Criminally negligent US
By Joel S. Hirschhorn
If no person is above the
law, then I would like to see a special federal prosecutor investigate President
George W. Bush and many others in his administration for criminally negligent
The anniversaries of Katrina and 9/11 have made me think again about what is
sorely missing in our nation – holding senior federal officials truly
accountable for their worst actions, misdeeds, and errors. What has been missing
is obvious to many Americans, namely the prosecution of federal employees,
particularly political appointees, for their criminal negligence.
And when that criminal negligence results in the deaths of Americans, I say let's
impose the death penalty. It is only fair that high level feds who are
criminally negligent pay the highest price. Time for accountability. We treat
them too much like elites, giving them very high salaries and many perks,
including great health insurance and generous pensions. In return, let them be
fully accountable for their failures – for their crimes against humanity.
When these public servants fail to foresee otherwise avoidable dangers or are willfully blind to them, then they should pay the highest price when their
negligence causes many deaths and injuries. In other words, justice is due when
there is a wanton disregard for human life. Often this results because
individuals have traded-off their sacred duty to serve the public interest for
personal, political, or bureaucratic reasons or rewards. Such federal officials
are as guilty as an automobile driver under the influence of alcohol or some
drug who kills someone and gets prosecuted for criminally negligent homicide.
Who comes to mind? Let's start with the many feds that did not prevent the
totally predicted Katrina catastrophe and the many that utterly failed to
provide timely emergency assistance to the thousands of Americans in dire
trouble. Then let's think about the many officials that did not prevent the 9/11
catastrophe. And how can we forget the many high level feds that did not kill or
capture Osama bin Laden when they had the opportunity. Most important, let's
indict all the high level feds that have screwed up the Iraq war by employing a
strategy that took no account of what would happen after the initial success to
take Baghdad. Many thousands of American soldiers have died or incurred serious
injuries because of the blunders by top civilian leaders.
The more you think about it, the worse it gets. How about those officials
obligated to protect the public by, for example, ensuring adequate supplies of
vaccines? And those that are expected to develop and deploy emergency plans in
the event of diverse natural disasters and terrorism attacks? Is it not crystal
clear to nearly all Americans that many federal officials have failed to
correctly foresee various avoidable threats and dangers and have been willfully
blind to them?
What price have they paid? They rarely get fired. Worse yet, most of them are
able to leave federal service and make obscene amounts of money writing books or
working for business interests. Some even get medals for their clearly failed
public service! Whistleblowers who speak out against the negligence are the ones
who are treated badly.
We fill our prisons with enormous numbers of conventional criminals, but impose
no penalties for "white collar" government officials that cause the deaths of
far more people than even serial killers.
To show that I am not alone in this thinking here are what some others have
Katrina brought thinking about criminal negligence to the forefront. Larry C.
Johnson, a former federal official, wrote an article titled "Criminal Negligence
and Katrina" in September 2005 right after the event, and said: "The provocative
title is intentional. Why did the Bush Administration fail to act according to
the National Response Plan they created in December of 2004 to deal with an
incident like Katrina? What do you do when the words on the paper don't match
the action in the field? People are dying today in New Orleans because of the
failure to provide immediate aid and are dead in part because of the negligence
of Michael Chertoff. That is a harsh judgment, but if you will take time to read
the National Response Plan that was signed into effect in December of 2004 there
is no other reasonable conclusion." Others also saw the Katrina-criminal
negligence nexus, particularly when Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard
bemoaned on national TV "Bureaucracy has committed murder."
Mike Whitney wrote: "Once again, we see that the media narrative closely matches
the political agenda of the Bush White House obfuscating the widely-acknowledged
facts. Katrina was not "a failure of imagination" as the media would have us
believe. Rather, it was a blatant act of criminal negligence." Norman Solomon
said: "The Bush administration is guilty of criminal negligence that killed
thousands of people last week." Tyler, who was actually assisting in the
Katrina rescue activities, wrote at the time: "Nagin, Ebbert and Blanco are
guilty of the worst case of criminal negligence in the history of the US, and
those of us who are working in this relief effort are gonna see to it they are
prosecuted for it." Stanley wrote this month about the lessons of Katrina:
"The first lesson we should have learned is that our government officials can
commit criminal negligence homicide and no one is prosecuted." That's the point.
That's the problem. And for the final voice of wisdom: "There are people dying
and (the U.S. government is) not putting the boats in the water. I think that's
criminal negligence. I don't think anybody ever anticipated the criminal
negligence of the Bush administration in this situation," said actor Sean Penn.
Recently, James Zogby wrote the article "Criminal Negligence" in July 2006
because of the military actions in Lebanon, opening with: "Criminal negligence.
That is the best face I can put on the Administration's current handling of
Middle East policy."
In December 2004, the International Action Center released a statement regarding
the enormous number of deaths resulting from the Asian tsunami. Their point was
U.S. criminal negligence: "Lack of funding for an inexpensive, low-tech early
warning system is simply criminal negligence. ...It is telling that the NOAA was
able to get the warning to the US Navy base in the area, but wouldn't pick up
the phone and call the civil authorities in the region to warn them. They made
sure that a US military base was notified and did almost nothing to issue a
warning to the civilian inhabitants who were in the direct path of the wave – a
warning that might have saved thousands of lives. This is criminal negligence."
Robert Parry wrote about the 9/11 disaster: "The Bush administration has taken
almost the opposite position on its own culpability. Despite a strong case for
criminal negligence--beginning with FBI officials and reaching up to the Oval
Office--Bush and other senior officials have insisted they have nothing to
apologize for." Talk Left made this report in March 2006: "FBI Agent Greg Samit
turned the tables on the Government at the Moussaoui trial today during his
cross-examination by Moussaoui's lawyers. ...The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias
Moussaoui in August 2001 testified Monday he spent almost four weeks trying to
warn U.S. officials about the radical Islamic student pilot but 'criminal
negligence' by superiors in Washington thwarted a chance to stop the 9/11
In June 2006, Dave Lindorff including the following among the reasons for
impeaching President Bush: "Criminal negligence in failing to provide American
troops with adequate armor before sending them into a war of choice, criminal
negligence in going to war against a weak, third-world nation without any
planning for post-war occupation and reconstruction, criminal negligence in
failing to respond to a known and growing crisis in the storm-blasted city of
New Orleans, and criminal negligence in failing to act, and in fact in actively
obstructing efforts by other countries and American state governments, to deal
with the looming crisis of global warming."
Wanton disregard for human life – that's what criminal negligence is all about,
and by now the names of many former and current federal officials have surely
come to you, certainly including President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
And let's not forget or forgive members of congress. Ultimately, prosecution for
criminal negligence is the best way to implement accountability for senior
federal officials. So the question is "not when" but "if" justice will ever
prevail? What a barrier to overcome: the disinterest of the federal Justice
Department to pursue criminal indictments.
Will the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS or CNN mount
campaigns to pressure the Justice Department to indict the many former and
current federal officials that have caused the death of thousands?
The only way to get justice is for millions of Americans to DEMAND it! We can
begin with the next congress. The new congress in early 2007 should create a
special federal prosecutor to investigate the criminal negligence of present and
former senior federal officials, none of whom are above the law. Personally, I
prefer seeing George W. Bush in prison, rather than enjoying life after
If we do not criminalize atrocious behavior of federal officials, our government
will remain dysfunctional, deadly, and subservient to power and economic elites,
leaving we the people at their mercy.
This article was first published by JUST Response on
Joel S. Hirschhorn can be reached through:
where you can also learn about his new book
Delusional Democracy - Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing
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