Sunday, February 15, 2009

Qua est Justicia? The Janus Effect?

Nonny Mouse, @ Crooks and Liars

has posted an excellent short piece asserting we must insist on seeking true justice beyond a simple "truth commission." As he eloquently demonstrates,
simply doing the right things henceforward while ignoring obvious past transgressions, does nothing for all the wrong reasons. Herewith, some excerpts, but the full post is excellent! Even quotes one of Crapaud's favorites, Hannah Arendt.

" it enough for the current president to insist that, regardless of whatever crimes his predecessor or those in his administration have committed, the United States now obeys the law, and that he prefers to ‘get it right moving forward’[?] It is simply not enough. ...Those in our government who have committed war crimes must be aggressively prosecuted; not simply because we are legally obligated to under our own laws, and under laws and treaties our country was instrumental in establishing for the entire world. Not because this country’s reputation has been devastated by such acts of barbarity and inhumanity on the part of our leaders we would instantly condemn as those more apposite to tin-pot dictators and tyrannical madmen. ...It is vital for our survival as a nation, as a people, as a society, and even for the future of our entire world that we do so. Because in the words of Hannah Arendt, ‘it is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past’. She wrote that in 1963, and was speaking about the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, but what she wrote then, about a different time, a different nation, a different crime, hold true today. ‘It is essentially for this reason: that the unprecedented, once it has appeared, may become precedent for the future, that all trials touching upon “crimes against humanity” must be judged according to a standard that is today still an “ideal”’.

For if we do nothing, if we protect those accused of war crimes from investigation out of a misguided, even perverse ‘respect’ for the offices these individuals held, if we allow those who have abused the power of their office in order to commit war crimes to escape from being judged, claiming immunity for reasons of exigent circumstances, we establish a precedent. It isn’t enough to remember, it is necessary to also act, if we are to prevent history from repeating itself. The Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds and George Bushes will return, again and again, with different names, and different faces, but the same lust for violence and disregard for the rule of law that should be enforced to protect us all from crimes against humanity, and it will be those of us who established the precedent of bestowing immunity on the perpetrators of today’s war crimes from their acts who will be responsible for tomorrow’s crimes against humanity.

It is not enough to simply remember. Those who will not face the past will face a future neither you nor I will want to live in. That is the Janus effect Obama will have to deal with, and soon, if our country has any real future to speak of."



  1. I don't think the "truth commission" has to do with ignoring crimes. I'm sure you know that the idea is modeled on the South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission. Many who committed crimes were given amnesty in exchange for truthful testimony to their crimes. They went on record as having committed crimes. I wonder if there would have been a way forward for South Africa without going the way of the Commission.

    As a way to move forward here in the US to deal with the many crises facing us, I believe that the idea has merit. The crimes will be brought into the light as the crimes they were, and that is something gained, although many will believe that the consequences are not nearly enough.

  2. Thanks, Mimi. You are so forgiving. I think the South African paradigm was well suited to heal a country and nation torn apart by generations of hatred. That kind of approach would not go in the right direction nor far enough for our beloved country.

    I don't think Congress or any other blue ribbon commission should take months and years of testimony to find the truth. Our criminal justice system is already set up to do so. While Congress goes about its business of governing, either the Justice Department, or Special independent criminal prosecutors with plenary powers should handle this sad, sad criminally aberrant chapter in our nation's recent history.

    But that's just my humble opinion. I was wrong about Ford's pardon of Nixon. While it allowed the country to move past that awful time, people did go to jail, but the chief did not face justice. That allowed operatives like young Cheney and young Rumsfeld to develop their perverted theories of the presidency, leading directly to the abuses of the Bush II years.