We’ve No Business Allowing War Criminals to Walk

Just a few war criminals here … Bush Cabinet, 2001.

Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue
By Joseph L. Galloway / November 18, 2008

With two months still to go before his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his transition team are already getting off on the wrong foot, signaling that they have no intention of investigating anyone in the Bush administration for possible war crimes.

What we’re talking about here is the torture of detained terrorist suspects in American custody in a grotesque violation of both our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions and our historic principles as a democratic nation.

By their own machinations and attempts to redefine and pervert both treaties and our own laws, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington and any number of lesser suspects sought to shield themselves from, or put themselves above, justice.

They did so knowing full well that what they were doing — clearing the way for interrogators at Guantanamo and in the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret dungeons around the world to do anything it took, short of murder, to extract information from terror suspects.

The “harsh interrogation methods” included water-boarding, stripping and humiliating prisoners, subjecting them to extremes of temperature, putting them into stressful physical positions for hours, the use of psychotropic drugs and doubtless other equally uncivilized practices.

Water boarding has always been treated as a criminal act in this country. Military officers were court-martialed at the turn of the last century for water boarding Filipino guerrillas. More recently, an East Texas sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for water boarding a suspect and extracting a confession from him.

Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, and its no way to begin an administration that was elected on promises of change. What it says is that if you’re one of the elite and powerful, your violations of the law will be overlooked, no matter how much damage you did to our country’s standing in the world.

What signal does it send to Mr. Bush’s gang of unindicted co-conspirators, who’ve unwrapped a Pandora’s boxful of other offenses — from perverting the administration of justice, to illegally eavesdropping on the phone conversations and e-mails of ordinary Americans, to salting the stream of intelligence with bogus material, to inviting their cronies to loot the Treasury with no-bid military contracts, to lying under oath to congressional oversight committees, to applying political litmus tests to the hiring of civil service employees to the wholesale destruction of White House e-mails and records? Etcetera. Etcetera.

This nation was founded on the principle of equal justice under the law. No one — no one — ought to be able to skate or hold a get-out-of-jail-free card by virtue of having been the most powerful felon in the land, or of working for him.

This signal on torture investigations says that Sen. Obama wants to start his administration as a uniter, not a divider, trying to untangle the unholy mess that the Decider and Co. are leaving behind them in the economy, in our military, in virtually every walk of our national life. It speaks to his desire to reach across the aisle to the defeated Republicans and try to bring them back into the fold as Americans.

That’s all well and good, but not if it comes at the cost of lifting the blindfold off Justice’s eyes and letting her pick and choose who’ll pay for criminal acts and who won’t. That’s no way to begin, and no way to continue.

Out in West Texas, crusty old ranchers plagued by coyotes killing their calves and baby sheep shoot the offending beasts and hang their carcasses on the nearest barbed wire fence as an object lesson to the rest of the pack.

Unless the newly empowered Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill hang a few coyotes on some fences in Washington, D.C., they’re making a huge mistake that will come back to haunt them, and all the rest of us, too.

Unless the truth, the whole truth, is unearthed, justice is done and the Republican closet is emptied of festering transgressions, the next pack will do it again, secure in the knowledge that their positions will protect them from the penalties that more ordinary citizens must pay for the same crimes.

The people of this nation have spoken loudly. They voted to throw the rascals out. They voted for a different way of governing, a different way of law making. They voted for equal rights under the law.

If their desires aren’t satisfied — if the new broom sweeps no cleaner than the old one — the next time around they may move things up a notch and throw all the bastards out — and they’d be fully justified in doing so.

Source / McClatchy

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6 Responses to We’ve No Business Allowing War Criminals to Walk

  1. Sid says:

    Having lived in fully accredited banana republics for the better part of my life, I have heard every conceivable argument as to why the criminals of the previous administration shouldn’t be prosecuted… and I’m both embarrassed and angered to see the same ‘reasoning’ now coming out of the U.S.

    The title of this piece says it all. There can be no reason; not moderation, not compassion, not political expediency, not forgiveness, not setting a higher bar, not leading by example… nothing that can forgive criminal acts committed knowingly. Not only is moderation in pursuit of justice no virtue, but extremism in pursuit of justice is no vice.

  2. The thing about abuse of power crimes…well, two things.

    First, the persons who conferred the power on an abuser share the blame, and that’s us.

    Second, taking away the power takes away the chance to repeat.

    So the reason to punish the scum is what?

    Because they are scum? Oh yeah, the Saddam theory. Right.

    General deterrence?

    Sure. It works so well in the rest of our criminal justice system, right?

    Incapacitation is already accomplished, and special deterrence is not an issue if the power isn’t coming back.

    Rehabilitation?

    Yeah, sentence Cheney to an 8th grade civics class, since it did not appear to take the first time.

    It never ceases to amaze me that folks who can easily wrap their minds around why the underclass should not be punished still think punishment is a groovy thing for the ruling class.

  3. Mariann says:

    Steve — I think deterrence is the issue here, as it is the issue with serial sex offenders. Society does not know how to cure these malaldjusted individuals, so must segregate and contain them in order to prevent further harm to itself. I am comfortable with this use of prisons, in order to curtail the freedom of those who are a continuing danger to society. The revolving door tradition in our government assures that if some of these people, who have not simply erred, but who have deliberately and repeatedly lied, and sanctioned the cold-blooded murder of many thousands, are NOT branded as criminals, they will be back in office, or working as lobbyists to influence office-holders, in the near future.

    Then again, it would be silly for Obama to start talking now about investigating for war crimes; he hasn’t said boo about a war crime the whole time he’s been in the public eye, and he’s in the middle of a love-fest with his former opponents, trying to build national unity on the Lincoln model. I’m thinking, “Good luck with that!”

  4. richard jehn says:

    Steve: This is not a class issue. The facts in the matter are clear: the Bush administration blatantly violated the Nuremburg Principles and the Geneva Conventions, both of which are subscribed to by the USA and have become part of the law of the land. There is also the matter of illegal surveilance. For you to be so flippant about this issue is very disappointing.

  5. Sid says:

    Steve;
    The things you refer to… forgiveness, understanding, compassion, the sharing of guilt… these are all virtues to be cherished. However, laws are not passed with the intent that we forgive and understand all transgressors… and then, case closed. That we can understand and forgive is what maturity is all about. However, maturity is also about taking responsibility for ones actions… and if those involve breaking laws that we have all agreed are good rules to have and that must be enforced… then there can be no alternative. There is nothing inherently ‘small minded’, as you seem to imply, about the use of punishment and deterrence by example.

    And hopefully, just as you call for understanding from the aggrieved party, it would also be nice if we could see some of the same; compassion and understanding… from those who transgressed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Steve,
    you are very wrong. Your assumption is that the playing field (as it were) is equal. Those who are now imprisoned (“punished”) for what MUST be seen as lesser crimes, vs those who, like Bush, have directly (due to new policies, practices and positions of ENORMOUS power) have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
    For Bush (and his employees, advisors and accomplices) to walk away without any consequences makes a complete mockery of U.S. and International Law, as provided for in the Genva Conventions. Comparing Bush to your ordinary garden variety murderer is so out of scale, I don’t understand how you can even consider comparing them.
    Bush must pay for his actions.
    The only question is when, how and who will make the first move!

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