Now that Bush is gone, some people are insisting upon the Truth. Others desire reconciliation. In calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the Bush administration, Sen. Patrick Leahy wants both. However, it is safe to say that many tens of millions of people ÔÇô particularly those who worked hard to elect President Barack Obama into office ÔÇô additionally want justice.
If it comes to pass, Sen. Leahy's commission will reveal some half-truths; will not reconcile the right and left, and will not produce anything resembling justice. That's the definition of ruling
with impunity. Besides, Rep. John Conyers's Jan. 13 report, "Reigning in the Imperial Presidency," has already provided us with much of the truth about the Bush administration. It examined the issues of unchecked power, torture, renditions, the Geneva conventions, illegal spying, etc. It should be required reading for all.
The Conyer's Report concludes that since 9-11-2001, Bush operated under the notion of a unitary executive ÔÇô the idea that all power resided in his office and therefore nothing he authorized could be illegal. This idea that he had inherent, and unlimited powers ÔÇô particularly during wartime ÔÇô enabled his administration to, in effect, operate outside the Constitution for seven years and without
checks and balances from Congress and the Courts.
If Leahy's commission is to have any credibility, it should also investigate 1) Bush's notion of the American right to assert and wage a permanent preemptive worldwide war; and 2) his administration's misinformation campaign in foisting a criminal war against Iraq; and 3) his privatization of the war.
An independent commission should also examine: 1) why Congress failed to initiate impeachment hearings, and; 2) the media's role in facilitating this imperial presidency.
It is counter-intuitive, but Sen. Leahy's main obstacle is not conservatives or the GOP, but President Obama himself and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. It is no longer the Republicans or
conservatives who insist on "going forward" and not "looking back."
The model Sen. Leahy has chosen is South Africa, but also the Americas. The military/political elites that arrogated all power unto themselves and reigned terror on their own citizens ÔÇô save for a few generals ÔÇô have escaped justice. Few people from Central America, Chile and Argentina have been satisfied with simply knowing the truth. Not ironically, it is these wars that contributed greatly to the migration of millions of Central Americans into the United States ÔÇô a situation (fear of persecution) that to this day has not been satisfactorily resolved.
There are three major problems with President Obama's views on this issue. Failure to investigate and punish indicted or unindicted criminals can result in their being placed back into positions of
power where they can reprise their roles. Such was the case when the Iran-Contra Scandal produced the likes of John Negroponte, Adm. John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams ÔÇô only to resurface in the Bush II administration.
The second problem is that Bush's alleged crimes involve willfully subverting the U.S. Constitution. The third problem is that Bush's alleged principal crimes are not about sneaking into hotels or enemies lists, but about fomenting wars under false pretenses. This goes contrary to both, U.S. and international laws.
Through U.S. eyes, the war is either a tragedy because 4,000-plus U.S. service personnel have died plus tens of thousands more have been wounded. For others, the tragedy is that the Bush administration executed the war poorly. Some are content in letting history be Bush's judge.
However, Bush's alleged crimes have little to do with how the war was executed. Continuous lies to the world to start a war, qualifies as international war crimes. The result of these crimes includes the killing of many hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, the destruction of a nation and the displacement of millions. Historians rendering a verdict against the Bush administration does not justice make.
Regardless of what President Obama wishes or what Congress proclaims, war crimes can not summarily be dismissed by individual nations; war criminals are routinely chased down decades after crimes have been committed and such a pursuit of justice is not considered "looking back."
The tragedy behind the failure to pursue justice is that it will invariably lead to denial of criminality. No convictions equals no crimes, thus no crimes against humanity. Worse, it may leave in place Bush's claim to the right to permanent war ÔÇô a right that many Americans believe they are both born with and entitled to.