There was a flurry and flutter of hope among many of the progressive faithful last week after reports of a declaration by Joe Biden that an Obama administration might pursue criminal charges against top Bush officials. The happy cry went up: At last, the Democrats are laying it on the line, standing up to defend the Constitution, the rule of law and common human decency againt a vicious gang of mass murderers and tyrannical thugs! Fightin' Joe will lead the way!
But by week's end, Fightin' Joe was caving and cratering in the time-honored Democratic fashion. As Raw Story reports, Biden went on what is rapidly becoming the Dem ticket's favorite venue -- Fox News -- and heatedly denied an interviewer's allegation that "if you guys are elected...you're actually going to pursue criminal charges against President Bush's administration and different people that served there."
"That's not true," Biden immediately replied. "I don't know where that report's coming from. What is true is the United States Congress is trying to preserve records on questions that relate to whether or not the law has been violated by anyone. Anybody should be doing that."
Biden emphasized that "no one's talking about President Bush. ... I've never heard anybody mention President Bush in that context." He noted that "there's been an awful lot of unsavory stuff that's gone on ... but I have no evidence of any of that. No one's talking about pursuing President Bush criminally."
Biden concluded his comments by explaining that possible misdeeds are "being looked into now, just so it never happens again in any other administration. ... The Obama-Biden administration is not going to start off saying, 'God, let's go take a look at what this --.' The American people want to know what we're going to do, not what happened."
There you have it. The only reason that the Democrats might, conceivably, look into some "possible misdeeds" is to make sure that "they don't happen again," not -- God forbid! -- in order to prosecute anyone for flagrant violations of the law. (Although exactly how you will prevent future abuses by never, ever punishing a past abuse according to the law of the land is not entirely clear.)
And Lord have mercy, nobody in the Democratic camp has the slightest suspicion that George W. Bush himself has ever done anything remotely criminal! Biden has never heard anyone even mention Bush in such a context -- a statement which, if taken at face value (which of course it shouldn't be), means that he has never read the editorial pages of the New York Times or the bill of impeachment introduced into Congress by a former presidential candidate of his own party. Nope. Never heard anyone anywhere ever say anything about any crimes that good old George might have committed. It's unthinkable!
And anyway, nobody cares about "what happened" -- that is, nobody cares that a million Iraqis have been murdered and tens of thousands of American soldiers have been killed or mutilated for life; nobody cares that captives held without charges in secret prisons have been tortured and beaten to death; nobody cares that the Constitution has been raped by authoritarian cretins who openly and proudly proclaim their disdain for the law. Nobody cares about that, says Biden; people just want to hear about all the magic ponies that he and Obama are going to bestow upon each and every one of us.
In other words, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will uphold the machtpolitik (power politics) principle that has replaced Constitutional government in the United States: leaders cannot be punished for even the most egregious high crimes -- aggressive war, torture, tyranny. Not one of the principal perpetrators of the crimes that we have all seen committed before our eyes in the last few years will be punished, or face even the slightest discomfort or dishonor. Not one.
How much clearer can they make it? The "surge" -- the escalation of a massive war crime -- is a "wild success," says Obama. The "War on Terror" must be expanded. And no one will be prosecuted for launching a war of aggression on false pretenses, for authorizing the systematic use of torture (a capital crime under U.S. law), for spying on the American people, or any other "possible misdeed."
This is what Obama and Biden themselves are saying, directly, in their own words, at every opportunity. No one is forcing them to say it. And given the fact that more than 70 percent of the American people openly despise Bush and his administration, and more than half believe that this gang has committed impeachable offense -- i.e., high crimes -- it is not even political expedience that compels such statements.
It can only be their own sincere agreement with Bush, McCain and Palin on the fundamental principles that now inform governance of the American state, no matter which faction temporarily holds office: militarism, "unipolar domination" of world affairs by violence and the threat of violence, and authoritarian rule -- however rouged and lipsticked by ritualistic displays of the trapping of a long-vanished republic, as in the days of Rome's first Caesars.
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This story was published on September 7, 2008.