The Bush people should have their day in court.

Courtroom "…when the President does something, it’s not illegal. From the beginning with Cheney, even more than with Bush, the law was whatever he said it was.

He goes out the door as stubborn and defiant and out of touch as ever, talking about the way he defended and protected the Constitution. Talking now because soon nobody will care what he says. Saying that history will be so much kinder to him and Bush than their current critics. It can only mean Cheney believes history is dumber than Donald Rumsfeld’s postoccupation strategy in Iraq."  Mike Lupica


The red part is from Frost versus Nixon.  I watched this Cheney interview.  It was so disturbing that a general sense of malaise settled over the house in spite of the previous ascent into Yuletide cheer. 

Cheney’s utter certitude is the worst part.  He is insistent that in "wartime" the president has dictatorial powers.  He made a snide (but correct) little joke concerning Biden’s inability to cite the Constitution correctly.  He is unrepentent for having told Senator Leahy "go f**k yourself" in the senate.  All these things speak of a man who is proclaiming to his followers the end of the rule of law in the United States.  He is saying that "we did what we pleased and we got away with it."  This lesson is being learned.

The "existential threat" to the United States by the Al-Qa’ida nuts was always greatly exagerated.  Cheney is one of those responsible for the exageration.  This was an exageration calculated to stampede the American people toward the occupation of Iraq in a war that was clearly a desired end of Bush policy from the beginning of his first term.

The law is what the president says it is?   That principle should be tested in federal court.  Everyone who loves this country as it has been, as the Framers intended it to be, should press for criminal indictments against Bush, Cheney, Rumsefeld et al.  They should be made to defend themselves in the dock.

Will Obama want to do that?  I doubt it.  He is a member of the "club" of office holders now.

It will be up to the people.  pl

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34 Responses to The Bush people should have their day in court.

  1. Matthew says:

    Col: “The law is what the president says it is?”
    Since Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803), the law is what the Supreme Court says it is. And why not? Unlike the executive, the judiciary requires the cooperation of the executive to carry out its rulings. Separation of powers and all that.

  2. William RAISER says:

    So, how do we get the ball rolling? Where do we sign up? Who’s contacting the appropriate attorneys?

  3. j_b_v says:

    re tactics – I hear you about ‘where is the outrage’ but how to make it happen. I think one possible way forward is to continually and at each step mention, cheney is a loser, along with wolfowitz, yoo, et al. America hates a loser, and these guys lost – they got duped by iranian intelligence, and for all the american lives and money spent, we have created a shia rump state attached to iran that will be rich and making deals with the chinese and the russians for the foreseeable future (and no doubt telling us to gofug ourselves on many a foreign policy issue.)
    Cheney lost. That’s what we should be saying over and over again. He is until he redeems himself, an unequivocal and ‘prima fascia’ (sp?) loser.
    That to me is how to keep these dooshnozzles in the scope of the public anger. Justice will require years, given the present system and defense delay tactics available. Best way to keep America interested to see it through is to keep us reminded about the losers and what they have lost us.

  4. Cato says:

    I agree with these comments whole-heartedly. Unless Cheney and the others are held to account in some way, we might as well put the Constitution in a coffin and bury it.

  5. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    re It will be up to the people. pl
    It will also be up to DOJ and the new attorney general. IMO Holder is up to the task unless the country finds such merit in the Republican carping and caviling about his honesty that he will be emasculated.

  6. Petition going to Holder to call for special prosecutor – info here:
    “Dear Attorney General Designate Holder,
    We the undersigned citizens of the United States hereby formally petition you to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute any and all government officials who have participated in War Crimes.
    These crimes are being euphemistically referred to as “abusive interrogation techniques” by such respected figures as Senator John McCain. These are euphemisms for torture. Torture is a War Crime. Waterboarding is a War Crime. The CIA has admitted waterboarding detainees. Recently, Vice President Cheney has brazenly admitted authorizing the program that lead to waterboarding, other forms of torture too numerous to list, and ultimately, the deaths by homicide of detainees.” and so forth.

  7. I’ve been saying for years now:
    Next year in the Hague!
    Which I find funny, because I laugh at my own jokes. This is also pathetic, because a) I laugh at my own jokes, and b) I have given up hope that my country will call these men to account.
    But there’s always hope.
    I’m with the guy who asks: where do I sign up? If we the people are responsible, how do we make this happen? You say Obama won’t. Who will? What more do we have to do – we voted in a different guy. I live in a congressional district with a very liberal/revolutionary rep – she voted against the Patriot Act. What more do we do?
    Like you, I want these guys called to account, not out of personal vindictiveness, but to restore respect for the rule of law in this country. I love our principles and Constitution and I want to see them survive. Prosecuting these criminals is the only way to ensure the survival of values I hold dear.

  8. Cato says:

    “Where do I sign up?”
    Here’s one place to start, particularly for attorneys who are concerned about this issue:

  9. zanzibar says:

    This what I wrote on this topic in an earlier thread:
    I believe if lawlessness is tolerated specially for those in high office under the guise its all just politics then we debase the rule of law. Then its just a short step where people feel there are two laws – one for the elite and another for everyone else. Over time there will be no respect for the law and that could lead to anarchy.
    IMO, since the Nixon era we have not prosecuted and held to account those at the head of our government that have subverted the Constitution and their oath of office. Each instance of tolerance has caused the next subversion to be more brazen which I believe led directly to Cheney/Addington/Libby, et al to have nothing but contempt for our Constitution. They acted with impunity because they believed that there is no institutional fortitude to prosecute those in high office. Members of the club don’t knock another member down.
    I am of the opinion that there should be both a special prosecutor and an independent commission investigation into all possible acts of treason and subversion and those responsible should be indicted, prosecuted and judged by a jury of their peers in open court. None of this “classified information” dodge. We cannot let this go because the next step would be an effective coup and rule by clique. We can kiss goodbye to any republican notion.
    My cynical self believes however that we as a people are too complacent to demand any accounting and we will only realize it when our liberty has been eroded to the point that tyranny is staring us in face.

    During the election campaign several of my neighbors and I gathered at a “town hall” where our local rep spoke and took questions. When I asked the question if she believed our current institutional setup would ever be able to hold to account those who hold the highest office her response which was very frank is there is no “political will”. And further that even much public pressure would only lead to “token” investigations since the “apparatus” would “stymie” any such effort. I don’t agree with many of her views but she did vote against the Iraq invasion authority and the Patriot Act.
    I have resolved that I will no longer buy any US government bond and have sold my entire Treasury portfolio. I will do my small part by not financing such corruption.

  10. JM says:

    As others above have suggested, the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting war crimes will be up to the DOJ.
    I’m not optimistic. Once we open the Pandora’s Box of Bush-era crimes, we’ll have to investigate everything, including crimes in which leading Democrats are likely complicit (e.g., warrantless wiretapping).
    Can’t imagine the Obama Administration pushing forward with that…

  11. Fred says:

    Can Cheney please say when the Congress declared war, as they have the sole power to do so.

  12. marcus says:

    Count me among the group that will hound the DOJ to hold these people accountable. Thanks to all above for posting the starting points to pressure.

  13. frank durkee says:

    We can make the point in every forum we can reach. over and over. this includes our congressional delegations as well as the Obama web site. we can encourage our friends and others who agree to do the same. Despite Obama’s desire ” to bring us together”, as an old community organizer [ and please note his organizaation for the election as part of that ], if a groundswell begins to emerge he will perforce pay attention.
    perhaps a common list of ‘particulars” could be created and used.

  14. Jose says:

    My mother is always found of telling me how in Cuba politicians always promised to hold the previous administration and/or regime accountable for their reign.
    Once elected, the first laws passed were some form of amnesty and/or national reconciliation unity bills.
    Till Castro was able, with a popular mandate, to change all that funny business for the last fifty years.
    If Congress does not investigate and prosecute the previous regime for war crimes, profiteering, abuse of power etc, then Congress will always follow the executive until an Augustan figures emerges.
    “To seek to keep the established constitution unchanged argues a good citizen and a good man.” – Augustus

  15. matt says:

    three quick points:
    1) Amen!
    2) While a court of law is ultimately the proper venue for this sort of reckoning, a ‘second’ to J_B_V’s point…mockery and humiliation are what they have used in their ascent (google Josh Marshall & “Bitch Slap Theory of politics”…) An appropriate response would be public shaming..Cheney deserves this kind of metaphorical ‘bitch slap’ on the way down… He would care more about that than some silly, lawsuit.
    3) If Cheney were ever to show his face on the floor of the senate again, Pat Leahy ought to give him the ‘Charles Sumner treatment’ ! It would be an egregious act, but also proportional to the seriousness of the times we now find ourselves faced with.

  16. Paul in NC says:

    I agree. Let’s see how confident Cheney is before a court. Investigate. Indict. Try. Convict. Sentence. Imprison at Spandau for effect.

  17. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    I signed a petition over at demanding that Attorney General designee Holder get cracking. I also forwarded the link info to some friends. My email to them follows:
    Hello, All,
    I just signed the petition described below, and have elected to forward
    this information to you should you choose to join me in doing so. When I
    signed, there was also an invitation to include personal remarks to be submitted
    along with my signature. While I am under no illusion that these remarks will
    be read and reflected upon by the recipient, Mr. Holder, the designee for the
    office of Attorney General in the new administration, I include them to indicate
    my own motivations for signing this petition and for supporting its purpose.
    Here they are:
    A constitutional republic cannot survive if violations of its laws go
    unpunished. It is therefore crucial, no matter where the evidence may lead, and
    no matter the identities or official offices of those thought to be the authors
    of the crimes, that investigation and warranted prosecution be vigorously
    pursued. This is particularly so when the crimes involve those who have
    specifically sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. If the governance of this country is indeed premised upon the
    rule of law, and not upon the caprice of men, it will be your duty to thoroughly
    and energetically investigate whether laws may have been broken, and to pursue
    the prosecution of those individuals responsible.
    Forrest A. Rowland
    If you are of like mind, you can follow the links specified in the body of
    the forwarded email found below to the petition proper.
    P.S.: They got away with it after Watergate. They got away with it after Iran
    Contra. They got away with it after the outing of Valerie Plame. Do you think
    that they won’t try and get away with it again in the future, when each and
    every time they ARE permitted to get away with it, and to escape scot free? Oh,
    and I don’t care what the party affiliation of the perpetrators is. Read this
    post for more:
    Come to think of it, if an investigation would potentially skewer both Democrats
    and Republicans subject to justification by the facts disclosed, public
    pressure in support of it might be even stronger. Hmm, I like it. Well, I’m
    sure they would just circle the wagons down in Washington, but a guy can dream,
    can’t he?
    Anyway, it was a start. Here’s the link to the petition:

  18. Leanderthal says:

    Echoing William Raiser, how do we get the ball rolling?
    It will be a crime if these criminals get off scott free.

  19. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    Thanks to Colonel Lang for stating the case for initiating due legal process for those U.S. officials accused of war crimes, and for underlining the crucial role played by the 9/11 attacks in making the implementation of those criminal projects possible. Whether this exploitation of the tragedy is merely an example of political opportunism at its most cynical level, or rather the result of malice aforethought by ruthless agents seeking to actuate the Iraq project still seems to me to be an open question.

  20. Homer says:

    PL: The Bush people should have their day in court.
    Mike Connell Killed in Plane Crash …
    Republican IT Specialist Dies In Plane Crash (1 of 2) on Democracy Now
    Republican IT Specialist Dies In Plane Crash (2 of2)

  21. Stormcrow says:

    This isn’t going to get done.
    You’re right about what happens to the Republic next.
    But this has been in the cards ever since Ford pardoned Nixon. Since that day, the Republic has been living on borrowed time.
    The debt has now come due.

  22. d m nolan says:

    Alas Colonel, the Nation is not at war, the military is at war. Most Americans are too preoccupied with their own problems to, as someone I know put it, ” to feel any sympathy for a suicide bomber”. My fellow Americans appear too uninformed and uninterested to show the anger they should feel at the misdeeds committed in their names by the lying cowards in the White House and at the Pentagon. We should all fear and guard against the day when domestic law enforcement agencies see fit to employ “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the name of “keeping America safe”.

  23. John Howley says:

    Let me introduce a distinction.
    Under Bush, torture and related abuses were authorized and encouraged from on high within the uniformed armed services. Previously (and one day again we hope), the US military had an honorable record of support for protecting the Geneva rights of prisoners.
    However, can the same be said of “certain civilian agencies?” Those agencies may have engaged in similar abuses, pre-Bush, but did so covertly or deniably with the help of certain foreign governments. Rendition-for-torture predates GWB.
    The big mistake of Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney was to take practices used on an exceptional and “ignorable” basis by certain agencies known to operate outside the law on occasion and spread those unlawful practices willy-nilly to the military.
    As Sand has observed, once torture and related abuses are unleashed in this way it becomes very difficult to control. It also undermines good order and discipline.
    So, how does the fact — if one agrees it is one — that torture was practiced covertly by US agencies pre-Bush influence the willingness of Holder and Obama to tackle this hydra?

  24. fnord says:

    Sir. As a suggested action plan, work should be started immediately on establishing a judicial case, with clear legal arguments and easily understood points and charges. As mentioned above, it doesnt need to include all sins, but should be focused and aimed at two or three points, my suggestion would be Torture, Geneva and the massive fraud and lack of auditing during the Bremer admin.. This should then be spread throughout the Obama grassroot netwerk, and all the lefties should start campaigning for it internally in the democratic party. Will it work? Propably not. But it will raise awareness.

  25. Mad Mike says:

    Wow, I had not realized that Congress had declared war! I’ve got to get out more…

  26. Cieran says:

    I am greatly enjoying this thread, and the various considerations illuminated in the comments. I’d like to add two more, oriented towards a larger reference frame:
    First, the comments regarding torture also explain remarkably well other dysfunctional aspects of the Bush administration, including ones that also ought to result in criminal penalties. For example, the dictatorial policies that led to the Iraq war were also on display on the economic front, where (for but one example) to this day, the administration refuses to divulge information on how the taxpayers’ money is being spent on so-called “bailouts”.
    Thus their secrecy and obvious disregard for the rights of the populace are not limited to the setting of war — they extend through all venues of governance.
    The other consideration is also an economic one, but it arises from a complementary aspect of our nation’s failure to hold Bush, et. al accountable for their many decision-making failures. When our leaders are not held accountable for their obvious lapses in judgment, it becomes acceptable for others to demand similar treatment.
    For example, now we find that investors whose portfolios have been compromised by Madoff’s Ponzi scheme are beseeching the federal treasury for bailouts. This is rank stupidity, since it was clear to anyone paying due attention that Madoff was running a scam, and those folks who could afford to invest in his schemes also had the means to live comfortably after the scheme was exposed, had they chosen to do so.
    But while asking for a bailout is ridiculous, is it any more a ridiculous display of refusing to be held accountable than what we are seeing with Cheney and Bush and others? When our leaders refuse to accept their own culpability when their ill-considered schemes fail, why should the citizens wish to act differently when it’s time for them to face the music?

  27. J says:
    Cheney admitted to FBI he altered Plame talking points in a manner certain to expose her
    Cheney needs to be tried for the numerous ‘TREASON[s]’ he has committed while Vice Prez!

  28. Stormcrow says:

    About Mike Connell’s plane crash …
    I had the same thought that millions of other people had when they read that. But a commenter over at Mercury Rising had a different take.
    Techno wrote:

    I have spent about 90 minutes poking around the online records of this flight. What I found was that the plane was a Piper Saratoga P32R that uses a primitive anti-icing system that weeps out glycol onto leading surfaces. This is especially interesting since the plane was landing at an airport that had a 34° F temp and very high humidity at about ten minutes after nautical twilight. This means he was landing in almost-perfect icing conditions using a system that was not designed to be flown (according to Piper) into such conditions. He was by himself. It was just dark so the switch to night flying wasn’t complete.
    Sounds like an accident to me.
    I have hung around airplanes most of my life. This an easy thing to do out here in the wide open spaces. In fact, many of us marvel at the courage required to fly out east–higher traffic, shitty weather, lack of alternate landing sites, etc. Further, the one thing that has always impressed me is just how hard it is to get something to fly and the number of things that must go right to stay in the air. Now imagine you are descending into Akron. Your Saratoga has its landing gear out, its flaps extended, the engine just running at the low end of the operating range. It is just barely flying because in fact, you are trying to get it to stop flying (land). Suddenly, in a few seconds it picks up 300 pounds of ice that chokes off the air intakes and reshapes the flying surfaces. You go from a routine landing to a full-blown disaster in seconds and you are already aimed at the ground. From the time Connell knew has was in trouble until he crashed was probably much less than a minute.

    Still, given the record that the Bush administration has compiled, most people are going to suspect the worst.
    If they can smear, destroy, and falsely imprison a state governor, which they did, it’s an easy leap to assume they would not stick at murder.

  29. greg0 says:

    The next time these Cheneys take power, there will be an accounting beyond the US legal system. The end of our common dream of self government by means of a constitution can be avoided. But the opportunity to correct the system exists only temporarily.
    It is like Nixon’s plumber’s units have metastacized. The serious implications of election stealing, authorizing torture, and snearing at our US Constitution should not be left to a war crimes trial of the (near) future when this country lies in ruins.

  30. pbrownlee says:

    Who guards the guardians?
    What do you you do when those filled with passionate intensity behave like cheap, not over-bright gangsters?
    And wimps and chickenhawks vainly try to prove (to themselves?) what tough guys they really are?
    Happy whatever you celebrate where you are…

  31. Andy says:

    Will Obama want to do that? I doubt it. He is a member of the “club” of office holders now.
    It will be up to the people.

    The people haven’t seen fit to seriously press for impeachment – the most obvious course of action – so I seriously doubt there is much stomach in the country to take the unprecedented action of bringing the leadership of the executive branch to a criminal trial. The people aren’t even remotely interested in seriously pressuring their representatives in the Congress from curtailing all the authority given to the executive in 2001 and 2003. These are mostly the same representatives who have given a lot of lip service to the perils of executive power and overreach while doing practically nothing of substance to curtail it. Were it not for the courts, the executive would not be challenged at all. So the cynic in me suggests the whole proposal is a fantasy from the outset since the people don’t appear to have much interest. If we somehow do have a trial then I think Congress as a body should sit in the docket as well, for official negligence if nothing else – first for writing the executive a blank check and secondly for not making even the attempt at amending or canceling said check.
    Col., you wrote a post some time ago about whether the American people think of the President as a King. The answer to that question seems pretty clear to me now, particularly after this latest election cycle.

  32. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    I really want to see these critters called to account in this country and not the Hague or any other foreign venue.
    The rest of the world needs to see that the U.S. recognizes a criminally aberrant administration and can and will deal with it. It will be expensive – as always, the damn lawyers will make millions – but in terms of restoring this country’s standing in the world it will be money well spent.

  33. Carole says:

    I lived in Michigan during the Engler years and watched him dismantle all the safety nets–not only the ones for the citizens, but also the ones designed to maintain a functional government. He used an elaborate shell game to siphon money from the treasury and distribute it to his friends/base. During their final years, it was clear that he would not go until the money was all gone. When he left office, it became clear to all that he had indeed stolen the treasury as the state was hundreds of million dollars in debt. Michigan never fully recovered and has now been hit with the collapse of it’s biggest industry.
    Listening to the Bushies has always been like a replay of the Engler retoric, only now on a national scale. And like Engler, now that the money is gone, most of the Bushies will leave Washington. The treasury has been stolen, and the functional government dismantled and replaced by systems designed to reinforce their base and punish and confuse the general populace.
    No one can use the excuse that this present state of economic disaster is not what they expected. The Bushies will say they were only reacting to circumstance and taking advantage of opportunities presented to them as they doled out multi-billion dollar no bid contracts and recovery packages.
    These people are perverts (look it up) and they have systematically destroyed not only the garment, but the very hanger, or constitution, which has held the whole thing up and given it shape. And they have come out on the other side very, very wealthy and most of them, much more powerful.
    The best thing that we could do would be to use their ‘laws’ against them to rebuild a new foundation. Use all those emergency patriot act powers and go after them, empty their bank accounts using the Rico laws and put them in Guantanamo until we figure out what to do with them. Then, once all the evidence is collected, we will either send them to the Hague or some other courtroom. Or maybe just let them go as long as they agree to live on minimum wage or welfare.
    But seriously, we must to something, or else, they have won–their theories of social apathy and government malevolence will prevail.

  34. bstr says:

    Dear Sir, it would be refreshing to at least subject Cheney to an ongoing national shaming. But for how long would it be satisfying? I’ve just read a piece in the guardian making a very tight comparrison of the Bush Administration to Ahab of Moby Dick. It only begins to touch on thick volume of that Administration’s corruptions.
    Perhaps I am overly influenced by watching Philip Zimardo’s lecture on how good people come to do evil things. Zimardo was the experimental educatior who conducted the infamous Stanford Prison studies. More recently he was working with the defense team for Sgt.Chip Frederick, accussed of the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. That particular “rotten apple” was convicted. The refusal of the Bush Administration to pursue that investigation on up the ladder is emblematic of their corruption, that administration so full of ignorant and self-serving corruption which may yet be culpable of setting fire to India and Pakistan.

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