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Truth or Consequences March 7, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Constitution, Crime and Punishment, George Bush, National Politics.
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Bush Administration attorney John Yoo
Bush Administration attorney John Yoo

For anyone raised as a Roman Catholic as I was, explaining the concept and process of confession to a person that is not Catholic is extremely difficult.  The question always arises, “why do you need the priest to forgive sins?  Doesn’t God forgive sin?”  Indeed, many of us struggle with that ourselves – what is the purpose of going into a little booth and unburdening yourself to someone who is, really, just another flawed human being?   The answer, of course, is both more simple and more complex than you would imagine because of the various complexities of the psychology of sin, forgiveness, and redemption.  As a wise parish priest once said to me,, “You don’t need me to forgive you – you need me to forgive yourself.”

Nothing that anyone else had ever told me made as much sense as that.  Crimes that are hidden are crimes that go unpunished – one must speak his sins aloud and accept responsibility for them in order to be forgiven.  Just as a wound filled with infection festers – so does a soul, or a country, filled with sin. 

Though lost in all the distracting nonsense about Rush Limbaugh, we continued to discover that the United States is a soul filled with sin. 

Earlier this week, the CIA admitted that it destroyed 92 videotaped interrogations of U.S.-held terror suspects.  The agency previously admitted that it had destroyed at least 2 tapes showing the suspects being waterboarded – tortured.  Later, the Justice Department released several additional Bush Administration OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) memos supporting the the former president’s unitary exectutive theory and his belief in his rights to become an American dictator.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont will hold hearings next Wednesday to determine if there should be a bipartisan inquiry into the range of Bush Administration abuses.  Leahy has proposed a South African-like “truth commission”  to expose the worst of the abuses to.  Leahy’s hearing will also consider the possibility of granting immunity to witnesses in order to compel them to come forward. 

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, disagrees with granting immunity.  “I think essentially that the Leahy commission is an excuse for non-prosecution,” Ratner told Democracy Now!.   “It’s essentially saying, ‘Let’s put some stuff on the public record. Let’s immunize people. And then let’s turn the page and go forward.’  That’s really an excuse for non-prosecution.” 

Leahy’s commission would essentially be a huge game of truth or consequences, not truth AND consequences.  What is the point of knowing the truth if there will be no prosecution – no consequences?  Can we heal as a nation without seeing the perpetrators punished?  Perhaps so, if the crimes were not egregious.

The crimes of the Bush Administration, however, were terrible.  As Ratner says, “But what we see in these memos—and I recommend them to everybody, because you read these, you are seeing essentially the legal underpinnings of a police state or a dictatorship of the president. There’s no doubt about it. That’s what it is, and it’s not theoretical. These were the actual building blocks of what we had in this country for eight years…”.  In these memos, suspension of the first and fourth amendments was OK.  The opined that the Posse Comitatus Act – that prohibited the military from acting within our borders against our citizens – could be suspended.  They OK’ed torture and suspension of the Geneva Conventions.  They gave the President the authority to detain and arrest anyone anywhere in the world and hold them without charges indefinitely.  Stalin had nothing on these guys.

Part of the process of confession is penance and repentance.  Not only do you speak your sins and ask for forgiveness, the sinner must perform some act of penance and is usually asked to put himself right with those he has wronged.  Prosecuting the crimes against the country and humanity is just the first step in our long road to absolution.

 

 

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