Richard Nixon: Watergate
Noted Fan of Secret Recording Devices
Republican, 37th President from 1969-1974, Took Part in Effort to Cover Up Watergate and Invaded Cambodia
During the Cold Years, President Nixon, then a congressman, served on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was largely considered a witch-hunt for “communists.” While participating in this fearmongering didn’t sit well with everyone, it caught Dwight Eisenhower’s attention and he chose Nixon to be his vice president.
However, when it was Nixon’s turn to run for president, he received a mixed reception from his predecessor.
After Tricky Dick‘s humbling “Checkers Speech,” Eisenhower told him, “you’re my boy.” However, when Eisenhower was asked how his successor had contributed to his administration’s policies, he replied, “If you give me a week, I might think of one.”
On top of his lukewarm assessment, the former president also doled out bad advice, encouraging Nixon to contest the election results when JFK won the presidency.
He holds the honor of being the first president to resign from office.
In 1970, as part of the secretive “Operation Menu,” President Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia, which resulted in the country getting bombed heavily. The invasion and bombing would be used by the Khmer Rouge as a recruiting tool. The attack on Cambodia had more to do with Vietnam, but regardless of the motivation, it was an unprovoked assault on a foreign country.
Five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters (Watergate). Initially, Nixon attempted to throw the investigation off by refusing to hand over information and claiming he had a constitutional right to bar his aides from testifying. He would also claim he had executive privilege and separation of powers that allowed him to refuse to hand over tapes and documents to the investigation.
However, As a result of the investigation, and accusations levied against President Nixon, it was revealed that he had directly participated in a cover-up of the crime.
The American public reacted mostly with disinterest when the secret bombing was exposed.
For the Watergate scandal, Nixon did endure consequences. Sort of. In the face of almost certain impeachment, Nixon resigned midway through his second term. Nixon’s vice president, Gerald Ford, would take office. Ford would later pardon Nixon because…reasons.
Gerald Ford: Supported Invasion of A Foreign Country
Ol’ Slippery Foot
Republican, 38th President from 1974 to 1977, Supported The Indonesian Invasion of East Timor
President Ford was regarded as a well-liked, decent man. However, his decision to pardon Nixon undermined his image in the public’s eye.
Ford’s earlier athleticism, (he won two college football championships in 1932 and 1933) led to a knee injury. This, in turn, led to him appearing uncoordinated, which was a frequent gag on SNL. Albeit, after crashing his golf cart into an electric panel, Ford remarked that journalists mocking his slips may have been right all along and that he was “one big clumsy sonofabitch.” (As quoted in In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line by Ronald Kessler.)
President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave Indonesian President Suharto the go-ahead to invade East Timor, knowing Suharto would have U.S.-trained Indonesian paratroopers armed with U.S.-supplied weapons. President Ford and Kissinger’s only comment to President Suharto was that it would be better if they were gone when the invasion happened.
East Timor now has its independence, but the twenty-five-year occupation cost at least 200,000 Timorese their lives. Or, to put it in perspective, one-third of the Timorese people were killed.
Further, thousands of women were raped, forced into sexual slavery, sterilized, or forced to undergo abortions.
Following his visit with Kissinger to meet with Suharto, Ford sent the Indonesian president a package of golf balls.
The next four U.S. presidents supported the Indonesian government as human rights critics called for reduced military assistance to Suharto’s regime.
Jimmy Carter: Helped Support Invasion of Indonesia
Loveable Humanitarian With Some Skeletons in His Closet
Democrat, 39th president From 1977 to 1981
A humble, brilliant, and former “peanut farmer,’ President Carter once gave a “sensational interview” to Playboy magazine where he admitted to having sexual fantasies about women other than his wife. And while the country (the deeply religious) wasn’t ready for someone to admit they had sexual fantasies that didn’t include their partner, they were very much ready for a scrupulous, down-to-earth candidate. Carter is widely regarded for his concern with human rights and even won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2002.
President Carter’s brother, Billy, famously capitalized on his more successful brother’s success. Billy went from running a gas station to being celebrated as a beer-guzzling redneck who mocked the Commander in Chief, and launched his own beer, “Billy Beer,” that he not-so-privately despised. He also accepted over 200 thousand dollars from Muammar al-Qaddafi’s dictatorial regime.
The Nobel Prize-winning Habitat for Humanity-house-building-president, increased military aid to Indonesia as the government was massacring its own people. Additionally, President Carter’s administration tried to thwart cables that documented the meeting between Ford, Kissinger, and Suharto, which showed the U.S. giving approval of the invasion of East Timor.
But How Is This Potentially Criminal?
Ford, Carter, and other presidents supplied the majority of the weapons and trained the soldiers who they knew were going to kill innocent civilians.
“U.S. political and military support for Indonesia was vital to its ability to invade East Timor in December 1975,” writes Colum lynch in Report: U.S. Arms Helped Indonesia Attack East Timor, for The Washington Post.
Further, U.S. officials offered to help suppress media coverage of the execution of Indonesian citizens. Thus, it could be argued that these conditions meet the standard for accomplice liability as these presidents knew they were helping to actively contribute to a (war) crime.
In part 3, more war crimes and other international criminal activity will be discussed.