The following conversation is not meant to demoralize the pro-impeachment community. The very opposite. This does not mean I am optimistic about the prospects. If civil advancement depended on optimism we should have given it up long ago. We fight for certain things because we can do no less. Others will have to keep score.
One should have pause before using the word Never but I do use it in saying we will never know a time when we are through with this. No matter. If you regard this understanding as paralyzing, you will have missed my drift.
Nature did not place Mt. Everest as an obstacle for us, but some felt it as such. It is no use asking why they chose such a challenge. You will never get a moral answer. In the end all it means is the mountain did not go away.
That the White House enjoys impeachment invulnerability is not sufficient reason for abandoning the effort. And that one elaborates the very reasons for this invulnerability is no indication of its permanence. Neither is peeling wool from your eyes surrender.
We can infer that the Democratic Party leadership is solidly against impeachment (with honorable exceptions within the party). Let us now infer some reasons.
It is not because White House crimes are too difficult to pinpoint, or investigate, or prove. And it certainly isn’t because the crimes are inconsequential. Anything but. In a way it is doubled back. The crimes are too great.
Let’s go back to Osama Bin Laden, shortly after September 11. Intelligence places him in a crowded theater. Do we bomb the place? May I in confidence conclude that the answer is no? I think not, because you may have assumed that there were others in the theater whose lives were not worth sacrificing.
Shift this to the Afghan theater and the answer may change did change with the wholehearted support of much of America and the “international community”, the collective term that is reserved for the rest of the world’s decision makers when it sides with us.
Iraq deprived Afghanistan of its position as centerpiece of twenty-first century American slaughter, so soon did we make the westward push that led to its overshadowing. We were torturing people in Afghanistan when it was still Saddam who wielded the plyers in Abu Ghraib. When we left, there was nothing left to bomb. Except we didn’t leave. We don’t come to leave.
And this was just fine with Congress and the rest of elite opinion, with few exceptions. The public was waiting to be sold on Afghanistan. We were coming out of our corner to fight these colors don’t run only nobody was coming after us. They already came and died. And that was really too bad. For everyone.
The initial hysteria had subsided by the time Iraq rolled around but we already drank from the cup. This one took some selling but in the end everyone who mattered went along. On Iraq and on a host of other things, including some domestic surprises. Surprises to the public maybe, but not to everyone.
If you were in the White House and you were pushing a radical agenda of blind war and the extra-harsh measures that go along with it, including citizen surveillance, wouldn’t you want to know, about the opposition party, that not everyone was against you? How to make them see that their fortunes are tied to yours?
Appealing to the flag is a first-order concern. Politicians cannot allow themselves to be out-patriotted. But beyond that a certain amount of “outreach” to party hierarchy may be desirable particularly if some of your programs are of questionable legality. If some of the malleable are read in from the beginning, and convinced of the worthiness of the program, they get the flattery and you get some cover.
So now we have a situation where we have wrecked two countries (one cannot express this enormity without sounding cavalier). We have kidnapped, tortured, indefinitely detained, cluster-bombed, eavesdropped, and murdered ourselves into moral low ground. And both parties went along. So it is best to be quiet about certain things. To extend on a remark of a not-quite-brave ex-General, ex-State Secretary, “If you break the White House, you own it!”
What would the Democrats be impeaching but an extension of themselves? The whole establishment might come down. The first political rule is to find the advantage in a situation so the decision was made by party hierarchy to play out the season and let the White House, and by extension the Republican Party, stew in the juice of their Republican war (best consumed before 11-04-08).
Every now and then will they utter a few words about troop withdrawal or timetables or babble about “standing up” and “standing down”, but really they are just “standing around”. Waiting for their turn. Iraq is left hanging as a “mistake” waiting to be corrected. No more than that.
You cannot be against war while at the same time doing everything to continue it. It’s like being in two different places at once, a fictional prerogative. Funding the troops means funding them where they are. It means funding war.
The Democrats have relished this present endgame, where the entire country is all athrill over the looming election spectacular. References to Iraq are oblique and of the quick-draw variety. No need to dwell. We all get it now. And then the promised “change”. Advantage to the Democrats.
Change is the glibbest of words in a universe that is not permitted to stay the same. People have to be moved. Touched. Angered. By something that did not go away.
JAMES ROTHENBERG can be reached at: email@example.com