Friday, December 26, 2008

Seasonal forgiveness has a limit. Bush and his cronies must face a reckoning.

There is a wonderful article by Jonathan Freedland in this morning's Guardian laying out exactly why Bush and other members of his administration must be brought to justice. He begins by spelling out just what the recent bipartisan report by the armed services committee of the US Senate revealed:

The report was the fruit of 18 months of work, involving some 70 interviews. Most of it is classified, but even the 29-page published summary makes horrifying reading. It shows how the most senior figures in the Bush administration discussed, and sought legal fig leaves for, practices that plainly amounted to torture.
And he makes the case that torture became possible because it was approved at the very highest levels of the Bush administration, by Bush himself:

The report's first conclusion is that, on "7 February 2002, President George W Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al-Qaida or Taliban detainees". The result, it says, is that Bush "opened the door" to the use of a raft of techniques that the US had once branded barbaric and beyond the realm of human decency.

For this Bush should surely be held to account.

He then looks at the Nixonian mindset which allowed this torture to take place, fueled by Cheney's belief that no action taken by a US president can ever be illegal.

A still smiling Cheney denies the Bush administration did anything wrong. Note this breathtaking exchange with Fox News at the weekend. He was asked: "If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" Cheney's answer: "General proposition, I'd say yes."

It takes a few seconds for the full horror of that remark to sink in. And then you remember where you last heard something like it. It was the now immortalised interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon. The disgraced ex-president was asked whether there were certain situations where the president can do something illegal, if he deems it in the national interest. Nixon's reply: "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal."

It is no coincidence that Cheney began his career in the Nixon White House. He has the same Nixonian disregard for the US constitution, the same belief that executive power is absolute and unlimited - that those who wield it are above the law, domestic and international. It is the logic of dictatorship.

When Nixon attempted to impose his vision of an unrestrained presidency he was driven from office. The US decided that no American president was above the law, despite Nixon's protestations.

Cheney, thirty plus years later, is attempting to re-establish that Nixonian view of the presidency. The danger is that, in order to avoid being labelled partisan, the new Obama regime will allow Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to sail into the sunset, deciding that bygones should be bygones.

If this happens, then the US will no longer be able to say that it upholds what Freedland refers to as, "that bedrock principle of the republic: the rule of law"

For Cheney will have succeeded in establishing that the office of the presidency is above such petty concerns. And we will all be worse off if Cheney is allowed to get away with that.

Click title for full article.

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