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Bill Kristol Wants the Medal of Freedom for Torturers and Spies

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I hardly know what to say about this commentary from Bill Kristol, in the current issue of the right-wing Weekly Standard. It’s damning on its own without any comment. But then, the premise on which Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and prominent member of the Project for the New American Century, operates here does deserve comment and deconstruction:

“Bush should consider pardoning--and should at least be vociferously praising--everyone who served in good faith in the war on terror, but whose deeds may now be susceptible to demagogic or politically inspired prosecution by some seeking to score political points. The lawyers can work out if such general or specific preemptive pardons are possible; it may be that the best Bush can or should do is to warn publicly against any such harassment or prosecution. But the idea is this: The CIA agents who waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the NSA officials who listened in on phone calls from Pakistan, should not have to worry about legal bills or public defamation. In fact, Bush might want to give some of these public servants the Medal of Freedom at the same time he bestows the honor on Generals Petraeus and Odierno. They deserve it.”

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So waterboarding, which is torture, and NSA spying (on all of us) that the White House was caught red-handed doing in express violation of the 1978 FISA law, are not crimes against humanity or felonies deserving not just of impeachment but criminal prosecution at the Hague and in U.S. courts. No, according to one of the more influential voices from the extreme right and from the ranks of those who are making policy in the U.S., these acts are worthy of the Medal of Freedom.

And what is this freedom that these torturers and spies have been defending? The freedom from tyranny – or at least that’s what the American Revolution was supposedly all about – and the freedom from being abducted secretly in the night by agents of the state, the freedom from torture and cruel and unusual punishment, the freedom to challenge your detention in court, the freedom to speak and assemble without being spied upon by your government.

In other words, these "defenders of freedom," these keepers of the "faith," these skulking snoopers and bloodied inquisitors, have undermined, overruled, trampled upon, and abrogated all of the freedoms their actions are allegedly protecting, here and abroad!

How do the advocates and apologists for tyranny and for war crimes get to be pundits in mainstream media, hobnob with the rich and powerful, solicited for their advice and as censors and gatekeepers for CBS News and so on? They get away with murder, literally, because some people still can’t see that actions taken in the name of protecting American lives at the expense of annihilating non-Americans’ lives (actions that don’t in fact provide greater security but in fact do the very opposite) are the actions and justifications of scoundrels and fascists. The Nazis played this game very effectively until they were finally defeated. Kristol and others of his ilk are our own homegrown Nazis. If you think this language is too strong, think again about what he is saying. Read what he said above again.

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If these "leaders" and opinion-makers can justify torture and killing innocents under the rubric of their precious and self-serving "war on terror," then they can justify, and will justify, absolutely anything. Nothing is safe from the "logic" of their "war on terror" and anyone who accepts the fundamental premise of that so-called war is going to find themselves, whether they intended to or not, supporting, doing and saying horrid things.

Obama, it should be noted here, accepts the logic of the "war on terror."

In the preface to my book, Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, I cited the words of Hermann Goering, Luftwaffe Commander and Nazi Leader:

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. . . All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

The Global War on Terror and the constant invocations of 9/11 are, in other words, straight out of the Nazis' playbook.

If Obama does not prosecute those responsible for torture and felonious spying on all of us, beginning with Bush and Cheney and on down, then he is guilty as an accessory to murder and crimes against humanity. This isn’t, as Kristol so deceitfully claims, a matter of partisan politically-inspired vindictiveness. This is the meting out of justice, long overdue, for crimes that all of humanity should be crying out “shame, shame, shame!”

If Obama does not draw a line against this, something that he failed to do as a U.S. Senator when he refused to filibuster the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that legalized torture and stripped habeas corpus rights from anyone declared an “unlawful enemy combatant,” and failed again to do when he not only declined to filibuster, but actually voted FOR, the telecom amnesty bill, then any president from now on forward can do exactly what Bush and Cheney did and more and claim on the basis of precedent, that it is legal and fine because, after all, Bush and Cheney did it and weren’t prosecuted. This is what is at stake. The gravity of the situation we are presently in cannot be overstated.

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[First published at World Can’t Wait.]


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Cal Poly Pomona Sociology Professor. Author of "Globalization and the Demolition of Society," co-editor/author (with Peter Phillips) of "Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney." National Steering Committee Member of the World Can't (more...)

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