The case for investigating Bush


An Iraqi court sentenced the journalist who threw a shoe at President George W. Bush to a three year prison term yesterday. The sentence is apparently meant as a deterrent to demonstrators who might otherwise be tempted to imitate Muntazer al-Zaidi. The incident prompted a flurry of discussion and debate in the United States over the decision to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Over the years, the American public has definitely soured on the Bush Administration’s rationale for war. With Obama having now set a timetable for removing combat forces from Iraq, some might prefer that the government simply move on. But on the other side of the debate, there is talk of investigating whether Bush fabricated the reasons behind the invasion, and how his administration flouted the Constitution and the rule of law to get its way after the events of 9/11. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy wants a full scale investigation with the possibility of prosecution, and noted investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is divulging information that only accentuates the suspicion that the Bush Administration conducted itself in ways that would be impeachable were it still in power today.

There are no precedents in American history for the prosecution of a former president. Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard M. Nixon following the latter’s resignation on account of the Watergate scandal prevented the American political system from completing its due process. To be fair, many former Nixon aides were prosecuted and were sent to jail. But they were indicted while the Nixon Administration was still in office. Nixon avoided a similar fate after leaving office thanks to Ford’s pardon. At the time, Ford said he wanted to end a “long national nightmare.” Ford arguably lost the presidency because of this decision, but life went on and some reforms were enacted regarding campaign financing. The Office of the Special Prosecutor was given life and has continued to play a role in future administrations, the most notable being the investigation of President Clinton by Ken Starr. With Bush out of office and his tenure relegated to the status of a bad memory, it is fair to ask: Does the American public want a “truth and reconciliation” commission to investigate the alleged crimes of the last administration? Does it want former Bush officials, like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Libby, Rove and others brought before the courts and sentenced like the Madoffs of the financial world. My feeling is that Americans are curious, but would prefer to move on. President Obama may be in that camp.

That said, we know with increasing certainty that the Bush Administration lied about and hyped (and maybe fabricated) the evidence to justify its decision to go to war in Iraq. That Saddam Hussein is no longer in power and alive may justify the war to the Bush surrogates, but the American system of justice is such that the public would prefer being assured that future presidents will respect their oath of office. We know the former administration violated civil rights and engaged in torture outside the boundaries of the law. Americans were appalled at that, and future revelations may infuriate not only civil libertarians but also the public at large. I believe the more we hear, the more we will want Senator Leahy to proceed and investigate. And yes, I believe it may lead to criminal prosecutions. I know that with a serious recession going on, we may want to ask ourselves whether we really want the spectacle associated with putting former politicians on trial. But the American dream and American ideals go beyond the mood or the humour of the day. They are based on the rule of law, respect for basic human rights and the Constitution, the very things for which so many have fought and died in history. That alone is justification to investigate—and, if need be, to prosecute.


The case for investigating Bush

  1. Americans are required by national and international law to investigate and if need be prosecute what they themselves helped define as the highest of all crimes, crimes for which there is no immunity or statue of limitations. As we here in Canada are bound by law to do the same. If we allow G.W. Bush into the country on March 17th and don’t arrest him, we will be in violation of international law, effectively aiding and abetting a suspected war criminal. I urge all Canadians to write to their MPs, the PM, the Foreign Minister and leaders of the opposition parties demanding that the law be upheld.

  2. Mr. Parisella — Your post got me thinking about the extent to which players become complicit in either ignoring or outright supporting dubious actions by governments and markets. For me, there is a parallel between support for the Iraq war and the moaning we’re now hearing about the global economic crisis (yet another largely U.S. misadventure).
    As the Iraq war was launched then continued, the U.S. press, pundits and most citizens got behind it and punished any and all dissidents. The country even reelected the man who led them into the quagmire.
    Now we have a global financial catastrophe caused in no small part by the policies of the same administration that launched a needless war — and during the time this crisis was building, the same press, pundits and citizens that supported war acted as cheerleaders for fiscal insanity.
    What do we see today? A hue and cry from — you guessed it — the press, pundits and citizenry about how, only six weeks into a new administration, the current leader’s policies and people aren’t working and won’t work.
    This looks like mass delusion to me — with messianic media and the privileged leading that country to the edge of an abyss like a gang of deranged Pied Pipers.
    Nobody there is going to care if GWB and his aiders and abettors are brought to justice if this madness continues.

  3. If our politicians can sue anyone for slander when they’re “hurt” by their words, it would definitely be right for Americans to be able to prosecute Bush, or at least his close officials for perpetrating a lie.

    • That’s not remotely how the tort of defamation works.

      • ” . . . the law looks only to its tendency . . .” So why was the Cadman suit dropped?


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