Monday, December 15, 2008

Heck Of A Job

There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

Suppose I commit a murder, the police arrest me for the crime, and in my defense I say to them, "Don't be so divisive. Let's look to the future and try to forget the past." Would you not refer me for a psychological evaluation?

We are not supposed to remember Abu Ghraib.

It is supposed to be old news -- done. We are supposed to move on. Look to the future, that's they say. Stop ranting about holding our leaders accountable for what happened. Don't call for investigations, let's just move on. Punishing our leaders for war crimes only divides the country (the rationale used by Democrats to justify doing nothing).

You are not likely, then, to have read about this report in the news. The Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senators Levin and McCain (you know him), released a report last week officially tying former Defense Secretary Robert Rumsfeld to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Here's the executive summary.

Doesn't this seem like a bit of a news story? There is now a bipartisan government report tying top Bush Administration officials to war crimes, to the abuse and homicide of prisoners held by our nation.

I take no satisfaction knowing that a little bit of the money deducted from your and my paycheck was spent building illegal secret dungeons such as the one outside Kabul known as "the Salt Pit." I take no satisfaction hearing that a CIA supervisor at this facility -- someone paid with public money, our money -- ordered a human being to be stripped naked and chained to the floor overnight. The prisoner froze to death, one of many prisoners to die in our custody after being tortured. The CIA supervisor was never reprimanded and has, according to some leaks, been promoted. That person was rewarded for what he did, and yet another government employee (also in our employ, yours and mine) who blew the whistle on our government for illegally spying on us has had his life ruined.

I take no satisfaction knowing that Donald Rumsfeld flies around giving talks on national security and global politics and will not have to answer for what he has done. We punished a couple of low-level soldiers and Army officials who carried out these dark directives, but not the men at the top who set the stage and put them up to it.

Nor can I really rejoice in the coming change of administrations, knowing that this President will fly home decked like some kind of honored statesman, and will never have to answer for the torture and death of detainees (something that continues to this day), for the illegal spying, or his other crimes against the United States.

The vision of those who fought the American revolution was of a land where leaders are elected, subject to laws and limits on their power, and held accountable if they do wrong. When this man became president, I rooted for him as an American citizen who wants his country to prosper. This president went wrong. Really wrong. His error is far more serious than Nixon's or Clinton's -- if you know what I mean. He has much to answer for, but our republic -- born of the American revolution -- has lost its own identity. We have not the character or the will to call our leader to account, or even his cabinet officials.

A lot of people are feeling very ecstatic about the new president, but as I am not certain anymore what country he is president of, my own feeling is less jubilant.

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