By David Swanson
Remarks at Denver, Col., impeachment forum November 17, 2007, organized by “Be the Change.”
For the past year or so, every month the moon gets full, and I suddenly get a couple of hundred emails telling me that Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will allow impeachment hearings if she gets enough emails or phone calls or handwritten letters.
And a lot of the emails I get are along the lines of: “Is it true? Because if it’s true my group can send 5,000 letters.”
And I usually reply along the lines of: “Of course it’s not true, but since when do you need an invitation to act like a citizen of a democracy? Send her 10,000 letters immediately, and do so precisely because it’s not true!”
But the fact remains that every time this Pelosi rumor comes around there’s an uptick in Pelosi lobbying. Clearly one of the major motivators of activism is hope. Two-and-a-half years ago when Congressman John Conyers held unofficial hearings on the Downing Street Minutes and began at least acting as though he would try to impeach Bush and Cheney, we saw a burst of activism that has not been matched since. Precisely when it seemed least needed, people took to the streets and the phones and computers and airwaves. So the question arises, how can we generate the most activism when we most need it, rather than when we least need it? I’m fond of the saying, “Let’s save our pessimism for better times,” but how can we ingrain that attitude in our behavior?
Well, hope is clearly not the only thing generating impeachment activism. Another major motivation is necessity or desperation. Many of us believed a year ago that if impeachment wasn’t underway by this past spring, the looming 2008 election would stifle the movement. Yet, in November we see the push for impeachment on the rise, in the polls, in the media, in Congress, and in activism. Why? I don’t think it’s because more people think Bush and Cheney should be impeached, so much as it is because more people have finally recognized that, given the President’s Constitutional veto power and unconstitutional signing statements, impeachment is the only thing Congress can do. So impeachment is a distraction from nothing!
There’s one other thing Congress can accomplish, but it involves refusing to do something. Congress can refuse to pass any more bills to fund the illegal occupation of Iraq. Of course, if he does so, Bush will misappropriate funds to keep the occupation going, just as he did to begin it, and we’ll be right up against impeachment. So why not cut to the chase, bypass for now the high hurdle of the Senate, and demand that the House Judiciary Committee begin hearings on impeaching Mr. 11% popularity before he shoots us all in the face with a catastrophic attack on the nation of Iran?
Congressman Dennis Kucinich is at the School of the Americas this week-end for protests at which brave Americans will probably risk arrest to end torture. Activist Ted Glick is on the 77th day of a fast to end global warming and global warring. Eve Tetaz, age 76, just spent a week in jail for speaking against war. Next week a man will begin walking from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, DC. Dozens of American service men and women have concluded that obeying illegal orders only serves Halliburton and Blackwater, and they have refused. Many more have concluded that George W. Bush did one right thing in his life, and they’ve gone AWOL. Our friend, activist Lori Perdue, is facing a possible year in jail for attending a congressional hearing. The planned construction of a massive new US military base in Italy has run up against Italian families willing to lie in front of bulldozers. Activism is alive, even if not televised. We must take our inspiration from it and build on it, waiting for an invitation from no one We must indeed be the change we want to see in the world.
I recently heard what I hope you will tell me is another false rumor as untrue as Pelosi’s request for activism. I heard that next year the people of Colorado will have the opportunity to vote for the institution of constitutional rights for fertilized eggs. What bothers me about this is the discrimination against those of us who are no longer fertilized eggs. When do we get our constitutional rights? Unless we’re going to surgically install intrauterine free speech zones, I take it that unlike sentient humans, fertilized eggs will have complete freedom to speak, assemble, and print teeny newspapers. Perhaps women will be able to attend congressional hearings and hold up peace signs if they are from Colorado and carrying fertilized eggs. Presumably the Protect America Act will no longer apply to fertilized Coloradan eggs, and the Fourth Amendment will be restored in some small measure. But what I’m not clear on is how the police will obtain a warrant based on probable cause to spy on a fertilized egg without having first spied on the egg long enough to know it was fertilized. Is it just me, or does this all seem like a plot to permit spying on the act of fertilization?
Let’s look at the sane and courageous side of Colorado for a moment. It can be summed up in the word Telluride. In July, Telluride became the first city in Colorado to pass a resolution in support of impeachment. Some billionaires for Bush and other ski tourists threatened to boycott the town if it refused to boycott the Constitution. Others promised to come to Telluride if it voted for the rule of law. In the end, the city council members decided that they would break with Washington, DC, and not allow money to determine every action. Of approximately 100 cities that have done the same around the country, I think the two most interesting are San Francisco, where an impeachment initiative was passed by the voters – the same voters who next year get a chance to choose between Nancy Pelosi and Cindy Sheehan. And the other most interesting city is Detroit where the resolution passed in the city council unanimously after being introduced by the wife of Congressman John Conyers.
So here’s your assignment. Go online to a bookstore and put in the delivery address Monica Conyers, c/o Detroit City Council. Buy her two books: The Constitution in Crisis by John Conyers and an old Greek play called Lysistrata. Your other assignment is to not leave Telluride hanging out there on its own in Colorado, but make sure every town and city and church and labor union and veteran’s group and bridge club passes a resolution for impeachment.
After all, this is a democracy and we are a majority.
In July the American Research Group found that 54% of Americans said Yes and 40% No to the question of whether Cheney should be impeached. Among Democrats, 76% said Yes. Among Independents, 51%. For Bush, the numbers were a little lower: 46% Yes, 44% No. These are huge numbers for a topic that’s shut out of the media. In Vermont, where it’s gotten more attention, the numbers are significantly higher: 64% want Cheney impeached. This is where Democrats always fall apart. They look at the 40% who are not yet for impeachment and ask, How can we avoid offending these people? They never ask, how can we educate these people?
Last week, the American Research Group did another poll. This time, they changed the question from impeaching Cheney to impeaching him and removing him from office. That change has tended over the past two years of sporadic polling on Bush to lower the positive response by 10 percentage points. But American Research Group went further and offered people the choice of saying that Cheney had committed impeachable offenses but should not be impeached. That option would drain away those people who agreed with the various excuses that Pelosi and gang have used to keep impeachment off the table. And this poll went further still, offering the option of saying Cheney had abused his power without committing impeachable offenses. This option would catch those unwilling to say impeachable offenses shouldn’t be impeached as well as those unclear on what an impeachable offense is, including that such an offense can be committed with your pants on. Then there was a fourth option for Fox viewers: Cheney ain’t done nothing wrong.
Now to opt for impeachment people had to bypass three other choices and go for the fourth extreme. Those who would do so would be only the hardcore advocates concerned for the future of the Constitution and not scared off by the fear of a President Giuliani or the trauma of a lengthy investigation. Guess how many hardcore impeachment nuts we have in this country? 43% of us. Even among Republicans, 21% want Cheney removed from office. Among all Americans, 52% think he’s committed impeachable offenses and 70% think he’s abused power.
When Congressman Kucinich introduced impeachment on the floor last week, most of the Democrats of the House Judiciary Committee voted against tabling it. Six had cosponsored it. A seventh, Robert Wexler, emailed his constituents announcing his support for hearings. He was amazed by the outpouring of support that resulted. Wexler then emailed his constituents the same questions that American Research Group had asked, and he got a result of 60% for removing Cheney from office. Congressman Jim Moran took up the idea and emailed his constituents the same questions. I would encourage every member of Congress to do the same. That includes Colorado congress members. In the mind of Nancy Pelosi, genocide in Iraq is not the tragedy that bringing up a bill but not passing it would be. If conservative Democrats start speaking up for impeachment hearings, it will take away her fear of trying to impeach and failing.
So, here are two more assignments for you (and these are on flyers and can be found at www.ImpeachCheney.org ):
1.Call the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to publicly call for hearings.
2.Lobby your Congress members by going to their offices and talking, by standing out front with a “Honk to Impeach” poster, and by sitting in their office and reading the Constitution aloud until you are taken to jail. And when you do this, use the media and be the media and you will inspire others to be the change.
If you try hard enough you may become as good a human being as George W. Bush. We know he’s good because he goes to church. But by now most of you have probably heard what happened when Bush attended church in a certain town where some of his overzealous supporters had urged the minister to suggest in his sermon that Bush might be a saint. Well, of course, the good reverend gave his sermon and said at the end, “While I respect the office of the presidency, its current occupant is a treasonous criminal with the blood of millions on his hands, but compared to Dick Cheney, he’s a saint.”
Let’s talk about Dick Cheney’s qualifications for sainthood for a moment. Dick Cheney is a man of principle. He has sought to transfer all power from Congress to the White House no matter which institution was employing him at the time. He led the efforts to create unconstitutional spying programs. He sent Gonzales to Ashcroft’s hospital bed to try to gain approval for a program so far worse than the blatantly criminal programs we know about that Ashcroft turned him down. Asked if he did this, Cheney said he does not recall.
Prior to this session of Congress, Cheney said that if he were ever subpoenaed by Congress he would probably refuse to comply. Well, Congress has subpoenaed him and he has refused. That may seem a minor point on the list of Cheney’s crimes, but it is one that blocks investigations of the others, and it is a non-partisan, non-policy-based quintessentially impeachable offense. The House Judiciary Committee passed an article of impeachment against Nixon for refusing to comply with a subpoena
But this is the tip of the iceberg in Cheney’s ongoing multi-faceted obstruction of justice. Cheney initiated and directed his Chief of Staff Scooter Libby’s obstruction of an investigation into the ousting of a CIA agent. Cheney, in fact, coordinated that outing. And more importantly, Cheney led the propaganda campaign that Joe Wilson challenged, sparking the campaign of retribution against his wife.
Cheney has quietly and openly led the way to institutionalizing the use of torture.
In an unprecedented move, Cheney made visits to the CIA during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. His purpose was to pressure the CIA to get the facts wrong.
According to Senator Rockefeller, the reason Senator Roberts never did the investigation of White House war lies was constant pressure on Roberts from Cheney. (Of course, nobody can explain why – after 11 months – Rockefeller himself hasn’t lifted a finger to conduct the investigation he lobbied for for three years even to the extent of shutting down the US Senate.)
Cheney, lest we forget, created the secret energy task force that operated outside the laws on disclosure and allowed oil barons to set not just our energy policy but our military policy as well.
Cheney directed massive no-bid contracts to Halliburton and profited from them as vice president. Cheney helped create the California energy crisis and suppressed related evidence. Perhaps most significantly, Cheney has given us policies on climate change that accelerate global warming.
Cheney’s criminality and corruption are open and public. His lawyer David Addington has advanced the unitary executive theory, which is similar to the intelligent design theory, only more pretentious. Addington’s signing statements, written for Bush, announce Bush’s intention to violate laws. The House Judiciary Committee held hearing on these early this year, and a Justice Dept. official testified that the statements were as meaningless as press releases. Then the Government Accounting Office studied a sample of the signing statements and found that in 30% of the cases, the Bush-Cheney administration had already begun violating the laws it claimed the right to violate.
Since then, Congress hasn’t touched the topic. It’s one of the many impeachment investigations where no investigation is needed. To bring up the topic is to impeach, so Pelosi, Hoyer, and Emmanuel run from it like frightened rabbits. Meanwhile Cheney is only emboldened. He exempts his office from the requirement to protect classified information. He destroys the visitors’ logs at the Vice President’s house. He disturbs the neighbors blasting an underground bunker into the ground, and disturbs the rest of us by occasionally emerging from it.
And do you know what I haven’t even mentioned yet? The charges against Cheney contained in Kucinich’s resolution Two of the three charges involve lying to Congress and the public about weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. The third involves the crime of threatening an aggressive war on Iran.
On Thursday, Senator Joe Biden said something that Congressman John Conyers essentially said back in January, in an interview with John Nichols, something that Dennis Kucinich was saying at that time as well. Biden now favors impeachment after an attack on Iran. That’s a step in the right direction. But it’s a bit like shutting the barn door after it’s empty. An attack on Iran could lead to a global war, a nuclear war, martial law. We may no longer have the option of impeachment, and if we do, it will not save all the people we have slaughtered.
And I’m not asking Biden to indict Bush and Cheney before they commit a crime. I’m asking him to recognize that the attack on Iraq was exactly as criminal as an attack on Iran would be. We can leave preemptive punishment to Michael Mukasey. Impeaching Bush and Cheney should be based on past crimes, but it is needed to avoid future ones.
What are the chances that, if we do not impeach, Cheney will launch an attack on Iran or create another catastrophe or allow global warming to go unaddressed for another 14 months? If the chance is even 1%, then Cheney himself would argue for impeachment. He has maintained that any 1% danger must be addressed as if it were 100% certain. For that piece of insanity alone he should be banned from public office.
So let me close with some thoughts on how we can do it.
We must lobby intensely the members of the House Judiciary Committee. That includes the Republicans, but the Democrats are most likely to come on first. We should also recruit the most respected people and organizations we can to join the lobbying. A week ago the National Lawyers’ Guild passed resolutions demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The Center for Constitutional Rights supports impeachment. The Southern California chapter of the ACLU a few days ago came out for impeachment. Where is the Colorado ACLU? Where is the national ACLU? Where is Amnesty International? Where is the National Organization for Women which flipped and opposed impeachment a year ago. United for Peace and Justice after two years of lobbying finally urged its members to lobby for impeachment – last week. UFPJ could do more. Everyone could do more.
We need you to lobby these group.
Now, I get paid to this, and a lot of people work very long hours. I’ve been told it’s elitist to ask people to take a day off work to lobby their Congress members. But surely it would be more elitist to advise a policy of wait and see and then point out what we should have done after we’re all in camps. And if you’ve slept a lot or eaten leisurely meals lately, then with all due respect, Mr. or Ms. Anti-Elitist, don’t talk to me. Sleep is a luxury. Democracy is a necessity. And if we act, we can quite easily save it. Let’s save our pessimism for better times. Let’s save our democracy. No sleep till impeachment.