Monday, January 19, 2009

Holding the scoundrels accountable

The always-thorough Glenn Greenwald of lays out a seemingly irrefutable case as to why the incoming administration must investigate and hold the Bush Administration accountable for violating US and international law by torturing people in the aftermath of 9/11.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman weighs in similarly, but expands the notion to a widespread inquiry into a number of areas (going to war, warrantless wiretaps, politicizing the Justice Department, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis) where incompetence and criminality may have taken place.

The desire to hold a mirror up to the past eight years and to punish this arrogant collection of rascals is strong, but doing so would undermine Barack Obama's attempts at shelving partisanship and could derail much of what he hopes to accomplish. The president-elect has said, “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law," but he's followed that with "...we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

Tomorrow, Obama will take an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution..." If he pushes aside a complete and just accounting of the Bush Administration in order to keep the mood in Washington, and around the country, positive, is he trampling on that oath? Is he allowing some people to get away with being above the law?

Krugman writes: "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."

1 comment:

N.starluna said...

I'm all in favor of holding this administration accountable for all the problems they created. I also completely disagree that any investigation into some of the scandals (illegal wiretaps, illegal hiring, etc) would be partisan.

The bigger problem is spending lots of effort and resources on investigations when there may not be single law broken. Many of the no-bid contracts, for example, were made completely within the discretion given to the administration by Congress. Incompetence doesn't always mean law-breaking, at least not at the scale performed by the Bush administration.

Perhaps what is needed is a non-partisan truth commission. Illegal acts should be investigated and fully prosecuted in my view. But since not all of the bad things done by the Bush administration were actually illegal, it may be better to provide incentives for people to come forward and honestly describe the actions, inactions, and justifications therein. We learned a lot about the hiring in Justice department, only a portion of which was technically illegal, when Ms. Goodling came forward and frankly described what was going on. More importantly, it spurred a discussion around the problems that hiring on the basis of ideology (especially religious ideology) can create.

Which gets to the other challenge to any investigation: how will it be presented to the public. Is it framed as "let's learn what they did, what the impacts of that are, and discuss why that was wrong" or will it be presented as "see how evil those Republicans are." If it is going to be the latter, than I probably would not be interested in pursuing it either because we all know that people (groups of people) in both parties are equally capable and willing to be both incompetent and corrupt on a grand scale.