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.)

Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 26charlie

    Jay,

    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.

  4. 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.