"Creating 'Many, Many Osamas'" and "The Wrong Man for the Job"


Salon Staff
October 5, 2001 10:38PM (UTC)

Read "Creating 'Many, Many Osamas'" by Steve Kettmann

I was enjoying Steve Kettmann's interview with author William Vollman, who seemed very knowledgable about Afghanistan and provided many valuable insights into the Taliban, the opposition and the general culture. That enjoyment ended when I reached his shockingly casual dismissal of the oppression of women under Taliban rule. His logic, that most Afghan women were uneducated and illiterate before the Taliban came to power, besides being callous, is completely unsupportable. If he were writing in the U.S. in 1861 would he also opine that blacks had always been slaves, so freedom is not as important to them? His hasty disclaimer that this assertion is not meant to be condescending or patronizing should be dismissed entirely. It is both, as well as unutterably offensive. He then goes on to add insult to injury by suggesting that women are actually safer under the Taliban because under Soviet rule, rape and murder of women was common. A choice between total, brutal subjugation or becoming a victim of violent crime is not acceptable and should not be the basis of any reasonable analysis by any responsible journalist or observer.

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-- Lisa Bail

Read "The Wrong Man for the Job" by Laura Miller

John Dean's comments on Chief Justice Rehnquist and the 1969 Abe Fortas scandal are misleading. According to Mr. Dean, "to claim" -- as he says Mr. Rehnquist claimed in 1969 -- "that the attorney general can undertake a criminal investigation of a sitting Supreme Court justice" is "remarkable" and "at best very dubious legal advice," based upon "legal authority ... so thin ... as to be nonexistent." (The reader should understand that "remarkable" and "dubious" are polite, lawyerly synonyms for "absurd.")

Why? Well, Mr. Dean explains, "The Constitution says the remedy for dealing with wrongdoing by a justice is impeachment, then prosecution." Of course, the Constitution says nothing of the kind. What it does say is that an officer may be convicted of a crime after having been impeached and removed for it: "[B]ut the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law." It does not say that the officer may be criminally prosecuted only after being impeached and removed from office. (Still less does it say that he can't be investigated prior to impeachment.)

But don't take my word for it. The United States Courts of Appeals for the Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits have all held that a federal judge may be criminally prosecuted without having first been impeached and removed. The late Raoul Berger -- a somewhat more eminent authority on impeachment than Mr. Dean -- agreed. So, too, have Professors Akhil Reed Amar, Alexander Bickel, Robert Bork and Ronald Rotunda. (Some of these scholars would make an exception for a president, due to his unique position -- but not for a Supreme Court justice.) Hence, it is unjustifiable for Mr. Dean to imply that Mr. Rehnquist's advice to the attorney general was less than competent.

-- Daniel Fox

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The irony of William Rehnquist presiding over Bill Clinton's Senate trial is so perfect, it would be beautiful -- if it didn't make one want to weep. The courage of John Dean in writing this book is greatly to be admired. Yet if only this revelation had come sooner! Now no consequence could possibly ensue before 2003. But having ensured the appointment of a successor of his own ilk, the chief justice will surely retire unhindered before then.

-- Ruchira Datta

Thank you for your interview with John Dean, including his gracious comments about California Court of Appeal Justice Mildred Lillie. I have the pleasure and honor of working at the court with Justice Lillie, and she is indeed a wonder! She is currently the longest-serving bench officer in California, and it is quite gratifying to see Dean setting the record straight about the bogus, sexist "unqualified" evaluation she was given by an all-male ABA committee all those years ago!

-- Mary Lou Katz

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