War Funding, Impeachment, and Health Care

By David Swanson
Remarks delivered in San Luis Obispo, California, on April 23, 2008

When I started giving speeches about Iraq and impeachment three years ago, I liked to list the major impeachable offenses for Bush and for Cheney, but as the list grew it became rather cumbersome. It got to the point where adding another crime to the list would bring to mind four others I needed to add, and then someone would discover a whole new field of criminality and report it in the news while I was on the airplane to the speaking event. And if I left out somebody’s favorite crime from the list, there would be hell to pay. So, I’ve decided to switch gears. I didn’t do this last night down in Ventura, but starting tonight I’m going to give you my top 10 reasons NOT to impeach Dick Cheney.

Here they are, in reverse order:

10. If we just wait nine more months only a couple of more hundred thousand Iraqis and some hundreds of US troops will die, not exactly big news, and what’s nine months anyway, just the blink of an eye, just the time a woman is pregnant.

9. In these next nine months we’ll probably only launch at most one more foreign war beyond the ones we’re running now. It could expand, bring in other nations, and ultimately engulf the world, but it will only be a single additional war, hardly a significant change.

8. Our ongoing actions in Iraq and around the world under the current administration might not provoke an attack in this country during the next nine months, and if such a thing does happen, we wouldn’t want a functioning democracy to be in place in Washington, and we certainly wouldn’t want to prevent the same people who got us into the disaster from managing our efforts to make it worse. You don’t change horses in the middle of an apocalypse.

7. Even starting in 2009, we’ll still have several years left in which we can try to reverse global warming if we hurry. And won’t it be more exciting if we procrastinate and then have to cram? We might even force a real breakthrough and discover how to refreeze icebergs or re-evolve species. Plus the rap Mars has gotten as an undesirable place to live is not entirely fair.

6. The millions of American families about to lose their homes to foreclosures will only have one more winter to brave and it may be an especially warm one anyway.

5. Right around the corner, a mere 7 months away, a completely unreliable and probably fraudulent election will give us a new president and vice president.

4. If we’re lucky, the new president won’t be a crazy old senator who wants to stay in Iraq for 10,000 more years. We might get an inspiring young senator who refuses to say how long he’d try to keep us in Iraq.

3. If we’re really lucky, future presidents and vice presidents will go ahead and obey laws even though they won’t be required to do so anymore.

2. During the impeachment hearings, it would be very difficult to prove that Dick Cheney had sex with someone.

And the number one reason not to bother impeaching Dick Cheney….

1. George W. Bush could become president.

***

Our First Amendment has been locked up in a chain-link Free Speech Zone. The Fourth Amendment is under warrantless surveillance and scared for its life. The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments have been detained without charge. And the Eighth Amendment is presently undergoing waterboarding. Restoring our Bill of Rights would be a positive step, not personal, not revengeful, not backward looking. This is why impeachment is needed. An election might, if we’re lucky, get us a president who upholds the Bill of Rights, but what about the next 10 presidents? Will they all remain completely uncorrupted by the knowledge that Bush and Cheney paid no price for violating our civil rights? It is much more likely that one of them will push even further in the direction of tyranny.

While I consider impeaching Bush and Cheney more important than an election, even if it is the fifth consecutive Most Important Election in Our Lifetime, I have grown tired of hearing misinformed nonsense about how impeachment would hurt the Democrats in the election. That’s what they said when they refused to impeach Reagan for Iran Contra. Then they lost. When they went after Nixon, they won. When the Republicans went after Truman, they won.

When the Republicans impeached and tried Bill Clinton against the will of a huge majority of the public, they held both houses of Congress and took the White House, losing a few seats in the Senate which had acquitted. Some of the impeachment leaders won with bigger margins than they had before, and Al Gore was put on the defensive to such an extent that he chose impeachment-advocate Joe Lieberman as a running mate and pretended he’d never met Bill Clinton.

After the Whigs attempted to impeach Tyler, they picked up seven seats, and Tyler left politics. Weeks after he lobbied for Johnson’s impeachment, Grant was nominated for President. After pushing toward impeachment for Polk, Lincoln was elected president. Keith Ellison, who introduced a resolution to impeach Bush and Cheney into the Minnesota state legislature in 2006, was subsequently elected to Congress.

Impeachment hearings on torture and signing statements would be deadly for John McCain’s campaign. Can you imagine McCain defending crime after crime while promising not to commit them and explaining his past flip-flops? You wouldn’t even have to take an impeachment vote. Just hold the impeachment hearings.

John Conyers’ latest excuse for not moving forward on impeachment hearings is that it might hurt Obama’s campaign. Obama was asked recently in Philadelphia about impeachment, indictment, and accountability for Bush and Cheney. He suggested that he MIGHT investigate their crimes AFTER we elect him president, and that he MIGHT prosecute them “if” they were found to have committed crimes. “If”? “If”?

At every stop Obama makes on this endless campaign, people should hand him copies of John Conyers’ “The Constitution in Crisis,” a book you can buy in most bookstores which documents a long list of criminal offenses committed by Bush and Cheney.

Yes, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is selling books on Bush and Cheney’s impeachable offenses while refusing to impeach them.

Does Obama disagree with the book’s conclusions? Does he have a response to Bush’s public confession to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act? Does he question the two Government Accountability Office studies that have found that in a significant percentage of cases, when Bush has announced his right to violate laws through signing statements, he has proceeded to violate those laws? Does Obama now believe the invasion of Iraq and everything that came with it was possibly legal? Was the February 7, 2002, order from Bush allowing the torture of detainees a legal act?

If Obama were to quietly allow impeachment hearings on Cheney or Bush to proceed, he could put McCain on the defensive. Impeachment hearings could squeeze out all coverage of nonsense pseudo issues. And if the American public understood that voting for Obama would put Bush and Cheney behind bars, and understood it while there’s still time to register new voters, you would see a landslide that could not be denied.

If your congress member – Lois Capps perhaps – refuses to see the electoral advantage of impeachment, ask her this: Is there anything at all for which you would risk losing an election? If so, what in the world can it be? If not, you are in principle expressing a willingness to support up to two years of mass murder. And not just in principle.

But isn’t it too late for impeachment?

Why? The movements to impeach Truman and Hoover, and the impeachment of Johnson, happened later than where we are now. And there is nothing else for Congress to work on. Ending the occupation requires NOT doing something. On all other issues, every good bill is vetoed and every mixed bill is signing statemented. And every non-impeachment investigation either displays evidence of crimes and then doesn’t act on it, or gets stonewalled with denials of requests, subpoenas, and even contempt citations.

Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha are gung-ho to fund another year and a half of occupying Iraq, at least that’s what their actions suggest as they rush a bill to the floor. But you’d get an entirely different idea if you listened to what they say. On February 7th of this year, Murtha released a statement denouncing the funding of the occupation in the harshest terms.

“We are familiar with the visible costs associated with the war in Iraq and the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform and their families are making,” he said. “We are less familiar with the hidden costs associated with the war in Iraq, and these will have long-term consequences. Every penny of the $535 billion appropriated thus far has been borrowed; this doesn’t even include over $300 billion for the rest of FY08 and FY09. I’ve been saying for years that you can’t fight an endless war AND cut taxes. You can’t put a trillion-dollar war on a credit card and leave the bills for our children to pay. The same Americans sacrificing in Iraq today will be paying for this borrowed war for the rest of their lives. Since the Iraq war began, the international credibility and respect of the United States has plummeted while instability has grown throughout the region. This Administration borrows $343 million every day to finance the war in Iraq and continues to shortchange our domestic needs. We must restore fiscal sanity, and that begins by using the $343 million we are spending every day in Iraq and putting it to use here at home. 4 ½ Weeks in Iraq could double the funding NIH spends on cancer research every year. Over 1,500 Americans die every day from cancer. 18 Months in Iraq could repair the 70,000+ structurally deficient bridges across America.”

“In all my 35 years in Congress,” Murtha concluded, “I have never seen a major problem or challenge that hasn’t been solved in a bipartisan manner. Our next President and the American people must understand that it will require tremendous resources and strong bipartisan and international cooperation to begin to solve these challenges. The future of our great country depends on it.”

The next president? How did we get to the next president? How did the year from these remarks to the inauguration of the next president cease to exist, and Murtha’s actions this month along with it?

The Senate and House have been in the hands of Democrats for the worst of the occupation, which has occurred since January 2007.

The one thing we know about Iraq is that each year is worse than the one before it. At least 80 percent of Iraqis have always said that the violence would go down if the United States got out. And here Bush and Cheney are not alone in their arrogance. A great many Americans assume that the Iraqis must be wrong about their own country. And why? Well, because the same lying chicken hawks who told us about the stockpiles of WMDs and ties to 9-11 and robot planes attacking us in 45 minutes and risks of mushroom clouds say the Iraqis are wrong. Who are you going to believe, the people who live there or the people whose own defense is that they have accidentally gotten everything catastrophically wrong so far?

Our representatives in Congress and our candidates for president are so opposed to the occupation of Iraq that, rather than funding a withdrawal, they are now proposing to fund the continuation of the occupation, as is, for the rest of Bush and Cheney’s terms plus a big chunk of the next administration / Congress.

This started me thinking about some of the things I strongly oppose and how I could better express my opposition. I’ve decided, in fact, to get a new mortgage on all the equity we’ve got in our house, and at the same time to max out three credit cards. I’m going to take all the money and donate it in equal shares to: Exxon, Halliburton, Blackwater, and four different health insurance companies.

Already I feel so much better! I may not have put an end to Exxon, but I’ve expressed my opposition to it in the clearest possible terms, by ruining my family for generations in order to give Exxon money. That ought to be worth something in my next campaign for head of household. And, in case I decide to oppose anything else in the future, I’m looking into the possibility of stealing a huge amount of money from a charity organization near my home.

The genius of our congressional leaders has inspired me. I wonder if you truly grasp the brilliant complexity of their latest maneuver. Not only can they guarantee the funding of more slaughter for more months this way, not only can they move the goal posts so that defunding the occupation by refusing to bring it up or voting No or filibustering is completely off the playing field, not only can they kiss up to the television networks and war profiteers in such an abject manner that they are guaranteed another masochistically thrilling ass-kicking, but – and this is the true genius of the move – they can boost the plausibility of an election theft by an insane senator from Arizona who will fund the occupation for 10,000 years without himself even realizing that he “opposes” it!

Genius.

And yet there remains this fringe leftwing moonbat group consisting of about 80% of Americans who oppose the occupation of Iraq in the ordinary sense of not wanting to waste trillions of dollars keeping it going. And, remember, the true cost of the occupation includes interest, care for veterans, the increased price of oil, and other major elements placing the total in the trillions according to the calculations of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes.

And yet, what can we do? We’re pretty helpless, right, we poor hundreds of millions of Americans who are still sane – we don’t have any power, do we? They beat us at every turn, don’t they? Our best hope is to turn the Democratic Party into a close approximation of the Republican Party in hopes of winning like they do, right, and then after the elections when we aren’t needed anymore somehow turn the Democratic Party back into something else again – something we actually like, something people would actually vote for.

Are we so helpless as all that? Aren’t we the people who created the single biggest day of global protest prior to the invasion? Didn’t we block the legalization of the invasion at the United Nations, making the invasion the supreme international crime? Didn’t we force the Cheney-Bush gang to come up with a pile of lies to justify the invasion? Didn’t we expose those lies? Didn’t that help forestall an invasion of Iran, at least so far (although it’s a safe bet some of that $178 billion will be misappropriated if they still decide to do it)? Didn’t support for the war and the president plummet just behind awareness of the lies that we exposed? Aren’t we in touch with each other and our allies around the world through the internet, informing people that Americans do not support the slaughter? If you think we have no power, consider this. Last week, Senator Hillary Clinton gave the peace movement credit for her defeat. She hasn’t conceded, but mathematically it’s over. She was speaking specifically about her losses in caucuses, when she disdainfully referred to us as “the activist base of the Democratic Party.” According to Clinton, these activists “turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of [my] positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them.”

In 2006, we elected a new Congress to end the occupation of Iraq. Even the corporate media understood and admitted that. We gained enormous strength through that effort, which was primarily accomplished by the peace movement, not by electoral campaigning. But the so-called leadership of the new Congress immediately announced that it would never use its power, the power of the purse, to end the occupation. And huge segments of the peace movement shrieked in terror, crawled quietly into abandoned voting booths, and stood crowded in there shaking and shivering for the past year and a half. Some made their position opposition to escalating the war, after having just won a landslide demanding the de-escalation of the war. If 2008 ends, and Congress has done nothing to end the occupation of Iraq, the power we gained by electing them to do so in 2006 will be gone. If we cannot hold elected officials to their commitments, why should they bother even making them next time?

We don’t know who the next president will be or who will be in the next Congress, but we do know that whatever the answers are to those questions, the occupation of Iraq will not end unless we push for it. And we know that it takes time to build momentum and awareness in a push for change. If we keep shutting down our movement for a year or more every two years, we will never win. If we keep pushing forward as citizens rather than as the pawns of one political party, we will win. We might even win right away. We might not win for a long time. But we will certainly win sooner than if we pause in our work.

We must continue to push Congress to listen to us even when there is an election within two years. (Guess what? There is always an election within two years.) And we must continue the crucial work in high schools of counter-recruitment, at which activists in many school districts have been very successful.

We should bird-dog Obama until he gets it right, not in order to defeat him but in order to push him to positions that will make possible a landslide. I don’t know how many of you have noticed how votes have been counted in US elections in the past seven years, but I am convinced that Obama can only take the White House with a landslide. A narrow victory won’t work.

One way to get a landslide would be for Obama to lead a filibuster against the occupation funding. He could still fund a withdrawal if he thought that kissing up to the media required such a superfluous gesture. But when he debated McCain, he would be able to take an opposing position and not see it easily dismissed. If the Democrats fund another year and a half of slaughter, the only people who benefit will be war profiteers and third party candidates. Republicans may benefit too, since Democrats make themselves look weak every time they refuse to stand up for what they supposedly stand for.

Millions of families are likely to lose their homes in the United States in the next nine months, thanks to Bush regulators’ management of the banking industry, and thanks to the growing Bush-Cheney recession, which appears to be the result in part of the outrageous expense of occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader perverse effect on the economy of having made weapons our top export and weapons making our biggest public investment.

The weapons industry is not competitive. With cost-plus contracts, the longer it takes and the more it costs, the bigger the profits. And once the stockpiles exist, the best way to justify building more is to use up the weapons you’ve got. Meanwhile, all other industry is allowed to whither away. Technological spinoffs from our huge public investment in the military generally have to be manufactured elsewhere. And even public investments in things like mass transit have to create jobs in other countries, because the only thing we know how make anymore is weapons. Shifting our public investment from weapons to green energy, infrastructure, and transportation would benefit our economy as well as our environment.

The greatest purveyor of violence in the world is, by no coincidence, also the wealthiest nation in the world that does not provide its people with health coverage. About one in six Americans has no health coverage at all, and another two or three out of those six lack adequate coverage even though they pay more than enough to receive it and to provide it to those who lack it as well.

Millions of Americans, consequently, lack preventive health care, are deeply in debt for the expenses of emergency treatment, are forced to work longer hours to provide health coverage to themselves and their families, and suffer unnecessary illnesses and deaths. One result of this is that Americans have less time and freedom and energy to invest in civic life, including in peace demonstrations and lobbying of elected officials. If we had universal health care, we would be in a much better position to demand universal heath care. Isn’t that how it always seems to go?

Now, our government is funded and heavily lobbied by the oil barons and weapons makers and disaster capitalists – the corporations who destroy and then pretend to rebuild. We dump at least half of every tax dollar into these immoral expenses. In fact, we spend as much on our military as do the rest of the nations of the world combined, and we call those expenses “defense” although they are used entirely for offensive wars, bombing missions, and the maintenance of a thousand military bases in other people’s countries.

To contrast this gluttonous expense with our health care disaster can be misleading if taken to imply that the money should be moved from killing to saving. The fact is that, as a society if not as a government, we already spend enough on health to provide universal coverage and have money left over. But we don’t use our government to create efficiencies. Instead as much as a third of every dollar goes into waste and bureaucracy and advertising for the private insurance industry. Eliminating those middlemen and simply providing everyone with health care, to be paid for by the government, would eliminate 90 percent of the paperwork. The health coverage would be public – as it should be. The health care would still be private. You choose any private doctor you want, just leave with no paperwork, including no bill. If this sounds too good to be true, remember that every other wealthy nation on earth already does this and gets more health care for less money than we do.

So ask your representative in Congress to sign onto H R 676 and visit:
http://pdamerica.org

But understand that right now nothing can be done in Washington because any good bill would be vetoed. Only impeachment is possible. You can imagine something else to be more realistic, more plausible, more viable than impeachment, but I would challenge you to explain what it is and how it will not get vetoed.

We should join with the Congressional Progressive Caucus in insisting that if any bill is brought up to fund the occupation of Iraq it not also include domestic spending. We don’t need to give anyone excuses to vote for war.

We should demand No votes, and should all phone Pelosi and Murtha urging them not to bring any more money for Iraq to a vote at all. We should call the Obama campaign with the same message.

In July of 2007, Congressman Kevin McCarthy opposed a bill that would have suggested a timeline for ending the occupation. He released a statement that read, in part, “our new Iraq strategy is showing a sign of improvement as 50 percent of Baghdad is secure, up from 19 percent in April. In September, General Petraeus will deliver to Congress his progress report on the new Iraq Strategy. For the next two months, we should keep our promise by giving General Petraeus and our troops the time and resources they need to fully execute the new strategy. We owe this to them and their mission.”

Do we owe General Petraeus our grandchildren’s hard earned pay these nine months later? That’s a question to take to Rep. McCarthy. With the surge having failed, must we keep paying and killing and dying? Or if he pretends the surge has worked, must we keep paying and killing and dying? Is what is required of us the same either way? Is there any way out other than voting you out of office, Congressman?

We should thank Lois Capps for signing onto John Conyers’ bill for an impeachment investigation during the last Congress and ask her why the addition of two more years’ worth of crimes to the record has led her to back off.

We should take our so-called economic stimulus tax refund checks and sign them over to pro-peace and pro-impeachment candidates with a note explaining why, and photocopy them and send those photocopies to other candidates and leaders with a note explaining why they aren’t getting any.

We should join on May 1st in solidarity with the Longshore and Warehouse workers and other unions, with immigrants rights groups, with the peace and impeachment movements, and skip work that day to protest. We should all go at high noon on May 1st to our congress member’s nearest office and tell them that our Constitution demands impeachment. And post that you plan to do so at http://democrats.com/mayday

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