Martin Bento (explodedview) wrote,
Martin Bento

For an American Truth Commission (a la Mandela)

One of the smartest things Nelson Mandela did on taking the reins in South Africa (and, yes, he also did some stupid things) was decide that getting the truth out about the horrors of the Apartheid period was more important than punishing the perpetrators. After all, there had been decades of atrocities committed by both sides, although you cannot on that basis make a moral equivalence between those fighting for and against Apartheid. Also, both sides had done things designed to be blamed on the other. Mandela was trying to reunite a society that had endured a low-intensity civil war for decades. What they most needed was to know the simple truth.

So he liberally traded amnesty for confession. Anyone involved in atrocities or crimes during the apartheid period could be pardoned provided that they confessed fully to all crimes before being incriminated by others. If their confession was found to be substantially incomplete, their amnesty was void, and they could be prosecuted both for the crimes they had admitted to and those they had not. The confessions were broadcast for all to see.

If Kerry takes power this January, he takes it from an administration deeply saturated with criminal activity. There is the Plame affair, the manufactured California blackouts, the ordering of the amusements of Abu Ghraib - and these are only the matters acknowledged in the mainstream media, though the culpability of the Administration is still danced nimbly around. By all rights, the major figures of this administration should be treated to the Dantesque pornography of the American prison for the rest of their lives.

That would be "justice". But justice is not what matters; history is. The fact is that trying to impose such a penalty on figures like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush would tear the country apart, and would be powerfully resisted, even by many who agree with removing this crew from power. They must be offered a way out, but the exchange must be that the flashlight gets to hit all the shadowed corners. All of them, not just those very recent or already visible. The clandestine government that Cheney and Rumsfeld tried to set up in the eighties, for example, need a thorough account. So does the Administration's cooperation with Rev. Moon. Understanding the totality of what has happened and why will be our best vaccination against repeats in the future. And, as this understanding is filled out, we must make sure that it is taught and emphasized to our children, so that the fertilizing manure of willful ignorance that has been enabling this bunch to thrive can never again find a complementary chemistry in the mass soil.

What we have been seeing for the last four years is the world we glimpsed during the Iran/Contra scandal. The Democratic Party, perhaps in part for noble reasons, though one darkly suspects corruption and cowardice, cooperating in the closing of this door, and in convincing people that they just imagined what they thought they saw behind it. The Democratic Party has been paying heavily for this ever since. It will either rectify the error by probing the Republicans thoroughly when it again takes power, and it will be shunted aside into irrelevance.
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