I don't, as a rule, endorse legislation: being
a libertarian and all, my faith in the ability of government action to have
any beneficial effect is exactly nil. However, in the case of the Executive
Accountability Act of 2009 [.pdf], I'm making an exception. This is because,
unlike most if not all legislation that seeks to regulate or otherwise shape
the behavior of ordinary people, the Executive Accountability Act regulates
the behavior of government officials, namely POTUS and his underlings – and
exacts severe penalties in case of violation.
Rep. Walter B. Jones,
Republican of North Carolina, has introduced
a bill that makes it a federal crime for a U.S. president or "an officer
or employee of the executive branch of the government" to "knowingly
and willingly" mislead Congress and the American people to gain authorization
for U.S. military action. The five-year statute of limitations, moreover, doesn't
begin to run until the president leaves office.
If only it could be made retroactive!
Its reach would go far beyond Bush and Cheney to cover many of the behind-the-scenes
players who are eagerly awaiting their return to power. After all, a case can
be made that Bush didn't "knowingly and willingly" falsify intelligence,
he was hornswoggled by a bunch
of too-clever-for-their-own-good neocons,
who fed the White House Ahmed
fabrications and stifled
dissent in the CIA and other intelligence-gathering agencies.
If the Jones bill becomes law, a member of the executive branch – up to and
including POTUS – is liable to be locked up for a decade if he or she, in making
the case for war,
"(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device
a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document
knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent
statement or entry."
If anything describes the machinations of the War Party in the run-up to the
invasion of Iraq, then this is it. They covered up the essential
facts and wrote their own alternative
narrative. Not only that, but one of their number went so far as to openly
disdain the "reality-based community," i.e., those poor schmucks
still stuck in the mire of mere "empiricism," unable to comprehend
the "new reality" – which he and his confreres were making up as they
False, fictitious, and fraudulent? That's what the Office
of Special Plans – which cherry-picked factoids and dolled them up into
pro-war talking points – was all about. And speaking of "false writing"
and phony documents, remember the Niger
uranium forgeries? Those were such obvious
fakes that anyone who cited them was, without a doubt, knowingly and willingly
engaged in deception. Yet the president mentioned them in a key
speech justifying the Iraq war. Even if he didn't know he was repeating
a lie, surely
whoever inserted that into the speech did know. The Executive Accountability
Act would punish such liars in the future – with jail time, as they deserve.
One could argue that it is already
a federal crime for a government official to knowingly mislead Congress, but
Jones' legislation would make it easier to prosecute – and it has the added
advantage of specifically naming POTUS, which, in the age of the imperial
presidency, is a definite necessity. This will make Obama and his successors
think twice before they stretch the truth when the question of war and peace
is on the table.
Oh, I can just hear the Obamatons
now: why, the president – our president – would never do such a thing!
Really? Well, then, consider this:
"Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran
had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear
that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.
"In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe
Iran's 'development of a nuclear weapon' before correcting himself to refer
to its 'pursuit' of weapons capability.
"Obama's nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little
doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. 'From all
the information I've seen,' Panetta said, 'I think there is no question that
they are seeking that capability.'
"The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now
discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was
instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut
down its nuclear program."
How many times do we have to go through this? The
CIA says one
thing, the White House says another, and eventually the former must bend
its knee to the latter. We don't find out until it's too late that the intelligence
professionals were right to begin with. The Jones bill would end this cycle
of deception and make our officials think twice before they cite dubious "intelligence"
to justify a war.
saying, Mr. President, be sure," Jones said in an interview with Military.com.
"Be sure that if you are going to ask us to commit our boys and girls to risk
their lives, that all the facts are on the table. … Make sure there are no questions.
… Mr. President, you better be sure."
Amen, brother. As the U.S. war machine revs
up its motors for an escalation of the Afghan war and perhaps an incursion
or two into Pakistan, while also setting its sights on Iran, the Executive
Accountability Act will put a real crimp in the usual barrage of war propaganda
that invariably accompanies a major military action. Since most of that propaganda
originates from within the U.S. government, specifically
the executive branch, the Jones bill will at least have the advantage of making
these inveterate liars nervous – what with 10 years in the hoosegow hanging
over their heads.
Oh, now, be realistic, Raimondo – that bill will never pass! Well, now that
I'm talking to myself, perhaps you're right: I may be deluded. Or maybe I'm
just undergoing a rare spasm of optimism, because I think it just could happen.
Hearings on the Jones bill, now before the Judiciary Committee, are scheduled
for this spring and should prove interesting.
Contact your congressional representatives and let them know – politely and
briefly – that you support the Executive Accountability Act (HR 743) and hope
that they will consider supporting it by becoming a co-sponsor. Go
here for congressional contact information.
The first hurdle, however, is getting this bill out of the House Judiciary
Committee, where it is likely to die unless you act now. Here
is a list of committee members and their contact information. Give them a ring.
If you live in their district, even better, but if not, just briefly explain
your interest. A letter, of course, is always most effective.
Hold them accountable? Yes we can!