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With another Bush Family war of aggression against Iraq staring the American People, Congress and Republic in their face, on Tuesday 11 March 2003, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, which would have jurisdiction over any Bill of Impeachment, convened an emergency meeting of forty or more of his top advisors, most of whom were lawyers, to discuss and debate immediately putting into the House of Representatives Bills of Impeachment against President Bush Jr., Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Ashcroft in order to head off the impending war.[i] Congressman Conyers kindly requested me and Ramsey Clark to come in to the meeting and argue the case for impeachment. Ramsey had launched his own campaign to impeach Bush Jr. et al. in mid-January 2003 at a peace rally held in Washington D.C.
This impeachment debate lasted for two hours. It was presided over by Congressman Conyers, who quite correctly did not tip his hand one way or the other on the merits of impeachment. He simply moderated the debate between Clark and me, on the one side, favoring immediately filing Bills of Impeachment against Bush Jr. et al. to stop the threatened war, and almost everyone else there who were against impeachment. Obviously no point would be served here by attempting to digest a two-hour-long vigorous debate among a group of well-trained lawyers on such a controversial matter at this critical moment in American history. But at the time I was struck by the fact that this momentous debate was conducted at a private office right down the street from the White House.
Suffice it to say that most of the “experts” there opposed impeachment on the grounds that it might hurt the Democratic Party get their presidential candidate elected in the year 2004. As a political independent, I did not argue that point–it was not for me to tell Democrats how to get their candidates elected. Rather, I argued the merits of impeaching Bush Jr., Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft under the United States Constitution, U.S. Federal Laws, U.S. Treaties and other International Agreements to which the United States was a contracting party. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution provides that Treaties “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” This so-called Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution also applies to International Executive Agreements concluded under the auspices of the U.S. President such as the 1945 Nuremberg Charter.
Congressman Conyers was so kind as to allow me the closing argument in the debate. Briefly put, the concluding point I chose to make was historical: The Athenians lost their Democracy. The Romans lost their Republic. And if we Americans did not act now we could lose our Republic! The United States of America is not immune to the laws of history!
After two hours of most vigorous debate, the meeting adjourned with a second revised draft Bill of Impeachment sitting on the table. Despite these efforts, President Bush Jr. started his war of aggression against Iraq on the evening of Wednesday 19 March 2003 with an attempt to assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by means of a so-called “decapitation” strike, which was clearly illegal and criminal. Since then, Clark and I have accelerated our respective grassroots campaigns to impeach President Bush Jr. et al. Don Quixotes tilting at windmills?[ii] Not at all!
In the run-up to his 1991 Gulf War, President Bush Sr. feared impeachment. Writing in his diary on 20 December 1990 about the impending war against Iraq, President Bush Sr recorded his fears of impeachment as follows: “But if it drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”[iii] There are thus good grounds to believe that fear of impeachment compelled Bush Sr. to terminate the war early on 28 February 1991 with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still in power, thus avoiding innumerable and horrendous casualties for Americans and even more so for Iraqis.
Thirteen years later, after President Bush Jr.’s invasion of Iraq, flush with “victory” and the arrogance of power, members of the Bush Jr. administration publicly threatened to attack Iran, Syria, and North Korea. In direct reaction to these threats, on 13 April 2003 former U.S. Secretary of State (under President Bush Sr., no less!) Lawrence Engleburger told the BBC:[iv]
“If George Bush [Jnr] decided he was going to turn the troops loose on Syria and Iran after that he would last in office for about 15 minutes. In fact if President Bush were to try that now even I would think that he ought to be impeached. You can’t get away with that sort of thing in this democracy.”
Almost immediately after Eagleburger’s BBC broadside against them, the Bush Jr. warmongers cooled their public rhetoric and threats against Iran and Syria–but not North Korea.
So the Bush Jr. administration has already stood down for the time-being from two further aggressions because of at least one public threat of impeachment. But as of this writing U.S. military, political and economic preparations are underway for a Bush Jr. war of aggression against North Korea. The American People and Congress must put the fear of impeachment into the highest levels of the Bush Jr. administration in order to prevent such a catastrophic war that could readily go nuclear.[v]
Certainly, if the U.S. House of Representatives can impeach President Clinton for sex and lying about sex, then a fortiori the House can, should, and must impeach President Bush Jr. for war, lying about war, and threatening more wars. We need one Member of Congress with the courage, integrity, and principles of the late and great Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas. Otherwise, the alternative will be an American Empire abroad, a U.S. Police State at home, and continuing wars of aggression to sustain them–along the lines of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 (1949). Despite all of the serious flaws of the United States government that this author has amply documented elsewhere during the past quarter century as a Professor of Law, the truth of the matter is that America is still the oldest Republic in the world today.[vi] We, the People of the United States, must fight to keep it that way![vii] And for the good of all humanity, we must terminate America’s Imperial Presidency and subject it to the Rule of Law.[viii]
Francis A. Boyle, Professor of Law, University of Illinois, is author of Foundations of World Order, Duke University Press, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, and Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, by Clarity Press. He can be reached at: FBOYLE@LAW.UIUC.EDU
[i]. Ethan Wallison, Time to Impeach?, Roll Call, March 13, 2003, at 1.
[ii]. Liz Halloran, Wartime Snapshots of American Life: Tilting at Presidents, Hartford Courant, March 30, 2003, at A3.
[iii]. Laura Myers, Bush Describes Gulf War Quandary, Associated Press, Sept. 10, 1998, quoting from Bush’s memoir A World Transformed (1998), which he co-authored with his National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. See also Bush: Worried about Impeachment for Gulf War, The Hotline, Sept. 10, 1998; Institute for Public Accuracy, Bush Worried About Impeachment, Too, 28 Sept.1998 Press Release.
[iv]. Ben Russell, U.S. Warns Syria Not to Provide Haven for Wanted Iraqis, The Independent (UK), April 14, 2003; Former Sec. Of State Lawrence Engleburger: Bush Should Be Impeached If He Invades Syria or Iran, Antiwar.com, April 14, 2003 (link to audio).
[v]. Francis A. Boyle, The Criminality of Nuclear War Deterrence: Could the U.S. War on Terrorism Go Nuclear? (2002).
[vi]. See Akhil Reed Amar & Alan Hirsch, For the People (1998).
[vii]. Francis A. Boyle, Defending Civil Resistance Under International Law (1987; Special Paperback ed. 1988).
[viii]. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Imperial Presidency (1989). See also Michael Parenti, Against Empire (1995); John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (2003).