Opening the Bush Crimes Commission Hearings

By C. Clark Kissinger, January 20, 2006

Eight months ago when we started, who could have anticipated what has unfolded just since then. The lying, the spying, and the outrageous claims of the right to invade any country, and seize, imprison, torture, or assassinate anyone the president designates, unrestrained by any sense of law or morality.

But the public is now beginning to come alive. With talk of impeachment in the air, look, for example, at the full page ad in this morning’s NYT demanding that Bush step down.

More and more people are beginning to see this regime as criminal, and the need to document and pass a moral judgment on these great crimes stands out even more sharply today. This is the responsibility of people in this country to the people of the world.

We began the work of this Commission on a very firm basis. We said, “When the possibility of far-reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity exists, people of conscience have a solemn responsibility to inquire into the nature and scope of these acts and to determine if they do in fact rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Since then we have come to understand more deeply what constitutes a crime against humanity: systematic brutal acts against whole populations that shock the conscience of human kind. And we have learned that there is more than one way to exhibit callous disregard for human life and put millions at risk, including the conscious denial of science and reality that endangers whole populations.

As we put these proceeding together, the aggregate impact of the scope and severity of these crimes has shocked even the organizers and experts. People in different fields began to share their information and were stunned.

What you will hear over the next three days will stun you as well. I urge you to attend all three days, as some of the most shocking testimony will come from ordinary people, victims of these policies that we are here to pass judgment on.

This Commission’s legitimacy is derived from its integrity, its rigor in the presentation of evidence, and the stature of its participants. And you should know that representatives of the Bush administration were invited to present a defense.

This Commission's work is going to break new ground and impact the whole political terrain, with its rigorous presentation of damning evidence. In doing this, it “speaks the unspeakable” in daring to raise the cardinal question that is always suppressed, namely: “Is the administration of George W. Bush guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity?”

The Commission will answer that question. And in doing so it will deliver a verdict that will enlighten, empower, and embolden millions to stop these crimes. In doing that, this Commission becomes an instrumentality of all of humanity.

The responsibility then falls on all of us here, having heard and seen the evidence to take this out into society, fueling and reframing the debate from one about "dishonesty," "misconduct," and "law-breaking" to one of unconscionable crimes against humanity.