Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rule of Law wins in high political trial

Here is a case that has gripped Washington last few years, a trial that demonstrates the power of checks and balances in the American political system and an astounding victory for the rule of law.

The criminal conviction of one of the Bush administration's most powerful figures, Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to the FBI and a grand jury during an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Much of the perjury case hinged on the flawed intelligence for the case for war and the White House's campaign to justify the Iraq conflict. As Mr Cheney's former chief of staff and ex national security adviser, Libby was one of the architects of the Iraq invasion.

The offenses carry possible sentences of more than 20 years in prison, but because he is a first-time offender, Libby will probably receive substantially less under federal sentencing guidelines. His lawyer said he would move for a new trial and, if the motion is denied, would appeal.

The implications of this trial are likely to be far-reaching and long-lasting. There were few officials with greater influence or power during the first four years of the Bush administration than Libby.

Libby is one of the most well-connected neoconservatives in the US that advocated for an invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before the 9/11 attack .

This incident shows that the rule of law, though imperfect and sometimes slow typically prevails over a particular elected official or political movement.

American politics has seen high political drama before. Richard Nixon was reelected in 1972 with the largest landslide in American history, but he spent the next two years watching as his closest aides were hauled off to criminal proceedings in the Watergate scandal.

In 1974, Nixon himself was forced to resign from office and president Gerald Ford gave him a pardon that avoided the humiliation of having dragged him through the courts.

Widely considered the most investigated US President ever, Bill Clinton was impeached on December 19 1998 by the House of Representatives and subsequently acquitted by the Senate on February 12, 1999. The charges were perjury and obstruction of justice, arising from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

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