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Attorney General Eric Holder touts jail body counts

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During the Vietnam War, the United States military, sadly, relied on dead Vietnamese body counts as a way of showing progress in the war. However, dead bodies cannot speak about what led to their having become corpses, whether they were mere civilians caught in crossfire or mistaken as Viet Cong, or worse just shot at as if they had no more value than a piece of cow dung.

In Afghanistan, after a period of resistance to doing so, the American military in 2009 returned to announcing dead body counts as a measure of military success there. Once again, though, we see too many U.S. military killings of civilians, this time in Afghanistan.

In this us versus them approach to the American government’s current wars, killing human beings is addressed too casually, to the point where one wonders how much that desensitizes those in political power about protecting people’s civil liberties within the United States’ borders.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is centrally involved in pursuing America’s war against terrorists — among the huge array of his responsibilities in the prosecution, non-criminal, and law enforcement arenas — real and suspected. Perhaps in a fit of passion rather than careful thinking by a man who apparently is very intelligent (as is Barack Obama), Holder recently responded to Congress’s contempt finding against him in part as follows from yesterday’s Washington Post:

‘This seems large in the moment, but the question is, how will this be viewed one year from now, five years from now?’ he said. ‘My bet will be that people are going to remember the stands I took to prevent the disenfranchisement of millions of people, the position I stood for in not defending the Defense of Marriage Act, what we did in protecting the American people, the numbers of people we put in jail and the [terrorist] plots we disrupted.” (Emphasis added.)

Ay, ay, ay! Measuring Holder’s success through the body counts of "the numbers of people we put in jail." As confirmed by prosecutor blogger Tom McKenna — who is as passionate for prosecuting as I am defending in criminal court — "’The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.’ — American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)." Holder clearly knows this and insists on as much from his agency’s prosecutors. I give him that. He also knows of the centuries-old American presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He knows of the huge number of presumed-innocent humans jailed on no bond (often created by the unconstitutional laws against bond for certain charged crimes, including for charges of drug felonies involving certain base amounts) or bond too high to pay pretrial. He also clearly knows of all the people wrongfully convicted over the decades for reasons ranging from mistakes, overzealousness of police and prosecutors, and racism.

In a fit of weakness — or might that be simple honesty or pure politics? — Holder touts the body count his Justice Department puts in jail. If Holder’s body count jail quote were a typo, doubtlessly he or his staff would have let the Washington Post know that by now. Whether or not the Post would supplement its online article to list such a contention, if any, is a separate question. This does not sound like a misquote.

As I anticipated before Obama was elected president, and as I have observed thereafter, Obama looks no better than did President Clinton for protecting the rights of criminal defendants, and Clinton did not look so wonderful for such rights, either. Even if Obama wanted to reverse the imbalanced civil liberties violations against criminal defendants and criminal suspects, he likely would see doing so as too politically risky.

Please tell Attorney General Holder and President Obama that you decry jail body counts, and insist that they not be used.