Sunday, December 28, 2008

On Prosecuting Bush/Cheney et al. For War Crimes

On prosecuting Bush/Cheney et al. for war crimes
by snafubar at Docudharma, Sunday December 28, 2008 at 02:49:05 PST

Crossposted from Docudharma and Daily Kos
If you wish to repost this essay you can download a .txt file of the html here (right click and save). Permission granted.

Here's a comment that was sent to the petition that I liked:

 About two years ago I found a quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel that has haunted me ever since:

When considering cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some may be guilty, but all are responsible.

As much as Gerald Ford might still be lauded by some for "sparing the country the long national nightmare" of whatever proceedings might have been the fate of Richard Nixon, what happened in the Nixon administration was an in-house problem. What has been done in the name of the United States by President Bush and Vice President Cheney has worldwide consequences to our reputation and our future credibility. When we went to war in contravention of world opinion in 2003, we became the rogue nation that the UN was created (with our co-operation) to deal with. We all know the only reason no one has dealt with us is not because our cause was just or because we were proven right, but only because we're the biggest dog on the block with all the teeth. Who is left that could challenge us?

Now the only chance we have to regain that credibility is to use the freedoms as a citizenry to be honest about what our leaders have done in our name. In my opinion it will haunt us for generations to come how we were so proud of our form of democracy, particularly of our Constitution, that we felt we were the one country qualified (if not obligated in the minds of President Bush and Vice President Cheney) to use the largest military force ever assembled to force it on Iraq whether they asked for it or not. It therefore seems perversely tragic that there are plausible allegations that our Constitution - the one we were so proud of - was betrayed in the effort.

The only way to show the world that we are as serious about the integrity of our democratic form of government, complete with it's unique brand of checks and balances amongst the three branches, is if we actually use them to hold a mirror up to ourselves and prove to the world that we have the integrity to be honest about what we find. If we impeached one president because of a scandal that never left the White House, but we refused to even hold credible hearings on alleged corruption and a betrayal of those checks and balances which included the Pentagon, all of our intelligence agencies, the Department of Justice and the office of the President and Vice President themselves, it will be hard to explain. I'm not the first one to repeat the suggestion that if the  accused are truly innocent, one would think they would rush to the stand to clear their name; in fact that was the inference of guilt made by many about our last president.

What I fear is that the citizenry of this country and it's elected representatives know in their heart that our most senior leaders are guilty of the greatest crimes. But in order to perpetuate the delusion that we're still as great as we think we are, the country will not look for anything it does not want to find, and hope the people of the world will forget. I'm not the first to suggest that won't work, because we all know in our core that the truly innocent stand up to vigorously clear their name at any chance they are given. However, given the shroud of "state secrets" and "national security" that has been the claim to stay silent so far, it should be obvious that the world will suspect we are not being honest, and our reputation will be soiled until we demonstrate the kind of transparency that we would demand of any nation that had done anything similar.

The idea that we're exonerated because Bush and Cheney claim the rest of the world had all the same evidence we did (when we know we're the ones that gave it to them) is so laughable that elementary schoolkids wouldn't bet their lunch on getting away with that line.

The "long national nightmare" is just beginning if we decide that to soothe our own conscience (or worse, simply in the spirit of political expediency for both parties) we choose not to investigate all the claims of impropriety. We need answers - plausible and acceptable answers - to be provided both to our own citizens and to the world at large. If we are indeed the Greatest Country in the World ®, then there should not be any hesitation whatsoever in the minds of our leaders to bring that evidence to the table and vigorously wave it before our eyes to assuage us.

But merely to claim that we have taken the high road simply by pointing out that there are others who have done worse does not mean anything. One can be the 'best' in a crowd of ne'er do wells and not be therefore great simply by being 'greater'. In order to claim that we hold the high ground we actually have to be standing on it at some time, not merely looking up at it from some vantage point we claim is higher than anyone else's.

And to those who think that now is not the time for such efforts, well, to them I repeat Heschel's poigniant words again:

When considering cruelties committed in the name of a free society, some may be guilty, but all are responsible.

We had the freedom to choose any leader. Some argue we chose Bush in 2000, and whether or not we actually did, despite all the protestations, he was allowed to take the oath of office.

Then when it seemed our leaders had run amok, whether it was about the pre-war intel, about the post-invasion management, Abu Ghraib, renditions, wiretapping, or Gitmo, we had the power - like so few other countries in the history of civilization have ever had or are likely to have -  to remove them from office without so much as a shot fired. And we chose not to use it.

We did not even allow the opportunity to try to use it.

Now there is an attitude that closing our eyes and pretending that no one else is still looking will make what has been done in our name pass under the bridge of history and become forgotten amongst the bodies of water down river.


No one could say that seriously. If any other country in the world had done what we have done in the last eight years, we'd be the first ones waving our arms to the world demanding that something be done. I bet we'd even take on whoever it was all by ourselves without regard if anyone followed us, just to reinforce our role as world policeman and schoolmarm.

And I did not even mention that it was our economy that has taken the world for a wicked downhill ride that is far from over. Does anyone really think the world loves us now as much as they did on September 12, 2001?

Well, now we're the ones who should be looking at ourselves as critically as we would insist others deserve to be examined.

And to those who might suffer consequences for merely asking for there to be an investigation, and a prosecution if warranted, I say to you that you should accept this sacrifice for the good of the country.

Because in a free society, some may be guilty, but all are responsible.

I may be guilty of not stopping this war, but I don't want to be guily again of ignoring what has come from it.  

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