Episode 27

Rebecca and the CIA 3

The trials of the Bushes, the Clintons, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Hank Paulson, Barack Obama and many others are underway. Every minute is televised with digests broadcast at primetime and podcasts available on demand. As the government presents its case, questions of guilt or innocence fade. Beyond any doubt, these leaders are guilty of heinous crimes against humanity that resulted in widespread death and destruction at home and abroad. The questions turn toward appropriate punishments. 

For example, the revelation that George Herbert Walker Bush played an organizing role in the assassination of President Kennedy implies that he is directly responsible for the rise of the CIA as a criminal organization. That makes him also responsible for the Vietnam War, the destruction of Laos and Cambodia, the attacks on Panama and Granada, the CIA-led tricking of Sadam Hussein into attacking Kuwait and the subsequent murderous attack on Iraq, including the permanent contamination of southern Iraq with depleted uranium. He is, to a significant extent, responsible for the deaths of millions of people. What punishment could possibly be appropriate for such a monster?

On the other hand, he was a cog in a much larger machine. He believed he was doing the right thing for his country, and he had a great deal of support. Furthermore, he is 92 years old. Does it seem right to execute a former president or anyone his age? But if he’s not executed, he will have gotten away with his horrendous deeds. Many will feel that justice was not done, confirming the impunity of the rich and powerful. 

Rebecca feels sorry for the judges. The juries are having no trouble finding the defendants guilty as charged, but the judges are required to pronounce sentence. Some of those judges are sincerely considering the law, the effects of the crime, and the mitigating circumstances. They are trying to mete out justice. Others are terrified that no one will be able to protect them if they hand down a severe sentence on a beloved or well-protected leader. Rebecca sees an opportunity to raise human consciousness, so she decides to help out. She calls a meeting of the 37 judges involved in the most difficult cases. When all are seated, Rebecca goes to the front of the room, in front of the cameras and a mass of microphones.

R: I’ve been watching the trials, of course, and I know that several are now entering the sentencing phase. I’ve been feeling increasingly anxious about this. I suspect that many of you will be struggling with the demands of justice versus political and humanitarian considerations, while others will be struggling with fear of retribution. I have called you here today to make a suggestion. I’m not attempting to tell you what to do. You are the judges in these cases, and you are completely free to make your own determinations. I simply want to make a suggestion that might help you in some cases.

   The crimes of these defendants are so heinous they seem to demand the death sentence. On the other hand, we are dealing with elderly people and, in many cases, people who believed they were acting, however illegally, in the legitimate interest of their country. The issue of justice here is extremely complex and sensitive. Therefore, I want to urge you to consider restorative justice. 

   You are all judges. You know what restorative justice is, but I want to make some suggestions about how it might be used in these cases. First, most of our high-profile defendants, the ones whose trials are ending now, are extremely rich and powerful. They have millions of dollars of their own and the personal power to bring in millions more. Perhaps, rather than simply killing these defendants or making them suffer somehow, it would be useful to them, to the country, and to some of the people they have harmed if they were to use their wealth and prestige to found and fund programs of spiritual and economic uplift.

   This amounts to sentencing the defendants to several years of community service, requiring them to use some percentage of their assets to pursue certain goals or objectives. I was thinking about George Bush the elder. He is 92. A sentence of life in prison will probably see him gone in a year or less. Perhaps he could instead be sentenced to create a fund and an organization for exploring and ameliorating the effects of depleted uranium in Iraq. It’s not enough for him to be fined several million dollars. He actually has to create the organization under the watchful eye of his probation officer. Of course, he would work through his family and hired subordinates.  

   His son, George W, could be assigned to create an organization that will build schools, hospitals and orphanages in Iraq. He could be expected to contribute several million dollars himself, but again, that is not enough. He must actually create the organization, obtain additional funding and set the program in motion. He could go free when his organization has achieved certain interim objectives, like three hospitals, six orphanages and ten schools up and running. What do you think of this idea?

Judge 1: I have always believed in restorative justice, and in these cases, it could help us transcend the trauma of arresting and exposing the crimes of these respected leaders. However, your suggestions imply an enormous amount of work and expertise on our part. I would have no way of investigating the defendant’s resources and don’t have the slightest idea how to sentence someone to building an organization. It doesn’t seem practical.

R: What if I were to create a department of restorative justice? You routinely sentence people to probation, in which case the person sentenced is required to report to the Probation Department and follow the dictates of his or her probation officer. If he or she fails to appear or fails to obey the terms of probation, he or she can be re-arrested and re-sentenced, right? So I could create a department of restorative justice. You would sentence the convicted felon to five or ten or twenty years probation on condition that he or she works in good faith with that department. 

Judge 1: That would make the process easy for us, but I’m afraid it will make it difficult for you. You have to create that department, but more importantly, you have to explain it to the public. The public will simply see war criminals being put on probation. That will satisfy neither the thirst for revenge nor the desire to see rich and powerful criminals punished. 

R: You’re quite right. It won’t be easy either to create the department or to sell restorative justice to the general public. However, this is a challenge I would like to take on. I see it as a tremendous consciousness-raising opportunity. I think I can get most of the public to take a wait-and-see attitude, at least for a while. And I want everyone to see the merits of restorative versus punitive justice. The real question is whether we can get these defendants to do anything meaningful with their money and power. That will, to some extent, be up to them and to their probation officers or case managers. 

   Are there any objections to at least creating a Department of Restorative Justice or DRJ? (No objections) If not, then I will do that by the end of this week. Of course, it’ll take some time to actually get up and running, but if you can delay sentencing until I make the announcement, you can sentence them to the DRJ. We will soon be ready to work with the defendants. They can stay in jail until we’re ready. It’ll be good to let them actually spend some time behind bars. 

   As I said before, your sentences are up to you. Whether you use the DRJ is entirely up to you, but if you sentence someone to work with the DRJ, I will support you fully and do everything I can to ensure that the defendants end up doing something valuable. Please consider some form of restorative justice, and thank you very much for coming today.


Within the week, Rebecca quietly announces creation of the DRJ. She wants to save her explanations for defending specific cases. As the trials end, a wide variety of sentences are meted out. In many cases, the defendants are sentenced to probation under the supervision of the newly formed Department of Restorative Justice. As predicted, some of these sentences receive harsh criticism. How can war criminals be sentenced to probation? Rebecca calls a press conference.

R: I’m here today in response to the criticism we’ve been receiving regarding the sentencing of high-profile criminals. As an example, let’s look at the case of George Bush the elder. He is 92 years old. Do we really want to kill him by lethal injection? Shall we hang him? Maybe a firing squad? Do we want to put him in prison where he’ll die in a matter of months? While he’s in jail, should we torture him to make sure he suffers enough?

   If all we want is revenge, then yes, we should torture and kill him. He certainly deserves it, from a certain low-level point of view. However, I consider physical punishment to be a primitive, ineffective and inefficient approach to justice. As you know, I’ve recently created a Department of Restorative Justice, and I consider restorative justice to be far superior in every way to punitive justice. 

   George Bush, for example, is a man of tremendous personal power, prestige and wealth. If he dies today, his wealth will simply go down to his children and grandchildren. By assigning him an appropriate restorative justice task, we can do three things. First, we can help him use some of his ill-gotten gains in a productive way, that is, a way that contributes to society with emphasis on helping those he has harmed. Second, we can create and fund an organization that will continue to benefit society long after he’s gone. And finally, we can actually give him a chance to raise his consciousness in ways that will bring him comfort and satisfaction in this world while helping him go to a better place in the next. 

   Revenge is an extremely wasteful approach to justice. It does nothing but cost society money. If President Bush actually uses his wealth and prestige to make the world a better place, that is a far higher level of justice. Obviously, there is no possible way for President Bush to suffer enough to pay for the suffering he has caused. Paying for suffering with suffering is ultimately not helpful to anyone. It doesn’t make the world a better place. It doesn’t make any of us better people. But paying for suffering with money, time, energy, connections, intelligence and effort toward an admirable objective benefits all of us, including the person being punished. Is that not a more valuable outcome than the emotional satisfaction we get from making a criminal suffer? 

   The Department of Restorative Justice will begin with the high-profile defendants being tried and convicted now. However, my hope is that this department will grow rapidly, soon becoming the sentence of choice for all criminals who are not actually a danger to themselves or others. I hope that soon every city, town and village will have its own Department of Restorative Justice and that restorative justice will become our preferred method of extracting justice from unjust situations. I am open to your questions.

Reporter 1: What will you do with murderers and rapists and child abusers and others who commit heinous crimes and are likely to commit such crimes again if they’re not stopped. Do you support prison for such people? Do you support the death penalty? And who will decide if someone is too dangerous to be handled by restorative justice?

R: I do recognize that some people are severely disturbed. They live in unimaginable states of consciousness that cause them to commit unspeakable acts of cruel violence. Such people must be controlled. My belief is that most such people can be rehabilitated with therapies based on unconditional love. However, I am aware that some are completely unreachable. At this moment, I personally oppose the death penalty because our system of criminal justice is patently unjust and our system of incarceration has no capacity to rehabilitate anyone. What we do about these systems, of course, will be up to all the stakeholders, but I and ARP will address these issues as soon as we can. 

   If the justice system were just, and if prisons were carefully designed to reach the reachable, I would support the death penalty. I actually do think that for some criminals, death is the most humane alternative. As far as who decides, that is and will continue to be up to the judges. That is their job. 

Reporter 2: You sound very soft on crime. You want to turn jails into hospitals and make life easier for criminals than it is for ordinary citizens. Do you not believe in individual responsibility? Do you not believe that people who commit crimes should pay for those crimes?

R: First, let me just say again that I’m expressing personal opinions. I’m explaining why I created a Department of Restorative Justice. I created that department by executive order because we needed to do something quickly to help our judges deal with the high-profile, high-powered defendants they are having to sentence right now. However, if we encounter significant resistance, I will run this department through the normal process of consensual decision making, and I will simultaneously get all the stakeholders together to work on prison and criminal justice reform. I believe we can do a much better job and build a far more just society than we live in now, but ultimately, how we handle justice needs to be decided by all the stakeholders, just like we do with other important social issues. 

   In answer to your question, no. I do not recognize individual responsiblity. No human being can live as an individual. We are born into families, into races, into economic classes, into languages, and into communities over which we have no choice or power. We are all, in part, a result of our individual genetic make up, which we did not choose. We do, of course, bear responsibility for our individual choices, but we are powerfully influenced by our experiences and the people around us. We make individual choices within what appears to us to be an extremely limited set of alternatives. Furthermore, our choices are strongly influenced by emotions that are, for many of us, nearly impossible to control. 

   The vast majority of criminals have had crimes committed against them. Abusing parents were almost always abused as children. Thieves often come from backgrounds of poverty, neglect, abuse and fear derived from the criminal behavior of apparently respectable leaders in their communities. Murderers usually come from a long line of cold, calculating, unloving ancestors, who were made that way by cutthroat competition with cold, unloving rivals. Or, they are mentally ill as a result of genetic or family defects or both. Sometimes, they’re possessed by evil spirits. I do believe we must all be held individually responsible for our words and actions, but that is a superficial convenience. If the fuel pump in your car fails, you have to replace it to get your car running again. However, it makes no sense to punish the fuel pump for failing. That fuel pump failed because some company used inferior rubber for a gasket. And that company took that chance because the automaker, their customer who ordered that pump, demanded a ridiculously low price. The failure of that pump is not your fault, but you are the one who has to pay. The failure is also not the pump’s fault. It is the fault of an enormous system of groups and individuals who are all under tremendous pressure, and to fix the problem, the system itself needs improvement. 

   Complete individual responsibility is a delusion. The evil that arises in an individual cannot be defeated in that individual alone. An evil individual is a symptom of a social problem. The disease is bigger than that individual, and the worse the individual evil, the broader and deeper the social disease. 

   President Bush cannot be held personally responsible for the killings of which he was a part. Of course, he does signifiy responsibility and he bears a great deal of it, which is why we are trying him and will require that he make restitution. However, he played a tiny part in an enormous system. Why was the CIA created in the first place? The motivation that lay behind the desire to create an organization that is free to spy, lie, cheat, steal, kill, topple governments and start wars—that is where the evil truly lies, and we are only beginning to bring that evil to light. As we do, I’m sure you will come to agree that we do not need such an organization. What we need is truth, collective problem-solving, and partnership.

As usual, Rebecca’s explanation touches the hearts of most reporters and most viewers. By the end of the year, the CIA has been completely eliminated and restorative justice is standard in most jurisdictions around the US and in many other countries around the world.

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