Senate Republicans have forced a delay of the confirmation vote for President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder. I have to wonder what their true reasons are? Is the confirmation hold up really because of Holder’s, Clinton era role in the pardon of financier Marc Rich or is it really more about whether Holder’s justice department will pursue criminal prosecutions over Bush and Cheney’s admitted use of torture, the treatment of terror detainees or the immeasurable other crimes committed against our Constitution during the Bush administration? I think the latter reason would be the true winner.
Thus far there have been no clear cut answers. Will Obama’s Adminisration facilitate an investigation into the abuses of power and alleged crimes committed by Bush and Company? Perhaps a hint of what is yet to come can be found in the words of the incoming Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder said “unequivocally on the first day of his confirmation hearing that waterboarding was torture, and “he vowed to initiate an extensive and immediate “damage assessment” to fix fundamental problems in the Justice Department that he said were caused by the Bush administration.
Holder’s statement that he will preform a damage assessment” to fix fundamental problems is bold and far reaching but what does that mean really? At this point in the debate it shouldn’t really surprise anyone that waterboarding is torture? and that we as a Nation have prosecuted it usage before? For us to move forward shouldn’t we look to the past for precedent to guide us? Countdown’s Keith Olbermann said it quite eloquently during a recent Special Comment.
“Some day, there will be another Republican President or even a Democrat just as blind as Mr. Bush to ethics and he will look back to what you did about Mr. Bush or what you did not do, and he will seek precedent or, as Cheney saw, he will see a not to get caught next time. Prosecute, Mr. President-elect, and even if you get not one conviction, you will still have accomplished good for generations unborn because merely by acting, you will deny Mr. Bush what he most wants, right now, without prosecutions, without this nation standing up and saying this was wrong, we will atone.
There are those who believe we should just move forward and do nothing about the past crimes committed by the Bush Administration. Members of the Republican party in my opinion are trying to impede due process. So what role will the GOP play in the fundamental repair of our justice department? Texas senator John Cornyn (one of the Holder, hold-outs) clearly wants assurances there will be no prosecutions. But should Holder or anyone from Obama’s Administration promise or assure him there will be no prosecutions? Should “we the people” not decide? Cornyn recently said;
Part of my concern relates to his statements at the hearing with regard to torture and what his intentions are toward our intelligence personnel who were operating in good faith based on their understanding of what the law was.
If committing an act in good faith is what defines a crime then one could argue that no one following orders from the Bush Administration committed a crime they were simply just doing their job, sobeit. Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales and Rumsfeld on the other hand knew exactly what they were doing and they knew it was illegal.
The House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has done a thorough investigation, effectively putting together the foundation of what will hopefully lead to the prosecution of key members of the Bush Administration. Conyer’s released a 487 page report entitled “Reining in the Imperial Presidency: Lessons and Recommendations Relating to the presidency of George W. Bush.” According to the Press release from the judiciary committee the report:
Contains 47 separate recommendations designed to restore the traditional checks and balances of our constitutional system. Recommendations include calls for continued committee investigation, a blue ribbon commission to fully investigate administration activities, and independent criminal probes.
Even after scores of hearings, investigations, and reports, we still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions left in the wake of Bush’s Imperial Presidency,” Conyers said. Pointing to allegations of torture and inhumane treatment, extraordinary rendition, warrantlessdomestic surveillance, the Valerie Plame Wilson-leak, and the U.S. attorney scandal, Conyers continued, “Investigations are not a matter of payback or political revenge – it is our responsibility to examine what has occurred and to set an appropriate baseline of conduct for future administrations.
In addition to the set of recommendations, the report contains a foreword by Chairman detailed discussions of: the administration’s legal approach to presidential power; the politicization of the Department of Justice; the administration’s far-reaching assaults on individual liberty (including torture, extraordinary rendition, and warrantlessdomestic surveillance); the misuse of Executive Branch authority; the administration’s retribution against its critics; and the administration’s excessive secrecy, noncompliance with congressional oversight, and manipulation of pre-Iraq War intelligence.
In the foreword of the report Conyer’scompares elements of the Nixon Administration with the Bush Administration. The comparision is warranted, the similarities are chilling and an excellent example of how future administration’s could use the immunity claim if we do nothing to address the abuses of the Bush years.
The Bush Administration’s approach to power is, at its core, little more than a restatement of Mr. Nixon’s famous rationalization of presidential misdeeds: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Under this view, laws that forbid torturing or degrading prisoners cannot constrain the president because, if the president ordered such acts as Commander in Chief, “that means it’s not illegal.” Under this view, it is not the courts that decide the reach of the law – it is the president – and neither the judiciary nor Congress can constrain him. And where statutory law or the Constitution itself appear to impose obstacles to presidential whim, creative counselors can be relied upon to reach whatever result the president desires.
Conyer’s efforts are re-inforced by legislation introduced on January 6th ,which seeks the establishment of a non- governmental, non-partisan Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate Bush’s abuses of war powers. Conyer’s and his con-sponsors believe that the war crimes evidence against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld is irrefutable specifically, the pathologically insensitive use of torture and the controversial policy of preventive war aka The Bush Doctrine.
Rep.Conyer’s isn’t the only person taking on the issue, many academics, legal experts and whistle-blowers are coming forward. One legal experts argument is particularly compelling, Vincent Bugliosi,who is best known for prosecuting Charles Manson, took on the case for war crimes is his book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, I add, he makes the case in meticulous detail. Below watch Bugliosi’s opening statement to a July, 2008 House Judiciary Committee hearing on the limits of executive authority and taking us to war on a lie:
Now, add to Bugliosi’s argument, a constitutional law professor. On a recent episode of Countdown, a regular on Keith Olbermann’s show, Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University had this to say about the reasoning for prosecution for war crimes.
“If waterboarding is torture — and Barack Obama has said that it is torture,” Turley emphasized, “and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime if he did order waterboarding. You have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic.”
A criminal case against George W. Bush and his co-conspirators is in my opinion the only way we can move forward and regain our ethical and moral standing as a Nation. If the Bush Administration’s perversion of the Justice Department, our civil liberties, the Constitution is not reversed and prosecuted we have opened the door for future administrations to cite the legal precedent of the previous office. This is a precedent we cannot afford to ignore as if it didn’t happen and by God we should demand nothing less.
As I said earlier the question for me, isn’t should we prosecute it is “who” should be prosecuted.