For the sake of national security and national unity, President-elect Barack Obama should put a stop to efforts to investigate or prosecute Bush administration officials for anti-terror “war crimes.”
The motive behind such efforts is not - as claimed - “truth” or “justice,” but political vengeance.
Republicans hated President Clinton and a GOP-dominated House impeached him. Many Democrats hate George W. Bush with equal or even greater passion, but they demurred on the idea of impeachment - mainly because the action against Mr. Clinton hurt the GOP more than it hurt Mr. Clinton.
But now Bush-haters are calling for the Obama administration to investigate Bush officials for alleged war crimes and other misdeeds connected with the war on terror.
Mr. Obama should make it clear right now that he opposes such action - and also that he opposes the “compromise” idea of a “truth commission” to investigate alleged Bush-era wrongdoing.
The main reason has less to do with “turning the page,” uniting the country and letting bygones be bygones - all good Obama impulses - than with preserving the morale of intelligence professionals in wartime.
Were a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate possible criminality involved in detainee interrogations, “extraordinary renditions” or terrorist surveillance, it’s not only Bush-era top officials who would have to hire lawyers to defend themselves but lower-down intelligence operatives as well.
The same would be true if Congress created a “truth commission” with subpoena power to report on Bush-era policies. The operatives wouldn’t have to fear prosecution, but they would still have to worry about their reputations.
And, when President Obama calls on the CIA to undertake a dangerous mission - perhaps a terrorist “snatch” in the tribal areas of Pakistan or the assassination of Osama bin Laden - any agent directed to undertake it would justifiably demand a legal opinion first.
And CIA lawyers, too, would err on the side of caution to avoid future second-guessing.
The latest call for a punitive action came from the New York Times editorial page on Dec. 18, but it has previously been made by left-wing bloggers, liberal Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, and commentators on MSNBC.
The take-off point for the Times was a Senate Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan finding that high-level authorization of “aggressive” interrogation of terrorist detainees led to abuses such as those perpetrated at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
The report, the Times wrote, “amounts to a strong case for bringing criminal charges against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; his legal counsel, William Haynes; and potentially other top officials, including former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and David Addington, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff.”
I’m surprised the newspaper did not call - as others have - for the prosecution of Dick Cheney himself, and possibly Mr. Bush too.View Entire Story
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