While the media frenzy this week over Swine Flu has knocked the Bush torture memos/photos out of the Number One spot from public consciousness, it becomes even more incumbent upon the Obama administration and the Justice Department to keep the culture focused on the previous administration's wrongdoings. With the release of those memos graphically detailing the inhumane behavior of terrorism suspects, the populace was finally privy to the specifics of one of this country's darkest hours. The decision, however, by Attorney General Holder and President Obama that those merely following orders in executing methods designed by the Bush White House were exempt from prosecution, is maddening.
The anxiety and rage that's churned in our collective soul over the last eight years towards Messrs. Bush and Cheney finally began to subside with the transition to the new government. But this latest decision by the Justice Department and the White House does little to ensure this kind of nefarious behavior from ever happening again. As a teenager, I spent my 1973 summer vacation before the TV set, mesmerized by our system of checks and balances during the Watergate hearings. While most of the country was rooting for Nixon to be convicted and sent to prison, then-President Ford's issuance of Executive Pardon established that certain people are indeed above the law. During the late 80's, truth again was not served as the Reagan/Bush Sr. crowd was allowed to walk away from their crimes of the Iran/Contra affair. If the past is any barometer, we are poised to see these types of constitutional violations repeated, over and over.
While our current president claims he wants to move this country forward, that is difficult to achieve unless we learn from lessons of the past. I can only wonder where we would be today as a culture if Nixon had served time, or had the Reagan administration been convicted for its wrongdoings. Tragically, the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz rat pack, who served in those earlier administrations, learned too keenly how to get away with murder. Literally. Earlier last week, Cheney was blasted over the airwaves once again, doth protesting too much as he decried Obama's policy of open government, claiming that he, Cheney, was going to speak directly to the CIA about releasing supposed memos that depict the successes of his regime's enhanced interrogation tactics. Someone needs to remind the former vice president that he is no longer in office. The latest disclosure from Seymour Hersh that Cheney still has high-level officials in our government reporting directly to him must once and for all be stopped.
Unless the Justice Department acts quickly to nip this in the bud and investigate their atrocities, these thugs -- our thugs -- will walk once again, because we, as a collective in this country, backed off. There was little outrage from the masses as Nixon retired to San Clemente. People turned a blind eye as Oliver North convinced America that any action is justifiable in the name of protecting the homeland. And it happened as we marched to war six years ago, spilling blood and squandering riches for no clear reason.
I admire President Obama's class and measure. But it will become its own kind of crime if he does not set precedent at such a crucial juncture and pursue justice. Obama fails to recognize that this isn't about taking the high road; it's about building in safeguards to ensure this kind of thing from ever happening again. What he seems not to have considered is that someday, when another crooked regime finds itself in the White House, they will once again take the liberty of lying, murdering, and defying the Constitution because they will effectively be allowed to. Imagine Germany today without the Nuremberg Trials, if the world decided merely to move forward without examining what had brought us to the brink. Over sixty years later, justice is still sought for those atrocities, as witnessed a couple of weeks ago with the conviction (and subsequent exoneration) of retired Ohio autoworker and alleged Nazi John Demjanjuk, aka 'Ivan the Terrible', with 29,000 counts as an accessory to murder.
Once and for all, it is time for America to reflect on its behavior, for without true justice, our days of darkness will continue.