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High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Talkin’ About the "I"-Word

by RALPH NADER

Richard Cohen, the finely-calibrated syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, wrote a column on October 28, 2004 which commenced with this straight talk: "I do not write the headlines for my columns. Someone else does. But if I were to write the headline for one, it would be ‘Impeach George Bush’."

Cohen stated the obvious then. Bush and Cheney had plunged the nation into war "under false pretenses." Exploiting the public trust in the Presidency, Bush had persuaded, over the uncritical mass media, day after day, before the war, a majority of the American people that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, biological weapons and nuclear weapons programs, was connected to al-Qaeda and 9/11 and was a threat to the United States.

These falsehoods, Cohen wrote, "are a direct consequence of the administration’s repeated lies–lies of commission, such as Cheney’s statements, and lies of omission."

Fourteen months later, no widely syndicated columnist or major newspaper editorial has called for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Not even Cohen again. Yet the case for impeachment is so strong that, recently, hardly a day goes by without more disclosures which strengthen any number of impeachable offenses that could form a Congressional action under our Constitution. An illegal war, to begin with, against our Constitution which says only Congress can declare war. An illegal war under domestic laws, and international law, and conducted illegally under international conventions to which the US belongs, should cause an outcry against this small clique of outlaws committing war crimes who have hijacked our national government.

An illegal, criminal war means that every related U.S. death and injury, every related Iraqi civilian death and injury, every person tortured, every home and building destroyed become war crimes as a result–under established international law.

There are those on talk radio or cable shows who scoff at international law. They rarely tell their audiences that the United States has played a key role in establishing these treaties, like the Geneva Conventions, and the United Nations Charter. When these treaties are agreed to by the U.S. government, they become as binding as our federal laws.

By these legal standards and by the requirements of the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, the war-declaring authority), George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are probably the most impeachable President and Vice President in American history. An illegal war based on lies, deceptions, cover-ups and their repetition even after being told by officials in their own administration–not to mention critical retired generals, diplomats and security specialists–of their falsity should have prodded the House of Representatives into initiating impeachment proceedings. But then, Bush did not lie under oath about sex.

A majority of the American people have turned against this war-quagmire, against its intolerable human and economic costs, against the increased danger this war is bringing to our nation’s interests. They want the soldiers to return safely home. In increasing numbers they sense what Bush’s own CIA Director, Porter Goss, told the U.S. Senate last February. He noted, along with other officials since then, that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are like a magnet attracting and training more terrorists from more countries who will return to their nations and cause trouble. Many national security experts have said, in effect, you do not fight terrorists with policies that produce more terrorists.

Now comes the most recent, blatant impeachable offense–Bush ordering the spying on Americans in our country by the National Security Agency. This disclosure stunned many N.S.A. staff who themselves view domestic surveillance as anathema, according to Matthew M. Aid, a current historian of the agency.

Domestic eavesdropping on Americans by order of the President to the National Security Agency violates the 27-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act unless they obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. This court meets in secret and has rejected only four out of 19,000 applications.

So why did Bush violate this law and why does he defiantly say he will continue to order domestic spying as he has since 2002? Not because the FISA Court is slow. It acts in a matter of hours in the middle of the night if need be. The law actually permits surveillance in emergencies as long as warrants are requested within 72 hours or 15 days in times of war.

Bush violated the law because of the arrogance of power. Ostensibly, he believes that a vague Congressional resolution after 9/11 to fight al-Qaeda overrides this explicit federal law and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Bush even claims he can unilaterally decide to domestically spy from the inherent powers of the Presidency to fight wars. (To him Congressionally-undeclared wars are still wars).

Other than his legal flaks in the White House and Justice Department making such transparently specious arguments as "good soldiers", the overwhelming position of legal scholars is that Bush and Cheney have violated grave laws protecting the liberties of the American people.

The crime, says Professor David Cole of Georgetown Law School, is "punishable by five years in prison." Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School said that the President ordered such a crime and ordered US officials to commit it.this is a serious felony.what happened here is not just a violation of Federal law, it’s a violation of the U.S. Constitutionan impeachable offense."

It matters not that a Republican-dominated Congress has no present interest in moving to impeach Bush-Cheney. What matters is that impeachment in this case–based on the authority of Congress to charge the President and Vice President with "high crimes and misdemeanors"–is a patriotic cause rooted in the wisdom of our founding fathers who did not want another King George III in the guise of a President.

As Senator Russell Feingold said a few days ago: The President is not a King, he is a President subject to the laws and Constitution of the land. Apparently, George W. Bush seems to believe and behave as if his unlimited inherited powers flow from King George III, given the way he has shoved aside both federal law and the nation’s Constitution.

Both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should resign. They have disgraced their office and bled the nation. They have shattered the public trust in so many serious ways that will only become worse in the coming months.