Friday, January 16, 2009

Forgive and Forget?

Because the Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman, says it so much better than I can, I am posting his editorial from the New York Times.

It really galls me to think that the worst administration in history can calmly slink out of town and not fear any repercussion for their actions.

Where is the justice? If an adolescent can be sent to jail for having an illegal drug in his/her possession, how can the most powerful men in the U.S. get away with crimes against humanity (torture) and crimes against our Constitution? How can they subvert the rule of law and not pay a price? How can they ruin our economy and not feel some heat for that? How can they abuse the political system by using the Cabinet posts to twist the law to further their ideological beliefs?

How can Dick Cheney, with arrogant mien, blithely lie about all they did? How can Cheney still maintain that Saddam Hussein and al Quada had ties that went back years, as he did in his recent TV interview Sunday morning? Every expert who has written on the subject confirms that Bin Laden and Saddam were bitter enemies. Is Cheney brain dead, in denial or just the most consummate liar ever to hold office?

They must be held accountable. Please write Obama, your Congressmen, and your Senators and express your outrage that they might not be investigated for their heinous crimes.


Forgive and Forget?

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.

The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.

Speaking of Iraq, let’s also not forget that country’s failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.

There’s much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years — in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq?

Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?

One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?

Alternatively, we’re told that we don’t have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?

In fact, we’ve already seen this movie. During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.


Sylvia K said...

I find it outrageous that all the instigators of the farce that served as our government for eight years will walk away, snickering under their breath while they wait for the next chance to do the very same things all over again. I understand the need to try and rise above partianship, to move forward and not constantly be digging into what was so that we can begin a new day in this country.But the "old day" shouldn't be able to just walk away from the debacle they created and left us to live with. And if this happens, all they're going to do is retire to a cave somewhere and plot how screw the country, the people and the new leaders one more time. Thanks for posting Krugman, he's the best!

Betty said...

Thanks for reprinting this. I hope the Bush administration will be investigated, too, but not by the Senate or the House. I think the investigative committee should be a bunch of Constitutional experts, appointed without regard to their political leanings - of course, we don't want a committe of Republicans, but we could have a mix, as long as they are not holding public office. Maybe they would actually be fair and impartial.

Rain said...

Holder spoke on his hearings that the president is not above the law. I think Obama might like to keep it quiet for what he might do as if Bush wants, he can pardon the whole lot, and that will be that. Saying what we want done now might be counter productive if we really want them held accountable.

kenju said...

I think Rain is right. It is not in anyone's best interest for him to declare an investigation before he is officially in office.

Darlene said...

Sylvia, obviously I share your outrage.

Betty, You have a good point. A whitewash will certainly be counterproductive and that is what we will get from most politicians. They have their own behinds to cover.

Rain and Kenju, I haven't thought about that. It makes sense.

Anonymous said...

WEXCELLENT POST!!! thanks so much for doing this. I'm reminded of the many signs in the peace marches here in DC during the past 8 years: "Impeach? Jail, then Hell!!"

Obama has got to know the strong sentiment in this country against all the constitutional and other crimes the Bushies committed.

I'll certainly write to him--and of course, I have no senators or reps, being a DC resident....

Thanks, kiddo!!

m.e. said...

argh!!! these damn things slip away from me as i type. that last one was from me....

LadyLuz said...

Hi Darlene. An enquiry into the Iraq war has been called for in UK, viz Asked when the Government would hold a full inquiry into the Iraq war, the PM’s spokesman said that would happen when the “time is right”.

“As we have set out in the past, we do not believe it would be right to have an inquiry while our troops are still engaged in operations in Iraq,” the spokesman added.

"Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: “The Government has delayed for years the establishment of an inquiry and now the learning of lessons that may be relevant to Afghanistan and elsewhere can no longer be delayed.”

Let's see if people are held accountable "when the time is right", both in USA and UK.

Darlene said...

M.E. Thanks for your comment. Sorry that D. C. is still without representation. Doesn't Maxine Waters a represent you? I am not sure how that works. I hope the new administration will right this wrong.

Lady Luz, It's interesting - I read that this morning and wondered if the time will ever be right. I think this minute would not be too soon.

Anonymous said...

Darlene, I'm glad you printed this. I put this under anonymous because I haven't set up my blog yet, this is Lois. I believe that the people behind Bush and Cheney (yes there are people behind them) are the ones we need to go after. Its the power behind the throne bit that has been going on in this country and these people need to be stopped. I know people are not going to like this but Cheney got into politics to do good, he just got in with the wrong people. Once he was in he couldn't get out. In the privarcy of his own home Dick Cheney said if he had known that politics was like this he wouldn't have gotten into it. He, his wife and his daughter have paid a price that no one knows about. We need to find the power behind the throne so they cannot keep using people,so they cannot keep people in fear to do thier dirty work and keep bringing our country down