Truth commission

Sen. Patrick Leahy’s proposal for a truth commission investigating Bush-era wrongdoings has merit.

The compulsory cleansing of the Bush era so far has been seen in real policy. The closure of Guantanamo Bay Prison and the stimulus bill working its way through Congress are examples. But secondary to policy, there needs to be a consensus that the transgressions of the Bush administration were not acceptable. The nation needs closure. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, recently proposed in a speech a truth commission that has the potential to establish that consensus. Leahy said that the commission would look into the political moves at the Justice Department, the abuse of detainees and authorization of warrantless wiretapping. Moreover, Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, stated the commission wouldnâÄôt have the power of criminal prosecution, but rather would hold subpoena authority. Republicans have predictably balked at his suggestion âÄî the leading Republican on the panel, Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas called it a political scheme. So goes the rhetoric of a politically-battered party that would rather sweep away its numerous wrongdoings than hold them up to any sort of proper and independent scrutiny. Truth is an adversary of the guilty. And truth sets precedent. ThatâÄôs been the purpose of truth commissions the world over, from South Africa to Chile. If nothing else, LeahyâÄôs commission would send a message to future administrations that torture, spying on American citizens without warrant, suspending habeas corpus and keeping innocent prisoners locked up for years will not go unnoticed. History might repeat itself. But if itâÄôs accurately recorded, it can at least serve as an indication of the reach of unchecked power.