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Impeachment

The Missing Word at the Anti-War Demo

by DAVE LINDORFF

The largely unstated word at the massive anti-war demonstration and march in Washington on Saturday was "impeachment." Not that it wasn’t on demonstrators’ lips and signs, but it wasn’t coming from the podium.

The march, organized by United for Peace and Justice, was instead deliberately focused narrowly on the issue of ending the war in Iraq and preventing an invasion of Iran. But clearly, behind that was the sense that the US government is in the hands of a cabal of warmongers and anti-democratic usurpers who are intent on broadening the war in the Middle East, not ending it , and that the Democrats in the 110th Congress haven’t got the spine to stop them (a group from Seattle actually addressed this with a giant white spine float emblazoned with the words "investigate, impeach, indict").

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the new head of the House Judiciary Committee, was a late addition to the roster of speakers at the rally on the National Mall. He told the cheering throng that while Bush may have been "firing the generals who tell him that we’re losing the war in Iraq," he "can’t fire you." Then he added, in a none-too-veiled hint that impeachment may be coming, "But we can fire him!"

The crowd went wild, with chants of "Impeach him!"

The stage has been set.

Bush and Cheney have stated publicly that they will not be swayed by the November election, or by polls or demonstrations, all making it clear that the vast majority of Americans want the Iraq War ended quickly. They have thrown down the gauntlet saying that they will ignore any Congressional resolution condemning the escalation of American involvement in Iraq. They have made it clear by sending a Naval armada to the Persian Gulf and by their threatening statements, that they are getting ready to attack Iran despite universal international opposition and warnings from military experts that it would be a disaster.

There is really only one way to stop the madness: impeachment.

Investigations into administration wrongdoing won’t do it.

Demonstrations won’t do it.

Even cutting funding for the war–while it would be a more powerful statement of opposition from Congress–would not end the conflict or bring the troops home. Bush would simply move money around in the giant Pentagon budget and call it something else.

Critics of impeachment, especially among the Democratic leadership, say it is too soon. They say the first step should be investigations.

This is a misunderstanding, or a deliberate distortion, of what the impeachment process is.

The impeachment process itself begins with investigations. To argue that first a case for impeachment has to be proved before a bill of impeachment should be submitted in the House is akin to saying that a case of murder must be proved before an indictment can be brought.

In fact, the proper procedure, laid out by the Founding Fathers, is for a member of Congress to submit a bill of impeachment claiming that the president has violated his oath of office, or has engaged in actions that threaten the Constitution or the rule of law. That bill goes to the House Judiciary Committee which must decide whether the bill makes a serious enough charge to warrant going to the full House to request the establishment of an Impeachment Committee, armed with subpoena power, to investigate. (Alternatively, of course, a state’s legislature can submit a joint resolution calling for impeachment, which may happen soon.)

Should a majority of the House vote to impanel the Judiciary Committeee as an Impeachment Committee, that is when the investigation would begin in ernest-a process we saw in action twice in recent memory, first in the case of Richard Nixon, and second with Bill Clinton.

In Bush’s case, there is ample evidence already in the public record to justify multiple bills of impeachment. Just to name a few, we know:

* A federal judge has ruled, after hearing evidence from both sides, that President Bush violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a felony, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution by authorizing warrantless monitoring of the communications of American citizens.

* The president violated the US Criminal Code and the Geneva Conventions by both authorizing torture of prisoners in captivity, and by failing to act to prevent and to punish torture when it was brought to his attention.

* The president has abused his power by assuming legislative powers to invalidate duly passed acts of Congress through his issuance of so-called "signing statements"-a process not even mentioned by the Constitution, which assigns "all legislative authority" to the Congress. On these and a number of other issues, there is really no need for investigations at all. The crimes against the Constitution are obvious, blatant and self-evident. (And in the case of NSA spying, are actually laid out in a federal judge’s opinion.)

All that is lacking at this point, is a principled, courageous and patriotic House leadership to initiate the process.

To hear a presentation of the full case for impeachment against the president, and against some of the key members of the administration, including Cheney, Gonzales and Rice, check out the new release of a video, "The Case for Impeachment," by Squeaky Wheel Productions,available at: http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=apfnorg (Be sure and pass this link on to everyone you know, and to your congressional representative!).

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com