The public wants the Bush administration investigated for its alleged use of torture against prisoners and wiretapping U.S citizens without court approval, according to a poll conducted by USA Today/Gallup Poll.
The poll shows two-thirds of Americans want some type of investigation, including one that could lead to criminal charges.
The Bush administration sanctioned torture, including waterboarding, during its administration, according to many legal experts, and this violates U.S. law. The administration also wiretapped unsuspecting U.S. citizens without first asking the court’s permission. This, too, violated the law at the time, according to some legal groups, and may have violated the constitutional right to privacy.
The public has the right to know about the specific acts of torture used on individual prisoners, who were arrested after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks. Those people, who actually tortured prisoners, and those who ordered the torture, including high-ranking Bush officials, should face a public inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.
The Bush administration admitted to ordering wiretaps on U.S. citizens without required court approval. In 2007, Congress legalized warrantless wiretapping, but questions remain. Who exactly was wiretapped? What information was collected? Were people wiretapped for political reasons? Can people determine if they specifically were wiretapped by the government? There should full transparency on this issue for U.S. citizens who have not been charged with a crime or are under investigation for terrorist activity.
This is not an issue of lending legal help or aid to people who aim to hurt Americans. It’s about upholding American law and showing the world the country truly believes in human rights. It’s not about punishing Bush retroactively and the current Republican Party for political gain. It’s about ensuring that future presidential administrations don't abuse executive powers. The country’s failure to look into these issues would jeopardize our democracy.
President Barack Obama has consistently indicated that he would prefer to look forward rather than back as his new administration struggles with the economic crisis left to him by Bush and his Republicans backers. But Congress is moving forward. Democrats U.S. Rep. John Conyers and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy have said they want to form investigative commissions to look into these controversial issues. These commissions should get to work as soon as possible.
I have called for investigations into the Bush administration for literally years now. Unfortunately, Democrats capitulated to Republicans after winning big in the 2006 elections and would not move forward on the issue. The 2008 election and this recent poll strongly suggest voters have soundly rejected the Bush/Republican policies that gave us an imperial presidency, destroyed our world stature and ruined our economy. Americans want and deserve investigations. We need to know what happened. If we don’t thoroughly and quickly look into the Bush mess, then we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
Barack Obama gives the nation hope the country can restore and rejuvenate its democratic values, and his inauguration is a time for coming together and celebration.
But it’s doubtful Obama’s presidency can correct the major errors now instilled in our political systems and government unless there are thorough investigations into the past actions of President George Bush’s administration. These investigations must include subpoena power and the possibility of indictments.
When asked about the issue, Obama has said in interviews he wants to look forward, but if he ignores the past then it will be confirmed some people—primarily the ruling class, the privileged—are above the law or even routine, basic oversight. I’m not suggesting Obama involve himself personally in these investigations, but he shouldn’t stand in their way.
People of all political parties, including Republicans, should welcome these investigations, which I talk about later in this post. On a pragmatic level, Republicans have nothing to lose by the investigations. Most Republicans will never run on a “George-Bush-was-a-great-president” theme, and the investigations could help stop unethical and even illegal behavior in the current and future Democratic administrations. The investigations could be settled within a year, and then the nation can move forward. I don’t see any political costs for Republicans whatsoever.
Many in the corporate media and some Democratic politicians will be against the investigations because they have the potential to show they failed to speak up as our nation sunk further and further into the abyss of incompetent military occupations, significant national wealth disparity, a huge federal deficit and financial chaos. But the official record must carefully document their culpability as well. They stood by silently and saved themselves and didn’t worry about the rest of us on the sinking ship. They are responsible, too.
Now that Bush is no longer president, investigators should be able to discover new records and find new federal employees willing to discuss any potentially unethical or illegal behavior by their superiors. We, the American people, have the right to know. We should demand it.
Here are six areas that call for major investigations:
The Department of Justice. Once a country’s legal system is operated on prevailing political whims, then that country no longer functions as a democracy. It becomes a fascist/dictator state, and that’s no hyperbole. The Department of Justice, under the Bush administrations, became the strong-arm for Bush’s ultra-conservative ideology. We know that a previous investigation, for example, found the DOJ politicized its hiring policies. We also know seven U.S. Attorneys were fired in 2007 and this "raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecution decisions,” according to an investigation. What might a new investigation reveal now that Bush loyalists can no longer stonewall and now that previously undisclosed documents might surface? Congress should not hesitate to launch an immediate far-reaching investigation into every unit of the DOJ, led by these questions: “How much did the politics of the George Bush administration influence the DOJ? Did political manipulations break the law by denying people basic civil rights?”
Torture. Torture is against the law in the United States. Eric Holder, the incoming Attorney General, has publicly stated that waterboarding, a technique used on prisoners under American control during the Bush years is, in fact, torture. (Any reasonable person would agree the technique is torture.) Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former CIA Director George Tenet, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice apparently facilitated the use of waterboarding. After making his comments, Holder is duty-bond to investigate the use of torture against prisoners under American control. No one has written about this issue with more authority and clarity than Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald.
The Lies Leading To The Iraq Occupation. Yes, now that Bush and his loyalists are gone from office, Congress needs to reexamine this issue. Did Bush and his cronies commit fraud against the American people when they argued it was necessary to invade Iraq because it possessed weapons of mass destruction? The WMD was never found. What did the president and his loyalists really know when they made their incredulous arguments? Can investigators find previously undisclosed documents that might shine some light on the exaggerations and distortions presented by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq invasion?
War Profiteering Although there have been some decent independent journalism about those companies who continue to rake in millions in profits on the Iraq occupation, the issue has yet to really make it into the corporate media. Essentially, following market-fundamentalism doctrine, the Bush administration privatized the Iraq occupation to reward big businesses, such as Halliburton. Congress has looked at the issue previously, but, again, now that the Bush administration can no longer stonewall and impede investigations, Congress should reexamine this issue. How much taxpayer money has gone to line the pockets of a relatively few wealthy people who own major stock or portions of the American companies doing business in Iraq and Afghanistan? Have these companies overcharged the American people? We need a full reckoning.
Wiretapping. A new investigation needs to be launched to find out just who was wiretapped by the Bush administration without judicial authority. Congress, of course, including Obama, voted refencently to grant the country’s telecom companies immunity for participating in this wiretapping, but a new investigation might reveal information that could be helpful in understanding who exactly was wiretapped and why. This is important information that needs to come out. Again, no one has covered this issue with more tenacity than Salon’s Glenn Greenwald.
Overall Executive Abuse. Did the Bush administration violate the constitutional authority of the President’s office? Many critics believe, at the very least, Bush and his supporters advocated the idea of a “strong” presidency or what has become known as an “imperial” presidency. An imperial president, under this idea, can essentially do whatever he/she likes and remain above the law. Did Bush overstep his authority in his executive orders when it came to basic constitutional matters? Did he honor laws passed by Congress? (Read this interesting article here.) An investigation might show us how the Bush administration operated by executive decree during the last, dark days of his administration with the country mired in two long-lasting military occupations and the country on the precipice of another Great Depression.
This is not an exhaustive list. These six areas intersect, of course, and there are other issues to examine. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important the investigations carry the authority to subpoena people to testify. Perhaps, a grand jury for each investigation could be convened to determine if and what criminal charges should be filed.
The point is not, as some will argue, retribution. The point is to hold people accountable for their actions and to remind the current and future presidential administrations that they, too, will be held accountable. It’s just that basic. Ignoring these issues will simply openly sanction a government that is not accountable to anyone.
I’m a big Obama supporter, and I feel some hope for my country once again. But rational people know Obama cannot really move this country forward without a thorough examination of the disastrous Bush presidency. How can you have change when you haven’t conducted a careful examination of the past?
It’s important for the sake of American democracy the new Congress conduct investigations and hearings into alleged constitutional violations and possible crimes committed by President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the White House administration's cabinet and staff over the last eight years.
Here are some of the lingering questions: Was there an orchestrated White House campaign to deceive the American people about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? Did the Bush administration violate laws by ordering the wiretapping of law-abiding American citizens? Did the Bush administration invade Americans’ privacy in other ways that might be illegal? Did the Bush administration sanction torture, a violation of American law? Did the Bush administration promote war profiteering as part of a massive scheme defrauding the American people?
If Bush’s and his operatives' deceptions go unnoted in the official record, then American democracy will undoubtedly suffer. This, in its starkest terms, will mean any future president, including President-elect Barack Obama, can lie about war justifications with impunity, pry into American people’s private lives and order torture.
The vast public record speaks for itself when it comes to Bush, but one can sense more controversial information about his administration will come out after he leaves office. This is because Bush will no longer be able to use his office to hide information. What do we NOT know about what Bush has done while president?
There will be a tendency among some conservative and centrist Democrats to leave Bush alone. This would be a huge, historical mistake. There is plenty of time and energy to tackle the country’s major financial and foreign policy issues as House and Senate committees investigate the Bush administration. The public has the right to know how Bush and the GOP have sidestepped and weakened democratic structures. But, most importantly, major investigations would send a message to future presidents there are limitations to their power.
Some pundits think Bush will pardon himself and Vice President Dick Cheney before he leaves office, but even if he does the investigations can and should go on.
What do you think? Answer a poll question about this issues by clicking here. Feel free to leave a comment.