Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Looking Ahead" or Overlooking Crimes Against Humanity?


I am a little stunned. I have been watching the news and listening to all the chatter about the scandal surrounding Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the alleged impropriety of people like Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle.

Watching all this, I’ve been thinking, “Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush is clearing brush in perfect peace.”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is likely out duck hunting in Wyoming, as if he has every right to be walking around free.

Like we are supposed to forget their crimes.

Such as the criminal neglect in August 2005 when over 1,300 people died during Hurricane Katrina. You remember Katrina: Cadavers floating in flood waters on prime time TV while Bush was on vacation, and Condoleezza Rice was shoe-shopping on Fifth Avenue.

And the torture of prisoners sanctioned at the highest levels of government. Contests were held in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to see who could scare the naked prisoners so badly by siccing dogs on them that they would urinate themselves. All this courtesy of policies and procedures initiated by Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and Donald Rumsfeld.

There was the detaining and kidnapping of people the U.S. government wanted to torture in what were called “extraordinary renditions,” sending them to Syria, Egypt and Uzbekistan among others.

How about the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program that swept up the conversations and communications of millions of people on unprecedented levels? All in fundamental violation of what is supposed to be the basic constitutional protection of the right of privacy.

There was the spinning of the “weapons of mass destruction” myth as the causa belli for war in Iraq, with its staggering human toll and no end in sight. You remember Condoleezza Rice’s famous proclamation: “But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” It was a lie.

With all this, we are supposed to rally behind President Barack Obama’s view that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward” when it comes to the crimes of Bush and company.

Well, perhaps Obama can “look ahead” past all that, but I don’t think it ought to be true for the rest of us. Doing so effectively enshrines such behavior. The stain of it stays, and even if the U.S. government did not engage in such things again — and not renouncing it heightens the possibility that it will — it still becomes part of the overall ideology of what is acceptable.

As John Ashcroft of all people noted when discussing the specifics of torture with his colleagues, “History will not judge this kindly.” I don’t think this waits on history. There is a need now to stand against this.


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