A war crimes trial for Bush?

It’s not that long now until we have a new president, and many on the left and some others are salivating because here’s their chance to get George W. Bush, to put him on trial for war crimes, and if doing so tears this nation apart, so what? That’s what justice demands, they say.

But of course it’s not what justice demands, just what their hatred demands. At the end of the day, it is not enough for them to feel validated in their arguments by the election of Barack Obama, by Congress enacting at least some laws they hoped for or by the courts ruling in favor of some of their positions. Such sissy, civil, democratic stuff won’t do when they have a chance for something bloody.

And therefore you get a distraught diatribe in The New York Review of Books by Berkeley journalism professor Mark Danner, or more noteworthy, a letter by 56 House Democrats requesting a Justice Department probe of whether President Bush and others in the administration have violated the War Crimes Act. Then one day an acquaintance leans your way and asks whether Bush will contrive to pardon himself and his buddies before leaving office.

You are tempted to answer that you hope he will include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in those pardons, seeing as how she once got briefed on a favored topic of the new-Nuremberg encouragers — waterboarding — and raised no objections. But then, you might add, waterboarding has been used by the United States no more than three times that we know of, despite an endlessly expressed anxiety that would make you think it was used on thousands.

Mentioning such things — or the points of some others that the waterboarding might have saved lives, had been ruled legal by the Justice Department and is at this point clearly illegal — isn’t the same as embracing its use. It’s just placing things in a context that ought to rule out criminal prosecution — there was consultation with congressional leaders, there was an effort to discern the legality of the act.

It’s true there are many other "crimes" giving the left heart palpitations, among them one that Danner brings up — Bush lied us into war. He didn’t, or if he did, let’s list the others who also told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Joe Biden, still other liberals in the Senate and officials in intelligence agencies of such countries as the United States, France and Britain.

Bush did make mistakes. But it’s hardly necessary to be a fan of all his tactics to understand that they were no worse than all kinds of transgressions by Congress and past presidents, that they came in the midst of a time that was very frightening, that the perils of some of them have been vastly exaggerated and that the worst have been softened or are gone. Safety has in fact ensued from certain of these measures, although this we should know: We are not out of trouble yet.

A bipartisan commission recently warned that terrorists would likely employ biological or nuclear weapons sometime between now and 2013 in the absence of still more preventive efforts by governments, and there are indications our next president is prepared to do what he thinks is needed. A New York Times report says Obama is considering a preventive detention law for some of the clearly dangerous men at Guantanamo who just might escape guilty verdicts in a trial.. Maybe he should someday worry about a war-crime trial, too?

Obviously not, and just as obviously, for the sake of real justice but also for the sake of avoiding catastrophic political collisions in the land, Bush shouldn’t, either.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)


  1. sawbuck

    Bush did not ‘make mistakes’. He willfully lied and mislead the nation into a war that has been an absolute disaster to lives and treasure by censoring and cherry picking intelligence information. He broke the law by wiretapping Americans without a warrant. His administration outed a CIA agent who was active in anti terrorism. His administration okayed torture and rendition of suspects who are still being held without being able to face their accusers. They deleted lines and pages of environmental reports and the 9/11 commission. Impeachment would be too good for him. Contrary to ‘tearing the nation apart’, it would restore faith in our government that no one is above the law, and our leaders are accountable for their lies and crimes.

  2. 26charlie


    You should try reading some Capital Hill Blues archives for some perspective before attempting another piece like this.

    “Tear the country apart”? Hardly, unless bringing the truth out into the sunlight is going to mean the conservatives the Bushies conned all these years are still going to support him. Their numbers will be very minimal.

    Keep in mind that exposing the truth doesn’t have to mean punishment for W. He is likely to be given a pass, since the ‘errors’ were mistakes made while trying to protect the country. But it is paramount that the truth behind the mistakes be examined closely and corrective measures taken that will prevent them from being repeated by the executives to follow. Thats what inquiries are intended for. Both sides are represented.

    Give fair inquiries a chance before condemning them as something they aren’t. This wont be another partisan effort, strictly out of partisan hatred, like the repubs did when they tore the country apart by shutting down congress, simply to ‘get Clinton’. If you dont fear the truth, then you wont have to fear justice.

  3. Cashel Boylo

    Criminal Lunatics All
    Anybody who still supports the Bush administration is surely either a criminal or a lunatic.
    Come to think on it, statistically, 22% must roughly approximate the total number of criminals and lunatics.
    And when it comes to hanging high the criminals, there must be a short rope for National Seccurity Adviser and Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice, who used to boast that she was instrumental in starting the invasion of Iraq.
    Cashel Boylo

  4. jzelensk

    Notice the irony, in the same day’s CHB, of Doug calling Obama corrupt for serving as a Senator simultaneously with a crooked governor, while posting Ambrose’s piece excusing the war criminal Bush II as if the latter was just a matter of a few minor political disagreements. Whew!

  5. Dionysis

    Wow, what a crock of revisionist drivel. Several polls reveal that a majority (53%) favor impeachment of Bush for his ongoing criminality. “Tear the country apart?” More likely it would be a badge of international honor to exact real accountability from Bush and his criminal henchmen. And that would in fact be “justice,” not assuaging personal hatred, as all Bush lackeys whine about.

    The election of Obama by such a huge margin in the electoral college (and a significant win in the popular vote) was clearly a repudiation of the incompetent, lying criminals that Mr. Ambrose champions, but it is hardly securing “justice.”

    Contrary to the fantasy espoused by Mr. Ambrose and others, there is absolutely no substantiation that the criminal torture inflicted by the U.S., in violation of international law, resulted in any information of value; we keep hearing this claim, but no one has substantiated it at all. Can Mr. Ambrose? Doubtful. If so, have at it.

    And having a lower-level Justice Department lackey re-define torture to give the criminal Bush cover is as transparent and devoid of legitimacy as this hit-piece article.

    Mr. Ambrose is in need of a supply of crying towels and pacifiers.

  6. terrianda2

    Please let there be a war cimes hearing the the Bush cabal , let our soldiers come home knowing there is still justice , I am all for a public hanging in the town square .

  7. jverner

    Your generic apologia would be suitable for nearly any accused: Pick one of the Nuremberg defendants and substitute him for Bush. Your letter makes as much sense as before.

    Do you really believe that all “lefties” want Bush prosecuted because they “hate” him? How about serving justice?

    And what tired old saws:

    • Gosh, we didn’t torture all that much.
    • Everyone makes “mistakes” – like the Iraqi war.
    • Democrats voted for the war, too.

    Best of all is the inevitable shibboleth, “Clinton did it too!”

    Speaking of tearing a nation apart, where were you when the GOP engineered Clinton’s impeachment?

  8. Ladywolf55

    Why do you publish Jay Ambrose’ drivel on this website? The man couldn’t think his way out of a fairy floss cocoon.

    The biggest shame of the USA is our failure to hold our President, Vice-President, his Cabinet and Congress accountable for the gross corruption and crimes they have committed against their own country. We have become a nation of Wussies, too morally weak and corrupt ourselves. We have allowed the criminal cabal in Washington to order the murder of thousands of Iraqi people, and the deaths of our own people on the battleground for a pack of lies and GREED.

    This drivel from Jay Ambrose is appalling. Blecch!

  9. ericdmalone

    When criminals are allowed to commit a crime and walk away scot-free, it breeds contempt for the law.

    This is a dynamic we saw in the 1960s when a lawless Nixon Administration was sending the FBI to assassinate black leaders and breaking into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to dig up dirt on the guy who released the Pentagon Papers to expose the lies that got us into Vietnam. Nixon committed many more crimes than a simple possible involvement in a simple breakin to Democratic headquarters.

    When the cops can break the law with impunity, then why should anyone respect the law? This type of thinking just creates a mass “justification” for crime because people say, “Well, if the President doesn’t have to obey the law, why should I?”

    And in the case of Bush, the crimes are so massive and egregious that we cannot let them pass. Spending a Trillion dollars on a war based on lies so his buddies could get rich? Killing almost a million Iraqis…and for what? Eviscerating the Constitution by getting rid of habeas corpus? Having the American military embrace torture like the Nazis did? Using the Justice Department to enforce a strictly partisan point of view by prosecuting Democrats and exonerating Republicans?

    George W. Bush should be tried for murder, and so should the rest of the Reichstag, including Cheney and Rumsfeld, for starters.

    Letting these horrible crimes against humanity pass is not good for the law and is just terrible for this country that I love so much.

    Eric Malone

  10. farang

    So, what do you say we waterboard Mr. Ambrose, just to see if he was paid by the Pentagon, CIA or White House to print such gibberish? Not like it hasn’t, and isn’t occurring daily.

    We’ll “only do it three times”, so what’s the fuss?

    The hubris is astounding.

  11. 33rdSt

    If there is to be a hearing regarding war crimes by any member of the Bush administration, it would almost certainly be handled within the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and would apply the same standards used to try members of the Serbian government who committed similar atrocities or presided over a government that directed, enabled, or did nothing to stop its representatives from committing them.

    Completely outside the United States and beyond the reach or influence of the United States government.

    I fail to see how assertion of jurisdiction by that Court would tear this country apart.

  12. Bill Robinson

    I second Eric Malone’s comments. Bush is a criminal and should be tried as one. To allow him and the others to escape without filing legal proceedings against them is the equivalent of saying that you accept what they did and condone it as well.

    The evil Bush/Cheney Cabal can all hang together, and I hope they do.

  13. claypigeonbx

    Freedom and Justice for All!

    Very interesting. So why don’t we just abolish the entire court system? If big criminals are to be allowed to do whatever they want right out in front of the public, why shouldn’t little criminals be afforded the same “rights”? At least, most of the little guy have the grace to try to hide their murderous and larcenous acts.

  14. storky

    What tears this country apart is the nonsensical criminalization of little shit like pot possession and gay marriage while war criminals walk freely and are defended by sociopathic journalists.