Why Haven’t Cheney And Co. Been Charged With War Crimes? LEVERAGE (Op-Ed)
Over the past five years, I bet I’ve had this conversation fifty times: Why didn’t president Obama turn Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush over for war crimes? Not knowing all the behind the scenes details, all we can do is speculate. But here’s my theory based on what we know.
Barack Obama won decisively against John McCain in 2008; a man who held many of the same hawkish positions that Bush and Cheney did. And he got his ass handed to him. The country was ready to move on beyond the wars and the faux warriors, so we elected a man based on his ability to reason, rather than the tough talk of the Dubbya era. We had just completed eight years of the stupidest, most incompetent leadership this nation has ever known, and the people were ready for a thinker. Whether you voted for him or not, Barack Obama IS a highly intelligent man, and he takes time to think things through, rather than shooting from the hip. I know… such a radical concept.
Look back at the 2002 Iraq War resolution. While the House approved the resolution, the House Democrats overwhelmingly opposed it. But in the Senate, things were different. Almost three-fourths of the Senate, for whatever reason, voted to authorize Bush to go after Saddam. Every single Republican Senator (with the exception of Lincoln Chafee, who would soon pay the price for his courage) voted for war. And while twenty-one Democrats opposed the resolution, there were twenty-nine who voted FOR it. And thus, the neocons got their war.
And these weren’t just “Who the hell is he?” Democrats, but some very high profile Democrats… whose reputations are marred for life by that blotch on their record, several of whom had or have political aspirations beyond the Senate. Most notably: John Kerry, who ran against Bush just two years after authorizing the war. And his choice for Veep, John Edwards. Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton… and Joe Biden.
So along comes Barack Obama in January of ’09, and before he even gets his suitcases unpacked, two opposing camps present him with this quandary: Do we honor International law, and recognize torture for what it is — a war crime? Or do we try to put it all behind us, turn the page and let history be their judge? Maybe I’ll discuss it with my new cabinet, several of whom just happen to have been in on those discussions prior to the war. Kerry, Biden, Clinton, Schumer and Feinstein were all very influential, and as Senators, they held important positions on the various committees. What do you think Hillary Clinton told him? Or John Kerry? Or Joe Biden? Just what *NONE* of them wanted to be reminded of ever again; the most catastrophic vote they ever made. And who knows what they were told of any evidence that contradicted the Bush/Cheney position at the time, but failed to act on it? Such as the reports submitted by Scott Ritter. We know now that there was tons of evidence to the contrary, but due to the pro-war atmosphere of the time, much of it slipped through the cracks, or was squelched by their friends in the media — and I’m looking at you, Judy Miller. If indictments were to be filed against these people for water boarding, for Abu Ghraib, etc., could a document surface that would make one of the aforementioned Democrats regret being born? If Dick Cheney’s legal team had their way, you can bet on it. If that snake had to go down, he wouldn’t go alone.
I can just envision it. John Kerry: “Mr. President, do we really want to rehash this all over again? What’s done is done. Let the Iraq War be THEIR legacy, let’s not allow it to be OUR legacy too, by making us share the spotlight with them as witnesses in some tribunal.”
Or Hillary Clinton: “Well, I for one am opposed to keeping the story alive for another decade. Nothing good can come of putting Dick Cheney on the stand to allow him to share the blame with us for their disastrous war.” Keeping in mind that 2016 isn’t so far off that the voters will have forgotten the Iraq War.
The bottom line: Cheney knows something one or more of these ex-Senators would just as soon never see the light of day, and he’s leveraged it to assure his freedom.
So, I suspect President Obama made the CORRECT decision, even though it may not have been the RIGHT decision by everyone’s definition. To spare his party, and members of his administration — and possibly even a future candidate for president any further embarrassment, he gave Bush, Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. The potential storm that may have ensued had the Bushies been turned over for war crimes investigations were probably outweighed by the harm it might have caused to many who should have known better at the time. And possibly, were up to their necks in it. I’ve always thought, if some ignorant shmo in Portland Oregon could figure out that these guys were lying just by watching them on television, then how was it possible for twenty career Democrats in the United States Senate to not see it?
And the answer was, and still is, politics. The Iraq War resolution put a ton of political capital at risk for these people, and for some — Kennedy, Boxer, Wyden, Graham, Akaka, Durbin, Mikulski, Reed, Leahy, Murray, Stabenow, Dayton, Corzine, Bingamin, Conrad, Byrd, Inouye, Sarbanes, Levin and Wellstone, it paid off handsomely. They never had to make excuses for how they voted, because they had the chutzpah to vote their conscience, rather than to take into account extraneous considerations. But for the other twenty-nine, they’d have some ‘splainin’ to do. And if pushed into that corner, Rummy’s and Cheney’s legal teams would just be tickled pink to turn any such prosecutions into a free-for-all. Subpoena Vice President Biden? Or the Secretary of State… Why not. And at the end of the day, there’s little reason to believe any of them would have been convicted anyway. This is still America, after all… the rich and powerful rarely pay for their crimes. And to make matters even worse, Dick Cheney now feels he has immunity, which explains his belligerence since leaving office.
So that in my humble opinion, is why Barack Obama let these criminals get away scot-free. Because to do otherwise would have unleashed Pandora’s Box. And in his gratitude, Dick Cheney, being the miserable hate-filled son of a bitch that he is, spends his remaining days going on Sean Hannity’s propaganda hour, lying about this president and taking pot-shots at everything Obama says and does. May those days be few.