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Impeachment and truth now. Reconciliation? Maybe later.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 10th, 2008

While it wasn’t her point, Nell’s excellent post earlier this week (“Prepare to Dare or Prepare to Despair“) reminds me that I’ve been less energetic than I should have been in supporting and discussing Dennis Kucinich’s H.Res. 1258 resolution calling for George Bush’s impeachment.  The lengthy resolution presents 35 articles of impeachment, leading with Bush’s propaganda campaign for the Iraq war:

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under article II, section 3 of the Constitution ‘to take care that the laws be faithfully executed’, has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, together with the Vice President, illegally spent public dollars on a secret propaganda program to manufacture a false cause for war against Iraq.

The resolution is a resource in its own right, presenting factual bases for each of the charges.*   As David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org said,

Impeachment is only a lengthy process when you don’t already have the evidence.  President Andrew Johnson was impeached three days after the offense for which he was impeached. … Bush and Cheney could be impeached, tried, and convicted in a week.

Not even every impeachment supporter will agree that every single article in H. Res. 1258 merits Bush’s impeachment,  removal from office, and  banning from future federal office.  But even in this the resolution serves a useful function, reminding us that impeachment is by design a political tool, to be wielded by the House of Representatives — not a judicial one or one limited to narrowly proveable violations of U.S. law.

To be sure — for those who insist on them — there are (in my opinion) such statutory and treaty violations involving illegal detention (Article 17), torture (Article 18), and illegally spying on American citizens (Article 24).

But impeachment can and sometimes must also be applied to the kinds of breaches of trust and willful poor judgment that have characterized the Bush administration, even if no specific statute is broken, even if “only” our constitutional system itself is at stake.   The cannon of impeachment may seem less warranted for, say, the relative fly of “endangering the health of 9/11 first responders,” (Article 35), but quite a bit more so for the propaganda catapult of misleading claims about Iraq and 9/11 (Article 2), Iraqi WMD (Article 3), or “even” climate change (Article 32) — regardless of whether particular statutes were broken in the latter cases.  Yet others strike at the equally profound subversion of the American political system, such as those about tampering with free and fair elections, corruption of the administration of justice (Article 28), creating secret laws (Article 22), and announcing intent not to follow duly enacted law (Article 26).

As AfterDowningStreet.com is reporting, Dennis Kucinich will present petitions supporting immediate impeachment hearings to Speaker Nancy Pelosi today. (You can still add your support here.)

Kucinich will also reportedly urge the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission — something Mark Gisleson (“Norwegianity”) supports in an article written for Mick Arran’s impeachment blog “The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers.” The arguments of Mr. Gisleson and others (like local congressional candidate Gordon Clark) notwithstanding, I see the “T&R” idea as a half measure ratifying a drift away from the Constitution and towards unwritten and impotent customs and conventions.

But even the half-measure of “truth and reconciliation” is not eagerly embraced by the Obama campaign.  As Mark Benjamin reported for Salon.com (via Mick Arran) this summer:

…don’t hold your breath waiting for Dick Cheney to be frog-marched into federal court. Prosecution of any officials, if it were to occur, would probably not occur during Obama’s first term. Instead, we may well see a congressionally empowered commission that would seek testimony from witnesses in search of the truth about what occurred. Though some witnesses might be offered immunity in exchange for testimony, the question of whether anybody would be prosecuted would be deferred to a later date — meaning Obama’s second term, if such is forthcoming.

On the other hand (and for what it’s worth), while it doesn’t call for either a commission or impeachment, the draft Democratic platform identified many of the same issues highlighted in H. Res. 1258.  And it closed the relevant “Reclaiming our Constitution and Our Liberties” section with the ringing words:

Our Constitution is not a nuisance. It is the foundation of our democracy. It makes freedom and self-governance possible, and helps to protect our security. The Democratic Party will restore our Constitution to its proper place in our government and return our Nation to our best traditions–including our commitment to government by law, and not by men.

Impeachment is not a nuisance either — it’s an integral part of the Constitution.  Impeachment is no esoteric afterthought — it’s the biggest actual “check and balance” in the document, and it’s mentioned six times.  Impeachment is literally patriotic.  And it would be a far more powerful tool towards uncovering the truth than any congressional committee or even special prosecutor would be — refusal to honor impeachment-related subpoenas was itself an article of impeachment in the Nixon articles of impeachment.

As Nell Lancaster wrote:

Impeachment is the key to reversing the damage of the last eight years, not simply papering it over. The time to organize for demanding it is not after the election, but now.

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* I’m planning to find or publish a web page of the resolution with hyperlinks to supporting documents and reports.

One Response to “Impeachment and truth now. Reconciliation? Maybe later.”

  1. A Discussion on Impeachment and T&RC’s « The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers Says:

    [...] you to read it carefully and follow the links. It’s our democracy that’s at stake. Impeachment and truth now. Reconciliation? Maybe later. by Thomas [...]

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