"Other Priorities"


Joe Klein is against prosecuting Bush:

A number of readers have taken me to task for not calling for the prosecution of George Bush et al for war crimes. Glenn Greenwald has now piled on. Let me say this: I would have no moral, legal or spiritual problem with the Obama Administration pursuing this course of action, if they so choose. I do have a practical problem with it ... and so does Obama, which is why he won't pursue this for a very good reason: there are much bigger things at stake. We are in the midst of an economic crisis. We have a multitude of problems overseas to be resolved. And there are enormous political opportunities available as well--like the enactment of universal health insurance. Anything that diverts attention from these priorities, or makes it more difficult to build the consensus necessary to get them accomplished, has to be set aside. The stakes are just too high.

I disagree, although I fully understand the political calculations Joe and Obama are taking into account. The truth is, at some point, prosecutions for something as grave as war crimes will surely rise up through the legal system and demand some response from the Justice Department regardless of what we decide now. I favor a Truth Commission because I think it would help enormously to have a bipartisan factual resource for people to refer to in sorting through all this. The Commission need not be tasked with prosecuting or finding the evidence to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration. But if a credible and substantiated case emerges that a senior civilian in the Bush administration did commit war crimes - and the facts merit no other conclusion - then I cannot see how the Justice Department refuses to respond. On what grounds? That war crimes are unimportant? That it is within the attorney general's discretion to ignore them?

Remember: even the Pentagon concedes that a dozen prisoners have been tortured to death by US interrogators. Human rights groups put that number at close to a hundred. Most of the techniques we saw displayed at Abu Ghraib were authorized by the president and vice-president. And they monitored the waterboarding sessions very closely and then sat around while the CIA openly destroyed the taped evidence of them - evidence that would prevent anyone from ever believing this wasn't torture.

As the president said yesterday, connect the dots.