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Cheating Justice

Cover of 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
President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney deceived Congress and the people to drive us into a war in Iraq; they claimed the right to wiretap illegally and to eavesdrop on citizens; and they...
President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney deceived Congress and the people to drive us into a war in Iraq; they claimed the right to wiretap illegally and to eavesdrop on citizens; and they...
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  • President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney deceived Congress and the people to drive us into a war in Iraq; they claimed the right to wiretap illegally and to eavesdrop on citizens; and they authorized torture, unilaterally upending laws and violating international treaty obligations. Yet, both Bush and Cheney are audaciously unapologetic about their crimes. In his recent memoir, President Bush makes no apologies for his decision to start a war in Iraq, though no weapons of mass destruction, the ostensible reason for the war, were found there. Regarding his approval of the waterboarding form of torture, he proudly said, "Damn right."

    Time and again throughout his term, President Bush proclaimed sternly "we do not torture." However, the 2009 release of secret torture documents revealed otherwise. The documents paint a bleak picture of the involvement of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and top administration officials in unleashing, sanctioning, and conspiring in the infliction of torture. Holtzman and Cooper cite unlawful torture as only one of the many ways that the Bush-Cheney administration transgressed the law, trampled the Constitution, and harmed the image of the United States around the world. Bush and Cheney, the authors argue, authorized and condoned behavior and practices that starkly violate human-rights principles and the rights of American citizens. Congress chose not to pursue impeachment, despite multitudes of citizens advocating for it, Holtzman and Cooper among them. New revelations, however, about the extent and depth of their crimes make the need for accountability imperative.

    Holtzman posits that the failure to indict, prosecute, or hold accountable officials at the highest level makes a mockery of U.S. law and sets frightening precedents. With Holtzman's legal expertise and Cooper's bold journalism, Cheating Justice explains why the nation needs to address the Bush-Cheney administration's abuse of power and manipulation of the law.

    As a member of Congress and part of the committee that investigated and held hearings on the conduct of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, Elizabeth Holtzman balks at Bush's echo of Nixon's claim that he was acting in the interest of national security. Using Watergate-era reforms as a model, Holtzman details the steps necessary to undo the damage that the Bush-Cheney administration inflicted and explains how we can establish new protections that will block future presidents from similarly abusing the law. Cheating Justice is a call to empower the American people, and a firm insistence that the nation's leaders are not above the law.

Excerpts-
  • From the Introduction: Why We Shouldn't Simply Move on

    Before President George W. Bush left office, many people speculated that he would pardon himself as protection against possible future prosecution for crimes. People assumed he would do the same for Vice President Richard B. Cheney and his top cabinet officials, advisors, and aides. There was a good deal of discussion on cable TV news, blogs, opinion columns, and political talk shows: How extensive is the pardon power? Had self- pardons been tried before? When would it happen?

    "In Bush Final Days, Are Pardons in the Works?" asked NPR's All Things Considered on November 23, 2008. "Will Bush Pardon Himself ?" wrote Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth in the Daily Beast. "Get ready for mass pardons," headlined a pundit in the Hill's blog.

    The president did nothing of the sort. Instead, he retired without a seeming ruffle of tension, helicoptering out of Washington, D.C., and heading to a new home in a Dallas suburb and his ranch in Crawford, Texas. When he publicly emerged, two years later, he was touting a newly published memoir, and proudly proclaiming that he had approved a form of torture, waterboarding--"Damn right," he said in his memoir, Decision Points. The former president had no apologies for starting a war in Iraq that had taken the lives of thousands and ruined many more: he thought the world was better off for it, even though no weapons of mass destruction, his ostensible reason for the war, were found in Iraq.

    The vice president didn't even wait for his term of office to end before he started burnishing his role in waterboarding, war, and warrantless surveillance. "Those who allege that we've been involved in torture or that somehow we violated the Constitution or laws with the terrorist surveillance program simply don't know what they're talking about," he said in an ABC News interview on December 15, 2008.

    Neither seemed perturbed by the prospect of prosecution. Now we know why.
    While in office, they had already created walls of protection to prevent the sting of the law from reaching them. Behind the scenes, President Bush and Vice President Cheney worked--tirelessly, it seems--to inoculate themselves against every manner and form of accountability for misdeeds.

    They passed provisions changing the laws that they had violated, then giving the changes retroactive application. They made existing laws so convoluted and confusing that probably no prosecutor could enforce them. E-mails in their computers conveniently disappeared, and the retention systems failed. They stamped "state secrets" on legal actions that might open their misdeeds to scrutiny. They set up straw facades and fake justifications, and even slipped them in the law as pop-up defenses.

    In short, in an unprecedented way in American history, they engineered and fixed the system from the inside, building buffers of protection for themselves--behind a moat, on a hill, locked and gated, seemingly above the law. This book explores how the Bush administration used its power to manipulate the system, cheat justice, and get away with crimes.

    Except . . . they had a lot of ground to cover. Their transgressions were so vast that they left open some small keyholes where the law can still reach them. This book is also about how to hold them accountable for the crimes they committed.

    In the years since they departed, more information has emerged about their actions--documents have been declassified, investigative reporters and authors have probed, nonprofit groups have filed Freedom of Information ...

About the Author-
  • Elizabeth Holtzman, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, won national attention for her role on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate. She was subsequently elected district attorney of Kings County (Brooklyn). She is a Harvard Law School graduate and a practicing lawyer.

    Journalist and former lawyer Cynthia L. Cooper has coauthored two books with Holtzman and written five others. Her articles have appeared in the Nation, In These Times, Marie Claire, Glamour, Ms., and other publications.

Reviews-
  • Gloria Steinem, co-founder Ms. Magazine, writer and feminist activist

    "Elizabeth Holtzman, who helped bring President Nixon to justice in the Watergate hearings, now takes on the bigger, deeper and even more crucial task of investigating--and exposing--exactly how President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney started an illegal war, subverted civil liberties, human rights and the law itself, and then used the national trauma following 9/11 to cover it up. Start to read Cheating Justice, and you won't be able to put it down."

  • Kirkus "A passionate book grounded in law."
  • John Conyers Jr., author of The Constitution in Crisis "This book makes a vital contribution to addressing the abuses of power of the Bush administration. Unfortunately today, nearly three years after the end of the George W. Bush administration, our nation still labors under the many excesses of that era. Holtzman's book offers a cogent and elaborate account of that time period and important insights into how we can prevent those from recurring."
  • Former congresswoman Patricia Schroeder "George W. Bush and his administration are gone, but the wrongdoing they committed endures, exposed but unpunished. Extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, torture: we cannot live with this legacy, but neither can we seem to escape it. No one is better qualified than Elizabeth Holtzman--prosecutor, congresswoman, member of the Watergate committee--to confront this legal and moral conundrum and show the way forward. Cheating Justice, like its author, is fierce, bold, and unflinching. A powerful, necessary book."--Mark Danner, author of Stripping Bare the Body "Here at last is a book for everyone who is outraged--or just bewildered--that Bush, Cheney, and other top officials escaped prosecution for their many flagrant violations of the law. Will there really be no consequences for the men who lied us into war, compromised our civil liberties, and made 'waterboarding' and 'Guantánamo' household words? Passionately, clearly, and concisely, Elizabeth Holtzman lays out how it happened, how the Bush administration secretly sought to immunize itself from prosecution, and how we can still hold the perpetrators accountable."--Katha Pollitt, author of Subject to Debate "Holtzman's book indicting the Cheney-Bush administration is passionate and persuasive. Whether it will be in a court of law or a truth commission, history demands a reckoning so that future administrations don't also routinely act above the law. When that happens, Cheating Justice will be among the bill of particulars. Going from Nixon to Bush, Liz Holtzman has been a progressive patriot dedicated to the rule of law."--Mark Green, coauthor of The Book on Bush "Elizabeth Holtzman and I were in Congress at the same time: no one I know is more vigilant in holding those in power accountable for upholding our Constitution and the justice it demands. In Cheating Justice, she recaps the incredible misdeeds of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and their team. Her cry for the rule of law to be applied to them is a cry every citizen should heed; if we don't, our democracy's future is in peril."
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How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution? and What We Can Do about It
Elizabeth Holtzman
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How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution? and What We Can Do about It
Elizabeth Holtzman
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