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Nader Lauds Kristof Truth Commission Proposal

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 12:00:00 AM

News Release
Contact: Chris Driscoll, 202-360-3273, chris@votenader.org


The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign today released the following open letter to Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain, calling on them to support Nicolas D. Kristof's proposal in the New York Times for the establishment of a national Truth Commission:

Obama For President
Campaign Office
Suite 1720
233 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60601

McCain For President
Campaign Office
Suite M
1235 S. Clark St.
Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Senators McCain and Obama,

In the July 6, 2008 edition of the New York Times, the courageously peripatetic columnist, Nicolas D. Kristof urged the creation of a Truth Commission on torture and other war crimes.

Here is Kristof in his words:

"When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

"'There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,' Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. "'The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.'

"[W]e need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

"That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

"Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.

"It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been 'pulpified.'

"Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.

"These abuses happened partly because, for several years after 9/11, many of our national institutions didn’t do their jobs. The Democratic Party rolled over rather than serving as loyal opposition. We in the press were often lap dogs rather than watchdogs, and we let the public down.

"Yet there were heroes, including civil liberties groups and lawyers for detainees. Some judges bucked the mood, and a few conservatives inside the administration spoke out forcefully. The Times’s Eric Lichtblau writes in his terrific new book, "Bush’s Law," that the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, James Ziglar, pushed back against plans for door-to-door sweeps of Arab-American neighborhoods.

"'The book recounts that in one meeting,' Mr. Ziglar bluntly declared, 'We do have this thing called the Constitution,' adding that such sweeps would be illegal and 'I’m not going to be part of it.'

"The Truth Commission investigating these issues ideally would be a non-partisan group heavily weighted with respected military and security officials, including generals, admirals and top intelligence figures. Such backgrounds would give their findings credibility across the political spectrum — and I don’t think they would pull punches. The military and intelligence officials I know are as appalled by our abuses as any other group, in part because they realize that if our people waterboard, then our people will also be waterboarded.

"Both Barack Obama and John McCain should commit to impaneling a Truth Commission early in the next administration. This commission would issue a report to help us absorb the lessons of our failings, the better to avoid them during the next crisis."

Mr. Kristof has put forth a strong case for a strong investigating Truth Commission. He asks for your commitment to establish such a commission should either of you become President. How do you respond to this prize-winning, eye witness-inclined journalist?


Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader