Sunday, February 15, 2009

Should Bush and Cheney receive immunity?

I am impressed by the level of anger coming out of Crooks and Liars regarding whether or not Bush, Cheney and others should be offered immunity for war crimes. I have made my position on this abundantly clear. Whilst I have no desire to see these buggers rotting in jail and would be perfectly content to see them pardoned, I think it is very important that they should not be allowed to set a precedent and that the illegality of what they did should be recorded.

To that end I support Patrick Leahy’s call for a South African style truth commission where immunity will be offered for any crime except perjury. Crooks and Liars disagree.

Those in our government who have committed war crimes must be aggressively prosecuted; not simply because we are legally obligated to under our own laws, and under laws and treaties our country was instrumental in establishing for the entire world. Not because this country’s reputation has been devastated by such acts of barbarity and inhumanity on the part of our leaders we would instantly condemn as those more apposite to tin-pot dictators and tyrannical madmen. It isn’t because we are morally obligated to pursue the ideals of justice on principle. It isn’t even because preventing such prosecutions would in turn make us all accessories after the fact, a position that fills me with a sense of both loathing and outrage.

It is vital for our survival as a nation, as a people, as a society, and even for the future of our entire world that we do so. Because in the words of Hannah Arendt, ‘it is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past’. She wrote that in 1963, and was speaking about the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, but what she wrote then, about a different time, a different nation, a different crime, hold true today. ‘It is essentially for this reason: that the unprecedented, once it has appeared, may become precedent for the future, that all trials touching upon “crimes against humanity” must be judged according to a standard that is today still an “ideal”’.

For if we do nothing, if we protect those accused of war crimes from investigation out of a misguided, even perverse ‘respect’ for the offices these individuals held, if we allow those who have abused the power of their office in order to commit war crimes to escape from being judged, claiming immunity for reasons of exigent circumstances, we establish a precedent. It isn’t enough to remember, it is necessary to also act, if we are to prevent history from repeating itself. The Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds and George Bushes will return, again and again, with different names, and different faces, but the same lust for violence and disregard for the rule of law that should be enforced to protect us all from crimes against humanity, and
it will be those of us who established the precedent of bestowing immunity on the perpetrators of today’s war crimes from their acts who will be responsible for tomorrow’s crimes against humanity.
That's a powerful argument.

I suppose one of the reasons I am willing to accept Leahy's option is that it is at least recording the fact that crimes were committed. My greatest fear is that nothing will be done at all and that the Obama administration, out of fear of being accused of being partisan and witch hunting, will simply want to move on.

Crooks and Liars are right. War criminals should be punished and should not be offered immunity. However, I would rather that what they did was recognised as a crime than to allow a precedent to be set. There are many Republicans openly arguing that these war crimes are both acceptable and legal. The most important thing for me is that they be shown that they are wrong. What they are casually discussing are war crimes and that fact needs to be re-established. Whether or not the perpetrators are punished is secondary to me.

And my greatest worry is that the Obama administration, out of a fear of appearing vindictive, would prefer to leave these crimes unrecorded.

That, to me, would be the worst possible outcome.

Click title for Crooks and Liars article.


Kenneth said...

I disagree. There needs to be consequences for actions. Rotting in prison for the rest of their miserable lives is the very least that should happen.

Kel said...

I disagree. There needs to be consequences for actions.

I agree. But, if we can't have that, isn't it infinitely worse that future Republicans can cite the fact that we didn't do anything as proof that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld did nothing wrong?

I agree that we should prosecute them, but I doubt Obama is going to do it which is why Leahy's compromise strikes me as an opportunity to at least acknowledge that a crime was committed here.

Otherwise there will simply be nothing. And, just as Cheney brushed off Biden's criticisms of his view of the role of Vice President as Biden "choosing" not to exercise the full power of the office, so they will say that Obama deciding not to torture was Obama "choosing" not to exercise the full power of the presidency.

They will still be able to argue that torture is legal and that Democrats are simply too pussy to use the full range of options at their disposal.

The need to establish the illegality of what they did supercedes everything else, no matter how desirable anything else might be.