"We Have Some Major Priorities"
Here are 49 words to inspire dismay and disgust:
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her lieutenants maneuvered to avoid a floor fight that would have forced Democrats to choose between their liberal base, which might cheer a Cheney impeachment, and a broader electorate, which might view the resolution as a partisan game in a time of war."
I read these words on the fourth page of the front section of the November 7th edition of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. They are part of a story titled "GOP Tries to Outfox Foes: VP's Impeachment Vote Beat Back." They are attributed to the following author: "Washington Post/LA Times."
The story is about how the Republican Party tried to force a vote on progressive Congressman Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio) call for the House to pass a resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for "fabricating a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction" to justify the invasion of Iraq.
House Republican (GOP) leaders knew that the Democrats lack the votes and willpower to work for the impeachment of Cheney and/or Bush. The Republicans wanted to embarrass the Democrats and expose the fissures in their party by forcing a vote on Kucinich's bill.
Pelosi succeeded in defeating the Republicans by getting Kucinich's measure sent to the Judiciary Committee. According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), "impeachment is not on our agenda. We have some major priorities. We need to focus on those."
House Judiciary chair John Conyers agreed, claiming that "let[ting]' this thing" - Kucinich's resolution - "out of the box...could create a split that could affect our productivity for the rest of the Congress."
Hallelujah! The evil Kucinich-Republican impeachment alliance was defeated by the noble forces of Democratic liberalism, whose "major priorities" right now do not include defending the United States Constitution against the abuse of power.
If We Can't Impeach Cheney-Bush...
There are a number of problems with this. I will mention three.
First, there's no point in having the weapon of impeachment on the constitutional books if it can't be wielded against Cheney and Bush. As Glen Ford observed last Spring, "if Cheney-Bush can't be impeached, nobody can."
Let us recall some elementary facts.
The current messianic-militarist White House's invasion of Iraq is not merely a foreign policy "mistake" - a "strategic blunder," as it commonly described by our great liberal saviors in the corporate-imperial Demcoratic Party. It is an ongoing act of high state arch-criminality that has killed more than a million Iraqis as well as nearly 4000 U.S. GIs.
Regarding Iraq and the so-called "war on terror," Cheney and Bush have:
* lied this country into an illegal, unprovoked war of aggression (the supreme crime under Nuremburg principles) with blatantly fraudulent claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
* fabricated in the minds of the American people false links between Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, Iraq, and 9/11.
* falsely claimed that the U.S. was engaged in an effort to spread freedom and democracy to Iraq and the Middle East.
* fired generals who told them that their plans for Iraq were seriously inadequate.
* subverted the Constitution, not out of some genuine and sincerely-motivated effort to fight terrorists, but to repress dissent.
* incited fear among the U.S. populace, generating the very terror they claim to fight.
* exploited that unreasoning fear as a political instrument to slander their critics and libel their opponents.
As Elizabeth de la Vega has argued, "the proposition that it is not good political strategy to insist that government official obey the law is highly debatable. More important, strategizing in the face of an ongoing crime is wrong" (Elizabeth de la Vega, United States v. George W. Bush [New York: Seven Stories, 2006], p.19).
"To Rescue the Rule of Law"
What are we saying to future presidencies by not exercising our basic constitutional duty to purge Cheney and Bush? "Impeachment, like all criminal processes," Ford notes, "is designed not just to punish current lawbreakers, but to prevent future criminality. George Bush and his gang have been running a massive criminal enterprise for more than six years, effectively nullifying the Constitution. The Constitution does not automatically come back to life after the two top criminals leave. It must be enforced, or it is just an old, moldy piece of paper. The question is not whether there is time to impeach Bush and Cheney, but whether there is time to rescue the rule of law."
Encoded in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, impeachment is on the books because the United States' "founders" feared the remarkable potential for disastrous abuse of executive branch power the Constitution created. Cheney and Bush have justified that fear like few previous White House occupants. They have committed a vast array of technically impeachable offenses in 12 criminal categories - "not 12 crimes," Ford adds, "but 12 whole categories of crimes, each containing many separate instances and counts of crimes, any one of which is enough to send Bush and Cheney back where they came from before January, 2009."
"If laws can be broken at will," Ford reminds us, "there is no law. Congress may as well stop enacting them, and go home, themselves" (Glen Ford, "If Cheney-Bush Can't Be Impeached, Nobody Can," Black Agenda Report, June 20 2007, read at www. blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=258&Itemid=44 ).
Currently planning to criminally attack Iran before the end of their second illegally attained terms, Darth Cheney and The Worst President Ever have raised for us the question that Archibald Cox posed in October of 1973 after Richard Nixon fired Cox for his role in investigating the Watergate break-in: "shall we live under a government of laws or a government of men?"
Naked Imperial Aggression: Where's the War?
Second, the notion the United States is experiencing "a time of war" is absurd. Beneath administration and media-fanned rhetoric about the U.S . as "a nation at war" and Bush as "a wartime president," Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.)  is naked imperial aggression. The "[United States of] American people" are under no attack from Iraq or Iraqis at home or abroad and never have been. We are not dodging Iraqi IEDs and sniper fire on the way to and from our shopping malls, workplaces, and schools. Where's the war?
As most of the morally and politically cognizant planet knows, U.S. soldiers have been sent to Iraq to participate in a brazenly imperialist, monumentally illegal, and inherently mass murderous occupation of a formerly sovereign nation that posed zero threat to the U.S. - an action sold on false and manufactured pretexts. Beneath the official reasons given, the invasion is, in Alan Greenspan's words, "largely about oil." More precisely, O.I.L. is about deepening and sustaining U.S. control of super-strategic Middle Eastern petroleum reserves located in the world's energy heartland.
If we insist on calling this bloody petro-imperialist assault a "war," we should admit that it is a very one-sided U.S. war of colonial aggression. And if the "broader [ U.S.] electorate" actually thinks Americans are currently living under wartime conditions, then it is not being adequately informed to make reasonable distinctions between external imperial violence and the reality of war as actually experienced by its leading victims past and present.
Catch-22: War as the Pardon for War Criminality?
Third, it is ridiculous to claim that we can't properly penalize and remove Cheney-Bush in "a time of war" when the crimes for which they would be impeached are their use of fraudulent and illegal means to put the U.S. into a so-called "wartime" period.
Talk about a self-negating Catch-22: "Gee, we'd like to impeach Cheney-Bush for illegally taking the United States into a criminal 'war,' but we dare not undertake such potentially divisive proceedings during 'a time of war.'"
Yes, the way to avoid prosecution for crimes perpetrated on the way to committing a homicide is to successfully execute the murder.
That's a nice little bit of Orwellian checkmate.
The invasion of Iraq is an ongoing, mass-murderous act of supreme state violence and a crime against humanity. It is a gross violation of international law and civilized norms. Mere impeachment and removal from office are mild penalties compared to what Cheney-Bush deserve for their barbarian Iraq policy. The terrible fact that they are committing their crimes in an age of organized mass murder is no excuse and should offer no pardon.
Paul Street (email@example.com ) is an independent writer, speaker, historian, and policy researcher in Iowa City, IA. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, November 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005); and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: A Living Black Chicago History (New York: forthcoming in 2007).
1. I use "Operation Iraqi Freedom's" initial designation, dropped by the White House and Pentagon because it too blatantly captured the petro-imperialist nature of the invasion. The interesting and darkly humorous fact that "Operation Iraqi Freedom" (O.I.F.) was originally "O.I.L." is NOT an urban myth. See Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse (New York: Plume, 2007), p. 65.