By David Swanson
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has said that if three more Congress Members get behind impeachment he will start the impeachment proceedings.
I was a guest today on Bree Walker‘s radio show. She’s the progressive radio host from San Diego who purchased Cindy Sheehan’s land from her in Crawford, Texas.
Bree attended an event on Friday in San Diego at which Congressman Conyers spoke about impeachment. Her report was extremely interesting. I had already heard reports that Conyers had said: “What are we waiting for? Let’s take these two guys out!” But, of course, what we’re waiting for is John Conyers. Is he ready to act? It was hard to tell from that comment. In January, Conyers spoke at a huge rally on the National Mall and declared “We can fire them!” but later explained that what he meant was that we could wait for two years and Bush and Cheney’s terms would end. Was this week’s remark just more empty rhetoric?
It appears to be more than that. Bree Walker told me, on the air, that Conyers said that all he needs is three more Congress Members backing impeachment, and he’ll move on it, even without Pelosi. I asked whether that meant specifically moving from 14 cosponsors of H Res 333 to 17, or adding 3 to the larger number of Congress Members who have spoken favorably of impeachment but not all signed onto bills. Bree said she didn’t know and that Conyers had declined to take any questions.
Either way, this target of three more members seems perfectly doable. It’s safe to assume, I think, that we’re talking about impeaching Cheney first. But, even if Conyers is talking about Bush, the target is perfectly achievable.
First, there are Congress Members like Jesse Jackson Jr. who have spoken out for impeachment but not signed onto H Res 333. They should be urged to act now! Second, there are dozens of members who signed onto H Res 635 a year and a half ago, Conyers’ bill for an investigation into grounds for impeachment, who have not signed onto H Res 333 yet. Third, one of the excuses citizens often hear from lots of Congress Members for not signing onto articles of impeachment is that not enough of their colleagues have signed on and therefore “we don’t have the votes.” Well that just changed. Now three more votes is all that’s needed to get this machine rolling. Fourth, many of the 14 Congress Members backing H Res 333 have used similar excuses to justify refraining from lobbying their colleagues to join them. That can now end. Our 14 leaders can do more than just put down their names.
Now, if Conyers begins impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee, we should all be clear on what that will mean. If it is serious, it will not mean sending any subpoenas or contempt citations to the emperors’ court. Bush and Cheney have already repeatedly refused to comply with subpoenas.
President Richard Nixon did the same, of course, and his refusal to comply with subpoenas constituted the offense cited in one of the three Articles of Impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 as warranting “impeachment and trial, and removal from office.” But Bush and Cheney have gone further, ordering former staffers not to comply with subpoenas, and announcing that the Justice Department will not enforce any contempt of Congress proceedings.
What the impeachment of Cheney or Bush will be is very, very fast. It will not disrupt or distract from the important business of passing nonbinding resolutions and holding all-night gripe sessions over bills destined to be vetoed. Impeachment in the case of Dick Cheney need not take the three months it did for Nixon or the two months it did for President Bill Clinton. In fact, it could take a day. Here’s why:
Bush and Cheney’s lies about Iraqi ties to al Qaeda are on videotape and in writing, and Bush and Cheney continue to make them to this day. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq until the invasion.
Their claims about Iraqi weapons have been shown in every detail to have been, not mistakes, but lies.
Their threats to Iran are on videotape.
Bush being warned about Katrina and claiming he was not are on videotape.
Bush lying about illegal spying and later confessing to it are on videotape. A federal court has ruled that spying to be a felony.
The Supreme Court has ruled Bush and Cheney’s system of detentions unconstitutional.
Torture, openly advocated for by Bush and Cheney and their staffs, is documented by victims, witnesses, and public photographs. Torture was always illegal and has been repeatedly recriminalized under Bush and Cheney. Bush has reversed laws with signing statements.
Those statements are posted on the White House website, and a GAO report found that with 30 percent of Bush’s signing statements in which he announces his right to break laws, he has in fact proceeded to break those laws.
For these and many other offenses, no investigation is needed because no better evidence is even conceivable. This impeachment will be swift. And it will require only a simple majority. We already know that the Democrats can vote as a block if they want to, and that a few brave Republicans might join them.
Whether the Senate will then convict Cheney will depend on how much pressure citizens apply and how much information the House manages to force onto television sets. The latter could be surprisingly large and substantive, since the conflict of an impeachment is certain to generate incredible ratings.
But even an acquittal would identify the Senators to be removed from office by voters in 2008. And Cheney (or Bush) would still have been 100% impeached. Al Gore didn’t run for president pretending he’d never met Bill Clinton and pick Senator Joe Lieberman as a running mate because the Senate convicted Clinton (it acquitted).
The timing of Conyers’ remark may be related to the steps the White House has recently taken to assert “unitary executive” dictatorial power. Bush has commuted the sentence of a subordinate who obstructed an investigation into matters involving Bush and Cheney. And, as mentioned above, neither subpoenas nor contempt citations will go anywhere. Impeachment is no longer merely the appropriate step that it has been for the past six years. It is now the only tool left to the Congress for use in asserting its very existence as a functioning body of government.
But the timing is also quite helpful to the grassroots movement for impeachment, and rather symbolic. Five years ago this Monday, the meeting was held at #10 Downing Street that produced the Downing Street Minutes. Over two years ago, then Ranking Member Conyers held a hearing in the basement of the Capitol, the only space the Republican leadership would allow him. At that hearing, several Democratic Congress Members for the first time began talking about impeachment. The witnesses at the hearing were Ambassador Joseph Wilson, attorney John Bonifaz, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and a then unknown gold star mother named Cindy Sheehan. They discussed the evidence of the Downing Street documents, which added significantly to the growing body of evidence that Bush and Cheney misled the Congress about the case for war.
This Monday, Sheehan and McGovern and a great many leaders of the movements for peace and impeachment will lead a march at 10 a.m. at Arlington National Cemetery. We will march to Congressman Conyers office and ask to talk with him about impeachment. We will refuse to leave without either a commitment to begin at once the impeachment of Cheney or Bush or both, or our arms in handcuffs. The same day, groups in several states around the country will be sitting in and risking arrest for impeachment in the district offices of their congress members.
Not everyone will be able to take part. But everyone can take two minutes on Monday and do two things: phone Chairman Conyers at 202-225-5126 and ask him to start the impeachment of dick Cheney; and phone your own Congress Member at 202-224-3121 and ask them to immediately call Conyers’ office to express their support for impeachment. Your Congress Member might just be one of the three needed, not just to keep us out of jail but to keep this nation from devolving into dictatorship.