President Bush makes a big deal out of his alleged “faith.” Certainly a part of that faith ought to be speaking and behaving honestly. Just recently, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a piece saying Vice President Dick Cheney should come clean with the American people by either answering a few questions or resigning. But if coming clean with the American people is required of the vice president, surely it is also required of the president, and Bush too, has a few questions to answer. If failure to answer honestly means Cheney should resign, Bush should be held to at least as high a standard.
Here then are a few of the questions Bush:
* Mr. Bush, what was your role in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame? And were you lying to the press and the public when you said you had no idea who did it and wanted a thorough investigation into that leak?
We know that when information was first leaked to Robert Novak disclosing that former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame was a CIA undercover agent, you promised a vigorous investigation to find out who had done this treacherous thing. You also promised that whoever did it would be fired. Now we’re seeing some evidence in the trial of Scooter Libby–including a handwritten note by Mr. Cheney–which suggests that you knew all about his role and in fact were actively involved in the leak.
* Why did you say to Congress and the American people in the 2003 State of the Union address, just weeks ahead of your invasion of Iraq, that you had just learned from British intelligence that Saddam Hussein had “recently sought” to purchase uranium ore from an African nation?
We know now that the documents in question–the forged Niger letters which purported to be receipts of sale, but which actually contained the faked signatures of officials who had not been part of Niger’s government for a decade–were not new at all. In fact they had been presented to you a year and a half earlier by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. We know that you were informed by CIA and State Department intelligence people back then that the documents were fakes. That, of course, is why you didn’t go straight to the press and Congress with them back in October of 2001, when you were, reportedly, looking for any excuse to have the U.S. go after Iraq. So a second question in this vein would be:
* Since you clearly were alerted that the documents were bogus way back in October of 2001, why did you cite them to Congress and the American public on January 28, 2003, and pretend that they were new information?
* While we’re on the matter of the war, why did you claim in your official letter to Congress on March 18, 2003, announcing your intention to attack Iraq, that you were acting because Iraq posed “a continuing threat” against the United States” when it posed no immediate threat at all? And why did you claim the attack was part of “continuing” action against “international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,” when you knew that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and that Iraq posed no threat to the US?
These two justifications for going to war were both absolute lies, weren’t they, and you certainly knew it, didn’t you? You knew the UN inspectors were saying there were no weapons of mass destruction, and anyhow, you knew Saddam had no air force and no navy and no long-range rockets, so he had no delivery systems anyhow, and he was no threat to anybody. And since not one of the terrorists on those planes was Iraqi, and since there was no linkage ever demonstrated between Saddam Hussein and the hijackers or Al Qaeda, the second justification was just as bogus, right?
* Why did you tell the American people, in an address in Buffalo, NY on April 20, 2004, that “any time you hear the United Stated government talking about [a wiretap], it requires a court order”? That a bald-faced lie, wasn’t it?
It was way back in September, 2001 that you ordered the National Security Agency to start wiretapping people–thousands of people in fact, or maybe more–without going to the secret judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for warrants as required by law. So why did you lie about this? Don’t you have an obligation to be honest with the people of the United States, or is honesty just another “quaint” relic of an older time, like the Geneva Convention ban on torture (as your then White House counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez so inelegantly put it)?
* While we’re on torture, why did you issue an executive order authorizing the use of torture on captives in the so-called War on Terror? Do you think that you are above the law?
You have claimed that the Geneva Conventions are somehow vague and ambiguous in their definition of torture, yet the wording of the Third Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War–which was signed by the U.S. and has the full force of law under our Constitution–would seem to be anything but ambiguous. It reads: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantgeous treatment of any kind.” Where is the ambiguity there, and how do you square this language with Don Rumsfeld’s instructions about the use of stress positions, etc.?
* Where do you find the authority to ignore acts of Congress with your “signing statements”? Aren’t you simply asserting the power of a generalissimo here?
The Constitution seems crystal clear when its states, in Article I, that “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States.” Note that it does not say “some legislative powers,” nor is there any asterisk or footnote attached. It’s rather definitive. As for Article II (that’s yours), it says, “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States.” Note that it does not say anything about legislative or judicial powers, which is what you’re claiming with this “unitary executive” stuff. By the way, that raises another question I think you ought to answer:
* Just what exactly do you think being commander in chief means? Does it mean you don’t have to obey the Constitution?
After all, the Constitution, in Article II, only says this about the title you love to use: “The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” That’s it. It doesn’t say anything about unitary executive powers. It doesn’t say anything about being commander in chief of the Congress, or of the courts, or of the American people (it doesn’t even say you run the Air Force). Where are you getting this stuff, anyhow?
Finally, while we’re coming clean here, sir, how about answering us one more question:
* Are you deliberately trying to destroy the country by running it into the ground financially and by destroying the military by having it fight and lose two, or maybe even three wars at once, or has this all just been, a string of incredibly bad judgements on your part?
Times columnist Kristoff thinks Cheney should resign if he can’t answer his questions truthfully. Certainly you should do the same. Honesty is a Christian virtue–something I’m sure God has mentioned in His communications to you. Surely you owe the American people some straight answers. If you can’t bring yourself to give them, maybe it’s time for Congress to put impeachment back “on the table.”
If you’re not willing to give us a “stiff dose of truth,” an impeachment panel is the only way we’ll get it.
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: email@example.com