So they finally nailed Roman Polanski, more than 30 years after a warrant was issued for his arrest, following his admission to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977. Back then the Polish director promptly did a runner, swapping his freedom fries for the real thing in Paris. He has been holed up there ever since, taking advantage of the lack of an extradition agreement between the two countries.
US marshalls finally saw their opening last week and descended on Polanski as he arrived in Zurich from his French hideaway to collect a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to cinema. This latest sting was the third attempt by US authorities to take down the 76-year-old and get him off the streets and behind bars.
Polanski’s now infamous crime is the ultimate Hollywood allegory – the destruction of innocence by greed and power. The victim, Samantha Geimer, successfully sued Polanski back in ’78 and has since called for closure on the issue. So why do US officials refuse to let sleeping Polish dogs lie?
Following 9/11, the American justice system has pursued its so-called enemies of state tenaciously, swooping on its prey with as much purpose and as little mercy as the eagle that adorns its crest. But why go to such trouble to arrest an ageing Hollywood director on the other side of the world for a distant crime whose victim already been satisfactorily compensated? He’s not the only one.
Gary McKinnon, the autistic Scottish computer nerd, is facing extradition to the US for hacking into US government systems in an effort to expose a global UFO conspiracy, an effort described by the prosecution as ‘intentional and calculated to influence and affect the US government by intimidation and coercion’. If he’s found guilty, he faces up to 70 years in a high-security US federal prison.
Obviously both McKinnon and Polanski broke the law and are therefore criminals. But do either deserve the attention and investment of resources they have generated? One can’t help but feel that the manner in which both men have embarrassed the US in front of the world is the real crime here, the real victim imperial pride. And the response is predictable: “You will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”
The truth about Polanski and McKinnon is that they’re the weak. And this unhealthy imperialist need for righteous veangeance is the tyranny of evil men. Maybe one day soon the UK government will tear up our ridiculous extradition treaty with the US and start standing up for its own lost children.