By Ray McGovern
March 11, 2008
You would not know it for the news blackout, but New Yorkers of Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s district held a Town Hall/Impeachment Forum on Sunday to encourage Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, to begin impeachment proceedings against Vice President Dick Cheney.
Panelists included former congresswoman Liz Holtzman, former Reagan Justice Department attorney Bruce Fein, human rights attorney and Harpers commentator Scott Horton, and John Nirenberg, the activist who at the turn of the year walked from Boston to Washington, D.C., in a futile attempt to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on impeachment.
The organizers had asked me to be on the panel, but I had to send regrets and submitted a statement instead (see below). A video of the proceedings will be posted on After Downing Street.
In a post mortem Sunday evening, the organizers reportedly painted a mixed picture of good and bad news.
On the positive side, Judson Memorial Church was crammed to overflowing, with 300 folks to hear the panelists. And this, despite the fact that most were already aware that Nadler had announced (late Friday afternoon) that he would be a no-show. He did not even send a representative.
The panelists’ remarks were compelling. Blame for inaction on impeachment was laid squarely on our invertebrate Congress (but, I’m sorry, that familiar whining can get a bit tiresome). The audience was described as well-educated, non-fringe, and polite.
On the negative side, despite Herculean efforts to interest the “mainstream media,” no one showed.
And the enthusiasm of those trying to spur action on impeachment was dampened by continuing frustration at the obstacles, as politicians like Nadler continue to put political expedience above their sworn duty to protect and defend the Constitution.
Tories Back in Charge
It took some 230 years, but the Tories are back in charge—I mean the Nadlers, the Conyers, the Pelosis, who so clearly lack the courage of our forebears to defy a new King George, preferring to let him dis us the people and trash the Constitution.
Remember the final words of the Declaration of Independence? “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Many of our forebears were also well-educated and non-fringe; fortunately, they were NOT polite.
Is it not clear, finally, that the time for politeness is over?
It is up to us, now, whether we shall have Constitutional separation of powers or shall have kings. It is up to us whether an unrestrained Executive will be able to march our children and grandchildren off to an endless series of resource wars likely to dominate this century.
The time for talking is over. Impeachment proceedings must begin. And no one is going to get that done but we.
One of the hurdles is outrage fatigue; it is hard to decide where to start among the many high crimes and misdemeanors of which Vice President Cheney is demonstrably culpable.
From my perspective as a former intelligence analyst, we certainly cannot allow to escape censure his conjuring up false “intelligence” to justify what Nuremberg defined as the “supreme international crime”—a war of aggression—in Iraq.
The Founders knew that, human nature being what it is, such abuses would be inevitable somewhere down the line. That’s why they took such pains to provide an orderly political procedure to enable us to deal promptly and responsibly with such high crimes and misdemeanors.
The process is called impeachment; the rules are clear.
All it takes is courage. And I do not refer here to the invertebrates in Congress.
I mean us.
The statement I prepared for Sunday’s event follows:
Is Impeachment Necessary to Protect the Constitution?
Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, NYC
March 9, 2008
Statement by Ray McGovern
Congressman Nadler, I am Ray McGovern, born and bred in the Bronx a bit north of your district.
I regret not being able to be with you in person to give my perspective on whether impeachment is necessary to protect the Constitution—and specifically, whether the manufacturing of false intelligence to “justify” an unprovoked war fits the category of “high crime or misdemeanor.”
I was an analyst at the CIA for 27 years, after serving as an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the early Sixties. You may recall that we first met on June 16, 2005, in the basement of the Capitol, the only room made available to Congressman John Conyers to take testimony on the Downing Street Minutes.
The minutes were the official British record of a briefing of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002. At that briefing, the chief of British intelligence reported on his discussions with his counterpart in Washington, who told him three days earlier that, President George W. Bush had decided to make war on Iraq, and that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
In my testimony in the Capitol that day I drew attention to the words of Vice President Dick Cheney on August 26, 2002—words that framed the discussion for the next 45 days during which Congress was deliberately misled into giving the president approval to make war on Iraq.
This is what Cheney said:
“We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors—including Saddam’s own son-in-law.”
This was a lie.
Saddam’s son-in-law told us just the opposite when he defected in 1995.
You can find it on page 13 of his debriefing report. He said: “All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.”
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction…Many of us are convinced that [Saddam] will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.”
In a memoir published last year, then-CIA director George Tenet complained that Cheney did not follow the usual practice of clearing the speech with the CIA, and that what Cheney said “went well beyond what our analysis could support.”
Tenet added his “impression” that “the president really wasn’t any more aware of what his number-two was going to say.” Yet, Tenet admits that he did not raise the issue with either the president or vice president. Tenet was all too well aware that the intelligence was being “fixed around the policy.”
The Power to Intimidate
Intimidated by the vice president, Tenet ended up ordering his analysts, my former colleagues, to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate to Cheney’s terms of reference—you remember, the one that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties with al-Qaeda; the NIE that appeared just ten days before Congress voted to give the president the power to make war on Iraq.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, and who chaired the preparation of Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003, speech at the UN, was asked about all this when Wilkerson testified before Congress on June 26, 2006.
The question came from Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina: Why was it that a small number of individuals got so much power in the administration that they “had more influence than the professionals?”
Wilkerson gave a three-word answer: “The Vice President.”
It is an open secret that Vice President Cheney was, and continues to be the prime mover behind torture. As some will recall, speaking on open radio Cheney called the use of waterboarding a “no-brainer.”
It was his lawyer, David Addington, who prepared the Jan. 25, 2002, memorandum signed by then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales recommending that the laws against torture could be circumvented.
George Bush applied that advice in his own presidential memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002, launching our country onto “the dark side,” as Cheney has put it.
That memorandum opened the gaping loophole through which the administration drove the Mack truck of torture.
High crimes? Misdemeanors? Who will argue the point?
Congressman Nadler, articles of impeachment for Dick Cheney have sat in your in-box since last November. You are Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution; you have refused to take action.
As an Army officer I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. You took that same basic oath as a congressman.
With all due respect, let me suggest you have a duty to act on that oath—and not on some promise you may have made to avoid anything that could be viewed as divisive and thus jeopardize Democratic Party election wins in November.
I hope you will agree that the transcendent value is to protect the Constitution, and for that, impeachment is indeed necessary. Please take the articles of impeachment regarding Dick Cheney out of your in-box and launch the investigation.
Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army intelligence officer before joining the CIA where he had a 27-year career as an analyst. He is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
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