This writer is convinced that our former President, George W. Bush, committed war crimes. Specifically, the President authorized torture by water boarding and other means of interrogation – in violation of the Geneva Convention. Our country is a country of law. Situational justifying the breaking of law is a common defense in the lower courts. It does not work there – and it should not work for the President. But our life is more complicated in 2009.
Situational justification is allowed and permissible, even necessary, in sentencing – in deciding the punishment for crimes committed. For instance, a man steals a loaf of bread because his family is starving. He is guilty of stealing. But the punishment should be moderated by the situation – that is only just and reasonable.
Former President George W. Bush has the same rights as any other suspect in a crime. The Justice Department has the duty to investigate any accusation of crimes committed. The Justice Department, like any local Prosecutor’s office, has the responsibility of determining if a crime has been committed, and if so, what charges should be filed. President Bush has a right to a trial, judged by a panel of his peers – the jury. It might be hard to find 12 ex-Presidents to serve on that jury – but I believe we could find twelve reasonable and fair people. If found guilty of War Crimes, the circumstances should be considered in handing down any punishment.
People talk anecdotally about this. We hear people talking around the water cooler. They are normal and reasonable American folks. They say things such as, “If President Bush ordered torture to prevent another attack on our country; if President Bush committed War Crimes to protect us – then we commend him.” This is exactly the reason our system of justice does not allow family members of murdered victims to sit on the jury. But the situation must be considered when handing down the sentence.
Again, this is 2009. We live in a complex world. President Barack Obama is working hard to change the culture of Washington politics. That change includes the perennial sniping of one political party by another. Americans have grown very weary of the destructive politics. So any investigation of President Bush, a Republican, by a Democratic administration would draw accusations of worn out politics. The pettiness of politics would cloud any legitimate investigation. Would an investigation of Bush give the Republicans a rallying point?
I believe that an investigation should be conducted, as would be the case in any local prosecutor jurisdiction. The prosecutor is expected to use good judgment in filing criminal charges against anyone. So we have a delicate situation with former President Bush.
Here are the questions:
- Should an investigation be conducted?
- If crimes are deemed to have been committed, should charges be filed?
- Should charges only be filed if clear and indisputable evidence is turned up?
- If War Crimes are charged and President Bush is convicted, should circumstances of terrorist threats be considered in sentencing?
- Should the issue be dropped in the interest of focusing on current national problems?
- If a prosecutor deems a crime is committed, should he consider circumstances before filing a charge – or should he leave the judgment to the jury?
Our country is facing huge problems, economically and in foreign policy. Dropping any investigation of the former administration weighs heavily, and has consequences any way you go. By not investigating – would we essentially be condoning any acts of a President? Would this set a dangerous precedent? If we investigate and charge the former President – will we distract our lawmakers, the Congress, from the very important issues facing our great nation?
We live in complex times. But complex or not – we have to pursue justice. This is the foundation of our country – no one is above the law.