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If George Bush were to be impeached, would it make any difference? Whenever I receive emails or mass mailings that bring up the topic of Bush’s impeachment, that is the question I asked. So, it was with some curiosity that I began reading the book A Case for Impeachment, by Dave Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky (Thomas Dunne Books 2006). The process of impeachment has always interested me, at least when it comes to our nation’s presidents and, if any president deserved to face some kind of consequences for what he and his cronies have done to this country, George Bush is certainly first in line.
As the title clearly states, the authors of this text want to see Bush impeached. Do they believe it will happen? To be honest, they have much more faith in seeing an impeachment trial than I do. In fact, Lindorff and Olshansky go on record declaring that if a Democratic majority is elected to the House of Representatives in the November 2006 elections, we will see an impeachment resolution introduced. I hope they are right on this (I would love to see Bush and Cheney slowly twisting in the wind, to borrow Richard Nixon’s phrase), but I have my doubts about the fortitude of the current crop of Democrats in power.
Either way, this book is written with the intention of stirring up the pot, so to speak. The authors want to see the impeachment process go beyond sign waving at antiwar demonstrations and emails in liberal lefties mailboxes. Indeed, they want the public’s growing desire for impeachment to go from the streets and hearths of this nation into a building where those sentiments can make a difference. Where they can result in impeachment and (one hopes) at least one conviction. To this end, the bulk of the book proposes five articles of impeachment with supporting documents. The articles address the lies told by the Bush administration to lead the US into the war in Iraq; domestic spying and eavesdropping; a charge relating to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame; the administration’s ignoring of warnings prior to the attacks of 9-11 and subsequent stonewalling and possible lying before Congress during investigations of the events of that day; his knowledge of torture and other war crimes; and abuses of power by his use of signing statements that essentially deny the applicability of any law to him.
It is important to remember that Bush needs to be convicted of only one charge.
The book begins with a discussion of impeachment–its history, origins, context and uses over time. Bill Clinton’s experience with the process is discussed, but Lindorff and Olshansky’s focus is more on the impeachments of Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon. The primary message that comes through in this discussion is that impeachable offenses are not necessarily indictable offenses. However, given the nature of public officials’ responsibility to the people whom they serve, this is not an extraordinary expectation. Impeachable offenses are those that destroy the trust of the populace and violate the constitution.
Like every US president. George Bush took an oath at his inauguration. That oath speaks of a supreme being and the law. Most importantly, the person taking that oath swears to “preserve, protect and defend” the nations fundamental law– the constitution. The articles of impeachment presented here present a convincing argument that Mr. Bush did not uphold that oath. this in itself, is the most impeachable offense of all.
Like many US residents, I am familiar with the abuses, lies and questionably legal actions of the Bush administration. To see them arranged as Articles of Impeachment in this text accompanied with arguments for such a trial only makes the magnitude of these charges frightfully clear. This is the greatest strength of this book. It makes it abundantly clear in a concise and coherent manner, that George Bush and his administration deserve to be impeached. In fact, the authors even suggest that the impeachment hearings might be better served if such hearing began with Mr. Cheney or another subordinate. In this way, argue the authors, facts might appear that would provide a clear avenue to Mr. Bush’s impeachment and conviction.
It is the process involved in impeachment that the authors place their trust. Any individual that remembers the series of hearings in 1973 and 1974 around the crimes of Richard Nixon should understand why this is so. The process of congressional hearings that impeachment entails rips apart the lies and deceptions; the duplicities and deceit; the coverups and crimes of the officials being investigated. Indeed, the high crimes and misdemeanors that the impeached official is charged with become apparent during this process. Let us hope that those in the Bush administration that this book charges with said offenses will face such a fate.
In 1973 and 1974, as the Nixon administration circled its wagons, there was a fear that the fragile freedoms and structures defined in the US constitution would become history unless Richard Nixon was removed from office. It is Lindorff and Olshansky’s contention that this is an even more likely–and frightening–possibility if George Bush is not impeached. Indeed, as I write this, the Supreme Court just overturned the White House’s decision to hold so-called military tribunals of the captives in Guantanamo Bay Prison. In response, the Congress is already looking for ways to void this decision and make such trials legal, despite their seeming unconstitutionality. This decision and an earlier one that allows non-citizens to be held without charges have already changed the intentional meaning of the Bill of Rights–from guaranteeing these rights to citizens only instead of to all persons, as written.
The complicity of the Congress and the courts proves that the attack on the Constitution is being waged from all three divisions of the US government. Impeaching Bush and Cheney would not end the assault, but it would strike a mighty blow. Like the Hydra of Herculean legend, the beast of despotism has but one essential head and, when that head is destroyed, the Hydra will be, too. The White House is that essential head.
Impeachment will not solve the many problems besetting this too-comfortable nation, but it can begin the cure. For those who consider this to be a worthy project, Lindorff and Olshansky’s book is a necessary read.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org