Torture: Obama’s ‘Nixon Pardon’? (II)

03Is it fair to equate the potential decision by President Obama not to prosecute those responsible for torture in the Bush Administration with President Ford’s pardoning of President Nixon?

In 1974, America had, in the previous eleven years, been shaken by the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

We had suffered the long nightmare of Vietnam; the horror of the illegal incursion into Cambodia, and all the atrocities that followed; culminating in the same of our final retreat from Saigon.

To cap all this, we then had to suffer the indignity of a criminal President, getting caught, wriggling, lying, sacrificing his staff, and then finally achieving historical stature as the only President to resign his office.

America was baying for blood. It wanted Richard Nixon’s scalp. Not just for Watergate. But for the war crimes committed in Vietnam and Cambodia. And for the reign of domestic terror and surveillance he had overseen in the US itself.

So, yes. I see an equivalence between those times and the period we find ourselves in today, where many in America want George Bush and his cohorts to pay a visible and terrible price for what has been done in the name of the War on Terror and the War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the many abuses of power he perpetrated on US soil.

The question once again is: will the price to be paid be more terrible for the American people than it will be for Bush and his cronies?

Make no mistake, once we start down this path, it can only end with Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, among many others, standing trial for war crimes.

What will that do for the American psyche and for our standing around the world? Is there not a better way – as, in fact, I argue in the first article to bear this title?

Back in 1974, President Ford took a momentous decision. I believe it was the right one. and it cost him his Presidency. He determined that the nation had suffered enough. That it would cause more trauma to put a President on trial that it would cause to hold him legally accountable for his alleged crimes.

I strongly believe that, by making this decision, President Ford began the process of healing the nation’s spirit. This continued under Jimmy Carter, and even under Ronald Reagan.

Whatever one may think of his policies, Reagan’s grandfatherly demeanor helped to restore our faith in ourselves and our stature around the world.

Our nation has just been through another nightmare. I’m guessing that many of those calling for prosecution now did not experience the similar nightmare of the Seventies, and may, therefore, not see the advantages of restoring spirit over the short-term retribution of legal proceedings. But I do. And I’m hoping that President Obama will, too.

Published in: on April 22, 2009 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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