“In a Time of War”: On the Absurdities of Non-Impeachment

“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.

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 (paulstreet99@yahoo.com) is a veteran radical historian and independent author, activist, researcher, and journalist in Iowa City, IA. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Paradigm 2005); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Routledge 2005): and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (Rowman&Littlefied 2007). Street's new book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics can now be ordered. Read other articles by Paul.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. o. rana said on November 12th, 2007 at 8:48am #

    With reard to the ongoing utterly insane war we must realize that the bully must be checked, the sooner the better. The US has always been a bloodletting monster who has devoured hundreds of innocent nations at home and abroad.
    The pretext for your government’s wars has always been an insatiable greed for material wealth and control over others . Whatever has come from the White House has been blatant lies – ever since the nation was created, and else: actually long before.

    From the beginning it was the Native peoples, the socalled Indians; Independent, and soverign nations with borders (reservation borders!) guarantied inviolable by the White Father in Washington, according to treaties. But one nation after the another was crushed “for the good” of the God fearing Euro-Americans. And people of First nations fought your wars; With 10,000 casualities in the WW I alone! But I never see a single contributor to these informative pages point to these ongoing crimes.

    Those Nations surviving suffer today under US bondage as ever before. In your peisons you have many innocent persons of First Nations today, i.e. Lakota-Anishinabe political prisoner Leonard Peltier who has suffered injustis under the corrupt US government since 06.02.76 Your Goverment said they did not know who killed the two FBI agents, for which Peltier is suffering two consecutive life sentences. But this innocent man, standing up for the rightds of his people has to sit behind bars in a “Guatanao” like style. The court hearing was a FARSE , and so the blocking of reopening the case, FBI actinons to defame and keep him in prison, the government witholding 11,000 investigation documents for the sake of the country’s security!!! God bless!!!
    There are no doubt that the US Government itself sacrificed the two FBI agents as a pretext to armed showdown on Pine Ridge, SD 1975

    Likewice I am convinced that the White House, possibly in coopera- tion with it’s Israeli protégé, perpetrated the crime against the Twin Towers; necessary for the support of the public US for a “war on terror”. A war for oil waged by today’s worst Terrorist Regime.

    American people, you are carrying a tremendous burden of crimes on your backs for not checking your government. This cannot be ” the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave, does it? The Democratic Party is like a dead watchdog on the porch, and impeachment of the culprits doesn’t seam likely at all. When are you going to turn the page?

    Millions of innocent people the world around has suffered and died because of you, and you know if you look into your history and not listen to the Military-Industrial complex. You do not even have Civil Rights anymore, neither Social Security. Tens of Millions suffering under the powerty level……..

    I sincerely believe that the US has to be reshaped totally for the good of the people, and for the sake of the whole world.

    It is unnessesary to mention Iraq and Iran, you know it all, and I commend the DC and all it’s superb writers for narrating on these subjects. You are regarded a God fearing people, but the acts of the nation make me look at Christianity as a tool for imperialism, and religious wars! And we of European nations have so many relatives in your country, surely not better than other warmongers, I guess. I’m ashamed ! No less am I ashamed of the rest of the world who is sitting “on the fence” watshing the US and the British. INTOLLERABLE

    I sincerely believe that the US has to be reshaped totally for the sake of the people, and for the sake of the whole world.

  2. Caleb Friz said on November 12th, 2007 at 9:15am #

    It really is scary to realize just how much control is being exercized over the media. So few voices have spoken out to even mention the name of impeachment, and none in favor. Thank you for this article. We need to impeach to restore democracy. Momentum is building, but as Bush has proven, those in power can refuse the will of the people no matter how loud and long they cry out for justice. Pelosi is aligning herself with Bush by using his same style of leadership.

  3. John said on November 12th, 2007 at 10:09am #

    Thanks to Cheney and Bush’s massive campaign of deception – over 800,000 Iraqi people (including tens of thousands of little children) have been killed, and over a million crippled for life. Because of all the needless bloodshed, and because an estimated 800 Iraqi doors get busted down by u.s. forces every night, millions of good people have countless reasons to hate us.

    Impeachment of both Bush and Cheney would be the wisest way to fight terrorism. It will send a message to the world, that the USA is not as hopelessly F’d up as they might have thought.

  4. John said on November 12th, 2007 at 10:10am #

    Thanks to Cheney and Bush’s massive campaign of deception – over 800,000 Iraqi people (including tens of thousands of little children) have been killed, and over a million crippled for life. Because of all the needless bloodshed, and because an estimated 800 Iraqi doors get busted down by u.s. forces every night, millions of good people have countless reasons to hate us. Impeachment of both Bush and Cheney would be the wisest way to fight terrorism. It will send a message to the world, that the USA is not as hopelessly F’d up as they might have thought.

  5. rosemarie jackowski said on November 12th, 2007 at 1:06pm #

    I oppose Impeachment for one reason. It trivializes the crimes. Bush/Cheyney should be tried for War Crimes. It won’t happen because Congress in complicit; therefore, I would favor a vote in Congress on Impeachment. All should take a public stand on this issue.
    Congress has a higher level of responsibility because without the support of Congress there could be no war.

  6. Alan MacDonald said on November 12th, 2007 at 7:42pm #

    Simply the best article —- most succinct, most factual, most indicting, and most moving —- I have ever read about the monumental, and yet to be addressed, imperialist war crimes that Bush and Cheney have plunged us into.

    Basically, the same article could, and should have been written of Hitler’s actions up to 1940, except that Hitler didn’t have as sophisticated a PR scam to hide his murderous actions.

    Hitler only had Goebbels’ scheme to set up a thinly veiled phony government in the biggest of his captured territories; ‘Vichy France’. Whereas Bush and Cheney have their entire global corporatist Empire well hidden (in plain sight) behind the ‘Vichy’ facade of their own nominal country —- ‘Vichy America’.

    Excellent article. — which shows great understanding of the hubris of imperialist war crimes and the audacity of the propaganda that presents them as being ‘normal’.

  7. Renee Marcelle said on November 12th, 2007 at 10:43pm #

    Brilliant, articulate and right on, captures many of my sentiments. I cringe whenever I hear “war time president”, it is not a war, it is pure murder for greed. It sickens my stomach that the true facts remain un told by our media and the legislators so many of us supported are unwilling to do the job the American people want them to do. With regard to the impeachment issue, I have written my legislators, N. Pelosi and the judiciary committee, I have asked others to do so as well, Please everyone take an action such that the world perception of our former great country might be restored, hopefully in our life time so that I might again one day be proud to be an American.

  8. paul street said on November 13th, 2007 at 10:45am #

    I agree that Cheney-Bush (and others) should be put up for war crimes and in fact say at the end of the article that impeachment would be a mild penalty compared to what they deserve. We’re talking about blood-soaked arch-criminal mass murderers (richly enabled by Democrats) here and the Third Reich analogies have all too much substance. And their reign of mayhem is not yet over and could well be expanded into an attack on Iran.

    Still, I think impeachment (which obviously is not going to happen given partisan balance in Congress among other things) would send a good message to the world and ourselves.

    It is not clear that the embers of the American democratic tradition will continue to (barely) glow much longer…no guarantee they will survive beyond the current corporate-crafted “quadrennial election extravaganza” (see Edward S. Herman’s dark reflections on dying/dead democracy and authoritarian peril in the November 2007 Z Magazine [where I have a piece on health care “reform” in the 2008 elections]).

    The assault on First Nations’ people laid critical foundations for subsequent international U.S. atrocities in all kinds of fascinating and horrifying ways .

  9. James Gallagher said on November 13th, 2007 at 1:14pm #

    Freedom and humanity are inseparable with freedom’s very basis being truth and accountability. The liers and unaccountables are severely mistaken in having no faith in humanity. Theirs is a living hell.
    Complicity with the terrocrats is treason. Treason is not a crime against a criminal regime or some concept of “country” but a crime against humanity.

    Due to the calls for impeachment to the Capital Bldg, the coward, fear-driven, unfaithful “terrocrats” have actually had [our] phone numbers changed. Can you believe this? I had called 800-862-5530 all last week to mandate support of the Kucinich impeachment bill HR333… Call today [Our] “Government” has disconnected this number… You “we the people” can no longer get through. How irrelevant are “they” “our government” now? Anybody here have “their” new number?

  10. Alan MacDonald said on November 14th, 2007 at 10:17am #

    Cheney’s own logic FOR impeachment:

    All right, let’s be fair and apply Cheney’s own logic to Kucinich’s issue of whether Cheney should be impeached.

    It is well known (in fact there is a book about it) that Cheney was the originator and promoter of the Bush doctrine by which the Iraq war was launched — “The One Percent Doctrine”.

    According to Cheney’s own logic, the ‘one percent doctrine’ states that because the outcome would be so terrible, that if there is only a ‘one percent chance’ that Iraq might plunge the world into nuclear war— then preemptive action is required to prevent such a massive danger to the people of America.

    OK, in the manner of the famous “Dirty Harry” movie line, “ask yourself, punk” is there a ‘one percent chance’ that Cheney might cause the launch of a nuclear war on Iran before Jan ’09??

    As Cheney himself might say (if he were honest), “Well, have you been counting, punk?” “I don’t remember if I have fired 5 wars or six — so do you want to try me?”

    The bottom line is clearly that there is at least a ‘one percent chance’ that Cheney will cause Americans to be involved in a nuclear war before Jan ’09 — and thus by Cheney’s own logic ACTION to address that risk to the American people must be taken!!

  11. Alan MacDonald said on November 15th, 2007 at 6:49am #

    Certainly the Democratic Party and its leaders have been held in low esteem for their gutlessness on the issue of responsibility for the war, which has now culminated in their failure to hold impeachment hearings.

    It is clear that the Democratic Party is viewed as emasculated and having no real influence on Bush and Cheney.

    In fact, it could be said, without exaggeration, that Barney (the dog) has had more influence on Bush than the Democratic Party.

    Yes, the Democratic Party has had less influence than Barney, but perhaps a similar influence as Barney’s poop —- in that Bush knows it’s there, is annoyed by the smell, and simply steps away.

    Perhaps the Democratic Party, in deference to the fair advertising doctrine, should really change its name to the Barney Poop Party (or BPP). This name change to BPP would also convey a somewhat foreign party acronym sound (like a Kurdish or Pakistani party) and better reflect the contempt with which the Bush global dictatorship holds the Democrats.

    Oops, sorry for getting off-topic —– let me get back, ‘on message’.

    Well then, in summary, perhaps the Democrats could actually grow some, impeach Cheney with his own ‘one percent’ logic, and thereby avoid falling the little bit lower toward being a party named for dog poop.