Seeing the rave reviews on how Iraqis will benefit from the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and hearing the late Gerald Ford lauded today to the heavens, I can’t help wondering how American history might have changed if Richard Nixon had been hanged.
Of course, I’m not suggesting Nixon should have been hanged by a lynch mob. And it is possible that Nixon could have been given a Saddam-like trial (judged fair enough by the Washington Post and most of the American establishment) and somehow avoided stretching before a crowd.
Nixon was guilty of illegally invading a foreign country (Cambodia), of perpetuating the war in Vietnam for political purposes and his 1972 reelection campaign, of violating the rights of tens of thousands of Americans with the illegal FBI COINTELPRO program, of sanctioning CIA violence and subversion around the globe, as well as Watergate and many other offenses.
Nixon also created Amtrak.
Many people assume that President Ford pardoned Nixon only for Watergate. Instead, Ford pardoned Nixon for any and every crime Nixon committed from January 20, 1969 (the date he was sworn in) until the day he resigned in August 1974. Ford’s pardon effectively closed the book on holding Nixon culpable for his crimes against the Constitution, Americans, and millions of other people around the world.
If Nixon had been publicly tried and a full accounting of his abuses made to the American public, it may have been far more difficult for subsequent presidents to cover up their crimes. If politicians had vivid memories of Nixon swinging on a rope, they might have been slower to lie the nation into unnecessary foreign wars. If Ford was hellbent on pardoning his friend, he should have had the decency to wait until the evidence was on the table.
Some people would say that it would have been unfair to make Nixon pay the price for his lies and crimes when other presidents (such as Lyndon Johnson) got away with similar abuses and mass killings.
True enough, but it is necessary to start somewhere.
And those who are concerned about how Nixon would have personally suffered from being hanged are cold-hearted towards the tens of thousands of Americans who have been killed and maimed in subsequent unnecessary wars. Making one politician pay the price of his conduct could have saved Americans and the world vast suffering.