By Robert Parry
April 16, 2008
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have shied away from the issue of holding George W. Bush and his top aides accountable for war crimes, torture and other offenses – apparently out of fear of alienating potential Republican crossover votes.
But – under questioning on April 14 – Obama agreed that, if elected, he would have his Attorney General initiate an investigation into whether Bush and other senior officials violated criminal statutes and thus deserved to face prosecution.
“What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued,” Obama told journalist Will Bunch. [Philly.com, April 14, 2008]
“I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now,” Obama continued. “I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated.”
However, the Illinois senator left himself an out, suggesting he would weigh evidence of Bush’s guilt against the potential political fallout from prosecuting a former President.
“I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve,” Obama said. “So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment – I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General – having pursued, having looked at what’s out there right now – are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies.”
Nevertheless, Obama said he would be inclined to take action “if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody is above the law – and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.”
It’s less clear how Hillary Clinton would handle evidence that Bush and his top aides violated criminal statutes in the “war on terror” and the Iraq War. But Bill Clinton has said his wife wants to collaborate with Bush’s father, suggesting that she would not pursue accountability for the son.
On Dec. 17, 2007, Bill Clinton disclosed that his wife’s first act in the White House would be to send Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush on an around-the-world mission to repair America’s damaged image.
“The first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again,” said Bill Clinton, who has accompanied the senior Bush on international humanitarian missions over the past several years.
The remark suggested Americans should be impressed that the country’s two dominant political dynasties would team up in early 2009 to tidy up some of the mess created by the headstrong son of the senior dynasty, the Bush Family.
The Bushes and the Clintons have held pieces of the nation’s executive power for more than a quarter century dating back to George H.W. Bush’s election as Vice President in 1980.