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?