Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

[ed note: I’m still gagging on the R-word but here goes]

From Wiki:

A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government, in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past. They are, under various names, occasionally set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest, civil war, or dictatorship. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established by President Nelson Mandela after apartheid, is generally considered a model of Truth Commissions, rarely if ever achieved in other parts. As government reports, they can provide proof against historical revisionism of state terrorism and other crimes and human rights abuses. Truth commissions are sometimes criticised for allowing crimes to go unpunished, and creating impunity for serious human rights abusers.

The bolds are from the Wiki entry, the italics are mine.

I’m not sure where to begin on this. My revenge fantasies leading up to the election were starting to get out of hand. I felt like Photoshopping middle-of-the-forehead entry wounds with trails of blood down the faces of our war criminals – traitors to not just the Constitution but to all that’s decent in humanity. And then pasting the posters on public walls. I may get rendered just for sharing this thought dream. They still have ten weeks to go. Fuck it.

My big problem with revenge is people like Ghandi and Mandela and MLK, Jr. They all took the personal beatings, torture and imprisonments in stride. They all brought about tremendous positive change for all of humanity. They are powerful role models for doing what is right morally. If I ask myself what would they do then I have to confront my very reasonable desire for some exotic revenge for the members of the Bush regime and all their enablers. It would please me no end to have each of them waterboarded, humiliated, debased and thrown into Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and the Black Prison in Afghanistan for very long amounts of time. But that would just make me like them. I refuse to be one of their kind.

So here’s the list of Truth Commissions on Wiki:

   * 1 List of truth and reconciliation commissions

         o 1.1 Argentina

         o 1.2 Canada

         o 1.3 Chile

         o 1.4 El Salvador

         o 1.5 Fiji

         o 1.6 Ghana

         o 1.7 Guatemala

         o 1.8 Liberia

         o 1.9 Morocco

         o 1.10 Panama

         o 1.11 Peru

         o 1.12 Rwanda

         o 1.13 Sierra Leone

         o 1.14 Solomon Islands

         o 1.15 South Africa

         o 1.16 South Korea

         o 1.17 East Timor

         o 1.18 United States

Eighteen of them – and boy was I surprised to see #18 already on the list. I wasn’t surprised to see Josh there, though.

United States

   * Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission (GTRC)

   * Joshua Micah Marshall has called for a truth and reconciliation commission about U.S.-sponsored torture in Iraq and elsewhere. [8]

   * Kenneth Brady outlines a potential U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission in his movie The Time Is Now, and examines human rights abuses resulting from U.S. foreign policy actions taken over the last 40 years.

It turns out there are some excellent resources available for creating and running these types of commissions. Normally they’re set in motion by a country’s chief executive. For Obama, with all that’s on his plate, that may be a bridge too far. I say we take it on ourselves. Here’s a great resource site for everything you need to know about setting up and operating Truth Commissions.

From their opening page:

In doing this research, we selected five cases from the nearly 20 Truth Commissions that have been active during the past 25 years: Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, and Guatemala. These cases have been consistently identified as the most successful and comprehensive examples of Truth Commissions. They are also the cases that are most extensively documented, which makes them highly instructive. Choose a case from the list above, and then click Background for a brief summary of the case.

Some more:

UNited States Institute of Peace

The International Center for Transitional Justice [note the link to the Exxon HR case in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia]

Beyond Intractability: A Free Knowledge Base on More Constructive Approaches to Destructive Conflict

World Peace Foundation

Some reading materials:

Truth Commissions: State Terror, History, and … – by Greg Grandin, Thomas Miller Klubock – 179 pages

Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror … – by Priscilla B. Hayner – 340 pages

Truth V. Justice: The Morality of Truth … – by Robert I. Rotberg, Dennis Thompson – 309 pages

There’s a lot of examples, history, guidelines and general information out there. More than enough to get started. I seriously doubt that any one of our elected officials will take the lead on this. OK, I take that back, Dennis and Bernie might lead on this in the House and Senate, respectively. Basically, I think this will have to be a movement of the people, by the people and for the people. Sounds familiar.

If the thought of reconciliation still bothers you, try looking at it this way: it’s the exact opposite of what the Bushies would do. They would seek to extract the greatest possible revenge for each slight no matter how trivial. Now is the time to show them what mature humans can do. Especially for the generations to come.



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    • RUKind on November 9, 2008 at 08:41
  1. They are natural, but destructive (to you).  Have you considered a Tibetan singing bowl?  The right one can be very soothing.

    That said, yes, I think we need to investigate, to dig into the dung-heap of high crimes and misdemeanors.  Sunlight is the friend of the good and the enemy of the evil…which is why Darth Cheney tries so hard to keep everything he does a secret.

    Now that this GOP is officially lame-duck, there is a very important role for those who would watch out for the shredding of documents and the purging of computer data.

    ‘Cause you know it’s coming.

  2. that I could really support. I think it has the benefits of bringing to light all of the crimes for all to see – we’d have to face what has been done – and I think most T & R commissions have included legislation and other safeguards to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

    In addition to the benefits you’ve described so well, I also think it would not immediately be viewed as a partisan witch hunt – something a traditional legal approach is bound to ignite and could possibly be derailed by.

    The American public is not really interested in seeing any of this. I’ve talked over the last week or so with a couple of my Democratic friends about justice for these criminals just to get a sense. I’m still trying to figure out why. So far it sounds like it has to do with facing the pain and ugliness of the past and concern about it becoming a partisan brawl.  

  3. After the fact impeachment to all the criminals that enabled the last 8 years of terror, in order to ensure that these criminals have no chance of sliding back into government roles in the future. And this impeachment provision, imo, would also have to include a purge of our military leadership of all evangelicals bringing religion into the military.

  4. Thanks RU! The info needed to get put together, and you did an excellent job. I can practically guarantee that I will be ‘stealing’ parts of it, lol!

    • Edger on November 9, 2008 at 18:39

    would be the best way to uncover all the “truths” that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would deal with, and I would hope that such a commission wouldn’t become avoidance of or an excuse to give these criminals a pass from the law.

    Otherwise it seems to me that it wouldn’t accomplish anything beyond becoming a feel good exercise, and an affirmation that criminal justice is toothless, meaningless, and applies to everyone except the powerful and people with enough money to buy themselves exemption from law.

    I’m fairly sure that if war crimes trial become likely then we’ll see the people who might be tried start supporting Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as great alternatives…

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