Friday, January 16, 2009

Sometimes Focusing on the Future Starts with Reparation [Updated]

I’ve been thinking about the Obama team’s response whenever questions arise about holding the Bush Administration accountable for potential war crimes. Repeatedly, Obama’s response is always to point out the importance of “focusing on the future” and “looking forward not backward.”

This mantra was highlighted again recently when the top question voted up by citizens using Obama’s website was the following:
Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?
The Obama team’s response was to point out that this question had already been addressed, and to refer to this previous comment by Joe Biden:
The questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is — is something the Justice Department decides,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he was not ruling prosecution in or out. “Barack Obama and I are — President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We’re focusing on the future.
Obama himself was later asked the same question by George Stephanopoulos, and gave a similar answer:
We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.
But, as Arianna points out, looking forward and looking backward are not mutually exclusive! In fact, one of the widely accepted principals in making positive changes for the future is the act of making amends as a step toward repairing the damage caused by negative past behavior. Every variation of a twelve step program starts with recognition and understanding of the destructive behavior, and positive action to make things right. From Wikipedia:
As summarized by the American Psychological Association, the process involves the following:

• admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion;
• recognizing a greater power that can give strength;
• examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
• making amends for these errors;
• learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
• helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.
I’m all for the idea of turning the page on the bad behavior of our government officials. However, this does not mean we should sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Part of the healing process necessary to look forward and focus on the future will come from examining exactly what happened, and demonstrating that our new code of behavior involves enforcing the laws, no matter who broke them and when.

[Update] Here's Jonathan Turley on Countdown, saying it even better:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:39 AM

    I just finished a book called Revenge by Bleumenthald. You might like it. After 9/11 this administration talked about getting revenge until someone changed that word to justice. We are a nation of laws and even Giraffes know that justice is needed when laws are broken. Obama can't spend his time looking back, but there are others who can. I just think Obama doesn't want the news media circus that might happen to the detriment of looking forward issues. There are too many problems. I know for sure that the Bush people should not be allowed to sugarcoat history. He should have a liebrary FOR IT WILL DEFINITELY BE FULL OF LIES. wE HAVE TO CORRECT THE RECORD.