Impeachment Now!

Pelosi and the Democrats: Partisan Advantage, Not Impeachment
By David Fairley

Unlike millions of angry and disgusted Americans, top Democrats don't consider the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney a goal worth pursuing. Winning the White House in 2008 is much more important, they say. But is their stance based on principle or narrow partisanship? Is impeachment "off the table" for the good of the country or for the good of the Democratic Party?

There are not one, but two powerful arguments in favor of impeachment: abuse of power, and atonement for crimes against humanity.

Usurpation of Power

Although many presidents have stepped over the legal line, George Bush has abused his power as President far more than any other in American history. He has issued hundreds of "signing statements" that say, in effect, that he will not obey the will of Congress; in other words, he will not obey the laws that he has sworn to uphold. Among the laws the Bush Administration refuses to obey are those against spying on Americans, those against torture, and those requiring disclosure of what the Administration is doing.

Not to impeach Bush and Cheney is to legitimize this unconstitutional usurpation of power, to hand the reins of government over to the President, and to place a time bomb of a precedent. Consider this thought experiment. What would happen if terrorists were able to detonate an atom bomb in New York, killing hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans. Given the hysteria the Bush Administration was able to generate after 9/11, it seems eminently possible that such a catastrophe would give Bush or some future power-hungry President the opening to declare a "state of emergency" where the Constitution was suspended. Once suspended, it's conceivable if not likely that it would never be reinstated.

One unremarked irony was a passage from the President's speech soon after 9/11 that the terrorists "...hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." The President has used 9/11 to undermine those very freedoms along with Constitution's 4th Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches, exactly what Osama seems to wish.

Terrorists who would commit an act as despicable as 9/11 would be delighted if their actions resulted in the effective destruction of what makes America America, and a "State of Emergency" could do just that.

Atonement for War Crimes

The Nuremberg Tribunal at the end of World War II declared a war of aggression as the "supreme international crime" because it creates the conditions for all of the intendant evils of war. ( The US war on Iraq is such a war. Iraq posed absolutely no threat to the US before the US invaded in 2003. Such an invasion is a crime under the UN Charter to which the US is a signatory. ( Daily we see the evils that this war has unleashed: the now tens if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead; the literally millions of Iraqi refugees; the use of torture; the use of horrible weapons such as phosphorus, napalm and depleted uranium.

Impeachment and criminal prosecution won't bring the countless Iraqi and American dead back to life, it won't undo the renderings, torture and barbaric imprisonment that our country has engaged in, but it would serve to restore some of America's lost reputation as a country that values peace, freedom and justice.

What do the American People Say?

Dozens of communities around the US have voted for impeachment. A recent poll found a majority of Americans in favor of the impeachment of Dick Cheney, and a tie vote for the impeachment of George Bush. ( Given that no prominent American leaders are promoting impeachment, this is an impressive result. One wonders what the poll numbers would be if prominent Americans did support impeachment, laying out arguments like those above?

What do the Democrats Say?

Given the powerful motivation to impeach Bush and Cheney, how do the Democrats argue the contrary? Here is what Nancy Pelosi had to say in a recent interview

Pelosi: "I made a decision a few years ago, or at least one year ago, that impeachment was something that we could not be successful with and that would take up the time we needed to do some positive things to establish a record of our priorities and their short-comings, and the President is…not worth impeaching. We've got important work to do… If he were at the beginning of his term, people may think of it differently, but he's at the end of his terms. The first two years of his term, if we came in as the majority, there might be time to do it all…"

Follow-up question: "Respectfully, that's not the question. Respectfully, the question is whether or not the Constitution is worth it."

Pelosi: "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed. But I think that we are, in asserting the checks and balances that were missing, are honoring the Constitution. I take very seriously the pledge, the oath of office that we make to the Constitution - as does every person in our Congress. Our Democratic Congress is their worst nightmare because of the power of subpoena. I think that the President's credibility now, whether its immigration - whatever it is - is so low because of a great deal of the oversight that we have done. But we are in disagreement - I'm not going to try to budge you on that - on whether the President should have been impeached. That's a different question from 'Are there grounds for impeachment?' But should he have been impeached? Should we have gone down that road? I don't think it would have resulted in a Democratic victory that would have - in a campaign that would have resulted in a Democratic victory that would (unintelligible) the oversight that we have now that will build the record that will allow us to get rid of them in a major way. So I believe that we are on the verge of an election that will be a decision for greatness…"

The logic seems to be that impeachment can't succeed, so it's not worth it. It wasn't pointed out that the impeachment process was used against Richard Nixon midway through his second term. Initially, there were only 25 members of Congress who supported the idea of impeaching Nixon.

The implication is that the Democrats can and will do something if they win the White House in 2008. But what?

It's fair to look at Congress' record since the Democrats captured both houses in 2006. Pelosi claims she needs her hands free to establish a positive record. What's that record been? Well...There's the raising of the minimum wage, by so little that it doesn't bring full time, minimum wage workers out of poverty. A raise so puny that even George Bush agreed to it. A raise so puny, it won't come close to reverse the growing gap between rich and average Americans - a gap that's wider than it's been in 80 years! What about the "mandate" to do something about the war? Congress has continued to give George Bush everything he wants. What about health care? What about the deficit? Even the issue of pork - namely Congressional "earmarks." Well, the Democrats are wallowing in the Republican pigsty. ( , ( Even the issue of lobby reform: (

What do front-running Democrats say about the issues raised above - excessive presidential power and atonement?

On Hillary Clinton's website there is a promising page titled "Restoring America's Standing in the World." It does mention talking to our "enemies", and "building alliances", but says nothing about abiding by international laws. It says nothing about prosecution of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others who have violated those laws. There was nothing on the need to reverse the Bush Administration's arrogation of power. Nothing about atonement. Barack Obama's website yields a similar vacuum. John Edward's website has an issue with the encouraging title "Restoring America's Moral Leadership in the World." But the prescription is for the US to leave Iraq to the Iraqis and "leading on the great challenges before us like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the genocide in Darfur, extreme poverty, and living up to our ideals in the fight against terrorism." Again, nothing about adherence to law, nor the prosecution of the Bush Administration for crimes against humanity, nor recompense for the crimes we've committed as a nation.

None of the leading Democratic contenders says a word about restoring the Bill of Rights, putting an end to government spying on its own citizens, or putting an end to the abominable practices of rendition aka "disappearance" or torture.

So When Will the Crimes by Punished?

It's hard not to conclude that the leading Democrats have no plan to prosecute Bush and Cheney after they leave office, nor to reduce the excessive power of the President, nor to restore the rights that have been chipped away under the pretext of "fighting terrorism," nor to put adherence to law as a centerpiece of our foreign policy, nor to provide just compensation to the literally millions of innocent victims of a cruel and misguided administration in charge of the most powerful military force in human history.

It's hard not to conclude that the leading Democrats, unlike the majority of the American people, are putting narrow partisan political triangulation ahead of the good of the country and the future.

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