Saturday, January 17, 2009

'Forgive and Forget?'

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is the title of Paul Krugman's
latest column, in which he criticizes Obama's apparent inclination not to investigate and prosecute the Bush administration's systematic abuse of power.

Not holding them accountable sets a fatal precedent. It sends the message that it is acceptable to violate the Constitution
and get away with it without any consequences, thereby increasing the likelihood that it will happen again. It would confirm that they are indeed above the law. Krugman concludes:
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
For confirmation and more details on this approach, see Glenn Greenwalds January 15 post, Establishment Washington Unifies Against Prosecutions.

Given the parallel to how Bush Sr. dealt with the Iran-Contra Affair during the Reagan era, this suggests much more continuity than change. Why is that? If this is not the time to hold members of the Bush administration accountable for what must be among the most extensive and egregious abuses of power, when could there ever be the right time?

Perhaps the most plausible explanation is that years of investigations and prosecutions would prove too divisive, as Krugman suggests, and would interfere with Obama's strategy of building a new, 'post-partisan' coalition with significant Repbulican participation.

UPDATE, Sunday, January 19, 2009

In today's post, Binding US Law Requires Prosecutions for those Who Authorize Torture, Glenn Greenwald, after presenting a series of undisputed premises and inescapable conclusions, himself comes to the conclusion that the evidence is so clear and overwhelming that the Obama administration has no choice but to investigate and prosecute.

He approvingly quotes from Hilary Bok's Some Facts for Obama to Consider of January 15, 2009:
It seems to me that these facts imply that if Barack Obama, or his administration, believe that there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of the Bush administration have committed torture, then they are legally obligated to investigate; and that if that investigation shows that acts of torture were committed, to submit those cases for prosecution, if the officials who committed or sanctioned those acts are found on US territory. If they are on the territory of some other party to the Convention, then it has that obligation. Under the Convention, as I read it, this is not discretionary. And under the Constitution, obeying the laws, which include treaties, is not discretionary either. (Greenwald's emphasis)
Greenwald himself concludes:
While those who argue that the US was right to torture because it's the US that did it are expressing a repugnant form of exceptionalism, at least they're being honest -- far more so than those who argue that Bush officials shouldn't be investigated or prosecuted while paying deceitful lip service to "the rule of law" and the idea that "no one is above the law."

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