The Bushies Are Criminals. Why Not Prosecute Them?
As the TV showed George Bush’s helicopter lifting off soon after the inauguration, cheers went up from those sharing this moment with me – and, I’m sure, from people across the land and around the world.
But is that it? Do we just sigh in passionate relief that the Wicked Witch is finally dead? Or do we put Bush and others in his Administration on trial for the crimes they most definitely committed? (I’m not sure if there’s an actual law against “starting a war based on lies,” but, for a start, torture and mass wiretapping are clearly crimes.)
Oh, there’s a powerful temptation to say, as President Obama and others have done, that we should look forward, that the nation’s multiple crises demand our full attention. (“President Obama.” Doesn’t that have a wonderful ring to it?)
But isn’t that exactly the point? We got into these crises precisely because we had criminals (sorry: there’s no kinder word for them) running the government, and if we don’t hold them accountable, if we just let them slink off to Texas or into cushy lobbying jobs or whatever dank cave Cheney wheels himself into, then we’re just laying the groundwork for the same thing to happen again. If a man kills his neighbor, would any court say, Oh, we’re sort of busy right now, so let’s just let him go? Of course not. But Bush’s lies – his war crimes – have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Iraq? Are some crimes just too big to prosecute?
There will, alas, be another Republican president sometime (unless they rename the party after the 19th-century Know Nothings, which would be quite appropriate), or, yes, an ethically challenged Democrat. And when that happens, do we want that president looking back and saying, “Well, Bush got away with murder, so what’s stopping me?” I’m sure Nixon was much on the minds of the Bush team as they started their eight-year assault on the Constitution and the rule of law: Yes, he resigned in disgrace, but did he go straight from the White House to jail, as he should have? Alas, no. And a powerful precedent was set. A GW law professor, Jonathan Turley (on the brilliant Rachel Maddow show), has been among those making a powerful case for the long-term damage that will be done if we don’t prosecute the Bushies for their multiple crimes.
Yes, long-term. In stock-market investing or in infrastructure spending, the mantra is always that we should think beyond the short term. So, yes, it would be a horrible nuisance now, with abundant other distractions, to have to put Bush and his accomplices on trial. But the alternative – doing nothing, allowing clear crimes to go unpunished – would be far worse in the long run.
Tags: George Bush , War Crimes , Jonathan Turley , Rachel Maddow
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