Mr. President: By Refusing to Look Back, You're Jeopardizing What Lies Before Us


Mr. President: By Refusing to Look Back, You're Jeopardizing What Lies Before Us

I undoubtedly have neither the information nor wisdom to question the vast majority of your presidential decisions. But it takes neither classified information, nor wisdom, to question your decision to "move forward and not look back" regarding the Bush administration's actions leading this nation into the Iraq War, and the alleged war crimes committed thereafter.

During your inauguration you swore that to the best of your ability you would act to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Yet, your decision to circumvent the rule of law in response to the Bush administration's actions leading up to and during the War in Iraq does everything but that. Your position in this matter is diametrically opposed to one of the fundamental principles of this nation - that no one is above the law.

This is not a partisan issue, Mr. President. The concept of equal rights under the law (which also means equal consequences for the violating the law ) is both central to the United States Constitution, and a fundamental cornerstone of the American ideal. Without that concept - the concept that no man is above the law - America is no longer America. So by choosing to ignore that ideal, you're not only in violation of your oath of office, but you're striking a much more devastating blow against America than Al Qaeda could ever manage.

And I'm not speculating here. We've already seen the negative consequences of setting such a precedent. Hundreds of thousands of people have died just because we failed to hold Richard Nixon accountable for Watergate.

Had Richard Nixon been held accountable and sent to jail for Watergate, chances are Ronald Reagan wouldn't have embarked upon Iran/contra. And if Reagan had been impeached then imprisoned for his actions during the Iran/Contra episode - including flooding the inner cities of this nation with drugs (an action the Black community is still suffering from) - Bush and his cohorts would have been placed on notice that ANYONE who circumvents the laws of this land will face heavy consequences.

Thus, had Bush and Cheney known that America stood united and unequivocal in that stance, the War in Iraq probably never would have happened, which in turn would have saved the lives of thousands of American troops, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens.

One would think, Mr. President, that you would be particularly sensitive to the importance of adhering to the rule of law. While I'm in total agreement with your position that you were elected to be the president of ALL the people, there was no way you could avoid bringing the experience of the African American collective into the White House with you. That experience should inform you, in a very personal way, of the negative consequences of ignoring the rule of law.

Let me make it clear that I'm not one who subscribes to the belief that because you're a Black president that you owe Black people any more than you owe any other American. In fact, my article immediately prior to this one is in direct opposition to Tavis Smiley's position in that regard. I view Tavis Smiley's position as both self-serving and shortsighted, because the corollary of his position is that all of the White presidents who follow you owe a special alliance to White people, and as I see it, that is exactly the position that the civil rights movement was established to oppose.

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't bring the knowledge and wisdom of the Black experience to bear as you carry out your job as chief executive. And part of that experience should be the wisdom to understand that this nation's failure to strictly adhere to the rule of law led directly to the lynching of Black people and the bombing of Black churches in the South. It also led to Jim Crow, rules that distorted the law of the land that were specifically designed to circumvent the law's intent.

So I sincerely hope that you will consider the historic symbolism of your position in this matter. After all of the hardships that Black people have gone through as a direct result of this nation's penchant to ignore the rule of law "for the better good," regardless to what you accomplish on behalf of this nation as president, future historians will look back upon the first Black President of the United States taking a position to ignore the law and "not look back" on the unjust murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people and thousands of American citizens, as grossly unconscionable, and a dark mark upon your presidency.

But even if you can live with that, current events clearly demonstrate that the slippery slope in which the nation has slid over the past thirty years is becoming even more steep as this column is being written. Who would have thought just a mere thirty years ago that the validity of war crimes, torture, and the blatant invasion of privacy of the American people would even be a subject for debate in this country? And who would have thought that a Vice President of the United States would be under a cloud for revealing the identity of a CIA agent, or that a corporation that he formerly headed would be guilty of providing American troops with contaminated water for profit?

And further, who would have thought a mere thirty years ago that American troops would be sent into an unnecessary war without the equipment necessary to sustain their lives, then when wounded, made to pay for the equipment that had to be cut from their body and left on the field of battle? And who would believe that this nation would then force those brave troops to pay for their own meals while lying in the hospital recuperating from their wounds in the nation's defense?

Yet, now you say let us, "not look back?" Oh no, I don't think so. I don't think that once the American people come out of the shock of the past ten years they're going to let that fly. They already sense that there's something terribly wrong with our government; they're just currently in shocked disbelief - but they'll be coming out of that shocked disbelief somewhere around the 2012 election.

In my opinion you're one of the best presidents that we've ever had in many ways, but there's only one chink in your armor - you seem to be unwilling to confront the GOP in an aggressive and forthright manner. Ordinarily that might be considered less than important, but in the current political environment it is just as serious a shortcoming as if you were reluctant to confront Al Qaeda.

The GOP leadership is a much more serious threat to the American way than Al Qaeda can ever be. While Al Qaeda is undoubtedly a physical threat to the American people, the GOP is attacking America's soul. They're attempting to alter what America is as a nation - and you're failure to address that issue is so counter- intuitive to your political base, who, after all, voted for change, that many are beginning to wonder if you're not part of the problem.

In short, Mr. President, we don't give a damn about the appearance of bipartisanship. In this case, to be bipartisan means, "Ok, let's comprise and just destroy America a little bit." You're political base - which includes Democrats, Independents, and Republicans - are not interested in that. We're looking to you to defend the American way of life, by any means necessary - period.

Eric L. Wattree

Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Comment by Eric L. Wattree on March 9, 2010 at 7:41pm
Well, as I said, Ernie. I respectfully disagree.

Mainly because that is the exactly the rationale used to put off the issue of Black integration, and justified Jim Crow. We simply can't afford to turn our backs on the rule of law for ANY reason - especially because "the people aren't ready to obey the law."

Famed journalist, Edward R. Murrow made a very profound observation regarding that mindset after almost singlehandedly bringing the McCarthy era to an end. He said, "A Citizenry of sheep begets a government of wolves" - and that's exectly what we see happening as we speak.

But I want to thank you for a fine debate. I thought my position on this matter was counter-intuitive, but now that I see it's not, maybe I'll do an article on it.
Comment by Ernie Mixon on March 9, 2010 at 6:52pm
You are corrrect... when you stated the precedent regarding Presidents not going after the ex-presidents for the past. I hear everything your saying and basically I agree with you... but the political reality of American politics prevented him from going after the Bush Administration. The ruling elite as you know play by a different set of rule bro... I know you know that... is it right ... no... but you have to pick your battles ... I do not think it's in the best interest of our country or the nation to dredge up the Bush Administration for past crimes... when out nation is in the shape it's in... I still respectfully agree to disagree with you on this issue Eric. Moving forward!
Comment by Eric L. Wattree on March 9, 2010 at 11:25am
That's why Obama has a cabinet, Ernie.

Obama shouldn't have even spoken out on this issue. The Attorney General is supposed to have autonomy. He should have simply allowed Attorney General Holder handle the matter, just like he's handling the cases of thousands of other criminals. That's what the Justice Department does.

But instead, Obama signaled Holder that he wanted to give the Bush mob special treatment - effectively reinforcing a precedent declaring them a class of people above the law. Now, if Republicans ever get back into power, they can do whatever they want to do under the guise of "fighting terrorism," including throwing Black people in prison and denying them due process.
Why not? There's a standing precedent establishing them as being above the law.

Without the rule of law, there cannot be a democracy, since it is the rule of law that establishes democracy. President Obama should know that; he's a constitutional scholar. So what's up with that?
Comment by Ernie Mixon on March 9, 2010 at 8:49am
I hear exactly what your saying... but how many battles can this President or any President for that matter ... take on and effective as he leads our nation. Your augument is strong and has merit... but I'll have to say ... we agree to disagree on this one Eric. Let's see if he can get healthcare for all Americans down? how about the Jobs bill legislation fight? how bout our economy still in freefall, how bout uemployment still in double digits... and on and on and on...........
Comment by Eric L. Wattree on March 9, 2010 at 7:56am
I understand exactly what you're saying, Ernie (and please, call me Eric), but the rule of law is fundamental to this society, so having to face the consequences of violating should be routine, and go without saying.

Implicit in your position is that we've created a class of people who are above the law, and by having them to account for their actions will be disruptive to society. That's a dangerous position for any democracy to embrace.

We're always going to have pressing issues facing this nation. Many took the very same position that you're now taking in the sixties during the civil rights movement. They said, that since the country was already so divided with respect to the Vietnam War, now is not the time to address the issue of civil rights for the Black community.

In a democracy, the rule of law must always take precedence over everything else. When it doesn't, we're no longer a democracy. What good would a thriving economy or single-payer healthcare do you if some demagogue decides that the emancipation of Black people was a mistake?

You have to remember, we're dealing with people without limits here. Even as we debate this issue, Liz Cheney is demonizing the attorneys who have the audacity to represent people who may very well be innocent. She's call these attorneys The Al Qaeda 7. At that rate, how long will it be before American citizens are being placed in concentration camps as enemies of the state?
Comment by Ernie Mixon on March 9, 2010 at 1:07am
I've heard this augument many times now. On the surface it appears the right thing to do Mr. Wattree. When you look at the big political picture regarding the challenges President Obama inherited from the Bush Administration... he had to hit the ground running regarding the economic downfall of America with the banking situation, recession - which is now a depression in America... the national heatlh care fight, going after Bush would put the country in a tailspin of legal battles looking backward while the problems facing our nation in the present and future would be further complicated while going after Bush. I too want to see justice regarding what Bush did... but our country can't afford that type of energy right now ... with the challenges we have now.

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