Friday, December 26, 2008

Ruth Marcus Should Know Better

Last Saturday, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus came up with an unusually convoluted bit of punditspeak about forgiving Dick Cheney his self-admitted war crimes and crimes against humanity including lying the country into war, illegal wiretapping, outing Valerie Plame-Wilson, torturing prisoners of war and – oh, right – telling Fox News’ Chris Wallace that his personal highpoint over the past eight years was 9/11. Conviction on any one of these felonies could land Cheney & Co. in prison for the rest of their lives.

Marcus, who occasionally fills in on PBS’ NewsHour as a “liberal” counterpoint to conservative David Brooks, wrote that she is “coming to the conclusion that what's most crucial here is ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated. In the end, that may be more important than punishing those who acted wrongly in pursuit of what they thought was right.”

Excuse me?

Marcus argues that because Cheney didn’t think it was wrong to torture and murder prisoners of war held by the United States of America, why not forget the whole thing? Does that mean if someone believes it’s alright to conk a little old lady over the head and steal her purse they shouldn’t be arrested? How does Marcus expect “these mistakes are not repeated” if wrongdoers – and there are legions of them in the soon-to-be-thankfully-over Bush Administration – are not tried and, if convicted, imprisoned?

She should know better.

If she doesn’t, then Marcus better read the history and transcripts of the Nuremberg trials. If she doesn’t have time to pour through the hundreds of volumes, spend an evening watching Judgement at Nuremberg. The whole point of war crime trials is not just punishing the guilty but also to expose truth, put banality on public display, shame the citizens who enabled them, and warn future generations against making the same mistake. Even today, people look back at the Nazi and Imperial Japanese era and wonder, “How could it happen? People must have known. Why didn’t they stop it?”

The world, but especially America, needs both the lesson and catharsis of all five of these following eight years of the Bush-Cheney reign of horror. No future generation should have to look back on this time and ask the same question as it experiences a historical re-run.