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Wednesday November 10 2004 13:14 IST

By Karmayogi

Matters of money, property, contracts, etc., are reduced to writing and often registered. All these are essential, inevitable and even inescapable.

But the smooth enjoyment of that property and functioning of the contract depends on the unwritten relationships that are hovering behind the written word. This is an area where reliability alone counts. It is a reliability of one's word, or honouring the plighted word.

All good men fully vindicate their honour. But most men respond to circumstances or pressures from inside by desire or ambition. Thirukural says the world is sustained by such noble souls of honour.

In the army, every order is in writing, to the last detail. Life is so rich in its complexity that any perfect arrangement can become useless and only human integrity will stand in good stead.

Hostile crowds armed with machine guns hidden in their dress shouted at the American Ambassador at Yemen. To rescue the Ambassador and his family, a Black colonel with enough soldiers was flown in by helicopter. The colonel was one who had been decorated earlier for valour. His heroic fight saved the Ambassador and the family.

The grateful Ambassador spoke to the colonel saying he would mention his great exploit to Washington. In the conflict, the colonel was forced to fire on the crowd after they opened copious fire with machine guns. The National Security Advisor, in order to avoid a political fiasco for his country, felt he should make this colonel a scapegoat and charged him with opening fire on unarmed people.

To substantiate his stand, the Advisor burnt the videotape showing the crowd's hostile firing. The Black colonel was court-martialled.

This spotless officer was now defenceless, as all his soldiers who could have been valid witnesses had died as martyrs. The prosecution was venomous. The colonel's lawyer had only a week's time to prepare the case.

Taking a trip to Yemen, he collected as much evidence as he could, none of which was useful. The crowd, the doctor who had treated the wounded and other witnesses were blatantly lying.

Some bullet marks on the Consulate building were photographed by his lawyer to prove that the crowded was armed. The evidence could not be conclusive. The Ambassador, knowing the view of Washington, betrayed the colonel who had saved his life and lied in court, saying that the crowd was unarmed.

The clever arguments of the prosecution were turned against them by the defence counsel. The jury, sensing the integrity of the colonel, acquitted him of the major charges, but awarded a minor punishment.

Reliability is a greater virtue than incorruptibility, which is itself a pure virtue. A nation's cultural status is fixed by the reliability of its men. Life acted, the National Security Advisor and the spineless Ambassador lost their jobs. The colonel was at last exonerated.
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