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The Case for Impeachment

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    Posted: 25 August 2006 at 3:26pm

"The Case for Impeachment"

The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office

Award winning investigative journalist Dave Lindorff has cowritten, with Barbara Olshansky, a devastating argument for ousting the president. From war to wiretapping, what are the grounds, and can they stick? (Buy at


We are not writing this book under any illusion that the House Republicans will pass a bill of impeachment, or even, probably, that the current Congress will see a bill of impeachment filed by a House Democrat. The Republican majority in the lower house is committed to protecting the president from impeachment, even though some of its own members have condemned his actions as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party leadership, both at the top of the party and in the Congress, is so timid (and often so complicit in some of the president's worst crimes such as the war, the domestic spying, and undermining of civil liberties), that little action can be expected from that quarter either. We do believe, however, that the American public is way ahead of the Congress. We the People have become increasingly angry at Bush's imperious and unconstitutional behavior. As of the Ides of March 2006, a scant one-third of us still backed Bush, while other polls showed a majority of us thinking he should be removed from office both for his spying authorization and for his lying the nation into war.

The authors believe that just as the president's many impeachable crimes are political in nature, they demand a political response. What is required is that the public rise up this November, throw off years of lethargy and cynicism, and elect to Congress representatives who are committed to standing up for the Constitution, for the tradition of three co-equal branches of government, and for the civil liberties that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died defending...

Chapter V: Deadly Lies and an Illegal War

Within hours of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration began behind-the-scenes planning to launch a war against Iraq. Their true objective had nothing to do with tracking down and killing the terrorists responsible for the attacks; instead it was aimed at "regime change"--the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein.

...As despicable and devious as Bush's lying was before the war, and as terrible as have been the consequences of those lies, this was not the only, or perhaps even the most egregious, of the presidential crimes relating to the Iraq War. The very act of invading Iraq itself takes that honor. For in deciding to invade Iraq in March 2003, the president may well have engaged in a constitutional abuse of power and a violation of the War Powers Act of 1993.

Chapter VI: Dark Questions About a Dark Day

The mounting doubts and growing questions about the veracity of administration explanations concerning what was known and what was done leading up to, during, and after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and the growing disenchantment with the wars started in retaliation for those attacks, have created a new crisis of legitimacy for the American government. This kind of crisis, which resembles the one that followed the Kennedy assassination and the subsequent Warren Commission Report (another commission whose conclusions were widely disputed, disbelieved and discredited), breeds a cynicism about American government that is itself dangerous to democracy.

....The proper solution is an aggressive demand for honest answers from the White House and key federal agencies--the kind of demand that could probably only be made by a House Judiciary Committee impeachment inquiry. For this reason, the president should be impeached on charges of obstruction of justice, violation of his oath of office, and jeopardizing national security in relation to the 9/11 attacks and the administration's response to those attacks.

Chapter VII: Taking Liberties

Combine the government's unconstitutional and draconian treatment of Arab and other Islamic immigrants and the president's assertion of both a right to spy at will on anyone, and to declare anyone to be an "enemy combatant."

Now strip away all constitutional rights so that someone so accused has no recourse to the courts, and you get a terrifying picture of government run amok. This is a constitutional crisis crying out for the remedy of impeachment. Anyone who believes he or she is immune from such treatment has little understanding of history. Imagine this nightmare: An overeager NSA Internet monitor detects an unsolicited e-mail to your computer from a suspected terrorist-linked organization. This is reported to the FBI. Agents have you declared an "enemy combatant" and you're packed off, without your family's knowledge, to a military base in a remote state, or perhaps to Guantanamo. You're not permitted to call your lawyer. You're not even allowed your "one phone call." There you could sit indefinitely, without knowledge of the charge against you, while you are subjected to presidentially approved "extreme methods" of interrogation aimed at finding out who you know and how you're linked to international terror organizations.

Chapter VIII: Vengeance and Betrayal

As for President Bush, it is difficult to imagine that he is telling the truth about what he knew at the time of the [Plame] outing, and what he knows now. Novak himself, the reporter who blew Plame's cover, has said that he believes Bush knew the identity of Novak's "two senior administration official" sources from the beginning, despite the president's feigning of ignorance. "I'm confident the president knows who the source is," he told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, North Carolina, "so I say, `Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.'"

It is important to note here that Bush, in early June 2004, acknowledged that he had consulted with a criminal attorney in the Plame outing case, saying, "This is a criminal matter, it's a serious matter."

Chapter IX: Breaking Things: Bush's Way of War

As we will see, the policy permitting torture was soon instituted in Afghanistan. Evidence of this came in a memo to the president from his White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who warned his boss that the American treatment of detainees captured in that conflict might be criminally prosecutable under the War Crimes Act, a measure passed in 1996, which made violation of the Third Geneva Convention punishable as a violation not just of international law, but of U.S. law. At that point, the president had two options: he could have ordered all mistreatment and torture of captured fighters to cease, or he could ignore the law and the abuses. Bush chose the latter option, attempting to keep the policy quiet, and issuing an executive order on torture (See Appendix E--FBI Report.) This secret document "opted the U.S. out" of the Geneva Conventions, in hopes of shielding American soldiers (and, Gonzales hoped, the president himself) from prosecution, and simultaneously authorized the continued use of internationally banned tactics. Indeed, in a memo to the president in January 2002, Gonzales actually adviced the president that "high officials," the president included, could eventually be prosecuted for war crimes, and suggested that by declaring torture victims not to be POWs, he might insulate himself and subordinates from such an eventuality.

Chapter X: Abuse of Power, Criminal Negligence, and Other Crimes

It is one of the more bizarre peculiarities of the Bush-Cheney administration that as aggressive as it has been at seeking to expand the power of the executive branch and the president, at the expense of the other branches of the federal government, the president himself has displayed a stunning contempt for the actual job of governing--as have many of his appointees to top administrative posts. Even as the Bush administration tries to expropriate or usurp, it has repeatedly failed to make use of executive powers it clearly does have when the health, safety, and welfare of the public are at stake. On the one hand, President Bush has declared it his unfettered prerogative to strip Americans of their citizenship rights at his own whim, to declare war at a time and place of his own choosing, to violate international laws banning torture, and even to interpret acts of Congress as he sees fit. On the other hand, this self-styled imperial leader has allowed American soldiers to go to war inadequately armed and whout body armor. He ignored the plight of a storm-hammered city for many critical days--in fact, even after he had been informed the New Orleans levees had broken he went golfing--resulting in needless death and suffering, and the near loss of a great metropolis. Perhaps most inexcusably of all, the president has failed to take any significant action to combat the threat to life on the planet posed by accelerating global warming, despite near unanimity among the scientific commmunity that it is almost too late. Indeed, he and his administration have actively obstructed efforts domestically and globally to combat climate change.

Chapter XI: Impeaching Other Bush Administration Officials

The president of the United States is the only person who is protected, while in office, from being indicted and arrested in a criminal case, so bringing a president to justice requires the arduous and politically challenging process of impeachment. Other officers, such as the vice president and members of the president's cabinet have no such protection and can simply be indicted for crimes while in office--as happened most recently to Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew.

Nonetheless, the Constitution also pointedly extends the process of impeachment to "all civil officials," and over the course of history, the process has been used--primarily against federal judges. The reason to have impeachment available for government officials other than the president is that assaults on the Constitution are often not crimes as is commonly understood, and might never meet the standard for a criminal indictment. Many offenses are purely political, such as lying to the American people or abuse of power. For that reason, we need also to consider the impeachable acts of others in the Bush administration, notably Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and White House Counsel and subsequently Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Epilogue: The Case for Impeachment

The Bush administration, to a degree that is unprecedented and frightening, is asserting a right to unfettered presidential power. As we have seen, Bush is claiming the authority to decide upon setting the country at war...He is claiming the right to take the basic constitutional rights of citizenship away from an American on his own authority...He is claiming the right to ignore the laws passed by the Congress, the right to decide on his own what those laws mean and to act according to his own interpretation, and even the right to ignore court orders. He is claiming that as commander in chief he has powers that are outside the normal constraints of the Constitution: the power to spy on Americans without a court order, the power to ignore international law and treaties approved by Congress and signed by former presidents, the power to ignore requests from Congress for information about government activities.

The president makes these outrageous assertions based upon the self-serving argument that the nation is at war and that he is therefore not just president, but commander in chief...but this "war" he is referring to is not really a war. The so-called "War on Terror" is a police action against stateless terrorists--and as such it has no beginning and no end. If we were to accept the president's claim that it is a war, and that this justifies making him a de-facto dictator...we are permanently revoking the Constitution and all the rights and the checks and balances that the Founders so carefully put in place.

The president is dead wrong.

The Constitution was not conceived as a document for the good times. It was meant to guide the nation through times of conflict, trouble, and stress as well.

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