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Slade Gorton
Political leader

Slade Gorton

A former U.S. Senator and Washington State Attorney General, Slade Gorton served on the 9/11 Commission.

Fantasies of Revenge

The one certainty about using the criminal justice system to settle political and policy disputes is that it will not "clear the air." It will distract our attention from current challenges, exacerbate divisions and create fantasies of revenge. It will, of course, dramatically lessen the willingness of those charged with preserving our security to take any risks in doing so, and will probably reduce significantly the pool of volunteers for such positions. The president is right in focusing on the future rather than the past.

By Slade Gorton

 |  July 14, 2009; 7:34 AM ET
Category:  Ethics Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Be Our Moral Compass | Next: Be Firm with Witch Hunters


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Mr Slate, can I suggest that you select a photo of yourself that was taken before your stroke?

Posted by: NotNowMooky | July 15, 2009 12:11 AM
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Justice is not political. If Dick Cheney broke the law then why should he get a pass? Will someone on the right, those who wish to shelter their criminals, please respond to my post? Why should Cheney not do the time if he committed a crime?

Posted by: NotNowMooky | July 15, 2009 12:10 AM
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I couldn't disagree with you more Mr Gorton. This is not about revenge, it is about politics interfering with justice. I feel no desire for revenge toward anybody, including the Bush administration. However, I would truly love to see justice for a change. It would give Americans hope. We must be given the truth and hold accountable ALL for deception and illegal activity.

Posted by: leonardpa06 | July 14, 2009 10:43 PM
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To state that this is a political case instead of a criminal case is to justify the crimes itself -- therefore creating a criminal party; or more to the point, declaring your own party an organized criminal conspiracy.

I don't think the Republican Party wants that.

As a nation we can demonstrate that we are better than other nations that have had leaders commit war crimes by prosecuting the war criminals ourselves. We don't need to be invaded to do this.

Posted by: colonelpanic | July 14, 2009 7:45 PM
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The Republican notion that those "charged with preserving our security" will become "unwilling" to protect us is horrifying. Is former Senator Gorton telling us that the security agencies have become entirely politicized and that they will only work, to keep us secure of course, if they agree with Presidential policies?
If they are never to report to Congress about their plans and activities? If they are, and are to remain, unaccountable to the nation they serve?
That they are rogue institutions with their own traditions and agendas? And, that perhaps, they might be willing to simply let a terrorist attack take place, for example, because they DO NOT and WILL NOT be held accountable, under the law?
No. I don't believe you Slade. I DO believe that our national security agencies actually DO wish to protect our nation and that they WILL do their best. For me to believe otherwise is to fall into the despair of having lost our country to the shadowland of dictatorship right before my eyes.

Posted by: cms1 | July 14, 2009 7:15 PM
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Revenge is a legitimate goal of trial and punishment for other criminals. What makes these criminals different? Their political power? However, we would need to have conviction and sentencing under the law. This could be kept out of the public eye just like any trial proceedings. If there is sufficient evidence that somebody broke the law, they should be indicted. It's that simple.

Posted by: kengelhart | July 14, 2009 5:54 PM
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What obligation do elected officials have to the law?

Under what circumstances does Sen. Gorton believe that public officials actions put themselves into legal jeopardy?

Based on Sen. Gorton's own actions during the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal his current attitude towards even more egregious breaches of the public trust seems hypocritical at best.

Posted by: JPRS | July 14, 2009 5:37 PM
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History teaches us that it is very, very difficult to roll back executive power, once seized. Obama has shown himself unwilling, so it should be up to Congress and the courts to assert their authority.

Any check on Bush's illegalities would similarly keep the Obama administration on a tether. The hardcore anti-Obama crowd would do well to re-think their position here (if indeed it was ever thought-out for a first time) -- it's awfully shortsighted to cheer one president who oversteps his bounds while vilifying the next one to (supposedly) overstep his bounds, and not once think that *maybe* we should start enforcing the mechanism of checks and balances we supposedly have in place here.

But that's the nature of blind partisanship, I guess.

Posted by: alphahelix | July 14, 2009 4:40 PM
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It's not a fantasy of revenge.

If these people are not punished, the lesson they will have learned is that they can do it again, because they will not be punished.

They have a pattern of ignoring laws because they know they will not be enforced.

I want accountability.

Posted by: vigor | July 14, 2009 4:33 PM
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These people robbed the american people on so many levels it isn't funny. They terrorized us into submission then gave away billions in tax breaks to their cronies. The Bush years could be renamed "the great train robbery, part deux". Your damn right I want these people brought to justice.

Posted by: jpsbr2002 | July 14, 2009 4:24 PM
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We are sliding down a slippery slob, when 'CONDONE', living in a land of "CONVENIENT JUSTICE", and when it only applies to one Political Party.

I recall the "WITCH HUNT", for then President William Jefferson Clinton.

"The Republican Party wanted his 'HEART' on a sliver platter, while it was still beating."

What Mr. Gorton, is suggesting is the Republican motto.: :DO AS WE SAY DO, NOT AS WE DO".

I hope for the sake of the members of the Cheney/Bush Adminitration, that the rest of the 'WORLD', will "GO ALONG, TO GET ALONG".

Posted by: austininc4 | July 14, 2009 3:35 PM
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Ah, the "Fantasies of Revenge" card. I guess none of this has anything to do with "Upholding the Law."

Posted by: RalphWarnock | July 14, 2009 3:25 PM
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Mr. Gorton, we know why you want to move on. Being part of the sham perpetrated on the American people in the form of the 911 commission is your reason. The fact that 911 was an inside job has become apparent to over 30 percent of Americans, and your subsequent cover up, makes you as guilty as those that played an active role. Rest assured that your day in court is coming, as more and more truth about the events of 911 come out every day. Dr. Stephen Jones, architect Richard Gage, and Dr. David Ray Griffin have got your number. You might want to look into some property in Paraguay.

Posted by: TRACIETHEDOLPHIN | July 14, 2009 3:11 PM
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I hope the idea of pursuing criminal action proceeds. It will ultimately go nowhere, but it will so poison national politics that it will make any kind of compromise on cap-and-trade and on national health care impossible.

The country simply can't afford these ideas right now. I don't think these proposals will go anywhere anyway, but you never know. However, a controversy over criminal prosecutions could be just what is needed to put the nail in the coffin, and save the economy from toppling into a depression.

Posted by: dakotadoug83 | July 14, 2009 2:43 PM
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Back in Seattle we used to refer to the former right-wing zealot Slade Gorton as Skeletor because of his obvious resemblance to the cartoon-ish, comic book character.

Posted by: Mitchavery7 | July 14, 2009 1:48 PM
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Revenge fantasies can be a good thing. As long as the Liberals are living in a dream-like alternative reality, they can't live in this reality and make life difficult for the rest of us.

You know, if you can indoctinate people strongly enough into their alternate reality, you can convince them to do insane things. I recall reading about the Japanese soldiers who kept fighting WWII for 30 years after it was lost. I'll bet there are little clusters of aged Liberals 30 years from now still insisting that the Iraq war was lost - and demanding that GWB's bones be dug up and put on trial for war crimes, lol.

Posted by: ZZim | July 14, 2009 1:47 PM
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JR13, the crimes that appear to have taken place are most assuredly of the most disastrously immoral kind: The violent deaths of dozens of people held by us in captivity is about as depraved and immoral as it gets. The whole world knows it--or suspects even worse than what has in fact happened--and is waiting to see whether we are the principled, lawful society that we have claimed to be all along. If morality and law are not to be upheld when the chips are down, then they are not worth the fine vellum they are inscribed on. I agree with DNJAKE: This is a matter for our independent Attorney General and his nonpartisan Justice Department to deal with--not some blue-ribbon commission like the 9/11 one that Slade Gorton in fact was on, which failed to get to the bottom of all kinds of dark truths. Go ahead and put Kenneth Starr in charge of the investigation--it is to be hoped and assumed that his professional ethics would compel him to do the job that needs to be done without any taint of partisanship (this time around). Extrajudicial murder of helpless, naked prisoners by state fiat is stuff torn from the darkest pages of the last century. Moral is one thing it absolutely, reprehensibly is not!

Posted by: bdickinson1 | July 14, 2009 1:40 PM
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To reiterate others: Mr. Gorton you should really know better. The investigation into law breaking has nothing to do with policy. We still live in a democratic republic where even our chief executive is subject to the laws of the land. The constitution is pretty unambiguous regarding international law. Torture is torture and not simply some "policy" or political question. Revenge has nothing to do with investigations into the subversion of the very core of our government--rule of law. No amount of legalistic semantics can change that.

Posted by: eddiehaskel | July 14, 2009 1:29 PM
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If this were a "political [or] policy dispute" the former senator would be correct. This is about violations of our Constitution, the basic law that stands between us and dictatorship. The Bush Administration were very happy to cross every line in the name of national security. We're lucky the clock ran out on their attempts to remake us in the totalitarian mold they found convenient.

Posted by: zenwick | July 14, 2009 1:29 PM
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Seems to me that people who want to sound indignant shout "nation of laws." Which means the so-called crimes they claim are not ones of morality, but of legal process. In this case, seems like legal procedure was followed particularly carefully, and are still in practice today, but under different political agenda.

Posted by: jr13 | July 14, 2009 1:05 PM
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All the reader comments listed here have a link beneath them saying "REPORT OFFENSIVE COMMENT." It's too bad that Mr. Gorton's own comment has no such link, because I and probably many other readers find it incredibly offensive. Torturing prisoners and invading another country under false pretenses aren't "political and policy disputes." They are treason, prison-worthy offenses that should have been impeachment-worthy, too. You should be ashamed of that euphemism, Mr. Gorton. I hope President Obama has the guts and moral fiber to say that he *WANTS* to have to worry about being put in prison after he leaves office for the decisions he makes.

We are a nation of laws, not vigilantes, and the ends do not justify the means.

Posted by: hayesap8 | July 14, 2009 12:24 PM
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Many people seem to think that President Obama's agenda is overfull. But the tasks he is pursuing are critical ones to the future of our economy and our society. By contrast the "Truth" Commission is a stupid idea from those who have nothing better to do than wallow in their own misdirected sense of guilt. Those whose job it is should certainly review the practices of the Bush administration and the way we responded to 9/11. In the case that US laws were broken, the Attorney General should instigate appropriate legal proceedings. Even those outlaws who are our mortal enemies have some claim to human rights and may have some claim to legal protection under US laws. But the priority of dealing with those claims is relatively low. If waterboarding Al Qaeda leaders was anywhere near the worst thing our society ever did, the US and the world we live in would be a much better place than it actually is.

Posted by: dnjake | July 14, 2009 12:20 PM
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Deciding unilaterally whether or not to order or allow the torture another and whether or not to spy on Americans without legislative authorization is an illegal act, not a legitimate political dispute.

Posted by: SarahBB | July 14, 2009 11:50 AM
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Senator Gorton:

The Nuremburg defendants sure wish you were younger so you could have been around to give them support too.

How about that "Bin Laden Determined to Stike in America" memo? How about Cheney running the criminal enterprise that he did?

Oh, let's just look forword and let these criminals get away with it. That will certainly be a deterrent to anyone else in the future.

Posted by: Patriot3 | July 14, 2009 11:32 AM
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Yes, an investigation of possible abuse by the bush/cheney administration is imperative.
The apparent abuse by the former vp must be investigated.torture,cronyism and contracts,secret energy meeting abuse,refusal to abide by checks and balances.
bush/cheney greatest power-least accountable.

Posted by: jama452 | July 14, 2009 11:13 AM
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Isn't one of the ideals of the Republican Party "Personal Responsibility"? You know, if you did the crime, you do the time. And Dubya and Cheney broke international law.

But of course, like the "family values" the Republicans talk about, the concept of "personal responsibility" is only for other people.

Posted by: alysheba_3 | July 14, 2009 10:50 AM
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I have watched Mr. Gorton's career since I was a child in Olympia, WA. I am certain that he believes that he is acting here as a faithful water carrier for his beloved Republican Party; what he is in fact doing is installing himself after the fact as an accessory and enabler of war crimes--something that Fred Hiatt's Op-Ed section has been engaged in for months and years already.

My civic education so far as I recall from Olympia High School never suggested that investigating probable war crimes was in any way commensurable to "settling political and policy disputes"; for Mr. Gorton, like so many of his partisan colleagues, to suggest so is to embrace a sophistical nihilism that obliterates the very basis of our "government of laws" and will besmirch his reputation down through the ages--also, sadly, obliterating all the decades of honorable political work that Mr. Gorton undertook before this sorry pass in the history of our republic. It is truly a monumental shame--but one that cannot stand between us today and the healing light of truth, transparency, and lawful government.

Posted by: bdickinson1 | July 14, 2009 10:38 AM
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Most American's don't consider Law Enforcement as "revenge". The America, I grew up in was a Nation Of Laws. Are we still?

Posted by: free-donny | July 14, 2009 10:34 AM
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Making waterboarding a illegal wasn't the idea of anyone in the Obama administration. It was a war crime before you were born, Mr Gorton. This isn't "using the criminal justice system to settle political and policy disputes". It's simply a matter of whether we are a nation of laws or not. Are the members of the Bush administration above the law? If not, there should be an investigation. That's not Obabma's role - It should be handled by the Justice department. But if we don't investigate, we're not a nation of laws, and other countries will call us on it when it's convenient for them.

The arguement that someone is trying to turn a policy disagreement into a criminal matter is simply wrong.

Posted by: seg70 | July 14, 2009 10:23 AM
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