Why not impeach?
The Congressional Democrats offered several excuses for keeping impeachment “off the table.”
One familiar response (even by such estimable Senators as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders), is that following a successful impeachment in the House, the Senate would surely not convict.
Two replies come to mind: (1) Don’t be so sure of that. When the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon began in the House Judiciary Committee, the Republican Senators were solidly against conviction and removal. All that changed when the evidence was brought forth and the public responded. (2) So what if the Senate fails to convict? When the Republican Congress filed impeachment charges against Clinton, they knew full well that it would never get the necessary 67 votes for conviction in the Senate. It would suffice, they assumed, to drag Clinton’s name and behavior through the mud. Of course, they failed to correctly anticipate the public response. In the case of Bush and Cheney, it will be quite enough to expose their treason and their numerous “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Senators who vote against conviction will then have to justify those votes in the next election.
Another dodge is that impeachment would distract the House and the Senate and, as Russ Feingold argues, “put important issues facing our country on the back burner.”
But what “issues” are more important than restoring the Constitution and the rule of law, and saving our republic from dictatorship? Moreover, as Feingold fails to tell us, in any case the Senate Republicans are succeeding in keeping these “important issues … on the back burner.” The devious GOP strategy is to see to it that, by means of filibuster and cloture, Congress “does nothing,” so that the GOP can run in 2008 on the charge that this was a “do nothing Democratic Congress.” If the Senate Republican continue at their current rate, by the end of this Congress they will have forced 153 cloture votes – almost three times the previous record.
The final excuse for keeping impeachment “off the table,” is “just be patient, the term of Bush/Cheney, Inc. will end in January, 2009. And there are strong indications that the GOP will be crushed in the 2008 election, and that a Democratic will occupy the White House. Then, our long national nightmare will be over.”
The almost universal and unexamined assumption that an “ordinary” Presidential election will take place in November, 2008, is extremely dangerous. We have always had our quadrennial Presidential elections, so why not assume that the next will take place in 2008? We must assume that it might not, because the consequences of a Democratic victory in 2008 would exact an extraordinary cost to the losers, and because they have put in place the means to cancel that election.
What “cost”? Put simply, the loss of ill-gained fortunes, and still worse the likely conviction and imprisonment of numerous neo-cons, Busheviks and corporate fellow-travelers. To prevent which, either the Busheviks must remain in power after 2009 (presumably by canceling the election), or the Bush/Cheney regime must be succeeded by a GOP Administration and Congress that can reliably shut down investigations and prosecutions. And to accomplish that, a mainstream media blitz and widespread election fraud will be necessary.
What fortunes and what crimes? The wealthiest one percent of the population has been given huge tax cuts, while the tax burden of the rest of the population has held steady. As a result, from 2001 to 2006, that fortunate one percent enjoyed, on average, a net gain of $30,352, while the remaining 99% suffered net losses. (“Net gain/losses” combines tax breaks with share of federal deficit acquired 2001-2006). With the Democrats in control, the era of “tax-cut and borrow” will end, and the wealthiest will once again be required to pay their fair share of federal tax revenue. The flow of cash from the poor and middle class to the hugely wealthy will be reversed. Billions of dollars of “Iraq reconstruction” funds have simply been “lost,” with no accounting of where they have gone. But surely, these have gone into the pockets of corrupt politicians, Iraqi and American, and to numerous “no bid” contractors. A Democratic Congress and Justice Department could be expected to relentlessly investigate these losses, resulting, no doubt, in numerous indictments and convictions. At last, we would know the identities of the individuals who disclosed the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. In fact, we are quite obvious now that the culprits included: Karl Rove, “Scooter” Libby, and Dick Cheney. That disclosure was a federal crime, which stipulates prison time on conviction. A Democratic Congress and Justice Department would be able to track down, indict and convict many individuals who conspired to steal the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, and in addition numerous Congressional elections in 2002 and 2006. More convictions would follow, not only of corrupt politicians, but also their collaborators in the electronic voting industry. The American public, fed-up with one-party propaganda masquerading as “journalism,” spewed out by five mega-corporations, would at last demand the break-up of these conglomerates, and a return to local and diverse media. The public, which in fact owns the airwaves, would demand that the broadcast media obey the FCC requirement that they “serve the public interest and necessity.” With the abolition of the right-wing “Ministry of Truth,” informed public debate would return. Lying to Congress and to federal officials is a crime that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and many other Bushistas have clearly committed on numerous occasions, and for which they would be vulnerable to indictment. Aggressive war and torture are not only federal crimes, they are also international crimes. An interesting feature of these crimes, is that they may be beyond the reach of Presidential pardons. The International Criminal Court in the Hague does not recognize Presidential pardons.
There is much more, but this list suffices to make the point: The Presidential election of 2008 portends a disaster for the GOP, the Bush Administration, and their corporate sponsors – a disaster of unprecedented proportions. The losers will not, as in previous elections, simply find opulent sinecures in “the private sector,” and comfortable retirement and status as “elder statesmen.” Instead they will be facing the loss of their ill-gained fortunes and even of their freedom, as they are brought before the bar of justice.
And well they know this. Worse still, they may be in a position to prevent it. And here is how they might:
Bush’s “National Continuity Policy, issued May 9, states, in effect, that in the event of a “catastrophic emergency,” which might mean a terrorist attack or natural disaster, within “the homeland” or abroad, the President could, as a “unitary executive,” seize near dictatorial powers. This means that another hurricane of Katrina size, or a Richter-7 earthquake, or even a massive civil disobedient protest, could trigger the onset of a Bush dictatorship.
Still worse, in the recently issued executive order, Bush has decreed that due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency… Accordingly, the federal government may seize All property and interests in property of any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence… Is the organization of a mass demonstration an “act of violence”? And what is to be done with individuals who give “aid and comfort to the enemy.” Last week, Defense Under-Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman sent a letter to Hillary Clinton, warning that Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. Is Senator Clinton in danger of losing all her property, and perchance her freedom? “Of course not, they wouldn’t dare.” Quite so. But “they wouldn’t dare” is not a sound guarantee against arbitrary abuse of power by the government. Once upon a time, we had a Constitution to protect our freedoms. But Bush has told us that it is “just a piece of paper.” And, in his administration, it appears that it is merely that.
And note too that phrase, “or to pose a significant risk.” Here we have nothing less than an excuse to prosecute “pre-crime” – the mere possibility of criminal conduct. This nightmare option, vividly portrayed in the 2002 movie “Minority Report,” is a fundamental feature of totalitarian regimes.
Add to this, the “Military Commissions Act” which effectively abolished habeas corpus for suspected terrorists and “terrorist sympathizers.” Protest the Iraq occupation, and you might be labeled a “terrorist sympathizer” and thus subject to arbitrary arrest and indefinite incarceration without access to counsel.
Bush’s “decrees” (“executive orders”) are noteworthy for their vagueness, and Bush is notorious for reaching far beyond the letter of the law and of treaties. He claimed that he had United Nations permission to attack Iraq. He did not. The infamous Congressional authorization for the Iraq war was contingent upon a written “determination” from the White House. As John Dean clearly points out, Bush’s “determination” was a pack of lies, and failed to meet the conditions of the authorization. It was, says Dean, an impeachable offence. (Worse than Watergate, 140-156).
Can Bush seize totalitarian power, triggered, perhaps, by another terrorist attack, real or connived, or by a natural disaster, or by an attack on Iran?
Who is to stop him? The federal judiciary? Bush owns it, as we have seen with the recent Supreme Court decisions, and the dismissal of the Plame/Wilson civil action against the Busheviks. The Congress? Bush has said, straight out, that he will ignore any and all Congressional subpoenas for documents or testimony. And acts of Congress, as we well know, are (as Bush said of the Constitution) mere “scraps of paper.” For with his “signing statements,” he has said, in effect, “I will obey or not obey this law as I see fit.” Thus, unless it forcefully reclaims its Constitutional powers and independence, the Congress will be reduced to the status of the Supreme Soviet under Josef Stalin.
Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan, has noted with alarm that Bush and Cheney, fully aware that electoral catastrophe faces the Republicans in 2008, seem utterly unconcerned with this prospect, or with the likelihood that, under ordinary (i.e. honest) electoral conditions, a Democratic President in 2009 is a near-certainty.
Do they know something that we don’t know? Roberts thinks they might. He strongly suspects that the Busheviks are expecting, counting on, and perhaps even preparing some interim catastrophe that will once again unite the country behind “the Commander in Chief,” and provide an excuse to cancel the 2008 election. In short, he suggests that the near-universal belief that in 2008 there will be another election just has there have been for the past 220 years, may lead us all to “the end of Constitutional Democracy.”
Perhaps not. Perhaps this will be an ordinary election, resulting in large Democratic majorities in Congress, and a Democratic Administration. Following that, a roundup, prosecution and imprisonment of numerous scoundrels who have defiled our government throughout the two full terms of Bush’s presidency. But do we dare believe this?
Don’t bet your freedom and our republic on this comfortable assumption. Be prepared for a desperate grab for permanent, dictatorial power aimed, among other things, at protecting the corporatocracy, the acquired wealth, and the freedom from prosecution of those now in power, and who have acquired the means to seize total power.
What, then, is to be done?
First of all, keep the pressure on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney. John Conyers says that with three more Congressional sponsors, he will initiate impeachment proceedings. But yesterday, when confronted in his office by Cindy Sheehan, David Swanson, Ray McGovern among hundreds of protesters, Conyers apparently reneged on that promise. Contact Conyers at 202-225-5126, or your member of Congress at 202-224-3121.
Spread the word, far and wide, that we must expect another “Pearl Harbor” event, followed by a call for “unity behind the President” and the seizure of dictatorial powers. The more the public anticipates this beforehand, the more likely that the public will be able to resist it.
And let us all fervently hope that if a fake “remember the Maine!,” or “Gulf of Tonkin attack” is in preparation, that someone in the know will have the courage and patriotic motivation to expose it in time.
Surely there is much more that we the people can do to inoculate ourselves against the demise of our freedom and the onset of tyranny.
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Ben Franklin was right: we have a Republic if we can keep it. And we may be on the verge of losing it. Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge
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