Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Progress of the Legal Profession

So now the lawyers have come up with a new way to advance the cause of racial and international comity. They are filing suit to gain recompense for the victims of slavery. Only this suit, leading to an admission of guilt by the parties responsible and reparations payments to the some 30 to 40 million surviving descendents of the victims in America will heal the wounds of America’s crimes.

Now there is no doubt that this is a necessary first step to solving our problems and making this a country that other minorities and non-white people would be at least willing to consider immigrating to, but why stop there? The whole world is suffering from the effects of this scourge. Why should America’s lawyers limit their beneficence only to our country? there are so many other strife town places that could benefit from their wisdom.

Take the Arab peninsula. Over 8 million Europeans were taken as slaves by the Barbary states of Muslim North Africa in the course of 3 centuries. Europe has never really recovered from this devistation but might be willing to acquiesse in the Iranian bomb project if their grievances were addressed. Who knows, they might even be willing to, say, look the other way when Jews are blown up in pizza parlors and public busses by suicide bombing Muslims if the Muslims were to demonstrate a bit of humanity by paying up for the sins of their fore bearers.

A similar arrangement might be reached between the Arabs and sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, the problem may at first appear too daunting given the sheer numbers involved: upwards of 200 million by some counts. This would make the potential number of descendents too large to realistically compensate. We can hardly expect the stats of Arabia to transfer an amount of money that large to another country. But there are some silver linings. For one thing, the male captives were castrated so they have no descendents right there. But there is more good news. Due to the broadmindedness of the Arabs on racial matters, most of the descendents were children of harems and, since maternity was not held against the child of a slave and a Muslim, these children were considered Arabs themselves and have over the centuries become indistinguishable from the rest of the population. It is as if the 200 million captives never existed. So, happily, the Arabs could just pay themselves.

There are other meliorating factors in the case of Muslim enslavement of Europeans. Given that their practices in slavery were so much more human than the brand practiced by Europeans some of them should require little or no compensation to current generations.

For example the Ottoman Turks three century practice of “The Cull,” where all males between the ages of 4-8 in Christian villages in the Balkans were periodically lined up for inspection with the most well-formed were taken away from their parents to be trained as soldiers and forcibly converted to Islam to be the personal army of the Sultan, might strike the contemporary layman as being somewhat macabre. But, again, owing to the humanity of the Muslim religion, the picture is not as bad as all that. The boys were mercifully severed from all ties with their home culture and forbidden to speak their native tongue, let alone have any contact with their parents again. In effect they were nurtured into forgetting that they had ever been anything but Muslims. Indeed, given the habitual senility and incompetence of the Sultans they often ended up effectively running the empire. The system worked so well that many of the Janisarries would lead the expeditions to cull succeeding generations of their erstwhile compatriots. Given the Christian only taxes and legal disabilities that the residents of the Sultan’s empire had to endure, it is not at all clear that the “enslaved” youths were really victims at all. Thus, there is some doubt this case would be actionable, or even if the descendants of those whose parents hid them or, in some extreme cases of poor judgment, even killed their own offspring rather than let them be culled, are the ones that are in fact liable.

There are of course the cases of the Golden Hordes in the 13th Century. Some would ironiously hold the descendents of Genghis Khan liable to the descendents of those he enslaved, but this betrays a lack of historical understanding. Genghis, being a nomad, had little use for slaves and so, in an act that is errs should forever be grateful, shielded them from liability by killing most of the people that fell to his armies. The case of his dubious descendent Tibmerlame is more problematic. Many people ironiously assume that he killed most of the populations that fell to him as well, perhaps reasoning from certain occasional sensational acts like piling up a pyramid of sculls 300 feet high to celebrate his victory in modern day Uzbekistan. But in fact, Timberlame did not always show the forensic foresight of his illustrious fore bearer. In fact he did enslave upwards of a few hundred thousand. However, his descendents can take some solous in the fact that his descendents are mainly in the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. As some of the poorest countries in the world they may, happily, be judgment proof.

One concern with this legal project is that it might inadvertently give some legitimacy to neo-con schemes to invade countries that are practicing slavery now. One thinks of the Sudan where open air slave markets still flourish and where its recent departure from the UN Human Rights Commission make it especially vulnerable to ill conceived schemes to do something about slavery by employing armed force to remove from power the regimes that practice it.

Obviously it would be a tragedy if the efforts of the legal community were put to such perverse uses. Not only would such a use of armed force be in violation of international law, by breaking the continuity of the regime that condones slavery, it might compromise the rights of the slaves’ descendents to seek their day in court.

Sadly there is a precedent for such a miscarriage of justice, and ironically, it comes from a member of the very legal profession that is leading the fight for justice in the cause of slavery today.

Over the graves of soldiers that fought in the war that ended slavery in our country almost 150 years ago, he said, “If the blood of a generation serve to expiate the sin of slavery then so be it……[para phrase]” that is right. Not only did this lawyer advocate the use of armed force to end slavery, he also, in what must be the ultimate perversion of tort law, appeared to think that the deaths of 500,000 soldiers in that war to end slavery somehow constituted compensation for the victims of the crime. He compounded his twisting of common law by arrogantly sought to alienate the right of future generations to sue for compensation by releasing the perpetrators of the crimes of slavery from any liability. “with malice towards none and charity towards all…”

Friends of international justice and freedom can only be thankful for the progress that has been made by the legal profession since the days of Abraham Lincoln.