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Let’s be clear. Alberto Gonzales is resigning as attorney general not because he’s become an embarrassment to the Bush administration-which has repeatedly shown itself to be beyond embarrassment-but because he is no longer useful. Exposed as a serial liar and an administration hack, he can no longer be relied upon by the Bush administration to carry forward its criminal agenda of subverting the Constitution, the electoral process and the Bill of Rights, because his every step is being watched by the public and the Congress.
But this is no victory unless the Congress follows up by pursuing those who put Gonzales up to his crimes.
The whole reason felons and hacks like Gonzales resign from office is to bury their misdeeds by leaving town.
If Congress then obliges by moving on to other things, the resignation will have succeeded.
Next, it looks like we will have Michael Chertoff as AG. Now on one level that might seem to be an improvement. Gonzales was a both a house servant to Bush through his years as governor and president, doing whatever was necessary to tidy up after Bush’s messes, like hiding evidence of his drunk driving record and his dereliction of duty during the Vietnam War, and a kind of mob attorney, developing legal loopholes to protect the president from prosecution (or impeachment) for various crimes as president, like violating the Geneva Conventions or unleashing the nation’s spy apparatus against Americans. Chertoff, who is not a part of the Texas Mafia, may not be so ready to cross the line into rank sycophancy and to play the role of co-conspirator, particularly given that it’s only for another 16 months.
Then again, Chertoff, in his short stint at what is still referred to as the "Justice" Department, headed up the anti-terrorism unit under Gonzales’ predecessor, John Ashcroft, and willingly played along with the sham prosecution of John Walker Lindh, the kid who was captured in Afghanistan and inflated by Ashcroft and Chertoff into "the American Taliban." It was Chertoff who successfully deep-sixed evidence of Lindh’s weeks of torture at the hands of American forces, by threatening Lindh with a treason prosecution, while holding out the offer of a deal-"just" 15 years in the can if he agreed to sign a fraudulent statement saying he had "never been mistreated" in US captivity, and to accept a gag order barring him from talking about what had happened to him for the entire length of his sentence-an unprecedented gag order.
That prosecution and silencing of Lindh, which prevented the public from exploring the deliberate campaign of torture that had been developed in Afghanistan, later to "migrate" to Guantanamo and thence to Abu Ghraib and Iraq, was in its way as damaging to the nation as was Chertoff’s other signal disaster-his inept and callous mishandling of the catastrophe of the Katrina flooding of New Orleans.
If Chertoff-a demonstrable failure both as an administrator and as a defender of justice-is the best this administration can come up with as a replacement for Gonzales, we should be worried about the future of the nation’s "justice" system. (Okay, I concede that the Justice Department has as much to do with justice as the Defense Department has to do with defense or the Education Department has to do with education.)
The one good thing that can be said about the Gonzales resignation is that it eliminates the Democratic leadership’s latest gambit for attempting to derail the impeachment movement. As support for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney has grown, both among the public at large and in Congress, where there are now at least 20 co-sponsors for Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment bill, the Democratic leadership in the House scrambled to get behind a purely inside-the-beltway "campaign" to impeach Gonzales-a move that did succeed in dividing the real, authentic impeachment movement.
The interesting thing is that in backing the impeachment of Gonzales, those leaders and senior House Democrats who have been brushing off the broader impeachment movement gave the lie to two of their main arguments against impeachment-that it would be "too divisive" and that there "isn’t time" for impeachment. Clearly if it wasn’t too late to impeach Gonzales, and if impeaching Gonzales would not be too divisive, neither is it too late to impeach Cheney and neither would impeaching Cheney be "too divisive."
So let’s hail the departure of Gonzo, let’s demand a thorough vetting of the demonstrably incompetent and unprincipled Chertoff, and most importantly, let’s move forward with the campaign to impeach Cheney, starting with a full-court campaign to get all those who so readily signed on to Washington Rep. Jay Inslee’s Gonzales impeachment bill to now sign on to Rep. Kucinich’s H.Res. 333, a resolution to impeach the vice president.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org