Prosecute Or Pardon Bush, Bankers And Cops Who Kill

Dave Johnson

Are we a nation of laws or not? No one is held accountable for invading Iraq, bank fraud, shooting unarmed citizens or even torture. It’s time to restore the rule of law.

Everyone please, please watch this 4-minute segment from All In with Chris Hayes: Are really we a nation of laws?

In a New York Times op-ed, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero called on President Obama to at least issue a pardon to Bush and Cheney and Bush administration officials for the crime of torture. In “Pardon Bush and Those Who Tortured,” Romero writes: “… it may be the only way to establish, once and for all, that torture is illegal.”

My organization and others have spent 13 years arguing for accountability for these crimes. We have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor or the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, or both. But those calls have gone unheeded. And now, many of those responsible for torture can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run out.

[. . .] What is the difference between this — essentially granting tacit pardons for torture — and formally pardoning those who authorized torture? In both cases, those who tortured avoid accountability.

But with the tacit pardons, the president leaves open the very real possibility that officials will resurrect the torture policies in the future.

The President came into office saying there wouldn’t be prosecutions for torture because, “it’s important to look forward and not backwards.” But that’s what prosecutors are supposed to do — look backwards to investigate crimes that have occurred. A country of laws not men doesn’t let individuals — even Presidents — tell prosecutors to back off from prosecuting offenders because of their high positions.

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

What about accountability for the invasion of Iraq? Shouldn’t those responsible for invading a country under false pretenses be held accountable? Why did that happen and how can we avoid anything like that ever happening again? Don’t we deserve at least a truth and reconciliation commission so We the People can know our own country’s history?

The Bankers

The situation with the bankers is a national embarrassment. There have been no prosecutions at all for widespread fraud — not even for money laundering for drug cartels; not even for helping finance terrorism. HSBC, for example, admitted to helping drug cartels launder almost a billion dollars for drug cartels and even terrorists. Meanwhile, individuals involved in a fraction of the amounts warrant aggressive prosecution and 65-year sentences.

Cops Killing Unarmed Citizens

We all saw what the prosecutor in Ferguson did. We all saw what happened to the cop who killed Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold. Nothing.

Ferguson residents learned that some citizens matter more than others. When they came out to protest the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, they were met with military-level force. Armored cars were brought out to confront them — with top-mounted .50-caliber machine guns trained on them.

Some people have impunity, while others are met with military-grade weapons for questioning that  impunity.

Others

There are so many examples of our justice system just giving some a pass. What about the spectacle of Cliven Bundy refusing to pay grazing fees, while his militia supporters aimed weapons at law enforcement officers? Did the lack of accountability for these actions encourage Bundy supporters to shoot and kill two police officers in Las Vegas, draping one with a Tea Party flag?

Aggressive Prosecution Of Small Fry

It’s not like the government is incapable of aggressively prosecuting those it wants to go after.

Aaron Swartz was prosecuted so aggressively that he was driven to suicide. The Obama administration has engaged in record (aggressive) prosecutions of suspected leakers.

What about the aggressive selective prosecution of Don Seigleman? The judge who sent him away was caught beating his wife. He “threw her to the ground and kicked her.” Mrs. Fuller also stated she was dragged around the room and Mr. Fuller “hit her in the mouth several times with his hands.” What happens to him?

Former CIA official John Kiriakou revealed the torture program to reporters. As Vox reports:

“Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accepted a 30-month prison sentence. He’s in prison right now.”

The people who carried out the torture are not.

Two-Track Justice Widespread

There’s even a two-track system for justice at the Supreme Court. According to a Reuters report, a very few well-connected lawyers get their (usually corporate) clients’ cases heard. “…66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate.”

Stop Ignoring This

Torturer! You can’t just ignore it. You can’t just say, “They get to do this.” Torture puts the two-track system in our faces. Torture is the last straw.

Prosecute or pardon, but don’t just tell the country that there are some people we just have to leave alone, no matter what they do.

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