The Brass Ring: Prosecuting Bush, Cheney, et al

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Crossposted from Antemedius

The brass ring is never so close as when it seems so far away and out of reach?

Or never farther way than when it is closest?

Over the past few months we’ve seen what appears to be an enormous shift or widening of the Overton Window of political possibilities from nearly zero chance to a sudden flood of public and media attention on the possibility of prosecution of the war crimes of George W. Bush and cronies.

Attention. And some soft polling indicating that it may include public demand.

Either way, it has resulted in incredible pressure on the Obama Administration to take a firm stand and make a hard choice either way, to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the crimes, or to sweep them under the rug in some nebulous fantasy of “moving forward” to escape having to prosecute.

It seems apparent that the wave of attention, not yet defined demand, but attention may soon start to eat away at Obama’s approval ratings, thus forcing him to make a choice.

What actions by Obama and others in the administration can we look at that might indicate which course of action he is leaning towards?

Obama has recently started to try to label calls for justice as calls for “retribution”. The only reasons I can conceive of for him doing this is that he is comfortable misrepresenting people who are calling for justice, and perhaps as well he simply does not does not believe that they are calls for justice.

These are personality traits and political manipulations that make me, for one, very suspicious of his motivations, and can easily lead to the conclusion that he simply does not want investigations and prosecutions to proceed or he places a lower value on justice than the average person.

Obama’s appointed Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair only last week tried to defend the use of torture and embraced the old Bush administration line on torture with the claim “in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists”.

An FBI interrogator involved in the interrogations has flatly contradicted Blair’s claim.

What are Obama’s choices?

It appears he can do one of a few things to take political advantage of this apparent wave of attention. I think it is helpful here to be mindful that he is a politician and by nature will seek approval.

He could continue as he has so far and hold off or ignore the calls and continue repeating his “look forward” meme.

So far doing that hasn’t hurt his approval ratings, and again he is a politician after all, so from his perspective he may be reading those ratings as the majority being happy and approving of him him continuing to do that.

Last I checked his approval ratings were higher than the percentage of voters who voted for him last November.

If he is seeing any indications of slippage in those approval ratings he could ask Attorney General Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to conduct a proper investigative process leading eventually to, if the investigative process indicates enough hard evidence to do so, prosecution of Bush, Cheney, and some or all of the members of the entire War on Terror enterprise who are ultimately with Bush and Cheney responsible for the torture and other war crimes that have been enumerated repeatedly.

Now, there have been some suggestions made that appointing a Special Prosecutor would immediately bury the whole issue behind a wall of secrecy if the Special Prosecutor immediately convened a Grand Jury to issue subpoenas and take testimony in secret, but there are many more other opinions that that would not be the case and that a Special Prosecutor can conduct an open investigation.

There is also, I think, more than enough publicly available evidence already to warrant prosecution resulting in probable convictions, particularly after some of the recent public releases and revelations.

But I am not a lawyer or experienced in the legal aspects of Grand Jury testimony, and it may be that a Special Prosecutor could do it in such a way as to close off any further public knowledge and bury the whole issue forever.

So to summarize, it appears to me that Obama has three options.

One, He could continue as he has, deflecting and opposing all calls no matter how loud for a Special Prosecutor or for any kind of investigation.

Two, he could have Holder appoint a Special Prosecutor with instructions to make it as closed a process as possible dragged out as long as possible, as a way of effectively ending any hope of prosecutions.

To my mind, from seeing his actions so far, the first or the second will be the way he will probably go, and I think that perhaps the second is the more likely since it would allow him to claim that he is bowing to the will of the people and the demands for a Special Prosecutor while at the same time avoiding any possibility of prosecutions.

Three, he could ask Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor instructed to conduct a completely transparent open and public investigation. Every action I’ve seen from him so far to my mind makes it apparent that, for whatever his reasons may be, a transparent open investigation is the last thing he wants to allow to happen.


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    • Edger on April 25, 2009 at 19:10


    • Edger on April 25, 2009 at 19:50
  1. … from my understanding, Obama is not the one to ask/tell Holder to appoint a SP.  That’s Holder’s call, not Obama’s.  So I’m not sure about your second option.  Just read recently, in fact (sorry, no link) that the DOJ was pissed off at Rahm and other admin. officials for interfering with a decision that’s not theirs to make.

    I do think you bring up some good questions, though.  I have no idea what Obama thinks about this personally — he’s playing his cards very close to the vest and as I’m not a political strategist junkie, I find that irritating as hell.

    But the whole “retribution” bullshit is purely political, imo, as well as the “moving forward” stuff.  I wrote a diary over at the orange yesterday on my feelings about that.

    I think Holder will be the one to watch on this.  I’m not claiming Obama has no influence on Holder; it would be naive to assume that, for all that the DOJ is supposed to be independent.  But ultimately Holder has to make the call.

    I also find unconvincing the argument that a SP will shut off the flow of information.  There’s lots more information about to come out and there’s a ton already in the public domain.  Nor do I think we will in fact get a lot of the CIA information that we need without a big fight.

    Thanks for this diary.  Very thought provoking.

  2. He could be a deep pragmatist, wherein he sees that allowing torture to happen without accountability, in a very nuts and bolts way (pragmatic) changes a bedrock value of the US. The deep pragmatist would desire acountability and encourage the DOJ to their job.

    The shallow pragmatist sees pragmatism in how it relates to his image of his presidency ,what he wants to accomplish etc.

  3. I followed the whole campaign quite a bit, from January 2008 through November. My tendency, when trying to second guess him, would be to look to Axelrod and also Michelle, for cues or tips offs.  Of course, campaigning is altogether different from governing, but…anyway….  Michelle is extremely pragmatic, and Axelrod is one shrewd

    The fact that Michelle has chummy’d up to showing support for military families is something that, well, Im still brewing that in me gulliver.

    I all but gave up trying to second guess him a few weeks ago, when I decided that it doesnt really (significantly) alter my course with regard to this “issue”. However, Id say that essentially, anything he/they do next, now, is with a focus on 2012 and ensuring his electablity to a second term.

    So I hope he doesnt, uhm, cut off the baby to throw out the bathwater. heh.

    • RUKind on April 26, 2009 at 04:44

    I once stood next to a dead pilot whale washed up on a beach. You could walk right up to it and touch it. When you got down wind of it, it was a whole different experience.

    Obama has a dead whale with which to deal.

  4. I’ve had an extremely busy day away from blogging, so I just want to say something somewhat hastily.

    First of all, I do NOT believe that Obama should be put “on the line” as to investigations and prosecutions — he’s trying to deal with the absolute hell this country is in and that, to me, is understandable.  He is in between a rock and a hard place.  If he were to make an absolute commitment to investigations and prosecutions, then HE becomes the subject of discourse, rather than what SHOULD be the subject of discourse.  

    Sometimes, I find that Obama “works in strange ways” (forgive the likeness).  But what I mean is that he says one thing, yet allows the release of invaluable documents, as another thing — so he counters, yet he offers.  It’s curious and an interesting “modus operandi.”  Obama ain’t no stupido — he knows torture is against all laws, domestic and International.  Yet, he says things like “retribution” and such, which actually serve only to inflame (what to inflame the American public enough to pressure the DoJ to do something?).  I’m not sure he is someone you can second-guess.  

    Nonetheless, we must bear in mind that Obama was well represented by corporatists, perhaps, a little different, but nonetheless, corporatists, thus, his effectiveness will be limited thereby.  Do you really think Obama wanted expansion in Afghanistan?  Or was it the oil companies, the defense companies, and others dictating the direction?  


  5. deflects and diffuses from the gravity of torture, itself, and our legal and moral imperative to investigate and prosecute.

  6. like a Robert Ludlam novel, I swear. More plot twists and turns than you can sneeze at.

    mcjoan had a really excellent piece on orange FP last night.

    Im about fried.

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