Interview With Dennis Loo, Co-Editor of "Impeach the President, the Case Against Bush and Cheney"
INTERVIEW WITH DENNIS LOO
Listen to 30-minute mp3.
David Swanson: Dennis Loo, it's good to talk to you.
Dennis Loo: Thank you for having me, David.
David Swanson: Sure. So, just to start at the beginning, where did the idea come from to do a book about impeachment, and when did you decide impeachment was the way to go?
Dennis Loo: Well, the short answer to your question is that after Katrina, it became clear that a lot of the scales on some people's eyes in America were washed away by that storm, and by the federal response to it, and it made it possible at that point to conceive of a movement possibly getting strong enough to be able to drive out this régime, but obviously at the point where he took office the first time fraudulently in 2000, it was clear that this was a fraudulent presidency, and there was nothing but trouble going to go come, but at that point in time it didn't look like there was a possibility to wage that kind of a struggle.
David Swanson: So you see an impeachment as appropriate for the past six years, but after Katrina, you saw a movement as possible.
Dennis Loo: Exactly.
David Swanson: Huh, interesting. When you put the book together, were people eager to be part of a book about impeachment? Did you ask any authors who were scared off by the "I" word or how did that go?
Dennis Loo: Well, my first act was to contact Peter Phillips, who I had gotten to know last year through Project Censored. They ran a piece of mine called No Paper Trail Left Behind: The Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election, so that's how I got to know him, and I contacted him, I pitched the idea to him, and we talked about it for a while, and then we decided to do it, and then we talked about different people to approach, and nobody was put off by the idea. Many people were very enthusiastic. Some people turned us down because they just were too busy, but otherwise there has been a lot of enthusiasm.
David Swanson: Well it's quite a great collection of authors and essays in the book.
Dennis Loo: Thank you, I'm very proud of what we have turned out.
David Swanson: Have you been doing a lot of media since the book has come out? Have you been on talk shows, friendly or hostile?
Dennis Loo: I've been on a few so far, Peter has been on some, we have been on some together. We haven't been invited to be on TV yet, we're hoping for that. Let me step back here. You asked friendly and then hostile; both, mostly friendly. I was on an AM station this morning out of Michigan, and it went pretty well, although most of the callers into the station were people who clearly mostly listen to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, so they were unfortunately badly misinformed about what has been going on on a number of issues, and were kind of shockingly misinformed, but it's actually one of the things that we talked about in the book; that most of Americans, the minority that continue to support this administration, they only do so because they are badly misinformed and they have been lied to systematically by this administration and the right-wing media, and to the extent that mainstream media has also parroted that line, them as well.
David Swanson: Where do you think the American public would be if we were reasonably well-informed on important issues such as the illegal spying, the detentions, the tortures, the launching of the war and arguments for the war; if we were well-informed on all of these sorts of issues, where would we be?
Dennis Loo: We would be in a very dramatically different place. The number of Americans who are willing to knowingly torture other people and are willing to, without provocation, murder people on a scale that we are murdering people in Iraq, 655,000 at latest count; that number of Americans who would be willing to do those kinds of things is very small; most Americans would recoil at the idea of the kinds of things that are actually going on if they really understood what was going on, so as I wrote in our book, in our preface, if Americans truly knew what was going on, they would mass outside the White House and scale the fences and drag these perpetrators of crimes against humanity out of the White House and put them on trial immediately, and that would be if they were in a good mood!!
David Swanson: Exactly (laughing).
Dennis Loo: That would be extremely charitable, as to what would happen.
David Swanson: Well, if Americans were sufficiently well informed, they would do things nonviolently as well, but…….
Dennis Loo: (laughing loudly)….. well, you know, grab them by the shirt collar…..
David Swanson: …yes…it's interesting because among those who ARE relatively well informed, when you bring up the topic of impeachment, at least for the past several months and probably the next two weeks at least, you never hear "there's not a good case, there's no evidence, there's no grounds." What you hear is this litany of fears: Fear of Cheney being president, fear of looking radical, fear of it not being plausible and draining energy from something else and so on. Do you get those sorts of responses, and how do you reply to them if you do?
Dennis Loo: Yes, I do get those kinds of responses, and how do I reply to them? Well first of all, what's more important than opposing the kinds of things that this regime is responsible for? If you let this kind of injustice go unanswered, even if you don't win the particular battle that you're engaged in at the moment, you can't allow these things to go down without fighting them. There's the stripping of habeas corpus, the spying on all Americans, torturing people as official policy, murdering people on mass scale, breaching the church/state divide and on and on and on, or denying global warming and endangering the future of this planet. These are horrible things, so that's one point. You cannot, no matter what the political justifications or logic that people are trying to advance at any moment about why you should let these things go, you cannot allow these things to go down, and secondly, as for Cheney becoming president, if impeachment proceedings and investigations were actually to start, the subtitle of our book is 'The Case Against Bush and Cheney', because we certainly don't want Cheney to take over, but if those investigations were to begin, there is no way that Cheney would survive that process, besides Bush being knocked out of office, they would both go, and their whole cabinet would go, because the kinds of crimes and corruption and terrible things that they are doing, I mean, we only see the tip of the iceberg at this point; imagine with the tip of the iceberg looking the way it looks, imagine what's under the surface. I know I haven't completely answered your question; but why don't you ask me a follow-up question, and we'll get into further.
David Swanson: (laughing)… no I think that those are excellent answers and are ones that I have tried to use as well; I think in addition, it can be useful to point out to people that Cheney is largely running things now, and to have him upfront as the face of the Republican Party would be advantageous to us, but I think your first answer is the fundamental answer; we can't let this pass, and impeachment is not for selecting a president, it's for removing a criminal president, and then we'll address the next one when he or she is in there.
Dennis Loo: Yes, absolutely. Were you and I alone in the world today to recognize that this was going on, it would still be a fight that you and I would have to fight, and then we would have to bring other people along, but it isn't only you and I, in fact; roughly 50% of the American population, the people in polls since last year, the fall of last year or late summer of last year, Zogby, at least, began polling people and asking Americans, if Bush lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, would you favor the articles of impeachment being drawn up? If he has been spying on Americans without court warrant, would you be in favor of articles of impeachment being drawn up, 40% to 50% of the people have been saying yes, so we, in fact, there is a huge latent support for impeachment. The Democratic Party is ignoring this as an organization. If they really were a party of opposition, they could sweep the chambers of Congress simply by saying this is our platform; we need to impeach this administration, but they are not doing that obviously, so the situation, those people who say that it's not possible politically to impeach this administration, and that we would be unwise, are contributing to the demise of everything that many of these people say is so sacred; the U.S. Constitution, international law and so on and so forth; they have just taken a hatchet to these things. They are taking a bark saw to the Constitution, and the Democrats…. even the New York Times said on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, they said if you are going to filibuster anything, filibuster this, and the Democrats didn't. What did they do? John Kerry, Senator Feinstein, when they took the vote on the floor of the Senate, what did they say about this bill? Did they say this thing is unthinkable, it is barbaric? No, they didn't say these things, they said, "Oh the GOP is going to use this against people who vote No in the November elections," as if partisan bickering was the issue here, as if their careers was the issue, as if the elections of 2006 were the issue; no, the issue is much more fundamental than that, but they didn't speak to it.
David Swanson: Right, and even if you buy the importance of the elections happening in two weeks, there's the debate over what's the best way to win them, but even should the Democrats playing their hands the way they have been, should they manage to win, given honest and fair elections, there's the question of whether the elections will be honest and fair, and I know that unlike a lot of people arguing for impeachment, you put at the very top of your list the stealing of elections; can you talk a little bit about that and what you expect to see on November 7?
Dennis Loo: Yes, I'm glad you brought that up. I saw a poll yesterday where two thirds of the people polled said they're afraid that hackers could very likely modify the vote in November. I think that's an astounding figure.
David Swanson: Well and they're right.
Dennis Loo: And they're right!! They are absolutely right. The last two presidential elections and a number of other major contests have been stolen through computer fraud, and I do detail a good deal of that in chapter two of the book; it's entitled "Never Elected, Not Once, the Immaculate Deception in the Road Ahead," and there's overwhelming evidence of fraud in the last... especially in 2004, and so what to do? The way we put it, let me speak to this more broadly first. The way we put it in our book is that no matter what happens in the elections of 2006, and no matter who is in Congress at the time, we need to focus our energies primarily on building a mass, irresistible movement that will demand impeachment proceedings, no matter who is in office at the time, so that's the first point. The second point is, do I think that the vote is extremely vulnerable to hacking? Yes, it is. It only really takes, because the central tabulating, because we have 80% or more of the machines that we're using for voting in this country, they are computers, and they send all their material into a central tabulating in every state, you need the equivalent of a high school education…you know, 1 person over a modem can alter the vote undetectably, and I'm sure you're very aware of that, and other people who have been keeping up on this, but I'm surprised that so many people do know about it, so I think that the pre-election polls are showing mass disaffection to the Republicans at this point, but how it's going to go down, you know I was listening to Mark Crispin Miller talk the other day, and he was saying that he has condensed…why would the Republicans who have stolen the last few elections, why would they not steal this, so he's predicting that what they will do is they will say "well security", you know it was security concerns again that somehow turned the tables in favor of the Republicans at the last minute, and that they are somehow going to squeak by this time, so I don't have a crystal ball; I don't know exactly what's going to come down. It's possible that going into the election, that the indications of evangelicals who have been voting for the Republicans may stay home; certainly many of them are talking like that, and that the stealing of the election in 2006 may be so obvious, so blatant this time that they may not be able to get away with it.
David Swanson: Yes, I hope you're right. I hope the margin is big enough combined with the number of Americans who are now prepared to fight, and are going to be poll watchers and reporters and observers, maybe they won't get away with it, but…
Dennis Loo: If I may, I think that a key thrust of our book, is that no matter what happens in the polling booths, however the vote comes down, that if you look at anything that has been really good that has come out of American politics over history had been through mass popular movements demanding change, you know, the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, the women's rights movement, the labor movement of the 30s, and so on. It took people taking to the streets and acting and participating in the most thoroughly democratic way, which goes well beyond whether or not they go in to pull the lever or push the button or whatever, punch the chad in the voting booth, people have to act, and it was really very painful in November of 2004, because as we know, so many people put so much effort into electing John Kerry, because they really wanted to get rid of Bush and Cheney, and they tried so hard, and then the early returns were so promising, it was very clear from the exit polls that Bush was going to go down in a big, big way, and then mysteriously at 1:36 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the exit polls make a 5-point swing on the basis of a tiny number of more respondents, which was mathematically impossible, one of the things I point out in my chapter on this, and people were just horrified and depressed, and so, you know, I think we have to really, our point is that we really have to push this issue of people having to take this up in the streets, and we really have to create a wholly different political atmosphere, because there's a reason why the democrats have been complicit in this. It isn't just because they are spineless or they can't get their act together, but there have been some dramatic, fundamental changes going on in the economy in the United States and in the world. You know, we're in the situation today where the 100 largest economic entities in the world today, more than half of them are not countries; they're corporations, and Wal-Mart is bigger than 182 countries, so when you are talking about this kind of globalized capitalism, and the kind of concentrated wealth that means and is accelerating in that direction, then is one person/one vote really capable of standing up against that? Are the democrats capable of standing up against that? They haven't been, and they're not going to be, because in their highest and best expression, the democratic party is FDR new-dealers, and the material basis for the New Deal has been systematically getting wiped away over the last 30 years, so there's a reason why we have been moving in this fascist-like direction, and why the Democrats have not been fighting it, and because, you know, it's all about empire.
David Swanson: I know, and I agree, and it's very depressing and very frightening…
Dennis Loo: Uh huh, very definitely.
David Swanson: …I'm maintaining a sliver of hope that, should the Democrats, awful as many of them are, have a majority and fight to keep it, that many of the excuses for not moving on impeachment will be gone, not just among the Democrats in Congress, but among activists around the country, and that we will have a window from sometime in November for some number of months, before which everyone believes all their energies must be devoted to a cautious approach on the 2008 election, and during that window, there would seem to be an opportunity to push hard for impeachment with Congressman Conyers able to initiate hearings. Do you have any hope that things may go that way?
Dennis Loo: Let me ask you this, David: What is your, maybe you could recapitulate a little bit what you just said to me and elaborate on it a little bit. Why do you think that a majority of Democrats in Congress in and of itself would somehow cause the Democrats to wake up to all of the crimes that this administration is responsible for, and then start impeachment hearings? I mean, it's true that if John Conyers becomes chairman of that committee, the judiciary, right? He is one of the very few people in Congress who has been saying what needs to be said. He's been talking impeachment and so forth, and it's to his great credit that he's been doing that, so it would make a difference if he was chair, but his party as a whole, the leadership of his party has been dead set against it. Howard Dean 2 weeks ago said it would be a grave mistake to have impeachment, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed have both been on the record saying we're not going to pursue impeachment even if we get Congress, so let me ask you: Why do you think that the Democrats would wake up to this once they are a majority, because even when given the possibility of becoming the majority, they have declared ahead of time, "Oh we're not going to do impeachment."
David Swanson: Well I can't answer your question without explaining that I don't think there's such a thing as "the Democrats," and I do not think that Howard Dean will ever support impeachment and I do not believe that Nancy Pelosi will ever support impeachment, but I do believe that Congressman Conyers took a tentative step, introducing a bill for a preliminary investigation and the cosponsors were coming on by little bits up to 37 or 38, probably would have reached about 50, except that Nancy Pelosi ordered the Democrats off impeachment. And from that day, there was not a single additional cosponsor. The chief argument has been, "not until after the election". We saw Harold Meyerson put an op-ed in the Washington Post saying effectively "let's do a bait-and-switch. Lets talk about impeachment after we win the election talking about things people don’t care so much about," which, of course, is a brilliant way to lose elections, but it's also THE argument that you hear in private and that you hear publically from the cautious Democrats and some of the more progressive Democrats is, we must wait until after the election, and it's the same argument you get from activists and leaders of activist organizations that see themselves as subservient to the Democratic Party rather than vice versa, and so that excuse is gone. They immediately need a different excuse, which is not to say they can't immediately have one, but it is to say that all of the energy that organizations have been putting into the election can go somewhere else. All of the activists that haven’t been able to do anything on impeachment because they’re tied up with raising money for awful ads for milquetoast candidates, that appears when the elections are over, and I certainly am aware of a number of organizations that are going to push impeachment and work the hesitant Democrats on the judiciary committee with everything they have got, and it's not clear to me that John Conyers will bow down to Nancy Pelosi on this, nor is it clear to me that she will oppose investigations; and the minute that you have investigations, you have refusals of subpoenas from the White House and you have a crisis, and we take it from there. Does that not seem like a possibility? Should we abandon all hope?
Dennis Loo: Well no, I think we don't abandon all hope, but I think we have to put our hopes in something that's really going to work, difficult as that may seem. I don’t think that putting our hope into the Democratic Party or Democrats, if you prefer that formulation, is the way to go on this. What more do they need to talk impeachment and the things that this administration has already done? What more do they need?
David Swanson: So what should we do?
Dennis Loo: What should we do? We need to do two things I think: We need to raise consciousness among the American people about what's really going on and that's the reason we wrote this book, right, to get this out into people's hands and the reason that YOU write the things that you do and other of us, to get the knowledge out to people, because what people do is based on what they understand and we need to break through the lies that have been told about what's going on. We need to expose that, and the second thing we need to do is we need to encourage people to act politically, and when I say act politically, I don’t mean go out and support the electoral process, because the electoral process has gotten us nothing but grief. As I was saying earlier, any really great things, any really wonderful things that have come out in American history, have been through people engaging in mass movement. When the march on Washington happened back in the 60s, that movement came from the grass roots.
David Swanson: I agree absolutely entirely with every word you have said, Dennis, but you seem to disagree with something I said, so I'm trying to find where that might be. I don’t have a flag over my house saying Go Democratic Party. I don’t believe Nancy Pelosi is a democrat with a small "d". I don’t have faith in anything at all, but maybe where we disagree is that I think what you’re talking about doing actually has a chance of maybe working.
Dennis Loo: Yes, where you disagree with me? You think that what I'm talking about in terms of building a movement cannot work?
David Swanson: No, no, I think it might work. I think it might work, and as awful as this might be, it might work by us forcing some of our so-called representatives who actually have that D after their names to do something. That's how it might work.
Dennis Loo: Oh I think so, I agree with you on that. I think that if there is a large enough and powerful enough and visible enough movement from the grass roots, that it will force…I mean look what happened in the Viet Nam war. Richard Nixon pulled us out of Viet Nam. Richard Nixon didn’t want to pull us out of Viet Nam, you know, but there was a movement in the streets and there was the heroic resistance of the Vietnamese people forced his hand. He had to do it. I would say in response to your question on something that I just read of yours, your review of the latest book the "The Genius of Impeachment"…
David Swanson: By John Nichols, right.
Dennis Loo: Yes, John Nichols' argument. I haven’t seen the book, but you said in your review of the book that he points out that parties that refuse to carry out impeachment proceedings against the other party for things that they did ended up being soundly defeated the next time around.
David Swanson: Yes, he gives a lot of examples, including recent history, the Iran Contra scandal was obvious grounds for impeachment. There was a lone Democrat who actually introduced Articles of Impeachment and the Democrats cowered under their beds thinking that was the way to win the elections and then, of course, they lost the elections.
Dennis Loo: Well cowardice does not get rewarded, unless, I suppose, you dodge a real service in the Vietnam war and your daddy's named George W. Bush. (laughing)
David Swanson: (laughing)… right, then it gets rewarded plenty.
Dennis Loo: (laughing) I can't think of a person less deserving of the kind of power and influence that George W. Bush enjoys today.
David Swanson: Well, let's take it away from him.
Dennis Loo: (laughing)…absolutely.
David Swanson: Dennis, this is a wonderful interview and I want to encourage everyone to get the book that you have coedited with Peter Phillips, "Impeach the President, the Case Against Bush and Cheney". Any other last words or advice to people listening?
Dennis Loo: Well no, I thank you for the endorsement and thank you for the interview. I urge people…when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, stripping habeas corpus rights and legalizing torture, they passed a Rubicon. They crossed the Rubicon and people need to recognize the crisis that we are in here and how desperate the times are. If I may, let me just read this short paragraph from our book, maybe, possibly.
David Swanson: Sure.
Dennis Loo: It comes from the preface: "We stand at a crossroads. Will we obey and be good Germans? In the years preceding Hitler's naming to the German chancellorship, many German Jews and others kept telling themselves that it cant possibly get any worse, and it cant possibly go any further….except that it did. The 1933 Reichstag fire, set by Hermann Goehring and the Nazis but blamed on the communists, was the Nazi's excuse to suspend civil liberties and the freedom of the press entirely. It was the German equivalent of our 9-11, so we need to recognize what time it is, and cast away illusions and prepare for struggle."
David Swanson: I'm with you. Thank you.
Dennis Loo: Thank you, David.