When we get beyond the idea that George W. Bush ruined a perfect republic, and read a fuller account, like Kolin’s, of what’s gone wrong, it becomes evident that Bush could never have done what he did without Clinton’s efforts to expand war and police powers, including the power of rendition. Similarly, Clinton could never have gone down that path without Reagan, or Reagan without Nixon, or Nixon without LBJ, or any of them without Truman, who would have been lost without the already huge accumulation of power in the White House and the abusive precedents of Abraham Lincoln and those who went before. It appears, as many of us warned in 2008, that what Kolin writes in this passage will determine our fate:
“The ultimate measure of whether or not the Obama administration will roll back the police state will depend on whether or not there are prosecutions of Bush administration officials. Past history says this isn’t likely; whether it was enslavement of African Americans; ethnocidal policies against American Indians; or the consistent, sometimes violent repression of dissent, government has generally not been held accountable. While Nixon left office and a few of Watergate’s perpetrators were punished, the institutional arrangements involving the FBI and CIA that made Watergate possible remained. The imperial presidency was slowed but not halted. When the Iran-Contra conspirators violated the Constitution, President Bush senior pardoned them.”
The grammatical construction of the first sentence above should give us a bit of hope: “whether or not there are prosecutions” — because there may be prosecutions of top Bush officials in Spain, and it will be up to us to communicate to the people and the courts of Spain our deep gratitude and our willingness to take the lesson to heart. Such reversals should, after all, come more easily in Washington if the people of Egypt are able, in the coming days, to remove and — ideally — prosecute the dictator of their country who has had the full support of the past seven presidents of ours.
Obama’s pathetic inability to take the crimes of the previous administration to task are among the greatest disappointments of his Presidency (and it’s working up to be a quite a list) and I’ve wondered for some time if another country (particularly Spain) would step in and do the right thing. With the ICC as toothless as it is, the possible prosecutions in Spain may be the only hope… of course, I am not holding my breath as Wikileaks documents have revealed that the Obama administration has mobilized considerable diplomatic pressure to keep Spain from doing so. Along those same lines, while I am hopeful that the Egyptian people will succeed in unseating Mubarak, the United States and Friends seem intent in installing Suleiman in his place (just as bad, if not worse). The idea that Mubarak may be prosecuted seems like a total pipe dream what with so many of the powerful claiming him as a good friend and of course Mubarak-Suleiman is considered a “good friend” since sometimes their crimes were also the crimes of the United States (and the rest of the West). As long as these same sorts of people (Clinton, Bush, Obama, etc) are always in charge (of the courts, of the military power, of the diplomatic process), how can we expect a different outcome from what’s already come before?