Forgive and Forget? : Paul Krugman’s column of 1/16/09

Paul Krugman argues that the Obama administration should investigate possible crimes by the Bush administration and prosecute.  Although I think that Krugman is overstating the case (and the amount of prosecutions he wants), I fully agree with the principle.

Obama said “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law, but we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”  I hope that Obama will look forward.  That is why his Attorney General should appoint special prosecutors who are fully independent, and who do not cause Obama to be involved.

The AG will will need to carefully choose whom to investigate.  There are not enough resources in the Justice Department to investigate all members of the Bush administration involved in serious abuses and illegal activities.  One obvious choice is that the AG should investigate and prosecute Bradley Schlozman, who illegally packed the Justice Department with conservatives, and then lied under oath.   

More importantly, the AG should investigate those who permitted torture and violations of habeas corpus, including President Bush.  Personally, I would have preferred if Bush were not directly involved in permitting torture, but he has already admitted it.  (Because I do not want to show my darker side, I will not admit that a prosecution of Cheney would be enjoyable to watch.)   And for those Republicans who think it is vindictive to persecute top officials for torture; let me remind you that Clinton was impeached by Republicans for committing perjury about having sex, admittedly a serious issue.     Here we are talking about a President and other officials and advisors who violated  the Geneva Convention as well as the Constitution of the United States, undermining the moral authority of the US government, and increasing the risk that our soldiers will be tortured in the future.   This is an issue of the utmost seriousness.  The whole world will be watching to see what we do.

Bush argues that he thought he was not violating the Constitution or the Geneva Convention.  Bush and his advisors should have known better. It was US prosecutors who convicted Japanese of war crimes after World War II for their use of water boarding.   Bush’s argument is tantamount to saying that he was too stupid to understand the law.  While his argument is plausible, it is not a legitimate legal defense.  

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