Accountability Stand Ins

I have an idea for Roger Cohen. If he’s so fundamentally opposed to upholding the rule of law in the United States of America that he would rail against the prosecution of Bush administration officials and intelligence operatives who broke the law by torturing or advised that the law be broken, then we should find an alternative solution. Cohen suggests a Truth Commission, but I think it should be done with a twist. After all, knowing what illegal activities happened (though we already know many when it comes to torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and secret prisons) is nice, but it’s not the point. Cohen thinks this is a better option, as prosecutions of law breakers would “lacerate” country.

Here’s my suggestion: if people like Roger Cohen think the rule of law in America is so unimportant and slight that we survive as a country when the people who break our laws are not prosecuted, but still wants everyone to know what happened, why not hold trials for the Jay Bybees, John Yoos, and others of the world who should be investigated and prosecuted — but leave them out of the docket. Instead, have media figures like Cohen stand on trial in their place, ready to serve whatever punishment the justice system metes out to Bybee, Yoo, Bradbury et alia. After all, the fundamental problem that Cohen seems to have is that a Democratic administration or Congress prosecuting Republican officials for their illegal actions is that it would be inherently divisive and partisan. Prosecuting non-partisan opinion column writers for the crimes of the people they don’t want to see prosecuted bears none of the same risks.  I’d be curious to see if Cohen’s desire for comity is so great that he would bear the weight of punishment of those people he defends in columns like this.

Criminal penalties exist precisely because maintaining the law does indeed require putative measures when it is broken. The persistent drive by moderate columnists to apologize for the Bush administration’s illegal actions while simultaneously describing out country as a frail thing, incapable of honestly looking in the mirror at was done in our names, is sickening. To go along with eight years where the rule of law was a quaint idea relegated to liberal blogs, having to watch a press corps actively trying to stop the revelation of facts about what happened during the previous administration and resist prosecution for law breakers is almost too much.

Hunter of Daily Kos had what I consider to be a very important piece in the debate on how people who believe in the rule of law and what it means for America should be reacting to the drive to not hold anyone accountable for illegal actions done as part of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 regime.  In his closing he writes:

But for today, I can only say damn you all to hell. Damn you all for making us — us, of all people, average citizens with no positions of power, with no power at all save whatever we can wring out of the thin air, and with nothing at stake but a sense of shared, basic, foundational morality — yet again rail for our own country to exercise a shred of the morality, the justice, the national greatness that it professes for all to hear. I was once outraged; I was, after that, ashamed; now I am only incredulous.

Roger Cohen has the ability to put pressure on those in power to hold  lawbreakers accountable for their actions. Instead he’s yet another voice for forgetting about the rule of law in pursuit of blissful comity. What a sorry situation. The government is supposed to follow the law. The judicial system is supposed to determine what has happened and how people should be punished for their illegal actions. And the press is supposed to always drive for greater transparency, scrutiny, and accountability. The extent to which things are not how they should be in America right now is too great to easily capture with words. At this point, only jaw-dropping shock seems to cover it.

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