I have always been passionate about politics — perhaps too passionate. I certainly was as a young Republican, and I am certainly now as a older liberal. This passion is often mistaken for arrogance, which is in a small way a fair charge — because I am often bewildered (in every sense of that word) at the beliefs of American conservatives (and even some moderates and liberals), especially during the last eight years.
That being said, these days, my passion flares its ugly head whenever someone mentions George Bush, or Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld. As soon as those names hit me, my blood boils. Why?
I am frustrated, as many are, that both Bush and Cheney were allowed to slink off stage on January 20th without facing criminal trials for their actions since entering office. Both of these men are war criminals; they both, through their personal actions and their policies, destroyed this nation and allowed the terrorists to “win.” And yet neither has been hauled to the dock to face charges.
This fact enrages me.
How did the terrorists win? The point of terrorism is to radical alter the political and social fabric of a nation. Who could argue that our political and social life was not radically altered by the September 11th attacks? Bush played right into bin Laden’s hands. He overreached by invading Iraq — a bizarre response to the attacks, when all of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the UN inspectors insisted there were no WMDs in Iraq —, he damaged relations with our allies, bankrupted the nation by pouring trillions of dollars into the Iraqi morass, and caused the deaths of more than 4,000 Americans (more than Al Qaeda) and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Republican fiscal policy as a whole since 1981 has been to undo the New Deal safeguards put in place during the Great Depression, which contributed to our economic collapse.
The damage done to our nation by George Bush, Cheney, and the rest of their administration is exactly what bin Laden wanted. A great nation brought low not by terrorism, but rather by the incompetence, the arrogance, and the criminality of our own leaders. Bush, Cheney and their supporters claim, of course, that they took necessary action to protect the nation.
But if we give up our civil liberties and support a criminal administration to achieve some illusion of security — as total security is impossible — what then are we fighting for? Have we not already surrendered in the face of terrorism, by abandoning our historic values? To quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower — an imperfect man but a far greater man than either Bush or Cheney —, who said, responding to the hysteria over the launching of the Sputnik Soviet satellite in 1957:
“[W]e must remember that we are defending a way of life, not merely property, wealth, and even our homes … Should we have to resort to anything resembling a garrison state, then all that we are striving to defend … could disappear.”
Bush’s swaggering machismo is — and always was — pathetic. Cheney’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering undermined an already fragile American democracy. The combination of a smarter president and a less devious vice president could have led is in a far better direction.
I am sick to my stomach that these men are not tried for their crimes. Both committed impeachable offenses during their tenure, and so both could have been removed if the Democrats in Congress were not so cowardly. I shall never understand why impeachment was not pursued. Congress could have removed Cheney and then Bush.
For not pressing harder for impeachment or resignation then, and for not calling now for criminal trials, WE ARE ALL GUILTY.
I urge you to pass this post along. I also urge you to write to President Obama and demand that the Justice Department pursue criminal charges against all those at the top of the Bush Administration. The snail mail address is: White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20500. The contact form is: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/. Here is my proposed email, in case you don’t have time to write one yourself:
Dear Mr. President,
Please order Attorney General Holder to pursue criminal charges against George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others of the former Bush Administration.
I believe that each of these men must be made to face responsibility for their actions since September 11, 2001. The world will never forgive us for allowing such criminal behavior to go unpunished, and failure to act will only contribute to the decline of our democracy and constitutional order. No one, not even an American president, is above the law.
Yours most sincerely,
If we are to recover from the damage of the last eight years; if we are to return to our historic values; if we are to close this horrid chapter of our history, these men must face trial.
If they do not, future leaders will feel free to go even further. That is the undeniable lesson of history. Let’s be sure we avoid such pitfalls.
UPDATE: Some relevant quotes:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Safety nor Liberty.”
— Benjamin Franklin
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
— Sinclair Lewis