In 1941, Hitler's whack job of a deputy, Rudolph Hess, in a truly odd historical incident, flew from Germany to Scotland. That's right, over the English Channel, in the midst of WWII, right before Germany invaded Russia. Some claim he was trying to broker a separate peace with England; it looks like a misguided attempt to save his own ass. Regardless, he was taken prisoner, of course, and was amazingly enough sentenced at Nuremberg as a war criminal.
Nuremberg, like the more limited tribunals following the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI (and arguably led straight to WWII through its leniency to the German command), ended in a wide array of convictions, but most of its criminals were pardoned or released early, by the '50's. After 1966, when Albert Speer (Hitler's architect) and Baldur von Shirach (Hitler Youth leader) were released, Hess was the sole inhabitant of Spandau prison, a sprawling compound in California. He died, supposedly of suicide, with an electrical cord around his neck, in 1987.
In 2001, as part of an overall Fascist clampdown, the Bush cabal opened Gitmo -- Guantanamo Bay prison camp, at a US Naval Base in Cuba. From then til now, hundreds of people have been held without trial on ill-documented charges of treason; 200+ remain. The United States military, under orders from BushCo, have behaved just liked the Nazi's, torturing their prisoner victims, in violation of the US Constitution and of every concept which underlay the philosophy on which this country was founded. About 500 of the prisoners have been released by the US before their situations could be examined by the Courts. Of those remaining, about 25 have been to Court; all but two have been released for lack of evidence to hold them in the first place.
In 2008, Barack Obama was swept into office as US President. I think you probably heard about that. He rode into office on a tide of very, very late American outrage about Bush's wars of imperialism; most Americans didn't react until it became clear that their own foolish spawn who signed up to kill foreigners for money, were being killed without benefit. Most Americans didn't turn on Bush until they saw that he was an incompetent totalitarian strongman wannabe.
What took so long for the little pig-like hearts of Americans to turn? If their God exists, may he forgive them.
Barack Obama was not my first choice for President, as my readers know. However, as you also know, I've been very impressed with something about him that his naive supporters seem not to have seen, and I sure couldn't see it for all the hoopla; he is a pragmatist, hard-schooled in Chicago, and he is getting shit done. And he seems to be doing most of the right things, with the support of most of the right people. Although the economic news is all bad, this less-than-a-week since the Inauguration, most of the political news is good. Bush's legacy will stain us for a long time to come, but Obama is doing what he can to turn things around.
With one exception.
Most of the pre-inaugural reports indicated that Obama intended to go soft on the war criminals of the Bush administration. This seems to be the case, and that is a crime itself, and a mistake.
One of the main reasons Hitler was able to come to power in the 1930's was the backing of the Worker's Party, which ultimately became the Nazi party, by the remnants of Germany's WWI military leaders, who felt betrayed by their civilian leaders and by the Treaty of Versailles. Not taking down these people, long term, cost millions of lives in Europe.
In addition, in the modern history of the United States and of the West in general, the main residence of social injustice is in the discriminatory administration of the criminal code, between the rich and the poor, a division which was prospered and widened under eight years of nutball Republicanism. The kid on the corner gets busted for a minor drug possession (pumped up into resale by insane Federal codes and boot licking State imitators), and goes to jail for twenty years to life. Bernard Madoff steals $50 billion dollars, ruins the lives of thousand and effects the lives of millions (and how suicides are, or will be involved?) and sits in his $7-million dollar apartment. How could it be more evident, between this and Obama's election, that the administration of "justice" is divided not among lines of color, gender or preference, but along lines of economics? The US government loves its rich and hates its poor, except when it is beneficial to symbolically embrace them.
Bush, Cheney, and all those who willingly followed their lead, the torturers for money, the psychopathic guards, and all their fans, are war criminals by any definition of the words, and need to be tried and convicted for their crimes against humanity. For Obama to let them go free, while your average street corner mugger and the drug dealer go to jail, may be an indication that the accusations of him levelled in the campaign for alleged elitism, may not be wide of the mark.
And don't talk to me about the philosophy of punishment. I have always maintained that vengeance has no place in government, that it accomplishes nothing and wastes money. I have always been opposed to the death penalty, because (as becomes clear now in the age of DNA), it can be an irreversible mistake. I merely say that, if a government takes it upon itself to punish, it must punish equally.
And yes, I can see why in this time of crisis, Obama wants to just move forward, and just let bygones be bygones. But that is not appropriate where the bygones are murderers, thugs and thieves, and he is leaving dangerous adversaries behind him.
Bush, Cheney and company are murderers, traitors, and more, and they need to be tried and convicted as such in a court of law. Obama has ordered the closing of Guantanamo, but not for another year.
Cheney won't live long in captivity. When Bush is convicted, I know of a nice, expensive facility that doesn't need to go to waste.
But why wait? I'm sure the cheerful folks who live there now would be welcome to hold him in their warm embrace for the rest of 2009.