When I was growing up I took a trip with my older brother to New York City. While we were walking around and seeing the sights, I noticed for the first time a license plate that had the "DPL" imprinted on it. I had never seen that before, growing up in the suburbs of Boston. I wasn't exactly a rube, but I wasn't big city either -- at least at that time.
So my big bro pointed out that the initials indicated that these cars belonged to people in the diplomatic corps. They had immunity and could break the law at will and even flaunt it. That was my brother's take and he even pointed out that the DPL car we were looking at was parked in a red zone.
From that time forward, through my years living in major cities, I've noticed lots of DPL cars and maybe not surprisingly, they always were parked in no parking zones or with time expired on the meters. I guess that's because they don't have to pay to park like the rest of us.
My interest was piqued when I caught this on Reuters:
In New York, Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, was arrested on December 12 on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper, an Indian national. She was released on a $250,000 bail.
In an email to colleagues, Khobragade complained of "repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing" and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals despite her "incessant assertions of immunity".
In essence, this deputy consul was keeping an illegal slave. Let's just be honest here. And when she was subjected to the same treatment as the rest of Americans, her arrogance and immunity took over. She was demanding to be treated better than anyone else.
Maybe my brother was right. Being a diplomat means you can do anything to anyone and get away with any crime, large or small. That may be the way the government sees things, but if the NSA is going to eavesdrop on our calls and emails, maybe they need the power to hold possible criminals who are harboring sleeper cells on our soil.
I'm not saying Khobragade is running a sleeper cell or that her "slave" was a terrorist. But they could be. And this also could all be just one big misunderstanding. But we need to look at what diplomatic immunity really means. Can you come over here, kill an American citizen and just go back to your home country? Actually yes. And it's happened before with Soviet drunk drivers killing pedestrians and all they got was expelled back to their country. The dead victims didn't get to go home. They got planted six feet under. No charges were levied.
Readers Digest wrote about this:
Diplomatic immunity affords foreign diplomats in America a blank check for bad behavior. Unpaid bills, drunk driving, sex crimes and even slavery - what's the recourse?
In early 2005, Virginia police closed in on a suspected child predator — a man in his 40s who cops say drove four hours to meet a 13-year-old girl he’d met on the Internet, promising to teach her about sex. It turned out the girl was really a cop, and officers arrested the man at a shopping mall.
But then it was the police who got an unpleasant surprise. Their suspect, Salem Al-Mazrooei, was a diplomat from the United Arab Emirates — and therefore covered by “diplomatic immunity.” The cops had to let him go. Days later, Al-Mazrooei left the country, never having spent a night in jail.
Now back to the current crisis. The government of India has it tighty-whities all up in a bunch. They're taking retaliatory steps against the US embassy in India. They've taken down the protective barricades which keep our diplomatic corps over there safe.
The measures included a revision of work conditions of Indians employed at U.S. consulates and a freeze on the import of duty-free alcohol.
You know they mean business when they freeze the import of duty-free alcohol.
It's about time we get real here. Respect and privacy are one thing to grant visiting dignitaries. But freedom to overtly break our human rights laws, to become general parking scofflaws and to commit horrific human crimes is not above the law for us, or for them.
So India, spend a bit more time thinking about why you're defending a slave holder and less on making the US presence on your land less safe.
And Obama -- maybe you need to get John Kerry off the plane a little longer to look at the way we are protecting law breakers here under the guise of diplomatic immunity.