By David Swanson
The one thing protesting for impeachment at Congressman John Conyers’ office on July 23rd accomplished beyond doubt (I think it also helped push a number of other Congress Members to sign on for impeachment, but can’t prove it) is that it stirred up a great deal of discussion, both of impeachment and of racial divisions. I think that’s all for the good.
Sadly, the discussion includes commentary from people I respect opposing impeachment. In this article Bill Fletcher makes a rather mild claim that protesting a black elected official may offend, not him, but other black people. However, he does not claim to have guaged any such reaction in this specific case, and he clearly has not been working closely on impeachment.
In fact, the bulk of Fletcher’s article is devoted to opposing impeachment on the grounds that we should concentrate on ending the occupation, creating single-payer health care, and because the Senate might not convict. The answers to these and other misconceptions have been posted for months here. Briefly, we all want single-payer healthcare, with the exception of people like Bruce Fein and in fact many advocates for impeachment who favor the rule of law but not social justice. Many of us, let me say, favor single-payer health care and have promoted it for years, but there is one thing certain about it this year: if passed IT WILL BE VETOED. The same can be said of any useful piece of legislation. How in the world a brilliant guy like Fletcher can oppose impeachment because it might not get through the Senate, but push for single-payer health care is beyond me. He cannot be fantasizing that it will get through the Senate and past the president. He must just want to build toward it for some future date. But that dangerously misreads the gravity and the urgency of the situation we face. We have a president and vice president who have seized dictatorial powers, are in the process of commiting genocide in Iraq, are threatenign to attack Iran, and are pushing us closer to the point of no turning back on global warming. Fletcher points out one of Bush’s many seizures of tyrannical power, an executive order from July, and Fletcher announces that it must be STUDIED. No, it must be opposed. And it is possible for that opposition to come too late. Bush and Cheney have laid the groundwork to create a complete dictatorship if any sort of catastrophe hits the United States. And who can guarantee one won’t?
Ending the occupation of Iraq takes public pressure that is built up, not torn down, by the impeachment movement. Impeachment was key to ending the Vietnam War, both by putting Nixon on the defensive and by putting the Congress on the offensive. Avoiding impeachment for 8 months (which is considerably longer than any past impeachment has taken) has not meant ending the occupation. But when Congress finally acts to cut off the funds by announcing that there will be no more funds for the occupation, Bush will do what he did to launch the war. He will misappropriate funds and go right on doing what he was doing. Ultimately, only impeachment will end this occupation – that or waiting until 2009 and using the war in the meantime as an advertisement for Democrats in hopes that for some strange reason the Republicans permit an honest election. This is what many “antiwar” advocates are doing. I have to assume this is not what Fletcher is about.
What about the idea that the Senate doesn’t “have the votes” to convict? Well, it very well might, if the House impeaches and some Senators begin to fear electoral defeat if they put Dick Cheney ahead of the Constitution. But impeachment without conviction would be a huge step in the direction of setting a precedent that there will in the future be a rule of law for the White House. Impeachment without conviction would make an attack on Iran less likely and put Bush and Cheney on the defensive. Impeachment without conviction would hurt in the upcoming elections Republicans and other defenders of the current administration. Impeachment without conviction would make us less likely to see Bush and Cheney seize total dictatorship in the event of a disaster within the United States. The Constitution allows the House to impeach with a majority, but requires two-thirds in the Senate to convict, because the framers wanted charges to be brought to trial in the Senate if the majority of the people wanted them brought, not just if pundits predicted that we “had the votes.” That’s not strategic thinking. That’s defeatist and antidemocratic thinking.