Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Declaration Against Interest

Dick Cheney confessed to war crimes this week in an interview with ABC news. Well, it wasn't really a confession, more like a boast. And he still claims that no war crimes were committed, the Geneva Conventions be damned. Arrogance unbounded. Of all the commentary I read on the Vice President's interview, the one that most clearly articulated the outrage I felt at Cheney's comments was Derrick Z. Jackson's column in yesterday's Boston Globe.

VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney said this week that he directly approved waterboarding to torture terror suspects. "I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney told "ABC News." Asked if he believes the simulating of drowning is an appropriate technique, he said, "I do." ...

...Cheney told us after 9/11 that the administration would protect us by working on "the dark side . . . in the shadows in the intelligence world." Cheney, Rumsfeld, and President Bush turned the dark side into a blind eye, the shadows into a shroud, and obliterated intelligent discourse on terrorism with raw fear. That was only the warm-up for twisting intelligence to invade Iraq for weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.


The tragic part is that he and his colleagues are going to get away with it. They will go from the malfeasance of this administration to cushy jobs elsewhere: on boards of directors, or conservative think tanks, or, at the very least, to high-paying speaking tours, a fact, Mr. Jackson points out, is exactly the path that those who left the administration earlier took:

For eight years the administration never feared trampling truth and justice, even as Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2004 about Abu Ghraib, "Anyone who recommended that kind of behavior that I have seen depicted in those photos needs to be brought to justice." At the moment, the administration faces no serious repercussions for decisions that resulted in many times more deaths in Iraq than here on Sept. 11, 2001. Rumsfeld went from disgrace to a visiting fellowship at the Hoover Institution. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz went from miscalculating the need for hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq as "wildly off the mark" to counting the planet's dollars at the World Bank - until corruption ended his presidency there. [Emphasis added]

It wasn't just international law that was broken by this sorry lot, national law and the very Constitution were trampled. We've had eight years in which warrantless wire taps were encouraged, citizens spied on as they engaged in peaceful protest, and "terror lists" compiled which limited Americans' right to travel. They did it because they could.

I am tempted to blame Nancy Pelosi (and she certainly deserves a lot of the blame) for taking impeachment off the table, and Democratic congress critters (including Senator Barack Obama) for signing off on the recent FISA bill granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms who cooperated so freely in the warrantless wire tapping. In fact, I think a case can be made that nearly everyone sitting in the 109th and the 110th Congresses were complicit with the overt and intentional ruination of our Bill of Rights as this "unitary president" assumed essentially dictatorial powers after 9/11.

The fact of the matter, however, is that this administration got away with the nightmare of the last eight years because we let them, we, as in "We, the People." Even though our press most certainly did not do its job, preferring instead to regurgitate the talking points handed them by the administration in the tradition of Soviet era Pravda, we knew enough to take action. We didn't take that action then, but we certainly can now. We can demand that the 111th Congress investigate the high level wrongdoing and that it turn its findings over to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

It mustn't stop there, however. We cannot assume that the next administration will be any different, even if it is wrapped inside a package labeled "Democratic". We can demand that President Obama close Guantanamo Bay and every other prison in which people are being detained without charge and tortured into giving ludicrous confessions which would be inadmissible in any civilized court of law. We can demand that the FISA law be updated to conform to new technology, but that it still conform to the principles of Bill of Rights. We can demand that all domestic spying be examined for its legality, "threats" be damned.

If our demands are once again ignored, then we must take to the streets in numbers large enough that the miscreants must take notice, because if we don't, we will have eight more nightmarish years, and then another eight more, and then another. And I don't want to live like that.

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