Tuesday, July 29, 2008

High Crimes, Misdemeanors, And Venn Diagrams

Slate has an interactive chart up which maps a few of the current administration's scandals. Bruce pointed me to it in the comments section of "Evil Is As Evil Does," and although Jon noted it doesn't include the treason of outing Valerie Plame, it's still pretty useful. You can scroll over it, click on the names and get nifty little summaries along with cases for and against prosecution.

I'm linking to it because it may prove fairly handy about a year from now, when most Congress-critters should start to feel pretty secure that the dossiers on their call girls, corruption, catamites, and kinks won't be leaked to the press by the departed Bush Administration. (I'll bet the most enthusiastic piling-on will come from the Pug side of the aisle.) Note the chart position occupied by former Bush chief counsel, loyal friend, and Justice Department goat-herd Albert "Abu" Gonzales. As Slate notes, "all roads lead to Gonzales," and any future reincarnation of the congressional post-Watergate Church Committee, an event highly likely to occur, will assuredly focus on him. As Cheney explained his reasons for invading Iraq: "It's doable."

Speaking of Cheney, unfortunately he and other officials in the Bush Administration aren't particularly vulnerable to domestic prosecution for their actual crimes. I believe that pursuing them on that basis would be a very bad idea. It's very difficult to prove intent, and their predictable defense would be, "We were motivated by our unequaled patriotism." They would however seem very vulnerable to obstruction of justice charges, which in part would explain their motivation, one might say obsession, for destroying millions of their own emails and documents, and marking everything from old laundry receipts on up as Classified.

Congress just voted Karl Rove into contempt for not bothering to show up to a required hearing. Karl's response: "What are you pansies gonna do, piss yourselves?" Congress doesn't have much if any authority right now, and won't until after January 9th, 2009. It seems likely that at least a few scapegoats will suffer for their Eichmannesque conformities, and some testimony will be collected in exchange for (perhaps) getting jail time for Mr. Gonzales, who after all is a minor, not very well-liked outsider. Then I would expect blanket immunity a la post-apartheid South Africa and pronouncements that "our long national nightmare is over." And everyone will know the big fish are still swimming free. How to extract justice from them?

Civil suits, both domestic and international, will be filed. Cheney, Libby, Rove, and Armitage face at least one remaining civil suit from Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson, who have re-filed after their first was thrown out on national security grounds. They'll find the judicial environment much more favorable under a different President. Then, displaced Iraqis, friends of the environment, soldiers' families, innocent people tortured and imprisoned for years, class actions, and dissatisfied contributors can seek damages on everything from depleted uranium to wrongful death.

Probably the best, most enduring way of getting at BushCo officials is by convincing other countries to indict them for war crimes, since in international courts under those charges, outcome rather than intent is the issue. The burden of proof would be on the defendants, "crimes against humanity" covers a lot of ground, and it should not be difficult to find widespread enthusiasm for such a project. What happened in Iraq meets the UN's technical definitions of genocide, with more than 25% of a nation or ethnic group within it killed or displaced. With the right organization and marketing, it could become the international equivalent of a Yellow Ribbon campaign, only in reverse.

Donald Rumsfeld, Gonzales, and former CIA Director George Tenet have already had charges filed against them in Germany, which allows universal jurisdiction; why not include the other malefactors? No need to stop at Germany, although not all the countries of the world need to participate. Just the ones you'd want to travel to. Hmmm. Maybe some enterprising bloggers will get together and coordinate a web-based effort to make this happen. What would be a good name for it?

(Graphic credit to Mike Votes at Born at the Crest of Empire, link on right margin.)


Phil said...

I'd call that a Venal Diagram. Or maybe Venial is better.

Naj said...

Woohooo Alberrrrtow!

I commented on yoru question about Abraham's comment :)

MarcLord said...

Phil--Venial would also be a great drug name.

Naj--let's not get our hopes up too much, this place is getting weirder by the week. Will be right over to your place.

Brother Tim said...

All good thoughts, Marc, but I wouldn't bet my last shekel on it.