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How Do You Repudiate A Lawless Regime?

Dana PerinoThe revelation — no, reminder — that the Bush Administration reauthorized torture after calling it “abhorrent,” lied about it, and hid behind secret legal opinions issued by Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department continues to elicit public revulsion.

And the questions everyone keeps avoiding are once again staring America in the face: What are we going to do about it, America? How long are we going to allow this regime to taunt us, to disgrace our nation, to trash every legal and moral principle upon which our country was founded?

John Dean, appearing on Countdown, suggested we should at least extend the statute of limitations another five years, so that those responsible for committing crimes during this regime could be brought to justice. That’s a start, but more is needed.

Yesterday, Democrats demanded to see all DoJ opinions on interrogation since 2004. They’re right to ask, and the Administration will again refuse. What then? Democrats already gave up on the idea of holding up the AG nomination until the DoJ surrenders other documents. Unwilling to use Congress’ contempt powers, how will they enforce their “demands” now?

Last night we watched evasions from Dana Perino and Fran Townsend [C&L has video] — kudos to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for asking several good questions that Townsend could/would not answer. The WH officials were obviously shaken (Perino) and angry (Townsend) at having to do the Administration’s dirty work; neither looked comfortable. The Administration knows it has been caught lying about something Americans care about, something that defines who we are — or thought we were.

In another ongoing saga of Administration lawlessness, the State and Justice Departments were scrambling to cover their failure to pursue criminal investigations of any contractors involving in killing Iraqis. However, sending an FBI team to look into the recent Blackwater shootings presumes there is some law that applies when American contractors kill Iraqis in Iraq. There may not be. They’ve known that since 2003 but done nothing about it. So yesterday, the House passed a bill to apply US laws to all such contractors. Even that cannot ensure accountability if the Administration doesn’t follow the law:

“At the end of the day, the execution of this depends not on Congress but the executive branch,” said Peter W. Singer, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute, who has followed the contractor issue closely. He said that by some accounts as many as 20 potential criminal cases involving contractors have been referred to the Justice Department, but that none were pursued. “They have disappeared into a black hole,” he said. . . .

[Scott Horton, a human rights lawyer who has been heavily involved in efforts to develop legislation that would hold contractors accountable,] . . . expressed frustration that officials had not been more proactive in prosecuting crimes in Iraq that the legal situation remains gray. “When we have got a contractor city say of 180,000 people and there hasn’t been a completed prosecution of anybody coming out of Iraq, not one,” he said. “What sort of city in America would be like that, where no one is prosecuted for anything for three years? It’s unthinkable.”

Instead of embracing a way out, the WH opposes the bill, claiming that exposing contractors to US laws would interfere with national security. It’s a metaphor for the entire Administration.

In searching for reactions among bloggers I came across this compilation from Comments from Left Field. There we read that Conservative Andrew Sullivan now uses the term “fascist” to describe the Bush/Cheney regime:

When conservatives subvert the rule of law … to enable torture, and when only one man gets to decide who gets detained and tortured, they are no longer conservatives. They are fascists. And they need not just to be defeated; they need to be repudiated.

Though I’ve resisted using the term, I think Sullivan is right on both counts. It is an ugly, unwanted truth, but we have to face this.

Readers of Firedoglake know I believe impeachment is the logical cure for the dangerous cancer eating its way through our Constitutional system. Impeachment is the Constitutional remedy the Founders provided for exactly this disease. It should be attempted even if it fails, because it’s the right thing to do, and because we owe it to those who follow to say we tried and did not submit to this wrecking crew without a struggle.

Photo: White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino; AP Photo/Ron Edmonds.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley