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Should we prosecute Bush officials?

Despite his best efforts to turn the conversation of the country forward and not backward to the Bush administration, President Obama is having to face the issue of harsh interrogations. He has made if pretty clear that he doesn’t want to spend much time on this, preferring to look to advancing his agenda for the United States.

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When the infamous CIA memos on the interrogations were released, there was a firestorm of opinions on both sides of the issue. Some say they shouldn’t have been released and some say they should have been. Not only that, but a lot of people are of the opinion that the Bush administration officials need to be prosecuted, right up to and including former Vice President Dick Cheney. Given the dislike a lot of people still harbor towards George W. Bush, it wouldn’t shock me to see him included as well.

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Something else to consider is a memo from National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, President Obama’s top intelligence official. Circulated to his employees last week, it’s clear that he may not have approved of the tactics used to glean information from terrorist suspects, but the information was valuable.

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Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future.

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I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past, but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.

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I am not trying to defend the Bush administration, but I do believe we need to understand that they were facing a time of trouble such as our nation had never faced before. Some of the decisions that were made may have been wrong, but they were made in an attempt to prevent other attacks like the ones on New York and Washington, D.C.

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I believe the aforementioned dislike for Bush may very well be clouding the issue for a lot of people. Let’s face it, the man wasn’t very well liked by a lof of our citizens. Some of that dislike may have been warranted, but much of it is not. There are a lot of people who would like nothing better than to see an investigation into the actions of the Bush administration, possibly leading to prosecution of some officials. I have to disagree and there is no better way to explain why than to include a quote from Wickle, over at A True Believer’s Blog. He made this comment on the article I referenced above.

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For the most part, it’s always a good idea NOT to go prosecuting the previous administration. This is a Republic and we need to be able to make transitions of power without that kind of thing. There were people who wanted GW Bush to re-launch investigations into the Clinton administration, and he wisely refused. Gerald Ford even pardoned Richard Nixon, so that we could put Watergate behind us. There are a lot of people who want to investigate the Bush admin, but I think Obama would be wiser to avoid giving into it. We shall see.

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I couldn’t agree more with what Wickle has said. If some people have their way and the prosecution of Bush administration officials does take place, it will set a bad precedent for the future.

About LD Jackson

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LD Jackson has written 2053 posts in this blog.

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Founder and author of the political and news commentary blog Political Realities. I have always loved to write, but never have I felt my writing was more important than in this present day. If I have changed one mind or impressed one American about the direction our country is headed, then I will consider my endeavors a success. I take the tag line on this blog very seriously. Above all else, in search of the truth.

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  • No, we should not prosecute members of the Bush administration. Those people were doing their best to defend our country, as you mention, from real threats. It was already proven our enemies had the capability to inflict great harm, and we needed a way to extract information from those terrorists we had in our possession.

    Pastor Ron’s last blog post..The Word of God

  • Mike

    Believe it or not I completely agree with you that we should not prosecute the case against the Bush administration; but I also think White House officials spoke out of turn when they made that statement. I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that no president should be impeding a Justice Dept investigation into any alleged criminal behavior. If McCain was president and made similar statements about not pursuing the case the Democrats would be in an uproar. The implementation of Justice must have some measure of non-partisanship and certainly in this case it demands political distance by Obama. If charges are brought against Bush, Cheney, etc then it would be Obama’s right to grant pardons and as much as I’m convinced they acted in violation of the law and lied to the American people in order to pursue a war against Iran., and as bad a taste as it would leave in my mouth, I would support those pardons. We have huge problems in this country right now that demand national cohesion and cooperation. As Wickle accurately recalled, history has shown the country can move on and is probably best served here by doing so.

  • I personally don’t think we should. Stupid idea.

    I was thinking about this earlier today. Let’s say Obama does prosecute Bush and whomever. Then lets say there is another attack on the US. Wouldn’t that leave Obama open to being prosecuted as well?

    I think he will open a serious can of worms if he decides to do this, especially for himself and his appointees.

    Dominique’s last blog post..Town Hall of HOPE

  • Well, since you already quoted my position, I suppose it’s not surprise.

    We’re looking at memos that presented legal opinions. Unless they represent “The law says this but we can get around it by doing …” then we need to leave it alone. Those are policy decisions, and we absolutely must not criminalize policy differences.

    I didn’t like Bill Clinton, but I didn’t want us prosecuting him for raising taxes, reversing the Mexico City policy, or the like. That’s what elections are for.

    I say this as someone who disagrees with the ideas presented in these CIA memos, just to make it clear.

    Wickle’s last blog post..Mitch McVicker at the Message Room

  • Wickle – Did I understand your last statement to mean you don’t agree with the harsh interrogations?

    I guess I am the odd man out on this one because I don’t have an issue with using the techniques. Wish there never was a cause for us to do so, but that isn’t the case.

    BTW – I didn’t intend anything by my question, I just wanted to make sure I read that right!

    Dominique’s last blog post..Town Hall of HOPE

  • Laurie. Oregon

    Good post, Larry.

    I think the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and agree with Mike is his assertion that this will ultimately not be a question for Obama but lie in the hands of the Justice Department. Once information like this is released and if violations of international treaties and agreements become clear, the legal issues may very well trump the political.

    But the juxtaposition of positions on this issue are disturbing. How can the Obama administration state that no prosecution is necessary if clear violations are proven based on their release of information? And how can Dick Cheney asssert on one hand that our national security is weakened by the release of sensitive information like this and then demand the release of much more information that he says will point not just to the efficacy of these methods but to the specific intelligence we gained from these techniques?

    I disagree strongly with those who think that we should just sweep this under the carpet. The popularity (or lack of) of a particular President should have nothing to do with a country examining its government’s behavior, expecially when we place ourselves on the moral high road of the world. The US was founded on high ideals, and to deseve that lofty position we must be willing to question and correct basic human rights violations that we demand be extended to our citizens. If we don’t do that, how will any of our citizens, including our military personnel, be safe?

  • Laurie,
    I think I understand the purpose of Dick Cheney’s desire to release more CIA memos. I think he believes that will prove his point and justify his position on harsh interrogations, torture, etc.

    As for sweeping it under the rug, I don’t think that is the direction we should be going as a nation, but I do not think we should have prosecution for those people who were involved. My reasoning can not be stated more clearly than how Wickle states it. I do believe we should take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again, although I am not sure what those steps would be.