The Iroquois Way of Impeachment

by KAZ DZIAMKA

Not only does American democracy rank a miserable 17th on the list of the world’s modern democracies (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of democracy); it also doesn’t fare well when compared with traditional Native American democracies, in particular, with the Iroquois Confederacy–the Haudenosaunee–"the oldest living participatory democracy on earth."

In "Perceptions of America’s Native Democracies," Donald A. Grinde Jr. and Bruce E. Johansen point out that Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, among others, could benefit–and did benefit to some extent–from Native Americans’ experience in designing functional democracies. Unfortunately, being racist and sexist as well as mostly contemptuous of direct democracy, our Founding Fathers failed to take full advantage of the political genius of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy: The Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Senecas, and the Tuscaroras. Among the Iroquois provisions absent from the U.S. Constitution is the law that allows Iroquois clan mothers to initiate impeachment against incompetent or criminal political leaders, or "sachems":

The rights, duties, and qualifications of sachems were explicitly outlined, and the clan mothers could remove (or impeach) a sachem who was found guilty of any of a number of abuses of office–from missed meetings to murder.

Had our Founding Fathers been less prejudiced and more inclined to study Native American political philosophy seriously, they would have learned a valuable political lesson from the Iroquois. Today the mothers of U.S. soldiers killed in wars started by the neocon armchair warriors in the White House would have the moral and legal authority to initiate impeachment of these immoral "sachems." In the case of the worst crime of the 21st century–the U.S. war on Iraq–the Iroquois law would give Cindy Sheehan and thousands of American mothers the legal power to force impeachment proceedings in the Supreme Court by bypassing an irresponsible or incompetent Congress.

Once removed from office, Bush and other warlords like Cheney and Rumsfeld would be subject to our criminal laws–no pardon or parole being available to officials thus impeached. (Consider the advantage of this provision if Nixon had been sent to prison, instead of being pardoned by President Gerald Ford, an immoral decision that has had tragic consequences.)

The genius of Iroquois democracy to empower mothers, "the Lifegivers of our Mother Earth," with impeachment authority is that such a law restrains expedient political power with apolitical moral judgment. Iroquois women were not part of the political/military elites and did not feel compelled to compromise moral principles under political pressure. Not our elected representatives in Congress, not our career female politicians like Clinton or Pelosi–but ordinary American citizens, mothers of U.S. soldiers, should ultimately keep executive power in check.

It may be that the Iroquois impeachment law is the only efficient way for modern democracies to balance political expediency with moral responsibility.

KAZ DZIAMKA is editor of the American Rationalist and teaches English and Native American Studies at the Albuquerque Central New Mexico Community College. Email: kazd@nmia.com

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman