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Truth Commission Watch

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy writes on Huffingtonpost.com: "We have just emerged from a time when White House officials often acted as if they were above the law. That was wrong and must be fully exposed so it never happens again....

"I have set up a petition at BushTruthCommission.com, and I hope you will sign it to urge Congress to consider establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the Bush-Cheney administration's abuses....

"Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. The best way to move forward is getting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again."

Meanwhile, Joe Conason writes for Salon that Obama should "consider the creation of a presidential commission whose aims would be purely investigative -- and encourage the participation of those implicated in the abuses of the past by promising a complete pardon to anyone who testifies fully, honestly and publicly.

"With that gesture, he would acknowledge the importance of uncovering the facts, no matter how ugly, while magnanimously binding up the nation's wounds. He could leave the issue of criminal prosecution to international authorities that can act without any partisan taint. And he could seek truth without vengeance."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, by the way, is celebrating what it calls Obama's embrace of Bush's policies on secrecy and rendition: "President Obama has done a masterful job disguising his Administration's growing antiterror maturity, but this week produced further evidence that he is erring on the side of keeping the country safe rather than appeasing the political left. The Justice Department filed to dismiss a federal appeals case involving rendition, embracing an argument developed by...the Bush Administration.

"In other words, the anti-antiterror lobby is being exposed as more radical than its putative banner carrier. As Mr. Obama is learning, the left's exertions to disarm the country's counterterrorism arsenal are as dangerous now as they were prior to his election."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 13, 2009; 11:54 AM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
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Comments

No pardons. These people should be in jail.

Posted by: tgoglia | February 13, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

A truth commission on the South African model only works if the people who did the crimes come forward and confess. Then they can be absolved. If no one in the former administration comes forward and says, "I did wrong by torturing detainees, illegally wire tapped American citizens and residents, etc." then a truth and reconciliation commission has no purpose. Since the Bushies insist that they did nothing wrong, the Justice department needs to start prosecutions of those involved.

Posted by: srw3 | February 13, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Accountability is not vengeance. A fair-minded pursuit is what the justice department and the FBI do when they investigate and prosecute criminals. That is not vengeance. That is what we pay our government officials to do when crimes are committed. It is not Leahy's responsibility to wash over Bush's crimes with some contrived legislative mechanism. It is his duty to insure our government functions within its laws and enforces its laws...something Leahy and his colleagues failed to do for 8 years.

Posted by: DrHffmnn | February 13, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy is pungently ignorant!!

With Leahy's palpable silliness in mind, remember the wise words of Justice Brandeis:

"Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.

In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously.

Our Government is the potent, omnipresent teacher.

For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.

Crime is contagious.

If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.

Posted by: abhinavagupta | February 13, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I would like to echo DrHffmnn's succinct statement: Accountability is not vengeance.

Only in Washington would politicians [and journalists] bend over backwards to concoct all kinds of irrational diatribes to excuse pure criminality in Government. What the Bush Regime did was despicable and antithetical to the Constitution and our way of life... and it pains me to see nothing but weak-kneed, impotent and ineffectual voices begging for some sort of Truth Commission in lieu of full-blown investigations.

What does it take to be investigated anymore? What about lying to the world about intelligence to lead us into a war that has drained the blood & treasury of our great Country? What about torturing innocent people in contravention of ratified treaties and international & U.S. laws? What about the mass warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens in clear violation of the 4th Amendment? What about politicizing the DOJ and using it for partisan purposes when it is supposed to be an advocate for the People?

If these aren't High Crimes & Misdemeanors than we need to rewrite textbooks all over this country.

I am sickened by what I read every day in the pages of the MSM.

Posted by: winoohno | February 13, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The terrible idea floated by Leahy is an attempt to side step responsibility by Congress. That Government officials, employees and contractors work to a different standard of laws is reprehensible. Further, the US has a history of not allowing extradition of Officials, such as Henry Kissinger,convicted by other authorities so Obama would follow president. Obama would, however be complicit after the fact along with Bushco's law and treaty breaking if he doesn't act. Some day he may recognize that, and his failure to pursue investigating and trying any and all parties found guilty, will continue the lawless perpetrated under Nixon and Reagan.

Posted by: Bushy | February 13, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

WELL SAID WINNO. IF THEY CAN BREAK THE LAW, WHAT GOOD IS LAW TO THE REST OF US?

WE HAVE TO BREAK THE CYCLE OF EXCUSING BLANTANT WRONGDOING. CERTAIN PEOPLE IN PAST ADMINISTRATIONS DISREGARDED OUR GUIDING DOCUMENT OF ESTABLISHED LAWS.

REPUBLICANS BELIEVE IN "COMPASSIONATE" CONSERVATIVISM. DEMOCRATS BELIEVE IN "DEMOCRACY"

WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT BELIEVE IN THE CONSTITUTION? DID THEY GET SHIPPED OFF TO A SECRET PRISON?

IF NOT, IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL AMERICANS WHO FIGHT FOR AND DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION TO ENSURE THAT THOSE WHO DISRESPECT, TRAMPLE, OR MINIMIZE IT TO THE DETRIMENT OF OUR COUNTRY FACE ACCOUNTIBILITY AND IF NEED BE, PUNISHMENT.

IT SEEMS AS THOUGH THE CONSTITUTION IS A TOY WHICH GETS USED WHEN NEEDED. WE NEED IT NOW. IT EXPLICITLY DIRECTS THOSE ENTRUSTED WITH ITS PROTECTION TO IMPLEMENT A PROCEDURE FOR CASES OF ABUSE THAT HAVE OCCURED AGAINST US AS A COUNTRY.

THIS IS ABOVE PARTY POLITICS. AND IT MIRRORS OUR DEFINITION OF JUSTICE ON A GLOBAL SCALE. "SELECTIVE JUSTICE"

WE AS A PEOPLE CAN NOT HAVE ONE PARTY AIMING FOR THE IMPEACHMENT OF A PRESIDENT FOR LYING ABOUT AN IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP (HOW MANY LIVES DID THAT COST?) WHILE 8 YEARS LATER, WANTING MERCY FOR OBVIOUS CRIMES AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION.

WE MUST UPHOLD OUR LAWS AT ALL TIMES, OTHERWISE WE ARE NO LONGER A NATION, BUT SIMPLY A COLLECTION OF DIVIDED SOCIETIES..

IF YOU LOVE AMERICA, LOVE THE CONSTITUTION, YOUR PARTY OR NO PERSON WHO REPRESENTS IT IS ABOVE IT.

Posted by: Just_An_Observer | February 13, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Expect resistance from Nancy Pelosi, who declared from the outset of the Democratic majority that "impeachment is off the table." That meant that the laws would not be enforced against the powerful, only against the powerless.

She and Harry Reid rolled over for the tyrant George W. Bush, who destroyed the constitution in defiance of his oath to protect and defend it. Bush-Cheney-Rove were very familiar types who rebelled at any accountability or higher authority.

"Going forward" by ignoring the transgressions of this band of criminals is like continuing construction of a house after the foundation has cracked and weakened.

Why should we not do the same with Bernie Madoff? After all, he held a privileged position in society, maybe not as high as Bush's, but pretty close. Let's not investigate his Ponzi scheme, but simply go forward and hope it doesn't happen again. Investors should simply renew their full faith and credit in the financial system and assume that there are no more Bernie Madoffs.

Unfortunately, some of us can't simply erase our memory banks as easily as people like Madoff can erase our bank accounts.

These people have already admitted to torture, violation of federal and international law and an absolute refusal to perform any regulatory function as our institutions of finance, transportation, environment, labor, civil rights, emergency services and food production were paralyzed by presidential fiat.

Let us never forgive or forget these Pirates of the Potomac.

Posted by: motorfriend | February 13, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The death penalty exists because it's supposed to act as a deterent to anyone who might kill.
If you want to keep future adminisrations from crapping all over our constitution, prosecute the Bushies for the crimes against humanity and our Nation that they have commited.
Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld hanging from a gallows would be a GREAT example.

Posted by: jeffc6578 | February 13, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Justice is not vengeance. We are truly a failing empire when we violate our own laws to fight lawlessness.

Posted by: sparkplug1 | February 13, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I do NOT support a truth commission that refuses to prosecute the crimes it may uncover. That would guarantee the fundamental nature of the debate will never change. All that would happen:

Politician A: "It is an established fact that crimes were committed, as was testified by several persons, therefore we must never commit them again"

Politician B: "It is an established fact that no crimes were committed. Less than half the poeple interviewed felt that crimes were committed, and these were only the opinions of individuals who don't have the nerve to do what it takes to defend our country. Plus, even the opposition party admits there were no real crimes, or else they surely would have insisted on prosecutions."

However, if persons are subsequently prosecuted and convicted, history's conversation will go like this:

Politician A: "It is an established fact that crimes were committed, as evidenced by the criminal convictions, therefore all politicians are on notice to not commit such crimes in the future."

Politician B: "I never hung out with those guys."

Posted by: 4afreepress | February 13, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

A "Truth and Reconcilliation Commission" which granted pardons would be OK with me for two reasons:

1. If you confess to war crimes and are pardoned by the US, you might be arrested in any other country - you can never leave to US again.

2. The people that I really want to see in prison are never going to confess their crimes, with the possible exception of Rove. Addington, Yoo, Cheney, Gonzoles, Rumsfield, Bush are never going to confess to any crimes, much less war crimes. So they'll never get a pardon and the evidence will all be there for any prosecutor in the US who wants to file charges.

Posted by: dickdata | February 13, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

If Obama does not allow the COmmission to go forward, then we have allowed the most arrogant band of criminals to walk free RE: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rove, Wolfitz, as well as the justifying statements made by Rice in the lead up to war. Just look at the video on the net that recaptures the time frame over 72 minutes of video. They are all condescending to respond to questions, Cheney lies thru his teeth and Rumsfield is an absolute warmonger. Bush is Bush, stupid, arrogant, uninformed, and looking thru his narcissism to have a life experience called the Presidency for which he was never really elected but Supreme COurt appointed by Renquist who marched before the Jewish Residence at Yale with swastics on yelling zxig hows the firt year Jews were allowed to study there. There you have it. We need and the world needs to see the criminals in prison so the world knows there is justice in America.

Posted by: mjd21 | February 16, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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