Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat-US President Barack Obama gave a cool reception to the idea of a “truth commission” that democrats in the Congress proposed to investigate assumed excesses by the US administration under former President George Bush, including the Iraq war.
In a statement two days ago, Obama said he has not seen Senator Leahy’s proposal to set up such a commission on the lines of what happened in South Africa following the apartheid era.
According to the French news agency [AFP], Obama said: “My general orientation is to say let us turn the page.” However, he added: “But I consider that no one is above the law.” Thus, Obama voiced support for judicial prosecution, should there be verified excesses.
Senator Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said formation of a “truth commission” is the right way to deal with the political divisions that prevailed under the administration of former President George Bush over the Iraq war.
He added that such a commission must be modeled on the commission that was set up in South Africa in the past and which conducted large-scale investigations on the apartheid era.
Leahy, who was speaking at the Georgetown University in Washington, said: “We want to know the truth about what happened and make sure that it will not happen again at all.”
He said the Americans were lied to throughout the Iraq war. He added that he has not discussed the idea of the “truth commission” with White House officials or democrats in the Congress to date. However, he noted that a commission may be set up through cooperation between the Congress and the White House.
The Republicans oppose any probe into what happened in Iraq during Bush’s term in office, on the grounds that such a move will weaken the US forces’ morale.
On a separate issue, Richard Schmierer, deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs at the Department of State, who was in Iraq two weeks ago, said the US Embassy in Iraq is functioning normally after it moved to its new place and that there are no security risks. He noted that it is now absolutely the largest US embassy abroad.
Schmierer refused to speculate about the new US ambassador in Baghdad who will succeed the current ambassador, Ryan Crocker. He just said: “We will have a new ambassador in Iraq soon.” He added that, currently, there are no arrangements for a visit to Iraq by a prominent figure in the administration of President Barack Obama.
Schmierer, who was speaking to a small group of correspondents in Washington, praised the normalization of relations between Iraq and Syria. He said the exchange of ambassadors between the two countries is a positive move and that it means the two countries now have a high-level of diplomatic communications.
Schmierer said one of the most prominent indications that resulted from the provincial council elections in Iraq is that the Iraqis voted for technocrat candidates not on a sectarian or confessional basis, but on the basis of their competence. He added that Iraq seemed eager not to be classified as a sectarian country, and this will strengthen the democratic institutions.