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A delicious yummy mess of pottage

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th August 2009

As the health care “debate” lurches forward under the expert guidance of our Democratic leadership, my thoughts turn unbidden to the past.

How vividly I remember how we were counseled not to upset our sensitive Republican friends with any prospect of impeachment or subpoenas or prosecution, or of anything at all that might hold them or their chieftains even a little bit accountable for anything.

No, even though it was our most fundamental birthright to hold our rulers accountable when they break laws and break faith and break oaths, we were looking forward, not looking back.  And that was because we were looking forward to that “progressive place” Pelosi prattled on about once — serious liberal Democrats like Harold Meyerson and Chris Van Hollen and Eric Alterman nodding sagely at her side.  Well, Alterman came later, but I’m being allegorical here.

When we got there, she told us, there’d be a delicious yummy exit from Iraq and then! a delicious yummy climate change bill and then! a delicious yummy health care plan!  It was a wonderful story!  Instead of having to fight mean Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, we’d just wait for them to go away and we’d have a much easier time with all their friends.  Why, we might all look back on everything and just laugh at how silly we’d been!

So we gave away our birthright, and now I suspect that instead of getting anything delicious and yummy, we’re going to get the mess of pottage I understand you can expect when you do that.  Although there was nothing in the old story about the Iraq surge and FISA amendment and all the other sh*t sandwiches we got to eat first.  Which just goes to show those old stories never get it exactly right, but they can still get pretty darned close.

If so, I imagine people will be saying, “mmm! pottage!” or “you know, for a mess of pottage, it’s not half bad!” And they’ll say it with uniquely American Homer Simpson voices.  And I’ll be banging the desk with my head.

UPDATE, via Jed Lewison at DailyKos:

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Room 101

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th April 2009

Justice Department documents released yesterday offer the fullest account to date of Bush administration interrogation tactics, including previously unacknowledged strategies of slamming a prisoner into a wall and placing an insect near a detainee terrified of bugs.

“New Interrogation Details Emerge” (Johnson, Tate, Washington Post, Thursday April 16)

Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General (OLC)
Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General
(OLC) in 2002; now a federal judge on
the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit

You would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a caterpillar in the box with him. [...]

In addition to using the confinement boxes alone, you also would like to introduce an insect into one of the boxes with Zubaydah.  As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar. If you do so, to ensure that you are outside the predicate act requirement, you must inform him that the insects will not have a sting that would produce death or severe pain.  If, however, you were to place the insect in the box without informing that you are doing so, then, in order to not commit a predicate act, you should not affirmatively lead him to believe that any insect is present which has a sting that could produce sever pain or suffering or even cause his death.  [ABOUT 20 WORDS REDACTED] …so long as you take either of the approaches we have described, the insect’s placement in the box would not constitute a threat of severe physical pain or suffering to a reasonable person in his position.  An individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe pain or suffering if a caterpillar was placed in the box.  Further, you have informed us that you are not aware that Zubaydah has any allergies to insects, and you have not informed us of any other factors that would cause a reasonable person in that same situation to believe that an unknown insect would cause him sever physical pain or death.  Thus we conclude that the placement of the insect in the confinement box with Zubaydah would not constitute a predicate act. [...]

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

(signed) Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General (Office of Legal Counsel)

August 1, 2002 Memorandum for John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency: Interrogation of al Qaeda Operative

You asked me once,” said O’Brien, “what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.

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A teachable impeachment moment?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th January 2009

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office by the state legislature, the Chicago Tribune‘s Ray Long and Rick Pearson report:

The Illinois Senate voted to remove Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office Thursday, marking the first time in the state’s long history of political corruption that a chief executive has been impeached and convicted.

The 59-0 vote followed several hours of public deliberation in which senator after senator stood up to blast Blagojevich, whose tenure lasted six years. And it came after a four-day impeachment trial on allegations that Blagojevich abused his power and sold his office for personal and political benefit.

The thing is, people were starting to notice that the sale hadn’t been completed.  Josh Marshall noted “he often strikes me as genuinely clinical. But it’s not clear to me how strong a case they’ve got against this guy.” A December National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers article asked, “In Blagojevich Case, Is It a Crime, or Just Talk?“, and note “Mr. Fitzgerald’s decision to bypass a grand jury initially could signal a belief on his part that he did not yet have a fully prosecutable case on his hand.” As the Washington Post’s Bob Herbert put it earlier this week:

Trying to leverage a political appointment into a political advantage is not unprecedented. Doing so while talking like a character from “The Sopranos” is an aesthetic offense, but I’m not sure it’s a criminal one.

Had Blagojevich consummated a deal for personal gain in exchange for the appointment, Fitzgerald may have an open-and-shut case. But the governor didn’t consummate anything. He just talked and talked and talked, mostly about how nobody wanted to play ball with him. I question whether anything on the tapes is enough to put him in jail.

That may well be so — and it certainly had the considerable value of triggering a spluttering hissy fit from David Broder in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Yet within his own rebuttal, Broder conceded Robinson’s key point (emphasis added):

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Fwd: Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 12th January 2009


Formal Petition to Attorney
General-Designate Eric Holder
to appoint a Special Prosecutor
to investigate and prosecute any
and all government officials
who have participated in War Crimes.
Sponsored by Docudharma.com
and Democrats.com.

Dear friends and family,

I have just read and signed the petition: “Special Prosecutor for Bush War Crimes.” Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and consider joining me in signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. To join in the petition, click here.

This was already a top vote getter at Barack Obama’s “change.gov” site — but as Obama’s response shows, it unfortunately seems that he and his administration may need to be pressured on this. From Obama’s recent interview with George Stephanopoulos (emphases added):

OBAMA: …I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. [...]OBAMA: “Well we have not made any final decisions but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward, we are doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation’s going to be to move forward,” Obama said.

STEPHANOPOULOS: “So let me just press that one more time. You’re not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence where it leads?”

OBAMA: What I — I think my general view when it comes to my attorney general is that he’s the people’s lawyer. Eric Holder’s been nominated. His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interests of the American people. Not be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So ultimately, he’s going to be making some calls. But my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

See also “Additional Documents Link Bush Directly to Guantanamo Torture,” (Jason Leopold, “Public Record”):

Several high-ranking members of Obama’s transition team told me this week that the president-elect will not authorize the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation practices nor will the agency scrutinize any individual officials for approving such policies. Instead, these aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Obama will review and possibly reverse some of Bush’s executive orders and withdraw some legal opinions that gave the president broad powers in the global war on terror.


“Possibly”?! Meanwhile, Bush has admitted personally OK’ing waterboarding:

And I’m in the Oval Office and I am told that we have captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the professionals believe he has information necessary to secure the country. So I ask what tools are available for us to find information from him and they gave me a list of tools, and I said are these tools deemed to be legal? And so we got legal opinions before any decision was made.

He also knew of “principals” meetings where waterboarding was discussed.  Torture is a blatant war crime and crime under U.S. law.

I realize not everyone I send this to will agree with me on this, but I wanted to not take anyone’s views for granted, and also to let you know how I see it. Personally, I’ve favored impeachment for the war crime of torture, the fraudulent case for going to war in Iraq, and the warrantless surveillance that the Bush administration is guilty of — and prosecution (whether or not it leads to a conviction) would not preclude that. What I don’t favor is simply “moving on,” “turning the page,” “looking forward instead of backward,” or other formulations that seem more about avoiding hard truths and unpleasantness than about truly preventing such abuses in the future.

To me, this isn’t mainly about the people who actually carried out orders to torture (though they shouldn’t have). It is about the people who gave those orders, or justified them with legal mumbo-jumbo: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Yoo, Haynes and Addington, to name some of the most important ones. To really look “forward”, you have to look even further than the Obama administration, to a time when people like these are in a position to consider crimes like these again. When that time comes, it will be far better if such people (possibly even the same people) can look back on a special prosecutor bringing administration officials to justice.

Impeach them: yes we can Yes We Can. Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

Thank you!

– Thomas Nephew

PS: Impeachment also remains a possibility even after someone leaves federal office; one of the consequences of an impeachment conviction is not being allowed to hold federal office again. Impeachment is also specifically not something a presidential pardon can prevent. For those of you wondering why I still have an “Impeach Them” sign up in my front lawn, that’s why.

====
NOTE: I sent the above message (slightly modified) to a great number of friends and family today, with more on the way.

UPDATE, 1/12: On the “Huffington Post,” actor John Cusack proposes two questions to ask Attorney General nominee Eric Holder:

1. Is waterboarding torture?

2. Will you prosecute? No matter what sham commission is appointed to block justice?I would hope we pressure our representatives, whomever questions Mr. Holder, to play the video of the Vice President of the United States admitting to sanctioning a torture program. He not only admits the war crimes but seems proud and pleased with himself.

Someone, anyone, for the sake of our constitution, ask Mr. Holder, the presumptive top legal authority, the man who will lead the Justice Department after the most lawless time in American history, to answer these simple, basic, direct questions.

Whomever is found guilty should not be on the lecture circuit, but in prison.

 

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That’s a shame

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd December 2008

By way of inching back towards blogging again, I’ll relate a short post-election story, from the weekend after the election.

I had just completed the first installment of my fall tradition of moving leaves from the front yard to their mulch heap atop the defunct vegetable garden, and grubbing wads of mouldering wet leaves out of the gutters.  The latter task involves moving a heavy ladder around the house, climbing up, grubbing leaf wads, climbing down, repeating.  So I was a bit tired and didn’t have my usual rapier-like wit handy for what came next.

Impeach them: yes we can
Yes We Can.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

A lady came walking by my front yard, saw me, took the “IMPEACH THEM” sign standing along the street between thumb and forefinger, and asked “Do you still want this, now that there’ll be a new administration?”

“Sure do,” I replied, adding “we still can, you know…”

To which the lady replied, “That’s a shame.”

Huh.  “Why is that a shame?” I asked.  “Oh, I don’t know,” she answered, and went on her way, leaving me figuratively like some beached fish, mouth silently opening and closing.  I’m still a little ticked off about it — if I were to wander by someone else’s yard and take issue with their opinions, I should hope I’d have the common courtesy to explain myself, especially if I acted like the owner was some kind of unreasonable nut.

Over at Democrats.com, folks are pleased about Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s (D-NY-8) H. Res. 1531, which seeks to shame our 43d president out of issuing blanket pardons to his minions for their roles in approving torture, subverting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and whatnot.  Spake Judiciary subcommittee chairman Nadler in a press release:

H.RES.1531 is in response to President Bush’s widespread abuses of power and potentially criminal transgressions against our Constitution. The Resolution aims to prevent undeserved pardons of officials who may have been co-conspirators in the President’s unconstitutional policies, such as torture, illegal surveillance and curtailing of due process for defendants.

The resolution would express the sense of the House that…

(1)…granting of preemptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power;

(2) … the President should not grant preemptive pardons to senior officials in his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties;

(3) … that James Madison was correct in his observation that “[i]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty”;

(4) …that a special investigative commission, or a Select Committee be tasked with investigating possible illegal activities by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush, including, if necessary, any abuse of the President’s pardon power; and

(5) the next Attorney General of the United States appoint an independent counsel to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute illegal acts by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Of course, we should ask our representatives to join us in supporting the resolution, but I hope the good people at Democrats.com will forgive me a bit of headshaking about it: if only Nadler had been so outspoken about Bush’s crimes against the people and Constitution of the United States sooner.

While I know — and I assume Nadler knows — that impeachment has no statute of limitations and that in fact a pardoned person can still be impeached, that lady who walked by my house probably doesn’t know it. And among the main reasons she doesn’t know or care is that political leadership of this country — Mr. Nadler prominent among them — have by their inaction these past many years confirmed her likely opinion that none of these things were worth impeaching or prosecuting anyone about in the first place.  Meanwhile, the not entirely different political leadership comprising President-elect Obama and his more fervent supporters have not been shy about implying that his ascendance will in and of itself wash the country clean of the our sins — and I use the words “our” and “sins” advisedly.

I don’t mean to be a scold to my neighbors, and I had lately become a little tired of harping on these subjects even here. But it’s gotten to where far too many of us won’t see crimes when they happen, won’t even try to punish them when we find out about them — and then have the gall to act as if that’s the wise and charitable thing to do.

And that’s a shame.

=====
PS: Thanks to those readers who have returned to finally find actual writing as opposed to mere link-mongering.  I hope the “delicious” links were occasionally interesting, but I’m undecided about continuing them as more than a sidebar; input welcome.

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For Gordon Clark for Congress in Maryland’s 8th C.D.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 26th October 2008

The following email was sent to impeachment supporters in the Takoma Park area; I’ve added a video link to the campaign video mentioned in the second paragraph.

=====

Dear Takoma Park Impeach Bush & Cheney supporter,

We — Thomas Nephew, Lisa Moscatiello, and Michelle Bailey — are writing to endorse Gordon Clark (Green Party) for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives.  We’re confident that as the kind of independent thinker who has supported impeachment, you’ll be very impressed with Mr. Clark, who is opposing incumbent Chris Van Hollen (Democratic Party).  For our part, all three of us will be voting for him on November 4th.

To learn more about Gordon Clark, visit his web site at www.clarkforcongress.net.  While you’re there, be sure to check out his latest campaign video — a great two minute summary of why Gordon Clark is running for Congress.*  There’s also a video of his recent debate with Republican Steve Hudson and Van Hollen legislative aide Bill Parsons (Van Hollen couldn’t attend because of the bailout bill vote).

The centerpiece of Clark’s campaign is a Green New Deal — an Apollo program, Manhattan Project, and Marshall Plan all rolled into one — to put America on the path to renewable energy independence.  He also supports universal health care, opposes threatening war with Iran, and wants a complete withdrawal from Iraq; as you’ll see from an issues chart comparison, Chris Van Hollen falls short on these and other counts.  There’s more, everything is well documented — and you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with Gordon Clark much more often than not.

There will be a Clark volunteer meeting today (Sunday, October 26th) from 4-6PM at 822 Gist Avenue, Silver Spring; to get in touch with the campaign, contact Sara Gilbertie at 860-233-4097 or sara@clarkforcongress.net, or visit the campaign web site at www.clarkforcongress.net.

= = = = =

What about Clark’s views on impeachment?  Here’s what he told Internet radio host Chip Gibbons earlier this year:

Read the rest of this entry »

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What trumps a pardon?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th October 2008

In one very important way, impeachment does — and maybe soon.

The news was quickly buried under an avalanche of financial crisis, Palin, debate, and election horse race stories, but it was significant all the same.  In late September, Murray Waas reported in Atlantic.com that Department of Justice investigators were zeroing in on former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s July 24, 2007 testimony to Congress.  In this testimony, Gonzales asserted that in a critical March 10, 2004 meeting — immediately prior to the notorious “hospital confrontation” between Comey, Ashcroft, Gonzales, and Card — a key group of Congressional members privy to intelligence secrets* shared a “consensus” with Cheney, Addington, and Gonzales that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program described to them should go forward.

Unfortunately for Gonzales, this assertion was denied** by many of the congressmembers involved. Waas:

Gonzales said that he had told the congressional leaders “in the most forceful way that I could [about] … the disagreement that existed.” Gonzales said that in response to that, there had been a “consensus in the room” from the legislators, “who said, ‘Despite the recommendation of the deputy attorney general, go forward with very important intelligence activities.’ ”

This assertion that there had been “a consensus” is currently under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general as possible perjury or as a false statement under oath.

According to Waas, Gonzales also developed after-the-fact “notes” on the March 10 meeting, at the direction of President Bush; beginning with one sentence(!) , jotted down on March 11.  Gonzales asserted he wrote up the remainder of his notes on the March 10, 2004 meeting “the following weekend,” i.e., March 13 and 14.

But on March 11, when he renewed the NSA warrantless surveillance program, Bush could only have had Gonzales’s say-so and the alleged one sentence note as “documentation” of Congressional acquiescence.  According to accounts like those by the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, Bush finally modified his March 11 order on March 19 — well after being informed by Comey, on March 12, of likely widespread resignations at the Department of Justice should the program continue in its prior form.

The NSA warrantless surveillance program may well have always been an impeachable offense.  Its continued approval through March 19, 2004, despite the March 12th disapproval of Acting Attorney General Comey — was even more certainly one, at least in my view and that of many others.  Should the March 11th reapproval have been based on evidence of congressional “acquiescence” known to be false or even suborned, that would be yet further grounds for Bush’s impeachment.

But I think it’s also crucial that by feigning that evidence — and by restating that lie in his July 24, 2007 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee — Alberto Gonzales can be impeached as well. And there’s nothing President Bush could do to stop that — not even a pardon.

Read the rest of this entry »

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September 17 is Constitution Day

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th September 2008

…so let’s make it a bad one for George Bush, Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Josh Bolten by joining this American Freedom Campaign petition:

…In order for our government to function, we must have checks and balances. In order to prevent a president from assuming king-like powers and to ensure that all presidents are held accountable for their actions, Congress must have effective congressional oversight ability. And, of course, our presidents must respect that power.

George W. Bush does not.

It is time to put an end to this defiling of our Constitution. The U.S. House of Representatives has set September 26 as a target date for adjournment. By that time, Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and Josh Bolten must comply with the congressional subpoenas they have been issued – and which a federal judge has ordered them to follow.

If they do not, then George W. Bush must be impeached and removed from office….

Full text and petition here — and of course, feel free to join it before September 17th.  The American Freedom Campaign is organizing more than that for Constitution Day, as a press release last week explained:

Groups From Across the Political Spectrum Call on Presidential Candidates – and the Media – to Dedicate Constitution Day (September 17) to Addressing Constitutional Issues

…This year, an ideologically diverse coalition of civil society groups and think tanks from the human rights, civil liberties, environmental, civil rights, open government, limited government, and public interest communities have joined forces in a rare effort to foster respect for the U.S. Constitution by an incoming administration. Leading the effort are the American Freedom Campaign, World Resources Institute and the Liberty Coalition.

The organizations are calling on presidential candidates from all parties to describe their commitment and ability to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” as the next president. These groups recognize that presidents exercise a great deal of discretion and flexibility in interpreting the Constitution and that abuse of constitutional rights and safeguards can have significant harmful effects on the American people’s lives. It is therefore essential, they assert, to understand where candidates stand on constitutional rights and the separation of powers prior to their election. These groups also believe it is the responsibility of the media to inform the public about the candidates’ positions on constitutional issues and to press the candidates for their positions if they are unknown…

I.e., what Charlie Savage did with all the candidates late last year for “executive power” issues (something I turned into a spreadsheet rating system and described in a blog post here.)

There’s broad support for this initiative at the “grass tops” level and — I hope — at the grass roots level as well. I attended a press conference last Friday announcing the plan, and Sarah Dufendach (Common Cause), Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights), Dane Von Breichenruchardt (American Conservative Defense Alliance), and Robin Murphy (World Resources Institute), among others, all spoke about the urgency of this moment. Jon Pincus, Aviva OThirtytwo, and I were there (in person or by phone) representing “Get FISA Right”, one of the most recent expressions of citizen/netizen dissatisfaction with where our civil liberties are headed.

I went in hopes that this might become another nucleus of activism for a political drive like Nell Lancaster was writing about last week:

…post-power impeachment hearings are the single best way to uncover just what lawbreaking was done. Not only do impeachment investigations have much stronger testimony-extracting powers than regular Congressional hearings, but post-term impeachment is much less easily characterized as a “partisan witch hunt” because it’s removed from an electoral landscape. [...]

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.

Now as campaign director Steve Fox stressed at the press conference, advocating impeachment is not a goal of the “Constitution Day” initiative per se — and the goal of elevating an election campaign above lipsticks, pit bulls, and hockey moms is hugely important in its own right.

But AFC’s own willingness to use the “I word” in its demand for Rove, Miers, and Bolten to take the stand shows they’re a potential ally for impeachment later on — whether before or after the election, and whether they’re ready to consider that right now or not. After all, even if the September 26th recess comes and goes with no progress in getting testimony from the White House, the urgency of sanctioning a presidency that thumbed its nose at the Constitution won’t go away.

Nor will all the benefits of impeachment. See Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution (emphasis added):

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Moreover, Article II, Section 2 states:

[the President] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

The implications are left as an exercise for the reader.

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Impeachment and truth now. Reconciliation? Maybe later.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th September 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.

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Reformations

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 18th August 2008

I’m not especially well-informed about the history of the Catholic Church, the Reformation, and the Counterreformation. I therefore simply direct readers to an interesting set of posts by Mick Arran:

Arran argues that there are instructive historical parallels between the great shipwreck of the Catholic Church on the rocks of the Reformation and today’s American political scene. In a nutshell, by failing to root out and punish corruption in its midst, the American political establishment of the late 20th and early 21st centuries strongly resembles the pre-Reformation Catholic Church, and is inviting a similar period of steady decline.

Arran points to Ford’s pardon of Nixon for and Bush’s pardon of Weinberger as akin to the Catholic Church “General Council” failures to end abuses like selling “benefices” and self-enrichment:

…not once, but twice, American presidential administrations have defamed and trampled on some of the most serious and solemn provisions of the Constitution of the United States WITHOUT LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF ANY KIND FOR ANYONE INVOLVED. But most especially there was no action whatever taken against those at the top levels of govt who had ordered those violations: the president and the vice president. Is it any wonder that the Bush Administration felt free to do whatever it wished, to violate US law, the Constitution, and Congressional orders lawfully given? To do its business entirely in secret, refusing even to let the Congress itself know what it was doing? The lesson they had learned and learned well was that a president could ignore laws, the Constitution, Congress, the judicial branch, and the people themselves WITHOUT FEAR THAT THEY WOULD EVER HAVE TO PAY A PRICE FOR THEIR CRIMES.

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