As I wrote in the piece on "Obama and Transparency," it is not even clear where the president wants them to go: at the implicit level, he gives impetus to the movement to deal with this past by turning over the rocks and showing us what crawls out while at the same time, at the explicit level, he declares that he's not in favor of looking backward.
There are many forces now swirling and eddying, and what kind of current will issue forth out of this interplay is something that we'll know only with time. This appears to me to be one of those things in which most of the actors are having to assess their positions and dispositions on an ongoing basis, as the climate of opinion and the areas of political opportunity and danger become clear.
How will the American people react? That is probably as important a determinant of the outcome as any other single factor. And the more deeply the American people are shocked and offended by what they learn, the greater will be the political force to look more deeply and repudiate or punish more fully.
Whether or not the attacks of 9/11 are to be included among the Bushite crimes, the American people are far less prepared to contemplate that possibility --still "unthinkable" to most Americans-- than they are to recognize the wrong-doing of those things that have already become common knowledge from the documentation and statements already made: torture and warrantless wiretapping.
On both of these, we have come to a point where important questions can now be asked that --depending on the answers-- might provide the basis for a whole new level of discrediting, disgracing, and repudiating the Bushites.
In each case, the apparent crimes have generally been understood by the American people to have been committed as part of the effort by the Bushites to "protect" the American people. But in pursuing these questions it is possible that this justification can be demolished.
And that's important: a high proportion of the American people seem inclined to accept presidential crimes motivated by some over-eagerness to prevent terrorists from making attacks against Americans in the "homeland." This priority of fear over any commitment to the supposedly canonical American dedication to "the rule of law" is how the Bushites maintained as much credibility as it did as their lawlessness became ever clearer during the second term.
But if the investigation of these practices were to lead to a clear conclusion that the purpose of the crimes was not to protect the people but rather that they were part and parcel of the whole criminal enterprise that WAS the Bushite regime, then American attitudes would shift across a whole continental divide of public opinion. If the crimes were not to protect the people, but part of the regime's ongoing victimization and exploitation of the people, all the gloves (I would predict) would come off.
(Then, I would guess, even the idea that 9/11 was an inside job could become widely "thinkable.")
Here are the two directions for the questioning to go.
The question about the warrantless wiretapping issue --now the more quiescent of the two-- has been in front of our eyes for years already: on whom did the administration do its warrantless spying, and why did it not bother to get the warrants required by law?
With the Jane Harman wiretap it looked for a few days as if perhaps the time was becoming ripe for pursuing this question. Now, however, it appears that in that case, the wiretapping was done by the FBI with a warrant and not by the NSA without a warrant. So once again remains to be seen how and when this question of the warrantless surveillance will be energetically pursued.
But the matter remains a mystery.
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