FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Way Forward

by DAVE LINDORFF

As someone who has spent nearly three frustrating years actively advocating the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many crimes and abuses of power, I have to admit that not only did it not happen, but that the likelihood of their being indicted and brought to trial now that they have left office is exceedingly slim.

While both men are clearly guilty of war crimes, and have in fact admitted to willful violation of international law and the US Criminal Code relating to torture and treatment of captives, and while Bush has admitted to the felony of willfully violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and while a good case of defrauding Congress could be made against both men with regard to their claims made to justify the invasion of Iraq, not to mention a host of other crimes large and small, I think it is clear that the new administration of President Barack Obama does not want to be seen trying to put the president and vice president in the slammer (where they so deserve to be). For better or worse, Obama has decided to pursue a less confrontational politics in Washington.

That said, I would argue that there can be a good case made, both legally and politically, for the convening of a Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which could put all key people in the last administration on the stand and under oath and klieg lights to explain just what they did and why.

Of course, such a commission, if established by an act of Congress, would on one level amount to letting off the hook people whose criminal actions have led to the deaths of over a million people, including over 4500 Americans in uniform, to the torturing of hundreds and perhaps thousands, and to the undermining of the constitutional rights of all the people of this nation. And yet, it may be the best way to establish just what the extent and nature of those crimes were, who was harmed, and how to avoid such reckless and criminal behavior by a president and an administration in the future.

Furthermore, if properly constituted and empowered, such a commission could still lead to prosecutions in the end.

Here’s how it might work:  The commission would call administration officers, whether former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Vice President Cheney. Under oath, they would be asked what their roles were in, say, the authorization, promotion and covering up of torture.  If they answered truthfully, they would be immune from prosecution for any crimes they admitted to, but the world would know for all time what they had done. If they refused to answer, or if they were to lie to the commission, however, they would be subject to possible indictment for contempt or perjury—charges that could place them before a judge or even a grand jury.

Moreover, if lower-ranking members of the administration, called before such a commission, chose the route of coming clean about their role in administration crimes, it would both provide evidence that could later be used to prosecute higher officials who might refuse to appear and testify before such a commission, and at the same time would tend to create a public sentiment in favor of prosecution.

A truth & reconciliation commission would have to be authorized by an act of Congress, I believe, because only Congress could offer the necessary waiver from prosecution for a capital crime like torture in which victims have died, as is the case with the torture that US military forces and CIA agents have engaged in over the past eight years. But the new Congress should be willing to support such an act, because, far from being retribution, the truth & reconciliation process, which was used in South Africa, and which has been used in other countries recovering from past criminal rule, could be presented as a way of getting out the facts, and of restoring the country’s international reputation, without trying to put anyone behind bars.

Moreover, I think that the vast majority of the American public wants to see some kind of reckoning made with the past eight years of secret government, official lying, and criminal actions by many of the top officials of the land.

If South Africans can respond to generations of a criminal apartheid regime and a police state with a truth & reconciliation process, so can we in America.

It is, after all, the truth, not the punishment of criminals, however heinous, that sets us free.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
Roseangela Hartford
The Hidden Homeless Population
Mark Weisbrot
Obama’s Campaign for TPP Could Drag Down the Democrats
Rick Sterling
Clintonites Prepare for War on Syria
Yves Engler
The Anti-Semitism Smear Against Canadian Greens
August 24, 2016
John Pilger
Provoking Nuclear War by Media
Jonathan Cook
The Birth of Agro-Resistance in Palestine
Eric Draitser
Ajamu Baraka, “Uncle Tom,” and the Pathology of White Liberal Racism
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt and the New Financial Imperialism
Robert Fisk
The Sultan’s Hit List Grows, as Turkey Prepares to Enter Syria
Abubakar N. Kasim
What Did the Olympics Really Do for Humanity?
Renee Parsons
Obamacare Supporters Oppose ColoradoCare
Alycee Lane
The Trump Campaign: a White Revolt Against ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’
Edward Hunt
Maintaining U.S. Dominance in the Pacific
George Wuerthner
The Big Fish Kill on the Yellowstone
Jesse Jackson
Democrats Shouldn’t Get a Blank Check From Black Voters
Kent Paterson
Saving Southern New Mexico from the Next Big Flood
Arnold August
RIP Jean-Guy Allard: A Model for Progressive Journalists Working in the Capitalist System
August 23, 2016
Diana Johnstone
Hillary and the Glass Ceilings Illusion
Bill Quigley
Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers
Ted Rall
Trump vs. Clinton: It’s All About the Debates
Eoin Higgins
Will Progressive Democrats Ever Support a Third Party Candidate?
Kenneth J. Saltman
Wall Street’s Latest Public Sector Rip-Off: Five Myths About Pay for Success
Binoy Kampmark
Labouring Hours: Sweden’s Six-Hour Working Day
John Feffer
The Globalization of Trump
Gwendolyn Mink – Felicia Kornbluh
Time to End “Welfare as We Know It”
Medea Benjamin
Congress Must Take Action to Block Weapon Sales to Saudi Arabia
Halyna Mokrushyna
Political Writer, Daughter of Ukrainian Dissident, Detained and Charged in Ukraine
Manuel E. Yepe
Tourism and Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in the Caribbean
ED ADELMAN
Belted by Trump
Thomas Knapp
War: The Islamic State and Western Politicians Against the Rest of Us
Nauman Sadiq
Shifting Alliances: Turkey, Russia and the Kurds
Rivera Sun
Active Peace: Restoring Relationships While Making Change
August 22, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton: The Anti-Woman ‘Feminist’
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Death Rattle
Norman Solomon
Clinton’s Transition Team: a Corporate Presidency Foretold
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Hubris: Only Tell the Rich for $5000 a Minute!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail