Today, we have two stories that illustrate how a Government can render itself blameless:
- Here at home, the Clarke Inquiry has found that Mohamed Haneef should never have been charged, but that Kevin Andrews did not use the Haneef case for political advantage and acted out of “grave suspicions”. But, as much as some might claim otherwise, this is not a vindication of Andrews or of the Howard Government’s use of terrorism fears as a political instrument. As Mercurius notes at LP, the finding that Andrews did not corrupt the process shows that the process worked exactly as it had been set up – the Government put in place an anti-terrorism regime that encouraged the AFP to act on the slightest suspicion, created immigration laws that allowed the Minister to act on the slightest suspicion, and in the Haneef case both the AFP and Andrews simply followed the framework that had been set up. But Kevin Andrews is not to blame, because he was just using the laws as they had been implemented – never mind that they were implemented by the Government he was a part of.
- Meanwhile, across the Pacific, Vice-President Dick Cheney has stated that the Democratic leadership was involved in a meeting that gave unanimous approval to continue the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance of US citizens. Now, this definitely places an obligation on the Democrats who were involved in the meeting to confirm or deny Cheney’s account. If it is true, then it will reflect very badly on them. But even if it is, does that absolve Cheney and the Bush administration? They still made the decision to initiate the program. Even based on Cheney’s account, they had already begun it without Congressional approval. But Dick Cheney is not to blame, because when he got around to telling Republicans and Democrats from the Congress about it, they (allegedly) didn’t tell him to stop. Because they didn’t apply the checks and balances, it’s their fault that he tipped the scales right over.
The only positive I can take from watching these governments play these games to avoid blame is that, within a month, both of these cases will relate to former governments. Now I just wish we could have complete confidence that our new governments and governments to come won’t do the same.