Most of the fawning corporate media (FCM) coverage of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation Monday was even more bereft of context than usual.
It was as if Musharraf looked out the window and said, “It’s a beautiful day. I think I’ll resign and go fishing.” Thus, the lead in Tuesday’s editorial in the New York Times, once known as the newspaper of record: “In the end, President Pervez Musharraf went, if not quietly, with remarkably little strife.”
Certain words seem to be automatically deleted from the computers of those writing for the Times. Atop the forbidden wordlist sits “impeachment.” And other FCM—the Washington Post, for example—generally follow that lead, still.
Very few newspapers carried the Associated Press item that put the real story up front; i.e., that Musharraf resigned “just days ahead of almost certain impeachment.” In other words, he pulled a Nixon.
How short our memories! Three articles of impeachment were approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974; Nixon resigned less than two weeks later. But what were those charges, and how do they relate to George W. Bush today? Among the charges were these:
— Without lawful cause or excuse [Richard M. Nixon] “failed to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House…and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas…thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested in the Constitution in the House of Representatives.”
— “Endeavouring to cause prospective defendants…to expect favoured treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony.”
— “Endeavouring to misuse the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The New John Conyers
Fortunately, John Conyers, who now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, was among those approving those three articles of impeachment. Unfortunately, he seems to have long- as well as short-term memory loss.
On subpoenas, he has let the Bush administration diddle him and the committee.
What about favored treatment and consideration in return for silence or false testimony? What did Conyers do when President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence, in a transparent, but successful, attempt to prevent Libby from squealing on his bosses?
Conyers moved manfully to do what he always does: he expressed “frustration,” wrote a letter to the president, held a hearing, and then—nothing. This, despite special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s parting admonition, “There is a cloud over the vice president…And that cloud remains because the defendant [Libby] obstructed justice.”
Misuse of the CIA
What about this serious charge? Here too Conyers’ behavior has been nothing short of bizarre, even though he has been repeatedly briefed on how the Bush administration played games with intelligence to “justify” an unnecessary war.
If further proof of the misuse of intelligence were needed, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller provided it in early June, when he released the findings of his committee’s exhaustive investigation of administration misrepresentations of pre-Iraq-war intelligence. Rockefeller summed it up succinctly:
“In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”
Despite all this, Conyers has not ventured beyond flaccid rhetoric. White House minions no doubt poke fun at the talking-shirt-cum-fancy-tie to which Conyers has reduced himself. He has given them—and the rest of us—little reason to take him, or his committee, seriously.
But now…now with the wide attention drawn by the serious revelations in Ron Suskind’s latest book regarding White House misuse of the CIA, John Conyers wants us to believe he is really serious this time. I’m sorry, but this conjures up the familiar image of Lucy setting up the football for another attempted kick by Charlie Brown.
On Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” on Aug. 14, Conyers said he was “the third day into the most critical investigation of the entire Bush administration.” And in order to demonstrate his seriousness of purpose Conyers said, “We’re starting our work, and then we’re doing it in a period where Congress is in recess. I’m calling everybody back.”
Many of those listening to Conyers assumed he meant Committee members. Not so. Others thought he must have meant key staff. Not so, either. There must be something in the water here in Washington that prevents people—even formerly honest people—from distinguishing between exaggeration and a lie.
As if to prepare us beforehand for still more timidity and ineptitude, Conyers rang changes on an all too familiar theme. He complained that he is “maybe the most frustrated person attempting to exercise the oversight responsibilities that I have on Judiciary”—a clear reference to how he has let himself be diddled by the White House…and an equally clear sign that he is likely to remain diddle-able.
If the Constitution Is Good Enough For Pakistan…
Tell us, John: if Pakistan can move forward to impeach a sitting president and force his resignation, why can’t you? You must recall voting for those three articles of impeachment on that momentous day, July 27, 1974, and how on August 9 Nixon waved good-bye from his helicopter to the few remaining friends lined up on the White House lawn. You were proud to be part of the triumph of our Constitution in 1974. Is being chairman of Judiciary simply too demanding at your age—many years beyond what lawyers used to call the age of “statutory senility.”
Without any apparent tongue in cheek, Tuesday’s New York Times editorial pointed a sanctimonious finger at Musharraf’s abuse of power, noting that “the presidency must also be stripped of the special dictatorial powers that Mr. Musharraf seized for himself, including the power to suspend civil liberties.” The Times noted, “President Bush underwrote Mr. Musharraf’s dictatorship, but it said nothing of the example Bush himself has set in such matters—including rigging elections, as Musharraf did.
It seems the height of irony that the relatively young and fragile democracy of Pakistan has been able to successfully exercise the power of impeachment inherited from the framers of the U.S. Constitution, while the constipated Conyers-captained congressional committee cannot.
Under Pakistan’s constitution, the country has a bicameral legislature with 100 senators and over 300 representatives in the National Assembly. The president is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Sound familiar?
The difference is that, even though impeachment of a Pakistani president requires a two-thirds majority in the legislature, Pakistani lawmakers summoned the courage to check Musharraf’s unconstitutional accretion of power by using their constitutional power to impeach. And, facing almost certain impeachment, Musharraf resigned.
In sorry contrast to your Pakistani counterparts, John, you have chickened out. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
RAY McGOVERN works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington, DC. He is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The original version of this article appeared on Consortiumnews.com.