How Should We Impeach Thee?

Let me count the ways . . .

IMPEACH A PRESIDENT in time of war? Why not, especially when that war is indicative of the problem? If America was willing to pillory the husband of Hillary for lying about staining the dress of an intern, can we at least acknowledge that putting the president on trial for more serious constitutional offenses is worthy of discussion?

Apparently not. While "Impeach Bush" is a crowd pleaser at anti-war rallies, it is not an idea that is getting much attention outside the Indie Media left. Punch "impeach Bush" into a LexisNexis search for the past 60 days and you'll get 24 hits— seven fewer than if you try "praise Hitler." The conversation about Bush's legitimacy, criminality, and impeachability is happening only on the margins. Middle-class folks might be waving anti-war signs on pedestrian overpasses in Kirkland and in Mount Baker, but the mainstream press has already moved on to Baghdad.

NEVERTHELESS, IMPEACHMENT remains the wet dream of many activists. Google "impeach Bush" and you'll have more success finding people discussing—and advocating—what you might call constitutional regime change. Calls for Bush's ouster began moments after his inauguration—an "impeach Bush" banner was unfurled seconds after he took the oath of office. But once Al Gore gave up and decided to move on, the legitimacy issue lost steam: You can't have a crime without a victim, right?

And despite some renewed calls for Bush's impeachment following 9/11, the terrorist attacks of that day effectively blew apart any lingering legitimacy dispute. An America under attack needed a leader. Subsequent opinion polls have shown consistent confidence in Bush's leadership—despite what Seattle thinks. The Republican blowout of November 2002 settled this once and for all: The GOP's consolidation of power in all branches of government has placed Bush in a safe political bunker. If, as Woody Allen said, life is 90 percent just showing up, in the presidency it must be 98 percent.

BUT THE TERROR WAR in general, and the impending Iraq war in particular, have renewed calls for impeachment. The issues range from Bush's attempts to expand powers and suspend rights under the USA Patriot Act to possible war crimes.

One effort is the lobbying of international law professor Francis A. Boyle from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Boyle helped draft articles of impeachment for Bush I during the Persian Gulf War. He also believes that the men who guided that war, from George Bush Sr. to Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, should all be charged with international war crimes from that conflict. The gist of Boyle's effort this time around is nearly identical, not unlike the cast of characters and co-conspirators. He contends that a pre-emptive war against Iraq would cause mass civilian casualties and amount to a war of aggression under the Nuremberg Charter. He believes the Iraq war would be an unconstitutional violation of that international treaty. He stands ready to assist any member of Congress—and it only takes one—who might want to submit a bill of impeachment against Bush in the House of Representatives. Maybe Jim McDermott could use some "anytime minutes" to give Boyle a call.

A few weeks ago, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark unveiled his draft articles of impeachment against Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft at an anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. Their offenses include conducting a "pre-emptive . . . war of aggression in Afghanistan," authorizing air attacks against Iraq, ordering and condoning "assassinations, summary executions, kidnappings, secret and other illegal detentions," bribing foreign governments for their war support, violating and subverting the Constitution and the United Nations Charter, and a kitchen sink's worth of other charges. The bribery accusation (others might call it foreign aid) is interesting because it is one of the things the Constitution specifically mentions (unlike lying about an affair): "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." You can find the details at www.votetoimpeach.org.

Clark has become a marginal lefty figure with a strange trail of causes and clients. He's defended Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, and worked for Lyndon B. Johnson, so his war crimes credentials are impeccable. Nevertheless, when you lay the acts of the Bush junta end to end, from the stolen election through 9/11 through Afghanistan through the USA Patriot Act up to Iraq (and the coming USA Patriot Act II), you don't have to be a complete commie nut job to see that the leader on this trail of tears is dragging our constitutional rights through the muck.

AND EVEN THOUGH the eve of war might seem an inopportune time to discuss kicking the commander in chief out of office (that's why a Wag the Dog strategy works), there really is no better time than now. Because Bush is fighting an undeclared, unending war against "evil" that will only be over when he says it's over. To legitimize that is to legitimize a perpetual state of silence from the people.

Of course, impeachment isn't likely to go far. The GOP controls Congress. The public, which could barely stomach the last impeachment, won't want another scandalous circus—especially a less-sexy scandalous circus (the media won't tolerate it either). But it would be a chance to vent the toxins that are corroding our Constitution, while there's still a Constitution left.

kberger@seattleweekly.com

 
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