Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Harper’s on prosecuting Bush

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-01-04

The December 2008 edition of "Harper’s Magazine" has a very nuanced and thought-provoking piece by Scott Horton : "Justice after Bush: Prosecuting an outlaw administration" which explores the need and means for investigation and probably prosecution of G.W. Bush and his cronies.

Americans may wish to avoid what is necessary.  We may believe that concerns about presidential lawbreaking are naive.  That all presidents commit crimes.  We may pretend that George W. Bush and his senior officers could not have committed crimes significantly worse than those of their predecessors.  We may fear what it would mean to acknowledge such crimes, much less to punish them.  But avoiding this task, simply “moving on,” is not possible.
This administration did more than commit crimes. It waged war against the law itself.  It transformed the Justice Department into a vehicle for voter suppression, and it also summarily dismissed the U.S. attorneys who attempted to investigate its wrongdoing.  It issued wartime contracts to substandard vendors with inside connections, and it also defunded efforts to police their performance.  It spied on church groups and political protesters, and it also introduced a sweeping surveillance program that was so clearly illegal that virtually the entire senior echelon of the Justice Department threatened to (but did not in fact) tender their resignations over it.  It waged an illegal and disastrous war, and it did so by falsely representing to Congress and to the American public nearly every piece of intelligence it had on Iraq.  And through it all, as if to underscore its contempt for any authority but its own, the administration issued more than a hundred carefully crafted “signing statements” that raised pervasive doubt about whether the president would even accede to bills that he himself had signed into law.

It’s hard to see how Dubya could issue a valedictory presidential pardon to himself when there have been no charges laid.

If such a prosecution happens, particularly in an international court, can Johnny "I was only following orders" Howard be far behind, although for lesser crimes?

The problems of prosecuting such high crimes of leaders are not unique to the US.  How would we seek justice in Australian courts against a leader who acted exactly as Bush did, with the same intolerable consequences?

One thing at least I’ll grant Americans – such matters are being discussed seriously.  I cannot imagine Australians bothering much, especially if there is a more important crisis unfolding, such as the drop in the ranking of our cricket team.


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