and public scrutiny.

But the kinds of activities she was hiding are far more criminal than
the fact that she hid them. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
played a key role in bringing war to such places as Libya, Syria, and
Honduras, and in escalating the war in Afghanistan. She is complicit in
causing untold death and misery.

Yet, thanks to her connections and her position in the state power
apparatus, she faces no consequences for her crimes, and is free to
acquire even more immunity and power as a likely President of the United

It is the “sovereign immunity” she enjoys as an officeholder that has
made Hillary Clinton so reckless and cavalier about the havoc she has
wreaked around the world. If she thought she might ever be held
accountable for upending entire countries, she would have likely been
far less warlike in her policies.

>From policing to foreign policy, impunity corrupts, and absolute
impunity corrupts absolutely.



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