In the midst of the turmoil that has seized Washington, the name-calling,
the charges and counter-charges, the lies, evasions and dissembling , it is vital to remember two facts.
First, our government has tortured people in violation of our own laws and principles as well as international law, and the politicians who ordered it, the lawyers who okayed it and the military brass and civilian spymasters who directed it should all be charged with war crimes and tried.
Second, in America’s 234 years, the only people who have ever actually abridged Americans’ freedom and violated our rights have been Presidents, members of Congress, other elected officials, and alleged law enforcement officials. Invariably, these bullies justify their breaches of the Constitution, abuses of power, draconian measures, and monstrous acts as necessary to protect our freedom and preserve our rights.
Every time our alleged leaders betray us and savage the Constitution, America is diminished.
The longtime boss of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover routinely violated
citizens’ rights and broke more laws than he enforced, but was never charged, much less fired.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the obscene House unAmerican Activities Committee charged 10 screenwriters with contempt of Congress and sent them to prison for not answering questions the committee had no right to ask them.
Thanks to the HUAC, Hoover’s boys, Senators Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon’s black lists and witch hunts, the lives and careers of untold numbers of talented people in television and film were ruined. They were guilty of nothing, but believing in America and the Bill of Rights.
The chairman of the HUAC, J. Parnell Thomas, wound up in prison for tax evasion, but nothing happened to the other Committee members, Hoover and his boys, and McCarthy and Nixon, though all of them had broken the very laws they had sworn to uphold.
In the 1960s, the FBI and the CIA both infiltrated anti-Vietnam war groups, though opposing bad American policies, including wars, is not only legal, but mandatory.
In the 1970s, Nixon turned the White House into a moral swamp, breaking more laws than anyone could count, lying habitually, playing filthy tricks,
and it was all on tape. Some of Nixon’s men went to jail, but he and his vice-president, Spiro Agnew, were both allowed to resign. Gerald Ford, who
succeeded Agnew and then Nixon, pardoned Nixon, saying, “The long national nightmare is over.”
It was an extraordinary miscalculation.
In the 1980s, the financial crisis that unmade the world last September was set in motion, add Iran-Contra surfaced, but more questions were asked than were ever answered.
Nixon, the most likely candidate for impeachment in this nation’s history,
escaped, courtesy of Ford, but, In the late 1990s, President Bill Clinton was impeached and charged with perjury, abuse of power and obstruction of justice for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
He was found guilty by the House, and not guilty by the Senate – more less along party lines. The seedy back stairs circumstances, the party line
vote turned a profound Constitutional proceeding into an extended smirk.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s list of high crimes and misdemeanors is as long as it is horrifying. They saw 9/11 not as an unparalleled tragedy, but as an opportunity to run wild here and abroad, curtailing our freedom, violating our rights, making a mockery of justice, invading Iraq and sending troops into Afghanistan, while allowing a great American city to drown and so on. And all the while, Congress was as docile as baby turtles.
Only if they and all the people who did their bidding are charged with and tried for war crimes will the rule of law prevail over the chaos that now envelops us and our endeavors.
I have great respect for President Obama and his wish to go forward, but until Bush’s sordid legacy is expunged can we move on.