Saturday, December 13, 2008

Should We Hold the Bushies Accountable?

Should we hold the Bush administration accountable? Or should we just let them slink away quietly while we get on with the business of trying to put right all that has been made wrong? Can we just reestablish the rule of law without going through all the unpleasantness of investigations and trials? Should we stir up controversy and unleash the anguish of political rancor and partisan conflict? Aren't the American people fed up with being so divided? Is it enough just to learn all the abuses that went on, or do we need to actually press charges and bring the perpetrators to trial? Can't we just go on as if the nightmare of the last eight years never happened?

Glenn Greenwald on the Bill Moyers Journal had this to say: "What happens if you allow serious law breaking to go unpunished is you're telling political leaders, current and future, that there's no need for you to abide by the law. There's no reason for you to consider yourself constrained or limited in what you do. Because even if you commit crimes while in office, we're going to be too afraid of creating divisiveness... And the damage that comes from that is infinitely worse than whatever this divisiveness is that so many people are afraid of when citing why we should let these criminals go free."

Continue reading the Moyers transcript: Part of the difficulty is that the Democrats, who are now and soon to be in power, are reluctant to hold this administration accountable because many of their leaders have been complicit in the crimes that have been committed. Congress has ceded much of its power to the "unitary executive," willingly, almost joyfully. There are few national politicians who are blameless in the great debacle that has overtaken our government.

However, in spite of the lack of political will on the part of the Democrats, we cannot possibly undo the damage that has been done without holding the Bush administration accountable for its actions. The damage that would be done by not holding them accountable would be much worse than whatever controversy is stirred up by establishing an independent investigation and prosecuting those who believed they were above the law and acted on that belief.

This nation needs better politicians, leaders who cannot be so easily bought and sold and silenced. We are never going to get them without doggedly pursuing justice, however uncomfortable the pursuit may make some of us, especially those of us whose reelections are on the line. But it's not up to them. It must not be up to them. It's up to us, the American people, to insist that our leaders be held accountable. And now is the time when we must make our voices heard or be condemned by our own silence.

Why on earth is it OK to hold Bill Clinton accountable for lying under oath, lying about something that's altogether inconsequential to the American people, but we should not pursue accountability for what is perhaps the most unlawful administration in American history? How can this possibly make any sense? Has our government just become a stage for the theater of the absurd? Are our rights and liberties really so insignificant to us that we can just let this go because it's not politically expedient for our elected officials?

It's entirely possible to appoint an independent, nonpartisan investigator to bring to light the crimes that have been committed. That's not to say that there won't be those who would try to politicize the process anyway. But the actions of the investigation can and should be above politics and above reproach.

If we don't hold the Bush administration accountable, there's absolutely nothing that will prevent future leaders from believing that they also are above the law. It's an invitation to tyranny.

If we're really against torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless surveillance, the undoing of habeas corpus, the establishment of the "unitary executive" (read: king), then we must act. If we don't, it will be clear to the world, to our children, and to our future leaders that we really don't have the courage of our convictions when it comes to the rule of law, we really don't care if they chew up our rights and civil liberties and spit them out.

We absolutely cannot afford to let this slide. Nothing less than the future of freedom is at stake.

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