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When people who are honestly mistaken learn the truth, they will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest.
We the American people would not do what George Bush and Richard Cheney have done in Iraq, all of it in our name. We would not, for utterly fabricated reasons, invade and occupy a sovereign country without provocation, killing hundreds of thousands of its citizens, driving millions more from their homes as refugees, torturing prisoners, destroying the country’s economy and infrastructure, fomenting a vicious sectarian civil war, sacrificing 3,200 American lives, squandering half a trillion dollars, dangerously destabilizing the Middle East, blackening our country’s character, and defaming every American citizen.
We are not a devious, savage, and warlike people. With considerable merit we think of Americans as honest, decent, and law-abiding, generous, tolerant, and humane. And we are patriotic, devoted to our country and to its ideals of freedom, democracy, peace, justice, and honesty in government.
The huge disconnect between who we are and what our government is doing in Iraq is painfully apparent, and the gap is insuperable.
It is imperative, therefore, that we hold the President and Vice President accountable not only for breaking domestic and international laws, but for violating the ethical and institutional essence of America and the ideals of her people. To rescue our country’s elemental decency and to assure the security of its governing principles, it is our patriotic duty to impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney.
We consented to the invasion of Iraq because history told us we could trust our government to tell the truth. We were not naïve: the Vietnam war was also launched on a fabrication, but that was an aberration. We would not and did not expect it to be repeated. So we trusted and believed George Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell when they spoke to us. They said Saddam Hussein was complicit in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They said he had terrifying weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them to our shores. They said he could soon trigger a nuclear device in our country, killing hundreds of thousands of American people.
None of this was true. It was propaganda, intentionally designed by the White House Iraq Group to mislead the Congress and the American people. That is fraud, and fraud is a crime. Given the magnitude at which it was practiced, and the epic consequences, few would disagree: it is a high crime and misdemeanor. We need to impeach Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, as Elizabeth de la Vega has written, not as a matter of politics but as a matter law.
Brilliantly and knowingly, the Bush Administration introduced full-strength surrealism into our public discourse, in the form of their amorphous and fraudulent “global war on terrorism.” They asked for our consent and the consent of the Congress to undertake it; thoroughly deceived, both the public and Congress acquiesced. There was no way a trusting country could know the “war on terrorism” was a fantasy: what the Bush Administration launched in fact was an international crime of military aggression. But, still denied the truth, we reaffirmed our consent by re-electing George Bush in 2004.
There were doubters and skeptics in the beginning, and the number of them grew. They dug deeply, researched carefully, and wrote clearly. In books and blogs the lies and deceptions of the Bush Administration were gradually unearthed and described for what they were. We began to sense we were honestly mistaken about the war and its rationale.
No source of an honest mistake is more insidious than a deliberate lie from a trusted party. No one wants to believe a betrayal has taken place. Even to suspect it is uncomfortable. That is why it has taken so long for some of us-and why it is taking so long for all of us-to learn the truth.
The election of 2006 measured our progress in doing so: many of us by then were no longer mistaken-enough to tip the Congress barely against the President and his war.
The books and blogs became a flood. The facts are there, and if we are willing to confront them we cannot refute them: the Bush Administration is unmatched in our history for its duplicity and criminal behavior.
At least six books make compelling cases for impeachment: The Impeachment of George W. Bush, by Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia Cooper; The Genius of Impeachment, by John Nichols; The Articles of Impeachment, by the Center for Constitutional Rights; Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips; The Case for Impeachment, by David Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky, and U.S. v Bush, by Elizabeth de la Vega. Tallying an overwhelming succession of impeachable offenses, all fraudulently disguised as worthy, even noble initiatives, the books tell the astonishing story of what the Bush Administration has done.
Why they resorted to fraudulence and lies about the wars is another story, and that has been assembled and documented, too.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks. They were conceived long before the events of September 11, 2001, and the planning for both of them, done in guarded secrecy, was well underway by that time. The wars were not waged to bolster security at home, nor to spread democracy in the Middle East, and by no means do they constitute a “war on terrorism.” All this is the carefully crafted propaganda that was and remains the central core of the fraudulence.
The truth about the wars is distinctly otherwise. They are bald acts of retrograde imperialism undertaken, as many have long suspected, for oil: to secure a pipeline route across Afghanistan for the Unocal Corporation and to force access to 115 billion of barrels of Iraqi crude for American and British oil companies-specifically Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Conoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch Shell. This is not speculation; it is sordid fact. This story is also found in the books and blogs, but a summary can be found on the AlterNet website, and a video documentary entitled “The Oil Wars” is in development.
We were honestly mistaken because a trusted government betrayed us, but now we have learned the truth. We have a choice to make: we can cease being mistaken-or cease being honest.
If we are not honest, if we excuse the criminality of the Bush Administration through indifference to it, then we become accomplices. In doing so we accept the damage done to the American ideals of freedom, democracy, peace, justice, and honesty in government. And if we opt for appeasement now, we jeopardize those ideals in the future. Nothing could be less patriotic than failing to face, accept, and act on the truth we have learned.
Criminal behavior must be held accountable and justice must prevail. That is the rule of law, the fundamental premise of the American social contract, and it must not be compromised. If we are devoted to our country and to the sanctity of its ideals we must impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Nothing could be more patriotic.
Impeachment must be fully and clearly understood. To be impeached by the House of Representatives is to be indicted, to be formally accused: only that. It does not establish guilt or innocence: that is determined in a formal trial, with the Senate sitting as jury and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court serving as judge.
Beyond any conceivable doubt George Bush and Richard Cheney deserve to be formally accused.
And yet the 110th Congress dallies. It serves up a “non-binding resolution” of protest that passes the House and fails in the Senate, while asserting “impeachment is off the table.” Impeachment is too “divisive” and a “waste of time.”
The Congress can learn the truth about the Iraqi war as easily as the rest of us. Many of its members, however, nurture their ignorance of the hideous facts or remain indifferent, instead mouthing stern platitudes about our praiseworthy troops and keeping America safe.
They play the game the Administration has orchestrated. They take the surreal and fraudulent “war on terrorism” as a given, refusing to acknowledge its true nature-petroleum imperialism-or the criminal deception of the Bush Administration in packaging and selling it that way.
There is a glaring explanation for this timid behavior: the obscenely premature launch of the 2008 presidential campaign. The leadership of both parties and a dozen presidential candidates-many from the Senate–game the system, jockey for advantage and favorable imagery, and refuse to attack head-on the greatest episodes of Presidential malfeasance in the nation’s history.
In their indifference-in their unwillingness to face, accept, and act on the truth and to call for impeachment-these public figures are less patriots than traitors, trading off the rule of law, trading off justice for partisan or presidential ambitions. That must stop. We desperately need the candidates and the Congress to subordinate presidential politics and focus instead on defending of our Constitution. And defending the Constitution demands impeachment.
Only impeachment can assure us and our children that America cannot and will not tolerate a dishonest government that mocks the rule of law. Only impeachment can persuade the world America truly stands for what its people revere: honesty, peace, justice, and a respected place among the community of nations.
Only impeachment can proclaim, with unambiguous clarity, the American people have ceased being mistaken.
RICHARD W. BEHAN lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He is the author of Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001) and he is working on his next book, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America’s Derelict Democracy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This essay is deliberately not copyrighted: It may be reproduced without restriction.)