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If You're Still an Obama Fan...

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You might be an Obama fan because you regard him as at least better than Bush.

You might be an Obama fan because you believe that in his heart of hearts he wants to do the right thing.

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You might be an Obama fan because you think that a black president is a major step forward for this country.

You might be an Obama fan because you think that the GOP and the Tea Partiers are a major threat to the nation and the world and that their enmity for Obama and their desires to get rid of him makes it necessary for you to stand by him and the Democrats, suppressing or muffling any criticisms you may have to him and/or the Democrats.

You might not be an Obama fan, but are unsure of what else there is to be.

To all of you, I have one thought experiment to offer you:

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Let us assume, for the sake of argument here, that everything that Obama does while he is president is the right thing with but one exception. I am going, in other words, to give him the benefit of the doubt for the sake of this argument, and assume that he does the absolute limit of the right thing possible and that the GOP caves before his initiatives without a fight on everything, except one thing.

What is that one thing? It is Obama's refusal to prosecute or in any way hold accountable the Bush regime for its explicit and egregious crimes of torture and indefinite detention.

No matter what great deeds Obama does while president, and let us assume that he, among other things, SOLVES global warming, ENDS racial discrimination, ENDS wars, PROVIDES UNIVERSAL free health care, CURES cancer, and ENDS poverty. Let's assume, in other words, that he does things that are impossible over the course of one or two presidential terms.

So he does all that, but he doesn't do that one thing of holding Bush and Cheney and their henchmen and henchwoman accountable for their breaching of the rule of law and crimes against humanity regarding torture and indefinite detention.

What does this one failure mean for future presidents?

You already know the answer to that question when you think about it, don't you?

It means, of course, that any president may now do what Bush and Cheney did, and more.

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It means that any president, for instance, Mitt Romney, or Sarah Palin, or some future unnamed Republican or Democrat or Third Party President, could do everything and more than Bush and Cheney did because Bush and Cheney weren't punished for what they did.

By not prosecuting them, by "looking forwards, not backwards," and by blocking the release of the damning evidence of their crimes such as the torture photographs that Obama won't release and by not airing Bush's crimes, these acts are not now crimes but the new precedent. You can't declare Obama king who stays in office until he dies. And you can't guarantee that no future president will be a Republican. By annulling the rule of law, there is no safeguard any longer against someone exercising unfettered powers in the name of "protecting the country against grave threats." All anyone in that position would have to do is say that we were facing grave threats. All they would have to do would be to allow someone trying to attack us to carry out their attack and not stop them. Then they would have their 911.

It doesn't matter whether Obama does any of these crimes himself. What matters is that by failing to prosecute these crimes, Obama has opened the door wide, indeed, not only has he opened the door, he has torn down the walls, for anyone, including himself, to commit more crimes against humanity and to act as if there is no such thing as a rule of law, because there is no longer such a thing as a rule of law.

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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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