Sunday, July 12, 2009

What to do with the enablers?

Senator Feinstein was right when she told Fox News, on Sunday, that we have a "problem" with a vice president who orders the head of the Central Intelligence Agency not to disclose details of a secret "counterterrorism" program in violation of federal law. Yes, indeed we do, but the larger problem is what to do with those who enabled Dick Cheney, and continue to do so.

Say, for the sake of argument, that an indictment is issued against Dick Cheney and he gets to have his day in court and, say that the former vice president is convicted. This still doesn't solve the problem of what to do with those in the Bush administration who aided and abetted such egregious acts as torture, and warrantless eavesdropping, as well as the destruction of 5 million White House e-mails in violation of the Presidential Records Act

The Obama administration can guarantee one new job for someone who would just keep track of all the laws that were bent, or outright broken, under George W. Bush starting with FISA, the Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, the Geneva Conventions, the 1947 national security provisions which required that Congress be briefed, and that's just for starters.

But, even if Dick Cheney gets to join the likes of Bernie Madoff, and spend what's left of his life in jail, we're still going to have to live with the aftershocks of the Bush years, the USA Patriot Act which, you'll recall, was finalized with Bush's reelection in 2004, as was the understated, but everpresent, police state we now consider the "new normal." Government hit squads a la Cheney, waterboarding, and indefinite detention are practices that have been outed, but only the most naive among us would believe they've been ruled out. One newspaper has already been made to recant a story it published, and that same newspaper's publisher just hosted a networking mixer for 350 former elected officials who have been outsourced as lobbyists for the private health care industry.

Yes, the enablers are alive and well when environmental activists from Greenpeace can be chained and handcuffed for hanging a banner warning about climate change on Mount Everest. The enablers are thriving when an Iraq veteran has his flag taken down by Wisconsin police for the simple act of hanging it upside down as a lawful means of protest. Whose dog ate the First Amendment?

In the end, it's not only about what commands the vice president gave to the CIA about what not to tell Congress in the Bush years, it's about what commands are being given now.

We must also look at those who suited up, at a hefty hourly rate, to defend Mr. Cheney in his egregious skirting, defying, and sodomizing of the Constitution and international law at taxpayer's expense.

Vigilance is required for President Obama, too, when he colludes with state secrets defense, jockeys to validate Bush's refusal to turn over hundreds of thousands of White House e-mails which miraculously reappeared. Vigilance is required when he aids and abets a legal black hole of limitless incarceration for those we detain on an ever expanding field of battle. These policies must come under the same scrutiny as those of Dick Cheney or, in the end, the enablers will prevail, and Dick Cheney will get a perennial get out of jail card.

I join those who call for accountability and justice. But, we must also work to ensure that the name on the door to the Oval Office isn't the only thing that has changed, and that Mr. Cheney's enablers have, once and for all, left town.