Monday, February 27, 2006
Harper's has posted a goodly chunk of the March cover article, editor Lewis Lapham's "The Case for Impeachment: Why We Can No Longer Afford George W. Bush." The piece opens with a discussion of Rep. John Conyers and his resolution calling for the formation of a select committee to investigate the possibility of impeachment:
In time of war few propositions would seem as futile as the attempt to impeach a president whose political party controls the Congress; as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad. Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.A bonus excerpt (not yet online) from later in the same essay, in case you need any further inducement to forego the second cocktail and invest your $6.95 in Mr. Lapham's worthy periodical instead:
“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.
A reason with which it was hard to argue but one that didn't account for the congressman's impatience. Why not wait for a showing of supportive public opinion, delay the motion to impeach until after next November's elections? Assuming that further investigation of the President's addiction to the uses of domestic espionage finds him nullifying the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of his fellow Americans, the Democrats possibly could come up with enough votes, their own and a quorum of disenchanted Republicans, to send the man home to Texas. Conyers said:“I don't think enough people know how much damage this administration can do to their civil liberties in a very short time. What would you have me do? Grumble and complain? Make cynical jokes? Throw up my hands and say that under the circumstances nothing can be done? At least I can muster the facts, establish a record, tell the story that ought to be front-page news.”Which turned out to be the purpose of his House Resolution 635—not a high-minded tilting at windmills but the production of a report, 182 pages, 1,022 footnotes, assembled by Conyers's staff during the six months prior to its presentation to Congress, that describes the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq as the perpetration of a crime against the American people. It is a fair description. Drawing on evidence furnished over the last four years by a sizable crowd of credible witnesses—government officials both extant and former, journalists, military officers, politicians, diplomats domestic and foreign—the authors of the report find a conspiracy to commit fraud, the administration talking out of all sides of its lying mouth, secretly planning a frivolous and unnecessary war while at the same time pretending in its public statements that nothing was further from the truth. The result has proved tragic, but on reading through the report's corroborating testimony I sometimes could counter its inducements to mute rage with the thought that if the would-be lords of the flies weren't in the business of killing people, they would be seen as a troupe of off-Broadway comedians in a third-rate theater of the absurd.
"We're at war," the President said on December 19, "we must protect America's secrets."
No, the country isn't at war, and it's not America's secrets that the President seeks to protect. The country is threatened by free-booting terrorists unaligned with a foreign government or an enemy army; the secrets are those of the Bush administration, chief among them its determination to replace a democratic republic with something more safely totalitarian. The fiction of permanent war allows it to seize, in the name of the national security, the instruments of tyranny.
The question posed to the Assembly is whether enough people care, and, if so, how do they respond when, in the language of the Declaration of Independence, "a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism."
Although the abuses and usurpations are self-evident, oobvious to anybody who takes the trouble to read the newspapers, the Bush Administration makes no attempt to conceal the Object evinced in the design of its purpose, because it counts on the romanticism as well as on the apathy of an American public reluctant to recognize the President of the United States as a felon. Who wants to believe such a thing, much less acknowledge it as a proven fact?
More people than dreamed of in the philosophy of Karl Rove or by the content providers to the major news media. The heavy volume of angry protest on the Internet, reflected in the polls indicating the President's steady decline in the popular esteem, suggests that at least half of the American electorate, in the red states and the blue, knows that the Bush Administration operates without reference to the rule of law, also that the President believes himself somehow divinely ordained, accountable only to Jesus and the oil companies, at liberty to wave what he imagines to be the scepter of the Constitution in whatever ways he deems best. But in the news media they find no strong voice of dissent, in the Democratic Party no concerted effort to form a coherent opposition . . . .
It isn't the business of the Congress to punish President Bush. Any competent court in the country could arraign the President on charges identical to those brought against the crooked executives at Enron and Tyco International (fraud, misuse of stockholder funds, manipulation of intelligence) and send him off to jail dressed in an orange jump suit. Nor is it the responsibility of Congress to sit in moral judgment; the sermons can be left to the Reverend Pat Robertson and the Yale Divinity School. It is the business of the Congress to prevent the President from doing more damage than he's already done to the people, interests, health, well-being, safety, good name, and reputation of the United States -- to cauterize the wound and stem the flows of money, stupidity, and blood.