Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cheney-Bush accountability

Judgement Day

First of all, hooray for this idea! Liberal Coalition Says Forget the Truth Commission, Bring on the Special Prosecutor by Elana Schor TPMDC 02/24/09. The statement with hotlinks is also found at Groups Request Special Prosecutor for Bush, Cheney, et alia

Secondly, hooray for this speech by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island:

Human rights attorney Scott Horton has been one of the chief advocates of legal accountability for Bush officials. He favors a Truth Commission as a preliminary step toward prosecution. He recently discussed the subject in Investigating Bush's Crimes The Nation Online 02/18/09.

He also has a Harper's blog, No Comment, in which he often discusses Bush accountability issues.

Salon has been one of the New Media outlets that is continuing to pursue the accountability issue. Some recent examples:

Glenn Greenwald Binyam Mohamed, war crimes investigations, and American exceptionalism 02/19/09

Obama's efforts to block a judicial ruling on Bush's illegal eavesdropping 02/28/09 02/28/09

Will Obama cave on Bush-Cheney terror policies? by Joan Walsh 02/19/09

Joan Walsh takes critical note of the fact that the administration hasn't yet moved to shut down the other stations of the Bush Gulag except for Guantanamo in Bagram prisoners have no rights? Salon 02/21/09. On that issue, see also Bushs Regeln für US-Gefängnis bleiben in Kraft Die Welt 21.02.2009.

Mark Benjamin reports on how one of the Army's official investigators of the Abu Ghuraib torture revelations argues that "You can't sweep unlawful activities under the table" Salon 02/20/09.

In this case, I find myself very much disagreeing with Joe Conason in his Salon column Pardon the Bush miscreants 02/13/09. He explicitly endorses the Truth Commission idea as an alternative to prosecution. He wants political, moral and historical accountability but not legal accountability. I think that would just be a huge mistake. Glenn Greenwald addresses Joe's argument in Do we still pretend that we abide by treaties? 02/16/09.

Although people like Scott Horton who have been very serious about pursuing legal accountability for Bush administration officials favor a "truth commission" as a step toward prosecutions, I'm still not convinced that it's a good idea. I'm afraid it would quickly turn into nothing more than a "bipartisan" alibi exercise. These crimes need to be investigated and prosecuted like any other crimes. We don't set up truth commissions to deal with burglaries, embezzlement, or murders. We investigate them and prosecute them where there's evidence to do so.

After the prosecutions are done, then would be the time to have a truth commission to examine the institutional failures in 2000-2009 that allowed things like the Scalia Five appointing the President, the Bush Gulag and torture program, far-reaching politicization of justice, and massive financial corruption to reach such massive proportions. The scandalous role of the mainstream media shouldn't be excepted from the scope of such a post-prosecutions truth commission.

Nancy Pelosi in the reservations about a truth commission she expressed this past week in an interview with Rachel Maddow referred specifically to language in the statute proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy that would grant immunity to witnesses before the proposed commission. I may have over-interpreted her comments a bit by characterizing them as saying she didn't think we needed to screw around with a truth commission but just go straight to prosecutions.

But if so, I don't think I overreached by much. Because she's expressing strong concern about the ways a truth commission could interfere with criminal prosecutions. And why do we need a separate commission? Congress has extensive investigatory powers. Why can't the Judicial Committees or a special Congressional Committee do the investigations? Setting up a separate truth commission just offers all kinds of possibilities for a "bipartisan" fest of declaring we should let bygones by bygones so the next Republican administration will be able to pick up where Dick Cheney left off.

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