3 Things About: “Cheating Justice”

Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution—And What We Can Do About It by Elizabeth Holtzman with Cynthia L. Cooper. Beacon (208 pp.)
  •  A quiet and thoughtful legal examination of the Bush Administration’s behaviors after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Former U.S. representative Holtzman and lawyer-writer Cooper contend Bush and Cheney broke many laws in the name of national security and must be brought to justice for their crimes—not simply as a matter of serious accountability but to avoid setting a dangerous precedent for future presidents. “The argument that conducting investigations would tear the country apart is not true, but in any case is no reason to desist from accountability,” they write.  “America is certainly strong enough to weather a fair and professional investigation of presidential criminality. During the Watergate inquiry, the same argument that the country would somehow suffer harm turned out to be untrue.”
  •  The authors tell how the Bush administration first contemplated attacking Iraq two years earlier, lobbied for war on Capitol Hill, and in innumerable interviews, speeches, and appearances in 2002 made “false references” to weapons of mass destruction, nuclear materials procurements, alliances between the al Qaeda perpetrators of 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, and more.  They note the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity documented 935 false statements by the Bush administration in the two years following 9/11 about the supposed security threat posed by Iraq. As a matter of law, they explain, such public lies, however offensive, are not criminal acts. But there are laws against making false statements to Congress—and Bush did so twice, say the authors.
  •  Bush may have violated the U.S. Criminal Code in two direct, personal communications to Congress: the president’s 2003 State of the Union address and his March 18, 2003, letter of determination to use military force in Iraq. If those statements about the threat posed by Iraq were deliberately deceptive, they “may add up to a case for conspiracy to defraud Congress.” The authors add that Bush and Cheney also have no defense for their violation of anti-torture laws.  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Cheating Justice is its description of the ways in which the Bush administration deliberately changed many laws to escape prosecution. The authors describe how this was done and trace scenarios that might play out if Bush and Cheney were prosecuted under various laws. They urge an investigation by a special prosecutor. “The country needs to know how powerful individuals took advantage of their offices, manipulated the laws, brought disgrace upon the nation, endangered our troops with an illegal war, caused thousands of deaths, and, at the same time, protected themselves from accountability at every turn.”

-Joseph Barbato


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