TED RALL COLUMN: That’s It?

If Bushies Escape Justice, What’s Left of the U.S.?

That’s it? Bush moves back to Texas to dote on his presidential library—while drawing a $197,000 pension? Cheney goes back to Wyoming to fish and work on his memoirs? After committing crimes so numerous and monstrous that bookshelves are already groaning under their weight, the cabal of illegitimate coup leaders who destroyed the U.S. get to tiptoe out of the rubble and go home to a comfortable retirement?

Earlier this week a senior Pentagon prosecutor openly admitted what has long been known: torture, the lowest and most criminal act any society can sanction, is official U.S. policy. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture,” Judge Susan Crawford told The Washington Post about the alleged “20th hijacker” on 9/11, now being held at Gitmo. The man was so brutalized, Crawford decided, that he could not be charged in court. The same is true of many of those being held at the Guantánamo concentration camp.

None of the Bush Administration officials responsible has faced the slightest inconvenience as the result of his actions.

Donald Rumsfeld, the beast who promoted, botched and joked about a war that has killed more than a million innocent Iraqis, spent the last year as a “distinguished visiting fellow” at Stanford, cogitating about “issues pertaining to ideology and terror.”

John Yoo, the Justice Department hack who wrote the memos that authorized U.S. military and intelligence personnel to torture prisoners of war, is enjoying the cozy ambiance of academe as a UC Berkeley law professor.

Colin Powell, whose 2003 lie to the U.N. (“there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more”) convinced Americans who were still on the fence to support the invasion of Iraq—a misbegotten project that drove the last nail in the coffin of the U.S. economy—wiles away his days attending the meetings of various corporate boards.

If you were expecting Barack Obama to deliver justice, forget it. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama said recently. “Look forward” is Beltwayese for “no accountability.”

Obama went on to assure the men and women who tortured innocent detainees to death that no one will ever bother them about their war crimes. “And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.”

Is this what we’ve come to? Have Americans become so morally depraved that we condone this level of lawlessness? Have we become so weak and helpless in the face of unconscionable violations of the Bill of Rights—torture, government spies listening to our phone calls, starting wars against countries that never hurt us, looting the treasury—that we just “look forward”?

So much for the land of the free and the brave. See you around, nation of laws.

The meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, historians say, brought down the Soviet government by exposing its incompetence and powerlessness. Poor design and disaster response turned the accident into a disaster. The regime’s inability to contain the problem and successfully cover it up highlighted its impotence.

“The Chernobyl catastrophe,” wrote Philip Taubman in The New York Times in 1996, “was a manifestation of the political, moral and technological rot that was metastasizing in the Soviet system and would soon kill it.” People stopped believing in the USSR. Then they stopped fearing it.

Should the United States collapse, historians will likely point to two events: 9/11 and Katrina. 9/11 proved the U.S. was a paper tiger, an aggressive power that can blow up the world with nuclear weapons yet can’t scramble a single fighter jet to stop 19 idiots with boxcutters. The inept response to the hurricane that destroyed New Orleans was incompetence personified. The American people don’t think the U.S. government cares about them. Even worse, they doubt the government could help them if it wanted to.

With the American government exposed as stupid and weak, all that remains is the American ideal: the 232-year-old democratic experiment that began with the idea that we are all equal under the law and that all human beings enjoy a set of inherent, inalienable rights—even “enemy combatants” and illegal immigrants.

If we fail to hold the elites who seized the presidency in a 2000 judicial coup d’état to account, if we say torture is no big deal, if we don’t imprison men who lied and conspired to murder more than one million Iraqis and Afghans and Americans and countless others, if we let these individuals golf and fish and deliver lectures to young people as if they have done nothing wrong, then such horrors will happen again and again. I want would-be torturers to “look over their shoulders.” I want them to second-guess themselves.

Even worse than that: If we don’t prosecute Bush and Cheney and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and Yoo and Rice and Powell and scores of other top Bush officials who took part in the destruction of fundamental American values, there will be nothing—not even an idea—left of the United States.

COPYRIGHT 2009 TED RALL

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32 Responses to “TED RALL COLUMN: That’s It?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    How would it be done? How would that web be untangled? Unlike the trials after WWII, no vanquishing army rounded up and hauled the demagogues before a tribunal, foreign powers have not publicly called for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc to be arrested. How would it be done. It’s easy to say “Obama’s first act should be etc.” but you are one of a thousand columnists from PETA to Joe the Plumber who have written what his first act should be. Yes it is right but can it really happen? Can we realistically expect a billionaire former president son of president (former head of CIA) to be prosecuted for war crimes when assured by a set of constitutional lawyers that he was protected and insulated? Pope Pius XII was complicit in Hitler’s holocaust yet his role in the Catholic Church is pushed toward Canonization as a Saint.

    What is the realistic path, not the idealistic one for someone in Obama’s situation?

  2. SDS Says:

    Read Philippe Sands. There’s a decent chance that the rule of law may be asserted by other nations, even if the US is reluctant.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    You’re not taking a long enough view, Ted. It is vital, in the long run, to allow the leaders to retire.

    Otherwise you end up with the monarch in his palace becoming ever more and more isolated, fearful of assassination at any and every moment, cutting himself off from the people who he used to claim to be working for, who he maybe even used to care about, because he knows that he only leaves in a prison cell or in a coffin. The monarch is tormented by fears, by dreams, by phantoms. Any bite of food could carry poison, any friend or much-loved child could be carrying the fatal daggar. Finally the monarch dies naturally or unnaturally, and is replaced by an heir, often well-meaning, but the same thing happens to the new one. This can become a vicious cycle and persist forever. Egypt, for example, has been ruled this way since the beginning of humanity, and still – suggest to an Egyptian that Mubarak be permitted to retire, see what they think! So the cycle shall continue.

    It really meant something when, for the first time ever, Russia let Khrushchev retire. No leader of Russia had ever retired before.

    We have always had a tradition in the USA of sending the old boss off with honors and loot. If you wish to abolish this, well, look at the alternative!

  4. Grouchy Says:

    Bush, while obscenely wealthy, isn’t a billionaire.

  5. Grouchy Says:

    Bush, while obscenely wealthy, isn’t a billionaire.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Ted – that ideal has been long gone. What you’re seeing is the result of that lost ideal, at its apex.

    Ask yourself this question: what does it mean to be an American?

    My answer at this point, is that its a geographical location, nothing more.

    When your government does everything it can to strip the Constitution, illegally invade countries for corporate profit, let for-profit companies run your health care system, ship every job possible overseas, flood the country with foreign temp workers to lower wages for jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, loot the treasury, and on and on and on ….
    what does it mean to actually be an American anymore?

  7. Natasha Yar-Routh Says:

    Yes America is that morally depraved, there are plenty of people to come up with justifications of why we mustn’t prosecute this bunch of murderous thugs, there are a few in the comments already. So Bush and company will settle into comfortable retirement while the wars they started continue to kill people.

    In the meantime ‘close Gitmo now’ has become ‘it may take us a six months or more’. Worse no one I’ve heard as put forth any proposal to repair the damage done to the Constitution. There should be immediate moves to repeal the Patriot Act, FISA and all the other legal assaults on the Constitution.

    America is just another corrupt empire slowly bleeding to death from self inflicted wounds.

  8. onetwothree Says:

    Are you going to have Congress hang Bush for doing what they allowed? If you feel the need to recommend a radical alteration, recommend dissolving the whole federal government. Make-believing that Bush is a “Great man” of history is a mistake.

  9. onetwothree Says:

    Are you going to have Congress hang Bush for doing what they allowed? If you feel the need to recommend a radical alteration, recommend dissolving the whole federal government. Make-believing that Bush is a “Great man” of history is a mistake.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Bush probably holds the record as the world leader who has done the most bad shit and then left power without dying or being removed by armed force. This may actually be the most unprecedented part of his presidency.

    President Obama doesn’t want to set the precedent of bringing Bush to justice. Otherwise he may not have the option of stepping down gracefully when he is done. I’d hoped this was wasn’t true, but his apparent willingness to perpetuate some of Bush’s worst policies makes me think it is.

  11. Orville Says:

    We should be glad that there may be a few in Europe who will try and hold Bush accountable. He may only be able to go overseas to Georgia and Israel in the future. Further, he’s quite unpopular in many areas of the USA- and some areas may try to indict him.

    Also, there is no statute of limitations on some of his crimes, so if Obama doesn’t try him, Obama’s successor may.

    Finally, he is still open to be sued. That will put a dent in his multi-million dollar finances.

  12. Orville Says:

    We should be glad that there may be a few in Europe who will try and hold Bush accountable. He may only be able to go overseas to Georgia and Israel in the future. Further, he’s quite unpopular in many areas of the USA- and some areas may try to indict him.

    Also, there is no statute of limitations on some of his crimes, so if Obama doesn’t try him, Obama’s successor may.

    Finally, he is still open to be sued. That will put a dent in his multi-million dollar finances.

  13. Timo Says:

    Actually, Chernobyl was much much better handled than Katrina for example and it was not the reason why USSR came down!

    “1216 buses, 300 trucks arrive overnight to evacute 35000 citizens. Evacuation completed in one afternoon.”

  14. Timo Says:

    Actually, Chernobyl was much much better handled than Katrina for example and it was not the reason why USSR came down!

    “1216 buses, 300 trucks arrive overnight to evacute 35000 citizens. Evacuation completed in one afternoon.”

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Bush’s worker bees put as many obstacles in place as possible to prevent our having an investigation of his administration’s crimes. The destroyed e-mails, for instance. What are we going to do? The current administration, for too many good reasons, has to apply itself to cleaning up and reversing the extensive damage Bush did to our country. The bullshitters won out over brains. For eight years, we’ve read opinion after opinion by very smart people, dedicated columnists, that languished and melted into the media bullshit on Oprah and JLo and any number of celebrity distractions. The helpers in this rape of America were 50 percent of voting Americans who would rather have a beer with George W. Bush than have a competent President. This goes to education and maturity. Most of these same American voters are also armchair warriors with yellow ribbons on everything they own with wheels. Has anyone noticed the slow, but deliberate, rape of our entertainment time by the corporate networks? Can anyone really enjoy a sporting event without a constant barrage over 90 percent of the viewing screen of advertisements and bogus information nobody gives a rat’s ass about? Corporate America, with George W. Bush’s sanction, causes some of our school districts to put advertisements on the sides of their school buses. These greedy bastards don’t believe they need to be responsible citizens in order to grab our money. This major carpetbagging began in the early seventies when we forced our government to stop the war in Vietnam. We’ve been paying for it ever since. I much prefer Obama and Biden to McCain and Palin. But I don’t think Obama has the guts to gut the bullshit from our governments and military. If he did, we’d already see figurative blood flowing in the offices and halls of government. Omama should have taken off his gloves and slapped them across Bush’s face before Bush fled in his helicopter today. Then they should have had a spelling bee duel to the death.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    You’re right Ted. You’re absolutely right.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Hey, I’m the first anonymous from the top of this post and live in DFW where Bush will retire. I have to say I may have been wrong. This morning on NPR there was an interview of a protest in University Park near SMU (The college where the library and Bush Policy Institute will reside) of people calling for prosecution of Bush and his associates for war crimes. I apologize; I assumed there was no way to even raise awareness of this but in the heart of his future home in Dallas a group showed up calling for this very issue to be taken up. Maybe there is something that can be done. If a group mushrooms into tens of thousands through the country maybe we can atone.

  18. Grouchy Says:

    Bush probably holds the record as the world leader who has done the most bad shit and then left power without dying or being removed by armed force. This may actually be the most unprecedented part of his presidency.

    Huh? Bush is a war criminal, but there’s nothing unprecedented about a war criminal finishing his term.

    Polk, for example, stole 1/2 of Mexico in a war that Ulysses S. Grant (certainly no peacenik) called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

  19. Anonymous Says:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/21/guantanamo.hearings/index.html

    First day in office and it already started… ….

    See, I gave him a chance. First thing he did was piss on it!

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, Ted’s right.

    But for most, the Bush presidency needs to be forgotten about, the sooner the better.

    Otherwise the 80% of us who went along with GWB will never have any kind of self esteem ever again. That’s what all the Obama worship is about — forgetting and feeling good.

    Cognitive dissonance theory at its best . . .

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Timo,

    The Soviet Union’s other major embarrassment in the mid 80’s was when a German amateur pilot in a Piper Cub eluded the entire Soviet air defense network to touch down in Red Square.

    Gorbachev was able to use the incident to remove incompetent hard liners from command. If the blowhards demanding enormous budgets couldn’t keep Moscow safe from one civilian plane, what chance did they have against a formation of B-52s?

    All this happened over an incident that was just a practical joke. 9-11 should have been an even bigger embarrassment to the U.S. Air Force. Thousands of people died. Where was President Bush’s house cleaning? Given all the nationalist masturbation after the attacks, one has to assume we’re more mindlessly pro-military than the Soviets. That’s an achievement. I guess Faux News is a better PR firm than Pravda.

  22. Kurt Says:

    I agree with Ted, 100%. It made me sick that Obama seemed to be using the Nuremberg defense to justify the actions of some folks at the CIA. It is the duty of soldiers and security folks to defy illegal orders and to report them to the superior officer of the person who gave them the illegal order, even if they may suffer adverse consequences including death.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Grouchy,

    Actually, Polk died 3 months after leaving the presidency. He’s not the best example of a long presidential retirement.

    The Mexican war is a funny thing, now that you mention it. When Russia settles part of a neighboring country with expatriates, emboldens them to defy local authorities, and then uses a heavy handed but lawful crackdown by the local authorities as a pretext for war, we call it aggression. When we do the same thing, we call it history. What a difference 140 years make.

  24. Aggie Dude Says:

    …..the cabal of illegitimate coup leaders who destroyed the U.S. get to tiptoe out of the rubble and go home to a comfortable retirement?

    Yes Ted, they do….as I commented about your previous cartoon regarding those who ‘have it coming.’ Only the most lunatic stretches in the logic of vigilante justice would claim that the people who are ultimately going to suffer abuse for these crimes ‘have it coming,’ or deserve it in any way.

    The guilty do walk. Dick Cheney SHOT A MAN IN THE FACE and didn’t even report it. THEN the man apologized TO HIM. That is unchecked power, and they have abused it thoroughly. They will never be held to account.

  25. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    How could it end any differently?

    The precedent for letting Republicans break the law was set when Ford pardoned Nixon. As a result, the Democrats, pussies that they are, say “why bother?” when it comes to going after Republican malfeasance and corruption.

    The let Reagan and Bush I get away with murder and treason over the Iran-Contra Affair. They left Clinton hanging without challenging the eight-year Whitewater Witch Hunt.

    Now, thanks to Vichy Democrats Reid and Pelosi, no one in the Bush II administration will suffer any inconvenience following the ongoing corruption of what is generally agreed to be the worst administration in American history.

    Of course, I also blame the American people with their gnat-like attention span. To them, anything that happened more than one week ago is “Ancient History” and has no bearing on where we are now and where we’re going.

  26. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    How could it end any differently?

    The precedent for letting Republicans break the law was set when Ford pardoned Nixon. As a result, the Democrats, pussies that they are, say “why bother?” when it comes to going after Republican malfeasance and corruption.

    The let Reagan and Bush I get away with murder and treason over the Iran-Contra Affair. They left Clinton hanging without challenging the eight-year Whitewater Witch Hunt.

    Now, thanks to Vichy Democrats Reid and Pelosi, no one in the Bush II administration will suffer any inconvenience following the ongoing corruption of what is generally agreed to be the worst administration in American history.

    Of course, I also blame the American people with their gnat-like attention span. To them, anything that happened more than one week ago is “Ancient History” and has no bearing on where we are now and where we’re going.

  27. Grouchy Says:

    Actually, Polk died 3 months after leaving the presidency. He’s not the best example of a long presidential retirement.

    The point was that he wasn’t removed from office by impeachment or other means.

    If Bush was to start to reflect upon what he has done, and then drinks himself to death in the next three months, I wouldn’t shed any tears.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    The US was created by an coup launched by slave owning aristocrats and millionaire smugglers. They did not tolerate opposing viewpoints, and made up laws to justify killing, torturing and imprisoning their opponents. Bush is a thoroughly American president.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    The US was created by an coup launched by slave owning aristocrats and millionaire smugglers. They did not tolerate opposing viewpoints, and made up laws to justify killing, torturing and imprisoning their opponents. Bush is a thoroughly American president.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    While I wholeheartedly agree with you most often and do so regarding this particular commentary, it pisses me off that you, and you’re not alone, still consider the 911 event as simply the result of the actions of on board hijackers simultaneously overpowering the crews of four civilian aircraft coupled with the poor response of the military. Do you really believe it was that easy?
    Why do you and every other seemingly intelligent, investigative writer/reporter/blogger/reporter ignore the wealth of information that suggests that it wasn’t all that simple. Those buildings did not collapse by either the impact or the fuel or the combination of the two – they were ‘pulled’ – and that is fact.
    My expertise involves researching architecturally engineered systems. I have worked with thermite and thermate and am familiar with the form used for demolition, cordite. I was in Rome on 911 and it took me no longer than to witness the first collapse to understand what was happening. The confirmation came when Building number seven collapsed without either the impact or fueled fires.
    If you aren’t familiar with the many ‘theory’ sites, let me point you to one supported more by science than coincidence. http://www.ae911truth.org/
    Now, who’re the criminals? This was murder perpetrated by a bunch of extremely lucky Saudis? Bullshit.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    While I wholeheartedly agree with you most often and do so regarding this particular commentary, it pisses me off that you, and you’re not alone, still consider the 911 event as simply the result of the actions of on board hijackers simultaneously overpowering the crews of four civilian aircraft coupled with the poor response of the military. Do you really believe it was that easy?
    Why do you and every other seemingly intelligent, investigative writer/reporter/blogger/reporter ignore the wealth of information that suggests that it wasn’t all that simple. Those buildings did not collapse by either the impact or the fuel or the combination of the two – they were ‘pulled’ – and that is fact.
    My expertise involves researching architecturally engineered systems. I have worked with thermite and thermate and am familiar with the form used for demolition, cordite. I was in Rome on 911 and it took me no longer than to witness the first collapse to understand what was happening. The confirmation came when Building number seven collapsed without either the impact or fueled fires.
    If you aren’t familiar with the many ‘theory’ sites, let me point you to one supported more by science than coincidence. http://www.ae911truth.org/
    Now, who’re the criminals? This was murder perpetrated by a bunch of extremely lucky Saudis? Bullshit.

  32. Dennis Says:

    For all those here who say it could never happen, I believe Obama’s already begun the process. He’s thrown off the mantle of secrecy Bushco brought down. Just submit ur FOIAs and let’s see if Justice can honestly ignore all the recorded criminality that’s gonna come rolling out. My money’s on some trials.

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