Friday, July 17, 2009

We Need to Know What Happened

Revelations about a potential paramilitary assassination force researched and nearly put into operation by the CIA have brought back to the forefront the issue of looking back at the transgressions of the Bush administration. Did they break the law? Should someone be prosecuted? What exactly happened?

I find myself most interested in the last question. If you’ve followed my posts over the years you know that I have a nearly paranoid fear of government and its ever increasing efficiency in limiting our rights by harnessing fear or misdirection. We need to know what happened and how it happened. We need to publically disclose the transgressions of the Bush administration. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there were transgressions of established norms of government during the Bush administration. I personally believe much of what was done was done illegally. At the very least it was done with intellectual dishonesty. Yet, I am reluctant to join the more liberal side in this debate calling for the heads of those responsible.

I think President Obama’s statements on wanting to look forward, not back accurately reflect the will of most of America. I believe the American public does not want to rehash and relive the Bush administration through constant coverage of court cases and periodic revelations of this or that. I don’t mean to trivialize any illegal activity, but the current rancor has the scent of a lynch mob looking for retribution more then closure and understanding. That said, I don’t think he can do nothing. Thankfully people like me, with an internet connection and an opinion, are here to help.

President Obama needs to establish something between a Truth Commission and the 9/11 Commission. He needs to recruit two elder statesmen from both parties that want to find truth, not retribution. He needs to give this commission some teeth to make sure the more insolent members of the Bush administration (hello Mr. Cheney) are compelled to sit down and tell honestly what happened. Of course the counter-point to this is that like many Truth and Reconciliation commissions, there needs to be legal leniency shown to the majority of those who testify. If it becomes clear one individual was willfully responsible for numerous illegal acts then that person can be brought up on charges (hello Mr. Cheney). From the sounds of it John Yoo could very well be disbarred for his memos and the twisting of the law he facilitated.

Above all us, this commission should get to the truth. Does that mean many illegal acts could go unprosecuted? Yes. Will many liberals be bent out of shape that so many of the perpetrators get off scott free? Yes. Will many conservatives protest the notion that anything done could be wrong or illegal in the face of terrorism (despite the obvious fact that Al Qaeda has never and likely will never pose an existential threat to the U.S.)? You bet your NASCAR tickets they will. People on all sides will be angry. No one will be fully satisfied. Isn’t democracy grand?

We need to know what happened. We as citizens of this country are complicit in the wholesale auction, if not theft, of our constitutional protections. We need to shed light into the dark corners of our government, lest we find ourselves banished there later on without recourse. It isn’t about looking back, it’s about knowing the past to inform our future. We need to know, and as the G.I. Joe cartoons taught me as a child, knowing is half the battle.

1 comment:

Ben said...

On this matter, Rep. Nadler made an excellent point about the need to re-establish the Rule of Law this morning on NPR. Listen to it here.