Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is It Possible to Reclaim America’s Soul?

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws. We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.

Paul Krugman doesn't disappoint with his straightforward advice to U.S. citizens and their new President who seem to think that somehow the U.S. would be a better country (or perhaps it's a more easily manipulated Congress they have in mind) if we didn't enforce the laws against the obviously guilty Cheneyites (and their thousands of sycophants). (Emphasis marks have been added - Ed.)
“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say. No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we’re just too busy. And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford? No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it. And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible. What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true — even if truth and justice came at a high price — that would arguably be a price we must pay: laws aren’t supposed to be enforced only when convenient. . . . I don’t know about you, but I think America is capable of uncovering the truth and enforcing the law even while it goes about its other business. Still, you might argue — and many do — that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda. But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama’s attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any. That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren’t allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years. Some of them probably just don’t want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away. Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don’t want to be reminded of their own sins of omission. For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way. It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.
Oh boy, isn't it? Do you eagerly await Glenn Greenwald's every word like I do, hankering for the solid gold nuggets of truth he mines in the fields of obscuration?
Bush-defending opponents of investigations and prosecutions think they've discovered a trump card: the claim that Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman were briefed on the torture programs and assented to them. The core assumption here - shared by most establishment pundits - is that the call for criminal investigations is nothing more than a partisan-driven desire to harm Republicans and Bush officials ("retribution"), and if they can show that some Democratic officials might be swept up in the inquiry, then, they assume, that will motivate investigation proponents to think twice.

Those who make that argument are clearly projecting. They view everything in partisan and political terms - it's why virtually all media discussions are about what David Gregory calls "the politics of the torture debate" rather than the substantive issues surrounding these serious crimes - and they are thus incapable of understanding that not everyone is burdened by the same sad affliction that plagues them.

Most people who have spent the last several years (rather than the last several weeks) vehemently objecting to the Bush administration's rampant criminality have been well aware of, and quite vocal about, the pervasive complicity of many key Democrats in this criminality. Just to cite two examples, here is my December, 2007 post entitled "Democratic complicity in Bush's torture regime", and here is another from July, 2008, arguing that Democrats have blocked investigations into Bush crimes because of how it would implicate them; quoting The New Yorker's Jane Mayer as saying that "many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised"; and quoting Jonathan Turley as saying (on Keith Olbermann's program) that "the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members."

Everyone will pay the price for their actions. Suzan __________________

2 comments:

Mad Kane said...

I'd love to see investigations and prosecutions, but I'm not optimistic.

Suzan said...

I've always said we can't hold our breath waiting for the truth commissions, investigations and prosecutions to begin, but somehow (perhaps due to the overwhelming stupidity viewed on TV of the other side) I started getting a little bit more hopeful lately.

It's not like those congressional investigations couldn't turn up a lot of nefarious acts quickly, and, of course, Cheney has already testified against himself on TV.

Anything could be the catalyst given the history of Congressional investigations that had to be forced into performing their oversite duties and taking action. Witness the "discovered" taping* of the White House conversations kindly provided by the Bush Sr. plant, Alexander Butterfield, which ended the focus on the Watergate scandal and Nixon's ownership of the White House (and just incidentally put the Bushies in play again).

These guys may just want to clear the formerly useful but now deleterious deadwood as they press ahead to set the financial hanky-panky wagon that has enriched them so immeasurably back in working order.

What I wouldn't give to see Pat Leahy be the one who brings the axe down on Cheney's neck even if the focus is removed from the national rightwingnut scare (nonCommie scare?) for a while.

But nothing's perfect.

Thanks for the comment!

* Russ Baker's Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America